Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Memory Box 3: Doctor Doctor

I am 7 and a bit. We have a black and white TV but for some reason it is not working. Or we don't have the correct channel. I don't remember. Either way every Wednesday night we go next door to the home of the Mathurs and watch 'I love Lucy' on their TV. Oooh that Lucille Ball, she is so funny that I shall not complain about being forced to have a short afternoon nap when I could instead be playing some made up game again. A nap that allowes me the luxury of staying away past my daily bedtime of 7.30pm just to get a weeks quota of funny.

Today my stomach hurts. But instead of complaining I go and have a nap in the hope that the pain shall fly away with the sleep fairies. We eat dinner at 7pm, properly at the table, no wasting is allowed and we discuss my day at school. My stomach still hurts but any complaints to avoid the food on my plate will surely mean going immediately to bed, without Lucy or Desi to giggle about as I fall asleep. Nothing is worth that.

After dinner its time for 'I love Lucy' and we troop next door. By the end of Lucy my stomach ache is unbearable. Could that be because of all the laughing? I don't say anything till we get home and my mother is tucking me into bed. She soothes me by stroking my forehead, murmuring words of comfort about how a good nights sleep shall help and its probably just something I ate. Goodnight, I love you, come and call me at night if it hurts too much.

It hurts too much. I am wide awake and standing in the doorway of my parents room. It is definitely still night. Then we are in the car being driven to the hospital. It is still dark and I am doubled up in pain. Turns out my appendix shall burst and spread gangrenous goo throughout my body if they don't operate immediately.

I have surgery early the next morning. I do not remember anything about the surgery or my stay in hospital. But I remember feeling like a martyr while recovering; behaving as if I am the first ever person to experience pain or undergo surgery. The raw red scar is proof enough of the extent of my vast surgical experience. And of course from teacher-student games (which just seem silly now) my dolls and I have quickly graduated to doctor-patient as our favourite game. I am sure my experience will add more than a smidge of reality to the situation. Will my friends be impressed by my knowledge of words like appendix and scalpel and operation theatre? Can I get a stethescope for my birthday? Will I grow up to be a doctor?

Sadly the answer to all three was no.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Memory Box 2: Not so brave

The year is 1986, early March. We live in a first floor dupleix 3 bedroom DDA colony flat, close to the colony gate. Like thousands of Delhi families our home bustles with activity each day. My father like many other middle income service people must trudge to office daily to earn an honest living. My mother has chosen her children as her priority over her job and is home when we leave for school and home when we get back, doing translations and editing part time each morning. She grows money plant in odd bottles, tidies after us, feeds us an innovative lunch (chicken in a basket is my favourite), gets homework on the front burner, reads to and with us, limits our tv viewing and encourages talking to each other instead.

My parents have the big bedroom beside the dining room on the first floor. The stairs curve upward from just next to their bedroom to the second floor. At the top of the stairs is a long thin corridor with a bedroom on the right and a bathroom in front. Turning left onto the corridor leads to my very own bedroom. After all at nearly 11 I am a big girl now and this merits my own space. The corridor has a wall on the right but the left is open and at night if I creep into the corridor and look down through the railings I can look right into the dining/TV room for the reassuring bulk of my parents. There is a balcony on the left just before my room and another smaller one leading off my bedroom. My bedroom isn't very big but it has a little store room attached to it which is full of boxes, suitcases and other stuff clearly not immediately needed. Mostly I like to think of my room with its many doors as my own apartment. I even make Nik knock on the door if he comes up to call me or play.

The news says that the murderer Charles Sobhraj has walked out of Tihar jail after drugging his prisoner and guard friends. If it is that easy what chance do any of us have? Tihar jail is at one end of Delhi. Since he escaped into Delhi and is most likely trying to get to the otherside of Delhi to avoid capture it is not unlikely that he is headed straight for our house. I am in Delhi, he is in Delhi, my house is the safest place I know, surely he must be hiding here!!! In the BOXROOM! on either of the BALCONIES! under MY BED! in MY CUPBOARD! OMG he is going to kill me next. Nothing will convince me to go upstairs on my own. Each time I go up a parent must accompany me. Fearless 4 year old Nik is not enough. To get my uniform, to bathe, to get my school books, to get my shoes etc. etc. etc. - I want a parent tail. And I will most certainly not sleep upstairs. Why heavens, he could burst in and stab me in my sleep! My parents bed seems like the best possible safe haven and that is where I shall stay till he is captured. Or I forget about him.

