As an only child, being dragged by your parents to the most unusual places just because they didn’t have an option to leave you alone at home can be quite a traumatic experience. As a baby it was fine, people would pinch the cheeks, plant those kisses and boost’ my as well as my parents’ ego by saying, “what a cute baby”. If I ever felt annoyed all I had to do was to bawl loudly. One of the parents would take me out for a whiff of fresh air. I know, I know even at that age I was quite conniving.
Then started the disastrous phase. Kindergarten, school… everywhere they taught you about the importance of being an obedient child. The lessons on ‘good manners’ grilled into your brains and psyche left you with no other option but to conform. So, when my parents dragged me to places, like it or not I had to silently obey. Not to mention how the unsolicited presence was noticed by all. People scrunched their noses, raised their eye-brows and their wide-eyed faces said, “Yes, I have noticed your presence and I know I’m embarrassing you, still I won’t look away.” I’d grown up beyond the age of bawling and lessons on good manners prevented me from knocking their eye-balls or the common form of violence I learnt… BITE. I would pray to God, “please make me invisible or else please let the years fly so that I’ll be old enough to manage on my own”.
But God had no intentions of making my life so easy and he did decide to teach me a few lessons on perseverance (that seems to be my favorite word these days). So, I’d go tagging along from banks to telephone offices, post offices to markets, clinics to supermarkets. One good thing about supermarkets is that I was granted the concessionary chocolate at the counter while my parents debated on whether Surf or Henko was good. And those days, the good old Triveni at Kedaram complex was heaven :).
Hospitals and clinics were the places I hated the most. Once, during the visit to our native place Amma had to be hospitalized and we were a family of three enjoying a vacation in our five star hotel room a.k.a one of the rooms in Dharmagiri hospital. Remember those stupid rules they had about number of by-standers etc? My parents who still believed their little girl wouldn’t be able to manage on her own cooked up stories one after the other to let me stay. And I thought that was the ideal occasion for me to stay away from my parents. But an 8 month preggie aunt and an ageing grandmother didn’t exactly provide the ‘ideal occasion’. As my planetary alignments are already screwed up, the aunt was hospitalized in a couple of days too. Some, contagious fever had us all enjoying a full-fledged family vacation in hospital.
During the construction of our house, doing rounds of the sub-registrar’s office wasn’t funny. And at that young age I was initiated into this big bad world, seeing people giving bribes and accepting bribes. The ‘adharam ezhuthu office’ ( where they type deeds) and the people there who made my mother tongue ‘Malayalam’ sound like Greek and Latin for me were tormentors in every sense.
Next torture chamber were the monthly meetings of the church groups. People would just ramble on, making optimal use of their 2 seconds of fame while others stifled a yawn. Here, people liked the sound of their own voices too much. These meetings happened on weekdays, in the evenings and I had to be seated in that room, trying to hide myself from public eye and murmuring about a non-existent homework/project to be completed, bugging my parents to take me home. Mostly, the pleas fell on deaf ears and blind eyes.
Finally, much emotional atyachar, drama-queen acts, tantrums and requests later my parents relented. The deep dark secret is that I’d grown up and took up more space on our Bajaj Super and traveling as a triple had become quite risky. Not to forget, the outrageous demands from my side for assorted items in the supermarkets.
Thus, began the home alone phase with less embarrassments and more of a brave girl attitude. But, parents will be parents. The unwritten rules said,’ put the lower latch on the gate, talk only through the window and never ever open the door to strangers and men’. The neighbourhood auntie was added to the exempted list.
So, why am I rambling about all this? Certain habits die hard. After like ages, recently the three of us went to a supermarket nearby. When it was time for billing, Amma said,” Etha chocolate vende (what chocolate do you want)”, much to my embarrassment. And I saw the ghosts of the past return, the scrunching of noses, the raised eyebrows, the wide-eyed faces which said, “I know I’m embarrassing you, still I won’t look away”.