TW: Mentions of sexual assaults.
My father has taught me a million things in life. Some when I was twelve, some when I turned a woman and some even when I was merely four. I will never stop using those tools, if you may, that my father passed on to me. My father is a sharp man and always taught me the right things, even if he dint follow the same path at times.
The first and the finest thing he taught me about, was love. “Love is the greatest thing in the world and you should always stand up for it.” He would always take his own example and tell me the story of how he married my mother. She was engaged to my father’s close cousin and he had gone in to help the family set up for the said cousin’s wedding, in return he fell in love with my mother and they ran away. For a twenty two year old woman and a twenty four year old man it was a very huge step back in the nineties in India. They had no one to fall back on, they were from different cities and who even knew my father would pick my mother up from the airport. The blind trust my mom had in my dad when she read his letter stating, -“… and here is the ticket, I will be there before your flight lands. Look for me” is impossible to comprehend. It could have just been a man trying to cheat a woman for her body. But he did not. He was a standup guy who stood by his word. He has, since then, always supported my mother and whenever he felt like he was not doing it right or enough he always walked into the room, even now after twenty two years of marriage, and would say, “C.T (what he calls my mom because of her initials before marriage), the blind faith with which you leapt on that plane and marched over from your city to mine, with no absolute assurance that I would be there, no phone no number to call on before or after to know if the plan is still on, if I will be there or not, I promise you I will always have that blind faith in you in return, and will never stop loving you. We have been through a lot of things in life and I will never forget everything you have done for me.” My mother would always say nothing in return but just smile. She knew he had been ignoring her or not supporting her that week, and she was happy she did not have to smother him to make him understand that. The story of how my parents fell in love in mere eighteen days and took such a big step, that would change their lives forever, always made me proud of them, and that’s how I became a hopeless romantic. I strongly believe that there is someone for each and every one of us. Somewhere out there waiting just for our smile, and when we meet them we will know in a fraction of a second.
The second thing my father taught me was, “Always believe in yourself, even at times when your mother or I do not”. There were tons of times when my father did not believe in me, whereas my mom, not even for a second, stopped believing. He would always tell me- “Do what you want to do, be what you want to be but be the best at whatever the hell it is you are doing!” You see I grew up in a house with two extremists. Consequently, I could be nothing but an extremist myself. There were always two major sides to an argument, my mother would scream, “My daughter will wear what she damn well pleases and you can say nothing about it or you shall see my wrath”, and my dad would try to push me a bit more out there saying, “She needs to grow up, she needs to show how pretty she is, she will where this mini skirt or I will leave this house RIGHT NOW!” Yes, this was an actual fight in my house, very dramatic, very drastic for a very simple argument of how I was not comfortable wearing clothes that went above my mid calf, none of the sides were wrong, they just were trying to support me or to push me out in the world a bit more. With such situations always happening in a household, you tend to start believing in your decisions, because no one decides for you. I stopped asking for opinions, and they had no rules or regulations for me that I could break, leading me to make my own boundaries and respecting my parent’s faith in me. I turned into a family favorite (not just my family, my friends, my teachers), a money saver, a MOM of several groups, a strong opinionated woman with too many boundaries for herself. But, no one is complaining. This teaching was by far the best one, as it made me realize that I was a five year old who became a parent of the house and was handling two fifteen year olds on a sugar rush. Since then, I started enjoying handling my two adult babies and they got used to it. They had no boundaries because I was always there to stop them at moments that they would cross certain lines and I had too many boundaries, that I made for myself and sometimes needed to be removed by them.
Third thing he taught me was a fan favorite in India, “Adults are always right.” I never asked why, he never gave me a reason. No matter what an adult would do or say I was to be respectful, not talk back or be a baby about things. I was to always, always, ALWAYS do what they tell me to. Not question anyone for anything, and even questioning his or her intentions was going too far. Even thinking about questioning their intentions was wrong. That’s all you need to know for this teaching. It was fairly straightforward and non-questionable.
Moving on, the fourth thing my father taught me that in retrospect was taught too early, “Never return home crying ever.” I was about five and a half, yes most of my teachings where before I turned nine, and I was playing with the neighborhood kids. We were fooling around when we found a huge stick. Every household in India, at the time, had a stick for various purposes. For example reaching tall things, drying clothes on a rack that is too high etc. So, I see the stick and immediately realize it’s ours, which my grandmother’s friend had borrowed and not returned. I pick it up to take it back home when my friends stop me. They were a pair of twins and a boy. They made sort of a wall in front of me and said, “That was found in our front lawn and will remain here, understand?” and I was, and still am, very slow in understanding these things. I always think no one is rude enough to bully, even today. I just don’t realize it. Well, they did not let me take my stick and I ran home crying. My dad took me aside, alone and asked me what happened. After I finished my story he just said one thing, “Next time, if anything like this ever happens, you WILL NOT come back crying. I wanted a Scorpion “Daughter” that everyone is scared of. I have raised you well and strong. DO NOT let this happen again. Kill and run back home, mom and I will help you hide the body but NEVER come back home crying.” I was five. I just wanted my dad to say it was okay to cry, but that is a huge “No No” in the Malaviya household.
