Picking out coins from a donation box using a magnet tied to a thread, is stealing for the rest of the world but for me and my younger brother Ravi, it was the implementation of laws of Magnetism. We lost our mother when I was around 4 and Ravi 2.
To fill the void of relationships and love, my father, whom we used to call ‘Dada’ for no reason, married the second time. Dada was a typewriter in a labour court. Amma, that’s what we’re instructed to call our new stepmother, was a tough lady. She took not much time to take control of all the people around her, including me and my brother. Time crawled, and we were burdened with daily chores beginning with getting up before dawn, sweeping the floor and bringing milk. Every task was supposed to be done before Amma gets out of the bed, including filling up the bucket with hot water ready for the bath.
Amma gained complete control over all the household activities and my father was nothing more than a helpless entity. Our childhood was an unpalatable bolus that we engulfed with a mere assumption that it was the only way to survive.
60’s was a time when people weren’t much used to electricity, especially in villages. Evening chores used to begin on a spark of a matchstick used to light up the wick of a chimney (lantern). Light from the chimney was just enough to illuminate a small region around it, everything else from few feet away from it was merely dark black. My biological mother had fallen victim to this darkness. She was burned to death in a fire accident caused by the chimney, the accident which left me and my whole family in vain. In overcoming all the sufferings we were going through, Amma was the only hope. Bloody fate!
“The more you squeeze, the more sand trickles through your fingers”.
Asking Amma for a penny to spend was even hard to dream. But time molded us to look out for our own ways to gather money. Stealing coins from a donation box, selling small utensils stolen from the kitchen or eating on the court’s food stall in the name of Dada were few such minor crimes we did, out of our miseries.
I once even tried to get the best price for a silver article from a jewellery shop near my house, unaware that the owner knew my father very well. The moment I left his shop without exchange, he stepped into our house saying Rakesh, that’s me, was asking for money in return for a silver article. Amma that evening gave us heat shocks and boils using a pair of tongs heated on a stove, as a punishment for stealing.
My cousin sister, Rishita, was a new member of our family. Her parents died in a road accident and she came to live with us. Rishita’s sweet charm proved to be a blessing as against our ongoing traumas. We were addicted to alcohol and smoking to a minor level, but we made our mind, in no time, to give up on addiction, thanks to Rishita. Her pleasing nature was an essence that added a sweet fragrance to our decaying lives. She was older than me. She too was going through the pain, I and Ravi already been through, but her’s was unbearable because, unlike us, she had lost both of her parents.
Amma didn’t consider Rishita’s education. In fact, she soon seriously thought of her marriage. We were living in a belief that Rishita will always be there to support us, but the truth was whatever we believed turned out a pure myth, Rishita’s marriage got fixed in a wealthy family. She got married and we felt like we were pushed back into our miserable life again.
Just when we were trying to overcome our difficulties, life failed us in a moment. Rishita died in a fire accident. For a moment life had dragged me back to the time when I was playing outside with my friends and my mother suddenly wrapped in flames came out nowhere. Rishita’s death was a mystery to many, including me. She had committed suicide, that’s what many discussed. I wasn’t mature enough to dig the truth, nor did I dare to speak out my heart. We leaped through time, leaving back all our past happenings, but the grief still bites us hard, every time we recall it.
We went away from our home for higher education. Maybe, this was where our life was pushed in a whole new direction. Out of Amma’s reign, life was full of surprises. New roads filled with excitement certainly opened new doors. We, later on, led a corporate firm and were highly successful. But it is just difficult to conclude how we ended up where we are now. Once we moved out, we never lost our sight of whatever we did. So what made us conscious about the future? Many times when me and Ravi sit together and try to dig out the past, we ask ourself only one question, Is it the miseries we went through that molded us to seek new horizons?
I lost our mother at a tender age. My relationship with my father got bitter over time. And things went worse when Amma came into the picture. In all the hard times, Ravi and I were the only support for each other. Thankfully Rishita, who, even if it is for a while, became an important part of our life, but rest of the time, it was our inter-dependency that gave us the strength we needed all the time.
We cried, we laughed, we were petrified, we were thrashed, and maybe this is what we picked from the past, unknowingly. To a great extent, it was our past sufferings that grounded our feet strongly into the future. Recalling those events still give us sweats in fear. But I feel it was needed. Thanks, Amma!