I was brought to Chennai, and the age of darkness begun. History repeated all over again, and my mother gave birth to a baby girl and ditched her again. This time the baby was given away to her mother (my other grandmother), the only consoling fact being my sister was 4-5 months old by then. Meanwhile, my father’s career nosedived and he went from bad to worse. After completing an MA with good grades, he joined a plastic moulding company, unfortunately that company was shut down and he ended up being a security personnel for a few months. He then quit that job and was trying for a better job.
We were residing in Tambaram, a suburb in Chennai, when my life was turned upside down. Until then I was studying in a Tamil medium school, and in Chennai I was admitted in an English medium school where my mother worked. For her convenience I was always made to study in the school in which she was employed. Sadly for me, my mother changed jobs every 8-12 months.
This may may look grossly exaggerated, but the truth is I studied in 12 different schools overall (this despite studying for 4 years in a single school)
The economic scenario frustrated my father and he found a easy way to vent out his anger by hitting me. My mother is someone who will pick a fight with every other person and to get a closure she would hit me and abuse me with the choicest of words. In schools she would pick a pick a fight with a fellow teacher and when the issue escalates either she would be chucked out or she would resign. There would to be fights every day between my father and mother, it made my condition worse, as I became a victim of regular domestic violence. However during that point of time I slightly preferred being with my mother to my father, as she would just grab my hair and slap me. I could handle that pain and moreover the frequency of getting hit was far less when compared to the number of times I got hit by my father. Unlike other Western countries, parents in India still beat their children, the problem for me was not getting hit by parents, but not knowing the reason for getting hit.
My personality changed due to these changes in my environment, my entire world comprised of just three people. I had no reason or chance to interact with anyone other than my parents, whom I was scared of. There was a girl next door named Sri Laxmi. She used to talk to me in the evenings, and I really liked that change. Evenings became pleasant, she used to draw, sketch and paint well (I am unable to recollect how well), and she inspired me to take up sketching as a hobby. I used to secretly draw some pictures at home not knowing that it would later get me into trouble.
I used to top the class in my first grade, however I was not able to top my class after coming to Chennai. The medium of education changed from Tamil to English, and I had difficulty in adapting swiftly. There was a girl named Anandhi in my class, and she used to be excellent in her studies and it was hard to outscore her. One good thing about my father was his indifference to my marks and grades, he has never hit me once for the marks that I got. However for my mother, my marks were of paramount importance, because other teachers would discuss the marks of their kids and my mother did not want to cut a sorry figure. Unfortunately I got third place in the class and my mother became furious, she hit me and abused me for one full hour. Her fury reached a whole new level when she discovered my sketches, citing that as reason for my below par performance she hit and abused me for one full week. I stopped sketching from that day on.
My neighbor Srilaxmi’s parents knew that I was regularly beaten by my father, as our homes were pretty small, just a hall with a slab as kitchen. We lived in the same compound and my neighbor’s house was pretty much identical, however they had a TV in their house. Sri Laxmi took me to her house for watching TV, so when my father came back I was not at home. He sent my mother to bring me home, assuming that he would send me to buy something from the grocery store nearby. Something else was awaiting me, one of the biggest horrors of my life. I sometimes wonder how I survived that, he slapped me hard and then grabbed me by my feet and lifted me upside down, and then rotated me like a merry-go-round and threw me on to the walls. Fortunately for me, I was not hurt badly, I don’t know how I escaped an injury. However that incident created a permanent psychological scar. I stopped going to Sri Laxmi’s house as well.
That was vacation time and I returned to my village and to my grandmother. All of a sudden I was in heaven, I got everything which I was deprived of in Chennai – new dresses, good food, sweets, play time and above all truckloads of affection. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the vacation, among my friends I was the last to sleep and the first to wake up, as I never wanted the days to end. However the vacations following the quarterly and half yearly exams were just 10 – 11 days long. After 5th day of the vacations a different kind of fear would set in, the fear of holidays getting over and me returning to Chennai. Everyday I would count and recount the number of days left. Words will not do justice to that fear, the closest analogy would be the fear of a convict waiting for the electric chair.