I never went back home crying.
Following teaching number four, was teaching number five that defined the kind of friends I have always ended up making, “Always be a fighter.” I fight like an egoistic, chauvinistic, sexist, bitter old pig of a man. This was because my dad is a firm believer in sun signs, thanks to Linda Goodman, he specifically wanted a Scorpion Daughter, which he got, and then created a monster. I have had no girl friends and it is hard for me to be friends with girls, I was just a tomboy and will remain one. I was the only girl in my group of guys. I was always loved by them because I could do things the other girls couldn’t or wouldn’t. I can hold my liquor better than a man, I have gotten into bar fights (and have won), I scan for hot girls for my boys, I drive better than my guy friends, I do not make funny faces when boys make a very dirty joke (just join in) which is very hard for any girl to understand that it was in fact just a joke. This led to a person who was a girl just “physically”, but that also never was an issue, thanks to loose clothing, after a point none of my friends used “She” to describe me. They actually never realized that they used to say “He” for me too and I did not mind it. I was in a safe place with no sign of a boyfriend, because, come on, who even looked at me that way?!
The sixth teaching was more of a whisper than a speech. This was not taught to me, but I wished they had. What is death? I had no idea. I grew up in such a loving household, no one thought about teaching me what death was. Probably also the reason why I don’t understand the act of bullying. My father was always worried that I would become a sad woman if I knew what death was and did not want that to happen. My parents did not teach me, tell me, breathed next to me about death, and I hope and pray that this never happens to another child. No child should discover on their own what death is. This one was bad.
The seventh teaching was very, very, very late and not as strong as the first few were. “Always stand up for what is right”. This should have been the first one. My dad taught this to me when I was fifteen, nine years too late. He later, after about three years added, “… even if it is an adult.” But it was too late.
It was just too late.
The last teaching, I will talk about, came form my mother. My mother is a secondhand driver she never takes the wheel. She lets my father take the control even though we both always know it’s my mom driving. “Never change yourself for anyone. No matter if it is a boy, a boss, a colleague, a parent or even yourself. If you think you “Should” be a certain way, think again. Do you really want to change who you are? Be you and no one else.” This is something very beautiful that every human being should know and accept.
Now the second part of my life was my “growing up” years. I carried all my father’s teachings into these years and never left them behind like an obedient child. My childhood was me experiencing things and learning valuable lessons from what had happened, now my adulthood carried the repercussions. The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.
Well the first teaching birthed a hopeless romantic who believed too much in movies, television shows and just the idea of love. I convinced myself I was born in the wrong era because how can someone so “orthodox”, “stay in love with just one person”, “your soul mate is out there” kind of individual be born in a hook up generation? What even is a one night stand? Good god! How do these people do it?! And the surprising part is that THEY ask me how I am doing a four year long “Long Distance Relationship” from two different continents. Well its simple. LOVE. Don’t lust. It is so surprising for me when these people find what I am doing so funny and unrealistic while they cant even list down everyone they have “probably” slept with. That’s why the older generation is pissed at us.
The second repercussion was brilliant, as I said before it was one of the greatest things my parents taught me. I never needed someone’s approval on how I looked, what I need to do or how good I was. I just knew it. I don’t need anyone’s admiration. I always believed in myself whether I was 50kgs or 100kgs. I was, am and will forever remain beautiful. I know the amount of brains I have. I know what’s right, what’s wrong and I will always know it no matter how drunk I am. This teaching, I feel, was really important as no matter where I was in my life I was always level headed and I always believed in myself. Sometimes all you need is to love yourself, because in your lowest moments, that’s enough.
OH this is a good one. My favorite part of my life. I regret nothing in my life not even the following events that occurred. So do not feel bad for me. They made me who I am.
Adults are always right. You can not question anything adults do. Hey, quick question, I am an adult now so I can ask this, was it right to assault a six year old when you were home alone, cousin grandpa? Or to the stranger who just wanted me to grab his dick because no one was around? Probably because that’s what you do when you are eight and he is around thirty. Or to the uncle we gave shelter to, was it right to hump your own niece just because she is twelve now and has breasts? Or to my beautifully mentally challenged uncle (or so he says) to masturbate to a girl you brought home in your own two hands? Tell me I was right in not questioning these people. Please just say yes. Because the fact that all these things happened was not as miserable as the fact that the six year old with her grandfathers hands under her clothes ACTUALLY THOUGHT THAT WAS RIGHT. I actually got mad at myself for questioning him in my mind at that moment. That my friends, is blue. Nay, Black. No one wanted to date me, because I wouldn’t put out. I couldn’t even kiss. I was so revolted by the idea of sexual intimacy I couldn’t hold on to a guy. I couldn’t hold my best girlfriends hand. It was upsetting, because while you just wanted someone to be by you ,they just wanted to solve their hormone levels. But, now I fight for what is right without thinking about it and it feels amazing! Proving you are right to a bunch of loser adults that are too stuck up is the best thing in the world. Furthermore, lucky for me my guy best friend stuck around long enough and finally, I had a perfect match. It took me six months to even kiss him, and he never said a word. He did what no one did. He stayed. He understood.
