His Knife, My Blood

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Dear Ammi,
It’s been two years. Two years since Abbu left. Two years since my entire world changed. And two years since I changed, completely.

I bought flowers for him, Ammi, a bouquet of orchids. I thought I’d go pay him a visit. Leave the flowers on his grave. Let go of his memories. Step ahead. And leave.

But, I couldn’t Ammi. I just couldn’t. I cannot visit Abbu ever again. I cannot forgive him for what he did to me, to us. I can never do that. And I can never let go of him. Not completely, at least.

I threw the bouquet away, Ammi. Like Abbu did his life.

I threw the bouquet away.

I still remember the first time it happened.
21st December 2012.

How he came home drunk that night. How he smashed the liquor bottle hard on the floor. How there was broken glass all around. How he threw your portrait away. How he set fire to your memories. How he punched Anhad hard in the face. How he made us drink our tears and gulp down our courage.

Even then, Ammi, I wasn’t scared of him. I was worried for him. I thought something had gotten onto him and I wanted to cure him. Anhad wanted to cure him. We thought we could help him and that it won’t happen again.

But, it did, Ammi. It did happen again.

7th January 2013.

That was the first time ever Abbu had been out all night. He came home at 6 in the morning. We were getting dressed for school. He didn’t knock. He just came in. He had never raised his hand at me before. Anhad tried to stop him but Abbu pushed him aside. His head hit the table hard and he started bleeding. I cried his name and Abbu lost all his control.

I cannot remember what happened next. But, that day, I lost all my respect for him. And so did Anhad.

We didn’t want to come home after that but we had nowhere else to go. So we stayed. We stayed in that hellhole for months.

We thought he’d stop. We wished he would.

But he didn’t.

He lost his job that year. Things grew even more intense at home. Anhad tried to stay out as late as possible and I didn’t leave my room.

I kept asking Anhad to take me with him. I couldn’t bear Abbu any longer. Not alone.

31st October 2013.

I stayed in my room that day. Anhad hadn’t come home for weeks. I didn’t know where he was. Or what he was doing. All I knew was that he couldn’t take me with him. He didn’t think it was safe to do so.

Abbu didn’t knock when he came in that night. I was lying on my bed doing a project. He didn’t seem normal that day, with those bloodshot eyes. He stepped in with a knife in his left hand and locked the door from inside. I screamed for help. When he came towards me, I dodged to the side. He kept the knife on my bed and stepped closer to me.

That was the first time ever that I felt scared of Abbu. Of my own Abbu. He stepped forward and tugged at the bottom of my skirt. I screamed for help. I wished Anhad had been there. I couldn’t handle him alone.

As his hand travelled to the hem of my skirt, I hit him hard on the face. He limped backwards as I unlocked the door and ran outside. He caught me by the arm and pulled me backwards. I punched him in the stomach and sprinted towards the stairs. He ran after me and caught me by my hair. He started pulling my head and it hit the steps before I fell.

He laughed as he slowly descended them, taking his time.

I was helpless, Ammi. I couldn’t stop him. I couldn’t save myself, Ammi. I just couldn’t. It was his knife and my blood.

Abbu wasn’t there when I woke up next. My clothes had been torn apart. My forehead bled and there were two slits on my right arm. My knees were bruised and there were cuts on my legs. My skin trembled with the thought of Abbu and I shivered lying cold on his bed.

Tears trickled down my face but I couldn’t feel them anymore. I felt nothing, a victim of my own numbness. My bare legs hurt and my head throbbed with pain. I tasted my own tears and blood, wishing that I had left with Anhad. I wanted to leave, to step out. This was all too much for me.

I didn’t have the courage to get up but I couldn’t bear being in that house anymore. I limped across his room. There was broken glass everywhere. My ankle was bleeding and my fingers felt pierced. I couldn’t walk yet I made my way towards the stairs. 

Those stairs.

Why did Abbu have to do this?

I couldn’t bear to think of him. Everything about him disgusted me and made me cringe to my bone. The bleeding didn’t stop. I needed to do something quick. I limped my way up those stairs. Everything about this hurt. I went into my room. His knife was still there, lying on my bed, a reminder of my failure, a reminder of my reality.

He could have killed me.
My Abbu could have killed me, Ammi. My own Abbu.  

