Why I Write The Story Of Me

My father confronted me one afternoon.
“I read your new article. You have written something about me,” he said to me.
His tone was enough. My husband began to leave the room.
“No, don’t go away,” he said. “Stay here. I want to say this in front of you.”
Yes, I had written about men and women. I had written about women having to swallow their pride and dismiss their hurts in patriarchal systems. The terror that paralyses a mother when she wants to rescue her child from abuse at home, but doesn’t because she fears her intervention will aggravate matters.
This piece had not been published in India. My father had read it on Facebook.
“I wasn’t writing about you, Papa,” I said. “I was thinking about Dadiji. Your mother.”
Papa was emotional. It had not been easy for him to start this conversation. But he had a lot to say that day. He spoke about the inexplicable humiliations that were a part of his childhood. Being berated and hurt, never being made to feel that what he was doing was good enough. He spoke without bitterness.
My mother, my husband and I listened to him. We had deferred this conversation for too many years. Words were flowing now. There is a little boy in my father whose hurts are unhealed. Unless we recognize that and nurture and pamper him, we will never understand what triggers Papa’s temper. We will not know how to let go. We will not learn how to let our own children play freely without the fear of an abrupt spark of adult anger that destroys everyone’s peace.
We live our lives consumed by the anxieties and entertainment provided by the daily news, our workplaces and gadgets, our holidays, the holiday pictures of friends of friends and other forms of modern popular culture. We share more and more in public spaces, but do we allow this to make us feel better supported? Has it helped us develop a language to express our hurts to someone? Our joys to ourself? Do you know what makes you happy?
I write in these same spaces to make sense of the dissonance in our lives. I write to restart thwarted conversations. I write to banish the vacuum of silence in our personal lives.
Silence makes me angry. Teenagers kill themselves and their families carry on as if that child was never there. Perhaps that child was not there even when he was alive. People we know have chosen to abort their female foetus. There have been dowry deaths in our neighbourhoods. People with disabilities, depression and mental illness are hidden away and ignored in our own families.
Why is honour more important than love and decency in our world? Why is money more precious than relationships? I don’t want to know the answers. I am here to change these equations. In my life. In the lives around me.
Pretensions make me even more angry. Apparently we are all very sorted people. It is always “others” who are misogynists, alcoholics, racists and right-wing nuts. Never us. I write to slice through our denial. To smash the clichés we use as excuses to cling to our comfort zones.
“Children are such a bother,” we moan. “It is so expensive to have kids these days”.
We insist that they need to be taught, moulded, trained and fixed before they can do us proud. Well, here is an easy test. If you are disappointed in yourself, it’s a guarantee that you will be disappointed in your children. If you haven’t sorted out your own life choices and damaged self-esteem, you are useless as a role model to anyone.
Just as there is a power in anger, there is also a value in tenderness. There’s no way we can have a healthy relationship with our children till we build a healthy one with one’s own self first. We can only raise sons and daughters who will win their rightful place in the world when they have witnessed their parents do that with valour and grace.
I write to inspire myself. To shine the light on dark corners. Writing is a way of showing myself the mirror. Sometimes it’s one of those magnifying mirrors they have in hotel rooms that show me all the details in my facial skin. I hate them. I ignore them completely. I don’t want to look at myself so closely. I really don’t.
You may hate reading this for the same reason. Reading my story will make you think of your own. That is the purpose of writing.
It’s not easy to accept personal stories in the public space. It is rather difficult to write them too.
“What’s the matter with you,” my husband asks me sometimes, concerned that I might be coming down with something.
“Column deadline,” I say meekly.
“Oh,” he says, and ignores me for the next two days. And nights.
I almost never reread what I have written after it is published. Sometimes I should. One day I will. Or someone else will.
I write because happiness happens suddenly. It turns up like a purple wildflower with a dash of yellow in our path and we can’t stop because we are late and also we don’t immediately understand why it overwhelms us. The face of a sleeping child glowing in the morning light startles me as I walk past her. I take a photo because there aren’t always words for everything.
I write because I do not know how to ask for help. Words open doors I am otherwise too inhibited to knock on. Solutions appear, people reach out, a conflict spelt out is one step closer to resolution.
Now you tell me why you read.

I write because happiness happens suddenly.


[This was first published in Mint Lounge here: The Story Of Me

About Natasha Badhwar

"Because I'm a Tinker. That's who I am. Tinkers fix things. But I can't do it alone." (Pause for lots of action. Group Action......) "You did it, Tinker, you saved Spring!" I also have three children, one marriage, a million friends and one life.
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2 Responses to Why I Write The Story Of Me

  1. vandhanaravi says:

    I admire your writing so much! This was so beautiful and inspiring!

  2. D says:

    I write because I sometimes I need to spell out for myself things that are floating in my head, inconclusively, I need to take them where they belong — out of my head, or in my heart. I write because it helps me put things in perspective.

    I do not write about a lot of things because I’m gagged by morals, values, deception, the world, the same world of which I would like to write. I do not write some things because I know it will hurt, because I know the truth, and it may not be so easy for those who’re in denial to know it thus too. I don’t write because silence becomes a habit.

    I don’t know why I read.

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