‘I Watched My Mother Die Every Day’

I watched my mother die every day at the hands of my father. I was only a young girl who had just entered her teens. My mother had imbued me with all the right teachings in life. She had taught me not to answer back to elders and to always respect them. But does this rule apply even when our elders are wrong?

One day, when I was six years old, I heard my parents quarrelling over a child who was no longer alive. Later that same night, when my mother was singing me a song, trying to put me to sleep, I asked her to tell me a story. She told me her own story that night.

Her story was that of a happy princess (my mother) who got married to a monster who ruined her life. In the middle of the story, half-asleep, I asked, “Maa, who was that boy papa was talking about this afternoon?”

My mother was in a pool of tears. My happy princess was crying helplessly.

That day, I came to know that I had another brother. My eldest brother had been murdered in my mother’s womb before he could even be born. I was in shock. To my mother, I asked, “Who killed him?” She started crying even more.

“Beta,” she said, “your grandmother and father wanted a boy. When I got pregnant for the first time, they felt it might be a girl. I was three months pregnant when they beat me and intentionally pushed me from staircase making me lose my son.” That was the first time I ever felt so very helpless.

Back then, I was too young to understand the pain my mother must have gone through when she lost her child. I remember wiping my mother’s tears and speaking in an innocent tone, “Do not worry, mumma. I was not around then to protect my elder brother and you from these devils. Now I am here in your life and I promise you mumma, until I take my last breath, I will never ever allow anyone to hurt you. Whoever comes to hurt you will have to face me first. Even if it’s papa.”

And yet my mother asked me to respect a person who was wrong. She smiled, even as tears welled in her eyes and said, “I never came to know when my daughter grew so old and so strong. Today she is ready to face everyone just to protect her mother. I still protect you, drop you to school. Beta, you can’t even hold a glass of milk with both hands yet,” she giggled and continued, “Beta, after all, he is your father. You should always respect him no matter how bad he behaves.” I fell asleep, after that.

One day, when I was 12 years old, my grandmother taunted me. I came to know then that I was an unwanted member of the family. They wanted a boy and I could never be what they wanted. This made me lose all respect for my father and grandmother. Since then, I started fighting for my mother by standing up to them and answering back.

My father started hating me. When I was 14, he abandoned me completely. Years passed, I turned 20 and still lived like an orphan. My father was not at all ready to take any responsibility for me and threatened my mother even more if she spoke to me sometimes. I knew that if my mother died, I wouldn’t have anyone in this world to call ‘mine’. I wanted to die. I felt that ending my own life would ease my mother’s life and would also be the solution to all my problems.

One day, my mother looked into my eyes and said, “I am sorry, beta. I gave birth to you but could not give you a better life.” She was crying in front of me helplessly.

I realized that day that mothers give birth to us but we are the writers of our lives’ journeys. So why not write it beautifully? After all, my life and my future were in my own hands. No one could snatch my destiny away from me if I wanted to write it well. I decided that I would fight, I would not give up, I would make others envious of how happy I would become. I wiped away my mother’s tears and my own.

Since that time, I have worked hard, studied hard with one goal in life: My happiness would be my own responsibility. I have faced my problems, chosen to fight, and make history.

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