My Father Always Told Me I Had Pretty Eyes But The Truth He Was Hiding Gave Me The Worst Childhood

Anonymous Anonymous in Life Is Tough on 19 March, 2017

One summer, I spent 4 hours everyday practicing basketball. I could never shoot a basket no matter how much I tried so I practiced really hard. You see, I was going to be old enough to try out for the school basketball team. But when school started and I stood in the basketball court with the other girls, straightening out my blue shorts and waiting for my turn, I was asked to leave. I was rejected even before I tried. Then I went to the elocution club. So what if the basketball team didn't want me? I was going to find myself an after-school activity no matter what. But I was thrown out of the elocution team because I looked really distracted.

“Where are you looking? Why don’t you ever pay attention in my class?” my teacher yelled at me. This was more of a puzzle than a question. If those teachers asked me what they were teaching, I could repeat what they said, verbatim; or solve that math problem for them on the board before the entire class, or read exactly where they stopped. I PAID ATTENTION. I looked at them. I listened to them. I understood every question that they asked me, but not this one. There was a conductor on the private bus I took to school and back home, who would hit me really hard on the head and laugh at me saying that I do not look at him when I talk to him.

For the longest time, I wondered “Why was this happening to me?” “What was I to do to make them understand that I was looking at them, focusing on the activity and doing everything right?”

After many questions and a lot of whining, Papa finally sat me down and explained it all to me. I was blind in one eye, and also a squint. When I looked really close into the mirror, my 13-year-old self realized both my eyes had different colors. “You are special, unique and beautiful” he said, and I believed it. Each year, he would make a trip to my school, only to explain my condition to the teachers so that I wouldn’t have to go through the exhaustive questioning. It felt like the "happily ever after" was here, finally. But NO! It had only started. What my Papa called special, unique and beautiful was rather "Odd, defective and hilarious" to other people.

When I close my eyes to sleep, words like "kani", "bhengi", "wandre", and "cockeyed" still haunt my dreams, just the way they darkened every day of my adolescence. I believed them. I told myself that I could never be normal and could never have a regular life because I was half blind and looked abnormal.

I lost my confidence to it. I would look at my feet while talking to people, so that they did not notice my eyes. I made an effort before the mirror every night to just be able to control my right eyeball which wouldn’t move from the right corner of the eye. When I failed each time, I would just cry myself to sleep. It became a drill which was exercised every single night. With time, I managed a few tricks to use it to my advantage. I would look into my neighbour's paper during examinations and the examiners wouldn’t catch me because they thought that I was just squint eyed, and that is how my eye was all the time. But a few marks were no compensation to the gossip I had become in the staff room of the school. Papa fought with my teachers, reasoned with the other parents about how my confidence was suffering, but it was all in vain.

How many mouths could he possibly shut? He would often wonder if he had the money, would he be able to shut them up at least then?

High school was about to finish, and so was Papa’s time on this earth. He fell ill and it slowly drained the life out of him till one day, he was gone. Like that. In a jiffy, leaving me behind. Nobody was there to protect me anymore. Nobody would reason with people and stop them when they called me names. That day, I realized that the physical damage and humiliation was not the only problem I had to face because of my eye. I was a social stigma — even to my own family.

People didn't care that I was the dead man's daughter. The minute they saw me, they only saw the "bad omen", the "jinx"! An aunt, who I had never met before in my life asked me to leave the house saying that Papa’s soul wouldn’t rest in peace if I stayed there any longer. She insisted that I should leave because my presence had always brought us hard luck.

The failure of Papa’s cancer surgery, the relapse of the cancer, failing of the business that had been inaugurated by me, and everything else that had fallen apart in our lives was because of my presence now. Nobody paid attention to my tears. After all, it wasn't out of place in a house hit by death. But they said I was the one who made Papa poor and ill. I was responsible for his unhappiness even in his time of death. That hit me. Hit me hard enough to consider leaving. But I didn’t. It has been seven years now, and now I know why I'm not invited to many important occasions by my extended family. Why my step dad refused to acknowledge my existence in the initial days of my mother’s marriage with him. I have reasons as to why my mother thinks I am never going to find a good looking boy to marry and I now have an explanation to the shattered confidence that I am trying to piece back together. You see, I may be a bad omen. But I'll always be the girl whose father stood next to her as she looked into the mirror.

"Look," he'd point "Those eyes of yours have such pretty colour."
Author's Note:

I have definitely learnt to embrace my eye, despite people telling me otherwise. I miss Papa not because he would make it better, but simply because he is my Papa. I have a few friends who will kick anyone’s a** if they pass a comment on my eye and it is now an easy walk in the crowd. I am confident enough to know that my life doesn’t depend on how I look, and my respectability and credibility is not going to be judged by my face. But, I am still inexplicably satisfied that I didn’t leave that funeral.