A chill ran down my spine, as I tended to my wounds and changed into a burqa, one that covered every inch of my skin and each fraction of my wounds, of my brokenness.
Abbu broke me, Ammi. He broke me.

I left home that day and I didn’t go back for months. I didn’t even attend school; for fear that he will show up and take me away.

And I couldn’t go back, Ammi. I just couldn’t.

I stayed with Fahida for a while. She understood me. I didn’t have to explain anything to her. She knew. She tended to my bruises, to my scars. She took care of me, Ammi.

And I killed her.


Abbu hadn’t stopped looking for us. He hadn’t given up on us.
He came looking for me, one day.

27th December, 2013.

Fahida hadn’t returned from school yet. I was in her room, writing. And I didn’t hear when the front door opened and a shadow followed in.

He carried the same knife. His knife.

I screamed for help. But I knew no one would come.
I was all alone. This was my war and I had to deal with it myself.

He laughed at me, mocking my courage and I could only respond with, “What happened to you, Abbu? What happened?”

The creases on his forehead grew stronger. He hadn’t expected me to say anything. This enraged him even more.  

He spat at me and shouted, “Did you really think you could run away from me, stupid girl?”

Something in that moment changed me. I didn't feel afraid anymore. I wasn't afraid of that coward, that monster. Not anymore. 

And I smiled.

I could see Abbu’s blood boil at that. At the very same smile that could have melted him years ago. And the thought made me cringe.

I heard Fahida scream from outside. Abbu panicked.

Someone was there. I wasn’t alone. 

She came running inside carrying a stick. I smiled at her courage while Abbu laughed at her.

She spat at him, calling him a coward.

He lost all control. I screamed as he sprinted towards her. Fahida threw the stick at him but it didn’t affect him. He took one leap and stabbed her in the chest. She cried for help, blood dripping out.

I couldn’t breathe anymore.

What had Abbu done?

He laughed before leaving, warning me that he’d come back. This time, for me.

And, he left.


The memory of that day has been stitched to my soul forever. Everything reminds me of my failure, of him.

I couldn’t save her and I couldn’t save myself. Such a coward. All this was my fault.

After Fahida died, I had nowhere to go. No one to take me in. They knew Abbu would come. Everyone did. My only hope was to find Anhad.

I hadn’t seen him in months. I didn’t even know if he was alive anymore. But it was a small town we lived in. I eventually found him, living near the gutters. He had gambled his life away.

When he saw me, he didn’t have the courage to stand up. He was broken. In the worst way possible. And I could see that.

I had never seen my brother so helpless and beaten up before. 

Abbu had changed us in ways I couldn’t have dreamt of. He had broken us, completely.

I sat with him for a while. I didn’t tell him about the lengths Abbu had gone to or about the monster in him though. Our silence spoke way more than that.

6th January, 2014.

They found a body at our house.

 We didn’t want to go back. We couldn't bear his sight anymore. But we had to. He was our Abbu, after all.

The house smelled of blood and death when we stepped in. His body was still there, a slit across his wrist. Blood covered his knife.  

He was gone.
Abbu was gone.


We are damaged, Ammi, beyond all repair. And no matter how hard we try, we cannot heal. Abbu took away all our chances at life. Yet he taught us more than life ever could.

He taught us courage in the face of fear and laughter amidst misery. He gave us a reason to survive beyond all odds and heal with open wounds.

He did leave scars on us. Too many for us to count. But they only remind us that we cannot give up now.

We will survive, Ammi. We were never really ones for giving up. And never will be.

As much as I miss you, Ammi, I’m glad you left before you met the monster in Abbu. 
I’m glad you escaped before we ever could.

It’s been two years. Two years since Abbu left. Two years since my entire world changed. And two years since I changed, completely.

And even though I can never forgive Abbu for what he did to me, to us, I can still let go of my pain.

I can let go of the memories of that night, of my shame when I remember how I couldn’t save myself, of the remorse I feel about Fahida’s death and of the memories that make me cringe and cry.

Abbu died two years ago, and with him, a piece of me.
I’m glad that that piece is gone now. I can taste freedom at its best.

I hope you can forgive me, Ammi, for whatever crimes I committed. I never meant for them to happen.

I will survive this Ammi, I promise I will.

Goodbye Ammi,
Till we meet again,

Your little Amaira


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