Trigger warning: This article contains mention on domestic violence and abuse.
The first time I remember having a different opinion than my peers was when I told them of my aversion to orange-flavoured popsicles. It was the first time I understood the concept of a ‘different opinion’. At that time, my younger self decided that it was not a good thing to experience.
All through my childhood, I lied. The lies weren’t necessarily white, nor were they black. I just lied to make myself seem ‘not different’. I wasn’t told by my parents that I had to lie about this part of who I was or what went on in our home. But I understood, for whatever reason, that it was something I could never share with anyone. So I made up lies.
What is it that went on in my home, you ask? Abuse. It was violent, and sometimes the violence spilled over onto me too.
I would go to school, learn math, English and music, would play with my friends and listen to them talk about their lives at home. The lives they described and the life I lived felt all too different. I felt different. I felt wrong and unnatural. But I didn’t have enough courage to tell them or ask for help. I thought if I told them, they would shun me and move on to better friends. And the fear of loneliness is a big one, even in our formative years. So whenever a friend would talk about how they celebrated Father’s Day or their mother’s birthday, I would fake a smile and listen to them. And if they asked me what my family did on such special days, I would make up a story.
I went back home every day with a heavy heart, afraid of what today’s episode of ‘home’ had to offer. Somedays I was afraid of going to school, afraid of leaving my mother at home. But then you can’t write that in a leave application: ‘Sorry ma’am, I had to miss school because I live in a toxic household’. That’s just not how our society works.
On many days, I would cry myself to sleep while hoping for a better tomorrow with a new life. That this was all just a long and bad dream. But the next day would come and I was the same. I would put on the same uniform and go to school to meet the same people, put on the same fake smile, hear the same stories and tell the same lies. It was a never ending nightmare.
As I grew older, I started trusting friends and confiding in them. And they confided in me.
That is when I realised how common abuse is. It’s bizarre that while a large part of our society faces abuse at home, it’s taboo to talk about it. The lonely battles of children and adults who live in abusive conditions and the mental degradation they face are topics which should be more widely talked about. Schools never bother to create a safe environment for their students to learn and grow. It’s always about completing the syllabus and getting a rank. It is never about creating an empathic community where a child would feel safe enough to share their thoughts and feelings.
Maybe someday, it would be considered alright to have a life different from what is deemed ‘normal’.
Janhavi Tripathi is a class 12 student from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.