it is said that it is good thing that we don’t know what is around the corner so to speak, I cant help thinking though ,that when you are in midst of despair and cant see any light any where, it will be good to have a quick glimpse of what is to come, it might keep you going.
There was no such glimpse into my future, I was facing a very certain one ; i was going to be Eighteen soon and had no idea what will happen to me.
Meanwhile my guardian Angel, the social worker was using all the tools available to get my father to take back his daughter. In the end there was a court order for him to take the custody of his child ,he has long ago rejected.
When I think about it, it is a huge mixture of pain, pity and love towards my parents. They too were victims of circumstances. May be my grandfather’s ambition of making his only son famous and rich by sending him away from his mother at a tender age to another country and then not telling him when his mother died ,scarred him for life. He became incapable of love and affection. He once mentioned of him having a love affair while in England and wanting to stay there but my grand father sent for him and of course without the financial support from his father he couldn’t survive in the UK. He was not brought up to work ; the upper middle classes in India were groomed to be masters not servants. He obviously never wanted to be married to my mother, don’t think she was too keen either . In those days you just followed the will of your parents you did not question .
So there I was ,handed over to my father , to travel back from Bombay ,for the first time in many years ,alone with my father.he didn’t make eye contact or said anything to me. I said good bye to all those girls who have been my companions for the last three years.All victims of circumstances . We have become a community somehow , we talked openly to each other, shared food and living space and though there were people from all religions and social classes, we were just sisters, biding our time and dreaming of a future which might be better than our past.
My father and I spent the 24 hr journey without a word, I was sad and felt lost and he perhaps was not looking forward to having the responsibility of of someone he didn’t feel any affection for.
We arrived in the town i was born in and where all our extending family were. I remember my mother had told everyone that I was at a boarding school studying! The only trouble was i have not been briefed as what what it was I was supposed to have studied. I could read and write Urdu fluently but my English was rather poor. So often my story changed and am sure most of the clan had the idea that I have not been unto any good!
My father had by now started some form of import and export businesses they were living in the very large house of my maternal grandfather, who was dying of lung cancer ; so all my aunts and uncles and their children were there too. I found it quite hard to mix with these so called first cousins, rich kids who have had privileged upbringing, who would speak English learnt at their expensive private schools and they dressed in the latest fashions. I had spent my life so far with battling with everything, working very hard and living a life where just life’s essentials were available. I was no match for any of them. We sort of had an artificial rapport, we pretended to be relatives and friends without being anything of the sort. I also came to realise how money minded and superficial the whole family was, the word hypocrites will describe them well.
MY parents still had little to say to me, as we were living with this joint family , they didn’t have to. We all ate sitting around a very large table, and then we the younger ones were left to our own devices. My cousins were having secret romance with some outside men, so I was used to take little notes between them and stand guard while the met in dark little corners.I was happy to be of some use. After leaving a life where my days were structured and disciplined I was just at a loss and aimlessly wandered around. Not once did my parents sat me down or had a conversation, my sister by now was in a secondary school and was much banded around for her intellect and her looks. I on the other hand was not talked about at all.
Eventually my grand father died. The was to be sold and all the relatives were now awaiting their share from the proceeds, and all what happens when inheritance is being divided.
We now moved to a rented accommodation in the other end of the town. It was a flat, a living room and two other rooms, one of which was used to as living space during the day and in the night I slept there. MY parents and my sister slept in the large airy bigger hall. My sister attended school , mother went out most days ,and I was left on my own to let the cleaning woman in. We were living in much reduced circumstances to what my parents were used to, but the they still didn’t budget , and a lot of money went on frivolities. I became friendly with the Hindu landlords family. They lived in a very large house just in the back of our flats. One of their daughters was about my age, but very pretty , she was in the college in the second year of her degree. Despite our differences we became very good friends, she was fun, loved reading and passed on her old books to me. Reading those Mills and Boon type of books did wonders for my English! Within one year I could write ,read and speak it fluently. We often used to go the morning shows of old English movies. My first glimpse of life in the western world.
I have been with my parents for a year by now, the communication between us was still zero. I remember I only spoke if my sister ever graced me with her presence, she was a precocious little thing, far too full of her own important and the fact that she was the “good girl” of the family. I think my parents have by now had enough of me and they decided that I should be married off to my first cousin. I knew him but never thought of him as a future husband. The thought was awful. Anyhow I was told in no uncertain terms that was it, I had no other future.
My days were spent mostly on my own, reading or standing on the balcony watching the world go by. We never had a conversation as a family , I was never consulted about anything , just told . And telling me that I will be married to my cousin was really getting to me . I didn’t want that, but what else could I do? What was the future for me?
The answer came one day when I spotted an advert for a health visitors training course. I was very impressed by nurses when I was admitted to the hospital for chicken pox, a strange kind of appeal, rightly or wrongly I felt I had a lot of empathy snd kindness I could give to those who were in need. I often day dreamed , me standing by the bedside comforting others. This advert felt like a God sent , I wrote a letter telling them I have had no formal schooling but I can read and write English. The course was in English. It was for two and half years and accommodation in nurses home, meals and a small stipend was to be pid.
And that was the turning point.