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All within the four walls

“Things should not go out of these four walls.” Whenever people say this, I often wonder how much they like walls. They always tend to keep everything within the premises. Nothing is hidden from these walls. People say ‘god knows everything’, but I feel walls are the ones that know everything. All the dark and nasty secrets, well, walls are their keepers. My father always says, “Don’t let your private affairs go out of these four walls,” and I used to obey him totally. Our lives are still confined within the four walls. None of our dirty secrets goes out of them, ever. They are our burial grounds. Everything, good and bad, is buried inside them, forever.

One nasty secret that was confined within these four walls is that of a separation; a separation that I will always remember until the very end. It is a scar that will never go away. Some memories are like scars. They haunt you. They consume you to the extent that you are no longer able to erase them from your mind. Every time I talk about this incident with anybody, they ask me to let go. Not everything can be forgotten thus, yet they talk so highly about it. Utter nonsense, I feel. Letting go is such a terrible process, and believe me, it is just much hyped these days. The reason I can’t let it go is that I feel the moment I do that, it will become a normal thing and I hate normalising things. The moment we normalise something, it becomes mundane and trivial. What happened with us, which shook the five of us, which changed our life from that very point, can it ever be normalised?

Four years ago, on August 11, 2013. It was yet another day in our lives — in the lives of the Aroras. It was a fine Sunday morning. Sundays in a Punjabi household are always special. Loads of makkhan (butter) on aloo paranthas with a little chit-chat and lots of gossip at the dining table, and oh, I just forgot to make a mention of those loud and scary laughs.

That Sunday was a little more special for everybody was at home because my newly wed sister was home. I remember how my mother was busy in the kitchen since morning that day, preparing aloo mixture first, then soaking the rajma for lunch, slicing butter into large cubes and boiling water to make her special adrak wali chai for her son-in-law. I remember, she had also taken out that cutlery set papa had got from his office. She was very happy and wanted everything to be just perfect. Papa, on the other hand, was talking greatly about us and our family to his son-in-law. He seemed very happy, too.

My sister, as usual, was late for breakfast because she has this habit of waking up late, which my mother used to frown upon. When she came, she sat beside me and we were irritating each other as we always do and our parents glared at us, as they always do.

All of a sudden, her husband said something very rude to her. To me it came as a shock because I felt there was no need to insult her like that. My parents, on the other hand, behaved as if nothing had happened. A deafening silence loomed in the room, until I heard my sister sobbing. She had never looked that helpless to me before. She has always been the strongest of all three of us and maybe that’s why it was very difficult to digest the fact that she too can cry.

Slowly and steadily, the silent sobs turned louder and there she was, crying her eyes out. Though my mother consoled her extensively, the sobbing didn’t stop. Her husband seemed to be not bothered at all. When he finally broke his silence, my sister yelled at him. She accused him of treating her like an animal ever since they were married. She accused him of sexually offending her. She accused him of several other things we didn’t even know she was suffering from since the beginning of her marriage.

This episode left the entire family in shock. My parents just stood there watching the entire scene while my sister wept incessantly. I seldom think about how they wanted to save that marriage so badly just because they were afraid about what people will say if they came to know that their daughter was divorced. Who would marry her, what about their reputation, what about our family?

What troubles me to date was the way my parents reacted to it, and probably that is what broke everyone in the family that day. I realised they were so busy portraying this happy family drama series that in the process they forgot what their own daughter was going through. Even after the truth came out, it still took a while for them to let go of the image they have in society and stand by their daughter’s side.

The happy/ideal family idea that existed in my mind, somehow was conquered with clouds of suspicion and hatred towards my parents, who I thought were nothing but the products of the so-called moral and respectable society.

Till date this thing has been confined to the four walls of our dining room. It never went out. It is seen as a dirty secret that all of us are asked to protect from everybody else outside those four walls. You know what’s even worse, we still continue to pretend to be a happy family, we still talk about things that are unimportant, and we still sit and eat aloo paranthas and pretend to love each other.

Walls are my only guardian angel since that day, I guess.

nikita.arora1508@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 11:56:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/all-within-the-four-walls/article24240553.ece

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