DEDICATED TO THE LATE MANDAPATHIL BHAGEERATHI AMMA, ARUMANOOR, KOTTAYAM, KERALA, INDIA
FOR HER HONESTY AND LOVE
Childhood and adolescence are of pure joy of life
Let the parents care
Not to put their children in trauma
If trauma occurs
Let the victims
And transformation to growth
I first thought of titling this chapter ‘Wheel of Fire’, following a terminology in the criticism of Shakespeare’s tragedies by Wilson Knight. My experience outlined below were of intense suffering and stress. When I thought over them, recently, I realized that I transformed them into positive personality characteristics in myself, starting as soon as I got out of the persons who abused me.
Transformation of the negative into positive is key character even from childhood in me. Later I evolved it into a scientific technique not only in my personal life but also in my system of developmental transformation, Integral Development Therapy, evolving the reconstruction of individual, society, culture, and ecology. This is a core technique to keep up one's face and strength even when facing the severest traumas, by which many persons will go down the drain. I might have got the instinct of transformative power from the orientation received from my grandfather, as a survival mechanism.
Everyone who knows this technique can practice it. Every trauma has the possibility of transformation in some way or other. Every person who is intellectually oriented can find out the pathway of transformation, never ill to traumas, be on guard to avoid them. If they happen, do everything possible to overcome them. One technique is to talk to a learned person whom you trust and take refuge in persons who are loving to you or at least friendly.
EXPERIENCING THE TRAUMA OF ABUSE
As my generous uncle in Quilon failed to have the means to take care of my education, my grandfather took me to his another son, who was affluent because of his profession as a lawyer. As I do not want to publicize his name negatively, I refer to him as ‘uncle N.’ My grandfather invested a great deal, even undergoing sacrifices to make him a professional. He was a gifted person in many ways. He had also literary skills, having written a novel. It was while in his house, I read the big novel, Kenilwurth by the British writer, Sir Walter Scott.
Uncle N. was married and had three children, when he met his second wife. She was a divorcee, or a widow. She had already a son and a daughter from her first marriage. They were with her. She was very devoted to them. At that time uncle N was working in Kottayam, in Kerala, India. He moved to Trivandrum to the capital of Kerala to work in the High Court as a lawyer. It was then I joined his family. A daughter and a son from his first marriage were also in Trivandrum with him for their education. Besides, at that time he had three children from his second wife and two more afterwards.
His first wife was from a farming village around twelve miles north of the town, Kottayam. She was a family focused village woman. Her first child a female, and the third a male were also sent to Trivandrum while I was there.
When grandfather and myself went into Uncle N’s house, there was no smile or joyous rhythm as contrary to the two other uncles’ families. The atmosphere controlled by uncle N.’s wife was itself gloomy and even depressive, except for the pleasant behavior of her three small children: a boy and two girls. Her oldest son by her first marriage, around seventeen years of age was not going to school. Most times he lay on an easy chair with a pleasant attitude on the front veranda of the house. He was self-confident in everything because of the security governed by his mother. The orientation of himself and his sister who was around sixteen years of age, was supportive of their mother. They showed minimum friendliness to me and grandfather. I don't remember to have seen uncle N. talking to his father. Grandfather stayed with myself on a side room extending from the kitchen, without much interaction with the rest of the family. Uncle N.’s wife’s daughter, along with his own daughter, went to a local school nearby. I think, just my grandfather who took me to another school by name Fort High School, a public school, for my study in the fourth grade. Fourth and fifth grades, I studied there. The sixth grade was the last in the high school for which I went back to Quilon.
An important medium of abuse used by uncle N.’s wife, who I call in this article aunt N, was vocal. She would continuously speak abusive of many things, especially of me, grandfather, my mother and sometimes her husband. She was an uneducated woman. As such she had little knowledge of the need to facilitate the environment for the children's studies, or even understanding her husband’s profession. He rarely talked to her. Her subjects of abusing me verbally were anything and everything,- how I looked, how I combed my hair, my speech, my walking, mannerisms, etc. I tried to confine to myself and grandfather, spending as much time as possible on my study. His daughter from the first marriage was around fourteen years of age. A little older than me, a sensible feeling personality with whom I maintained affectionate contact until her death in 2019. A few times she spoke for me against the abusive stepmother.
I was asked to do many different kinds of domestic work by uncle N.’s wife. Without questioning her I did everything. I developed a kind of ‘passive’ nature, added with endurance, while living there. There were some worst points,- I was made, although only age thirteen to carry heavy loads from the stores, such as sacks of rice, firewood, groceries etc. A horrible situation was, I sprained my neck by carrying a heavy load of rice while climbing up around two feet or more from a lower levelled road to a higher road. I do not think I told anyone about my pain. It cured itself. Another difficult task was grinding with hand using a heavy stone club, soaked rice and beans in a stone pit (attukalle, in Malayalam) for making Indian pancakes (dosa) and idli (steamed cakes, for breakfast). It used to take from two to three hours of grinding. In many days I was asked to do the grinding, especially when there were no servants. Servant boys and girls did not last long there. Each one of them worked a few months and left. I believe that they were also put to verbal abuse by aunt N. She did not like female servants.
I was hungry in most days. I found out that a servant boy of around seventeen years of age, was also hungry. Several times both of us together will climb up the steps to the attic, at night and steal and eat cooked rice, which was kept there as a surplus. Myself and grandfather even separating us were given food separate from her children and others. Her older daughter from the first marriage sometimes worked with her in serving the food. They never asked me and grandfather if we wanted more rice or curry.
