I come from an orthodox Brahmin family. My paternal grandfather was a Brahmin priest running a low-income household. My mom also comes from an orthodox brahmin family. She grew up with a physically abusive dad who would beat her up and her two sisters nearly every day while their mother remained largely silent or enabled the abuse. Both these families are related – my parents are second cousins to each other.
In both these families, there has been incessant abuse – both verbal and emotional. The female parents from both families have had a history of mental illnesses and yet my parents got married as they had fallen in love. Both our parents, with their suppressed anger and abusive conditioning, came together to give birth to kids (me and my younger sister) that now have a mix of mental health issues such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Bipolar II and anxiety disorders.
The way my parents were brought up (my mom with constant abuses and beatings and my dad with a rather liberal upbringing), my dad has been comparatively unresponsive about dealing with sexual abuse complaints my sister and I have raised since childhood. And my mom remained scared.
I grew up to be meek and gullible and learned to shut up about the worst problems I was facing. My parents and a few older people in my extended family have been stubborn about ‘protecting the girls’ by not letting them study ‘too much’ or have ‘too many’ friends, especially not friends from other genders. I didn’t even understand the news while growing up. Any questions I had about politics were met with quiet dismissal.
I realised I had no choice but to play ‘mother’ to my younger sister emotionally, which has been tiring for a long time. My sister is on the ADHD and dyslexic spectrum. She was beaten up by my mom as a child until she bled just because she was not able to perform well in school like other kids. I couldn’t stop that abuse from happening and to this day that guilt lives in the dark corners of my heart. My dad also used to think that giving her a quality education is not the best way to use his money.
I have anxiety issues, Bipolar 2, and a bunch of triggers that I’m just beginning to address. This is something I’ve been working on with the help of my psychiatrist, psychologist, as well as my friends and family since I was 25. Even after 3 years of being on medication, not having constant support through therapy has been extremely challenging.
I have experienced emotional and physical abuse from older people in my immediate family and sexual abuse from within my chosen family as well. While a lot of the abusers were brahmins, most were savarnas.
I’ve also been gaslit by my family and others. All this resulted in a fascination for psychology, which has been an interest that constantly submerges me in overthinking because I tend to dissociate from my identity oftentimes.
I am the first woman in the entirety of my extended family (of 20+ people) who went out of Vizag (or Hyderabad), our home city, for work. I was ‘allowed’ to go because the job was at IIM Ahmedabad and at the time I was only an engineering graduate with an overflow of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. My extended family thought that I must be doing something right to get into such a job and they reluctantly let me go. But they didn’t care much for the fact that something was so wrong with me that I wanted to run away from my family.
I chose to compete desperately in academics and professionally to just get away from home because mediocre professionalism was not good enough for a girl in a Manudharma-abiding household. I made many mistakes but I also gathered something valuable – I learnt about how to love myself in healthy ways. I met some amazing people whom I can now call my friends, mentors, or in short – my chosen family.
There is Brahmanical casteism in my family in the way the men hoard knowledge. I’ve seen it in the way they get the freedom to study what they want and how they want it. They have the power to earn and gatekeep knowledge.
Women are treated as ‘untouchables’ during the first three days of their periods – a parallel to what Manudharma has done with societal structuring via the caste system. It is an insidious ritual performed by the oppressor castes to maintain the Manuvadi social order over the women in their family and the people outside it.
My brahmin family taught young men to be controlling and abusive through the tools of sarcasm, constant reminders that women are no match to them in professional arenas, and emotionally and physically abusing the men who refuse to abide by these sick norms.
I went out of my house as a woman that was meek, gullible and submissive. I faced harassment, bullying, sexual abuse, and assault from people I called my friends. Then I came back as a strong, independent woman, a woman hate-worthy enough for all that casteism and Brahmanism embodies. I came back to my house and I’m now making it a ‘home’. This re-discovering of a loving home has been years in the making and it’s yielding fruitful results.
I wrote my story, dear reader, to share my experience with you and I also wrote it for myself. It is a need to retell the internal narrative I had of myself while growing up due to social conditioning. This is just a part of my story, a seemingly ‘metaphoric semi-colon’ in the bigger scheme of things called my Life.
I believe that people with caste and socioeconomic advantages, especially in combination with generational wealth, usually take people from their respective social circles on the journey to grow professionally and personally.
The problem here is that the term ‘growth’ may sometimes make them oblivious to the plight of those outside their circles. As human beings, I think the way we choose to grow could mean being a little kinder, a little more alert, a little more patient, and a little more loving. Empathy along with sympathetic emotion, I believe, paves the way towards a better world.
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. It means a lot to me.
*Note: The author has chosen to remain anonymous.