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Breaking free

Breaking free

In her debut book ‘Hineni’, Shivranjana Rathore delves into the theme of emotional abusive parenting, a subject which is not yet entirely understood or recognised in India, reports NT BUZZ

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

When Shivranjana Rathore quit her job a few years ago, she wasn’t sure what her next step would be. “I always knew that I wanted to put out something into the world as my personal project but I didn’t know what it would be,” she says. She went on to do a lot of freelance writing and illustration projects before the idea of writing a book began to shape up.

And written over a span of two years, her first book Hineni (Hebrew for ‘here I am’) was recently released at Sadhana Dell’ Arte in Merces. “The book talks about questions of emotional abuse within the family and how we understand relationships and identity. I have used a mix of poetry and fiction to express these concepts in an easier manner,” says Rathore.

Being a survivor of emotional abusive parenting herself, Rathore, who has also done her Masters in Development from Azim Premji University, explains that there are certain markers to look out for when it comes to determining what constitutes this form of abuse.

“Emotional abuse happens when every aspect of your behaviour with the child is deemed towards controlling the child mentally. The child does not have her own sense of identity. The person exists only in relation to the parent. There is no aspiration for the self,” she states. This is why victims of emotional abuse tend to continue in these relationships, she says.

“They find it very hard to step out because their entire bubble or their vision of their self is dependent on that person who is the abuser,” she says.

But she acknowledges that identifying this can be tricky. “The grey area of abuse comes in because you are constantly wondering if you are overreacting or if it really is abuse. My research thus focused on understanding the difference between what is whim and what is fact,” she says.

Rathore further adds that she also felt the urgent need of putting this book out there because in India emotional abuse is still not much recognised. “When you go on the internet and search for emotional abuse survivors, especially emotionally abusive parents, you won’t find an Indian person. However, it is highly prevalent and it causes so much damage to so many people,” she says.

But Rathore believes that India is slowly coming around to it, although, she opines, it is still a class-based issue. “The recognition of emotional abuse is slightly higher in the socially and economically less privileged. In the more privileged or middle classes it is not acknowledged,” she says.

And this lack of recognition also contributes to victims not realising that they are in emotionally abusive relationships. “Since we don’t recognise it in society, we don’t have a language for it and so most victims even if they feel that something is off, because of this absence of literature, they continue to live with the abuser,” she says.

In Rathore’s case, her writing and background in development gave her a language to understand what was happening. Also being able to see the abuser as a person first rather than an evil villain in her story and understanding where they came from and what made them act the way they did, helped her understand, empathise, break away and heal, she says.

“The first step is acceptance of the situation before you can have a conversation. I have worked for years to get to a point where I can say that now I know what emotional abuse is, because it takes effort and time to understand the intricacies of the psyche. Once you know what it is, recognise it and see the patterns, you can then work on how to empower yourself to get out of it, and how do build a bridge with that person because that person in the Indian scenario is a victim of the system which is built in a very terrible way, if I may say,” she says.

Having released the book online on January 1, the feedback has been positive, says Rathore. “Whoever has read it has come back to me sharing that they could connect with a lot that I have written and have begun to ask questions themselves. If people are questioning things, that’s where my work is done,” she says.