Memoirs: #2 Flowers for Sale

Read part 1 of memoirs here:

We were very scared. It was pitch black and the headlight of the car was clearing the darkness on the way ahead for us to pass through safely. I was continuously praying to God, not sure of what I wanted anyway. Dad considers the entire locality as a threat, all his brothers were betrayed by their near and dear ones. So he has made it a point not to trust anyone ever. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. On the one hand, it means that you are vigilant, safe, and self-reliant but on the other hand, it leads to a lot of serious trust issues. I still remember getting beaten up black and blue for trying to take a small toy that was near my father when he was sleeping. He accused me of trying to kill him when I was merely ten or eleven years old. I didn't find it odd or something serious because I was brought up in such kind of environment, but when I look back at it now I feel that I have missed a lot of chances that I could have used to my advantage to take back my life from the dangerous hands of my father.

One of my dad's friends started talking to him. He told him that he was shocked by the happenings of the night. Actually dad never told anything about us to this man, He simply invited him to visit our house. Dad believed that it is better to trust a complete stranger with your life rather than with your own family. This man was dad's new friend. He is a butcher by profession.  Apparently he overheard my dad's conversation with his brother who was amputated in the gang war. The other friend was out on an unescorted furlough from the same jail where my dad served his sentence. He was with dad because he was promised a place to stay with his girlfriend. He never wanted to go back to prison. I remember a particular incident that happened a few months ago. The furlough friend, from now on let's call him Mr. Shankar. I don't exactly remember why he was convicted. I guess my memory about these events is going vague. I really want to hold onto these memories because these are the ones that keep reminding me of who I am and what I want in my life. So these stories that I write are just an attempt to preserve my memories for myself.

So Mr. Shankar here, when he visited our house for the first time, he became my good friend. I was a child and I didn't really know anything about him. But I have spent a lot of time at his house. His mom was a kind and caring lady, so were his brother and father. I can't really imagine what Shankar could have done to get jailed. He was one of the sweetest persons I have ever come across in my life. I wanted to participate in a drawing competition around the time when he was staying at our place. I was not really good at drawing anyway but I was this enthusiastic kid who wanted to participate in everything and win somehow. So I went over to my aunt's house to get some reference drawings. My aunt was unmarried back then. Nobody wanted to have any kind of relationship with our family during those times because of the 'reputation' our family had and she was one of the indirect victims of the gang war. More about her later! 

So when I got back from my aunt's house with different drawings, Shankar helped me draw a jackal. He was very patient helping me master each and every step and it was like magic. I remember telling him to become a drawing teacher for school because I knew that he was doing a pretty good job in teaching drawing, better than those teachers I had at my school. I still don't understand why he spoiled his life like that. Yes after a few years he was caught by the police and was taken back to prison where he underwent rigorous imprisonment with an extended number of years to serve. I don't really feel bad for him nowadays but I always wonder what if he had taken a different path. He must have been 20 or so when he was convicted. So it was definitely not his fault at all. 

Right before leaving from our house, dad visited his sister in law. Now, this lady is a troublemaker. She wanted to be the godmother of the entire family despite her young age. I visited her house every Sunday to watch Shaktimaan on DD channel. Her kids are always welcoming, or they were. Maybe they are still sweet and caring like they were but I haven't talked to them in a really really long time so I don't know. Mom saw her running from her home towards the road. She went inside a house where everyone from the North street goes to make a phone call. Not a lot of people had telephones at that time. Seeing this mom called dad and alerted him and asked him to leave the place immediately. Apparently this angered him. As soon as we crossed the 'danger zone', dad brought up this issue. 

"So you don't want me to talk to the members of my own family. Is that right?", he asked mom.

Mom didn't respond. But I can see the anger in her eyes. Of all the brothers of my father, only one of them died due to health issues (the rest were all murdered). His wife was a very rude person. She never liked any of us including her husband. She talks to us only when she needed something done by us. I still fondly remember those days when I used to play with her. Since we never had TV or electricity for that matter, it was my routine to go to her house to see new episodes of Shaktimaan, the Indian superhero. I believed that my father was as strong as Shaktimaan. So I never failed to watch the show every week and then I replayed the same episode in my mind again and again but this time it was my father who was the superhero. 

Dad continued to abuse mom verbally. She never said a word. I have seen a lot of fights between my mom and dad and I always knew that my dad would never hurt me. So I was scared but only for her. Just when he stopped throwing his tantrums, my sister started crying. My mom was trying to get her back to sleep. Meanwhile, the butcher started loathing about how he was about to eat the sweets offered by my dad's sister in law and how mom deprived him of the chance to eat those sweets. I am not sure if he did this deliberately to kindle dad's anger or it was just a conversation. But this was enough to make dad start a fight. He turned back at mom and started scolding her. 

Mom tried to reason with him but she failed miserably again and again. Out of nowhere, my dad hit my crying sister hard because apparently she was driving him crazy and he did not stop with that. He started hitting my mom too, I tried to stop him. That's when it happened. 

My dad hit me, for the first time in my life. 

He hit me hard, hard enough to send electrical impulses through my head. But I didn't cry because 'it would drive him crazy'. He kept on hitting me until my mom tried to stop him. Now he was hitting all three of us, I put my body between him and my mother and sister. He punched me hard on my face and I nearly collapsed but I stood still in an attempted effort to guard my mom. 

He stopped the car over a narrow bridge. He opened the door and stepped out. There was a lady selling flowers. She held some flowers towards my dad and was showing gestures of asking him to give it to my mom. But my dad had other plans. He pulled my mom out of the car. My mom held on to my sister tight not to let her fall down. He dragged her and pushed her near the railings of the bridge and was screaming at her. "Jump and die you moron", he said. I went near my mom and held her saree tight. This was the first time that I took my mom's side in a fight. Seeing this the lady cursed my dad. I begged her to bring some help. Hearing this my dad pulled out his knife and approached the lady. The poor lady dropped her basket and ran for her life. 

Finally, Shankar came to stop the fight and I don't exactly remember what happened but I was happy to see that everything was sorted anyway. Recounting violence as it is really hard and it's harder to put it in words. However, I had some doubts and fear about dad's intentions. I have always loved him and this was the first time I felt really weird around him. I was clueless. 

"Let's stop at a hotel", said dad

Well, just when I thought that everything has gone back to normal, "I am not hungry", said mom. 

I nearly died hearing this. I wasn't ready to witness another round of a fight that day. I was already tired and weak. But dad was calm and sensibly asked the rest of us to follow him inside the restaurant and I followed like a blind devotee just waiting to have the first worst meal of the rest of my life.

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