December 16th: The Day When My Parents Split Up 45 Years Ago!


My parents split up 45 years ago today, December 16th. I was too young to remember the circumstances, but I remember my father being abusive but my entire family insists that it was all my mother’s fault so she must be the one to blame.

It was never going to work out – my mother never really got a choice in the marriage. Her parents were moving to England and she could either live with her abusive elder sister or get married. She chose the latter, and that made all the difference.

Everything happened so quickly that my mother and father never really got a chance to know each other. They had a huge communication gap at the beginning as they both spoke different languages. The father is mostly the dominant one in our family, so we all picked up our father’s language as our own.

When I look back now, I barely know a word or two of my mother’s language – my mother tongue was really my father’s tongue. The only words I know are the words my father used to mock my mom. She loved eating fish, but she had a funny way of saying it.

All my mother’s food is now lost to me, as is her culture. I never really saw any value in it either. It is very hard to appreciate art and literature when you do not even know the words carved into it. The stories of my mother will forever stay alien to me.

A poet once said about my parents; they remained strangers despite meeting so many times. The estrangement is felt by me too. Did I ever even know my mother?

My father was the primary breadwinner, but my mother worked in the house – all her unpaid work went unappreciated. In her spare time, my mother also used to extract jute, and my father would sell it to factories to make cloth.

I know I was too young to make a difference, but maybe inherently I should have known it was wrong of my father to beat up my mother. I could hear the screams, but I never saw the abuse myself and the rest of my family members insist that I must be hallucinating. In fact, they insist that my father was the oppressed one and my mother was enticed by her elder sister to go against my dad.

Once my father got so angry – it was after he got us all dinner from Bundu Khan. We were looking forward to a great meal, but my father threw the Bundu Khan Tikka at my mother. Even my chacha Mirza got involved in the fight. I do not think he wanted to get involved. He was hiding in a box till my mother asked my father, “What is in the box?”
And my father replied, “Is Kay Andar Mirza Hay.”
After he had got out, he spelled the Khan, Tikka and asked whether it was from Bundu Khan?
My father replied, “Yea Yea Khan.”

Things got really worse that December 45 years ago. My mother’s sister moved in with her under the pretense of protecting her but she only made things worse, and my father’s masculinity was challenged. He could not have taken it lying down.

The final fight started at night; it was so dark my father needed a search light. He even asked all us children to mix his stuff with our mother’s so nobody could know what belonged to whom.

Divorces can really be ugly, but they leave the biggest impact on the children born into that divided household. I don’t think even my father realized the lasting impact it would leave on our family. My own children have grown up mentally imbalanced because I have never adequately dealt with the scars of my own childhood.

Where ever my mother is now, if she ever remarried and had more children, I am sure they are suffering much the same.

I would like to connect with them – I am confident my mother’s elder sister would still want us to stay away. She always made it a point to come in between my father and my mother. Whatever issues happened between them, they shared a bond and love. The least we children can do is honor that by coming together and coming to terms with our past.

We never really got closure. All my father did after mom left was take us to sea view and we just sat and stared at the sea while having some fresh corn, or as we Sindhis refer to it, “Bhutto.”

Credits: Shehzad Ghias Shaikh ( )

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