The good thing about having a difficult life is, that you are grateful and enjoy the tiniest good things, however trivial they might seem to other. I still get enormous pleasure when I find a nice pebble or a shell when I am walking on the beach, or when I am walking in my garden and I see a new plant poking its head out of the soil, or a new bud on a plant,I thought I have lost.
I think the essence of happiness is in simple things and they are free.
My time in the children home was regimented and long,we were all biding time, waiting to turn 18 so we could then be released either to our parents or could find employment.
I have always had a guardian angel looking after me, in the shape of humans.The kindness and care I have had from total strangers,I have never received from any of my blood relatives, apart from my children,and of course my late husband.
When I was in the remand home,( not because a criminal, but an underage girl, whose parents didn’t want the custody of), there was a visiting social worker. A Gujarati Hindu lady. She was good to everyone,but she took exception to me. She took upon herself to teach me English. My father has only taught me up to the standard of the “National reader ” books up to the level two. I could recognise words and read short sentences. Deedi” (or older sister),as I used to call her, used to spend a couple of hours twice a week, when she made me write and gave me home work.I loved to learn. And soon was able to read and write sentences.
So I have learnt reading and writing and some very fine embroidery.
During this period my parents came only once to visit me, and that was because Deedi insisted that they do.
It was a very brief visit, indifferent and silent. We had nothing to say to each other,I think we all were equally un comfortable in the others company. I do remember, they have brought me a chocolate bar, which my younger sister promptly ate!
My sister is the sibling,I so much wanted and prayed for. But she was always given the impression that her older sister was inferior to her in every way. She was led to believe that she was more beautiful, clever and generally a better person, whereas her sister was ugly,dark and thick!
Something she has firmly believed and still does, though my life circumstances have been much better, I would like to say I have helped and supported her in various ways,but our relationship has always been one sided.
Parents don’t realise they have a huge effect on their children.
When I turned 18, the court ordered my parents to take custody. My father came to collect me, reluctantly, we had nothing to say to each other.
That was another memorable journey ,back from Bombay, throughout we didn’t say a word to each other.
And that remained the pattern when I came back,to what can loosely be termed as my parental home.
There was no warmth, it felt as if there was no place for me there,I was foisted on this happy family,who didn’t want me there.
I was never included in conversations, everyone did their own thing,my sister went to school,my mother went out a lot and I was left at home,doing some chores or just standing out on the balcony,there were neighbours who talked to me,and felt sorry for me.
We were in a rented flat, the landlord had a daughter who was my age,she was rich, educated and sophisticated, but we became friends. I was surrounded by beauty and riches! Across our house was another lovely girl ,who went on to become the runner up for Miss India!
She went to college, wore fashionable clothes,and was adored by her siblings and her parents. I was totally opposite,never have experienced those things.
I never had any pocket money, my parents were in financial difficulties,again.
But my friend took me out with her often, we would go to cheap morning shows at the local cinema, we loved the Rock Hudson/Doris Day and Agatha Christie movies. Went for coffee and those were the highlights of my existence.
And then she got married. Married a very rich family, the local businessman, a very good looking guy, I was devastated to lose my only friend.
My friends at that stage wanted me to marry my first cousin. I think the idea was to get rid of me. Now my cousins were lovely lads. We grew up playing together and climbing trees, I saw them as friends, though I tried but I couldn’t envisage either of them as my life partners, even trying snogging and failing!
I have always loved reading. I read the newspapers from cover to cover.I came across an advertisement for a training programme to be a Health visitor.
I have dreamt of being a nurse, since I had chicken pox when I was in the children’s home, and was hospitalised. I think it was the nurses who have shown me kindness and have been non judgemental. I very much wanted to be one,from the age of 15.
I wrote an application and posted it. And promptly got a letter to attend an interview.
My parents on the other hand wanted me to be married off, they had no trust in me. When I told them that I wanted to do the training to be a health visitor,all hell broke loose.
My father said in n un certain terms that nursing was a menial profession, girls from respectable families didn’t do nursing, and if I was to go for this interview, I needn’t ever come back to the family home.
Yet again, I was un wanted.
I still don’t understand why though, as my parents were in financial trouble again, the rent was due for months and they had various debts.
This time though I had decided that I was going to choose the career I had in mind.
To be continued.