TIES. Farishta Ramin

Este relato acaba de ser publicado en and Then #18 que con espirutu amplio y libertairo suele recoger las mas variadas historias. Mediante el brother Robert Roth, la escritora afgani Farishta Ramin comparte una historia familiar que muestra su fortaleza frente a una serie de limitaciones impuestas por el machismo y la intolerancia. Acompanamos su entrega con la imagen de una nina salvando su querido perro de una innundacion en  Chosica.


Farishta Ramin

Growing up in an Afghan household in Brooklyn was not the easiest task. Perhaps if Icompare my life to that of thousands of orphans who are abused and neglected daily ordie of starvation, it’s not as bad as I think sometimes. “If you want to live a fulfilling life,you have to look at the brighter side of things”. In other words, I could have led a differentlife. Although I felt like a prisoner growing up, “it could have been worse”. My “tales of horror” began at the age of six when my totalitarian grandfather called us all downstairs to wait for hours on the streets of Brooklyn. My grandfather had just come from Afghanistan. He walked up and down the street with a machete in his hand waiting for my father. My mother and I had no jackets and no shoes on. My younger brother had just been born, so I remember it was November of 1988. At the time all ten of my aunts and uncles were living in the same house along with my mom, grandparents and us four siblings. (My older brother, two younger brothers and I. My younger sisters had not come into the world yet.) My father still had enough energy to fight back for his rights. That was just the beginning. My grandfather was a judge and in a position of high power in Afghanistan at the time and believed that he could bring his ways with him to the US. Usually when a child witnesses a horrific event like my father coming home with cuts and my grandfather going to jail, he or she deals with post traumatic issues, but for me it was different. For me it felt more like I had been through a long drawn out war that lasted for six years under my grandfather’s scrutiny, until he left to go back to Afghanistan.

As a female Afghan child I was not allowed to watch television, talk on the phone, go outside and play, or play any type of games for that matter. As long as it was a leisure activity, I wasn’t allowed to partake in it. The only outlet I had was reading and writing. No one ever said anything to me if I did that. I began to look forward to my times of solitude with my books, pen and paper. The next six years of living under my grandfather’s roof included constant abuse by my grandfather. This abuse was not only directed towards us children but to my father and his siblings as well. He treated them not as children, but as slaves. No one was allowed to speak in my grandfather’s presence. If my grandfather nodded and you didn’t understand what he meant by it, (sometimes it was for a cup of tea or bringing him the paper) you were in for a beating. The abuse, however, didn’t come from my grandfather alone. My uncles, taking the example of their father of course, thought abusing us was ok also. When my brother was only five my uncle flushed his head in the toilet because he thought it was funny. If you have a psychotic father, I guess you usually become like that as well. “Like father like son”. That would probably explain why my brother was mute until he was eight. I guess we all dealt with the trauma differently. I had to be strong for everyonelse. We were afraid to speak in our house, because if anything came out wrong, we were in for some type of abuse. We also starved many nights. My father would work nights to support his family and while he was away they thought it would be funny to starve us from time to time. We weren’t allowed to say anything to my father because if we did, we were punished for it while he was away.

My older brother is now psychotic and bipolar as a result of the atrocities he dealt with every day. My father physically abused him every day while my mother physically abused me every day. My father’s methods were a little more severe than my mother’s. I think that probably explains my brother’s resentment towards me all these years. My mother and father are also severely depressed and bipolar. While my father became ill from his father mistreating him, my mother suffered at the hands of my father and trauma. Her sister was killed in front of her and my two younger sisters by the hands of my uncle’s in-laws. When her parents died two years ago, 40 days from each other, she wasn’t allowed to grieve. My father physically abused her for most of her life. During her grieving processhe beat her for not paying attention to him when he wanted it. I had many black and bluemarks from throwing myself in between them numerous times to stop the fights. I believe he inherited that trait from his father. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. My older brother is now married and treats his wife like my father treated my mother. It’s a vicious cycle that didn’t break in their case.

When I was eleven I had to raise my four younger siblings, cook, clean the house, make sure I did my homework and went to school at the same time. My mother was constantly crying from my dad’s hands and I had four younger siblings that needed my help.I guess it was all a lot to deal with for a young person but you know what they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I guess it applies in my case. Reading and writing was my cure. For me it was an escape to a different world. I was able to cope with reality by mentally challenging myself in other ways. I found myself getting the highest grades in my classes without trying. The way I carried myself, no one would ever think I was dealing with all these things. “I gained a lot from a lot of loss”.