The fourth teaching was a bit too much of tough love for me, in my personal opinion. I mean I get the fact that I have to be strong or the big bad world will chew me up alive but for the love of god don’t make crying a sin. My family believes in the original sin. Just a small change, its not sex- its crying. That day my father was so harsh on me I never again thought of coming back home crying. Even when the assaults happened. To this day my parents do not know when how where or by whom the assaults happened. It wasn’t until last year that I let them know. I was going through depression because I was having a identity crisis when I could not stop crying. Yes. Crying, in my house. My parents were furious, about me crying of course, and shouted like no tomorrow till I could not hold it in any longer and shouted back, “If I can go through four sexual assaults without saying a word something must really be bothering me right now so can you please shut up and let me be.” Oh this week was hell for my parents. They realized what a huge chunk my life they did not know about. They realized their error and did not know how to fix it. They did what I asked them to. They let me be. They realized that day, that they raised a damn strong, independent and a fighter of a child. Probably, too extreme though. But not taking my troubles home made me fight my depression myself, and I achieved something that day. If I can fight the demons I birthed, nurtured and faced myself I could take on anyone.
Now why should one teach their child about death you ask me, because that is a part of life. I had to guess where my god like grandparents went. Apparently, I wasn’t even told they were sick or that they passed away. I just woke up one day to my father howling, my mother trying to handle the finances and no grandparents around. I was my grandparent’s daughter first, then my parents’. Because my mother and father ran away (too young) to get married, my mother was doing her graduation when I was 2, and my father had to handle the family business. My grandparents took care of me. We had a gala time. I was so attached to them that I saw them after they died. I am a very spiritual person, if not religious. I wasn’t told they were dead, it was a childs imagination trying to fill the holes in the heart. I used to talk to them, play with them and just enjoy at three in the morning. Yes, they took me to a therapist. But not just for that I apparently also had a best friend who did not exist. You may think it was just an imaginary friend but no sir, it was borderline schizophrenic. I should mention, both my grandparents died in the span of a year and so this was the year I went crazy. In the end we realized I just had a very very vivid imagination. But, to be honest, I could have easily gone nuts if the therapist hadn’t explained to me that my grandparents were in fact dead. Since, I was just seven when this happened, I did not have time to grieve so when I turned eleven and finally realized they are never coming back, that was my first push I got, into depression. Then there was no turning back. You never fully recover from depression, its always in remission.
Well, now that my father had taught me that I can standup for what is right, like an idiot I was waiting to be told, I could stand up for my fifth assault and handle it like a man. I got into a fist fight with a random cat caller and had the time of my life. I had to be pulled away from him and I was bleeding. I got every strand of hatred I had from the past experiences out on that passerby, and my karate practice for that day was done. Only if I could punch those people too. Well everyone now knows not to mess with me.
Now after all these repercussions, I stopped listening to my father. Not completely though he still has some wisdom left in him, but I comprehended after my experiences that no matter how much one teaches their child to be strong and bold and independent, he/she is going to get hurt. In one way or another, whether you like it or not. She/he is going to get their heart broken, or fired, or hit by a car or absolutely anything could happen. But the two things I learnt from my parents that I will never forget and always live by is, to teach NOT CHOOSE, but teach what is right and wrong to my child and stay by his/her side no matter what decision she/he takes. My parents have done a fabulous job raising a child, if only the child would have not taken everything by the word and used their own brain, it would have been a happier world. But, the world is imperfect. Things happen for a reason, and they will happen no matter what you do. My parents tried their best to improvise on what their parents did wrong but you cant perfect human experiences. You can not design your life like a an architect designs a building, you just have to live and let it design itself. This is one of the two biggest lessons I have learnt in my life. The other being hold on to your dreams. I was in the fifth grade when I was introduced to French and I was obsessed with Paris ever since. I held on to the dream, even though I did nothing about it. I just kept it in my little box of beautiful dreams and it came true. I will end with a beautiful quote form my favorite television show- The great moments of your life won't necessarily be the things you do, they'll also be the things that happen to you. Now, I'm not saying you can't take action to affect the outcome of your life, you have to take action, and you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change forever. You see, the universe has a plan, kids, and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings, and it starts to rain. It's a scary thought, but it's also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you're supposed to be, exactly when you're supposed to be there. The right place at the right time.” – Ted Mosby.
- Mithila Malaviya