Blog, Poetry

Mothers & Daughters & Domestic Violence

Trigger warning: This post has a poem on domestic, gender-based violence and physical abuse, which some people may find disturbing.

Growing up in India, I heard so many women discussing marriage; and every time someone talked about their complaints with their husband, some woman commented, “At least he doesn’t hit you.” I talk about India, because that is the only reference point I have, but I’m sure it is not the only country where domestic violence is a critical issue.

Canadianwomen.org has shared these shocking facts about gender-based violence,

”Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.”

“67% of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.”

“Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.” (Canadianwomen.org)

So, coming back to my childhood, I always thought that a woman should feel lucky that her husband doesn’t hit her. What was even more shocking was how many times I came across mothers advising their daughters to go back to an abusive relationship, rather than standing by them and encouraging them to speak up. Of course, a lot of movies and other media discussed this issue during my childhood and adolescent years, bringing out the hypocrisy and toxicity of societal norms surrounding marriage, but that never seemed to change the general attitude on the subject.

So, troubled by one such incident, I wrote the following poem on domestic violence. It’s called Rice Pudding. It is an impassioned plea from a daughter to her mother to teach her subversion not submission – to boil over and fight, not give up and get dissolved in society’s inequalities.

Rice Pudding

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Teach me how to make

Your rice pudding, tonight,

And take me back to my childhood.

Take me back to those nights

When Life dealt me a blow

Through the heavy hands of Father.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Please teach me how to make

Your rice pudding, as tonight,

Life has dealt me another rough blow;

This time, through the unfeeling hands

Of the man who swept me off my feet

Just as I crossed the threshold of adolescence,

Only to throw me back on the ground

With unforgiving force.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Teach me how to make your rice pudding.

And, as I bite the dust licking my fallen face,

Let the aroma of the fragrant cardamom

Overpower the smell of fresh blood

Oozing from my nose;

And the colour of saffron

Hide my weeping bruises

In a warm embrace.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Please take me back to my childhood,

And teach me not to

Get dissolved passively like the sweet sugar,

But boil over like the indignant milk,

When not tended to carefully.

Mother, do teach me

How to burn the unfeeling hand

That bruises my body and my soul.

Tonight. Every night.