Saturday, July 21, 2007

Grandma, you belong in a cell

Prior to moving to U.S. from India, my parents sold their flat and my father then flew alone to U.S. to look for jobs. Meanwhile, my mother, my sister, and I went to live with her father in another state in India. I was eight then and my sister, four. Her father's sister and his mother also lived in the same house. It was a full house.

We stayed there for about six months till my father sent my mother a telegram that he had found a job and sent us plane tickets.

Due to the small town my grandfather lived in, the schools there did not teach English but only their state's language. Hence, my mother home-tutored me and my sister.

Daily, I was expected to memorize the multiplication and division tables and recite them out loud to her by the end of the day. I also was required to write a journal to improve my English grammatical skills. Writing letters to my dad helped as well.

My grandmother which is my mother's father's sister (my parents are first-cousins, so I have grandparents who are related to each other), was an orthodox religious woman and she often did rituals with my great-grandmother. Not well-educated they both hardly knew English so whatever communication they had with me was mostly gestures and few broken English words.

In order to prepare for our life in U.S., my mother took up typing class, painting class, and few other courses. I attended speech class, twice a week, I believe. My sister was only four so the only thing required of her was to learn reading and additions/substractions.

It was summer time when I lived with my grandparents. We had two or three neighbors who had children close in age to me and my sister. They mostly played outside as school was out but my mother made my sister and I stay home and gave us "homework". Only in the late afternoons, if my mother was satisfied with our lessons, were we allowed to join our friends.

One day, my grandfather and my mother was out for the day. I think my sister went with them too. I was alone at home with my grandmother and great-grandmother.

In India, most home kitchens and living rooms have their own doors as if it is a separate room. And doors have locks on the outside as well as inside. That was to keep servants out in case of thefts.

After finishing my "homework", I got bored. At this point, my memory is a bit vague as to what specifically transpired. As usual, my grandmother and her mother was in the kitchen doing some rituals as well as preparing meals for the day. Somehow, they did something or said few words that made me mad. Before they did anything further, I quickly slammed the kitchen door and locked it.

Poor them tried screaming and banging but to no avail as no one was home and I was deaf. This went on for about three hours.

Finally, my mother arrived home. When I saw her out the window, I immediately ran upstairs and hid under the bed.

Within 5 minutes, I could see my mother's feet walking around, apparently looking for me.

Of course, as expected, I was scolded and ordered to apologize to them as they were "elders" and should be respected, no matter what. My mother also threatened to tell my father if I did not improve my behavior. She used this tactic often because she knew I wanted to make my father proud of me. While apologizing, I remember seeing my grandmother shaking her head with displeasure written on her face, as if to say my mother could have done better in disciplining me.

To this day, whenever my parents talk about the times I was mischievious, they would often bring up this incident.