Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The unexamined life – examined. Growing up in India. I'm not 10 yet!

This is a test.  This is only a test.  In case of a serious enquiry, this message will be much longer.  Haha.  I got this crazy idea.  I wanted to “examine” my life in steps and see how far I’ve gotten and what I’ve done.  Let’s hope I can maintain a sense of humor through it all, but we’ll see.

Age 0 - 2 – Seriously?  I can’t remember.  Must have involved a lot of feeding, sleeping and pooping.  I would estimate that I started babbling at some point and I might have seemed cute.  Maybe?!?  Oh and there’s an old b/w picture of me as a baby, sitting on my uncle’s bed.  Don't have it or I would post.  Mom says the bed got wet while they were capturing the photograph.  Who knows? That would explain why nappies have lost favor?

Age 3 – I’m told I started Kindergarden.   Mom tells me that my teachers at school said I was a “naughty chatterbox.”  Hmmm.  Some things don’t change.

Age 4 – My earliest recollection of a childhood event.  I loved to eat raw potatoes.  Well, my aunt wanted me to stop.  She said I had enough.  But I was a brat.  Enough was never enough.  So, in frustration, she said, FINE.  EAT.  I think my grandmother might have told her to stop giving me those potatoes, but the only thing I can remember is the stomach ache I had later that evening.  Still remember it!  And no, it hasn’t stopped me from eating raw potatoes, although I limit how much.

Age 7 to 8 – My cousin taught me to play chess.  He would lose some of the games to be nice.  Til today, never forgot the gesture.  Also remember my maternal grandfather's (Kaarba) mansion.  My grandmother (I called her Laama) used to make mango pickles and there were giant jars of it everywhere.  I would put my hands right in it and dig out a whole bunch of the salty/sour mushy mangoes that were being flavored in brine before being dried out in the sun.  Ate the dried out mangoes also.  I don't recall getting caught.  Of course, I did this while the boys played animal cricket.

I think this was also around the same time I witnessed the first death in our family.  It was my aunt.  She was my mom's youngest sister and anyways, she fell off the scooter in India.  There was something about an internal hemorrhage in her brain.  Something about being inoperable.  Death from a child's perspective is very different, I feel.  I remember my aunt's body being laid out in the main living room area of Karba's mansion.  I remember the 2 giant blocks of ice set on a canvas sack on either side of the body.  I remember my other aunt crying her eyes out.  For me, I don't think I ever had a super strong bond with my aunt other than knowing that she was my aunt, so her death was just that.  Someone in our family died.  Today, I look back and it hits me.  I guess, a child just doesn't appreciate some things?  Or maybe I couldn't process it?  I don't know.  I think about my other aunt who was so distraught.  It was her cousin who had passed away.  I do not want to know what that feels like.  For me today, if God forbid, I lost a cousin, that would be the most miserable feeling ever.

Age 6-10 – No particular order.  Can't recall exactly how old I was with each memory, but that's the rough age range.  Old memories from my school days at Sacred Heart Matriculation school, Church Park, in Madras, India.  Memories of playing Koko.  I think even today, I look back at playing the sport.  I feel kids in the US are missing out on a childhood.  It was the funnest thing to play.  Even today, I would still pick playing Koko over any other form of sport or entertainment.  My school memories get fuzzy.  I remember when we were excused from school for religious holidays.  Those would be the best.  Half day of school and we were done.

Tradition for birthdays involved buying a box of chocolates and distributing it to the kids in the class.  You felt so special because the kids had to be nice to you so they got the good pieces of candy or more candy.  Other kid's birthday parties had an excitement that I can't explain.  We would get a small card with a cute hat as the picture on top.  On the inside would be handwritten over the printed lines of time and place for the party.  To get a card meant you had friends and you were not a loner.  I don't think I ever had a party for my own birthday.  I don't recall.  Although now that I think about it, my birthday was in the summer.  We were off school.  I really don't know.  Or maybe I was so awkward I did not have too many friends.

Childhood memories slip from one to another.  I still remember there was a little girl at school wearing a brace on her leg like Forest Gump had.  No one really played with her.  I told my friends that we should go and see if she needed help.  I don't know why.  I guess as a kid, you don't know what to do, or how to talk to other children with handicaps.  Or you automatically assume they need help.  Anyways, she was insulted and said she didn't need any help.  I guess looking back, I don't think I had any malicious intentions.  Kids are not cruel.  They are just curious.

I still remember my best friend Jamuna Nair’s birthday party.  I remember her dress.  Bright yellow with a patchwork of cherries on it.  I remember she had really pretty clothes in her closet.  I had parents in Dubai and an uncle in the US but I felt like I didn't have as many pretty clothes.  Or so I thought at that age.  There was a game at the party that involved a bowl of water, I think.

Switching thoughts again.  We had school diaries.  Basically it was a diary that the teacher wrote in every day for us to take home.  The first few pages were reserved for that.  So, the teacher would write the date and write some notes, like "did not pay attention in class" or something.  Or maybe it had to do with grades.  My brother and I had a fabulous idea of stroking clear candle wax on the pages, so the teachers could not use their fountain pens.  Worked for a bit.  The teachers tried to write on it and the ink would ball up.  And then they grabbed the ball point pen and that was the end of that idea.

I guess the last memory I'm going to stop with is a scary one.  I am still frightened by what might have happened.  I'm still amazed at how stupid kids can be.  And I'm still amazed at how irresponsible adults can be.  One day, I was dropped off at school and I was tardy.  Well, I've been tardy before, but I just joined assembly and then went on to class.  But this time, they didn't let us join assembly and held back all those who were late.  There were a few girls and I can't recall what happened after this but one of the girls suggested we walk to her home as it was close by.  So, I joined with the group and walked to this girl's home.  I don't know why I didn't call my home.  But here I was walking the streets of Madras with a few other school girls and we weren't abducted.  I guess, strength in numbers?  But still.  At that point, my family did not know where I was.  Well, at the girl's house the mom was being very sweet and brought us all cookies and well, she asked me where I wanted to go.  I told her when brother's school lets out and that I wanted to be dropped there.  That's where the person who was assigned to pick us up would be and I would meet up with him and it would be fine.  Well, that's what she did, followed the advise of an 8 year old.  Yes, I met the person who was supposed to pick us up but when he saw me there, his eyes just about popped out of his face.  Of course, he was shocked because he remembered dropping me off at my school, Church Park, not my brothers and as his brain tried to connect the dots, I talked animatedly about how we walked the streets and as I went on and on he just said, "that's fine.  You're here now.  And that's all that matters!"  When I look back, I think of the what ifs.  What if I didn't meet him there and missed him in the crowd?  He would have picked my brother up and gone to my school to look for me and that's when he would have noticed something went wrong.  By then, it might have been too late.  Who knows what my fate would have been?

But what bugs me is that the girl's driver dropped me off at my brother's school and left.  Shouldn't he have checked to make sure this 8 year old was fine?  Make sure that I met who I needed to meet.  Well, that was a long time ago, but I still think about it.   It wasn't frightening then.  Now, when I’m older, I am still in awe.   It's still very creepy and scary to me.  I am still terrified at the “what if.”  I am still angry that the possibility for me to not be alive or be trafficked was so real.  I guess when schools fail and when a kid's brain fails and when adults fail, that’s when you say that God is always watching.

That's the first 10 years of my life in a nutshell.  Well, I'm sure there's more if I think about it.  I wanted to put in little snippets but I think I'm going to stop now, at 10.  Do you really want to read more about me?

Best to you all,

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