The family of ‘Bothal Karayas’, was loud raucous and violent. The men would drink all weekend, argue with each other and regularly beat the women in the compound.
One lazy Sunday afternoon as I was playing by myself I heard the screams. The screams of a woman. The sound of terror and pain. I ran to the front of the house and looked over the fence. The screaming continued followed by a sickening thud; the sound of wood on flesh. I then saw Raju, the man I recognised as our local ‘bottle man’ chasing his wife around the hut, repeatedly striking her with a piece of wood, hurling abuse at her as he chased her around the compound. The sound of the beating and the woman’s screams filled me with terror as I vomited onto the road by the front gate. Other members of Raju’s extended family, voices raised in anger, jostled with each other trying to intervene.
Raju’s alcohol fuelled brain would listen to no reason. His inflamed eyes saw only hatred. I stood there staring at the horror unfolding before me. I felt numb, terrified and powerless as I witnessed the merciless beating.
Even as a child I think I understood the frustration and despair of some of the families around me. The frustration that causes people to behave like animals and the helplessness that makes others accept this behaviour. Violence wrought by poverty and a sense of hopelessness.It was only years later that I realised I was wrong . Domestic violence wasn’t restricted to the poor. Rich men beat their wives as well.
I sobbed uncontrollably, my body shaking with terror and grief.I tried to control myself before I ran inside. I kicked sand over my vomit and covered my ears with my hands. I felt ashamed for being so helpless, for not intervening and trying to stop something I knew even then was wrong. There was no one I could talk to. My father was out drinking. My sister wasn’t around and I was scared of my brother. Talking to my grandmother was out of the question. “Mind your own business”, she would say. “She probably deserved it”.
I never got used to the violence but learnt to push it to the back of my mind. Like the children in the compound who sat silently and impassively, staring vacantly into the distance, while their father vented his frustration and anger on their mother. I snuck back into the house and got into my bed trying to shut out the horror movie replaying over and over in my mind.
I will never end up like Raju. I will never let alcohol take over my life, I resolved while sobbing uncontrollably into my pillow.
My life will be different.