This is the life of an overimaginative child. Who has no 24 internet or TV newsfeed to update her on his whereabouts or hunt and capture in Goa. Only the once nightly Doordarshan news or the Times of India newspaper to wait for, to make the world a safe place once again.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Memory Box 1: Gaining a brother

This is the last day my nani will collect me from the bus stop, bundle me into the car and drive me miles across the city to the hospital where my mum and brand new baby brother are. He is tiny and not shiny like a new toy. Instead he is all wrinkly and his hands are balled into fists. His tiny hands were joined at the wrists by a tiny piece of skin that he has now illustriously pulled apart, leaving little blue birthmarks that need to be observed.

My nani will sit with me in the hospital gardens and as we stare up at the big big building my six year old self is impatiently fidgeting for lunch. Everyday this week it is podi-sandwiches, a treat of thick white bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with tongue burning podi, clearly called gunpowder for a reason. If we were at home I would be made to eat something sensible that probably inludes vegetables, so I am relishing every bite of this forbidden lunch.

After lunch we will go in and see mama who is resting. And then walk to the nursery to look at the Nik through a window, lying in his bassinet, all bundled up. Even though I like coming here, in no small part because of the sandwiches, I want everyone to come home. This commuting is boring and takes away from my play time. Also I imagine my brother will instantly be a captive candidate for my endless games of teacher - student. A live one to make the dull toy dolls seem a bit more real and give my game some credence. Isn't that the entire purpose of having a sibling?

I clearly have no idea that I will get chicken pox within days of everyone coming home and be quarantined to my room across the hall. And that I will stand in the door every day demanding to know when the scabs will dry and fall off and I will be allowed to play with Nik. Agreeing uncomplainingly to another layer of lacto-calamine being applied. All this time I never realise that even once the quarantine has passed the Nik is not nearly big enough for my games. And when he finally is big enough I will have outgrown them. Childhood is fraught with random memories like this one.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Five VIII

1. I'm ready for spring. Never have truer words been spoken. If I see another snowflake or sleet stone hit my windows before next winter I might scream. Long and loud. Not losing my temper as part of my resolutions is really hard to keep in sh*t weather where the grey outside sometimes tranfers itself inside. To remedy feelings of gloom I intend on planting some small evergreen succulents. And putting them on a high shelf where crawling creatures cannot venture.

2. This year I am all gung-ho about sending my friends gifts and random things in the mail. A few of them already got the scrummy little calender refills from etsy (although most were handed over in person). And now I have about 6 more ideas of things to buy online and get sent off directly. Wait for your birthdays or just random days for a surprise in the post.

3. The main idea of de-cluttering is not just to organise what we have stashed away like jewel thieves (mainly paper!) but to come to a path where I don't need to be surrounded by stuff stuff and more stuff. So I'm organising and getting filing for one but also abandoning a variety of things I can easily live without. It's difficult, this learning to live with what I need and only a little of what I want (i.e. not buying every beautiful thing I see to adorn shelves/ walls etc.) So throughout the year I am going to implement ideas to organise and de-clutter and to keep me on my toes I am going to blog it. And post pictures.

4. I was afraid to put this down as a resolution because I am pretty sure it isn't going to be an easy one to follow through. The bottomline is that I can no longer do without driving and after weeks of rubbish classes in India (which I never followed through) and a perpetual irrational fear of the roads, this is the year I am going to have to learn. I'm spending the first 3 months of the year psyching myself into it and getting on with some precursor paperwork that needs doing before I can apply but sometime this year I shall be behind the wheel of a car. I'm aiming to learn and get my licence before I turn 36 (in 2011, that's how long this project shall take I expect). Will you commiserate when I fail my driving test multiple times on the way?

5. I'm also startng a mini-series called Memory Box. I've had it in my head for a few years now (see, 2010 is totally about getting off my butt and follwing through!) to record incidents from my childhood before my brain caves in. I am also planning a paper version for my family in which I shall write down stories and incidents that are narrated by my dad and aunt. My first memory box story is already a draft.