A Crack at “Pop” Psychology

Posted on September 12, 2016

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When I was growing up, the six of us – my mom, dad, sister, paternal grandparents and I – lived in a 2-bedroom flat. For the longest time, my sister and I shared our parents’ bedroom. When I turned 11, our parents began to insist we sleep in the living room; my sister and I were over the moon.

We had visions of late-night TV, watching Baywatch, eating junk food and making long telephone calls (on the only phone connection) to our girlfriends. And we did manage to do most of these. However, it was all a process. At 9.30PM, my grandparents would retire to their room. My dad would help my sister and me to join the living room furniture (two day beds) to make one large king bed.

And then began an hour-long process. As soon as the lone TV set in our house was switched off, my dad would lock the front door. Did I say lock? I mean triple lock. The top stopper, the middle stopper and the latchkey. He would then proceed to the kitchen to drink a steaming hot cup of chocolate milk (that cute ol’ man!) He would come out, switch off the lights and check the door again. All three locks.

We would pretend to be very quiet and talk in whispers in the dark. In 20 minutes, he would come out to check if we were sleeping. But actually, it was to check the door. Yes, all three locks! He would act as if it was mainly to go to the bathroom or have a glass of water, but we got familiar with the program very quickly. Some days, he would check and re-check the doors several more times. We’d laugh at him secretly. We were shit scared of him and wouldn’t dare do it to his face.

When I was in grade 11, my sister was in her second year of college. We both had psychology classes. Now anyone who has ever taken a psych class knows that that makes us doubly intelligent (rather doubly dangerous). We had learned that most of our adult idiosyncrasies could be traced to our childhood.

One night, we mustered all our courage and asked our dad half-jokingly – Did anything happen to you when you were a young boy that made you feel unsafe? He thought for a few seconds and I felt something shift in his expression. He proceeded to tell us a story. My dad is the middle and only male child, preceded and followed by two sisters. His parents, sisters and he lived in a chawl (a small studio apartment) in Mumbai. They used to have a neighbour, Mr. Mills*, who was quite fond of the bottle and was very often drunk and disorderly. One afternoon, only the kids were home, including dad, Mr. Mills came knocking. He knocked and banged and cursed and swore. He begged and shouted and pleaded and threatened. He wanted to enter my dad’s home. My dad said that he was very scared. He ran to check the door to ensure that it was locked. He said that he was worried Mr. Mills would break the door down.

My sister and I giggled a little, but we were mostly sympathetic. I think we felt slight adoration for the little boy in my dad’s body. And what do you know! It seemed to ease off dad’s nightly lock-checking behaviour. I guess he verbalized his trauma and was able to let go of his fear. Since then, he would do it just once, and on occasion he’d ask us if we had locked the door. We’d say in half-jest, “Why don’t you come check yourself!” But he never did.

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Now, he’s a complete softy! Here he is with my sister, niece and I 🙂 Pictures are blurry because we were laughing too hard!

Dedicated to my sister and my dad – to the few sweet moments we shared among all the horrible things in life, cheers! 

 This post is intended to be funny. If you / someone you know is experiencing distressing behavioural compulsions or anxiety, please seek psychiatric help.

 

 

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