From childhood, I looked up to her. She was my aunty, my khalamoni. My mother’s elder sister. Unlike my mother, she was the perfect wife, perfect mother. She cooked well and made sure everyone in the house is well-fed. According to our typical patriarchal values, she seemed to be the perfect woman in my eyes. For a really long time. I admired her. I still do, but I guess some feelings have dried up with time.
As I narrated earlier, I was sexually abused by my mother’s boyfriend, whom I thought would become my step-father. It took me almost 8 years to open up to my mother and confront her with all my anger. To my dismay, instead of feeling guilty, she threw back another shock at me. She said “Do you know how many times I have been sexually abused in life? Do you know your khala’s husband used to touch me inappropriately every now and then?”
I felt the earth under my feet was shaken to the core. It was the most shocking thing I have ever heard about any family member. Khala’s husband is a well respected fellow, with an extremely good job to boast of. He was soft spoken and well educated. Never in my wildest dreams I could think of him as an abuser. But what my mom said to me shook the ground beneath me and turned my world upside down once more after another devastating family tragedy.
“Well that does not justify my trauma. If you were abused by him, you should have told your sister. She’s your sister and she loves you, right?”
“She never said a word to her husband. She thought am throwing false allegations at her husband so that I could leave the house and elope with your father.”
That was one moment I lost respect to a great extent from one woman I used to look up to. I still can’t talk to her normally without feeling bitter. When we love people, we tend to overlook their flaws- blinded by our affections. That night, the heated argument with my mother tore the veil of affection I had for my aunty. And I started looking at her under a new light.
Now I realized that how she was an upholder of patriarchy. She treated us with all the love in the world, but ill-treated the daughter-in-laws in the family. She was extremely judgmental about my sister-in-laws. She would judge them for the same activities which we , the daughters, were guilty of too. For instance, not being good at housework. She never scolded us and fondly said that let them get married, they will learn. But when she realized her daughter-in-law was not very adept at household chores, she judged her. She admonished her. She blamed her upbringing. When my cousins got married, she complained that their wives apply too much make-up. But when my cousin sister got emotionally involved with a married man a decade senior to us, she used her influence in the locality to bury the story for once and all.
Yes, she loves us, no doubt. In her own way. But she failed to take a stand for her own sister, whom she had raised with her own hands, given that their mother had to take up jobs after their father’s demise. She knew her husband’s character, but did not tell him anything. Instead, she chose to blame the victim, my mother. I may have my own issues with my mother, but I do realize her sister’s betrayal perhaps scarred her emotionally.
For the sake of maintaining peace in the family, can I forever put up the fake smile in front of all and pretend that everything is ok? I don’t know. Anger stirs up within me in every family function.
As a child, I was angry with god that I did not have a sister. But now I feel its better to have no sister than to have a sister like my aunt.
My dear aunt. I still love her in some ways. But now I know, she is a patriarchal woman, insensitive to not only the sufferings of other women, but that of her own too. To hold on to so called values, she has not only betrayed her sister, but has deprived herself too- that’s a story for another day altogether.
I can never love you the way I used to, I am sorry Khala. I really am. Now you are only my mother’s sister for me, after discovering the dark past. I am sorry.
Name has been changed to protect privacy.
Previous installments of the series: