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And Then I Spared None

Abused by a relative at six, Laxmi saw how patriarchy tried to crush her femininity. And she made it come back to crush them, ‘those straight men with wives and kids’.

And Then I Spared None
Photograph by Getty Images
And Then I Spared None
Red Lipstick: The Men in my Life
By Laxmi and Pooja Pande
Penguin Books | 186 pages

Can a six-year-old understand abuse? Comprehend the viol­ence done to him? Can he ever really understand that he has been forced? What does it mean to be sexually abused at such a young age when you don’t even know what abuse means? A child does not have the vocabulary of victimisation handy and so he spends a large part of his life in denial of what happened to him, never completely understanding it. Not knowing where to start. You can’t speak about consent here; it is not the right word—what consent would a child have to give?

The first time I was sexually abused was in our hometown Gorakhpur, where I had gone with my family for a wedding. I was a six-year-old boy­—weak, ill and feminine in demeanour—and that made me vulnerable. He was my father’s elder brother’s son, 21 years old. A sickly child, whose parents were slogging to keep him alive and well day and night, was whom he penetrated. I fainted the first time. The pain was so int­ense I felt something had ripped apart inside me, something was broken that could never be fixed. He went on raping me through that wedding, and even brought in another cousin and some friends. There was constant pain—a burning I can never describe and can never ever forget. As they thrust inside me, they would whisper, “You shouldn’t tell anybody. You must promise.” See, because they were my own people, my family, I never thought they would do anything wrong to me. So I never saw it as something wrong. But it caused me so much pain and confusion, I couldn’t think straight. And because he was so close to us, my abuser was always in front of my eyes while I was growing up.

I never spoke to anyone about it. It was only much later in life, when I encountered sex and desire and understood what it was, that I realised what had happened to me then was the worst wrong a human being could do to another, to a child. Once I did though, I was uncontrollable. I thirsted for revenge and became a vengeful bitch, dev­oid of remorse, guilt, repentance and shame. I was like the unbridled Ganges roaring down from Mount Kailash, with no Shiva to stem my flow. When I rea­lised I was exploited as a child because of my femininity, I decided to use exactly that—my femininity—to wreak revenge. And did I wreak revenge! I satiated myself with it. I exploited man after man, in all awareness, with complete deliberation. I went through all the men in my family, one by one, replacing my frustration and confusion with blinding rage and pure revenge sex. I forced them into my bed and wielded my femininity as a weapon—I would make them so bloody paralysed that they would submit completely, losing all self-control, all sense of propriety or decorum. Their patriarchy crushed my femininity and now it was coming back to crush them, because these were all those ‘straight’ men with wives and children—bloody hypocrites. Indian men will actually f**k anything, but they are alw­ays in denial about it, because their masculinity would be questioned and patriarchy would suffer. I ­understood this about them ­because I was forced to understand it—and I exploited it to my advantage.

“Indian men will actually f**k anything, but they are always in denial about it.”

I am the epitome of sluthood—I can be the ultimate seductress and I can also suddenly become otherworldly, divine and naive. I’m like a serpent, slippery. It’s like I’m accessible, but I’m not available; it’s irresistible, and that’s what they all submitted to. It was empowering! I would tease them, make them want it, and then I would make it seem I never wanted it in the first place. Often I would just leave them in the middle of it all, with their throbbing erections aching for climax—the absolute humiliation for any man. I played my femininity so well that they got manipulated.

When so many people in the family were speaking against my decision to join the hijra clan, those who had slept with me kept their mouths shut. What could they say? I had shown them their place. Even if they tried, one look into my eyes would make them shut up. I could say to them, “You’re talking against me? The crease you’d left on my bedsheets is still there. The memory and mark of that love bite is still there.”

Illustration by Saahil

I had the most intimate encounters ­during my sister’s marriage. It was my pleasure, my bloody pleasure, not theirs to take at will. Whether they got pleasure or not was irrelevant. I was a lioness on a hunt. I didn’t care how I slayed and what I slayed. I had no regrets.

We all know that hijras become sex toys in a patriarchal society and, for a long time, I believed that too. I thought it might be a good way to be accepted in the mainstream. To be being a sex toy and play the victim at the same time simply did not work for me. When you know yourself so well, know what you’re capable of, and do what you’re doing with full awareness, you can’t play that game. It is an art. Also, people who have been abused very young always wear it on their sleeve, bear it like a cross—“Oh, I was abused.” Sure, what happened was inhuman, and it shouldn’t have. But we must talk more about the strength of overcoming it. I have been abused, discarded, treated horribly, yet I’m strong. I do talk about my abuse, but only as history. Yet there are so many people who talk about their abuse all the time, but when they reach a position of superiority and strength, they end up abusing others weaker than them—knowingly or, at times, unknowingly—but they never talk about it. But if you did it, you must talk about it. Anyway, I just can’t be a victim. I am a celebration, I feel, and that’s the narrative I choose for my story.

So many people talk about their abuse all the time, but when they reach a position of superiority and strength, they end up abusing others weaker than them.

The guy who abused me died of HIV, a painful, dreadful death; it was his karma. But when I grew up, I had even forced him to have sex with me. I just caught him and flung him on to my bed and then I walked out halfway, leaving him powerless. I made out with somebody else while he was watching—yes, I did that too. Sex ­became my personal power tool, just like, I would imagine, it was Cleopatra’s and Helen of Troy’s. It was like my cheer haran had already happened, but I created my own Mahabharata, I took my revenge. This Draupadi didn’t wait for Arjuna or Bheem to avenge her, so she could wash her hair in Dushasana’s blood and tie it up. She took matters in her own hands.

I never stopped to think if what I was doing was right or wrong. I took the ­decision that I thought was right then, and I went with it. It was a conscious ­decision. And even today when I look back, I don’t ­regret a single moment.

To see a hunk of a man helpless, with absolutely no control—to strip him naked, to order him to strip naked—is a powerful thing. I have never allowed a man in my bed with clothes on. You want to know something about men? Tell the man to strip naked, look him up and down, and then bed him. He will never raise his head in front of a woman who does that. Nudity is simply not normal for Indian men. They are not comfortable in their own skins, unused to seeing themselves naked. They would even keep their underwear on while taking baths—it’s in our culture. Even with their lovers and wives, they never strip totally naked before sex—that erotic sense is just not there. So if you ask them to do it, it makes them helpless.

This gave me power and an incredible attitude towards men and sex. When men show so much attitude about their penises, I always say, “Koi top toh nahi leke ghoom raha, na (It’s not like you’re walking around with a cannon in your pants). It’s one dick and two testicles. And it’s not going to be a bucketful of anything—it’s like one tablespoon of cum. You’ll squirt it on my body, and it’ll get recreated in you. So shut up.” When men would tease me about being a hijra, I would walk up to them and say, “I know your dick is no bigger than your nose. So shut up.” There was this man who was desperate to sleep with me—a very good-­looking man—but I didn’t want to. So I told him, “Have you seen the Mahalaxmi Race Course? My body is the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Tere jaise kitne ghode daude hain, aur daud ke mar chuke hain (Several horses like you have galloped across and died). What’s the big deal? Get lost.”

My abuse and its aftermath gave me this attitude, made me like this and talk like this. Yes, it came out of something that was not nice. My abusers introduced me to something that I should not have learnt then. And when I understood it and understood the pleasure of it, then who would fulfil my desires? It was their ­res­ponsibility. They were family, after all. And I have a family full of handsome hunks—so it was beautiful incest. Like King George V with all his wives and all that incest. Cousins, uncles, brother-in-law’s brothers—I spared none.

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