The trouble with memories is that it is like peeling onions. You take a layer off and wonder about it ,and there is another layer waiting for you. Sometimes inducing tears,others laughter,but never failing to amaze you;as you examine each layer.
None of us are aware of what we are capable of,until we have been through it,and when we look back,we surprise ourselves,for the tenacity and the resilience you capable of.
One thing was certain,my parents were very poor managers of money. They had so much and retained nothing. It never occurred to them manage within their means,they lived and spent lavishly.
I was an only child until the age of twelve. I remember when we lived in Moradabad,we used to sleep out on the terrace in the summer. The servants will bring the beds out and prepare them and take them back in the morning.
Lying awake on my bed at night,I would gaze at the starlit sky. It somehow looked nearer and clearer then,than it does now. As a child I believed that I was looking at God’s kingdom,that I was somehow nearer to the divine.I will silently speak to Him,and pray earnestly to have a sibling,I was lonely.
And somehow my prayers were answered. One day my mother was taken to the hospital, and I was told that I have a little sister.
That was typical of my parents, I was never part of a discussion,was never told of the immune arrival of another family member,perhaps that was the way children were brought up those days.Just seen and not heard or talked to.
I think my parents,especially my mother was a bit disappointed not to have a boy,but as my father wrote to me much much later in life that”after the disaster of your upbringing by your mother,I took over the upbringing of your sister”.
That is all though he ever admitted to and my mother once wrote that “I have made a lot of mistakes in bringing you up’ which was something.
But they never told me what happened to my fathers job,why we suddenly descended into dire poverty and why was I being traded in to settle the debts.
My parents used to travel to Delhi,from Moradabad,once or twice a month to meet up with friends and have a good time. I was parked at one of their friends house for that duration. These “friends” of theirs were a childless couple. A landowner,or “Kunwar” a they were called. A small time estate owners. He was huge,some six foot tall and equally wide,and his wife was a mouse of a woman,timid and diminutive,and her spinster sister lived in their substantial house.Never having had any children,they had no idea how to entertain or care for one, I was given a room,a gramophone and a stack of Hindi records. I spent the whole day playing them,or on the odd occasion I was sent to the local cinema,which they owned.
I remember going to see a film called “Nagin” or a film about a female cobra. Am phobic of snakes and remember cowering in the cinema,with my hands over my eyes,and later having nightmares for months.
Once my sister was born, I saw a different side of my parents.They were devoted and caring and were very hands on. Though we did have a nanny,but both my parents did all the looking after,what was painful though,was the fact that I was unfavourably compared to her. She was fairer her features were better than mine ,I was told. My mother never liked my features, she had difficulty acknowledging me as her daughter, as she was a beautiful woman.
I was not jealous of my sister,I was hurt. As far as I was concerned, it was I who had prayed for her,and she was a gift to me;but I was barely allowed to touch her. My parents were a lot more engrossed in her,trying to make up for the neglect they bestowed on their first child,and more indifferent to me.
During this period once my parents went to Delhi,taking my sister and her nanny with them,but leaving me behind. After they have gone a day or so,the head clerk from my fathers office ,came to me and asked me to call my father,tell him that they have received orders for his suspension from his job,and ask to return immediately. I remember so clearly making that call. I had to ask the operator to connect a call to Delhi’s hotel and ask for him,and then relaying the message.I didn’t understand what it all meant,I just recited parrot fashion what I have been told.
They came back and our decline began from then onwards.
We used to have an army of servants,the dinner parties my parents gave were legendary. I remember huge tables laden with food. My mother had a fantastic knowledge of cuisine,and pulled all stops, there will be dishes from Lucknow,Delhi and Hyderabad,plus my father devised a men for western food,there used to be so much food,that no one I think ever got to taste all the dishes.
`from that we suddenly de camped to Delhi, just the four of us with the faithful nanny for my sister.
To begin with we stayed in a central hotel,called `central Court.
We were in a suite and all slept in the same room, with the nanny sleeping outside the door. We ate in the hotel dining room. They had a nightly cabaret in that hotel,where a few anglo indian dancers did a floor show and a singer called Raj,belted out hindi film songs.
I had a terrible crush on Raj!
All this time I was given no explanation of anything, we were uprooted,I didn’t even have my books to take refuge in,my parents and my sister were a unit,and I was an outsider,and that is how it has remained.
I remember standing on the terrace outside the room and watching the traffic below, loitering aimlessly,if I wanted to have a conversation with my mother, she never indulged me. That is something I have never understood,she never spoke to me properly,or at all. As if I have done her such a huge wrong that she can not somehow forgive me.
The debts piled up, as whatever the intention was of, in staying that hotel;it was not working. So moved or rather downgraded to a room at a hotel in Under hill road. I think this was for long term stay. There were families living there.
I remember starting my periods then. When I told my mother,she just shrugged her shoulders. i was distressed and confused,and remember a lady living in the next apartments,sorted me out and helped me. She was a lovely lady.
I grew up with a huge burden of guilt,though my only crime was that I was born. I could never please either of my parents, especially my mother.Why she treated me with such contempt is beyond me.Though later in life when I was successful and prosperous and was able to,and did supported and helped them till the end,she was charm itself,so in a way she did make it up to some extent.I even brought them to the UK twice, and they stayed with me for six months or so,I have never had anger towards them, just hurt,and a feeling of inadequacy of my part for not being they daughter they thought they deserved.
To be continued.