Dear reader, I am writing this blog to purge emotions which were bottled up for close to four years, and I hope that the act of writing would help me feel cathartic. At the moment, if you are not in a good place, I recommend that you don’t read this blog. Thank you! ❤
For a couple of years, I told myself that I had lost my writing voice, I had nothing important and original to say, and I shouldn’t pander to the idea that everybody can write. Yesterday, while reading a blog post, it occurred to me that I never lost my writing voice. Unknowingly, I had stolen the power of my words lest they hurt some, lest they were ridiculed by some. Not some, but one person. I was scared of that one person who had no respect for my boundaries, who stomped on my agency, and who shamed me for stating that I seek comfort in the company of a male partner. I had been so acutely aware of that one person’s unwelcomed arrival here, and how she would go back, and laugh with her friends, discussing my blogs, spotting grammatical errors in what I write (proving her privilege and colonial mindset), saying that I am cruel, callous, shallow, and hypocritical, and that my whole life is a lie. Her support system, her gang of friends once called me an Emotional Vampire because they were told that I have a tendency to enter people’s lives, and suck their souls. As I write this blog, the echo chamber of comments are ticking in her blog where I have been called names. Many a label has been slapped on me. I have been grotesquely presented, and this person had the audacity to even mention my name. I have been outrightly shamed in that blog. Why did I read her blog? Because somebody whom I respect and adore informed me about this unkind act, and tried to protect me from inadvertently stumbling upon the hate post. But I had to read it. Because I was under an impression that everything was over, and I was finally free. No! I am still being harassed. I understand that I would be a villain in somebody’s story. That’s natural. But, I must remove fiction from facts. However, my post is not a rebuttal. I am just gifting myself the closure that I thought I never needed. For once, I would like to set the truth free, even if it is going to hurt somebody, and even if it is going to open a can of worms. I am bracing myself.
In 2016, I made friends with somebody online. We spent incredible amount of time together on WhatsApp, talking, cracking jokes, laughing, exchanging thoughts, and reading the same books. I went to her place in another state to meet her, and she met me in my city as well. She helped me plan my solo trip to the US. She spent a lot of money in sending me presents. I had been constantly in touch with her, and I thought we were becoming good friends. It was also the time I was coping with a painful breakup, and I basked in the comfort, kindness, and the support she offered. I was truly grateful.
Almost six months after I befriended this person, I met Arun, with whom I considered establishing a romantic relationship. I needed a lot of time and space with him to ensure that I got to know more about him, and that my emotional baggage didn’t cast a shadow on our relationship. When I wasn’t trying to expend my energy into moving into a relationship, the friendship with that person didn’t seem demanding. But when the romantic relationship started taking shape, I couldn’t meet the needs of this friendship. I had no headspace. I was failing to be a good friend, and I couldn’t fully explore the relationship as well. I was asked to choose between the friendship that was fulfilling yet unfairly demanding I had ever had, and the relationship that brimmed with potential. I chose the latter. That’s when the sky fell.
This person couldn’t accept my thought process, and respect my decision. I was hounded for years, sent e-mails after e-mails. Her emissary sat in my WhatsApp window and my mailbox and every other social media platform, and I was shamed stating that I was enabling a misogynist. For all the mistakes that I did, I apologised. I went a step above and apologised on Arun’s behalf. If a friend couldn’t be supportive, a friend could at least try to respect my space, and boundaries. But my boundaries were breached time and again. Even when I had explicitly informed her that I was deeply sorry for not pursuing the friendship, that I was sorry for choosing the romantic relationship over the friendship, and that I was sorry for not trying to be more accountable, my notes fell into ears which refused to listen. Every time she came back asking an array of uncomfortable questions, demanding friendship, I had no heart to say no. Despite her condescension, the holier-than-thou attitude, I agreed to be a friend, but the finger-wagging never stopped. I was nagged and nagged and nagged. I receded again. It felt like being in the clutches of an abusive parent. Initially, I was accused of abandoning a friend. I wallowed in guilt. I ducked my head down, and tiptoed around my life like a wounded dog. Later, the whole situation was framed in a rather dangerous way. She believed that I was a damsel in distress. She thought that she should rescue me from my “misogynistic” boyfriend, break the shackles of patriarchy, and liberate me. How narcissistic, patronising one should be to pay no heed to my pleas to be left alone, and on top of everything, how one should be so deluded to believe that I was pining for what turned out to be a toxic friendship when all I wanted was to rebuild my life from the scratch! When I realised that she had no ability to respect my decision, I stopped responding to her e-mails. I sent my silence.
