By Deborah Grey
6000 e-mails, 1200 smses, 200 BBM messages, almost 500 calls… and still counting… That’s what the first 48 hours were like for Harish Iyer after the Satyamev Jayate episode featuring him was first telecast last Sunday. Needless to say, it is all very overwhelming, for Harish is a very simple man, not the publicity hungry media whore he is made out to be. Yes he has a publicist and a manager in me, but that’s because it is humanly impossible to keep track of the vast deluge of correspondence and media invitations he receives.
It all started as soon as Harish appeared on Satyamev Jayate. Within minutes our phones started ringing. His friends, my friends, the press… There was a flood of BBM messages, Facebook and Twitter came alive. And then the e-mails started pouring in… an overwhelming majority from people who wrote in to say they were survivors too. Harish diligently replied to as many as he could, but after a while it started to take a toll on him. Reading message after message where people- complete strangers bare their heart to you about their suffering… it gets to you, and sometimes the best thing to do is take a break.
I decided to take him out for lunch, and we headed for the food court of a mall nearby. We ate in silence for a while for that is what he craved most. There was too much going on in his head and he needed to calm down. We shared a Pav Bhaji pizza and a bottle of cola and decided to just walk to clear our heads and figure out a way to deal with the present situation. And that is when I saw how far Harish is willing to push himself for what he believes in.
For those who think Satyamev Jayate was Harish’s first TV appearance, let me give you the low down. Harish has been speaking up for fellow survivors of Child Sexual Abuse for over a decade now. He has been on talk shows hosted by the likes of Barkha Dutt and Richa Anirudh. He has also given several print and radio interviews and has been counselling fellow survivors for over 10 years. It is not easy… to go back into the darkest part of your life and relive it, just so that you can help another survivor confront his worst demons. Harish has been walking what many would describe as nothing short of a mental minefield, only so he can carry others on his shoulders and deliver them to the other side.
At the mall people first stole glances at him, then started pointing, then someone developed the courage to walk upto him and shake his hand. Then one by one nearly 50 people walked up to him to introduce their families and children to him, to take pictures with him. Harish patiently obliged, but asked them for exactly one thing in return… that they promise to educate their children about CSA.
Even now, Harish’s work is far from over. The restless soul that he is, Harish is now planning to hold awareness campaigns in schools, housing societies and public spaces. So if you want Harish Iyer to speak to speak to parents and children in your school or neighbourhood, or if you are a mall manager/PR, please get in touch with me, Deborah Grey on email@example.com
We are prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent a child from confronting the horrors that Harish did. If that means more media whoring, more appearances on TV and radio, more interviews to websites and publications… then so be it!
And while I’m still in my Maa Durga avatar, let me kill one more demon that has raised it’s ugly head. The Demon of Doubt. Many people doubt the genuineness of Harish’s story. They think that he took 11 long years to break the cycle of abuse because he is gay and was probably enjoying the abuse.
Well first of all, YES… Harish Iyer is gay! So what? He DID NOT enjoy the abuse. No 7 year old would enjoy forced anal sex! Also, homosexuality and sexual abuse are not connected in ANY WAY! Harish was born gay… just like I was born straight! Homophobia has to be wiped out! People don’t become gay after being sexually abused! Get your facts right and stop this mud-slinging campaign against Harish Iyer or for that matter even Aamir Khan!
The entire team of Satyamev Jayate has worked very hard to ensure that the subject of CSA was dealt with in a very sensitive way. And nobody willingly withheld information about Harish’s sexuality. The show was about Child Sexual abuse and not Homosexuality. Just as no body would introduce Deborah Grey as a straight journalist, why should anyone be expected to introduce Harish Iyer as a gay activist?
It’s time we looked deep within ourselves and killed the Demons of Doubt that plague our souls…