Extracts from the Primal Pain (Part 1):
Sita could have bitten off her tongue.
“There – I’ve done it again!” she sighed, as she watched her father’s face turn from a ruddy flush of anger, to the sick pallor of resignation. “It must be in my genes – the really wicked genes I’ve inherited. I’m a sadist.”
Helen constantly accused him of driving Sita away with his insistence on discipline.
They were growing apart, and helpless to bridge the gap. Conversation always veered back to the subject of Sita, and ended in bitterness.
“It is you who are at fault Helen. Bringing out your cheque book whenever she made demands; cowering when she raised her voice. Sita has neither a sense of responsibility nor accountability. What audacity to accuse me of being strict!”
Prem felt shut out of their lives. In their constant bickering, they had no time to think about him. At school, the sneers and barbs of his friends made him want to hide. They called Sita the ugliest names. Even the people in the community gave the Wiecks a wide berth.
“What can you expect if you adopt riff-raff?”
Sita arrived one day with a young man in tow. He too must have been in his teens. But his eyes were glazed and he looked like a piece of porcelain ready to shatter. She was not yet eighteen, but her face looked haggard.
“Mom, this is Federico,” she said nonchalantly, “We intend staying here until he finds a job.”
Helen was hysterical. “You better be gone before Dad arrives.”
“You can’t chase me out. I’m still under eighteen. Come Federico, let’s go to my room.”
“You can’t stay here,” Helen screamed, and Prem emerged from his room.
“You better talk some sense into Mother because I‘ve come to stay,” Sita said.
“Get lost in a hurry before I throw you out,” Prem threatened.
“Try it. You think you’ll get rid of me and grab my inheritance? ”
“Out – or I’ll call the police. A drug peddler and a dope addict! They’ll know where to put you.” Sita knew she had lost.
“Mom, I need some money, and for God’s sake, make it a decent amount.”
“Over my dead body,” Prem said, “Now get out.”
There was no news for three long years. Now Helen began to pick on Prem.
“You chased her away. I could have given her some money to tide over a crisis. She looked as though she hadn’t eaten a square meal for days. I wonder if she’s still living,” Helen grumbled.
“Then you know very little about Sita,” Prem said angrily, “She’s a survivor. She just had a temporary set back. She’d have ditched Federico long ago, and moved on to greener pastures.”
“How heartless! Don’t forget she’s your sister.”
“I never forget, Mother, not even in my dreams. I love her just as much. She’ll come back someday, a wiser and sober person. And we’ll be there for her.”
Martin grieved for his daughter. But his marriage was falling apart and he was determined to salvage it before too late. Helen consented to see a counselor.
“Do you still love each other?” the counselor asked.
“Of course we do,” they both said together.
“Then stop playing the blame game, and do a little more loving. You have a son too, who needs his parents. You’ve been neglecting him. Don’t lose him too.”
Both of them looked guilty.
“He may not show he’s hurting, but I’m sure he is. As for Sita, she’s a badly mixed up kid. She’s still so young, and if someone could persuade her to seek psychiatric help, she can yet become a well adjusted lady.”
“Even if we do find her, she won’t listen,” said Martin sadly. “Yes, we’ve been so wrapped up in our own sorrow, that we’ve forgotten Prem too has lost a sister, and is very lonely.”
One morning Martin woke up early as usual. As he opened the front door, a toddler was sitting on his doorstep.
“No – this can’t be. My mind is giving way – I’m hallucinating.”
He rushed indoors, shouting “Helen…. Helen.”
She was beside him in a flash.
“Good Lord! It’s our Sita all over again. A spit image of our daughter! But why is she on our doorstep?”
Helen took the child in her arms, and Martin looked around for Sita. She was nowhere in sight. Prem soon joined them, and took the child from Helen. She was a sweet little thing, about a year and a half old. A card pinned to her dress said her name was Emma.
“Is this another of her cruel pranks?” wondered Martin. “Just when we’ve taken the child to our hearts, she’ll come back and claim her.”
“Could that sick boy she brought home years ago be the father?” Helen wondered.
“I’m your uncle,” Prem proudly told the child, lifting her high in the air to make her laugh.
Sita rattled Nurse Davies’ door latch. The lady was still in her night dress and curlers, and angry at being disturbed so early in the morning. Sita pushed her way in.
“I need information which you have, and you’ll give it to me.”
Miss. Davies was the same nurse who had inspired Martin and Helen to adopt children fromIndia. She had retired some years ago.
“I’m Sita Wieck.”
Sita was one of the few adoptions that had ended unhappily, and she was sorry for Martin and Helen.
“I know who you are. What can I do for you?”
“I need information about my biological parents. It is important that I meet them. “
“I can’t help you – It was a long time ago. Besides, when parents abandon their children, they don’t want to be tracked down.”
Sita stood up and moved closer.
“I’ll have the names.”
“Not if I don’t know them. Go to Malabar and find out for yourself?” said Miss. Davies.
She refused to be intimidated.
“I’ll give this sanctimonious bitch a fright,” thought Sita, laying her hands on Miss. Davis’ shoulders. The old lady had lost none of her strength or dexterity. One strong shove and Sita flew out of the door. As the door slammed in her face she yelled “Wait till I get you.”
