Well , I must have been pretty robust to have all those illnesses and survive ,not just parental neglect! Sometimes as they say what doesn’t kill you ;makes you stronger. And boy did I need that strength for what was to come .
My sister was born when I was twelve years old. and for the first time I noticed that my parents could be attentive and loving! She was the apple of their eyes, granted she was fairer and prettier than I was in their eyes and she was born when they wanted to have a child. I often felt that as if they felt that for the first time they have had a “proper child”. I always got the feeling that I was surplus to requirements, I was not of any importance and was expendable. A feeling which has dogged me all my life.
By this time their spending was catching up with them. They used to go away to the nearest big city for a weekend or a week once every month. Leaving me with one of their friends. A grossly fat landowner, who lived with hs wife and her sister. They didn’t have any children so they didn’t know what to do with me, they had a record player and a stack of records and I was free to play them and wander around the house, they have never dealt with children so they weren’t used to talking to them either, apart from providing me with food and a room to sleep in I was just left to my own devices. My parents never once, on their return asked me as to how was my stay or what I did. They just sent the car when they returned ,I came back and went in to my room and my books.
On one such visit one of the office clerk came to see me, he asked me to call my father on the phone and tell him to return as he has been suspended from his post. He managed to put the call through but wanted me to tell my father. I did, not understanding either the meaning or the impact it will have on our lives. We had to move out of the house as it was a government property, and we went to the big city , with few belongings, an Ayah for my infant sister and stayed in a hotel suite. First it was a nice hotel in the heart of the city, we were on the 4th floor and it had a large terrace,I could stand there and watch the traffic go by underneath for hours, I didn’t have many books and we didn’t have the means to get any.I remember meeting a lot of Russian and American tourists who were staying there . My parents however as usual not concerned as to where I was and what I was doing.
After about six months in that hotel and my father still unemployed I think we were in financial difficulties, the Ayah for my sister had to go and it fell to me to feed and wash her and carry her around to amuse her. She was a whinny and spoilt child demanding constant attention, but it gave me something to do , and I did love her dearly, at last there was someone who wanted to be with me and want my attention.
As times got harder we moved into another hotel. This was not as posh but still reasonably good and it had a nightly cabaret which I could watch from the outside of our room. Money though was very tight, we have little to eat, just a pot of rice and lentil ,cooked on a little stove in the back of our room, and things were really getting bad.
We moved from there to another hotel quite a way away from the centre of the city where we have been. this hotel had large rooms and there were families there who have been living there long term, but they had like a little apartment with some two or three rooms, ours was just one big room with a bathroom. It had a large bed on which my parents slept with my little sister and I slept on the floor. Life was hard.Money was in very short supply and often we went without food, just some bread and butter for the baby and we went to bed hungry.
And that is when things started to go really badly.
My parents had these so called “friends” they went out most evenings with, leaving me with the baby. And then one day someone said to me that the man known as Dr A who was one of their friends was a pimp. I didn’t understand what it meant ,but there were rumours that my mother has joined his “clan”. We as a family have been to his house for a meal a few times. He had few young men living with him , he called them his “sons” and quite a few attractive young women who were allegedly married to these men. The so called doctor( no one knew what he was doctor of!) had some o kind of ailment ,his fingers on one hand looked as if they have been amputated. He became a very frequent visitor and my parents will go out with him regularly leaving their children in the hotel
I have always been cheerful and friendly, though God alone knows what I was cheerful about,I smile readily and make friends very easily. Among all the families who lived around that complex I was friends with everyone, one lady two doors down taught me to knit, another will invite me and my sister in and give us a drink and a biscuit and toys to playl, it was common knowledge that our parents were out most of the time and we children were left to our own devices.
During that period I started mensturating, I was scared and tearful, one of the lady took me under her wing, explained and told me what to do.Though my mother must have noticed as to what was happening when I made clumsy efforts to wash my stained clothes, not a word passed between us , as to what I should be doing and what this meant .
There was one couple who were always asking me in and generally being very kind, they were a middle aged Hindu couple, from Bombay and were here for a holiday
And then one day my mother asked me to bathe and put on rather a glitzy saree, until then I have never worn a saree, I used to wear the Asian version of a baggy trouser and a long shirt.
And then the whole of that doctor’s family arrived, bearing gifts and sweets and flowers, I was told that I was getting engaged to one of his sons. I was given sweets and flowers and a ring, which my mother took for safe keeping. The next day the neighbours said to me that this was really bad news as the marriage was just a cover and he supplied girls to hotels and his rich clients, they were called “society girls” I believe ,a kind of covert upper class prostituation.
To say that I panicked will be an understatement. I was shaking and having a panic attack,I knew it was no good trying to talk to my parents , as it was them who have organised the whole thing.
The “very kind lady” took me to her room ,sat me down and said rather gently that as they didn’t have any children, they have been watching me and were heart broken at my plight, they would love to “adopt” me ; if I went with them to Bombay ,where they lived, they will look after me and educate me and I can do what I want with my life, and just live with them.
I still think of that day, and try and think how could I have fallen for this guff?
But I did and we left very quietly ,that evening for Bombay, despite everything I loved my parents , I was so hungry for their attention ,it made me very sad to leave them, but I feared them a lot, they were very critical of everything I did. I was in constant fear of messing things up and being a failure as obviously I wasn’t at all capable of anything.It was a novelty that someone wanted to have me as their child , and willing to give me a life of my own. I was not used to being told that someone liked me .let alone want me.
That overnight journey to Bombay in a train is etched in my memory. The grief of leaving my parents and everything I knew, at the same time the relief that I will not face criticism, ridicule or physical violence and could go to school and have a “normal” life was exciting.
Little did I know what lay ahead.