My mother is Marathi and my father is Bengali. We have lived in Kolkata for many years. My father beats up my mom very often and we have had little or no choice because we don’t have money to live a life of dignity by ourselves. From the time I was 8 year old, I have not only seen my father raise his hand on my mom but also bring his girlfriend to our house, with the full support of his entire family, with whom we unfortunately live.
My parents have many differences, cultural ones are a big part of them. Because my mom couldn’t speak Bengali or learn some of the customs, my paternal family has harassed her for the last few decades led by my father. And this happens in strange ways. They make fun of her because of her marathi accent, and this even though she has tried a lot to take up the Bengali culture since our arrival into Kolkata from Mumbai. As a 22 year old, am numb with what my mother has to go through. I thought we were in a society where people celebrated diversity.
My mom and I have spent our time together and given how my father was, I grew closer to my mother and therefore to her culture. When we arrived in Kolkata, we were not quite welcomed by my father’s side in Kolkata. Both of us didn’t get any acceptance in this family in Kolkata because we were different and that’s what got made stronger together. What do I mean when I say we were different. My father’s family was very orthodox. They had issues if I wore sleeveless clothes. Or when I would take part in extra curricular activities or classes outside of school. As I grew up, I started liking the idea of doing make up and enrolled in classes for it, I love learning to dance too. For the family, a girl’s life should be all about devoting herself to a family, like raising children, getting married and no do stuff ‘like this.’ I was discouraged from taking extra classes or doing courses of my interest. Even though my mom stood by me, I never spent a day without ridicule from my father’s household.
When I turned 18, my grand father asked my father to get me married. We are a middle class family. My father is a pharmacist and runs a store. My grand father was in the Indian Navy but his wife was a house wife all his life. Most people in the armed forces are progressive but my grand father was not. Imagine having to get married at 18?
As a result of this, my relationship with my father became worse. I have been having a rocky relationship with my father for the last many years, but my teenage years were the worst. I was never good enough for my dad. If I was on the phone, there was a problem. If I was sitting and doing nothing, then he would be like, “Why are you idle?”
When I was small I saw my dad beat up my mom for the first time in 2005. Why did he beat her? Because there was some issue happened between them on my 8th birthday. His girl friend also attended my birthday with the tacit permission of his own family in the presence of my mom and me. Ever since that day, because my parents had such a physical fight, I have stopped celebrating my birthday.
It got to a point in 2005, that my mother reported my father for domestic violence with Kolkata police. But my entire paternal family supported my father because he was their son. Apparently whatever he does is right and what we say or do is wrong. But for my mom, I stuck by her side.
We are in this because of the money. We don’t have money, because my mother doesn’t work. And I am not yet working as I am still in college. Years have passed, the domestic abuse has continued. If not his own hands, then whatever he can get his hands on, he would just hit us. Things didn’t improve at all these past years. Last year I decided to report him. I was about to go to work to teach and was getting late. My father had a courier for him, I couldn’t go fetch the letter for him and told him I was late for my work. He came out down angry, and hit me on my face leading to a swollen lip. I retaliated. We have a pet dog, who was walking around, and so my dad then hit the dog. That made me livid cause not only do I love my dog but what was the pet’s fault in this. My mother and my grandmother intervened. My dadi behaved like I was tormenting her son.
I went to the cops and reported him. No one thought I would. Everyone was called to the police station. I was just spent and couldn’t deal with this beating. My father’s entire family behaved badly with me, saying, “I am making a family drama.”
You may ask why I don’t leave the house. Why my mom and I don’t leave my father. My mother says I shouldn’t have to not have a father. And so far it’s also been about financial dependence.
We never reported him earlier because he was the breadwinner for us and my mom thought about the difficulties that might arise. People called us names, especially me because of my father and even though my mother stood up for me. There were several incidents when friends, neighbours would call us names. In my school, I bore the brunt of people knowing that my father had an affair. Since I am sensitive about this part of my life, I have seen so many people use it against me.
For me as an 8 year old, in class 2 to know my dad had a girl friend was very wild. His girl friend was invited by my dad to my birthday. That’s how I got to know. This was all so weird to absorb at that age. I didn’t understand why my dad had a girlfriend but I knew as I grew up that this wasn’t right. My friends would mock me about this. Every bit of my life I have seen my mother internalise this. And as I grew up, people made me feel bad, guilty about my father’s behaviour. I was also criticised for talking about it, or confiding in friends about this.
My mother, she had her own problems, including some mental health issues. I have often asked her to take her to therapy but she wouldn’t let me. My father would beat her up in front of me all the time. And the rest of the family would never utter a word or interfere. My dad got blind support from his entire family. Years of abuse has taken a toll on her state and she refuses to get help but now I can finally understand what she went through all these years and I try to be patient with her.
We try to talk more and spend more time with each other and the quarantine has given us time for that fortunately. I really feel our family intentionally pick on my mom, taunt her, or pass remarks. She needs someone to love her. I stay on guard.
Last few months I have thought about so many things. I want to go overseas and study. My mother deserves a little place of herself too. I am hoping to get a job, earn well, and eventually leave here and never look back.