First of all, you must know that my story is not unique. It’s merely the same tale as millions, maybe even billions of human beings; a few thousand hearts broken every day the same way as my life was shattered. Shattered but able to be put back together, piece by piece.
But keeping that in mind, this narration is not a happy one. It was the worst thing in my short life, and that life was in a ruin for a while. They say that for every good thing that happens, a bad, awful, miserable thing appears in the same story. Same story, same life. That’s the way they say it. But I take it the other way. I say the opposite; for every bad thing a good thing appears. I am not responsible for my life, my story, but no doubt I have changed it—after all, a writer is the owner, and the changer of his book, is he not? Change. A meaningful word, and rarely used correctly. Change makes things what they are; change creates, preserves and destroys everything. Everything except change itself. I have made up a phrase, and it is one of the few things to say and not be heard, only understood. “In every darkness shines a light within it.” That simple sentence is so complex because of its truth. I believe that in every life it is prominent. It is there, and in the light in the darkness there is another darkness, a smaller but darker one, in which there is a tiny but dazzling light, in which another even smaller darkness… and so on.
But my story is not just light and darkness. It is also love and the breaking of love. It is, to name the affliction that blessed my life, my parents’ love that broke, and when the love broke, the people broke apart from each other, and that led to the creation of many things, including a small baby who is now almost fifteen months, a love between five people that could never be broken, even if the previous time my mother had a love that could not be broken it broke. I am sure, with every atom in my being, that the love we have now will be whole forever.
Before I embark on the specifics of my tale, this must be known: I do not know, nor want to know, all of what happened in my parents’ marriage that made them miserable. I assume I will find out in later years, and tears will fall from my eyes again, and the grief that I had will be reborn, though I do not know if it will be greater or smaller than my grief when the breaking of the love appeared in my life. Because the love had broken before I knew it, but I was unknowing, and ignorance was a blessing. But sometimes I noticed small things, which leaked out like a hole in a faulty pipe, and I wondered. Thankfully, however, my small mind passed those things over without a second thought. But they were still there, and unknowingly I was scared.
* * *
My father had been working on his book for as long as I could remember. In total, it took seven years. Much more time then he had been allotted by his publishers. The book had somewhat shaped my early childhood, and if not that, it had somewhat shaped my father, and of course, I was shaped by my father tremendously. I remember clearly, how he used to sit there in his study all day, how after school I would come home, go to his office, talk to him about my day, and then I would leave, and he would be there for the rest of the day, and he came out at dinnertime, and he would cook, and I would eat, and I would talk, and then go to sleep. In the time after I had my after-school chat with him and before my dinner, I would be with my mother. We might go to a movie, or work on an art project, or go to a park, or do whatever activities a mother does with a child. My father would be uninvolved, and I would wonder what he was doing there, in his study, working all day. But of course, I know now. He was making money, the money which bought me an elite private-school education, the money that paid the health insurance, the day-to-day money that bought me ice creams after school, the money that paid the babysitter, the money that bought my clothes—all the expenses were bought by him sitting in his study, working all day. And often he would go on trips to places around the world, to India, the place where his book took place, for as long as two months. I remember how I and my brother tried to Scotch-tape the door shut, to stop him from going, and the Welcome Back signs we used to make for him. You see, we loved him. He was not very involved with the family, but we loved him just as much as any son could love a father. And yet, we were scared of him. He was frustrated with money, and money was what he had to sacrifice everything for, and money was a curse. And he had a temper, because a man who is frustrated with what he does, who finds life so hard, a man cannot keep all those rages bottled up inside him. He got mad, and we silently got mad too, but we were too scared to voice our anger. But we didn’t know the reasons, we didn’t know how hard life was for him, we didn’t know how much he loved us and how much he did for us, and we should have known. But we didn’t, and anger grew, fear collected. But when I say “we” I mean me and my older brother, but I cannot speak for my mother. My mother knew things that I didn’t and I don’t, and my mother had reasons which I don’t know, and my mother was my father’s wife, and I was only his son, so obviously I wouldn’t know.
In the few months before the dreaded divorce, my grandparents came over from London. Quite a few times, I and my brother were told to stay upstairs and play—apparently “adult talk” was happening and I was too young to hear it. I didn’t know what they were saying, so I didn’t mind the instructions. Once I needed to go to the bathroom, and when I went downstairs I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I remember very vividly my grandfather’s voice asking, “Do you love each other?” No wonder I was scared.
* * *
My father was going to finally release his book to the world! And finally he was going to be involved with the family, finally he was going to be a great dad, finally everything was going to be all right. That day I had come home from school—but why wasn’t I picked up from school by my mother? That was how it always was! Instead it was my grandfather, the same one who had asked that accusing question that made no sense. When I asked my grandfather why he was picking me up and not my mother, he told me that she was sick, and she wouldn’t even be able to come to the book release.
