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Nobody's Child - Part III

TerritorialMale • • • Sunday, February 05, 2006

Things were going fine with SK in school for about a year albeit all was not well on the domestic front. Grandma dearest, (who had raised six of her own), wasn't too keen on imparting her expertise on yet another, post-retirement. She was soon tired of running after the lively five year old. Moreover, she was diabetic. She made a living supplying butter made in the local farms, which meant she wasn't home most of the time too. Her daily rounds and her debilitating condition completely drained her energy. So, once home from business, she could do nothing but sleep. She had a maid to help her with domestic chores - a tiny consolation. Mummy dearest was home more often than before, that is for a few days every fortnight. A record by her own standards.

The little ones have only a few hours of school here. So, little SK was home for the larger part of the day. The maid played with her when there was time to spare. On other occasions, SK had to make do with television or her imaginary friends. Boredom engulfed her monotonous life. Then suddenly, objects around the house began to break mysteriously - cups, saucers, plates, expensive chinaware and objet d'arts. So, SK was made to stand outside as atonement for her annoyance. Grandma also had a new trick up her sleeve. She doled out a few rupees to the kid when she sensed mischief (on the condition that SK be everywhere except inside the house). The kid began to be seen outside the house more often. Come rain or shine, there she was, sitting on the doorstep watching the cars go by. She befriended the neighbours' children, some taxi drivers and a stray dog. A few drivers often gave her sweets and they became her uncles. She had never been taught not to accept eatables from strangers. Her guardians couldn't care any less.

A short explanation of a certain local custom is justified here before I go on to the next paragraph. In most Indian cultures, it is very rude to address someone older by name. It is therefore customary to address people through relations. Thus, someone a few years older is a 'brother' or 'sister', someone closer in age to your parents is an 'uncle' or 'aunt' and someone much older is a 'grandpa' or 'grandma'. A person related externally or a very close family friend may be addressed as 'father' or 'mother' but such is very rare. Thus, the concept of a 'neighbourhood brother', 'village uncle', etc. is not entirely outlandish. Someone a few years older or a peer addressed as 'uncle' or 'aunty' is to be taken in jest or as an insult.

Captain L, a concerned neighbour, often invited her to his home, especially on dull days. He showered her with affection. It is well documented that children respond very well to physical show of affection. Perhaps lacking some hugging and cuddling in her own home, she was drawn to this man. She began to refer to him as 'father'. A sweet but poignant gesture. So it became a habit with her to call anyone who showed some affection as 'father' or 'mother'. Very soon, she had a few fathers and mothers going around. She, by the way, referred to her own mother and father in a more westernized manner - as mummy and daddy.

On seeing her attempts at child-rearing go awry, mummy decided to put SK up in a private hostel. The hostel in question was more of a guest house. The couple running the hostel gave the children a family atmosphere for a small price. The inmates shared food from the same table, slept and played with the other children and were also subject to house rules. A typical home-away-from-home. An instant modern-day solution to the problems of working parents.

...to be continued

• • •8:48 AM• Permalink0 comments



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