Another turn in my life:
We shifted to a new location, and with that the short and sweet friendship with Srilaxmi came to an end. I don’t know where she is today or how many kids she has, I am eternally indebted to her and her kindness. Despite all the gloom and doom of my early life, there were people to be thankful for and she was one of them. She was like a God sent Angel to help me cross a difficult part of my life.
We shifted to a new place -Tambaram Sanatorium. My mother joined a new school and so did I. Again I was unable to top the class and came second, topping the class became all the more difficult because my mother picked up a tussle with my class teachers and to exact their pound of flesh, they reduced my marks. Eventually I would get hit for not making her proud by topping the class. Our classes used to get over by 4 : 30, since my mother was a Physical Education teacher, she would finish of her work only by 5: 30 pm. That provided me a window to have some fun, I used to play football with a few kids in the school. A senior of mine, named Xavier played with me everyday. I fondly addressed him as Xavier anna, he was studying in 6th grade back then and he inspired me to take up football as a new hobby. In a way, I got used to the domestic abuse as it became a norm.
When Ramayan resulted in terror:
During one of our football sessions, a friend named Srivatsan gave me a comic book, an animated version of Ramayan. In that story, Ravan after deep penance will start cutting down his heads and offer it as a sacrifice to Brahma to get great boons. This story inspired me a lot, I desperately wanted to change my life. I hid my face behind a book and started saying “Om Brahmaya Nama” silently without moving my lips. I did this for a few days, assuming that I would get the powers to change my face. Nothing of that sort happened, one day my mother went out with a friend of her leaving me alone. My father generally came back late, so I decided that I would also sacrifice some blood to please Lord Brahma. I took a brand new shaving blade from my father’s razor kit, and switched on the gas stove. I was not scared at all (I can never do this now), I cut my left fore finger. The blade was too sharp and the cut was very deep. I bled profusely, but I was happy, because I was sure that such an act would give me enormous power and I could retaliate. I
The bleeding did not stop at all, I was scared that my blood might spill all over and I would be beaten badly for that. Unable to stop the bleeding, I started sucking it and it resulted in nausea and eventually I puked. The bleeding stopped before my parents came back. I was really worried about being caught, my finger became swollen and my father noticed that injury. He asked me how I got my finger cut, I was not prepared to face his questions, I lied, told him that I got my finger cut while sharpening my pencil. He then asked me where I got a blade to sharpen the pencil. I was so dumb that told him that I used his blade. BANG!!!! I was trashed for using a fresh unused blade. It was half a rupee then, and I was trashed for wasting a blade. That day I felt very weak as well, so could not handle all the thrashings. I cursed Brahma the whole night and vowed not to worship him at any cost.
That year my biggest happiness was watching the Jackie Chan movie, Armour of God at our landlord’s house while my parents were away. I went to my native again for the summer holidays. Summer holidays were always special for me, as my birthday falls during that holidays, and my grandma celebrate it in a big way by giving a feast for all my relatives and my neighbors.
I learnt almost all the games that are played in the villages from marbles, to gilli, to kabaddi. My friends had never played football, so I used to narrate them how I played foot ball in Chennai. I also told them stories about how beautiful Chennai was (most of that was hearsay as I had hardly seen places in Chennai). I used to tell them about my schools and how students spoke in English. My friends Ramesh, Venkatesh, Muttai and Prabhakar were all so much impressed with my stories, that they would always treat me differently, and I sort of liked it. For major part of year, I would be ill treated, so I started enjoying this special treatment. I started looking forward to this experience every year.
Though I was pretty happy during the holidays, it affected me indirectly. I lived in two distinct worlds, I was either the happiest or the saddest. I would be either with the most affectionate people or the most abusive. In a way these pleasant phases made the agony all the more difficult to handle.
Darkness continues … meet you in Chapter – 3