By Shashi Kallae
“My heart goes out to you for the hardships you have faced. Please don't let it stop you from trusting others," she said.
"Many good people will treat you with the respect you deserve. I wish I could turn the clock back and erase the hurt you have experienced." I heard her again. I slowly raised my head and looked around to find out who was speaking, and I felt surprised to find out that she had been addressing me all this time. I didn’t even realize she was sitting just beside me.
"I can see the stress in your eyes my dear and the pain you feel in your Heart." She spoke again, and I kept wondering what in the world she intended to tell me. Was this a scam?
I had never encountered a situation where a stranger approached me and tried to start a conversation. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, not knowing the motive behind her words. This was utterly new to me and, at the same time, scary. My inner self pushed me to start talking to her, but I was reluctant and couldn't speak. There was a brief silence. I wished she could have left me alone, but it didn't happen. We boarded the same flight, which landed in Dallas; since I had no bags checked in, I dragged myself to the taxi area without wasting time and headed home.
The stranger incident hung over my thoughts like a dark cloud, creating a sense of unease whenever I recalled that moment. I don't know if she meant what I went through and what I'm going through or if she just threw a stone in the dark.
To cut it short, let me introduce myself and delve into the story behind my misery.
A Simple Background
“A Child’s back must be made to bend, but not broken. He must be ruled, but not with a rod of Iron. His spirit must be conquered, but not crushed.”
I suffered years of psychological, emotional, and physical abuse at the hands of my father. All through my childhood, he beat me, insulted me, compared me to others, degraded me, and emotionally blackmailed me. He constantly called me stupid, worthless, lazy, and left me in a constant state of fear and stress. Even though he was nice to me sometimes, he was never loving or friendly in any way, and I was never sure if that was his nature or if I was being targeted. This treatment continued throughout my teenage years. My confidence was smashed, and my whole attitude around him was terrible. I felt worthless, embarrassed, stupid, and unwanted, and my cognitive skills were diminished both at school and in day-to-day life. I felt like a fallen leaf that lost its connection with the Tree of Life. People picked on me; some relatives and friends realized this and pitied me. Others, including my younger brother, exhibited disappointing behavior because he had always been our father's favorite. Most of the time, he treated my younger brother differently from me. As a result, my little brother had become overly confident and started to resemble my father in various ways, sometimes even surpassing him. My little brother observed and learned from my father, taking my presence for granted. However, my father failed to understand the long-term effects of his differential treatment towards his sons.
My father was friendly and pleasant to others; this was something I couldn't do. He never extended that same behavior towards me. I loved my family unconditionally and I used to take care of all household chores and helped my parents, especially my beloved mother, whenever she needed me. I wished for my father to be a feminist; he should be good to women without making it all about himself and should accept that women can decide for themselves and be independent. My father failed to understand one thing: By degrading my mother and us in front of others, he sacrificed the closeness with his permanent family members. Also, he didn't understand that by humiliating his permanent family members and treating them poorly in front of others, he gave others a chance to behave in the same way towards them. To be honest, he kept his face tidy, but his soul was a mess.
They say, “Kids are a reflection of their parents.” What had I become under the shade of my father? I was always in a defensive mood and attacked others; eventually, I drove them away if they joked with me, even if it was intended in a friendly way. Growing up, I never felt comfortable with myself and my skills. But I tried to be sincere, nurturing, and emotional. Since I was sensitive and harbored deep inner pain, my personal struggles manifested as arrogance. I was not aware that being expressive was necessary, and I became the type of person who wouldn’t confront someone and just walk away if they tried to cheat on me or hurt me. When someone owed me money, I would be too scared to ask, losing a lot of money. One day, a hulking man grabbed my seat on the bus and refused to move. It was my seat, I could have argued, but I let it go. Gentleman syndrome enveloped me and turned me into a coward.
Into my twenties, he continued the mind games and verbal abuse, and into my thirties, nothing changed; the same shouting, name-calling, and psychological torture drove me to the brink of a complete emotional breakdown. Trying to figure out my identity was a stressful experience and a process that often left me feeling overwhelmed. When I turned 28, our first child was born. When I turned 30, the second one was born within a gap of 13 months. I wished for my parents to lend me a helping hand, but they didn’t. I always felt like I was alone and broken. I tried to be strong, mainly for my kids. I tried to cry many times, but my mind always reminded me that I'm a man and I should never cry. Inside, I fought with myself. At some point, even my mother turned against me, listening to my father. I had developed a mass of anxiety in my mind since childhood, and it was all falling upon me. I tried to hide it but couldn't, and I got aggravated every time I spoke with him.
