I have a story to tell. And I am reaching out because I am conflicted with thoughts so raw and passionate that I feel guilty, powerless and plain weak. Please don’t ever think I am belittling your pain, but I will gladly take all your pain if I had a chance to live in a home like yours and experience all the love that you have to give even if that means its only for a few years. I yearn and crave for love, having lived the life that I have lived, I don’t seem to know how to give or receive love gracefully.
My parents married in 1986. They are closely related and my father is 11 years and a generation older than my mother. He was an engineer educated and trained abroad. My mother herself was a post graduate and it seemed a good match.
My grandma tells me to this day how she saw the red flags and warned against the union but my grandpa and society just went ahead with it anyway. My grandma being related to my dad’s mom, has tended to frequent bursts of insanity for no reason. Fed her and washed her after she would lock herself up in a room and not open the door to anyone. Little did anyone know that the streak of madness could be passed on genetically and in a boy child could manifest in a way much more destructive. So for years after my mother married and moved abroad with my father, they slowly started seeing the signs of madness. And after I was born and then some years later my sister came along, and when we moved back to India it only turned worse.
My sister and I have not had a normal childhood to say the least. But somehow we managed to make it through to the other end, not unscathed however, and it’s the miracle of my mother’s care and sacrifice. My sister, I am glad didn’t have to bear the brunt of my dad’s madness, because to this day she is the little one. Not that he cares for her or really connect with her because she is the little one, but at least he leaves her alone. But for my mother and me, it was living in hell. The verbal abuse, the physical abuse, the humiliation, the animalistic rage – it completely changed me. But I have to say that my spirit remained unbroken. And that again was thanks to the strength I saw in my mother. She would endure everything and so did my grandparents and my maternal uncle, because they didn’t want to ruin the lives of the two girls. To this day she endures it for that reason – her endpoint being when my sister marries (I am now married) and our lives are ‘settled’. My only fear is that she may not make it through to the end.
For years he would live outside of India with our mom raising us in India and that was the saving grace and the opportunity for us to see normal and be normal. But even when not in India, he would still torture her through phone calls. He made her give up her job and thus made her more dependant. We were in a strange predicament. We were in a social circle of relatives and friends who were educated and rising in class. So there is this certain expectation. We were meeting those expectations financially because my father, not being able to survive life in India due to his madness, would happily retreat into the low key life on some far away country where he could work a few hours and be a hermit inside his house and earn good money. He could not be friends with people in his own age and “social status” or background. He was an engineer and didn’t have a single colleague as a friend. His friends were the single, poorly educated drivers and clerks. Now many of you may think I am judgmental, but there is fundamentally something wrong with this situation. It showed an inferiority complex. Someone who never held himself in good esteem, someone who had to constantly hide from society and people of the same stature, even when there was no reason to. So even when in India, we never went to gatherings when invited because he was too ashamed to go. And even when we went he would start a fight with someone and use words so crass, we didn’t want to go to any gathering as a family after that. People slowly started shunning us.
Childhood was an extended period of self doubt and humiliation that I never want to go back to. The only good parts were the summer and holiday trips to my grandparents place. In the apartment complex we moved into when I was about 13, we avoided going out to play because we were constantly humiliated. Neighbors and friends started giving strange looks and would murmur among themselves because not a fortnight went by without my dad yelling at my mom in the middle of the night and her screaming to his beating and kicking her. My sister and I would cry in silence, while we cried for our mother, we were constantly worried about people hearing and the humiliation. To a child in an unstable household, living among rich and well balanced families, public perception means the world. I would have give anything to be able to stand before society with my head held high and not cringe about the place where I came from. I still cringe when I talk to my mom about the things my father still does.
My earliest memory of having to watch what I say was when I was 6. Now thinking back, it wasn’t because I was saying something wrong, in fact to any other parent it would have been endearing, but it was because any little thing would set him off. He would beat and kick and spit on my mom in front of her parents and they would just cry on, powerless. We would come back from school and within seconds of looking at the state of the house and the expression/puffiness on my mom’s face, had to calculate what to and what not to say. We would be yelled at and beaten if we left the house without saying goodbye or went to bed without saying goodnight. To this day goodbyes and goodnights have a sinister shadow of evil in my ears. And I can talk a lot about the years of oppression and abuse, the sheer madness of an evil kind.
