The Gift of a Second Chance
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
| This is the 458th story of Our Life Logs |
It started out almost lucky. I was born into a wealthy family in rural Haryana, India, in November 1991. My father was the only qualified doctor in our area including the surrounding eight villages. The only competition were a few quakes or pseudo-doctors who offered mumbo-jumbo at best. With many, many patients coming his way, my father was highly esteemed—a venerated figure like a god, in fact. That made us rich, but, unfortunately, it also made him arrogant.
There’s something about our culture that you need to know. It’s common for generations to live together in a joint family. It’s also common that the head of the family is in charge of everything and is never to be questioned. In our case, the patriarch was my father. He held this position of power and controlled every aspect of our life.
First, there was my mother. She was uneducated and stayed home to care for me and my sister. Because of that, my father always saw her as lesser and bossed her around all the times. Their marriage was arranged, but it was more like a political alliance—I heard my mother had brought with her a huge dowry of land. As for me, well, I was the only son of the family, so, I was expected to follow in his footsteps and not to disobey.
As I grew up, I noticed more and more fights between my parents. My father would drink every day—the best alcohol he could find, since we were rich. The evening would start with his angry stares and incessant mumblings directed toward my mother. As soon as the night fell, the verbal abuse would begin, followed by my mother’s promises to do better the next day.
No one was immune to my father’s rage. Anything that he could lay his hands on would turn into a hammer. I remember my sister and I used to run away and hide in the cellar or on the roof to keep away from him. My sister was my only friend as the rest of the children in the village would stay away from us because of my father’s wealth and his sudden bouts of anger.
As my father’s addiction to alcohol grew, so did the abuse. Physical abuse was eventually added to the verbal and mental torture. Many times, my mother suffered injuries that put her in the hospital. Much later, I asked her, “Why didn’t you go to the police?” She answered, “It is not the norm in our society for a wife to go against her husband.” Sadly, she had married him “till death do they part.”
When I was a teenager, I started questioning the traditions we lived with. Why should my father be able to abuse my mother in such a way? Why were we allowed to be mistreated too? I used to get into arguments with my father often. Most of the time, it was just arguments, but in March 2008, when I was around 17, I finally took action.
My father was beating my mother once again. She was cowering in the corner under a swishing cane. Instead of running away or watching in agony, that day, I rose and caught hold of my father’s hands. A warrior that laid dormant took over, and I shoved him away with ease. Drunk and enraged, he wrestled me around the compound, trying to get the upper hand. But standing at six feet tall now, I was just as strong as him. One of us would have certainly died if my mother and sister had not intervened and made me stop. I was ready to kill him with my bare hands, and it took all the willpower I had to back away from him.
No one is supposed to challenge the patriarch of the family, especially not incite violence with him. And so, that very night my father threw me out of the house. Refusing to leave my mother and sister there, I forcefully took them with me to another house we owned in the village. My father did not like that idea. He had bawled in his drunken rage, threatening that he would make us suffer.
My mother, sister and I continued to live in the other house on our own. After the intervention of some elders in the village, my father finally agreed to provide us with a monthly stipend, but it barely covered the cost of our life. My sister offered to discontinue her studies, but I told her I’d heard nothing of it. I wanted her to be educated until she got married. I assured my mother and sister that I would arrange the money to afford us both in college. I had no idea how, but I was determined.
In October 2010, our school fees had been due for three months. When we were threatened to be expelled from college, you better believe it reached my father and he went to the administrator. Seeing their threat as an insult to him, he bought off the college—lock, stock, and barrel. After that, he strode into the college and kicked the principal out of the grounds. The police and the village elders negotiated and settled the matter, but this led to many vulgar taunts from our peers and many street fights. The teachers too would taunt us with comments like, “You need no studies. Your father is enough for you.”
