Memories; Part 7

It is strange at times to think that this is my life am writing about! I have never stopped to take stock,I knew all this was tucked away somewhere,but there was a need to look at it, honestly and brutally.
I will never forget that journey,from Delhi to Bombay. I was just fourteen,and was going away; running away from everything I knew and entering a world of the unknown.
What makes a child do this? Surely it is not fun or adventure,it surely was not so in my case,it was desperation. The image of that family and the man I was being married off to haunted me. My parents have never established a relationship where they talked or listened to me. I was just told to do things,and there was never any room for negotiation. I was never told what was happening in our lives, just follow orders.
I have always felt an outsider and isolated.
That journey by train was long and tiresome. I sat by the window and watched the landscape whizz by,and with it my life.
We arrived in Bombay ,the next morning, the station was vast, noisy and bustling with people. We ,that is the the couple, Kamla and Nitin, made me walk between them, I was always flanked by them,perhaps they were worried I might wander.
We arrived in their house,or a two roomed pokey little place in a multi -story block. I helped with the housework,and cooking. Life settled in a sort of routine and there was no sign of the schoolI was promised. I so wanted to be “normal”,I looked longingly at the children who wore school uniform,and went to school clutching books.And how naive I was to believe total strangers, that they will give me the education,my parents didn’t think I deserved.
And then one night the man tried to make sexual advances to me, I was distressed and frightened and pushed him away.And the mood suddenly changed. They both told me in no un certain way that that if I thought they will feed and clothe me without getting anything in return,then I was more stupid than they thought I was.
The next morning after they have gone out, I ran out of the flat,and into the street,I have never been out on my own before,it was a terrifying moment. after wandering a few streets I spotted a policeman. I ran to him and blurted out that I was brought to this city by a couple under false pretences and I needed help.
He took me to a children’s remand home.
Where they x-rayed me to determine my age,gave me the clothes I was to wear there, a very rough cotton sari and and top and said they will contact my parents,and until they came to collect me I will be an inmate of the home.
There were many many girls there,all minors,some were criminals and awaiting/serving a sentence and some were run aways,some had no where to go and were there for their own safety. You were awaken at 6am with a loud bell. You lined up to get a bath/shower by the ruling tap. Then washed your clothes and then lined up for physical exercise.Which consisted of stretching and bending.Then breakfast, after which you went to workshops, you either learnt sewing or knitting or woodwork or cooking. I loved embroidery.And then lunch, you all sat in a row. and took turn in serving food from huge big containers.
Life was very regimented and routine.
Then every one had a court appearance. it was a children’s court,as we all were minors.The court reviewed each case every month. Girls like me who have not done anything wrong but were there because we were under age,and waiting to be collected by their guardians/parents,and those who had no one were committed to a home,where they were kept until they were 18 and then either married off or found employment.
I was sure that I will be able to go back home.
And then came the bombshell that my parents have said they want to have nothing to do with me. It took various summons by the court ,for my father to come and make a formal identification.He point blank refused to have me back.And didn’t even look at me while in the court.
I was committed for two and half years ,when I would be 18, to a home .
That was called a Vigilant Centre in middle of the city.
Smaller and less formal than the remand home ,but strict and enclosed. You were not allowed out of the premises. The suprientendent was a Parsi lady. A spinster ,who lived on the premises. There were only 20 of us there.
Life was still regimented and routine,we had no money,but if we could make something and it can be sold, then the money was kept in the “office”. And if we wanted something,like soap or shampoo, then they will buy it for you. We were not allowed out.
We had a big radio set mounted on the wall and were allowed music two hours in the evening. The radio was switched on and off by the staff.
I learnt to do intricate embroidery on fine voile, and worked all day , to produce a sari, the process took me a month to do the border and the ends. It was fine work,where each thread was counted to make a motif, the fabric was fine voile which had very fine weave, and I will work from a pattern,or anther piece which will also be on fine fabric.
I did manage to save a little bit of money,not much the first time I had my own money.
To e continued.

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