They say when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. Probably to sweeten the bitterness, maybe to cool you off and allow you time to stop and think. Maybe they just say that. I wouldn’t know what to do with lemons, because I was handed beer cans, then mops and finally rose petals to soothe the cuts from the sharp edges of steel and soften the ridges of my palms from harsh detergents.
My story is long, mostly sad. There are only memories that I have left to hold onto. My survival depends on the pleasant reminiscences. I try to shed the terrible memories, but I cannot ultimately evade them. They haunt me in the deep recess of my mind. They taunt my future and question my merit. I needed to break free. Sometimes in life we all feel the need to escape the ugly reality that our lives have become. We may achieve escape upto a certain level, only to eventually come back down to earth and hate our lives more passionately than before. I needed that escape more than anyone, ever before. I needed that escape forever, infinitely and now. Escapism was my fortitude. I learned the art at an early age.
I was six when my father died. Nani told me that he had been wrongfully killed. Revenge on the wrong person. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. A case of mistaken identity. They shot him twice in the chest, once in the head. He died immediately. He died a Shaheed – a martyr. How often didn’t I wish for those days when Daddy was alive – happy times. I had prayed many times to Allah to please bring my Daddy back to me. I understood, at the age of six, that the dead could never return, but I continued asking. I pleaded with Him unti my mother married Ritesh, now known as Riaz, because Nani would never allow Mummy to marry someone who wasn’t Muslim. So Ritesh converted to Islam, on the surface only, as we all came to find out too soon. Sweet, caring Ritesh turned into mean, drunk Riaz.
The good picture only lasted a few monts before Riaz started drinking and abusing my mother, insulting and belittling her during every moment his eyes were open. She begged him to stop drinking. She could have left him in those early days, but she chose to stay, igniting my first flikcering flame of hate for the pair. I sometimes wonder now, if my mother had a fear of being alone. Mummy wasn’t a showstopper, but she was pretty in her own way. She always took pride in her appearance and carefully chose her clothes to suit her neat and laidback style. Her dark brown hair was always shining and not a strand was out of place in her twisted bun at the nape of her neck. Maybe you wouldn’t look at her twice, but to me, as any child to it’s mother, she was beautiful.She tried to cover up Riaz’s drinking, but Nani knew, and it wasn’t more than a year after they were married, when one day Nani popped in at home, as grannies do. What she suspected was far better than what she saw that day. Mummys face was a series if colours ranging from black to purple to yellow, and about four times its normal size. Riaz was in the state he usualy was after a session of drinking and beating, sprawled out on the fuzzy brown sofa, mouth wide open, eyes shut. Thankfully, nothing could wake him from his liquor induced slumber. Mummy began desperately trying to hide the beer cans strewn around the lounge. I ussualy shut myself up in the room when several ice cold six packs came out, only to emerge after the screaming and thumping had stopped.
I did try to stop Riaz hitting my mother once. I knew it was a futile gesture; but I would die if it didn’t all stop. One slap from Riaz split my lip. I would’ve probably tried again, but my mother forbade me from inerfering again. “It’s not your business Mumtaz,” she scolded me, and the venom in her voice ket me from ever trying again. As if she was trying to tell me that she had made her bed, now she had to lie in it. Mummy had changed alot, so I couldn’t speak to her as easily as I used to. She would get snappy, and shout at me for no reason. I would retreat into my threadbare bedroom, with its ugly, brown rickety wardrobe, and single wooden bed with the lumpy mattress, and curl up under the duvet.
Nani begged Mummy to leave Riaz no mother could see her daughter suffering so. “He tricked you into this marriage, Yumna. Look at him, he’s Muslim only by name. Al gunnah!” she struck her own head, as if to cleanse all the sins. “Please come home, Yumna.”
Mummy refused. Nani took me with her. “I can’t have our Mumtaz living in this house with all the sin going on. What kind of upbringing will the child have? Her father will be turning in his grave.” And so, from the age of eight, I began living with Nani and Mummy’s sister, Fatima, twenty one years of age and still not married.
Please give me feedback. Chapter One introduces Mumtaz’s past. Let me know if I should make posts longer or shorter. Thanks!
NB: this is all fiction and all part of a made up world with real life problems.We are editing as we go along and there maybe some changes to characters, names etc. please bear with us. (please note we are editing as we go along, so there maybe changes,apologies, mummy’s husband is now Riaz )