The Questions I Learnt to Ask 

I learnt to ask why the sky has different shades 

As keeping my head in the clouds kept me from asking things like why *Achan hated *Amma.

I learnt to ask if I could make a snow angel hoping that the conversation would sway from my mother’s shortcomings

And onto a childish wish.

I learnt to ask if my sister could get food for me in hopes that she could catch a breath of fresh air,

As we wait for the doctors to say the poison is out of Amma’s body.

I learnt to ask if we could go to the bus-stop early, 

So my sister wouldn’t break at the sight of another fight.

I learnt to ask how his day was when his face showed the slightest sign of agitation.

Yet, I learnt that asking questions no longer helped. 

No longer hid the mess that I so desperately ran away from.

I learnt that silence would be the key to my survival. 

But on days where his questioning of Amma’s choices and abilities take a darker path, 

Where answers were shown and not spoken,

I learnt that I had no control.

I learnt two words.

Divorce. Freedom. 

Words that corrupted my mind. 

Words that seeded a hope within me that I never had. 

That a broken family could still spark joy. 

That my dreams could change and that things could finally be how they were for everyone else.

So with new found courage, I ask.

Let’s leave, Amma. 

Let’s pack our bags.

Let’s leave, Amma.

And to my surprise, I see, behind the image of a perfect woman, 

A girl who only want this pain to end and she says yes. 

Yes.

Like a little girl on her way to see the world, she heads on. 

And as I rush to pack my bags, she walks into the man’s den.

Amma never got to decide for herself.

Not her marriage

Not her career

So even this time,

She asks Achan of his advice.

She asks him with shivers-

Could I leave?

And as they whisper behind closed doors,

Amma’s silent cry we got so used to hearing repeats.

He does it again.

Achan reminds her of the love he promised to give

He tells her of a story where a woman forgives her husband 

A tale where every woman is bound to obey.

One, where your role as a mother ends the moment you break your family.

Amma comes out,

And simply tells me

“Dinner will be ready in few minutes”. 

We never left. 

And once again, I was left with no choice but to stay in silence.

With this man

Who could hurt amma

Who hurts amma

And yet he sits on the throne of glory

As the one who provides.

As the one who gets to end an argument. 

I never want to unpack my bags,

I want to believe Amma will one day decide to leave.

To take us far away,

Away from this man, we seem to love so much.

Do we?

How could hate and love both come in one cup?

You see, I’m starting to get more confused.

I have to figure this out

I have to figure this out soon,

Because I want to believe I could love a man.

I want to see a man and not imagine

His words will one day choke me

And his fingers will one day become my worst nightmare.

But right now,

All I want to do is save Amma.

Let’s leave, Amma.

I whisper again.

I whisper as I speak,

But underneath I’m bleeding over a home.

I’m almost finding comfort in this pain.

I’m scared.

I’m restless,

I’m exhausted.

I’ll find a way to provide for us, Amma.

Let’s leave.

I say.

She thinks it over

And heads to Achan.

I go to my room,

This time to unpack my bags.

Amma stays.

We stay.

The cycle continues,

We pretend to be okay

As Amma battles in feeling safe in our own home.

As we battle in finding comfort in this battlefield where only one side is hurting. 

Until I learnt that my questions were answered by the man of the house. 

That my mother never stood a chance. 

So I ask her. 

This time,

I ask her.

Can I leave you behind? 

And in silence, she agreed to free some part of her through me.

I leave.

— Poem by Sekulu Nyekha.

Inspired by a true story (Collected in Bengaluru).

*Achan – Father

*Amma – Mother

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