Story by Anisa Tutti
Isn't family supposed to love you no matter what? Is the bond of blood not strong enough to provide comfort and security through the darkest days? You think this is a given when it comes to family but in my case, that wasn’t so. I consider myself to be a big-time family girl. I have always craved the warmth and affection one gets from being around their relatives.
However, neither I nor my parents ever felt accepted by my dadi’s (grandmother) family. We would visit them during holidays but I’ve always felt like a guest in their home. Even at age 4, I could see the difference in love and attention my grandmother showered on my cousins, and how she treated me.
I once asked her why she didn’t love me the way she loved my cousins. She nonchalantly replied, “Because you have your other grandma and they only have me,” and went back to sipping her tea. Those words make me feel hopeless, sad, and furious even after seventeen years!
Despite trying so hard to build a bond, my dad’s family continued being distant from us. I was shamed for being too outspoken and ambitious for a girl. They mocked me by saying I was too spoilt as I didn’t know any household chores (which was untrue). They accused me of monopolizing the affection of my parents and maternal grandparents as I was a single child.
One of the more problematic figures was my youngest uncle, who was unmarried, manipulative, and unapologetically rude. He would indirectly make fun of me for my weight. He and my grandmother would also comment on how I didn’t fit the “beauty standards” unlike my cousin sister because I had darker skin. The younger me simply felt like she wasn’t good enough. As I grew older, I developed body image and self-esteem issues.
Another incident that disturbs me deeply was when I was in class XII. My father suffered from a stroke and my mother and I were distraught! During that time, my younger uncle visited us but instead of offering comfort and support, he just added to our stress. He barged into my father’s hospital room and started telling him that his job was a problem and how he should quit and move back home. If that wasn’t enough, he also went on to speak ill about my mom’s family.
When I was alone, he came to me and “explained” that I was the reason why my father was in this situation. That I put too much pressure on him. He manipulated me into believing that this was true and I felt guilty and ashamed. His words were upsetting, and I still feel disturbed when I think of them.
To make things worse, he painted a false picture of me in front of everyone back in my hometown. He made them think that I was the main reason for my father’s condition. Because of that, when anyone would reach out to check up on my father’s health, they would lecture me and tell me to be a ‘good daughter’.
During this ordeal, my father had to be shifted to a hospital in a different city for treatment. Despite knowing that her son was in such a critical condition, my grandmother chose to attend an engagement instead of visiting him. When she finally did show up, she didn’t even stay for 10 minutes. She went back home and left me alone at our quarter to attend school, study, and do the housework.
I couldn’t comprehend how someone can be so cold-hearted. Those were some of the darkest days of my life and I had no choice but to be all alone and cry myself to sleep every night. Sometimes, it feels like my father was an outsider instead of my grandparents’ own child. I’ve seen my father in pain too because of this behavior.
I feel dejected that my hometown never felt like home to me. Now that we have now cut off from the rest of the family, only my parents and I remain. While I’m glad I don’t have to face toxic relatives anymore, my heart continues to yearn for erasing this feeling of unbelonging.