‘Daddy, I stood first in my class, amidst all the three sections.’ I had said feeling proud and happy but I was snapped off midway.
‘You and first? Oh these teachers! In their zeal to please me they could go this far, I must ask them to review your papers and give you what you are worth.’
I had broken down instantaneously with tremendous pain and humiliation. He thought it was not my hard work but his power that got me the top rank. How could he be so heartless, I wondered?
Then again after a few years more insults were hurled upon me without any rhyme or reason.
‘Daddy someone has taken out the jewelry pouch from my bag while I was taking a class.’
‘Really? You think you can fool me like that? Tell me where have you sold them and how much did you make out of it?’
I kept explaining that I had to leave my bag in the staff room while I was taking class and when I checked back it was missing. The more I tried to reason out, the more furious he got; he called the cops to prove me wrong. This scar left a very deep dent within me.
There have been innumerable other instances that completely devastated me with shock and agony but I haven’t been able to figure out the reason though, even after so many years.
As a little girl I used to be very innovative and lively, bubbling with energy & enthusiasm all the time but didn’t get much scope for expression because they were considered substandard and phony. I was literally dissuaded from doing anything on my own initiative. There were strict rules set and I had to abide by them. My dad being a hard core bureaucrat and disciplinarian expected everyone to carry out his orders without any question. My mom and grandma tried as much as they could to soothe my hurt sensibilities but that never really yielded much result.
I was not allowed to spread my wings and soar freely; they were literally clipped whenever I tried to do something unconventional. Although it kind of throttled my soul, I quietly digested such affronts most of the time, rarely protesting. My father being in a transferable job I loathed making new friends because the parting got harder every time.
During my adolescence I kind of took recluse in a shell much like my favorite poet Emily Dickinson since anything I did was looked upon with doubt and apprehension; the trust factor was completely missing. Being left mostly at the mercy of caregivers, they were my only solace and comfort and I shared everything with them. Suman the jamadar’s (sweeper) daughter was my world but even here I was made to bath at night by my grandma because she was considered ‘untouchable’.
Surprisingly when I stood first in my class in standard VII, my father challenged my Principal saying they shouldn’t try to please him that way. My teachers were shocked beyond comprehension when he wanted them to review my answer scripts and reduce my marks. And this did not stop there, the year after that when I was selected to represent my section along with three other batch mates in the National Science Talent contest, I wasn’t even allowed to fill up the form.
‘Your teachers must have lost their head, or how could they select you? You are a mediocre student.’
No, he wasn’t my step father but his attitude towards me sometimes made me question about our relationship. He dissuaded me from making friends because he thought I might leak out his professional secrets or dilute his pseudo image of a top notch hard core bureaucrat.
In my High school there was no one to guide me about my stream selection etc. and just because the boy I liked opted for Science I followed suit knowing not that Physics would take the hell out of me which it eventually did. We returned to Calcutta for my college with lot of heart aches and pain, leaving behind everything I cherished. In college I opted for English Honors and was doing remarkably well.
During summer breaks I used to take up part time teaching job in schools to escape from the wrath of my dad and during one such phase I was robbed of my jewelry from the school premises. I was carrying them to wear for a wedding reception in the evening but when I returned from my class I found the pouch missing. On informing my dad, It was immediately concluded, thanks to some of my relatives who reinforced his thinking that I must have sold them to help my boyfriend get a new bike. The shock was deep and profound because even after the culprit was identified, I was made to feel uncomfortable every time the topic cropped up.
Incidents which followed suit in the years that followed drained me off emotionally, I started getting detached I thought but could not in reality. Had I snapped off all connections with my family maybe I could have saved the sufferings I underwent. Fortunately, during that phase I fell madly in love with a boy that lived bang opposite us and coincidentally he was the son of my dad’s friend. The more he prevented me from interacting with that boy, the more adamant I got and revolted till it got to a point of no return.
My dad was hell bent on marrying me off to someone from his clan with a commissioner tag prefixed to his name and I was equally desperate to avenge the insults hurled upon me one after another by doing just what he detested most – an inter caste alliance! I was determined to give it back and beat him at his own game, didn’t matter whether I was inviting my own doom by marrying someone whose future was completely uncertain. My poor boyfriend and I were threatened with dire consequences and I was literally under the scanner but nothing deterred me from the zeal of having my way for the first time at any cost.
My very early marriage which I did by leaving my lavish and well to do parental home shocked and shook my parents’ world. A new phase of struggles ensued, we both being students at that time. The story of my life came to a screeching halt when we both decided on my husband proceeding to the US for higher studies. I took up a job with a reputed English daily but the best form of blessing came when I delivered my boy, since then everything changed. His smile and hugs empowered me whenever I felt weak and lost.
Oh yes it was kind of a losing battle which I was fighting single handedly for the survival of my little one and self. My little child motivated and inspired me whenever I faltered or broke down. He demanded nothing, expected nothing, asked no questions. We fought all the challenges that came from unexpected quarters, sometimes apparently benign ones. He took my hand like a gracious Lord and led me on.
At one stage, unable to fight miseries and financial pressure that bombarded our very existence I had taken to drugs to overcome depression and would have perished in the deep dungeon of dark hell had not my son intervened with his little fingers. Today I have literally risen from the ashes like the Phoenix to tell my story. My son insisted on penning my thoughts in book form and today here I stand before you all with dignity and grace as the best-selling author of multiple books.
(Padmini Dutta Sharma is acclaimed as a profound and prolific writer with 9 books on different genres to her credit. Padmini has also made experimental short films on highly debatable issues. Her passion is to counsel on personal and professional relationships. She is a human activist and a philanthropist that tours the world to make it a better place. She proudly acknowledges that ‘it’s the men in my life that have empowered me to become what I am today.., it’s been a meteoric rise!’)