The things we can’t lock out

My name is Ayeesha and I’m 14 years old. I have 3 other sisters and my father is an alcoholic. Right now he’s in he hospital, he can’t walk and sometimes he can’t remember me. He always fights with my mother and beats her. We wish that the bolts on our door were stronger so we could lock him out. He also beats my sister who’s 12 – she stands up to him. One night my father hit my mother and she became unconscious and we all had to sleep in the open surrounded by mosquitoes.

My father has always drunk, but he didn’t always drink 3 x 100ml bottles of whiskey per day. He used to work as a driver and bring us home lollies and ask us how our day was. But when he drank, all the frustration of his life poured out and he would beat our mother mercilessly. His mother would also beat my mother. I don’t know why she stays with him, but if she left, she’d have nowhere to go but the street.

I think my father wanted sons, that’s why him and my mother had four kids. They were hoping one would be a son, but now they have to pay for the wedding of four daughters. I feel bad about that, like I’m a burden. I try to help at home. My mum works 10 hours a day in the home of rich Indians who pay her 5000 rupees per month ($110 Au), that’s hardly enough for food.

My older sister did a part time job 8 hours a day 6 days a week for 1200 rupees ($30) per month in a shop when it was her college holidays. My main income comes from selling my father’s empty alcohol bottles. Me and my sisters get one rupee each from that, one bottle for each of my younger sisters and me. My father doesn’t give us anything except his empty bottles. Now my father is in hospital really sick, so my mother works in the day and sleeps there at night cooking for him and cleaning him. It’s funny, my father never cleaned the blood from my mother when he beat her or broke her bones, but now she cares for him.

One day we tried to have a birthday party and my father got drunk. We pushed him into the other room as he was quite incoherent. It was really embarrassing. People don’t want to visit our house.

When my father is not in hospital he just lies in bed and watches TV and demands for me to get him things. Indian women are very loyal to their husbands. They go around the sacred fire seven times with them. It’s said that after that, you and your husband will be together for 7 lives. I don’t know what bad karma my mother did to get my father for a husband but I think since she got married she’s been in the fire, not going around it.

She’s so thin and tired. She’s only 37, she was married at 18. My mother doesn’t have a father or a brother who could intervene and threaten my father. Our life is very hard. Bodhicitta Foundation has offered for us to move away from him, but then who will get the house when he dies? We don’t want to move away from our friends and the shame of leaving your husband is very high.

I like to come to the Dharma Centre to escape my parents’ fighting. Sometimes I have asked if I could sleep there. I am happy that Bodhicitta Foundation sponsors me to go to a good school. I like studying. Maybe later I’ll go into a girl’s hostel. I just wish we had stronger bolts on our doors and that I never had to see my mother ‘bump her head’ again.

This article is a true account of domestic violence in the slums of India. Sadly it is very common.

Violence against women is still found in developed countries also, but in the slums of poor countries poverty and frustration as well as cultural backwardness make it more common.

* Names and photos may have been changed for privacy and safety reasons.