By Bhagwan’s grace, I have been able to come and stay at Sri Badrika Ashram for some weeks. Most of my time here has been quiet and enjoyable but a few days back, something happened. I ran out of the temple as fast as I could. I couldn’t even sing the aarti. I wanted to rush to my room, lock myself inside and cry my heart out. But before I could even reach my room, I collapsed in the garden outside the temple; I felt as if my legs had lost all their energy, they’d gone completely numb. I sat myself down on the garden swing, holding myself, trying hard not to cry. I was trying my best not to show how vulnerable I was feeling in front of anyone. But, God, it seems had planned something else for me.
All my pain, fear, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem overtook any courage, light, or strength in me. The hurt little child within me had decided it was time to cry it all out, to finally call out for help. With a lifetime of pent up emotion releasing, I broke down like a volcano finally erupting for the first time and I was weeping intensely, my eyes streamed tears hot and fast that would not stop, my whole body was shivering, I couldn’t breathe properly; I felt like I would die of the pain I was feeling.
This is when I saw Sushree Nishthaji. Her eyes were filled with an abundance of love and compassion as if my Baba came in her form to help me. I couldn’t say a word. I just stretched out my arms, and she just ran to me to hug me (I do not remember hugging someone so tightly before). She wrapped her arms around me and I buried my face in her chest and then I let go completely, I was crying and screaming.
I was screaming out, “I can’t live like this! No matter how hard I try, I fail, I always fail…! My energy is not enough to fight my fear. I loved her! But she killed me! She killed me brutally! There is no life in me. I am just a dead body! I was just a child; why did she do this to me?!” And I was calling out, “MAA! MAA!”
This was the first time I remembered Mother Divine in my pain. I screamed for Maa to come and save me from my darkness. Not just with my voice but each cell of my body was calling out Maa! Maa! I held Nishtha ji even tighter and I was begging her to tell Swamiji to keep me with him, not to send me anywhere. My cries were so loud that Sushree Diya ji heard me during the aarti and ran out of the temple to me. She sat next to me, rubbed my back with one hand, placed her other hand on my chest and guided me to breathe. She prayed to Swami ji. Within a few minutes, Diya ji and Nishtha ji were able to calm me down and bring me back to a normal state.
To understand the reason behind this breakdown, I would need to share a few episodes from my childhood. To be very honest with you, I had decided that if I ever wrote on os.me I wouldn’t write about my past. It’s the past, it has nothing new to say. But when I sat to write, I couldn’t think of anything else other than this. Considering it as a divine wish to help purge and heal, I am now sharing some of my childhood with you.
Being a daughter to a single parent, my mother was my world (she is my mother but not my world now). She was my father, best friend, teacher (she is my mother but not anything other than that now). She was my hero. I was deeply, madly in love with my mother, or should I say I was blind in her love (I still love her, and I always will). I used to see Rani Lakshmi Bai, Kitturu Rani Chennai and Vaneke Obavva in her. To me, she was always a beautiful, strong, and courageous woman. I loved everything about her, her beauty, voice, eyes, hair, anchoring and news reading style, and aura; everything was just mesmerizing, I idolized my mother.
Up until I turned 24, I saw the world through my mother’s eyes. And that world had only studies, job, money, marriage and kids in it. In that world, there was no place for prayer, love, faith, or hope. My mother was my God and her teachings were pure scripture for me (now she is just a mother but not God and her teachings are just part of my unlearning process). She gave me a comfortable life along with some gifts, gifts of hurt; they overtook all aspects of my life up until now. So let’s go through those gifts one by one.
1. The gift of hurt for my body: Is physical abuse acceptable?
I still remember it so vividly as if it happened yesterday. She pushed me so hard to the floor. I fell down. My chest hit the floor hard. My knees and stomach were hurting. She was giving me hard kicks on my back with her legs. She was beating me with her hands so hard. And I was begging her to stop. I said sorry several times. But she didn’t listen to any of my words. When I couldn’t bear the pain of her kicks, I ran toward my Grandmother (I called her Avva), but she would grab my little hand so tightly and drag me away from Avva to the entrance of the house where we keep our slippers. Then she’d grab one of the slippers and slap me with it all over. The beating was so hard, I had burning sensations in my body for several hours afterwards. I was not even allowed to cry aloud or for long. The more I cried, the more she beat me.
