I wrote down page after page. I sobbed as I wrote; each detail springing into life and hitting my nerves like drugs. “Would mum be proud if I wrote my story…?” I would wonder, but was never graced with an answer
SEP 02 -
The buzz inside creates a nausea-like state inside my head. I look around the room—well dressed people with wine glasses in their hands, smart waiters waltzing around with trays laden with delicacies. Still, the diet conscious elite ignore the food fearing they might lose their size zero figures. I smile and wonder, “If only we were given such wonderful food when we were children, wonder how many of those cream cookies would have gone into my malnourished stomach.”
A ride to memory lane always made me nostalgic—things were so dark then, it surprises me that I have survived.
I had given up hope. Everyday seemed to be the same. I would sit in the corner of my room and ask myself, “When will I see day?” My ears were always plugged in with loud music in an attempt to try and block the gruesome wailing noises. Curses would flow from my father’s mouth. Mother would cry, and I would lie paralysed in the corner, unable to do anything. What could a 14 year old girl have done? Years passed as I wriggled in my bed trying to figure out an exit plan but. One, two, three and four...I had tried and failed miserably.
Friends at school would count Barbie dolls while I counted days, waiting for my fairy tale moment; my ‘happily ever after’. Fear was part of the everyday and it taught me one thing: it taught me how to fake!
“What will you achieve by telling them your story?” my mum would ask me when I’d tell her to seek police support. I would look at her, her wide amber eyes that were always swollen and her beautiful face that were always bruised. I never dared ask her, “Mummy, what have you achieved by keeping silent?”
Seventeen years of marriage. Like a fallen butterfly, she passed away in her sleep. I stood over her dead body and looked at her, “Mum, what am I supposed to do without you?” I stared at her. No answer, No answer.
I heard my father’s drunken grunts and walked out of my broken home as a woman.
Fear had taught me caution. My mind played editor as it skillfully directed my audio cuts and takes. Still, despite my best efforts, I could not revolt. I could not be vocal about my life.
I could not talk about life—real life. I could not voice words against the cursed, hypocritical humanity, the cruel society and my stubborn self. I could not even tell people my story. My story would make it to page 3 novels, I was sure. But did I want that? My head silently shakes “‘NO.”
“Mam,” someone rouses me from my thoughts. It is a tall, lean woman. She looks like a stick and stands across me with a book, a book I have written. “Can you sign this for me?” she asks smiling sweetly. “Of course,” I reply and smile back.
She nods her head and I can see that she is excited about meeting the new ‘best selling author’. When she asks me, “Mam, how can you pen such heart rendering words?” I want to stand up and shout at her face, “Fools I have faced all those gruesome moments, these are just edited versions.”
But I do not such thing. I smile at her and give her my practiced reply, “Life is a teacher, and writers should be good observers, I think.” She and her friends clap for me. They genuinely praise my work. Only I know that all the words are superficial.
I stand staring at their smiling faces and remain quiet as I watch them acknowledge my fakeness. I remember the past again.
I compare myself with the people I dealt with everyday back then. They would smile freely. They walked in groups, laughed out loud and seemed genuinely surprised by petty things. I wanted to shake them sometimes, slap them and hurt them bad; lecture them that the world was not a dolls’ house and that life was not a tea party. But then again I would order myself to be disciplined.
I dwell on the sorrows craftily hidden inside of me and wonder, “What if I had power, would that make me happy?”
Again my thoughts get vetoed. My life was a black hole which began in a broken home—an alcoholic father, a battered existence of helplessness, pain and suffering. Is ‘happiness’ even possible for such a life?
“But wait, I was happy,” I tell myself. I remember a man who listened to me…
I had lain in bed waiting for a client to touch me, but he had simply stared and asked “Aren’t you too young to be in this profession?” I had looked at him, amused. “Profession?” I had laughed. “Sir, did you mean prostitution?”
He had blushed and nodded his head. I had wanted to give him a sarcastic reply, but this man had looked so genuine that I had silenced my
arrogant tongue and answered, “Hunger does not see age sir, it just sees want and how one can fulfill it.”
He had looked at me in bewilderment and hurriedly shuffled through his bag. He had taken out his notebook and inquired “Can I write that down?”
“Write what down?” I had asked. “The thing that you just said,” he had echoed.
“You can write whatever you want to write about me, but you dare not write about my tears” I had told him. “I want to help you write your story!” he had replied.
The man claimed to be from some hotshot newspaper. He told me that he would help me tell my story, as I myself would write it.
I wrote down page after page.
I sobbed as I wrote; each detail springing into life and hitting my nerves like drugs. “Would mum be proud if I wrote my story…?” I would wonder, but was never graced with an answer. “My mother gave in to life, but I will not remain silent,” I would think as I sprang into action, not to complete a book, but to re-live a life that had made me.
My client was now my editor. He crossed my words, edited and reframed them. Day after day, night after night, I stood next to him with a visible frown on my face as he slaughtered paragraph after paragraph. “I need to edit your work, to suit people’s tastes,” he would tell me.
“So, are readers so delicate as to be bruised by my truth?” I would inquire. For this question, my editor would have no answer. After a series of such editing sessions I realised that ‘truth’ for readers was everything that was condensed and sanitised. Prim perfect, that is how my book out; complete with a note addressed to the readers: “The novel is a piece of fiction, and must no be confused for a retelling of actual incidents.”
Suddenly there are flashes. I jolt, suddenly awakened. “Oh, press photos,” I realise as I strike a pose and smile hauntingly.
A journalist from the national daily asks me, “Mam, you have dedicated this book to your mother! But is this book about her?” he smiles cheekily. I look at him and act amused. “What do you want? The truth, or the sanitised version of it?”
“The truth of course,” he states. “This story is not about my mother: My mother was a strong, educated woman; someone who believed in empowerment. This story is, as the note suggests, a work of fiction. It’s about women who cry and mistake it to be life’s lullaby!” I answer.
The hall echoes in thundering applause. My editor gives me a thumbs up. People nod as if they’re impressed, and the press click, click, click!
I breathe and wonder:“For the outside world I stand like an epitome of hope, confidence and compassion. They shake their heads and clap in awe as they listen to me speak. Only I know that the dubbed compassion is nothing but poetry written to rhyme and strike a balance.”
I look at the audience and in silence challenge them: “If you have the power to read between the lines, you’ll find me and my real story…”
Posted on: 2012-09-02 08:22