written by an Anonymous Bat
My father has been reading his Bhuddist mantras every morning for a decade. He tells me to think of positive things and to put our egos aside. He is friendly and laughs a lot in social functions and plays well with little children. He is helpful and self-sacrificial to a fault. He offers me many material things, some of which I have never asked for but I still use today. He is disciplined, organised and a handyman.
When I was 7, a day before my school examination, my mother was grumbling to herself in the kitchen. My father, who was giving us a prep talk for our examinations, suddenly walked out of our study room and violently threw a broom and a dustpan at my mother. Her head hit the wall and as she stood there with her body plastered against it, blood began to leak from her head onto the paint.
I thought my mother was going to die that night.
As my father hurriedly laid her body horizontally in my living room and rushed her to the hospital, I gave her my blue handkerchief I used for school so she could press her head with it. I remember the dazed look in her eyes as the handkerchief soaked up her blood. I said, “I love you” before my father took her away. My sister and I both went up to our room and we cried. I prayed so hard to whatever God there was listening for her to be alright.
My mother came back home with stitches. Nearly 16 years later, she would still ask me if there is a hole on the back of her head. She is worried about having a lack of hair in that area, which I think is foolish because there isn’t a hole there anymore. I suppose it’s easy for the body to heal but harder for the mind to.
I can only imagine the look on my father’s face as he tried to explain to the hospital how she got injured. What was running through his mind? Regret? Guilt? Or was he just thinking about how he could get away with it?
I wouldn’t know. For 16 years, my father has never once spoken about this incident to me or my sister.
There are many other incidents that he has never spoken about as well.
While my father’s biggest weapon was his physicality, it was his unpredictability that damaged my family the most.
He once kicked and punched me and then held me in his arms while I was crying in a cradle position before throwing me into my room causing me to burst through the mosquito netting of the door. I landed on my back, crying and curled up like a ball. He left me there.
“When I was young, I thought it was merely destiny for me to become like my father. I believed for a time that all men were like him.”
Once I got a beating from him because he was angry that I didn’t know white plain A4 paper had a front side and a back side. Apparently the part that curved downwards was the front side.
I also got beaten once because he smelled fart in his bedroom. I didn’t smell anything and I insisted that it wasn’t me. He didn’t care.
On another occasion he whipped me with the cane and left me with a gaping and bleeding wound on my left arm because of some school project I asked his help for. I had to embarrassingly dodge questions from friends and teachers about the wound.
I was whipped and kicked because the audio setting for the TV was slightly different. I had the courage to say it wasn’t my fault and he punished me for it. He later found out that I was right. He didn’t even apologise.
Being top three amongst my cohort in school constantly for many years, you could pretty much describe me as a nerd.
What my friends or my teachers didn’t know was that I didn’t study hard because I was driven by my desire to be successful. I was driven by my desire to survive my father.
The terrifying thought of what awaited me at home as I try to reason with a man who only spoke violence was what made me memorise word after word and page after page.
Getting 80 or 78 for a paper regardless of how well I performed for the others meant that I would sit down with him as he asked me one simple question while he looked at the paper that he himself spent no time to study for, nor did he understand.
“Why?” he would ask.
I answered that I ran out of time.
“Why?” he would continue to ask.
I answered I didn’t study the relevant section.
“Why” he asked.
I would say I was stupid and careless. I didn’t use my brain.
“Why?” he still asked.
I gave him answer after answer and as the tension in the room rose, I knew if I failed to give him the one word that he was looking for, he would proceed to beat me and throw the papers in my face. Ironically, if I cried I would be whacked harder for crying, which in turn would only cause more crying and more whacking.
The process would then be repeated for the remaining papers until he concluded the session with a spiritual talk of how we should use our positive qi energy to enhance our awareness of our surroundings. He would laugh and speak passionately about it while I would fake my agreement with him, forcing a smile on my face as I felt relief that my beating was over despite the bullshit he was saying.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, what most of my friends didn’t know was that for half of my entire life, I was practically blind. They must have thought I was a weirdo who held the paper about two inches from my face for the fun of it. I sat in the front row of my class and although the whiteboard was just a meter away from me, I could read nothing.
I survived most of my schooling life having a really close friend of mine read out the words to me. Sometimes I would borrow books from friends after class because I couldn’t see what was written on the board. My favourite session in class was when teacher read out the words.
Whenever I was asked to answer a question on the board, I would stare awkwardly at it and squint, hoping someone would save me from drowning in the embarrassment I was about to suffer. This nightmare was prevalent in tuitions that I had attended where my only option to escape from being put on the spot is to shy away and draw the least amount of attention to myself. When the tuition teachers were writing on the board, I would fake scribble onto my notepad hoping nobody would realise.
When my parents picked me up from tuition at night I couldn’t see if it was their car. As usual I would get whacked or shouted at if I couldn’t. So, I had to learn to adopt by recognising the shapes of things and people as well as their movement. Most of the time, I could barely see the expression on their face. When I ordered food it was a nightmare because I couldn’t see the menu.
