Though uneducated herself, grandmother took keen interest in my studies. This meant a stream of tuition teachers every evening after school. She had a pandit to teach me Hindi. I had to appear for private examinations in this language and hated it as I was the only one in my peer group to be subjected to this ordeal. God knows what inspired grandmother to make me learn this language but I am now grateful to her. My facility with spoken Hindi has been a great asset to me as a management trainer. I could also coach my sons when they studied in Central School where Hindi was the medium of instruction! Sometimes I wonder why every generation resents what the previous one prescribes. It is such a self destruct attitude. Grandmother had arranged for a music teacher and I threw a fit, refusing to learn because Gopal and Vasuki threatened to move out rather than ‘suffer’ my singing! How I regret my stupidity. I loved music and would listen with rapturous attention when my uncle Prasanna, a radio artist, practiced at home, before a performance. There was a blind singer at the temple near the Mysore Palace, who often came home to sing for his living. I would squat before him and drift into a dream world of musical notes as his mellifluous voice soared. Somewhere deep within was this yearning to learn classical music, which I now fulfill, learning to play the Mandolin
It was pretty lonely at my grandparents’ place, I missed my parents and my little siblings.They were all in Secunderabad where my father, a doctor in the army, was posted. They lived with my mother’s parents. On holidays, I would sit on the window sill facing the gate of the house and imaging it opening – my little sisters and brother running towards me to be hugged. Dad would ruffle my hair. I could feel his palm on my head – Ma would tweak my cheek.
My heart cried out for my dad and ma whom I saw only when they came for summer holidays or when I visited grandpa in Secunderabad. Uncle Gopal and cousin Vasuki were fun but they had their own agenda and playing with a gawky little girl was not on it! I had friends – Veena, my school buddy, Chandrika my next door neighbor – but I wanted my sisters and brother. Deep within, I have yet to come to terms with having to be away from my parents when I longed to be with them and my siblings. A child’s greatest comfort is the warmth of her mother’s arms around – kissing away the pain of wound-cheering small achievements – tenderly wiping a fevered brow.
Grandmother took care of my creature comforts and I always had a lion share of any goodie, being the youngest. But I would have rather shared the same with my siblings than eat alone. I hated eating alone. Grandmother would serve me lunch and go to her room to lie down, weary after a hectic schedule. Thatha would be having his afternoon nap while Gopal and Vasuki would be away at college. I would play alone in the large dining room, pretending to be with my siblings, cajoling them to eat-singing songs for them, telling the stories of the Big Bad Wolf – scolding them for being naughty and not listening to their akka
Parents should never leave their children with others to take care of them. It gives the child a feeling of rejection. I remember going to a movie – Pyar ki Pyas (thirst for love) when I was thirteen, with my cousins. It was about a little girl adopted by a childless couple who later are indifferent to her when they get a baby. I cried throughout the movie-all the way back home-all through the night and the next day. I saw the same movie thirty years later on the TV and cried all over again. Somewhere inside me is that little girl who looked out of the window looking longingly at the gate-wishing her parents would walk in. My heart goes out to all those children abandoned by parents, for whatever reason. A child does not ask to be born. When a couple brings a human being into the world, they must do everything to make the person feel wanted and secure. Growing up with parents is the best thing that can happen to a child.