Third day of holidays – we woke up at about 8 o’clock after an excellent night until 2 am. Felt very good after a hot shower, really good. Ate breakfast and went to the CIAE to deliver some exam papers Johnny had marked, and to hand in my assignment.
Met with R who told me some more episodes from his childhood in India. I’m not sure if his vivid recollection has been improved on over the years but I doubt it.
R was separated from his mother at age four and clearly recalls the day. His mother was crying, his father appeared and insisted she come back to him, but she refused. R even remembers the shirt he was wearing when he went away with his father to live with his paternal grandmother.
For some reason he was taken to live with another grandmother, a grandaunt actually. Even while he was there, R hardly saw his father who had to work as a water carrier on the railway station. At about the age of six, he went to live in another strange household. His mother was away at a teacher’s training college and life was very strict, with many rules to live by. When the other children came home from holidays, he noticed the same rules were not enforced on them. R had to bring his own plate to the table and wash it after use. He woke in the morning, went to the lavatory, did yoga, had a bath and then after a cup of milk, had to sit down to his books. He says he didn’t get much time for play.
One day he was sitting at a huge table working and he saw his grandmother arrive. R remained sitting at the table but burst into great sobs; he cried and cried when he saw her. He insisted and pleaded to go away with her.
R went to live with his grandmother. After some time had passed the grandmother said she could not control him, that he was always in trouble and up to mischief. So it was suggested that he go back to the grandaunt’s house. R told all his friends that he would never go back to his grandmother’s place again.
R maintains that he tried very hard to go back to his grandmother’s little village but he did not succeed. He is extremely cautious now about making such definite statements lest they come true, especially when he talks to his wife and children.
He was tutored at his grandaunt’s house, by his mother, who was now a trained primary school teacher. The adults were afraid he would run away if he attended the local primary school. He couldn’t understand their attitude, especially when he had agreed to stay with them.
His mother was an orphan who had to live with relatives. The householders persuaded her to marry an uncle on her mother’s side, even though he was illiterate. Strangely, one uncle’s name was on the wedding invitations but she was married to an elder uncle on the actual day of her wedding.
Don’t leave your children in other people’s houses, R warns me, people can be so inhuman.
So many restrictions were placed on him in that household that now, at thirty-six, he is being firm about not being the one to adjust his ways.
R and his wife are such different people. She has the attitude that if someone else is there to get things done, why not let him. His family seems very dependent on him and he gets very little relief. Minor things niggle: he has his bath early in the morning and his wife likes to bathe at midday or late at night; he would like to stay home and play board games but she doesn’t want to play board games and would rather visit her friends; he wants her to get a bank card to handle more purchases and household matters, but she doesn’t want a bank card – he thinks she doesn’t know how to manage one, and the niggles go on and on.
His wife says that he is the one that loves going out and that he goes out a lot while she likes to stay at home. She says he doesn’t read much. She nags the children and wants them to do well at school, complaining that he is not firm enough with them.
R says he’s had to learn to manage a household and family without having had brothers or sisters, or his mother or father for any length of time.
He feels uneasy because he now has his uncle’s name. When R was in high school his uncle went there and changed it from his father’s name. At that time R’s mother’s age was changed too so there is now only about eight years difference between R’s age and his mother’s age.
Even now he feels a sense of regret. When R was a kid, his father came to live in the same village with him and his mother. The father would follow him about, calling out affectionately, trying to speak to him, but R always ran away.
Notes and Links
- This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
- These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page.
- A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.