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  • kewal sethi



i had an unhappy childhood. my father was an ips officer. we had a big bungalow, with lawns on all the sides. there was a swing in one of the lawns where we could swing to our heart content. but it did not interest me. in fact, nothing did since i was unhappy ever since i can remember.

the day was such a dull routine. the ayah, the old maid servant would wake me up, give me  a bath, feed me, dress me up and then i was put in a car. the ayaah sat next to me and a driver drove us off to an institute which was for small children. later, i learnt it was nursery and then became a school for kg one and kg two. three years, i suffered there. i did not like the boys and the girls who were there. few were dressed as well as me. and horror was that they were interested in playing in the sand pit. i was led to it but i was reluctant. it would spoiled my hair and my clothes. i longed to be at home amidst my own toys. there were toys here but they were old and worn and did not attract me.

if i thought this nursery, or whatever you called it, was bad, worse was to least the nursery was for limited time. the driver and the ayaah would come and take me back. but in the school which followed, i was to suffer for six or seven hours a day. and then a fat lady, whom i did not like, came in the afternoon and continued my torture for another two hours or so. i always wondered why my mother paid her for this. she should have been in the jail just like that wretched boy was who was lazy and would not work properly despite being scolded by my mother. i asked my maid why this was so and she said that he is barely twelve and is learning.

the worst thing about the school was that you had to wear the same type of clothes every day and you could not be distinguished from other girls except for the fact that their hair were seldom done properly whereas i was always prim and rosy. i disliked the school but my parents would not listen. they said this was the best and i always queried how bad are the others to which i never got a proper reply.

the period which i detested most was the sports period. take baseball, you keep it banging on the floor and when it comes up, you bang it down again. is all this worth the time. pure waste, if you ask me. let it lie. it is doing no harm to anyone. and running after a ball with or without a stick in your hand. i would rather use the stick to run after the tormentors and, if i can approach them, i would strike. but all this is too much effort and the result is not promising for reasons, i would not go into now. these were much too painful.

anyway, the school was over and then came the college which was slightly better than the school. no sports period, thank goodness. the subjects were boring and certainly i did not excel in them. the idea was to somehow pass the time. i knew what was coming and hoped it would not be distasteful.

well, if wishes were horses, world would be a better place but it is not. the husband i got was an accomplished person, or so it was said. the family was rich as indeed, it had to be to suit my parents. the drawback, which i learned a bit too late, was that he had a job in united states. to my parents, it sounded good but not to me. too many stories were floating around of cheats but the standing of his parents were enough for my parents. i could have said no, and with my experience now, i should have. but i did not.

the first three months were not bad, at least not bad enough. there was a leisurely honeymoon lasting for over two months, in india and abroad. and then the coin dropped. we emigrated to united states.

oh! what a fall, my countrymen. for the first time in life, no maid servant was there to wake me up with a hot cup of tea. of course, the husband did supply me  a cup of tea in bed but it is a poor substitute. what followed was worse. the bland breakfast with some cold bread and a canned beans, or something like that. the husband made up the beds, a new experience for me. i was always apprehensive, i will be asked to do it. but husband of mine not only did it but was good at it, almost as good as my maid back in india. and he could cook and wash utensils too.

the husband had to leave for office. he was just a servant somewhere. contrast with my father who never went out till late in afternoon and then for a brief period. the files came to him. he did not go to files.

i began to suspect that he was not the son, i was married to, but an adopted son. it makes a differences. the riches do not come naturally to adopted one. my dream, in those few weeks of  having suffered this ignominy of life without maids, was that we would be back in good old india, the india which i was not happy about when i was there but the distance led a new look to it. but if, husband was adopted, there goes the dream.

unable to bear the suspense, i asked him pointblank whether he was adopted. to my horror, though not a shock, he said yes. for full twenty-four hours, i stayed numbed. but then i thought, i would have to take the bull by horns though how to reach the horns was a bit of a puzzle. the bulls are prone to gore a person, and though i was mighty unhappy with the turn of events, i suspected goring could make me still more unhappy. but it had to be done.

so, i did it. and he was calm about it. yes i was adopted by my maid. this was a shock to me. adopted by a maid, meant i would be expected to be a maid when the blow struck. i cursed my parents for being such ignorant, trusting what the rich person, my father in law, or who was supposed to be my father in law, for the real one would be different. parents knew i was unhappy with my life, as it was. did they punish me for it making it more unhappy so that i could appreciate the past. in this wicked world, anything can happen.

unmindful of my agony, the husband of mine went on to tell me that his mother, that is his biological mother,  was a socialite. she was office bearer of half a dozen, or more, societies and was busy. she seldom, if ever, got up before nine. this was not surprising because she never slept before one in the night. actually she could not come back to house before one. so the maid woke him up, got him breakfast, got him ready and the driver would drop him at the school. he did not have a chance to see his mother. in the night he was fast asleep when mother could manage to get back. and this happened, day after day, week after week, month after month. so he considered himself to be adopted by the maid. the question whether it was legal adoption was just laughed away.

so one block off. but what about his father. surely he gave him company. but then father had to leave for office by nine and stayed out late, not socializing like his wife, but making money. well, my father also made lot of money but did not have to stir out of the house for that. the sub inspector or the inspector or the thanedar came and stood in attention. my father would say – fifty, not one rupee less. and the sub inspector or the inspector or the thanedar simply said, "sir". never if or but or yes or no, only "sir". not a word more and the money would come. to get out of home at nine and return late in evening was a novel idea to me for earning money.

to make a long story short, i am still in united states. the divorce happened very early, as soon as i got the citizenship. how it happened is another story, or rather, a series of stories which are best kept secret, but now i have a mansion, and i have maid. but i am alone, which is why i am still unhappy

i think unhappiness is now a part of life and will be over only when life ebbs away. i think i should have got used to the unhappiness but still.



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