Dear Teachers.

Dear Teachers,

In the five years I spent at your school, I can honestly say that I am not entirely sure how I came out of it so sane. I was sent to you after my prodigal sister. I am aware (by my parents) that I did not do exceptionally well in my entrance test and certainly not as well as my sister, who came in on a scholarship. However, my grades (or lack of them) did not matter to you. I was my sister’s sister. I had to be good…………right?

But I wasn’t.

I was me. Not her. Yet that was never celebrated.

The first two years of high school, I slipped under the radar. I did okay, I went by unnoticed as did my grades. I excelled in the subjects I thought I would: Drama, Art, Music and English. The complete opposite to her. I was not an academic to you all. I was never part of any social dramas nor did I take any leadership roles, it was easy to forget about me.

I remember when you did notice.

When my grades slipped too far, I became your target. Suddenly, the girl you’d forgotten became the most memorable of all. Especially when you remember who my sister was – your star student. The morning you took me for a walk around the school and down to the hall where the plaques hung showing your most prized pupils of past. Where my sister’s name shone and burned into me. The place where you pointed out what I should be achieving and that I “had a lot to live up to”.

What you didn’t question was why.

Why was this sweet, lively girl’s grades dropping?

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my childhood was falling apart. That my home-life was like a war zone. The year was 1996, I was fourteen years old, my mother had just applied for divorce and you decided to put me on report.

You close-minded, arrogant idiots.

The reputation of your school and the notoriety of your name was much more important that a young girl struggling to make sense of her family disintegrating before her eyes. You humiliated me by dragging in my parents to discuss my “future”. Who were you to predict that? While my mother already held me in low regard, you only fuelled her perception of me. I had further disappointed her and as you placed my sister on that righteous pedestal, her place in my mother’s eyes grew stronger. You played a very clear part in the destruction of our relationship and for that I will never forgive you.

There were no positives made. No redeeming features. Humiliation and bullying was your forte. I was lost and no one was reaching out to guide me. No one.

Perhaps, if you had spent more time concerned about the welfare of your students and their emotional well being, I would have better memories of you all.

Sadly, I don’t.

Poetry Week.

I’m no poet.

I have only begun writing again this year. I once loved poetry especially as a child. Poetry has always been my mother’s ‘thing’ just as writing has always been my sister’s ‘thing’. I was never known as the poet or writer in the family. We weren’t allowed to ‘share’ hobbies. I was not praised for excelling in the same way as my family. I was supposed to have an individual talent and stand out on my own. My poetry, my writing is entirely different to theirs. I should be allowed to showcase my own talent.

Creativity should not be stifled, it should be cheered and supported. I was the showman to my family. The actress and so-called “Drama queen”. I craved attention as a child but not for the reasons they pushed on me. I only ever wanted love.

My outlet has always been writing. At school I excelled at English. I was a story teller, imaginative and creative. I was a dreamer, frequently narrating and creating exciting stories for my friends. I wrote diaries and journals. I was incredibly expressive but my outlet was stunted during my teen years.

My sister wanted to be a journalist. It suddenly became clear that she would be the story teller in our family. This was her future – not mine.

I began writing privately. It became an emotional release. It still is.

Only now, in the last year, have I felt confident enough to showcase my own writing, my own poetry. I do not want to compete with my award-winning journalist sister. It would be amazing to have a stepping stone into the world of publishing. It’s just sad that my own sister has always looked down on my writing. She has always seen me as that fifteen year old girl and I can’t imagine she’ll ever look at me any differently.

I could have a way in. To show my work and truth to the whole world but the one person who could help me sees me as the enemy. Nothing I can do about that. Convenient eh?

This week is Poetry Week for me and I will be showcasing some of my most recent work. I hope you all enjoy.

Ros xx

Chapter 1, Part 2.

My relationship with my mother and sister only worsened as I grew older. I became as they described a “spoilt, selfish brat”. I was not a rebel; I never acted “wild” although they often accused me of it. I just wasn’t my sister. She was my mother’s confidante, she listened to her. She was quiet, academic, intelligent and dependable. I, on the other hand, was a loose cannon. My mood swings fluctuated daily, I was irritable and wound up by their presence. I seemed to love drama and allowed it to follow me around. At least in some way I was still a part of their life, I wasn’t shut out completely. I just wanted her to notice me.

