Tuesday, 22 January 2019

(Fish) and Chips All Around

I spent a long time wondering whether I should carry on writing about all the obstacles I faced to get to the stage where I could graduate- as part of flipping the bird at my father series. The last two posts took a lot out of me mentally- going back to the darker memories of the past has brought a lot of hurt back. But I must go on. Also, I keep having a thought that perhaps I might be bringing shame upon myself, but the truth will hopefully shine and finally show the dirt on that man's face.

It's not necessarily that I am doing this to get revenge, it's more that I need to get it all out. I finally feel that I can distance myself enough. I guess its a bit like writing painful memoirs. It's metaphorically letting go of the dark, dirty and heavy rope one has been pulling along from behind  and as the words are printed, tapped away on the keyboard, the rope is turning into pastel coloured ribbons, which in time will finally turn into thin net curtains. I won't have to hide or guard my past, and I certainly won't be haunted my it. Finally, I will be able to enjoy being around people who have have a pretty traumatic-free upbringing rather than feeling bitter towards them. I mean, I'm sure there will be other good things that will come out of this, but that would be a good start.

#Now, this is a story about how my life got flipped upside down, and I'd like to take a minute just to sit right there, and I'll try you how I came to think working in a Chippie would be rock bottom, not the times I couldn't even afford a loaf of bread.#

I distinctly remember, one early morning, my father driving my sister and I to the bus stop for school. I remember him asking, "What's more important... satisfaction in you career or being paid a lot of money even if you hate that job?
I thought about this for a few moments and replied, "Satisfaction". He sniggered a little, and said, "wrong answer, money is more important!"
After that, I became even more a Public Enemy No.1 in his eyes.

On many occasions, I remember him telling my siblings and I that we "could never survive without his money or influence". The most important thing for him was us not bring shame to him.

Now. 'shame' included the following but was not limited to the following:
  • not getting all A grades in GCSEs (subjects chosen by him for me) and A Levels, 
  • not doing degrees in the subjects he had specifically chosen for us,
  • not taking up musical instruments
  • not behaving like 'intelligent' children who never made a sound
  • dancing at weddings or functions (my mum wasn't allowed to dance at her wedding)
  • polishing nails
  • putting on make up
  • not playing golf- this got my mother in trouble as I refused to at first. I wanted to play hockey.
  • eating too slowly
  • having male friends
  • not having a personality
  • getting an achievement in a subject at Sixth Form as it wasn't the best Sixth Form (it was in English)
  • Eating certain foods that were not meant to be eaten at that meal time, e.g eating toast for tea
Now, I have to say, I thought this is what it was like living in a Sikh family, but that could not be further from the truth. My paternal grandparents were over the top strict and their way of thinking which obviously my father took up was flawed. Having been sent to live in India for many years in our childhood, most of these were naturally a part of our lives as we were raised by our paternal grandparents. If anything life became much more difficult when I came to live in Cambridgeshire with my parents. it was supposed to be a happy reunion, at last, we were a family, having spent living apart up until the point. 

 I started in Year 9 with meant that immediately after starting, I had to sit STATs which would affect the classes and grades i would sit in for the rest of my school life. My sister luckily started in Year 8, the first year of middle school. No life altering exams for her. I have to say, I didn't know anything about about anything. The subjects I did well in like history and geography unfortunately were part of the long 'shame list'. They were all chosen for me (I remember getting a lot of beatings because I tried to secretly change a couple) by him. Now, inevitably, I did pretty bad in the subjects that I was forced into, having already be behind in. It looked like to my parents and teachers that I was no good at studying which is the no.1 biggest shame of all time to bring on the family. I did quite well in graphics and design but that was ignored. I was an annoying, rusty nail sticking out of my father's neck, he couldn't understand why I was so bad, not taking into account that the beatings and threats were most likely not helping me.

All in all, I didn't get A grades at GCSEs, more like a few Cs and two Ds.  I had to go to a sixth form to retake English and Maths GCSEs, I also took up Human Physiology and Health as well as Psychology at the same time. This sixth form I went was amazing, I really liked it. After retaking them and doing well, I was yet again told what subjects I could take in A Levels. So, I wanted to do English, Psychology, Music and Art, After a lot of beatings, I got English, Psychology, Maths and Religious Studies, and my father rued the day that he chose the latter subject as I confessed at dinner that we should all convert to Buddhism. 

For a long time by then, the beatings were no longer taking the effect they should have, instead of making me fear him and do things his way, I was beginning to feel resentment. While I was kept on a short leash, beaten for the smallest of things, my younger sister could do no wrong, she was never beaten- left to study, trim her hair, chat to strangers online, colour her nails, which was fine because i wasn't interested. It was the comparing that really got to me. 

Every beating I got for not doing well as STATs, choosing the subjects, choosing the musical instrument, choosing anything and everything for me was done because if I didn't do it, I would end up working in a chippie like his sister. which according to him was the worst thing in the world. When my sister did well at the STATs and GCSEs with the subjects she got to choose, when she got into the 'better' sixth form, when she wore a dress and not a Punjabi suit to Prom- were also the times I was emotionally tortured for being a failure. I abhor that word, calling someone a failure is inhumane- but that was my nickname that my father and siblings called me.

The punishment for bringing shame, which I was really good at, was always us ending up working in a 'Fish and Chip shop' like our aunt did as she hadn't gone to college or uni.What that idiot ignored was the fact that her husband and her owned a lot of those shops and have gone on to be rather successful. She's pretty well off now and he's pretty much lost all his wealth.

For some time while living at the homeless shelter, I couldn't even afford milk or bread, I still prayed I would not end up in a Chippie- that, to me, was worse than starving. I didn't want him to win, but most importantly, I feared he would be right that I couldn't survive without him. In the first few years, I wouldn't even eat fish because of that. The idea that I would beg to go back never even occurred to me- not once. But working in a Chippie was my worst fear, not being malnourished or not being able to buy shampoo to wash my hair for a looong time- I used soap so....

It wasn't until a couple of months ago, when my mother, other half and I were laughing about my father and his stupid philosophies he brought us up with that my mother finally taught me the lesson he should have done from the very beginning. She told me that no job is beneath anyone. I finally felt that fear in me melting away. For many years, I had set the bar at working in a fish and chip shop at my lowest. But there I was that day finally able to let that go. 

Over the years, I have begun to realise most things he told us were utter rubbish; ramblings of a mad man. But being absolutely terrified and petrified of him has also brought its advantages. I have never been afraid of any one since. People have tried, but I have relented- whether that's good or bad remains to be seen. But that hasn't meant that there aren't any residual effects. Some behaviours in people do make me feel very unsafe. I find it frightening to be around drunk men, I sadly admit that men speaking with raised voice still makes me cry. People pointing knives at me feel suffocated- even if they are just talking while cooking. I've already written about my issues with resilience, and making mistakes- I still get scared when I make stupid mistakes that I will get told off at the very least. 

The one thing that has been hard work, but now not so much is getting a personality and the right sort of characteristics. I remember my father being tremendously proud of all of us having unique and great personalities. Perhaps because of all my experiences, I have to say, humour was definitely not part of blueprints he had drawn for us, but later acquired- it's a sort of dark, dry kind.

It goes to show that children need freedom to taste and decide what they want. I wasn't going to stray, I just couldn't go on. I broke out, soared into the sky, and I am really glad that I did.

Until next time,
Sen x

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