“Are you a pansy?”: A Doon Alumnus Recollects The Sexual Abuse He Faced At School in the 1970s

20 November 2015

Non-fiction writer Siddharth Dube, known for his work on poverty and public health, is a vocal activist for the decriminalisation of same-sex relations and of adult, consensual sex work. Born in Calcutta in 1961, Dube studied at the Doon School and at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University, and then at universities abroad. He is currently a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City, and a contributing editor at The Caravan. In his latest book, No One Else: A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex, he writes about his life as a gay man as well as “another criminalised and reviled set of sexual outlaws”: women sex workers.

In the following excerpt from No One Else, Dube recalls his harrowing years at Doon, a boys-only boarding school, “a place out of time, a place out of place.”

It was in this warped atmosphere of endless hierarchies and domination that I first became the target of male desire manifested as sexual abuse. Nothing in my short life had prepared me for dealing with the terror I felt during these episodes, or the shock at realizing that desire—the glorious thing I had instinctively responded to in reading Barbara Cartland romances—could take on as vile a form as predation and violence.

In my second year at Doon, a huge prefect called Nutty began tormenting me. He had looked at me with unsettling intensity ever since I had joined school, but now that he was in the senior-most batch, he felt emboldened to act as he wished. Nutty was notoriously crazy, hence his nickname. Even his classmates gave him a wide berth.

Though I did my utmost to avoid Nutty, there was no escaping him in the second half of the day, after classes ended and we returned to our common residential house. Unfailingly, several nights a week, instead of studying after dinner like my other classmates, I would do an unending series of somersaults on Nutty’s orders.

Siddharth Dube is a contributing editor at The Caravan. His memoir, No One Else:
A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex, will be published next month.

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