When I was young, I escaped into a plethora of alter egos: fabricated, bright, vaguely lucid, because I needed an escape from my father’s blows – his right hand, and the left he used to choke my mother, etching on my mind an early memory of pain, angst and helplessness, so very different from normalcy, and though my mother and I fought with passive strength, he sucked out all will, determination, drive and made us zombies trailing him, while he displayed us as his Oscars, his achievements, and whether our feigned smiles betrayed our deep-seated lifelessness, I don’t know. Now, years later after I landed one too many punches on the old man’s face, a kick in the head, and mother preventing my patriarchal blood lust from seeing fruition with some grit she drew from someplace within that I didn’t know existed, I’m left thinking of the what ifs. What if I didn’t rebel? What if I didn’t get suspended in college after a drunken brawl, and then call him a bastard and blame him? What if I’d tried solving things amicably? But I guess violence prevailed, granted both my mother and I freedom, and I guess it was meant to be. I was meant to throw him against the wall of the elevator and deliver a barrage of punches and kicks – the caged animal breaking each bar of control, and hungry to see him tortured for a change. I was meant to spend years drinking and smoking weed. I was meant to puke in gutters after too much rum with friends who abandoned me and now wear suits and drink only in fashionable lounge bars. I was meant to confront him man to man finally and say, “You fucked me up, but I guess I was cruel too,” and shake his hand. He wins my respect for putting food on the table, for enduring the ‘eye for an eye’ motto I once embodied, for teaching me through his now abominable self-pity that that’s the path I’ll never take, and for listening to my mother now and shutting up for a change. Now I’m nearing 30, with cotton ball lungs and a throat that pierces me, still smoking, but realizing through years of fighting on the football field, years of quarrels and unresolved conflicts with friends and foes, years of almost becoming the man my father was, pushing my mother, and walking out of my house with two hundred bucks, and then living with a family who fed me, before calling the authoritarian archetypal head a fucking Nazi, and then returning and changing prescription after prescription, popping downers and drinking two bottles of wine a day just to alter my consciousness, years of religious angst and turmoil, that there are two sides to each person: the good and bad, love and hate, and we often lose sight of ourselves, lie in the darkness and stay trapped in the past, but it’s the present that’s the becoming, and it’s the small things that matter, the love we feel and act on, accepting a person in their imperfections, and now, I love my parents and a girl who’s back in my life after all these years, accepting me just the way I am, and sure, she’s not perfect, but her beauty lies beyond imperfections, it lies in her acceptance of me, and me doing the same for her makes us.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)