Navreet from London, UK, knows first-hand the powerful healing potential of story-telling. Here she beautifully highlights, through sharing one of her own traumatic experiences, the importance of having a compassionate space in which our stories can be received and not diminished, and also the incredible power of our intuitive voice…
There is a voice inside my head.
It tells me whether you’re worth getting to know.
It reminds me to lift my gaze once in a while and breathe in the sky.
Sometimes, it wakes me in the morning, insisting on what I ought to do next.
It never tells me why.
It does not tell me how I should fix my hair or if buying the black pleather midi skirt in the sale was a good idea.
It offers no suggestions when I don’t know what to make for dinner.
Though I wish it would.
These are the things I need help with the most.
But I have learned over time to listen and to trust this voice when it speaks.
And I know now that between us, we’ve got this.
I am staying at my boyfriend’s flat on main campus at Aston University, in Birmingham. I usually live away on a different campus site but while he is away on work experience, I can stay at his so I can use the library.
I am a good girl.
One evening, I decided I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to return to my flat in Handsworth Wood, to see my flat mates, have a soak in the bath and, sleep in my own bed.
The moment I decide, I hear a voice that tells me, Don’t go.
But I want to.
And again, I hear, Don’t go.
I feel a nervous dread in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know what it means. Maybe it will pass.
And I still want to go home.
Eventually I decide to go but to appease the voice, I remove my jewellery, leave my cards and cash but take enough money for the bus fare there and back and, £1.20 to call my boyfriend from a payphone. It’s the early 1990’s. There were no mobile phones then.
It’s about 8pm when I leave. It’s fine, I tell myself.
Walking through the subways of Birmingham alone is risky. And gross- what with all the flashing and catcalling.
As I make my way through what feels like a concrete dungeon, I notice a policewoman walking up ahead.
As anxious as I am, I take this to be a good omen.
I walk fast to catch up with her, so that we look like we’re walking together.
The bus comes almost immediately. Another sign.
I sit near the driver. Because I am sensible.
My flat isn’t far from the bus stop. I am on the home straits. I spot an empty phone box and decide to call my boyfriend. The nervous dread is still with me but I know I’ll be safe in here. After all. It’s a box.
I call my boyfriend and as soon as we begin to speak, the door opens behind me.
A hand appears out of nowhere and presses the switch hook of the phone. I hear the pound coin drop to the bottom and the hand removes the coin.
I don’t remember dropping the receiver. But I do remember watching it swing from side to side.
I feel arms tighten around me and something sharp against my neck.
I’m scared. I’m so fucking scared.
My heart is beating so fast. I feel it pulse in the back of my throat.
I can’t breathe. My mouth is dry. I’m fighting so hard to stop my knees from buckling.
Is this really happening to me?
I think I’m told not to move or make a sound.
He wants money. I don’t have any money.
He pushes me up against the phone and grabs my bag.
How will I get out of here?
Then something happened.
I felt a deep sense of calm and clarity come over me. I was fully present. Embodied. Alert.
I hear the voice in my head. So, what happens now? How does this end?
I run through different scenarios in my mind.
Maybe I’m stabbed and I die?
Or maybe I’m raped, stabbed, and then I die?
Or maybe I’m stabbed, but I end up in intensive care, and then I go into a coma, but then I die?
Do people hold vigils for unknown brown women?
Is my life important enough to make it on the news?
The voice says, Well, it doesn’t sound like you have anything to lose, then. But if you do survive, the police will want a description. At least get a description.
I raise my hands calmly, and I slowly turn around to face him. I tell him he should check my pockets for money. As he does, I take a good look at him, and I take the image of him in—the colour of his eyes and his hair, his clothes.
The Stanley knife in his hand.
He notices the tracking movements of my eyes, and he quickly spins me round and pushes me up against the phone. His grip around me is much tighter, and his hands are moving over my breasts.
The voice tells me, Don’t move. Don’t even flinch. Let him touch you. Let him think he has you.
As he does, I wonder how I got into the phone box. What hand did I use to open the door? Which way does the door open?
His hands are moving downwards towards my groin.
And in that moment, I decide.
I’d rather die.
I force my weight against him and push him back into the door and use his weight to leverage the door open.
The door opens. I run. I think I am screaming.
And when I realise he’s not chasing me, I want to find him and kill him myself.
There is an Indian man standing in the driveway of his house, watching me.
‘I’ve just been mugged. Which way did he go?’
He tells me he doesn’t know. He tells me he thought we were together, but that he couldn’t be sure because of the steam and condensation on the windows.
I start running down a side street, and he tells me it’s not a good idea.
He asks me if I’m okay?
Of course I’m not okay!
He offers to drive me home, and I tell him he’s crazy.
‘I’m not getting in a car with you. You’re a stranger. You’re a man.’
He offers to bring his wife along so I feel safer, she just has to get ready, and get her
purse. And baby.
While I wait outside, every single member of the extended family appears at the door, wanting to know what happened, wanting to come along for the ride.
Eventually, everyone is seated in the car.
Everyone except me. There is no room. The grandfather decides he will stay behind.
The drive is excruciatingly slow owing to the weight of the car. There is a smell of baby sick.
The baby is crying.
I am crying.
‘What are you crying for?’
The grandmother says, ‘It’s not like you were raped.’
‘He didn’t touch you down there, did he?’
‘Well, that’s all right then, because otherwise you would have been spoiled.’
I want to get the hell out of here.
We eventually arrive at the campus, and as I watch their car drive off, I find myself standing in the silence, looking up at the night sky.
I am home.
I made it home.
Who is Navreet?
Navreet Chawla is a storyteller, spoken word performer and workshop facilitator.
Drawing on over 20 years of experience as a pharmacist in complementary medicine, and her background in performance, Navreet facilitates narrative healing and shared storytelling workshops and teaches yoga nidra, a deeply restorative relaxation practice.
We now have our full quota of stories for our 4th KindaProud pocket book; #Emerging Proud through Trauma and Abuse due out on 10th Oct. CLICK HERE to find out how to get your copy!