During these years my father did the unthinkable. He spent all his energy convincing me I was unloved by my mother and sister. He would tell me openly if he heard them criticise or insult me, every day there was something new to tell me. As I walked in from school, he would beckon me to his room to discuss the events of his day and what he had heard. The door would be locked of course.

I didn’t realise the signs but my mother always had deep concerns. In her eyes he showed evidence of abuse very early on.

He always crossed boundaries and saw nothing wrong in doing so. Not just with me but also with my sister. His touch, his kiss, nothing felt right, it was always too affectionate. I always felt uncomfortable and that he was crossing a forbidden line. But I could never voice this, not back then anyway.

My mother moved out when I was fourteen as she could no longer cope. She tried to take me with her but his grip was too tight and by then I was too brainwashed. My sister left as well and the two teams grew stronger with hate. On a rare holiday to visit her family, I was constantly bombarded with commands to stay loyal to her and see my father for the evil creature he was. Of course at that moment my loyalties were firmly with my Dad and I was left distraught by their abhorrence towards him. They were just worried for my safety as they had been with my mother for years but I was blind to it. I made false promises to them out of fear saying that I would stand by her, I still loved her and I longed for the past when we were once happy.

The moments we laughed together, where I watched her cooking up my favourite meals in the kitchen following her every move. The times when I cuddled up to her as she had her afternoon nap and painted her face with make up as she slept.

Nothing stands out to me more than those memories. The fighting and arguing are almost a blur, those moments just blend into one another. But the flashes of our happiness remain completely clear.

I can’t wait to taste it. My mother has been promising to do this for months. My sister doesn’t seem as excited as me probably because she has tasted it before. It’s a long wait. I go into the garden, the sun is beating down on me. The smell is different out here too. I retreat back inside as the oven timer rings; it’s ready!

My mother tells us to wait as it’s very hot. “Wait”? I can’t wait. I’m not patient. I want it now. She is hovering over the cooker but I can’t see what she is looking at. Her face seems confused.

“What is it Ma?” asks my sister.

“I think we may have gone wrong,” Ma replies.

I stand on a stool and see a glass dish filled with rock hard toffee.

“Where are the flapjacks?” I am puzzled.

“It doesn’t matter, we can eat this instead,” Ma swiftly states.

She takes the dish to the sink and chips away at the toffee. Chunks are flying everywhere. My sister is clearly put off as she walks away. I plan to stay; I like toffee. My mum hands me (what I think is) a very small piece. I put the hot toffee in my mouth.

The top layer begins to melt and I’m left with all the crunchy bits. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to eat. I can’t chew, I’m trying with all my strength but I can’t. Little nuggets are stuck in my teeth. My fingers are pulling at them, I am not enjoying this.

My mum is proudly watching me devour her bizarre creation that I so excitedly popped into my mouth a few minutes ago. My tongue is rooting around trying to pull every last bit from my teeth. It’s not working.  I eventually manage to dislodge a chunk and consider whether to swallow it whole or to do the unthinkable and spit it out.

 

This happiness saved me. The dark moments in my life made me return to these memories and through my adult years I have visited them plenty of times.

After the holiday we returned to England. I flitted between both of my parents but predominantly stayed with my father in the family home. It wasn’t ideal, my mother knows now that she should have used all of her force to take me out of that house as ultimately this was the time where he “worked” on me the most.

I dreaded the time I had to spend with Mum. Not because I didn’t want to see her but I knew of the interrogation I was about to face from her and my sister. Each would take it in turns to find out his plans. I clammed up, refusing to answer their questions, feeling more and more left out of their partnership. Their desperation, their anger was immense, it suffocated me. The only person left to turn to was my father, his plan was having the desired effect. I started to resent them.

My parents underwent a prolonged and painful divorce. My father contested it at first. He was incredible stubborn and my mother had insulted his masculinity. Divorce was frowned upon in his homeland; it was not a choice that entered his mind no matter how unhealthy and destructive the environment was.