I should state here that aunt N. was a very good cook, pleasing her husband. She prepared special food for her husband, as well as for her son. Sometimes if there were leftover food in my uncle’s plate, it was given to me. The mother of the neighboring house was very fond of me and fed me whenever I went there. She had a family of several daughters and grandchildren blessed with a loving husband and charming son. Very rarely I visited the owner of the house that uncle N. rented, adjacent to. He was the priest of the temple next door, a Tulu Brahman of my father’s sect. One day his wife gave me a dish made of the red flowers of the hibiscus which even now I remember. I latter understood that hibiscus flower is of high medicinal value.
There was no need to put me and grandfather in hunger, as my uncle made enough money and probably gave her all of that. I have great pain even now to remember that my grandfather was put to suffering by his affluent son and family. I have experienced my grandfather’s love of self sacrifice in many ways. Even the meager food that we received from uncle N’s house, he used to offer to me. When I came back from Quilon after the days of vacation, he used to wait for me at the Pettah Railway Station keeping the fried plantain chips to give to me even at the railway station. His love for me was his own life to hang on. I remember him every day and worship him
Aunt N was quite generous to her relations and even friends. Sometimes a relation from her extended family came to stay for taking an examination or an interview for a job, in the capital. One of them was very sympathetic toward me,
Aunt N. and her son and daughter were not friendly toward grandfather and his family. Aunt N. would not allow to give anything to her husband’s family. According to Indian culture he is obligated to care his unprotected father and sisters, especially when he was taken care up to the level of making a lawyer. This also could be because aunt N getting uncle N as a husband when he was already married and had children. She was an emotion-bound person. It means she followed her emotions without intellectual understanding. She may have her own other reasons being abusive. As he left his married wife and took aunt N, she could have been suspicious of him all the time. There was some conflict between aunt N and uncle N. A few times she went to the kitchen and slept there. Even then, uncle N visited her in the kitchen and a female child was born. She was very pretty. I loved to carry her around.
I did not sustain any ill feeling toward her. I forgave her. After graduating from the high school, two years later I went back to Trivandrum as a member of the editorial staff of the newspaper, Malayalee. Thereafter I was a student in the University college Trivandrum for five years. During all these years, as a self-dependent person, I used to visit aunt N and her family now and then. As soon as I became self-dependent, I forgave her. Aunt N’s, behavior changed from animosity to friendliness. Her two older children by first marriage also became very friendly toward me. It was a great change in aunt N becoming pleasant and affectionate. Aunt N even became interested to have me marry her oldest daughter by uncle N. Traditionally among Nayars a man can marry uncles’ daughter or a woman can marry father’s sister’s son, vice versa. Even her son came to see me while I was working in Kalady with the proposal. Emotionally it was not possible for me to marry her, although I had only affection and good feelings toward her. She was married to a lawyer, a good-natured person, becoming the mother of children most affectionate toward me. I had been also very affectionate to all her children including the son and daughter by the first marriage. Uncle N’s daughter’s husband used to come and talk to me, his own personal problems and secrets while I was in Trivandrum as a college student, even though I did not know him much personally. He was a good and considerate person. Their daughter became a college professor. In all my life I have been very affectionate, enjoying their affection toward me also from uncle and aunt N’s children and grandchildren I hope they will understand that I was concerned to write about my experiences from their parents to draw the lessons, for other’s well being. I do not want any child, in that matter any person to be abused. This has been a major goal throughout my life. I want to state here that aunt N’s children including from the first marriage and grandchildren have been always dearest to me. Similarly have been all the children of all my uncles. They are dearest to me.
TRANSFORMATION OF THE NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES TOWARD SELF-GROWTH
I should also add here that uncle N came to me and stayed with me and my family, quite happily for a few days while I was professor at Sree Sankara College, Kalady. We did our best to make uncle N’s stay with us most pleasant.
My two year’s experience there has created in me characteristics such as being ‘passive’ to others’ negative behavior, be ‘resigned’ to negative situations, being ‘enduring’ and patient. My grandfather had taught me ‘humility’ even as a child. This was a strength, but the enforced humility in my uncle’s house was weakness and expression of incapability. All these negative characteristics are transformed into positive conditions. I became resigned and enduring as a mark of strength, when needed. I began to practice humility as an expression of humanistic character. Although my character of enduring and resignation has made me sometimes not respond on time to negative situations which have long range effect. Above all the two years with uncle and aunt N. taught me the nature of ‘hunger’ and to do my best to fight out hunger of fellow beings. I do not like persons working for me being hungry. Those who work with me at home I feed with the gourmet food that myself and my wife eat. It is my satisfaction and joy.
THEORY: ABUSE SYNDROME VS PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT
It is an established theory that an abused child and adolescent will be seriously hurt in psychological development, intellectually, emotionally and socially. In any society and nation the society and the government have to be on guard against any abuse. In many nations the destructive effect of emotional abuse is not understood. Abuse is understood as economic and financial, unfortunately even in contemporary economically advanced societies.
Contemporary industrial culture and personality are oriented toward materialism and sensuality. Consequently, the positive feelings are lost. Healthy emotions have declined. Our parents and schooling systems of teachers and administrators should understand the precondition and the origins of feelings of love and care as opposed to abuse. Love and care create a cooperative peaceful society. On the contrary, abuse syndrome in many cases creates violent and criminal personalities. Abuse has to be eliminated, in every respect, in every human being at all costs.
(Please read my book, ‘WOMEN AND CHILDREN’, free in the internet.
Copyright Dr A.K.B. and Donna Pillai. Please publish the article as a whole only with reference to the author, title and the name of the publication, Facebook or E.Malayalee and with written permission of the author.
DR. A.K.B. Pillai, PhD.(Columbia University, New York)