They were at it again, he was at it again. Her dad was hitting her mom, hitting her badly. She was scared that her mom would die some day. How much beating could one take. But her mom lived, almost as if she wanted to live for her kids. Papa didn’t like the breakfast, he said that the sprouts weren’t well done. He lifted the tea cup and checked the bottom, it wasn’t clean enough for him. He sat at the head of the table facing the kitchen window. He sent everything crashing into the wall – the ketchup bottle, the tumbler, the water bottle, the plate – everything. When he was done doing that, he got up and grabbed mumma by her hair and hit her, and kept hitting her.

I don’t know what felt worse, her pain or utter humiliation. It was a quiet countryside and the voice carried not just to their servants’ chambers but also to the adjoining property. They all sniggered and the three of us huddled in a corner and cried. Papa would get angry at that too. He would ask us to stop, making us cry even harder. He would then tell us that he would leave us. Mumma always asked us to ask him to stay. She couldn’t provide for us, she couldn’t bring us up. We stood in a line, Papa asked us if we wanted to stay with him or mumma. We wanted to say mumma, all three of us, but said that we would stay with him because mumma always asked us to say that.

Mumma would always ask me to lay the table for Papa again. My sister would refuse to do it. It was my job to plead for him to eat again, to tell him that we would not annoy him again, to apologize. I would stand there for hours, at times, listening to what he had to say.

We grew up, changed houses, changed cities but he didn’t change. I was at work one day, he called me up and asked me to come home. I had to tell my supervisor what happened. Humiliation again. I hated the look of pity in her eyes. I went back home, listened to my dad complain about my mother. My brother had intervened when Pa was about to hit Ma. Pa turned him out of the house. We found him, got him back. I was tired, just tired. I tried killing myself. But I got to the hospital in time. They saved me. I woke up after 2 days to see my mother’s tear stained face. I could hear my dad complain to my  relatives, complain about my mum, when I was still fighting to stay alive.

I live with it, the three of us live with it.  We are all somewhat broken, somewhat shattered. One thing that did not change was the broken pieces turning to me to heal. They would call me, talk to me, cry on my shoulder, the broken pieces that my siblings were. I didn’t have the time to pick up my own pieces. There would always be them or mumma. I keep them together, I hold them together, while my pieces lay scattered. I’m the glue that keeps them in one piece, I listen, I scold, I counsel, and I lay scattered. I wait to close my eyes, to not open them again. I wait for sleep to claim my tired soul, my weary soul, my aching soul.