Dec 5, 2016. Selvi Jayalalitha passes away. Obituaries and eulogies inundates the social media. Sifting through my Facebook wall, I click on one of the videos shared by a sensible person. It was the interview of Jayalalitha with Simi Garewal. The interview had a slow pace or may be it is just that we are getting too much used to Arnab. The questions were ordinary, expected but the answers were honest and straightforward, unlike the staged ones we see often, which caught my attention. Jaya, if I may, was shedding just enough light into some mysteries – talking about her crushes, the influence and dominance of MGR, the humiliations at the Madras assembly on March 25, 1989 which she revengefully remembered reminisced of Draupadi in the Kaurava court. But what struck me was her childhood. How the girl yearned for the presence of her mother and how she used to suppress her grief to behind the doors.
This swirled me into the after dinner dining room conversions we used to have at home. The nostalgic man he is, my father more often than not recounted his childhood days at Perinthalmanna. Mostly it will be about the dense, forest-like backyard, the birds and their songs, the after school evening games and the swim in the temple pond thereafter. I and my sister never grew tired of these stories, rather it would be true to say that we came to see and believe that we were in the story too. But occasionally some stories would slip out of him about how he missed his parents. These stories used to bring up a tone of sadness and anguish betraying his calm exterior reliving those nightmares as if it happened to him the day before. I felt these emotions betrayed Ms.Jaya too in the interview and I could see them in her eyes. Not just my father, my mother too lived her childhood far from the warmth of her parents care. Much to my surprise I have never heard her wailing about it.
Ours is a matriarchal society, so my parents grew up in their maternal ancestral home under the care of their grandparents and uncles. Children would easily feel neglected and underappreciated. Parents would not pick a favorite child, at least they would hesitate doing so, but not the case with the guardians. The pain of being overlooked was unbearable as I surmise from the stories of my father. It is not that my grandparents disliked their children but their salary was not enough to sustain the large family. Mothers made the painstaking decision to leave their little ones to carry out their primal duty as a wife. At least that is how I wish to dramatize. I do suspect my grandparents did enjoy their lives though dispersed with the painful separation from the kids. I believe the children too had their freedom to do whatever they wanted in most cases. My father and his brothers had their own hens in their childhood. His elder brother is said to have taken such good care of the hens that he drowned them in a bucket of water while bathing them. The other brother ate his share of eggs, sold some to buy new clothes. My father sold his eggs and waited for years to buy his first camera. He used to buy the used clothes from his dandy brother for lesser money.
It was not just my parents. I may not be wrong to state that it was a phenomenon of that generation - the new independent India. These children grew up to be adults, pretty early I would say, not just that the marriage age limit was less then but the decision making powers they had honed during their formative years. And here we are wearing uniforms to colleges - which are just extended school years. These adults were too careful not to let their children – child for many - taste the bitterness of negligence. I for one has not been away from my parents till I got a job. That’s just me but hey – it is my blog. They do all the decision making but are kind enough to make us feel that we made it. They pave the path to where they believe is good for us and we just have to nod at the end to make it our decision. They sacrifice their lives for the sake of their little ones fulfilling our every whims like a genie out of the bottle. Fathers working abroad to secure a glorious life for their saplings - as an engineer or doctor, of course, while mothers nurtured them back home.
Little did they know that the world was shrinking and was luring everyone with open arms that everyone was becoming global citizen. When I visit homes on a vacation I see wonderful houses with somber spirits inside - yearning, the only true feeling they have known, for their children to be near. They grew up on their own and now left forlorn when finally they look to retire and enjoy life. It seems to me it was never their right to receive care but just to provide them.