But the point of this essay is how it’s taken a toll on my sister and me when we entered youth and now adulthood. It’s scarred our lives and our abilities to live a normal life and have normal relationships. Much more for me than my sister, because I usually received the brunt of the madness, and I will take that ten times over if my sister had the opportunity to start over life without a trace of all that happened to us.
I never made friends in school or college. Yes I had friends, but little did I know that sharing my life with them would make them so uncomfortable that they would instantly move away. I learnt it the hard way and stopped telling people much. I didn’t completely stop until I finished my undergraduate after having learnt that my friends who I had confided to had thought I was weird. So I stopped telling anyone but 3 other souls to this day. I had zero confidence in myself. I was not a carefree young thing – I was constantly burdened by what I would have to go back home to. Financially we were doing well but there was nothing to show for it when it came to happiness of the soul. To this day I have a wall around me and I don’t let anyone close for the fear of being hurt or humiliated.
My sister has been a little different, partly because she was free from anxiety as she wasn’t attacked as much and also because she is probably built stronger like my mother. She has many more friends and a strong attitude towards life. We haven’t been much of friends until the last year or two. We grew close after some tough times.
When I was in college back in India, I was so vulnerable. Any guy could sway me and one did – he didn’t have to do much because I was so vulnerable. He said the right things, took advantage and left abruptly. The humiliation was intense. No one knew, at least that what I think. It was painful but I learnt to move on. Focused on the next thing in life and the pain was gone in a year. I am not sure if it made me stronger or weaker or if it was wrong or right. It’s all just a blur. After all the years of oppression, I guess at the time it looked like a way out. And I was vulnerable and weak.
So that is probably why I was so mad and yet forgiving when the same thing happened to my sister. She met a guy when in high school, was taken advantage of and promptly dumped. Only this time, the whole world knew and news reached my mother and me. My father was kept out of the loop because he would turn on one of his mad rages which wouldn’t really help the situation. My mother was broken because in my society a girl’s sanctity lies in being a virgin and her good behavior and its everything when it comes time to get her married. I told my mom that I felt it was inevitable and it is part of a process through which she grows spiritually and mentally. I don’t attach much value to virginity any more, although my part of the country still does and it would be sacrilegious of me to say so. The way I see it, this incident in both my sister and my life was like a lesson on learning to respect oneself and that you (if the universe is merciful) are the key to your freedom and how a guy on hormones isn’t. And we weren’t going to learn it any other way than this.
After that my sister enrolled in college and she seems to be on track for her future. Although she doesn’t work as hard as she could and may not be terribly competitive to succeed, I feel that’s alright.
Life changed for the better when I came to the US for my post graduation. I loosened up, gained confidence, made some good friends who are friends to this day. I still have only maybe 2 or 3 friends but I think given my past, that’s the best I can manage and have come to terms with that and am happy. I had an arranged marriage and the first 2 years were a nightmare, half because my baggage and inability to love and half because of my husband’s baggage. But in the last year, things have changed for the better and I think we might make it and I feel like I can have a happy life – a normal one. I dream of the day when I will have a child and will watch my husband care for and love my child. And I promise myself that I will not leave my child with my father for a second, I want no part of his evil to touch my child.
My sister, mom and I call each other to talk through tough times. My mom stays silent, not disagreeing however, when we talk about how we just might be a million times happier without men in our lives. Just the three of us, we could be so much happier. Although she wants to see us married and happily settled with our own families, I think it resonates with her that MAN hasn’t done much good to our lives, we were and are probably better off by ourselves, rich or poor. So I am married and my sister is in her last year of college, looking forward to the next step – marriage, post graduation, a job or all three. And still the trauma never really is removed from our lives. There of course isn’t any direct physical or mental abuse. My father has toned down since my wedding, he is very aware that if he were himself, that would be the end of my marriage. My sister in boarding school minimizes her visits home and has a group of friends who she cares for. A group who help her with her baggage and teach her to open up and be more forthcoming in relationships, less guarded. And I am grateful that she is getting that earlier on. My dream is for her to marry a good person and lead a happy life. After all that’s happened is that too much to ask?
