My pride and joy,my garden this summer.
I loved the 1970s. I arrived in the UK in the third month of 1970,and never looked back. That was the decade of achievements. I qualified in my chosen profession, got married, had my first baby and bought our first house. The summers were glorious and the winters beautiful, I was still fascinated by snow then!
Families are funny things aren’t they? Especially mine are. All those who avoided me like the plague,or even mentioned my name,were all now coming out of the woodwork,aunts from here and cousins from somewhere else, they were all of course “delighted” because I was doing “so well”.
Funny that,I was still the same woman, I was still a nurse,something which was so wrong in their eyes,and suddenly I was a paragon of virtue ,because I was married to a “doctor” and was living in the UK! So family honour was restored! What is this honour ” which can be restored/removed according to circumstances? Of course having money ,it seems wipes away all your sins at least in the eyes of your family.
My first child was born in 1974,a blessing from the Gods, a healthy loving boy,who has achieved very highly,passed his entrance to Oxford at the age of 15, and and then went on to do his Phd in Cambridge and is now a senior and most respected lecturer there.Am so proud of both my children. My daughter is beautiful, talented and artistic and a doctor of medicine , and is now a consultant in the NHS , so the Gods have rewarded me amply.And as from an Asian parents perspective, my children have made me proud, probably the opposite of what I did.
It was in 1974 that I received the first letter from my parents, or to be precise , from my mother and my sister. The jest of it being that yes there have been mistakes on her part, but she didn’t deserve the punishment I gave her. I punished her? I never stopped loving them, it was them who discarded me, when I didn’t do what I was told, I was not given a chance to fulfil my ambition,and when life dealt them a had blow,I was the disposable item to take out their frustration on.And as they have now fallen on hard times and I was”well settled”.
I was so delighted to hear from them that I was ecstatic, at last my family was complete, I had a husband,child and now my parents and sister too. I quickly sent off what I could and am proud to say that from then on , my husband and I did regularly what we could.Considering my in laws were equally demanding.
My husband came from a very large family, he was the eldest and of course was expected to provide for everyone.He or rather we, educated all of his eight brothers and sisters, then their marriages, admissions to colleges, the donations etc; plus his first wife and two daughters, my husband provided for them all .I worked ,but didn’t work until my children started school at five. In between I worked nights in the intensive care unit,when my husband will be home to care for the children,but the next day I got very little sleep with two young children. Sometimes I went 48 hours without sleep,but those were the happiest days of my life,I loved being a mother,and giving my children a lot of love and attention,something I never had.
We even paid for my parents to come to England twice,in the 1980s. They were always very critical, demanding and not easy to please,but I loved having them and sharing my house and my life with them. Those are the only times,and when I visited them almost every other year,I have felt I had parents, and not two people I shared a house with,and who constantly looked for my weakness and faults.
My in laws always did and perhaps are still suspicious of me! The Shia /Sunni mix not withstanding,am too “advanced” ,whatever that may mean. i have brought up my children to make their own choices of life, not indoctrinated them in any religion,except being a decent human being, honest and hard working,and they are.
I feel after the 1970,or once I left India, the cycle of struggle and disappointment ended for me. I had a home for the first time, had my own money and most of all am surrounded by people who like and value me for being me. Not for my eduction(or the lack of it), status or the car I drive.I have made fantastic friends and have great neighbours, my children have chosen spouses who are wonderful people and am very fond of them. So there was someone looking after me through out my life.
Our marriage lasted for nearly forty four years,though we came from very different backgrounds, had very varied life experiences. He was the adored son and brother and provider. Everyone hung on to his every word,and I was someone who has always relied on my inner resources to get myself from day to day. Never had a helping hand for anything.I think it has made me stronger.My husband who has never left his native town before,relied on me for a lot of things. I knew a lot about England,not only the first hand accounts from my father,but all the western magazines and the food we consumed in our household. And doing nursing meant I got to learn the colloquial dialect and ways of local life too. He was a reserved and quite man,never expressed his feelings,believed in family and was very dutiful to his. In temperament we were very different,but learnt to accept each other for our differences.
He believed in the traditional role of the father, he provided security and finances and I raised the children and kept the home fires burning. He managed all the finances,it was his role and wasn’t going to share it with me! I was given a certain amount for house keeping and no questions were asked or answered as to what he earned,how much he sent to his family and what we were left with. I became resourceful , I learnt to sew and knit and made all my children clothes,and enjoyed being the proverbial ‘cookie baking mum!
I often feel how difficult it must have been for my husband,to meet the constant demands of his family. He visited India every year throughout his life. Never failed, because his mother wanted to see him and he went. However hard up we might be he could find his fare for his visit.I will by lying if I said I didn’t resent this, I wanted to take my children to see Europe and other countries and we never seemed to have any money for it. So I decided that it was time I went back to work and had my separate bank account,which I did. I saved my income purely for holidays. My work was hard, as I worked as a “bank ,or reserved nurse”. They will ring up when they needed me, for any shift,day or night,it often meant I got no rest in between,but it paid well.And we had some fantastic holidays, I think we travelled all across Europe,and the children loved it and so did we both.
I never did question my husband about finances, or asked for anything, he was thoughtful and always bought me nice things. I think later in life once the children have left home and we had disposable income,he brought jewellery,diamonds and silks for me every time he went to India. I often begged him not to buy any more,but he will comeback with something,telling me it was only something “small”! Even if it was a diamond.
The 1980s 1990s and the 2000,they all have been wonderful years, my children have graduated, have got their doctorates and have chosen their life partners. We bought a beautiful and large house in the very select area of the town, and I have been able to create a wonderful garden, my pride and joy,am so proud of it.
Families are funny things, at least my experience of them has not been joyous. On the other hand I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers,by the loyalty of friends and their ability to sustain my through thick and thin.
I left nursing in 1997, I thought I will take a sabbatical and go back after a while. But I didn’t. I was then working as a Cardiology specialist nurse,dealing with heart disease. We had started doing new procedures like implanting a pace maker (an electronic device which is connected to the heart and implanted under the chest muscles, it sends impulses to regulate and correct heart defects). It was 1997,Labour have just come into power and they were pouring money into the NHS and especially into Cardiology. We were given loads to do procedures. The manager,known to be corrupt and devious,didn’t have much inkling of the patient care, we will do the procedure and he will provide me with agency nurses,on the cheap who had no experience of reading the monitor and looking after a heart patient. Though I was only contracted to work 9-5pm, I never got off duty until 7pm or so. There were no beds available to transfer the patients if they were unwell.The stress was terrific. And I was getting more and more pressure. At the same time we were moving into our dream house, and my daughter was leaving home for university.
So I decided to take a break.Thinking I will go back,but I never did.
To be continued.