I used to cry about these taunts in private. I hated having this reputation on my back. It felt like I was forever living in my father’s shadow. The only way I got through was by spending most of my time in the school library, reading up whatever subject came to hand. My father wanted me to become an engineer, but looking for a means of control in this domineering life I was forced into, I started getting into literature. This was my way of defying my father’s expectations and showing he couldn’t rule over every part of my life.
After college, I took up a job as a salesman in a saree shop to help us financially. This was another way to show my father that I could do what I wanted in tangent to our traditional ways. The son of a doctor from our high caste does not take up such menial jobs. But I wanted to be different; I wanted to carve my own path.
In April 2012, my father found a suitor, the son of a reputed businessman, for my sister, and she left for her new home. I was left alone with my mother in the small house. Maybe the absence of my sister made my mother feel her own sort of defiance against me, because around a month later, I returned from the library to find the house locked and my mother missing. She had gone back to my father’s place. After all she went through, she returned. I thought back to what she’d once said, “Till death do us part.” I felt sick. I had no choice but to follow her back to my father’s place with my head hanging in shame.
Life started again with the usual drinking and abuses, but now his verbal abuses were quieter, and the physical beatings stopped entirely. Things were better, but I had not cozied up to my father like my mother had. I wanted more than what my father and his money could provide. I wanted to make my own name and my own standing in society without his money to carry me there. I wanted a place where people do not know me as the “son of the doctor.”
My mother supported this decision, and I started searching for an apartment in Delhi. In January 2013, I moved to a dingy shed on the roof which suited my budget, but it was quite low-tier. I decided to look for work as an editor for some magazine or with one of those upcoming e-learning companies.
But in the midst of trying to become my own person, I got my heart broken. I fell in love with the building owner’s daughter and we had a summer romance until her mother found out, and I was thrown out. No one in our community goes for love marriage, certainly never with a girl from a lower caste. But again, I questioned the traditions and longed to live with a free mind.
I took up residence not too far away and kept in touch with the girl I loved, but she got married off in December that year. My heart was shattered, and I attempted to commit suicide. A month after getting the news, I tried taking rat poison but was saved in time. I tried a second time by tying a noose to the temporary roof of my room, but with my height and weight, it just caved in. This commotion brought the owner up who found me sitting baffled with the roof pieces all around me and the rope still around my neck.
That was my lowest moment. But it was also a pivotal point in my journey. In that moment, I truly saw the purpose of my life. I knew I always wanted to be a better man than my father. I wanted to be happy and kind and build my own path. I had to be alive to do that. And I had to let go of the anger and depression in my heart.
Taking the negatives out of the equation changed my life, and the universe began to give back. A friend’s uncle was running a small publishing house, and when he was brought up to speed on all that I’d been through, he asked me to write down my story. As it turned out, my need to question the social norms, to defy my father and get into literature paid off. They loved the story and agreed to publish it. It was officially released in 2016, and has had a second print. A small fan base even formed online. One of the girls among all the fans eventually became the love of my life. I proposed to her just last year, and we plan to wed next month.
I’m so grateful that I let go of the anger and bitterness in my heart to allow myself to truly live. After all those years of searching and fighting, I’ve finally found the balance in my heart and built the path to my future. I look at how much my life has changed in the last few years, and I am glad that I didn’t succeed in killing myself. If I had, I wouldn’t have my fiancée, my career, and most importantly, my autonomy. Every day, I aim to be better than my father. I want to be happy, and I want to live no matter what hardships come my way.
This is the story of Prashant Bihrman
Prashant currently resides in Delhi, India where he continues to write. Born to a wealthy and respected family in a small village close to Delhi, Prashant had big shoes to fill as his father was a renowned doctor. However, the mental and physical abuses from his father broke Prashant’s spirit. This made him resent his life until the day he stood up to these abuses. What helped him heal was writing a book loosely based upon his life which earned him a fan base and out of it he found his true love. He is presently looking forward to marrying the love of his life and hopes to lead a happy life.
This story first touched our hearts on October 17, 2019.
| Writer: Prashant Bihrman | Editor: Kristen Petronio |
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