I made the decision at this moment that would change my future forever and chose to live with my father. For months I did not speak to my mother and sister, they both cut my Dad out of their life, effectively cutting me out too. I know my mother sent my sister’s boyfriend to find me at home. That day my father and I had been out somewhere. On our way home we noticed someone at the front door peeking through the letterbox. My father parked away from the house. We watched as the young man eventually gave up and left. My father said nothing. I was frightened and he did nothing to reassure me. I kept my distance from them partly out of fear but mostly out of shame.

The pampering and lavish gifts continued for three months until it all suddenly stopped. My father had what he wanted; me. The conditioning had also ended. He had reached the point he wanted, he had the five bedroom house all to himself. He was the king of his palace.

Summer was near and I was living in a dream world. But what was coming around the corner was about to shatter everything I thought to be true and real.

© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013

Boxing Day revelations.

I mentioned in my last post that my mother had seemed out of sorts on Christmas day and that on Boxing day, her reasons were very much revealed.

It was what I had predicted.

A few days before Christmas, my mother received an envelope in the post. The label had been printed on so it was not clear who it was from. My mother however, instantly knew. I had no idea this envelope had arrived. My mother had kept it out of my sight. I hate secrets so was frustrated to find out she had deliberately hidden it from me. I understand why though. It would’ve played on my mind all Christmas if she had revealed it earlier.

On Boxing Day as my mother chatted about how my she missed her sister’s daughter’s child that she had spent so much time with in India, I began talking about my nephew – my sister’s son and how much I miss him. Memories filled my mind, memories of him as a baby, drooling and smiling at me. He was beautiful. He was kept from me and I have barely seen him in the last four years. My sister has taken away that basic right and for no clear reason. Her anger and hatred for my mother four years ago grew into immense anger and hatred for me. I was getting closer to Ma. I was trying to get as far away from my father. She was always my mother too. Why I had to “compete” for her affection I’ll never know. A mother’s love should be unconditional. As should a father. But my father held conditions on his love. Conditions and expectations that I could never reach. Only one person met his expectations – my sister.

“Something came you know,” uttered my mother as she listened to me reminisce.

My heart dropped. I understood immediately what she meant.

“Well let me see it,” I needed to see it.

She brought out the envelope and handed it to me explaining that it arrived a few days back. I was horrified that this had been a secret. That she kept it private. I no longer want to be kept in the dark, to be the last person to discover shocks and be told that I have to accept them.

As I opened it, a card fell out. Within that card lay several photos of my nephew and the niece I have only ever seen once (at my father’s hospital bed where my sister told him that her daughter “does not go to strangers” as he handed my niece to me). I couldn’t believe my eyes at how much he had grown. It was beautiful and devastating at the same time. I tried not to let my emotion show. As I looked at the card I saw my sister’s handwriting. Her words were affectionate towards my mother. To a stranger’s eyes you would believe that this mother and daughter had a lovely relationship; close even. That of course is not the case. My mother and sister are strangers too. My sister estranged herself four years ago from my mother. She sent an appalling letter documenting lies about her. Lies that my mother accepted.

Was it an olive branch? Was she reaching out? Maybe. I won’t be too negative. Perhaps she genuinely wants her mother back in her life. There is no way that I would stand in the way of that but why be so distant and ignore her for the past four years. At my father’s funeral last year, my sister blanked my mother. Her husband ignored the both of us. That is not the behaviour of a person who wants to make amends.

I am suspicious. I have every right to be.

I have warned my mother that I cannot go through it all again. In 2004, at the end of the year my sister got married, something changed in her. Anger consumed her and it became increasingly difficult to say the right thing around her. I especially grated on her. She will forever look at me as a teenager. A view that is distorted. That opinion will never change. She holds no respect for me as an adult or a woman. The few years that followed were an emotional nightmare. My mother attempted to bend and bow to my sister’s commands but she never met her expectations. Sounds familiar right? So my sister eventually cut her out of her life and within a year or so, she had walked straight back into my abuser’s life.

My father’s prodigal daughter had returned.

She is my mother’s prodigal daughter too. I worry and fear for the future. I can never match their relationship. I have no longing to. Their relationship was unhealthy and suffocating. I do not want that to happen to our relationship.

I had hoped 2014 would be a new start. Where the past would not return and I could move forward.

Now I’m not so sure.