I don’t remember the party that well, all I remember was that there were so many people, all for my father. I was happy, as I should have been, but I didn’t realize that it was my last time feeling truly happy for quite a while. Because when I came to my mother’s home that night, I realized it was my mother’s home and not my father’s. At first, I thought it was a joke. Then I wept, and then we all slept in the same bed, crying throughout the night.
But wait. You have to think about how my father felt. He’d spent the last seven years leading up to this day, and it turned out to be the most miserable of his life. He’d toiled harder than you can imagine, he had sacrificed seven years of his life for it, and the same day he had released his book, he divorced. And maybe you can see, now, what the family was. A father who had given everything he had for a day that turned out to be one of the saddest of his life. Two children who have just been thrust into a world full of fights and agreements and lawyers, whose life had been suddenly broken like a thin pane of glass. And a mother who had just voiced her rage over all the years, with no steady hand to guide and calm her, with two children to take care of. And then, everyone blamed themselves. My father said it was his fault, he broke the marriage, my mother said that it was she who had called the divorce, it was she who had finally said no, and my grandparents said that it was they who had convinced my mother. And then, there was me. Just imagine, for a moment, what it must have felt like. It is hard to put my emotions into words. I felt that I had done something terribly wrong, that I had made a mistake that cost my parents their love. And everyone was right to blame themselves, because it was all of their faults, except mine. I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I couldn’t do anything wrong. Because I was a small little boy whose most terrible act was innocence.
* * *
I am going to make this chapter short, as it is very painful to recall these events. But you must know what happened. After the divorce, my parents would have split apart, never talking to each other again. They would have never seen each other again, never communicated again. But I and my brother were the tie between them. We made them talk, and fight, and write to each other. Because they were both our parents, and there was an awful word that applied to law that they had to discuss. Custody. The word is used for prisoners in jail who have to serve a sentence behind bars, the word doesn’t show someone’s life—it only shows who owns the person. Reminds you of slavery.
This was the main fight. When were we at my father’s house and when were we at my mother’s. Who owned us, and when did they own us? Custody. I and my brother felt as if we were trapped between the two, my mother and father. We were almost like translators, going to one house and saying, “Amma (mother) says this...” and then getting shouted at and then going back to my mother’s house and saying, “Pappa (father) says this...” and it would go back and forth. I cannot express how terrible it felt.
My mother wanted primary custody, my father wanted joint custody. My father won. A schedule was made, which luckily allowed me to see both my parents every day. One thing I am glad of is that my parents never had to go to court. The lawyers were there, they did fight, they did hate each other, but they never had to stand in a box and accuse the other parent of being an awful parent in front of a judge who would decide my fate. Thank God.
But it wasn’t just fights between my parents, who were always fighting for me. Sometimes I fought—because really, it isn’t my mother’s time or my father’s time. It is my time.
* * *
My parents divorced. So obviously, the world was screwed up. Obviously there were losses. And yet, I didn’t lose anyone. No one died, no one left, except the love between my parents. My mother lost her marriage, and she lost some (but not all) of the people on my father’s side of the family. I lost being a child with two parents, having a normal life. Also, life is harder because of our commute—we spend so much of our time on the subway. My father lost the relationship that made him a husband. While these losses were permanent, and made a huge impact on my life, they’re not the whole story.
* * *
GAINS AND BENEFITS
My mother remarried to a wonderful man called Stephan. He loves me and I love him. And my mother and Stephan had a baby named Satya. I love Satya just as much as I love my older brother. I have never used the term half-brother for him, and I never will. What an awful name half-brother is. So I gained more than you can imagine. Stephan has a lovely family which is my family too now!
And my father. As I have already said, before the divorce he was uninvolved with the family. My father’s book was very successful. He won many awards, and the book has been published in many languages, and life is good. Most importantly, the divorce lifted a weight from his shoulders that was bigger than the new one it gave. He is a true father, and I love him more than ever. He spends so much time on things that are only for us—his entire life is based around us. He cooks for us, he takes us all around the world, he takes us to plays, he talks to us—he is a full father.
* * *
I am ten years old. I was six when my parents divorced. You have read the story of my parents’ divorce. I haven’t gone into detail, but hopefully you get the impression. But now, things have changed. My father is a professor, living in a twentieth- floor apartment in the middle of Manhattan. He is currently writing his second book, this time about New York. My mother is the executive director of a nonprofit organization that helps people with AIDS. She just moved with me, my two brothers, and my stepfather to our new home. My older brother is a teenager. That explains it all! My younger brother turned one year two months ago, and is basically the cutest being ever to live. And I am a ten-year-old boy, who just finished writing this paper.