The Making of a Rebel
The shouts & screams kept getting louder & louder as salty tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to drown them out in my mind by concentrating on the song playing on the tape recorder.
“Kanneer poovinte kavilil thalodi…”
The song echoed the melancholy in my heart, even though I couldn’t understand its lyrics. It was in Malayalam. A three year old, I still couldn’t understand a word of my mother-tongue, because my parents would be busy at work until night & when they did find any time at night, they were busy fighting. They had no time for their daughter.
“I want a divorce!” I could hear my dad’s gruff voice thundering from the kitchen. Then, he stopped hitting my mom, came out of the kitchen to the small living room where I was sobbing incoherently & shook my tiny body with his hands.
“We’re getting a divorce, Pammu. You have to choose between your mom & me. Whom do you choose?” When no reply came from me, he shook me again & thundered, “Tell me! Whom do you want?”
‘Divorce’ makes no sense to a three year old, but I understood the question. After all, that question had been asked way too many times for me to forget. I would’ve, without a second thought, chosen my mom because he beat her all the time & I was dead scared of him. But somewhere in my heart, I hoped for a miracle & prayed that my dad would get better & our family would be happy again. I didn’t want to choose; I wanted them both.
“Aaah!” a voice echoed from the kitchen. While I was busy contemplating about the choice, my dad had hit mom with the heavy aluminum cooker’s lid on her head.
Distraught with horror, I ran out of the house & frantically knocked on my neighbor’s door. “Help!! He’s killing my mom! Please come!” I shouted through the closed door. They opened the door in an instant. They stormed into my house & stopped dad from hitting her again. Though my parents had brought me to life, my neighbors were the ones who brought me up. My mom had resumed her work when I was a year & a half & she left me at the neighbors’ to be taken care of. They had five kids of their own, who were only too happy to have a little baby in the house. Ironically, they were the ones who had chosen my nickname. Since they were Maharashtrians, the first language I inevitably learnt was Marathi. The irony was that my dad, who didn’t understand Marathi had to learn it in order to converse with me.
I stifled my sobs trying to catch my breath & crawled beneath the foldable iron bed in the living room. Beneath it, I had created a small world for myself, which included a non-functional B&W T.V. set & the rolled mattress we slept on. Sometimes, I pretended to watch the T.V. by pressing its buttons, switching them on & off. The T.V. was mine; it wasn’t working anyway. I smothered my sobs into the mattress & cried till I couldn’t anymore.
After a while, dad pulled me out & hugged me. He planted kisses all over my face & begged me for forgiveness. This was a routine programme. He rocked me in his arms, till the exhaustion of the tiring night lulled me into sleep.
Dad suffered from clinical paranoia. He was given several shock treatments, but his condition didn’t get any better because he refused to take the medicines. My mom was too beautiful in comparison with his average looks & somehow this had planted seeds of insecurity in his mind & suspicions of her cheating on him.
The fights were a daily feature in our house. I wouldn’t call it home, because even hell seemed like a better place to live in. My mom & I lived in constant fear of dad, because there was no telling what might tick him off. He would become enraged & violent for reasons that made no sense at all.
Over the years, things only grew worse. Often, when he flogged me with his leather belt for my innocent mischiefs, I would look at mom to save me. However, she was too scared to help. I did not know whom I wanted to be like, but I knew whom I would never want to be like. And, that was my mom. Though I sympathized with her, I wished she had courage to stand up at least for her child, if not for herself. Still, I’ve never held any hard feelings for her because I understood that everyone is wired differently. As I grew up, I forgave my dad when I came to know about his illness. And, I still love them as anyone loves their parents, because I believe they did the best job they could.
I prayed fervently & cried to God to grant me my prayers, only to be left unheard. I was only eight when I became an atheist. I had realized that praying was futile. I choked back my fears & learnt to be strong. My parents were too busy with own messed up lives to look after me. So, I raised myself on my own.
Yes, I’m cold because it’s not easy to live with a million emotions bottled up inside, begging to be felt.
Sometimes, I act childish because the child in me was forced to grow up way too soon.
I’m cunning & shrewd because a simpleton couldn’t have survived this long.
Sometimes, I’m greedy, because I’ve had to strangle my wishes & talents due to paucity of funds.
Sometimes, I’m selfish, because I’ve had no one else to care for me.
I don’t care what anyone else says or thinks about me, because they weren’t there when I needed them.
I’m fearless, because I’ve lived my entire life in fear & nothing can scare me now.
I’m assertive & loud because I’ve suffered for being passive & I won’t let it happen again.
I agree, I’m not perfect, but this was the best I could do & I think I’ve done a fine job at that. And, I’m proud of myself.
After all, the making of this rebel wasn’t an easy process.
(Posted earlier on our Facebook page)
Image source: flickr.com