The semester I was supposed to graduate from Stony Brook University, I had to leave and transfer to Brooklyn College because not only was my mom sick in the hospital, and my father was suicidal, but my younger brother had dropped out of high school, my younger sister had to repeat third grade again, my other sister was getting F’s and so was my other brother. I came back home and cut all my contacts for nine months. Instead I worked on my family. By the time the nine months were up, my brother received his GED. My other brother was getting A’s, and my other two sisters were back in school graduating with honors. My older brother, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found given his drug addiction. By this time my grandfather had gone back to Afghanistan, so I didn’t have to worry about him anymore. My father sold all his businesses and invested all his money into an import-export business for the US army in Afghanistan. He had taken my older brother with him to keep him away from drugs. Although my grandfather was not an issue anymore, other problems surfaced. My father invested all of his money into the business and made all his brothers partners. This decision turned out to be against his favor, because his brothers stole all his money and left him with nothing. My father, rather than take it out on them, took it out on my mom and his children. That wasn’t the end of it. One day my father ended up going to a psychiatric ward and told them that he wanted to kill himself. When I went to pick him up he promised he wouldn’t kill himself if I went to medical school for him. In Afghan culture, if one of your children is a doctor, it is a very prideful accomplishment. Status is everything in Afghan culture. I knew that the reason for his depression had nothing to do with me, but I feltthat giving him a little hope, even if it meant sacrificing myself, was worth it. While in medicalschool, he would call me and tell me I couldn’t do it. Great advice right? I continued for two years, taking out loans and finished my basic sciences. While I was away I was the victim of rumors that set my father off again causing me to leave medical school. Rumors, and whatothers think of you, are also very important in Afghan culture. The rumors included stories of me eloping with a man, or stealing money to pay for medical school. I felt like I was fighting a lost cause. Taking out student loans and eating bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while everyone treated me this way was not worth it.

By this time one of my father’s cousins had decided to help my father and his financial situation. My father was back on his feet and was making a good amount of money. He is finally in a place where he is happy compared to before. Although I went to medical school against my own will, and lost a lot of time throughout my schooling, I didn’t give up on my own dreams. I continued and received a master’s in public administration. I now want to continue my education to receive a PhD in philosophy. My father and brother are now millionaires, and I am in debt from medical school. Neither one of them wants to help me after all the sacrifices I have made for them, nor will they recognize my help. My father is so delusional that he believes the rumors about me and refuses to acknowledge my accomplishments. To top it all off, my father constantly says that I should get married to the first guy who comes asking for my hand. Because of his cultural beliefs he has been trying to get me married since I was seventeen and has been relentless in his efforts ever since. My father’s reasoning is that he is tired of taking care of me. I find this ironic since I feel like I took care of him. When I was in junior high school my father owned a fast food chain. I worked 17 hour shifts for him, without pay, so he didn’t have to pay other workers. I suffered being molested by his workers because of him. When I told him that I was molested, he laughed and said that I was saying that to get away from working. I would complete the bookkeeping for all his restaurants, which were neglected for the whole year. I would usually end up doing all that paper work in one night to meet his deadlines. I took care of him when he was sick and raised my siblings. Yet he still doesn’t recognize my help and wants to get rid of me in order to defend his Afghan honor and his pride. Today my younger siblings are who they are because of my guidance and help. They recognize that they have me and have moved on with their lives. I am thankful for that.

Just this morning I told my father that I was planning on going on for my PhD. His response was that I will never amount to anything and will never accomplish anything in life, because I am not married. In his eyes a non married Afghan girl is a nobody. Married or not it wouldn’t make a difference since women are nobodies in the eyes of the Afghan world anyway. Although words like that hurt me in the past, today it is just a reminder to me of how much harder I should try. Life has its ups and its downs and I find that when I focus on life through my own eyes, I see beauty and light. Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I feel hopeless. For example, last week when my older brother sent me an email saying that I was worthless and taking up space in the house, it hurt me deeply. He has resented me his whole life and has had a hatred for me, but then I remind myself that he speaks from an unsound mind. At the end of the day I know that I have helped him. My parents and my brother are who they are because of their experiences. Someone needs to break that cycle and I want to be that person. You can’t blame a person for their mistakes if they don’t know that they are making them. Life has taught me that if something doesn’t work out the way you want it, then something better always happens. I have learned to have hope.

It is quite an ironic world if you ask me. The reasoning and thought processes that go on in an individual’s mind make no sense to me sometimes. Not to mention the selfishness that accompanies it when people reach a position of power and money. Perhaps that’s why I have so many questions about this world. For example, why do we as a society have enough to feed the world and yet people are starving? I guess no one would have power if there was no power gap, which is what certain people live for. If the world was perfect there would be no atrocities. Perhaps the events of my life have prepared me for the real world and how cold it can be. I haven’t grown up in a bubble and know that the world isn’t perfect. At the same time it has helped me appreciate what I have. I now stand my ground with stronger conviction because of my experiences. If you ask me, people can be separated into four groups. There are ignorant individuals, cold hearted individuals, those who aren’t ignorant but choose to turn their heads and the select few who fight and stand up for the rest. I want to be a part of the group that stands up for others when they have no voice. People have had it worse and are in need of help in the type of world that we live in.One person can make a big change if they try. Perhaps I can be one of them.

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