“A man has to find a good woman, and when he finds her he has to win her love. then he has to earn her respect. then he has to cherish her trust. and then he has to, like, go on doing that for as long as they live. Until they both die. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the most important thing in the world. That’s what a man is, Yaar. A man is truly a man when he wins the love of a good woman, earns her respect, and keeps her trust. Until you do that, you’re not a man.” – Gregory David Roberts in Shantaram
Note: I have taken a while to write this post because the words were simmering in me for some time. I had to dive deep into my darkness to let the words rush out of the depths of my soul onto this post. I trust the process and trust that what need to be released will come out at its own sweet time. Here I share my story again…
Being A Late Bloomer…
At up to that point of time being 22 years old, I had never dated anyone. I’ve always been a late bloomer. Of course, I’ve had several crushes through out my school and college years. But it was always from a distance. Truthfully, I also never received attention from males. For a long time, I didn’t feel attractive and seemed invisible to men.
But I couldn’t be approachable and soft in an unknown city being a young unmarried woman. In India, the reality to a large extent is that when a woman is not surrounded by strong male presence – be it through her father, brother, or husband, others take it as an open invitation to approach her.
So I stopped smiling at strangers like I usually do. I wouldn’t make eye contact with just anyone when I was walking on the streets. I tried to not give a very friendly vibe that anyone could just approach me. It also tremendously helped that my guide for the stay, Mukesh, was a big, tough-looking man. If more than anything, I think everyone wondered why a young girl was following this man everywhere (lol) because we didn’t even look remotely related.
The Enormous Male Attention I Received Threw Me Off Guard
When I met professionals from the film world, some of them subtly flirted with me through eye contact or body language to show their attraction. Since I didn’t have much experience myself (I didn’t date until age 24), I usually was left guessing whether their motive was a romantic one. I usually waved it off, thinking I was over analyzing, even though the vibe and energy said a different story otherwise.
I was surprised and shocked. Never had I received so many compliments and exquisitely expressive displays of attention. I must admit I enjoyed it. It made me feel loved and appreciated and most of all, beautiful. I had never seen myself as the pretty girl growing up. I grew up with a major complex about my weight, so this was a huge turn of events.
But there were two specific occasions that left me with no guessing and to put it crudely, scared the s**t out of me.
An Outrageous Pass from a Television Actor…
One day, I visited a television series set. Cameras, equipment, spot men, technicians, and overall messiness was everywhere. That was similar to a film set, but I felt the atmosphere was more intense. There was this smoky, palpable tension in the air.
I watched the group of actors gather together to rehearse the scene. After the rehearsal, they shot the same 30 second scene over and over and over. And over and and over again! Did I mention over again? Lol 🙂 I was so bored out of my mind watching the same exaggerated facial expression. The director shouted “Cut” and the artists took a mini break.
This entire time, I was sitting on a sofa. Television series in India revolve generally around large extended families because that is the reality of how most families live there. The furniture and setup all resembled this. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Indian television shows, but my mother is addicted to them and I’ve seen a couple shows here and there. I recognize the actors and faces, though would not be able to remember names like I do of film actors.
There was this one actor who came and situated himself next to me on the sofa. Even today, I cannot tell you his name. But when he came and sat next to me, I recognized him immediately. He played the father or grandfather in many television series. There was considerable distance and space between us, yet enough closeness to have a private conversation with no one overhearing us.
He made some small talk with a cold expression and then inquired about my birthday. I told him I was a Taurus being a May baby. He told me he was a Gemini being born in June. He then said people from those signs are “very attracted” to each other. My stomach churned and I knew something was wrong. Instead naively I nodded, thinking he meant something else, not what he clearly meant. But what he said next clearly demonstrated his intention. He literally directly told me I should come over and spend the night with him.
Still, I sat there frozen, unable to move or speak. I felt dirty and ashamed of myself. I was so young and innocent then that I placed the responsibility of his words and intention on me. I thought it was my fault. As I left the set, there was still two more weeks in the program. I started to hide myself in the background. I didn’t wear makeup or dress nicely anymore. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want to be pretty or beautiful.
Many months later when I had returned home in the United States, I told my mother about this moment and she being a lot more reactive than me was extremely angry. Till this day, when my mother or I see him on television, we change the channel.
Looking back, I felt angry at this television actor who took away my innocence and made me feel so startled that I had no idea how to react. I feel angry that he triggered this desire in me to hide myself and not make myself seen in any way because I felt dirty and embarrassed by his words.
I’m an adult today, so I understand it’s not my fault about his motive and actions. I could be his granddaughter (such was our age gap) and his character in no way has to do with my morals and values and beauty as a woman.
I wish I could say I understood this then. I didn’t. I was too young and frightened.
Another Outrageous Encounter that Scared the S**T Out of Me…
On another television set, I met this sweet cameraman. He joked with me and gave me his number. He told me we should meet the last week of the program.