Now she would go ahead with her plans. She had saved enough for her fare. Christopher King, her live-in mate for the last three years, knew nothing of her nefarious activities. A final year Medical student, he had given her shelter because she had no place to go.
One evening, she was wheeled into Emergency in a moribund state and Christopher thought she would die. She had been in prison for a while and said she was beaten up regularly and starved.
“I’ll let her rest in my apartment for a few days, until she feels stronger. I’m in the hospital most of the time anyway.”
After Sita had dumped Federico, the cops had thrown her into the can for peddling marijuana.
“And I thought I could flaunt some skirt at them and escape. But the bastards bashed me up, and told the jailer to beat and starve me if I wasn’t obedient. If Christopher hadn’t pitied me, I would have been on the streets.”
As her strength returned, so did her penchant for scheming. Christopher was like putty in her hands.
“I’m in love with you,” Christopher said one day, “Why don’t we get married?”
“Don’t be daft,” she had laughed, “You’re still a student. How do you propose to support me? I’m a free bird. I’ll stay just as long as I want. ‘Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare’ they say. I can always go back to my rich Dad when I want to turn respectable.”
“Then why have the baby?” he asked, “You can have it aborted.”
“I may be bad, but I’m not going to kill another life. Besides I could die in the process,” she argued.
Christopher, with his nose in his books never knew about her other life. She was always flush with money. He believed her rich father was sending her a generous allowance. “The poor guy even believes that the child is his. Emma is my life insurance. Someday if I’m down and out, I’ll blackmail her real father.”
The urge to see her biological parents was growing.
“I’m quite sure that I’m of European stock. I’d like to meet that son of a sea cook who sired me, and then deserted. He’ll have to pay heavily. And what kind of mother who could give away her child! No wonder I’m so wayward. I don’t have the capacity to feel either love or pain.”
When Sita visitedMalabarHospital, the staff was eager to fill her up on details of her birth. Many adopted children came looking for their biological parents when they turned eighteen. However, the missionaries who had delivered her mother and probably knew the identity of her father, had all gone back to their respective countries.
“We only have your mother’s name and address. Here look – she lives and works on a rubber plantation a few miles away. But she might have moved house many times in the last twenty one years.”
“I’ll just have to try my luck. Thanks for your help.”
Everyone from the railway porter to the Station Master knew where Rambha lived. It was the best house in the labourers’ quarter, painted in a gaudy red colour. Lacy curtains fluttered from the windows. The woman was in her early forties. She stood with both hands on her hips, her eyes unflinching. There was a bewitching quality to them that at once enchanted and repulsed Sita. What a challenge in those looks, as though she was ready to take on the whole world! Sita saw the recognition in her eyes. She felt she was staring at herself in a mirror.
“Mirror, Mirror on the wall,
Is this how I’ll look at forty one?”
“What do you want here?”
“Just two things….”
“You better come in.”
“You speak English very well.”
“I used to work for the English Sahibs at the plantation.”
“Strange that you recognize me after twenty one years.”
“Nothing strange about it. You look just as I did at that age, and it means trouble.”
“What kind of mother would abandon her child?”
“Someone who was certain that you’d follow in her footsteps had you stayed.”
Sita winced. “If only she knew I’ve done worse things at a younger age!”
“Do your parents treat you well?” the woman asked.
“They’re wonderful. I have a brother too.”
“Now that you’ve seen me, I think you should leave. I don’t want anyone putting two and two together………. I’m a free bird. I do what I like. No emotional ties for me.”
Sita trembled. “These are my own words,” she thought. “I’ll go, but not before you tell me who my father is……….”
The woman looked away. “It’s better you don’t know……..I think you should leave.”
“I must know. Where is he? What kind of person is he?”
Suddenly, all the fight seemed to have gone out of the woman. She reluctantly went to a cupboard, and took out an album.
“Here,” she said, “Anyone of them could be your father. Take your pick.”
As Sita turned the pages, there were at least five faces that stared back at her. They were all white men. None of them looked anything like the Prince Charming she had envisaged.
“What a terrible let down! No wonder I am what I am,” she thought. “Did you love me at all Mother?”
The woman almost charged at her. “Don’t you dare call me Mother. Love you? I have never known the meaning of the word.”
A sob broke out from the depths of Sita’s heart. It was a kind of pain she had never experienced before.
“Or perhaps I had felt such pain even when lying inside my mother’s belly. Perhaps that’s what has skewed up my entire life.”
But simultaneously she felt a great emotional release. She was free at last……free of delusions about her origin……free to love those dear people who had taken her into their hearts and home. She ran out of the house, without a backward glance.
As Sita flew back home, many thoughts flashed through her mind. In one of Christopher’s books she had read that the origin of personality disorders could begin in the uterus, even as early as the first three months after conception. Her mother must have hated all those men who used her, and Sita had felt her rejection in the womb. No wonder she was born with a chip on her shoulder. It had made her cruel and unfeeling, and unable to reciprocate the love of the very people who dearly loved her. Hearing her mother say she had never loved Sita, was like experiencing that primal pain all over again.
She went back home within a few days. Helen, who was playing with Emma, cowered, and Martin braced himself for more of Sita’s abrasive attacks. But she only threw her arms around him, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Help me Dad,” she begged, “I know how much I’ve hurt you all. But it’s going to be all right. I’ll see a shrink, and take whatever treatment is required. “
Sita was twenty one. Her years of rebellion were finally over.