Life in Reverse Gear
An article by Ms.Gita Ravi – A Resident of Covai S3 Senior Care Centre
I have heard people say I wish I could go backward in time and relive old beautiful memories once again. Have you heard of people who moved from civilization to backwards in time ie like driving a car in a reverse direction, knowing full well accident will take place.
Being born, brought up and educated in Singapore, though from a middle class family, I have seen it all. House, which means inclusive of toilets inside, not a separate entity miles away, fancy cars, malls, though not as huge as the present ones, an English lady, Mrs Taylor, for a principal during school days, life in the RAF campus where my father worked, people of all religions uniting and celebrating each other’s festivals, television which had started beaming with minimum programmes by late sixties if I remember correctly, inter-caste marriages, a prime minister mingling with ordinary citizens, how to show respect to ones country of birth without being forced or wasting time debating, you name it, I have seen it all by the seventies. Then my father decided it was time to come back to India where the reverse gear affect of a frightening night mare started. Though I had finished Senior Cambridge, we children had no say in any decisions parents took and had no idea what our adopted country would have to offer.
The nine days that took to reach Madras from Singapore in the British ship “Rajula” was fascinating for us kids as all the workforce were friendly Britishers and we children were blissfully unaware of what fate had in store for us, so we spent all the last nine days of our disappearing childhood enjoying games and gazing into the sea from the deck of the ship while most of our parents threw up with sea sickness and cursing the voyage as many of us could not afford flights during those times. The day we landed in Chennai our childhood ended too, so did all the “luxuries” which we grew up thinking was what every human being enjoyed rightfully.
WATER: The basic need for every human became the most sought after commodity. It only seeped out of the hand pumps after midnight and we used to jump up in fright thinking of what had hit us. There was so much noise around dragging of buckets, pulling and pushing, waiting in queues, for the precious commodity to appear. We children already wide awake would jump along with the hand pumps till water fills the buckets because in our wildest dreams pumping water in this way would not have appeared. Thank god our house had a separate pump which was supposed to be a luxury. Jumping up and down with the hand pumps amused us for a few days, till the truth dawned on us on what our future was going to be. The street we had taken a house for rent ended with “Garden Street” prefixed to it. When we saw the address for the first time our little heads were filled with imagination of a street filled with rows of flower beds and gardens welcoming us. As we got out of the car which took us to our new house from the port my brother put his foot into a lump of cow dung. I can still remember his face crumbling with dismay and tears rolling down his face. Yes indeed life has started in the reverse gear. S..T welcomed us into to the city with mosquito as constant companions, and, most of our day would start looking at somebody relieving themselves in the streets of Chennai while we were brought up to think that roads were for vehicles and public to walk on. We thought we were transported to Timbaktu.
TOILETS: Part of the house we marched into as soon as we woke up suddenly became a nightmare because it was miles away. Exaggeration of course, but the distance troubled us as we thought the whole world was watching us. Something we thought was a “private affair” was suddenly not so private because we were preparing ourselves as if to commit a crime. That was when we started to learn the art of controlling “bowel movements “. We learnt to control our urge to relieve ourselves. Even today I can hold my urge to go to a restroom if it does not have minimum cleanliness and is not in-house. God knows how long more I can do this.
ELECTRICITY: Another need we took for granted during our growing up years, soon became another luxury. Tube lights would burn only when the whole world goes to sleep. There was not enough lightning’s on the road and the whole world around us darkened.
HOUSE: Was something which other people looked into to see what happened there that would interest them so they can start a gossip. Religion was talked about all the time, suddenly Brahmins became upper caste, Muslims became strangers and Christians another religious entity. Whatever happened to our childhood where we mingled with each other freely and took part with so much enthusiasm in each other’s celebrations? In Singapore from childhood we were thought to respect each other’s religion and partake in all celebration because Diwali, Chinese New Year and Hari Ray Puasa (Eid) are all public holidays. Every value we grew up believing in went for a toss.
We were suddenly thrown into a world of unknown. Living through each day was a penance. We could never fit in here. Our parents were busy catching up with their relatives, again unaware that what the relatives wanted was only material possessions. People who had gone abroad in early fifties were only money making machines for the family. I personally feel that nobody had any love lost. A brother who went abroad was considered a provider for the family his entire life. Even his own family ie wife and children had only a second place. At least as far as my father was concerned that was the Gospel truth.
So we travelled back in time and fought to stay alive till it dawned on my father again that there was no future here in India for my brothers. Having a British Passport it was time for him to take off again, this time the mission was clear. He had to reach my brothers somewhere and make a life for them which he did. He realised that relatives will stick by only if he was useful to them. So he took off to London. He had come back to India not wanting to leave again, but that was not to be.
My mother and brothers joined him soon after and made a life for themselves beyond what they ever imagined, leaving me behind. I as a daughter/sister was lost in their time clock while they were busy making up for the time and money lost. My life went in the reverse gear till my Singapore Passport and husband who had a job in Muscat lifted me. My passport was my only possession till then.
I often wonder why born in the same family each ones destiny is so different and incomparable and how we move away from each other for no reason. Does family really mean anything or is it just a convenient way of depending on each other to shut the gossip mongers?
Did all this happen to me because of my ill luck, destiny or mere negligence from my parent’s side? I think no.3 is the answer. What I can firmly say is I would never do this to a daughter of mine if I had one.
Still God did pull me through I must say.
God gave me a good husband and all sorts of friends, good and not so good. Some came to me and gave me a hand when my world was falling apart. Some, whom I gave my heart and soul to, left me when I needed them. Some took me for a roller coaster ride to their benefit and left me unattended when they came up in life and was in a position to help. Some appeared from nowhere, helped me and disappeared into oblivion soon after. Some kept a safe distance and remains friendly even today.
Life is strange with full of twists and turns. Having had twists mostly, waiting for a turn now which will surely come?
One thing I can say truthfully. I have never ever been a bad friend. I have never taken a penny from anybody and I have always invested 100 percent sincerity and affection in all my relationships, be it family or friends. Whatever comes back is credit. I will not have a debit to pay back in any of my friend’s accounts. With that I rest and let KARMA take care of the rest.