When the final week approached, another young guy named Himanshu joined me in the final week of the program to shoot a television commercial with Director Hansal Mehta. He accompanied me everywhere to prepare for this commercial. I assisted him as we chose actors and camera equipment. I was super happy to have his company and that too someone my age. We became friends.
The cameraman contacted me and said he really wanted to meet me. I agreed. I told him my friend, Himanshu, would join us. We met at a crowded cafe in a hot, dusty part of town in the evening. It was a casual environment at this cafe, but the food was out of this world. I remember having a delicious smoothie. We laughed and conversed. It was the perfect evening with two people I felt safe with.
Before we realized it, it turned night. It was time for us all to leave. Since we were all going in different parts of town, Himanshu took a cab and the cameraman offered to drop me at my uncle’s place.
I didn’t realize how dark it got and how much traffic there was because two hours later, I was still stuck in his car. Alone with this cameraman. The cars in front of us were barely moving. He put the car in park mode as he waited for the traffic to clear.
Suddenly, friendly vibes turned to flirty, sexual overtones. I felt my body stiffen, yet as usual, I ignored my body’s response and ability to detect discomfort before I did. He complimented my eyes and skin and said that I was exactly the kind of woman he was attracted to. I simply smiled. I was very, very uncomfortable.
When he saw I wasn’t responding to his advance, he said with a hint of anger: “Do you know where we are right now?”
I said we were close to Mira Road where my uncle lived in Mumbai.
He then replied coldly: “How do you know we are close to there? We could be anywhere right now and you wouldn’t even know it.”
My heart stopped beating. The coldest chill of my life ran down my spine. My breathe became stuck in my throat. He was absolutely fucking right. I had no idea where I was. How could I trust this man who I met once on a set to take me home?
He then laughed this wicked laugh and then seeing my frightened expression (though I tried hard to play it cool) softened.
We made it through the traffic and he did end up dropping me home (safely). But his words lingered in my heart and mind for a long, long time. I could not sleep that night. I knew since I was part of the program, he had to drop me home safely, but I still should’ve followed my instinct and been more careful.
Watching Out For Myself…
These two experiences had scared me so much that I closed up and turned up my guard several notches high. I had no one to watch out for me, except myself. In the process, I became hard and guarded. I didn’t like attention or anyone complimenting me. These two experiences created this faulty belief subconsciously in me that I carried well into my twenties that I didn’t deserve or was worthy of being seen or receiving love, care, and attention because it meant it would come in this way. I associated attention and affection with feeling dirty and shame.
These two experiences are not completely the reasons why I became closed off in my twenties and it was hard for me to open up, but they did play a huge role which in turn played its patterns in my relationships and interactions with men romantically and even with other close loved ones. I was hyper sensitive about how I was perceived by the world in regard to my physical appearance and became emotionally numb.
Obviously, this is not a good way to live your life. This year, I’ve been working actively with a love, sex, and desire coach to unravel these deeply ingrained beliefs and patterns in me. Some days, this process unfolds beautifully and with such flow and ease it astounds me. However, most of the time, it is a confronting process. I shed many tears because I suppressed many emotions and it is all coming out now.
Peeling My Self-Protective Armor Around My Heart Away to Soften and Being Comfortable to Ask For Help
I am taking baby steps, yet surely starting to open up and feeling comfortable to reveal my vulnerabilities and ask for help and receive support. Working with a love, sex, and desire coach is what is helping me to go on this path to feel beautifully supported and be in a safe space to fully feel and process my emotions – no matter how raw or intense it is.
These two experiences did something else incredibly important: it helped me become very, very clear and specific about what I wanted in a man and how I wanted to feel in a relationship with him. The most important quality for me in a man is emotional depth (and impeccable good character). I want to feel innocent, fragile, vulnerable, soft, gentle, and feminine in his presence. I want to be with a man who is masculine and yet connected to his vulnerability and emotional depth.
I believe this emotional depth goes hand in hand with good character in a man. This is not a one way street though. A two street way where there is a flow and exchange of authentic energy, grace, trust, and love between two individuals. This requires me to keep my heart open as well and also exhibit the same qualities of emotional depth and good character for him as well.
Though not positive experiences, I took the gold from them and used it to become crystal clear in what I wanted in a man and relationship and also most importantly, how I wanted to feel and be to a man. It also taught me to never disregard my body’s responses and instead become deeply tuned into my body so I can receive guidance instantly to support me in all sorts of situations.
In my next installment, I will write about how I ran into my favorite movie star Fardeen Khan and how I was put on the spot and did meet some other wonderful people with whom I did actually feel safe and loved. Stay Tuned! 🙂
Have you had a similar experience which led you to develop beliefs that didn’t serve you? How did you unravel and let go of these beliefs to upgrade your belief system so you can shine a light on your darkness to heal and open your heart? Please share with me in the comments. I’d love to hear your experience!
Image sources: BollywoodLife.com, Etsy
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