In my college days, I would return home after class. Since it was winter, Mr. Sun had to take off sooner and the day was gloomy and dark clouds. I couldn't see correctly while I was getting off the bus. In those days in India, buses were not equipped with automatic doors, and some buses didn't even have doors to secure people in, so we had to ensure our own safety while getting off a stopped bus. I couldn't judge whether the bus was stopped or still. Running and in a hurry, I stepped down from the back entrance, not realizing the driver had accelerated without any caution. I flew in the air and landed on the road like a falling star, and hit the back of my head on the ground so hard that I went into shock and became unconscious for a few minutes.
Fortunately, no running vehicles were on the road by God's grace. People who saw me rushed towards me and dragged me immediately onto the sidewalk so I could breathe and recover. One kid collected my wallet, bag, and other stuff and graciously handed them to me. I thanked everyone for saving my life and headed home. That day was my second birthday and I always Thank God for saving my life. I keep him in my thoughts in every moment of my life.
When I came home, my mother sensed something fishy had happened and embraced me with care and love. I explained what had happened, and she examined me and immediately rushed me to urgent care. After a few x-rays and examinations, the news came out that I went into shock and that I had to rest for a couple of days. My mother was with me and cared for me while I was resting. My father behaved like nothing happened, making it seem that he didn’t care.
On that day, I decided I had to do something!
I was desperate and wanted to run away from home. I started looking at universities in the USA and Canada. My goal was always to move to the US, but I couldn’t apply to US universities because I feared getting rejected. Even though I had good grades because of my father's constant nagging and humiliation at home, I lost the appetite for applying to universities. Yet I still wanted to get away from home to a place where I could find some peace. A question always lingered: How does living in a different country feel? I thought I was drawing a simple sketch, but it turned out that GOD had painted a masterpiece for me. I got admission into a Canadian college and also got a student visa. But I didn’t stop there. I planned to move to the USA whenever I could. Finally, it happened!
Nevertheless, during that time, I frequently felt depressed and anxious. I wasn’t even in a mindset to let it go. It never occurred to me that it would be easier to let go of things I could not change and instead look on the brighter side. My parents, friends, and well-wishers did not pass these invaluable lessons to me. Whenever I imagined the story of my life and how different it could have been if I had gained knowledge and wisdom on practicing being positive, proactive, and disciplined - made me speechless. The absence of these insights left me mulling over the untapped reservoir of strength and resilience I might have cultivated from childhood.
Land of Opportunities
I moved to the US when I was 24, but nothing changed immediately. My Father was so money-minded and always expected me to send him money every month, and I did, and I do the same now. But that didn’t change anything. After living far away from him, seeing the beauty of the world, and tasting the delights of peace, I learned what kind of a person he is: “A Narcissist!”. All these years, I was under the shade of this self-centered and egotistical person and thought that what I went through was a normal life. I realized the real meaning of being average. It was time to confront things and take a stand for myself. I was afraid to do so because I feared what others would think about me, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to make any friends if they came to know that I went against my father. I thought I was all alone until I learned that many people like myself went through rough times.
I met with a couple of friends in Philadelphia and learned about their struggles and how they turned themselves to fight them and became strong; that’s where I learned about positive masculinity. That sparked my soul and uplifted my spirits. At that moment, I realized that it had been 7 years since I lost interest in what I loved most. Reading books and writing were traits that were always my strengths, but because of the circumstances, I portrayed them as weaknesses. I also learned that a person’s true gift should be his empathy. I have intense empathy for others but trouble connecting with people and making friends. It was time for me to learn how to make and trust friends. Nurturing and vulnerability are usually considered women’s traits, so when men exhibit these kinds of traits, they are treated as vulnerable, and they are considered weak. I understood that establishing deep human connections are the core of a person's character development, and I needed to work on it. I also understood that it would not happen overnight and it was a process that could take a lifetime, so I practiced patience.
Positive masculinity emphasizes kindness, empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to communicate openly. Men can be emotionally expressive and express their emotions without feeling insecure, embrace vulnerability, and build healthy relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. It is okay for men or boys to display vulnerability, moral courage, and emotional intelligence.
America is not just a Land of Opportunities but more than that. This country taught me to be strong to survive, not quit, always start from zero, and be a better person!
The life lesson I learned is, “If you can embrace your vulnerabilities and actively address them then that effort paves a path to positive personal growth, leading to a significantly improved lifestyle (Mac McGregor).”
Stay tuned for the upcoming blog post, where I unveil the pleasant-sounding melody of self-improvement. Keep an eye out!