Every night when I went to bed, I planned for the next day and how I could appear to function normally. I couldn’t see name tags or signs so I had to be sneaky in getting around that. When I woke up every morning, right before I opened my eyes, I hoped I could see the world clearly. Sometimes I dreamt that I had perfect vision but I would wake up knowing that it isn’t real. The situation I was in felt inescapable.
My sister had the same problems with her vision as I did. Despite our inabilities, we both were top students at school and my sister was even more brilliant than I was.
My parents were fully aware that we couldn’t see clearly.
My mother kept quiet out of fear. She would often scold me for not picking up strands of my hair in the room when I just couldn’t see them at all.
My father as usual resorted to violence, occasionally testing me and asking me to read what was written on certain signboards. When I failed his test, he would poke my eye with his knuckles and say “cock eye”. He then came up with his ridiculous eye exercises in which my sister and I had to stare at a red dot across the room.
I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him I saw two dots instead.
When my sister got a government scholarship, she needed to get her eyes checked as a precondition to accepting the offer. My parents reluctantly took her to the optician and when her eyes were checked, it was revealed that her power on both eyes were about 500-600. My parents were shocked and they finally decided to get my eyes checked as well.
While driving me to the optician, they joked about my sister’s vision and laughed as they wondered what mine would be. I can still remember their sarcastic laugh and the joy they seem to derive at the thought of my physical defect.
It turns out that I had 900 for each eye. The opticians were shocked, acting as if I were to be blamed for my predicament.
When I first got my glasses, it was, for a lack of a better phrase, eye-opening. At the age of 16, I could finally see properly. I couldn’t believe what having proper vision was like. I was taken aback by how I could notice all the small little details on things. I could see every expression on a person’s face. Every line and texture of a surface. Knowing that my sister and I would have been expected to drive on the road, I fear thinking how we both would have survived much longer if she didn’t get her scholarship.
As much as I had suffered, my mother suffered as well. I fear constantly that things may escalate beyond control.
When I was 19, my father decided to randomly beat my mom in the kitchen with his fist as she sat with her back on the ground.
I approached him and told him to beat me instead. He stopped, turned and looked at me. In his eyes, all I saw was an animal devoid of rational thought.
I held his wrist. “I’m not the little boy you can beat anymore,” I said to him. I took a gamble, one that may have escalated things to a dangerous situation.
Luckily, he left my mother alone but refused to talk to me for days.
My mother blamed me saying I was rude to my father and I should not talk to him like that. I don’t blame her for doing that. People in her position would do anything to keep people like him happy.
My father expected me to apologise to him and I am ashamed to say that I did. I apologised for mistakes that were never mine.
I continued to take his shoes into the house for him and called him “Daddy” while I patiently grit my teeth. My escape was near and a few months later I was off to the another country for a few years.
In that time the distance has helped me to mend things. I had the time to develop emotionally and to a certain extent come to grips with my past. The trauma from what I have experienced left wounds that needed to heal. When before I could not talk to my dad even about the most mundane things in fear of angering him, now I could as an adult. However, as much as my dad has changed throughout my life, one thing remains for certain: his need for control and how a lack of it causes him to lash out violently.
Sometime ago, he nearly ran over our neighbour’s son with his car because he was angry. Two or three months ago when I talked to him about it, he laughed and said that I would have that anger in me as well because I was his son. I said nothing in response.
When I was young, I thought it was merely destiny for me to become like my father. I believed for a time that all men were like him. I heard stories about his brothers acting far worse.
At 12, I pulled my sister’s hair in anger. I lashed out at other people as a kid because I didn’t know how else to deal with the feeling of being angry. I did as I was taught and now I hate myself for those moments.
My father will never understand many things.
He will never understand why I choose to sit behind him in the car when I was young. My father would never understand the fear I felt as a kid. It was because on a few occasions that I did seat behind my mother, he would throw things at me because it was easy for him to aim from where he was sitting. I was more accessible.
My father will never understand why I squatted timidly in the corner of my room or under my study table or why I lock my doors constantly or why I spend so much time in the toilet. Embarrassingly enough the small toilet was my sanctuary. My only escape from having to constantly live in fear and it was a place I knew for certain I would be safe temporarily. It was secure and impenetrable. Predictable and safe.
He will never understand that the only reason I say, “Good Morning” or greet him is because of fear and not love. Fear he planted in me when he decided to grab me by the head and shake me when I was too focused on a cartoon on TV and failed to notice he was home.
He will never understand because the only language he is truly familiar with is violence.
I refuse to speak that language and because of that we are at an impasse. Until the day he dies, I can never tell this story openly and I have to pretend and live like all I’ve experienced is nothing but a dream.
p.s: For those that are close to me that have read this story and know who I am, please respect my decision to remain anonymous. You can direct any comments or share any of your stories to the Anonymous Bat instead.
*This is a written submission to #Liberasi from an anonymous source. We at #Liberasi condemn domestic violence and would like to assure those who are suffering abuse that they are not alone in their struggle. If you have any stories that you would like to share, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.