This incident happened when I was in the sixth standard, while reading a chapter on the Renaissance in my history textbook. As a kid, I wasn’t as interested in bookish knowledge, as I was in experiential learning. Annual examinations were weighing on my head, and I was trying hard to concentrate on the chapter. Just then, I heard a loud thud from the adjoining room. I ran to have a look – only to see my mother bellowing for help. She was being beaten by my father, yet again.
I wasn’t new to such a scene, but that day, something stirred inside my consciousness when I saw it all over again. Something died within me. Out of an impulse to help the injured and stop the violence, I asked my father to stop beating. It was the first time that I saw blood in his eyes. It was as if I was making eye contact with a bloodhound, and not my father.
“Zyaada koodo mat, nai toh school jaana band karvaa dunga tumhaara (Stop crying, or else I’ll stop sending you to school)”, was the reply I received from the assaulter. I was a meek kid back then, and I got scared. Besides, I loved the library and just couldn’t imagine parting ways with it. Hence, I bowed down to the threat and moved on with my life. But, I couldn’t completely part with my emotions. He was my father after all. He addressed me by my nickname when he was in a good mood. He brought me my favourite sweets and sometimes, he was also nice to me.
At the fragile age of 12 or 13, what could I possibly know about bonds – more importantly, family blood? I was happy as long as everyone around me was happy. I was sad only if my mother cried or frowned. I do understand the reasons why my mother kept making peace with the violence inflicted. However, I also think that in this era, understanding and putting up with injustice is the last thing that I, or anyone else, would want to do. Had my mother taken a stand back then, or at least tried to, things for her and her kids could have been very different indeed.
As I began spending more time with my books, I formed an imperishable bond with them. Reading gave birth to my passion for writing as well. The more I read, the more I drifted apart from homely attachments. For me, it just evolved to another four-walled accommodation, with a roof above my head.
I remember being beaten black and blue by the principal in the 12th grade when it was discovered that I was seeing a classmate of mine. Today, when I look back, I am certain that I did a mistake by getting involved. I was too young, but I am not sure if beating me was the right way to reprimand me? I too am human. I erred. That was all.
It took me the two years when I was pursuing a Bachelors in Journalism, to differentiate between good and bad behaviour. We put up with inhumane behaviour if we are dependent on somebody, emotionally and financially. This reins havoc on our self-esteem. We become crippled at the very thought of emotional detachment. Financial dependency is another menace. I couldn’t take the severe step of calling the police because my mother didn’t want me to, and also because I was still pursuing my education.
“Where will I go? What will happen to my kids? I don’t earn despite having qualifications.” – these were some of the major concerns that my mother grappled with daily when I was young. I have an elder brother who also moved away from the house to carve a new path for himself. It was easy for him because he is a man.
But, here I am! At the age of 24, I am still threatened to be married off at my father’s whims and fancies, whenever I try to raise my voice. I am expected to be answerable about my whereabouts, all the time while my brother isn’t. My father likes controlling the women of the household, and exhibits thoughts like these:
“Bahu chotti ghar se aani chahiye aur beti ko bade ghar mein daalna chahiye (The daughter in law should come from an economically weaker house, and should be married off into a richer house.)”
Frankly, I am no longer appalled because neither do I care, nor am I dependent on him any longer – be it financially or emotionally. Neither do I tell him my whereabouts, nor do I talk about my professional achievements with him. There is no longer any communication between us.
If I get a salary hike, it is not my father who gets to know about it. My closest friends get to know about it. They were here yesterday and they are here today. They are the pillars to my strength and well-being.
I might not be earning much, but I am quite sure that I will do very well in my future without any help from any man, whatsoever. I wish I could explain mom that marriage doesn’t mean owning somebody’s soul. It is not the ultimate destination. I am not here to make babies just because I am a woman. I want to live like any ordinary human being. Is that too much to ask for?
I wish I could tell her that there’s nothing to fear. Instead of fearing, why do we not think about empowerment for a change? Why do we have to let a very petty man, or a fragile ego to have dominate us, or our bodies for that matter?
I have gained my voice back. I am fighting every day to get out of this hell-hole. I am also trying to help my mother gain her self-confidence. I am also very sure that I will not get married till I am completely sure about the institution of marriage – because as much as my father thinks that I am his responsibility, he needs to come out of his bubble, and look at me once. He has to accept that neither am I his or anybody else’s responsibility, nor do I have any love to offer. I am not even sure if his existence bothers me anymore.
I say this because I was asked by a close friend if I loved my dad? Unhesitatingly, I replied, “No.”
A lot of hypocrisy still prevails amongst the educated classes. They come with thoughts such as – women earn but need physical security which can only be provided by the man she has to marry. “Bullshit!“, I say.
We are progressive women who are far from being hapless. We have to burn down the hypocrisy, embrace education, and empower inner awareness. We cannot afford to pity ourselves. We just have to get out there and fight. And win.