I remember all the times I lay awake looking at the light scars on my arm as I brushed my fingers softly on it, almost as if it still hurt; not the scars but the past behind it. I still remember each and every word that had been uttered by my father. The uttering even though faded back in time, was crystal clear in my head. Each word was like a loud alarm, slapping the way he had.
Wiping away the tears, the memory was still fresh. It happened when I was twelve years old and I sneaked a text to my crush from my mother’s phone. Having not been well versed with technology, I was caught in my lie as Dad read the message from the sent inbox. He was furious as hailing from an orthodox family, as talking to boys was considered shameful. This went on for the years over different issues. My father was always angry with my actions and opinions. The memory still remained like a wound, still fresh and open. We both had agreed to disagree.
Father had instilled in me a rebellious need for freedom. It all started from the meaningless restrictions which made him violent. The urge to freedom had soon transferred into a ball of emotions with mixture of revenge and hatred at its peak. With the drive of freedom, six years down the lane, I had passed civil services with the lurking dreams of leaving home. Numerous attempts by my mother to stop me from leaving for Ukraine had failed. I had put on my best clothes and packed my belongings, leaving behind all the valuables which were for me but not mine. I had walked out with my head held high. It was my first taste of free air and the bittersweet revenge of leaving my father without any ability to threaten or stop me.
In the coming years, testing the waters of different countries had left me with an understanding about life and a compassionate tan. Yet all those childhood lashes and scoldings were held within me. They were always there, stuck. The freedom did not feel free anymore. The scars haunted me. Numerous attempts of letting go had failed. It was not the orthodox ways, or not being allowed to talk to a boy that hurt. What hurt the most was the lack of emotional relationship. I would walk down the lane looking at parents kissing their children goodbye or sometimes I would come across a father buying candies for his daughter and the pangs of jealousy would hit me hard.
I will always blame my father for his military ways and my mother for the lack of her support. He reached out to me a lot of times in the last few years after I left home. He would frequently ask me, when I would come back and I made empty promises to come soon. I found excuses and home in my work. Work served as the perfect distraction for the questions of my heart. I was often tempted to bond with him. Yet, it was easy to resist, after all he was to be blamed for my lack of emotions.
He was the one who had made me question love. How can you hurt someone you love? How can you take away the freedom of choice from the one you love? I was always restricted into a small cocoon. It was the need for bittersweet revenge that had made me break that cocoon. However, these questions left me emotionally drained, so much that I rarely had friends or relationships, and if I did, they lasted for no longer than three months. He was to blame for all of it. His futile attempts to reach out to me were overpowered by my excellent excuses.
I remember that early morning when I received a call from father. He sounded tired and old. He informed me that Mother had passed away. The message left me in shock and a current of pain had seeped in for a second but I felt nothing after. I took the earliest flight back home. I had nothing to say to my father when I met him.
While many people cried their hearts out and hugged me with sympathy, pity and perhaps sorrow at the funeral, I felt nothing. I still remember looking at him; his eyes were red and he looked shaken and tired. He kept looking at me, waiting for me to approach him as if in anticipation of some comfort that I could offer. But I felt nothing, no guilt or compassion. I couldn’t figure out a way to feel. Months had gone by, time did not help. The questions of distance swirled in my head. I longed for my family.
Yesterday evening, Shanta bai called me to inform that my father was hospitalized and that he survived a serious heart attack. On the way back home, all I could think about was the distance. There was a look of surprise on my father’s face when he seeing me there. He didn’t utter a single word. He held my hand and fell asleep. I sat there looking at him and at my scars. There was something about tonight which left my heart broken. Every inch of my body ached for my mother’s warmth. I fell asleep with the anguish of guilt and my selfish ignorance, wishing that I was there for my mother.
Next morning as I woke up in the seat next to my father, I looked at him and saw weariness. He seemed lonely and tired. The sight brought a sense of uneasiness within me. I remembered all those nights when I had dreamt of expressing years of frustration that evolved from his strict and violent nature. I wished that my feelings were given the freedom to explode. Once again I was tempted to utter words spiked with anger till the storm within me would find its calm, but I couldn’t. All I could feel was restlessness creep over me.
The question of distance and longing for family once again found its way into my heart, but my mind shunned them by looking at scars of angered burns on my body. They weren’t just physical scars; but a cage of sorrows which could never be liberated. They were wounds which would never heal. There would have been a time when I would run to him and apologize, only for his love and attention. But as I saw him call out for me, I locked the cage of my sorrows and put on the stone of silence over my papered heart. As he embraced me for comfort, tears threatened to spill with an ease of freedom but I locked them away into numbness. He whispered ‘Ahaana beta, I love you’.