We use cookies on South Asian Today and measure activity across the website, provide content from third parties. Please be aware that your experience may be disrupted until you accept cookies.

South Asian Magazine Logo

Hear Me Scream

Jas Dhaliwal opens up about growing up in an abusive household

CW: Domestic Violence & Abuse


I carry it around pushing it from side to side, jumping on it, punching it but not allowing it out. I hide the hurt behind my smile like how I would hide behind my mum when I was a child. My mum would hide behind me and my brother. And growing up, I always had an identity crisis. I didn’t want to be Indian. I spent most of my teenage years denying I was Punjabi. I would often get confused for being mixed race, or from another nationality. Brown skin and curly hair with eczema. I didn’t look Indian nor did I want to be Indian. People would often ask me and my brother if we were biological siblings. He was fair and tall. I would listen to Hip hop and rap although deep down I loved Hindi/Punjabi music.


What I wanted most was someone to talk to, someone who would say you are not alone. Someone who would say I can hear your heart breaking. The cracks were loud but I was angry and no one wanted to listen. I continued to be angry... questioning my pain I deserved this for one reason or another. People would often comment Oh, she is pretty but shame about her colour. Wash your face with yoghurt. Add some turmeric. As a teenager I would wonder if I would ever receive marriage proposals. Maybe I would have to accept anyone... maybe a man with no papers. Yes, someone would accept a reject like me at least for my passport. It wasn't just the way I looked, it was also about poverty. The girl with dark skin, curly hair and bad skin was the daughter of an alcoholic father. 


That girl is me.

As I sit on my imaginary train and go back to my childhood, I see what I want to see. The fancy house with a beautiful front door. Flowery wallpaper and a fancy cupboard full of fancy teacups. 


Dad will open the front door and we will run to him. We would be surrounded by family. But my imaginary train is fooling me like the hidden feelings that I have stored. Our front door was always broken, the glass would be smashed. Curry on the walls where my dad would have thrown it in a drunken moment. There was no family as we were forbidden to see them. We would meet in secret. Secret locations. Street corners. The sound of keys, rattling, at the front door would always have your heart jump out and land on your feet. Is he drunk, or is he sober?


Did you do something wrong? Will he abuse you? Your first thought is always about yourself and then the rest of the family. Will he have money? Or has he drunk it? I would be forced to wear Indian suits at home. I hate it, I hate my life. My Indian life. I want to be like the people you see on TV..The door would open and everyone would run to safety. Mum to the kitchen, she closes the door behind her. Me and my brother would run upstairs. To my bedroom. We would lift the carpet in my bedroom and look down through the wooden boards in the kitchen. We were watching a movie of our lives hiding upstairs.


Then you hear your name called, so you pick your heart up and pray that this is the moment that you die. Please let me die, you whisper to yourself as you walk down the stairs.

About the author

Jas is a British born Punjabi who is a teacher, storyteller and a photographer. Instagram: @jas27a



Covid Baby: Becoming Amma and Appa during a pandemic

I could not have fathomed how lonely it would be to become a parent in these times

On Love: South Asian men should tell their friends they love them

"Men find it difficult to say I love you in a non-romantic way"