What made me feel unsafe was this person’s blatant refusal to respect my agency. In the pretense of looking out for me, she reached out to my mutual friends, not-so-gently prodding them to contact me, asking them to protect me, and tried to break my silence. For a moment, if this person could sit down, and think why I would shield myself with silence, she will see that the I didn’t trust her enough to give her the truth. But she thought that I was held hostage by my boyfriend, and that my silence was a scream for help. The truth was that I was being an emotional hostage in her friendship that turned out to be damaging to my mental health. The truth was that I felt grounded and safe in the romantic relationship that I could build. The truth was that I was personally growing, reading more books, leaning toward spirituality, being resourceful to my family, and building a full-time career. The truth was that I could choose what was right for me. The truth was that I refused to be knocked down for stating my need that I thrive in the company of a male partner. I am a human being. I cannot allow anybody to shame me for being human.
As I continued to be silent, and chose not to respond to her e-mails, this person sent one last note stating that I was an abuser, I had been stonewalling her, and that she had the wisdom to turn that pain into a ‘Stop the Silent Abuse’ campaign. I was requested to be a part of it, and she wanted to meet me. I felt ineffably insulted. When she mentioned that she felt abused, my heart plummeted. Because on the other side of what she called a wall, I was feeling abused, smothered, claustrophobic, strangled by her efforts to make me massage her bloated ego, submit to her masked patriarchy, validate her delusions, and hold space for her to unpack her baggage at the cost of my autonomy and mental wellbeing. I still agreed to meet because I wanted to give her the benefit of doubt. I still believed that I should stand with someone who feels victimized. When I met the person, I gathered all the kindness I could muster, and told her that I don’t want this friendship. But, the long meeting felt like I was being investigated for a crime that I didn’t commit. I was nagged for everything I said, for the efforts I made to dispel awkwardness, and I finally resorted to stay silent. I felt unsafe, ashamed, and utterly humiliated. I was unfairly judged. I was antagonised. Someone who came seeking friendship wouldn’t behave that way. But only because that she felt victimised by my silence, I bore the brunt with grace. That effort was not her way to expand her vulnerability. That was not loving-kindness. That was an intoxicating ego trip.
This person still writes about me in her blogs. And her friends — some of them claim to be my friends as well — trash-talk me along with this person. She has the right to express her views, make ways to process her pain, but these yeasayers shouldn’t throw dirt at me because they don’t know my side of the story. This is my side — despite stating that I have the right to live my life the way I want to, I am held accountable for her feelings. When I met her for the last time, I told her that I was truly, profusely sorry for hurting her, and I asked what I could do to make her feel better. But I was lectured in person, and now her friends write comments after comments on how I should stop hurting others. I chose to shut myself down because she didn’t deserve the gift of my vulnerability, and in the last few years, she had exploited it enough. After the meet, that person wrote a short story about our last meet, in the name of processing her pain, and it was shared with me. There was no need to send it to me. I still received the e-mail with dignity, and sent her good thoughts. I genuinely wished her well.
The online abuse still hasn’t stopped though. She is lurking in the shadows of my social media accounts, of my family’s, and my boyfriend’s. I am running like a prey, cleaning up my digital footprints after myself, and hoping that I wouldn’t be found by this person. In the pretense of seeking connection, she is establishing dominance over people. In the pretense of being radically kind and empathetic, I am worried that she would bring more trouble into my life. In the pretense of following some celebrated Buddhist teachers, she thinks it’s her life purpose to reform people, bring happiness into their lives, but she is only encroaching into people’s lives, manipulating, gaslighting, and causing psychological damage. If she is reading this blog, or if her friends are here, I request everybody to leave me alone. I beseech them to stop engaging with me, shaming me online, reaching out to my mutual friends, creating business opportunities for my family members without seeking their consent, invalidating my agency, and breaching my boundaries. Everything. Should. Stop. I don’t have trouble receiving kindness. I don’t want her type of kindness. There is nothing kind about being ‘brutally honest’ or being rude and cruel in the name of being authentic.
In Indian movies, cishet men can’t deal with breakups. They whine, moan, bawl, and choose passive aggressive ways to shame their exes. They hold their exes responsible for how they feel. In real life, some friendships are not different too. Patriarchy just doesn’t ruin relationships. It wrecks friendships as well. That’s what I learnt. In this case, it’s not the patriarchy entrenched in men, but in female friendships too.
With the traumatic experience that I have gone through, I have now lost the confidence to make friends. It’s going to take years for me to believe in friendship again, but until then, I am happy with the love and support that I have been receiving from some kind people on the Internet. As I finish writing this blog, I feel light and free. I finally find the ability in me to love, and respect myself. I will be able to write more. I am enough. I am imperfect, but I am enough. I choose what should stay and what should leave. I choose love. I choose peace. I choose kindness. I choose gratitude. I choose life. I choose myself.
In all the chaos, the Universe has been guiding me. I am where I am meant to be.
Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.Toni Morrison
PS: To all my friends, who were contacted by this person to armtwist them into talking to me, I am SO SO SO SO sorry. Please accept my unconditional apology. ❤