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My parents were extremely affectionate and epitome of harshness in the same breath. They gave me a harrowing time through my adolescent years.
Trigger warning: This post contains details of physical abuse on a child which may be triggering to the survivors.
“Truth is stranger than fiction,” goes the old adage. And nobody knows it better than I do. For nearly two decades, I lived through it. The truth is: My parents were extremely affectionate and epitome of harshness in the same breath. They gave me a harrowing time through my adolescent years. Sounds bizarre and horrifying doesn’t it?
I am my parents’ first surviving child. Born five years, after their first son died weeks after his birth, I was naturally the child they were possessive and overindulgent towards.
I was educated in convent (missionary) schools throughout. As a child I was given everything from dolls, chocolates, story books, comics, kids’ magazines, to all the fancy items. They even gave me magnetic pencil boxes, perfumed erasers, stickers’ expensive pencils, pens, everything that captured a child’s imagination.
My parents made it a point to spend quality time with me each day. They taught me general knowledge, moral values, languages, read outs stories from myths and legends.
So far so good, right? I guess the couple must have heard the proverb ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’ So they probably decided to administer occasional doses of strictness and discipline. Unfortunately, in their zeal to mould my future they literally went overboard.
For the tiniest of my flaws they came down heavily on me. Bunking school, low grade in moral science, bad handwriting, squabbling with neighbour’s brats and such like, elicited thrashing. I’ve been beaten with rolling pins, wooden hangers, indoor flip-flops, boots or anything that came handy.
My mother often went one step farther, she would grab me by the locks and bang my head against the wall. I would scream for mercy but in vain. At times, I wept, secretly wondering how such conscientious dutiful parents could turn so violent.
In my father’s case, after violence came remorse. He would hold me close, shed bitter tears and lament how the demon had possessed him. Then, he would beg for forgiveness. We would hug and make up and things would be normal again. Until the next time.
Another rewind. My father’s academic aspirations were shattered due to a family catastrophe. Right after his graduation, fortunately, he bagged a lucrative job and managed to run his family. My mother, also a graduate, also discontinued her studies, owing to financial constraints.
Rightfully (or wrongly) they pinned all their unfulfilled hopes and dreams on me. The duo reared me on one mantra: ‘Read, acquire knowledge, study hard’ to carve out a good future.
I was encouraged to pursue higher studies and if an opportunity came by, they reassured me that they would like to send me abroad. They assured me that I could select my life partner (faith, caste no bar) and marry as per my convenience.
I learnt of birds bees from my mother rather than peer groups. During my university years, I was put into a hostel which made me more self-reliant. I was even allowed to join an overseas group tour, solo, while barely out of my teens!
Imagine my bewilderment, therefore, when such liberal and understanding parents turned nasty and brutish. Why? Throughout my adolescence, severe hormonal disorder made me prone to mood swings, irritability rudeness and stubbornness.
Since I was absent-minded and clumsy I could not handle things properly. This and similar faux pas only infuriated them further. Bouts of violent punishment became frequent. Mom had a nasty habit. The moment dad came home from work, she would report all my mischief or misdeeds.
Infuriated, dad would unleash his wrath and hit me in a frenzy. At times mom would join in, in a bid to overpower me. I still wonder as I did back then, they could have confined the chastising to a few whacks or (as was case of most kids) boxing of ears. Why did they have to be so cruel?
Certain circumstances during those years too might acted as a catalyst to incite violence. My father was at a crucial point of his career in a PSU, while my mother was in the throes of pre-menopausal issues. To unleash their angst they found in me a handy punching bag.
Ironically, my two younger siblings were smart enough to avoid pitfalls and loopholes that I stupidly got myself into. They would smugly look on while I would be thrashed. Not an iota of sympathy! Thankfully my physical abuse finally came to an end when I left home to work.
The purpose of this narrative is to neither wash dirty linen in public nor paint my parents in a bad light. My parents have, since, left for a better world and I miss them.
People who knew them will vouchsafe that the couple wouldn’t even hurt a fly. They were kindly souls widely loved and respected by kids and youth for miles around. Alas! If only…
With an anguished heart, I jot down here a few parenting tips to avoid any sort of child abuse.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi movie Kahaani 2.
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