Like mother, like daughter

By: Kavita Sarin

Lying awake in bed
At the ripe old age of sixteen
I realised
For the very first time
That only a brick wall
Separated me
From the tumultuous madness
That ensued in the room next door.

It really was the very first time
I realized and became aware
That my otherwise loving father
Was somewhat of a brute.
A bogeyman who appeared
Only in front of my mother
Only at night
Only within the confines of their room!

Years of being told
“I have very sensitive skin”
As a response to queries about
The purple-blue bruises,
Had led me to believe her.
I had often said I was glad
I hadn’t taken after her.
And just as often, she would say
“Well, I hope so,” and then
Under her breath, mutter something.
I now realize she said, “Touch Wood!
I should hope not!”

My anger, strangely, wasn’t directed at him.
It was Mum I was angry with!
I trusted her: she broke my trust.
She lied and hid the truth!
My sixteen year old self believed
I had been wronged! By her!

That changed. And how!
I understand now
Her shame, her fear, her helplessness!
She didn’t want to betray him
In front of his children
His friends or family.
Even then, she took it upon herself.

I understand now
Her penchant for wearing purple
Shades of blue and at times, red.
I understand now
Why she wore sarees wrapped around her shoulders
Why she wore long-sleeved blouses,
Why she walked around with her eyes to the ground
Why she pretended to have fallen, tripped, walked into a wall.
I understand completely now.
You see, since I was married
I’ve taken to wearing red, blue and purple
Saree wrapped tightly around my long-sleeved blouses
Also, with my eyes lowered to the ground.
My husband often jokes
“She’s terribly accident-prone!”

And my mother……
“Touch Wood! She died a year ago!”

Categories: Poetry

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