“You have everything. Good looks, youth, health, great education, opportunities…why the rage? What more could you possibly want?”
Arjan whistle breathed through his mouth, his bewildered eyes locked with the defiant glimmer in his teenage daughter’s glare. The air bristled, their hearts raced and emotions ran riot. “This is your fault,” he turned his helpless anguish at Tia’s mother, “giving her so much liberty. You never let me put my foot down with her!”
Tia’s face began to crumple. She watched her mother rub her forehead. Guilt and fury fought in her head, “The migraine, but of course. It flares up every time there is a conflict in our home. How I wish Mum would come right out and say what is on her mind, this is shitty, I feel like running away from here. Why do I need to be around all of this, there is enough drama in my life, as it is?”
She clamped on her thinking horse, and exploded at her parents, “Patriarchy! I am not putting up with this, there has to be space enough to express emotions, it is inhuman, this constant appearance of control in Indian families.” It made her harsher to see their shattered expressions. “Ahahhaaa..,” her mother had begun her primate wail. “Mum, I can’t take this. Please! You have no clue what my generation is struggling with.”
“Oh my God, how can you speak to your father like that Tia? He carried you around in the snuggler, you have always been his princess,” the mother couldn’t believe this was happening to their family. “We did our best, were we not there for you kids always? Where have we gone wrong? We tried to be good parents!”
Tia threw her hands up in the air and bolted out of the room, past her grandmother rocking herself in the television room. The house froze for that split second, ears cocked for the sound of her scooter starting. The father peeked through the curtains, “She has gone,” the household exhaled and sat back, battling fatigue.
While Tia raced along the Ring Road towards the Hauz Khas Village to let steam off with some friends, her grandmother continued to stare at the breaking news on the television. It was about Leslee Udwin’s controversial documentary entitled “India’s daughter”. The senior watched, outwardly passive but distraught with conflicting emotions inside. Her fingers traced the prayer book lying unopened in her lap. Nirbhaya’s rapist Mukesh Singh and the defense lawyers were spouting cultural toxin:
“She should not be put on the street just like food…if you put her on the street, the dogs will definitely take her away”.
“We have the best culture, in our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
“You can’t clap with one hand…a girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy…only 20% girls are good.”
Tia’s mother had recovered enough to be bringing in a plateful of food for her mother-in-law, “Here Mummy ji, shall I get you the medicines?” The older eyes missed nothing, they saw and connected with that air of resignation, the tension of a body readying for blows. And unbidden they came, washing over their turbulent present, frames from another generation gone.
How could Mummy ji forget that late night when her adoring worship of her father had died a painful death? Daarji had returned home late from a party at the Clarks Shiraz. Bebeji had been livid, “These businessmen you associate with are not good people.” Words had begun to fly and accusations traded; the heat would have risen but for a sudden sound. Daarji had puckered his mouth and with all the force he could muster, he had spat at Bebeji. As long as she lived, Mummy ji knew that the memory of her mother banging her forehead on the flaky wall would haunt her.
The horror of that rejection, the impotent fear in her daughter-in-law’s face, her own state of abject dependence, she watched the young women swarm the television screen with their rebellious faces. A centuries old repression was striking vents. That dam of a devalued distress was riding precariously on a Scooty, eating up tar.