Last month I got a taste of how one gets pushed aside if one does not fit into a specified category.

I saw a whatsapp message of a mobile cancer-detection camp on my dad’s phone. The medical camp was advertised as being a bus filled with special cancer screening medical equipment and a team of doctors from another state, who had been hired by an ngo catering to a specific community in my town. Against my better judgement I decided to attend the camp.

When I announced my desire to go to camp (which was being set up in a field outside our house), parents were furious. They forbade me from visiting the camp (good girls dont go to weird medical camps what will happen to us if the doctors detect cancer/people will assume u are trouble and we wont get a man willing to marry you). Being an obstinate, determined person, I sneaked to the camp secretly.

The camp was a mess. Pink leaflets promised women of ‘pap smear tests and mammography tests’. The bus itself was painted in pink and purple…….it was supposed to be a nice medical camp for women of all ages, but in reality all I could see were old women( from a certain community), who looked at me as though I was a cockroach from Underworld, preying on them in order to usurp their thrones. Girls younger than me stood here and there like tree stumps, chattering animatedly yet none of them going for tests. The dentist who sat on one side to screen oral cancer took one peep and decided I had no chance of getting cancer cause “most of your teeth are artificial” (thank you germs and dentists for slicing off my god gifted former pearls) and shooed me off to the gynecologist.

The gynecologist was a sad looking guy with a nurse who looked bored to death. He asked me quick questions (u married and having babies or single/how are your periods/oh your aunt died from brain cancer you say/). His verdict: I did not need a pap smear test as I was not above 35 years and did not have any accidents that would have affected my sex organs) nor a mammography. He refused to let me screen for any tests (I would need a reason to screen you. Or I would get into trouble).

I returned from the camp dispirited and downhearted. Why could not the organizers warn that they only wanted certain women as patients? Whats wrong in conducting screening tests on young girls in a country where young people are exposed to porn, can be in pre-marital relationships and maybe forced into marriages in their teens by their parents even though child marriages are illegal ? And did they have any idea that the Supreme Court recognizes people outside gender binaries, who also have a right to be screened for cancer?

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I had been down with depression. My parents and their strict insistence on me following each religious custom and ritual down to the last letter was chewing me inside. Apart from being forced to blindly adhere to certain elaborate religious ceremonies, I had to listen to long litanies of my imperfect status of being a shameful excuse of a woman (you are cursed cause all the boys we try to getting hitched you to, seem to reject you or are far younger than you) (others bring cash and grandchildren to parents, you have given us nothing except expenses) (you are a woman and a woman’s job is to take care of her husband and his family or else she has no value, so concentrate solely on your looks instead of hankering for a job).

So I decided to get an appointment with a psychologist. In my state, where poor people resort to quacks and shamans, and seasonal floods wash off flimsy, rickety wooden bridges - doctors are a prized rarity. And psychologists are even harder to find, as a quick google search confirmed.

Anyways I contacted a psychologist based in a city. I reckoned that I would get an appointment and my parents would let me go without any fuss.

All hell broke loose, as soon as I let it slip that I had a date with a shrink. My parents could not fathom what was wrong (hey she was normal few days ago. Maybe her ex bf has contacted her or vice versa). They forbade me from visiting the psychologist (unless you tell us the real reasons, we wont let you go alone and spill our dark family secrets). Worse still, the psychologist had left a message at her clinic that she would be absent on account of a paper presentation. I ended up spiralling into a stream of dark thoughts which blew up finally on the faces of my guardians.

World Health Day saw many discussions centered on depression on social media. But I want to ask a question: how on earth do people expect someone to speak about their depression after forbidding them to speak the truth on years of emotional abuse? How do you dare to put a lid on someone’s existence and shove the fact that they had been abused as a child under a rug of passive accept-it-as-will-of-divine ? How does one deny that abuse took place and replace it with tales of evil spirits and sorcery that allegedly marred your child’s life ?

All I have are questions as I pick shreds of leftover self-esteem and bits of tiny hearts deposited in the funnels of online friendships ………

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