Saturday, 26 August 2017

Childhood, Love, Violence, Corporal Punishment and Me

Before i left for therapy, i felt like i was back in school, trying to impress my teachers. In fact, i was making slight changes to the post about the previous session and week when i realized that too much time had passed. It was rainy and as is inevitable in my case, the auto driver drove taking all the time in the world. I was late. Again i sensed the feeling i used to get when i was trying to impress my teachers. Being on time for everyone of P Mahmood's classes. Putting in extra effort to excel in some subjects etc. I think i felt good, feeling that way. I was also thinking of what i would be talking about my grandfather because Ish, my therapist had told me that that was what and who we were going to talk about, the coming week.

When i said that my psychiatrist had said that i was smiling more spontaneously, she smiled and said that she had noticed it too. I felt really good. I felt like someone like Inji Pennu was looking at me and deducing things that i thought only she could deduce. By my voice, my smile, how i talked etc. I had seen only Inji was able to do that. My mother was good at finding out if i was lying [how do mothers do that!], not what i felt.

She asked me what my earliest memory of my grandfather was. Let me call him 'Appan', which means father in malayalam.

In my mind, i saw the tree drawing that we had done. I must have been three. A tree of sticks with bulbs at the end as fruit, the brown diary in which it was drawn. Thought about the time when i started painting, after August chettan gave me crayons and i had started building a world of my own, upstairs. I had stuck some of his pictures and mine on the window sill. I felt good thinking that i still sketched. Something stayed in me, that was not touched upon by others. I remembered Appan coming back from a walk in the morning when we were staying in a rented house at V Colony. He had got a packet of sketch pens for me. He was really good at drawing. Even with his poor eyesight. So good at everything. Even when he was half blind.
When Ish told me that it was really something that i remembered such things from when i was only three years old, i felt really happy. That my love for Appan was huge and the best. 

I remembered being appreciated by Appan. How he marveled even at small things, like the way i pronounced 'your'. 'Achaame, it is different from the way we were all taught in school,' he had said to my grandmother, beaming.

Ish asked me if i remembered being taken away from my grandparents. I did. I still have the memory of me crying, bawling, struggling in my father's hands, asking to let me go back to Appan and Amma. I remember the painful partings at the end of school vacations. The time they left our house in Calicut to live in Bangalore, with my uncle. 

Ish asked me why they left. I told her that my mother and Amma were having problems. There were fights. She asked me if i hated my mother for having taken away Appan and Amma. I had not. I never looked at it that way, i guess. Never considered her an enemy or responsible. I wonder why. Ish remarked that it was really great on part of my mother that she didn't let hatred build up against herself from me and my sister.

I remembered how i used to try and take revenge for my sister by trying to hurt my mother. I would pinch her hard on the hand. Ish then spoke about how corporal punishment affected children. I spoke about the video i had seen, of a child being taught Math. Ish said she had watched it too and that it was horrible. Not for everyone, i said. My office people were laughing seeing that. What kind of people do you work with? Ish asked me. I told her i always ended up in spaces where such incidents alone happened. Then she spoke to me about sensitivity. 

When you go through certain experiences, you become extra sensitive about those. Like how i can detect sexual harassment immediately. Ish told me that she questioned everyone who used 'crazy' in a loose manner. She also told me that she used to see a lot of pregnant women around when she was pregnant. I pulled her leg by saying that there were no pregnant people around her and that she was seeing things. It was funny. I laughed for a long time. Even after coming home. 

What happened in my case, from what Ish told me, is that i grew up thinking hurt and abuse are part of love. I loved my mother very much. She always beat me. Said horrible things to me. So violence was normalized as far as i was concerned. And it came with love. When such things happen in childhood, you form your opinions based on it. You grow up internalizing these values. In fact, that says everything about the way i describe my relationship with Appan. I saw him as the only person i loved and who did not hurt me even once. That relationship was so precious for me for the same reason. It stood out from every other one in that it lacked violence. 

During and after the therapy i felt really at peace. I thought more about Appan, my mother and my sister. Then, one day, when i came home, the house was dirty as usual. I was really tired after work and was sad that Vai Vow hadn't tidied the house. I started crying. I told Vai Vow that i was trying not to be violent like how my mother had been. She used to abuse me verbally and sometimes hit me too, if the house was dirty when she came home from work. I wanted to break that cycle of abuse. Have been trying to do that ever since i moved in with Vai Vow. I tried not to express my anger or verbally abuse Vai Vow when such incidents happened. I cried for some time, explaining this to him. 

The next day, like considerate men after a rant by women, he made the house look like it was new. 

I also sent that message that i had typed out for this man, L, who was still messaging me. He was the one who first raped me. I was 17. He was 40. He abused me for two whole years and after all this, he had the audacity to text me. Once he sent an 'I MISS you' and recently he messaged me saying my film had been selected at VIBGYOR film festival. I had composed a message but hadn't sent it. I did this week. 'Please don't message me. I know that you raped me when i was 17'. When he didn't reply (retort) i wondered if it was because he considered himself victorious.

I confronted a rapist after many years.

For me the fight is over when i tell the person that i know that he abused me. That was what i wanted in Professor N's case too. I was also slightly worried that L would try and block my film from winning prizes or going to festivals. I thought of it before sending him the message. And told myself that this was exactly how power worked and that what i was doing was exactly how it should be dismantled. As i write this i feel a little better. I hope he doesn't text me ever again.

News of Chy winning the sexual harassment case at home brought me to tears. I immediately wanted to call Vai Vow and tell him. Then i told it to the women of WASH. Smiling even as i am typing. Felt really really good. As though i had won myself.

Then, my sister texted me. She called truce. After two years of no contact and rancour, she said that she was trying to forgive those who hurt her and that she would like to start talking. I don't know what hit her head. I am still scared of her and am scared that she will hurt me and dominate me again. The language was so. But this is a good start, nevertheless.

She texted from South Africa. Vai Vow joked that it took another continent to make her talk to me.

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