Like Mother, Like Daughter“Mom! Mom!?”
“Asha, honey, is that you?”
“Mom, I’m in trouble. It’s my husband. He’s been, he’s been…”
Immediately, Diya understood. Her heart stopped.
“Asha, you need to come home right now.”
Staring at the blue and black spots that polluted her skin, Diya began to weep uncontrollably. This was too much, just too much. She would have to tell someone. As shameful and embarrassing as it would be, she needed to save herself. She needed to save all of them.
Diya remembered her wedding day thirty years ago. Soft jasmine flowers twined into her braids, the immaculately decorated golden sari. Her cheeks glowed as she walked around the fire seven times—the sacred ritual of marriage. As a young, innocent girl of twenty-one, she envisioned marital bliss, a pathway into adulthood. As she glanced into her husband Aashik’s eyes, she read only love and adoration. After all, his name itself meant “love.” How could even a hint of anger grace his handsome features?
The day after returning from her honeymoon, Diya stood in the kitchen, chopping celery and adding a pinch of this and that to the simmering concoction on the stove. A heavenly aroma wafted through the apartment as Diya scurried around, eager to finish cooking her first meal before Aashik got home. She wanted everything to be perfect.
When Aashik got home, he inhaled the spicy scents with appreciation. As they sat down to dinner, he eagerly took a large spoonful of the warm soup and lifted it to his lips. As he swallowed, Diya studied his face for a reaction. She had spent years perfecting the family recipe. As his face turned sour, he asked,
“What, what is this green stuff?”
“Oh, that? It’s celery.”
In a horrifyingly quiet tone, Aashik replied, “I’ve told you before that I don’t like celery.”
“Oh, really? Maybe you’ve mentioned it. I probably forgot. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Is that all you have to say for yourself?"
“I just made a mistake, that’s all.”
“No, that is NOT all. How dare you argue with me?”
CRAAAACK. The sound reverberated a thousand times through the empty house as Diya clutched the spot on her face where Aashik had struck. This couldn’t be the loving Aashik she knew.
Two years later, Diya was carrying her newborn daughter, Asha, in her bruised arms. The name meant “hope,” and Diya needed a lot of that to keep faith that her life would improve. She had tried many approaches to lessen her husband’s anger. Keeping quiet allowed him to beat her more. Retorting to his insults allowed him to beat her harder. Perhaps the responsibility of a baby would tame him.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon. As Diya walked into 4-year-old Asha’s room, she kept her guard raised, even though she knew Aashik wouldn’t come home from work for another three hours. She had carefully hidden her packed bags in Asha’s room, where he seldom visited. Gently lifting Asha into her arms, Diya exited the apartment with her meager luggage. The route to her maternal home was familiar. The house itself, comfortably old and sprawling, looked the same as it had during her childhood. Memories washed through Diya’s mind as she reached for the door. It was locked. Her parents’ house was never locked. As she rang the doorbell, Diya realized that she felt pure freedom for the first time since her wedding. Her mother came to the door and immediately wrapped Diya in a warm hug. Tears of happiness and relief swarmed to Diya’s eyes as she returned the embrace.
“Diya, dear! It’s so good to see you and Asha!”
“Mother, I really need to talk to you and Dad.”
“Oh? I hope it’s nothing serious! But where is Aashik?”
“Well, he’s what I want to talk to you about. I’ve run away, Mother.”
“What? Run away from what?”
“From Aashik. He abuses me horribly, and I cannot live in constant fear anymore. I cannot bear for my daughter to grow up in a household where the mother is beaten. Let me stay here a few days. I’ll find an apartment and take Asha there in a few weeks.”
“No,” replied her mother curtly.
“What? What do you mean?”
“You cannot stay here. You can’t just run away from your problems and break the traditional bond of marriage. You are with him for the remainder of this life, and we can no longer be responsible for you. You must go back.”
Diya’s mother went inside and dialed Aashik’s cell phone number, quietly commanding him to get Diya immediately. While acting sweet in front of Diya’s parents, Aashik gave Diya the beating of her life when she got home. Hurt so badly, Diya remained in bed, jaw broken, legs swollen, for two weeks afterward. A horrible silence permeated the house.
Twenty years later, Asha got married. The same jasmine scent, the same glamorous gold. It almost seemed uncanny.
Diya had heard of organizations for battered women but had always been too embarrassed to join them. This time, her gait was steady and firm as she walked up the steps to the podium. As she addressed the women sitting in front of her, flashbacks of her past flooded through her. Cowering in a corner as Aashik beat her, the look on her mother’s face when she learned of her plan. But when remembering the terrified look on Asha’s face that showed no sign of hope, Diya felt proud. Proud to be a woman: one powerful enough to raise, and later save, a daughter. Maybe someday, even a husband.
[TABLE OF CONTENTS, LHS CLASS OF 2009 EDITION]
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2002-2007 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.