When this incident happened, I was in the 2nd standard. And you know what my mistake was? I had hidden my friend’s book with me in a game of hide-and-seek and my mother thought I had stolen it. I told her several times that I did not steal the book, but she didn’t believe me. I said sorry several times but she didn’t listen to any of my words. (Keeping my hand on my heart I want to tell Swami ji that I didn’t steal the book, Swami ji. I was just playing. Nothing more than that.)
One of the worst punishments (abuse) my mother used to do to me was to put red chilli powder in my eyes and mouth. Those punishments were torturous and I would scream like anything. I felt I would lose my sight because of the burning. I used to call Avva for help. With divine grace, at least she was there in my life to protect me. She was the only one who would help me, she would help me rinse my eyes and mouth. Then she’d give me something sweet so that the effect of the chilli would be reduced. Avva used to sit me in her lap and hug me, but still, my eyes used to search for my mother. No matter what my mother did to me, I used to search for the warmth of her hug. I was desperate for my mother’s love.
2. The gift of hurt for my mind: Can a parent humiliate their child?
I come from an orthodox family. Their belief system is as old as in the 70’s Indian movies. Up till today they still believe that love marriage is a crime, that girls shouldn’t be educated too much, that girls should be married before the age of 20, etc.
As I was growing up there were so many beliefs and rules to be followed in my family: All the men in the family were to be served first, women were not allowed to eat first. All the good food like ghee, butter, milk, freshly cooked food, everything must be served to the men first then any leftover to the women. And I was the child who used to question each and everything. If they are a man and I am a woman, how am I less than them? Why can’t we eat at the same time? I often asked Avva and my mother about this but they had no convincing arguments. I was told, it’s just the way it is.
One day, when I was 14, I was really getting late for school. I wanted to finish my breakfast soon so that I wouldn’t miss my prayer time at school (I really enjoyed school prayer). At that time, it started raining heavily, and my auto-bhaiya (auto-rickshaw driver) was waiting to pick me up.
As I was in the kitchen, I was having a conversation with my maternal uncle who was having his breakfast too. This turned into an argument. I might have stopped arguing with him if any of my family members had intervened, but before I could understand anything, my mother grabbed my hands and pulled me onto the verandah. She made me stand out in that heavy rain and she kept slapping me. It just went on and on.
Even in that heavy rain and cold, my cheeks were burning like hell. Then my punishment was to stand in that rain for one or two hours (I do not remember exactly how many hours now). I was standing in the rain, shivering, feeling dead cold, my legs went all numb, my cheeks were burning and I was trying to control my tears in case I’d get slapped again. My uncle was standing in clear view of me and he was enjoying his food. In between mouthfuls, he was asking, “Majaa bantu?” (Did you enjoy the beating of your mother.) “Hinnond eredu kudadittu.” (She could have given you two more slaps.)
Whenever my mother beat me in front of other family members something within me always died. I felt lifeless and humiliated. After talking with my psychologist a few months ago, I realised that something that died within me was my self-esteem.
After all these sorts of punishments, I used to sit in a corner or in a room where no one could come in. I used to feel scared. My legs, most of the time would feel numb or cold, my hands shivered, and I felt suffocation in my chest and throat. Slowly I developed breathing issues and anxiety. I faced all this abuse and humiliation for 18 years and 18 years is not a small duration. My breathing problem healed only a few months ago after meeting Swami ji. (How Swami ji healed my breathing problem is a story for another time).
3. The gift of hurt for my soul: Can a parent hurt the dignity, self-respect of a child with their words?
While growing up, no matter how well I may have performed in studies or extracurricular activities, I was never good enough for my parents. I had always been compared to my cousins. My marks, my English, my behaviour, the way I talked, walked, just everything was compared. To be very honest, I never liked any of my cousins they tortured me like hell in my childhood. As a child, I felt like they were all little monsters. Maybe this is the reason why I kept them at a distance always. I am not in any of the family WhatsApp groups (thank God), and I never felt any good wishes from my cousins were sincere. I still recall the jealousy in their eyes. I still feel the bitterness in their words.
This was one of those worst days when I went to stay at my cousin’s place because of my bad health (I wish I had never gone there). My beautiful cousin sister was keeping count of how much I was eating, how much electricity I was consuming to charge my mobile and laptop. She was secretly listening in on my phone conversations and was cooking up her own lies and stories when there was nothing. I was so stupid not to guess what was going on behind my back but this sort of behaviour is beyond my reach and comprehension. I wouldn’t think of doing something like this to my enemies even.
It was my birthday when I was at her home, and I was supposed to meet a friend at a coffee shop (he is one of the kindest, most wonderful people I have met in my life). We both met for about an hour over a coffee, then he left for work and I went back to my cousin’s house. Oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you when he wished me goodbye he hugged me, in a normal friendly gesture. I was so foolish to tell my cousin sister about this, who was already cooking her own stories. I told her how kind his behaviour was and how he helped me to bring out the best in myself, and I said several other good things about him. Now I had given her a secret ingredient to complete her story.
The next day, when I left Bangalore to head back to my hometown, I was constantly getting calls from my cousins, relatives, and obviously from my mother. Everyone was asking where I went, who I went with and what I did there. And when I reached home, my mother was all set to burst on me. I was not at all prepared for her anger or harsh words. There was a heated argument where everyone was on one side and I was on the other side, all alone.
I tried my best to explain to my mother that it was just one coffee and one goodbye hug. Nothing more than that. But she didn’t listen to a single word I was saying. Believing everyone else, my mother just said, “You’re having an affair! Did you sleep with him?! Go sleep with him!”
When she said this, I felt my mother had stripped me of all my clothes and made me stand naked in front of all my relatives. I felt like my mother completely betrayed me, destroyed me, believing someone else words but not her own daughter’s.
This time the wound was neither for my body nor for my mind, but for my soul. That day all my expectations, attachments, hopes from my mother died. That was the day when she killed me completely. I was in a state of shock for several months after this incident. I couldn’t look at any of my relatives’ faces. I felt like everyone was talking horribly about me and they were enjoying it. I used to hide in my room if any relatives came to visit. And for several days I couldn’t step out of the house. It took years to accept my mother’s words; it took years for me to overcome that damage. And I never met that friend again in my life. That was my first and last meet.
(Keeping my hand on my heart, I just want to tell Swami ji that, Swami ji it was just a coffee and one normal hug. Nothing more than that.)
There are so many of my childhood episodes, similar incidents that happened like this, but I don’t want to touch those parts now. I want to let it all go.
To Parents: I don’t have anything great to say from my experience but one thing I would like to share is the child whom you are beating (if you are), in that child Bhagwan resides too. By hurting their body and mind, you are just hurting that Bhagwan.
To all children hurt by their family: Your parents, relatives, cousins had already hurt you once. Don’t hurt yourself again by giving a place to those toxic memories in your heart. Just let it go. You might not be able to divorce your parents, but you still can say no to their negativity. The choice is yours.
My view towards my childhood: I am very thankful for whatever I went through, especially to my mother. Every pain has led me to my Baba (Swami ji). No matter how much my mind may scream, something within me strongly knows that I am safe in my Baba’s arms now. I am protected.
My Baba is my Mother and Father. So yes, my parents really are God, and they will never hurt me like that or abandon me. My Baba is healing every scar, every wound on my body, mind, and soul. I completely believe in Him.
Today I keep all my pain, doubt, low self-esteem at His feet and I choose love from my Baba’s jholi (bag). As he says na, “LOVE IS THE ONLY EMOTION WORTH HOLDING ON TO.”
Thank you everyone for being a part of this journey 🙂