We may have moved out of home and learned to breathe and really look at what we missed out in life. Some we are able to learn and imbibe now, some are just lost and we are too old to learn or inculcate. But we are still gripped in constant fear for our mother and shame hearing his latest antics. It’s hard to hear about the torture she still has to endure.
My father still beats my mother and forces her to do all the work, at home and to deal with the business outside. My mother sometimes says it’s easier for her to sort things out rather than have him yell obscenely at the workers who then just create insurmountable problems for us (her). She takes care of administration, payouts, personnel management, bills, pretty much everything. For him it’s constant fighting with the, workers, the staff, and then my mother. Everyone around knows he is mad and have witnessed episodes – they say it’s more frequent now. I know for a fact in their hearts everyone knows the sacrifices my mother had made and probably wonder why she still sticks around. But it still doesn’t lighten the burden of humiliation and embarrassment. My sister and I are mortified by his behavior and just want to crawl under a bed. In gatherings and events where families stand proud together, we just want to be left alone, far from the humiliation.
Lately, in the last few months, the lunacy has gone up a notch – more perverse, more disgusting, more inhuman. He is 61 and my mother is 50. He has grown daughters and now stemming from all his inferiorty complex and inability to be successful or happy, he has turned on my mom in a sick way – why are you talking to that young man? What did he say that you find so funny? Why are you wearing your blouse so low? Ask the milkman to just leave the milk and go, he shouldn’t be talking to you. Who are you wearing these jewels to impress? The never ending perversity of the sick twisted mind. You would never believe this is a guy who excelled in his field and was well educated, trained and had exposure to the world. It makes my blood boil. And my mother now tells me he has gotten into the habit of texting this girl of 20. He is 61 and the girl is 20 – the messages are innocent just matter of fact, but still inappropriate. My father has never a day in his life taken an ounce of effort to connect with his daughters, get to know them, be a father. And here he is in his 60th year, enjoying texting and messaging a 20 year old girl. I half die every day fearing the dangerous implications of his wild insane behavior. In the type of society where we come from that would have a huge impact on my sister’s marriage options, if not destroy it.
I want to be rid of this person in my life. I dream and fantasize that he would die in an accident or he will hang himself some day. He really should because if a person tortured everyone around them and In the end is unhappy in his own life, there is no point in living and would really be doing everyone a favor. I have been struggling with thought about the meaning and purpose of my life. I see people who have had stable families, enough money to never worry and have been free-willed and spirited – and will probably have things working out for them for eternity. And I fight against the unfairness of life. Childhood was a nightmare and we barely made it through to the other end, semi-normal, and life is still being uncooperative. I look up to the sky and want to scream “What more do you want of me?” I am happy to lead a semi successful and happy life with my mom, my sister and my husband’s family if only my father would leave us alone.
We don’t ever tell anyone our story. It’s a struggle to keep up straight faces in society and not feel inferior, because we truly are like any other person. But we have learnt to maintain low profiles our whole life, just to avoid a scene or embarrassment. Sadly, its become my approach to life to this day with work and friends and family – and my sister approaches it the same way. All that extra caution, the despondent feeling when you see families together achieving great things. It’s the desperation to show the world we are normal and failing miserably. Years, of kind words, gentle suggestions, firm admonitions, indirect advice – nothing worked on the mad man that he is.
In the end I know that if we came out and said our story, people would say, Leave! Why do you still stay and endure and suffer. I don’t have an answer. I can, my sister can, but my mother for some reason wont. I think she secretly waits for my sister to be married and leave and then she might, but not yet. I don’t know if divorce courts are good about getting a woman her alimony. I don’t know if restraining orders exist in India that could keep you alive with a scorned raging man a woman has just divorced stalking you.
I fear the murmurs of society talking about my family, how well they were doing and how badly they have fallen, while they never knew that all along it was hell. And sometimes I feel he deserves to die and leave us all the money because it essentially is the wealth (however small) that my mother worked so hard to build and hold together. Why should she be the one going to court and fighting for it? If there was any sense of fairness in this universe, he would just die and vanish from our lives. But the universe works in mysterious ways that I don’t understand. Why some people have it easy without having to choose, while others suffer no matter how hard they try to make it better is beyond me.
Thanks for listening,