Trigger warning: This article contains details about domestic abuse.
It’s 10 am on March 16, and I am oiling my hair. It’s the day after I returned home from college, the day the first phase of lockdown began for me.
I pick out something to watch on Netflix because oiling my hair is a long process, and I need the distraction of a light chick flick to ignore the pain in my arms from all the detangling. My parents have left for work.
It’s 10:15 am by the time I pick out a movie and get back to oiling my hair.
It’s 11:00 am when I receive multiple frantic calls from my mother asking me what I’m doing. I am concerned, but I tell her I’m watching a movie.
It’s 11:15 am when my father leaves work to come home in the middle of the day, which is unusual for him. He takes my laptop and goes through the pages open to see what I was doing.
It’s 11:20 am when the screaming starts. I am confused. He points to a newly-installed CCTV camera in my bedroom, and says that my mother caught me watching ‘ungodly things’. I tell him it was a movie on Netflix and show him the search history. While looking through it, he gets a call from work – he needs to get back. He confiscates my laptop, gives me a few dirty looks, and leaves.
I am horrified and ashamed. Sex scenes in movies are common, and I did not think it would be a cause for concern. However, I also did not think my parents would install a CCTV camera in my bedroom to monitor me.
It’s 6 pm when they both return home and I’m filled with dread and anxiety. I know what comes next. The freedom that comes with living in a hostel five hours away for two years has made me forget what life at home could be like.
I had become complacent.
Also read: Locked Down With My Abuser
It’s 6:30 pm when my parents bring the Bible to the hall and question me about my “un-Christian behaviour”.
It’s 6:45 pm when the beating starts.
It’s 7:15 pm when I am forced to leave the house. Angry, hurt, shaken, I walk around my apartment building, trying to calm down and think. People look on, curious. I don’t blame them. I am barefoot, with reddened cheeks and dishevelled hair, struggling to not cry and failing miserably. I would have looked at myself too.
It’s 7:45 pm when my mother finds me and tells me to “come back home, b****”.
I think about the Bible they brought to the hall a few hours ago. I am sent to my room.
It’s 8 pm when my parents call me back to the hall. My mother says they should marry me off soon so they won’t have to deal with me. My father agrees. My mother calls me a slut, my father calls me a disgrace.
I am 18, the bruises on my body and face are throbbing, and the Bible on the hall table seems to be mocking me.
It’s midnight by the time they run out of things to call me, things to hurt me with. They take away my phone and my laptop, effectively cutting off any contact with the outside world. I am too exhausted to argue, my head is still ringing from being hit against the door, I just want to sleep.
It’s 8 am the next morning when my maid, akka, asks me, annoyed, as to why the broom is in smithereens. The pain in my body is the only response I can give her. She is, however, unimpressed by my silence and asks my father for a new broom, motioning quizzically to the broken pieces on the floor. My father agrees and awkwardly looks away, eyes falling on the Bible still on the table from the night before.
It’s 8:45 am, July 17, exactly four months later, when I got my phone back for online classes. Much has happened in the space between, things I wish I could forget.
It’s 12:45 am, August 20, when I bring myself to write this down.
It’s 2 pm, September 5, when I work up the courage to mail this in.