Editor’s Note: This month, that is February 2021, FII and The Minor Project are looking for article submissions on the topic of Narrating Violence and Trauma from Childhood to highlight the ways we in our childhoods, experience various forms of brutality from our adults, mentors, peers and even their institutions that may lead to a sustained memory of difficult experiences and mental health issues. The Minor Project is a digital platform for public dialogue to promote discourse on ending violence, abuse and exploitation of children by Leher, a child rights organisation, whose focus is on building communities that care and act for the safety and protection of children. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence
If I pull together the strings of my childhood memories, it can turn into a thick rope which can strangle me if I get caught in it for too long. My childhood has been full of uncertainty and dread. Several times I have conjured up the courage to write a book about my childhood and even dreamt of someone making a movie out of it.
Self-pity and overconfidence have composed my bipolar personality. Anger, hatred and jealousy have been thick friends of mine. A desire to kill has threatened me more than the desire to commit suicide. A surge of Hollywood movies stamped me with a label that said, “You’re a disturbed child! No one wants you!“
My childhood has been a tattered piece of cloth which has been handed down to me from my parents, relatives and friends, who never failed to add another stain to it.
I think of the nights when I tried to touch my parents’ feet while they were asleep and prayed that they would love each other and that all their fights would stop. I remember how my brother would either be indifferent to the whole scene or attack my father to protect my mother. Even an argument with my brother over my pink power puff watch would end up in a row.
My heart often leapt from my chest into my mouth because I grew up with that frightening experience all my childhood. I always dreaded the evenings because I knew that my father would come home drunk and another creative fight was going to follow. I called it ‘creative’ because my parents used all kinds of things to hit each other. Even a bucket. I don’t know whether to laugh about it or hang my head in shame.
I remember, once my mother came running to the building where I was taking tuitions. She stood on the road and started calling out for me. When I heard her, I looked outside, and she was in her nightgown. She was overwhelmed by stress and I ran down to find out what happened. Eventually, I ended up going back home to deal with my drunk father.
I was like a stress reliever for my father. I was able to calm him down and make him do normal things, especially begging him to sleep. I went home and his eyes were rolling as he was super drunk. He was sitting on our old, brown sofa and the strong stench of alcohol filled the room. He was accusing my mother for her character, her pride and what not. I knelt and tried to calm him down.
“Dad, I am here. Let’s take off your shoes and let’s sleep,” I said. He spat on me. I was in ‘disaster management’ mode, so I just wiped his saliva off my face with my hands and continued to insist that he should get some sleep. Finally, he agreed to go to bed. In the morning, while cleaning the house, my mother told me that it was all my fault. I still fail to comprehend what happened that night.
After many years, one early morning I had to get dressed in a hurry, to rush my father to the hospital because he was choking on his own saliva. His epiglottis was swollen and was preventing him from swallowing. My mother panicked and refused to go with us. She was shrieking, so I let her be. I ordered my brother to get ready and come. All along the way, I wiped my father’s saliva. Even when we got to the O.P.D., I let his saliva sit in my hand, until he was admitted to a room and given sedatives to calm down.
When I think of it now, I cry for that little girl who had to go through so much pain, living with helplessness and confusion as her closest companions. The effect of memories can be everlasting. My brother processed this by either getting violent or by running away. I was too young to run away, and not strong enough to stop anyone. I also felt responsible, someone who could calm the situation down or bring them back together. Growing up, I never spoke to anyone about it but I knew that many in our apartment complex were aware of these awful fights, especially our neighbors who I often ran to, to help stop the fight.
I have been that piece of cloth, used and reused beyond its ability to bear, with so much smell and so many colors, that it took me 25 years to reconcile with my past, forgive and move on. It took me that long to admit that I am a child of a dysfunctional family but that doesn’t define my worth.
Additional information for helping a child victim of domestic violence can be found here.
For additional resources and child helplines, please see here.
Priyanka Rawat works with an anti-human trafficking organisation in Delhi. She has been working in the development sector for the past decade. Priyanka is deeply passionate about creative expressions and often creates from her personal experiences be it art, or writing. You can find her on Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Feminism In India