I was barely a teenager then and had all the wide-eyed admiration for her. She was beautiful and centred to a shy and gawky me. The fact that I was friends with a girl in Class 12th was such a morale booster in itself. If you understand how cliques and hierarchies work in a school or outside it at that age, you will understand why I was so starry eyed.
But what really helped was the fact that she was really a good person, she would help me with Math (a subject I am still lousy at) and would talk to me when we crossed paths. Normally, younger kids don’t exist if you are a senior at school, but not for her. We attended tuition together and that cemented our bond.
Gradually, I became a go-between and a convenient excuse every time she wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. He was in college and I was full of my own self-importance. Every time she would bunk tuition to spend time with him, I was the one handing out an excuse to our teacher.
I still haven’t figured out why but I used to be her confidante. Maybe her conservative parents were the reason or maybe she knew I will not reveal her secrets to anyone. I was happy not to ask why, she would talk to me about her boyfriend and I suddenly felt all grown up.
That is till the day she showed up after such a ‘date’ swollen eyed. It looked as if she had cried and cried till she could cry no more. There were no secrets she wanted to share. After much cajoling, she showed me her wrists, they were blue. “I kept on saying no but he would not listen,” that was all she would say. I pleaded with her to tell her parents — the fact that it was a crime and police may get involved never even occurred to me. She said no and we never talked again.
She would look the other way when she saw me; I would avert my eyes too. It was as if there was a bond of shame between us. It took me years to realise how mistaken that shame was. It was not her fault for having a boyfriend, it was not mine either for helping her out. It was that man’s fault. And not just fault, it was his crime — a crime that years of putrid patriarchy and misogyny had turned into two girls’ shame.
I don’t know where she is today, I don’t know how much that incident scarred her. But after Pink, I wish my 13-year-old self had watched the film. That I was able to voice the thoughts that were in my head but the language and strength was still years away.
Pink doesn’t just start the discussion regarding the word ‘no’, it sledgehammers the point home. When a woman says no, she doesn’t mean yes, she doesn’t mean maybe, she is not putting a condition. She is saying it loud and clear, take your hands off me. And the word applies in all relationships and, actually, is gender neutral. If this film can say that to teenagers, maybe Bollywood would have done its job.