Doorbell rang, Dad had been missing for weeks now; Masi and Mesho had appeared instead. I was sent out of the house just then. I had kept standing with Mona at the Park for 4 hours. I could as if understand word by word what was happening inside. From evening, it had become night- and I was more than exhausted and exasperated too..
We were called inside. Mesho had distastefully tried to preach-Meena, whatever he maybe; he is your dad.. I had retorted looking at mom that he was to first take care of his wife; and had gone straight inside my room.
Summer vacations were over. I had by then, completed my summer homework. I was in 5th then. Drawing Charts, making collage and everything else; what dad had been doing till then. 2 days later, dad had appeared. He could not take that change in me well. His voice had choked asking me that how could I have drawn those charts all by myself. One of them was drawing of the Lal- Qila fort. OMG, it had hit him on his pride. For crying out loud, I was his daughter. Nevermind. There was more to come; for both of us; actually, for all of us.
He had looked drugged. Like an obedient daughter, I had reported that to mom. Mom being the Ideal Indian Dedicated woman (that she regretted about helplessly); had not listened. How I could have said so..? For years, I had watched dad changing and refreshing the1st thing after entering the house. 2nd, he would place everything meticulously on their assigned places. Washed garments folded in the almira, the dirty ones in the basket. His wardrobe was the cleanest, everything lay neatly folded; a trait I have inherited- actually the entire sequential trait. That day, He had not taken his wrist- watch out, not changed and lay straight down on his abdomen. Highly unlikely..!!
I had never sniffed of any hard- drink and yet could tell whenever uncle returned drunk. That’s right; there’s a huge difference between “not sober” and “drunk”. The very look on his face used to be enough for me to run from the main door to mom and stand still. She would then guess I had seen a “ghost”. I had never felt scared as such; only sick of thinking how much more mom was to take?
He had later admitted that he had come drunk.. He had suffered of Food Poisoning the day he masi had gone to watch his Play. My masi had gone to the theater to see his act. There he lay unconscious. He was admitted to hospital for a couple of days and treated. Masi had come to talk to mom after the entire episode. I had tried to stay neutral.
And failed. I used to wet my bed till very late. Though not regularly; but atleast once in two months. That had been since last 2 years then. Doctors had said that that was because of stress; I suffered of SNE. I did not bed- wet anymore. Instead, I had “grown up”.
Without seeking mom’s permission, I had discussed about my pocket money allowance with dad. He had replied that since I was growing up, I could un- hesitantly tell him what I wanted and he would get the best thing available. OMG!! I had clammed up. I had regretted thousand times having talked to him about that. Did he really mean it? So was I right, when I had told mom that I didn’t feel comfortable about how dad touched me- back then?
(B-4/F-2) Mom had hushed me when I had refused to go to dad’s room in the evenings. I had felt as if he tried to touch me. I had already refused to wash with him. Couldn’t my ignorant mom notice that I was growing up? My hesitation and feeling awkward in his company was wrongly misunderstood as being shy. Dad used to shower me. One day, I had felt so embarrassed to undress, I may have been only 7 or 8 years old. My body- frame had started changing and “I growing up early” signs were pretty visible. While everyone around thought that I was a usually chubby child, I could notice that my form was not as shapeless as it was a few weeks back..!!
I had not talked to mom for the next few days since she had “forced” me to undress that had made me so uncomfortable and get into shower with dad. It had been so indescribable but very certain. I had even tried talking it out to mom but she had not understood that I was changing. Nevertheless, it never happened again.
Several times, I had tried telling her that he touched me- and she would brush that aside. Was that deliberate so I could remain innocent? Not anymore. As a toddler, I had wanted to marry dad; because I thought marrying him would make him stay with me- always. In reality, nothing could make him stay with us.
My darling mom had written a length telling dad such embarrassing unmentionables in retort.. in Bangla. So I could not read; mom had read that out to me. I wasn’t holdig any Moral Science class for anyone. I had only wanted mom to manage a certain thing instead of dad- that’s all. My 1st Baggies trousers had happened from Snowhite. Mom had let me wear a dad’d shirt. Would you believe it? Dad had almost taken that off me in sheer jealousy. Mom had intervened that his daughter had grown up and she could not undress in front of him. I had not understood the meaning of the words then- I was too upset at dad’s violent reaction. While going out to get milk (this was before I started to go to school), he would at times, put me on his cycle. While on the trail, he would ask me what would I wear when I grow up- full pants or half pant? That was the lingo then. I could never answer. So, it was his testosterone talking and not a dad.
Mona had swept all the valuables away in her bag and wanted to leave for her hometown. Mom had temporarily worn a Halo on her head and one day, checked her belongings. She was sent back home. My uncle had beaten her up too- mom had stepped in. No point beating up a grown up girl.. Hopeless. The men- who else? Not her. She belonged to a poor family. She was only following her instincts.
Dad would give me 1300/- for Household Expenses to pass that to mom. I played a full time Massenger for some very good period of time. Whether dad would be home at night, whether he would eat, if he would get late- he would convey that to me. It was my Duty to have conveyed that in verbatim. They wouldn’t talk to each other, not go out, not have food too!! Socially, both of them would have died to be walking together.
All this while, my mom was getting closer to my Uncle. He stood there as one Solid Help (or so it looked) both monetarily and emotionally. At the end of each day, mom would wait for him to come home, so she could tell him the whole day’s Activity. If only she had realized that he was the Biggest Opportunist going around.
Uncle had bought a color Philivision TV. The Ramayana (the battle-fight episodes) was watched in color and so was the whole of Mahabharata. Dad’s bed- box was placed in the living room. One room was simply turned into a store room.
The inevitable happened: I witnessed the last of the dog and cat fight. Don’t recall the issue, but dad had asked mom not to put/apply Vermillion there on.. Being a Hindu, a wife and a traditionalist (as we all like to be), she was beyond any hurt could define. She had never touched that red powder again. Not until she was alive. After she was dead, I had fought it out with everyone around. TO NOT HER DEAD FACE BE SMEARED WITH THAT FORBIDDEN COLOR.
I had decided since, that I would never put on any sign of being a Married Woman (if at all I were to marry); that way, no Man would be able to show me down..
Is that what a 12 year old should be learning and promising to herself. Yes- That was ME..
Uncle had cleverly made the best out of that fight. He had one evening asked my dad to “leave”- with his wife and child!! And that was obediently followed within a week’s time. The within the quotes portion alone and not the italicized words.
I had sat mom and talked to her that uncle was only trying to play his cards or carom- whatever. She was as if blindfolded- why even “as if”?; she was..!! Why would uncle have otherwise said so? For all these years till his work with AMERICAN CENTER was on a temporary contract, he had stayed with us. Even though that dad had not appreciated his stay; for selfish reasons, he had never said a word about that. My uncle, had so conveniently and simply asked dad to leave. How could he have?
All 3 of them had been staying together since more than 17 years, how could he not have felt for us? Why had mom not stepped in? If only she had silenced him at an appropriate time, maybe; actually no.. Uncle would have found yet another way to get rid of us; dad would have left anyways. It was pretty clear from dad’s behavior that he had wanted to be out of his immediate family since long.
Why couldn’t he assert his belongingness too? Staying alone with dad was of greater risk; there had to be someone around to put a noose on dad’s unruly mannerisms. This is exactly how I had felt then. These are not my mother’s feelings shared with me later. How much more tricky or nasty could it get?
I had noticed a Divine Restfulness in uncle’s being after uttering those spits. Thats what he had wanted ever since his Job was confirmed as permanent. He retired only a year back after serving his tenure. he was quite a popular figure in his office. Thats what Madhurima, my then immediate neighbor had told me. See, how unaware I was caught. The 1st time I had been to her place was the only time. Would you still blame me for turning into a recluse?
I could see a change in dad’s state of being too. He had casually asked what I wished to do; and not mom. He had wanted to take me along with him; atleast so he had mentioned once- only once. Mentioned, not insisted or ordered or acted upon. Mom- she had ceased to exist for him maybe. I distinctly remember him not dropping even a whisper in her direction.
Mom could not play the strategist- she had failed to; miserably. Her intentions were honest- she wanted a better future for her daughter. If only she had used her survival instincts too. She had not influenced my decision. She had wanted me to decide for myself..
- Were the two of you out of your minds to have forced your daughter into such a pathetic and shameful dilemma?
- Was a 12 year old supposed to decide who to choose to stay with?
- Why was I made to choose one of you?
- Why did the two of you make me gamble; that either ways was my last move towards losing- both of my parents and my healthy life with normal thinking?
- Wasn’t I born out of a wedlock and hence, belonged to a respectable lineage?
- Shouldn’t I have gotten both of you under the same roof at the same time, without having me to worry about such issues?
- Wasn’t that your duty to decide for your child; instead of having me to decide for myself?
- Why the two of you didn’t seek my approval and or permission before making me?
- Wasn’t I a child?
- Wasn’t I your child?
- Hell!! Were you being parents at all??
Within a week, he was gone. I wish I could say- Gone for good.. Actually yes, gone for good- for his own self.