Posts Tagged ‘family’

One of my earliest childhood memories, as unlikely and unbelievable as it may seem, is one of my older sister carrying me and laying me down on my back (probably to change my diaper), while she and my brother smiled down at me. That is my first ever childhood memory, a happy one.

The next memory I have is an unhappy one, when I was old enough to understand what others said to me but unable to express myself through words or actions. Therefore it was my first memory of being misunderstood. I remember pointing in a direction I wanted to go for some reason, and the person carrying me taking me in that direction. But when we got part of the way, my mother and some others were there, and the person carrying me seemed to think we had arrived at my desired destination. However, I kept pointing ahead and no one seemed to understand what I wanted, where I wanted to be taken, or why. So out of frustration and not knowing what else to do or how to communicate, I began wailing while still pointing ahead, at which point the others figured I didn’t know what I wanted myself and carried me back to where we had been in the first place, much to my frustration. I suppose even as young as I was, I wanted to be understood so badly and couldn’t understand why the others found it so hard to understand me. I wanted to be able to tell them clearly what I wanted, and I was doing it in the best way I knew how at that point in life, but no one really got me. Sad.

I recall many nights as a little child when I cried from having a stomach-ache, and had to be carried from shoulder to shoulder while people tried to sing to me and soothe me to sleep. On one occasion I was given my sister’s blue-green-and-yellow flowered plastic zipper bag of crayons, and that shut me up or rather distracted me from thinking about and feeling my stomach-ache because it was something I valued greatly and wished were my own. I was very pleased that my wish had finally been granted, or so I thought. I was extremely disappointed when awoke the next day and realised the crayon bag had gone and couldn’t be found anywhere either.

One of my most beautiful memories ever was when I was older and learning to ride the tricycle my Dad had bought me. I think he sold my brother’s bicycle in order to buy me the tricycle, and I’m sure my brother did not appreciate that one bit. To add to his frustration probably, all I did was cycle up and down the corridor inside our house, Eathorne, and never seemed to get the hang of it. Then one day my brother decided to take matters into his own hands and pushed me outdoors as I sat on my tricycle. At first I was frightened because he was pushing me so fast (or so it appeared to tiny me). He pushed me down a row of flowers in the garden, and I still remember that sight crystal clear, as if it were only yesterday. I looked up to see the beautiful yellow flowers (may have been marigolds) towering over me on either side, and it was glorious! Sadly, my ride ended when my brother decided he had pushed me enough and turned my tricycle back around, getting me out of the garden. But after that ride I think I finally got a hang of riding the tricycle and taught myself to ride it quite well, so much so that I continued to ride it even when I ought to have been riding a bicycle instead! This is also one of the rare memories I have of my brother during my childhood. Heaven knows where he was or what he did through my childhood years!

Then I remember flying. Yes, flying – across my Mom & Dad’s bed. No one ever has believed it, but the memory is etched a little to clearly in my mind to have been a dream. So no matter what everyone else thinks I still believe I did fly. Maybe it was just angels carrying me… but I DID FLY! This is how it happened: It had been a long day and the rest of the family moved into another room to discuss some problems that we had been having with our landlady. She lived next door quite literally – there was only a door separating our corridor and the portion she lived in. So we had to be careful not to discuss things in the hall that was closest to the separating door. Anyway, I was left alone in the room and was sitting on Mom & Dad’s bed with a green sketch pen in my hand. I decided to experiment, and coloured my nail and quite a bit of my hand green. As if that was not enough, I decided to taste the green refill and ended up with a green tongue as well. Oh yes, I do remember how awful it tasted and don’t think I ever did anything quite as foolish again. Not knowing what else to do, and with no television or entertainment those days I had to entertain myself. The “funnest” thing that occurred to me at that point would be to try and fly, so I gave it some serious thought. It seemed I ought to start flying over a short distance first before I could fly long distance, so I poised myself at the head of the bed in order to fly across the bed as a trial. Next, I stuck my arms out on either side to act as wings. Even at that age I knew I needed wings to fly. J Then I just lifted my feet off the bed and voila, I was flying! But before I knew it I was nearing the foot of the bed. Oh, oh! Now what? I was afraid I would fly straight over the bed and fall to the ground and get hurt or something, so I did the most sensible thing I could have, which was to put my feet back down on the bed. And there, that was the end of my first flight. I was too scared to try it again, though. I would have run into the other room excitedly to tell the rest of my family what I had accomplished, only my hand and mouth were green with ink and I would get myself into trouble. So I lay down quietly, trying as best as I could to hide my green hand and went to sleep. At some later date when I told my family what had happened, of course no one believed me and it only became a big family joke.

Another fun memory I have was on my Dad & I washing clothes together. This was way before washing machines ever came to India, and we could even afford one. Our house had a kind of store-room area that was completely detached from the main house, kind of like a long shed in the backyard, really. I remember Mrs.Landsbeck, an old grumpy lady, lived in a dilapidated portion in the backyard as well. The backyard itself was always overgrown with grass and weeds. It must have been a Saturday or at least a day that felt like a Saturday… my Dad sat with 2-3 buckets of soapy water in front of him and I helped him as he pulled out clothes from the first bucket one by one, scrubbed and wrung them before dumping them in the next bucket, and so on. I remember playing in the soapy water more than anything else, and my Dad taking a whole lot of soapsuds and dabbing them on my nose. That was fun! I enjoyed that day very much.


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I made a new friend yesterday… a talkative 5 year old, the daughter of my friend’s maid. Farheen confidently rattled off, “A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat, D for Doll…” She was in the first grade and had been learning the English alphabet at school, but she shyly admitted she couldn’t remember what M was for, and jumped from H to O in her enthusiasm. I doubt she knew what any of those words meant. It was just something she had been taught, and she had dutifully learned.

In her hand she carefully held two pieces of paper on which a doll’s picture was drawn, kind of like a mini animation. She showed me how if she flipped the little pages it would look like the doll was changing its form. I asked if she had drawn them. She said a “didi” at tuition had drawn them for her. Farheen enjoyed drawing, but she didn’t have paper or color pencils of her own to draw and color.

I asked Farheen about her friends at school. She said she had none. She only spoke to her little brother, Mohammed. The teachers didn’t allow them to play in school, and she seemed afraid to talk to others in class.

After school her elder brother (a cousin, I assume) would take her to a tuition center to do her homework. She liked going there because they would sometimes serve her biscuits, samosas and Thumbs Up.

Farheen was happy that her mother Aisha had packed Biriyani for her lunch that day. It was the left over from Sunday’s dinner. She usually carried Rotis and sugar for lunch and didn’t like eating that. She preferred snacks, “pan biscuit” in particular. She laughed about her “fat little brother, Mohammed” who ate a lot, unlike her.

I spoke a little to Farheen’s mother Aisha too, while she swept and swabbed the floor. She told me that she had 3 children – Farheen who was 5, Mohammed who was 3, and another son who had recently died of some heart disease. Aisha thought this son had brought her good luck and restored her joy. She felt all her problems and sadness had returned after his death. Aisha still loved this little son of hers more than the other two and thought about him a lot. I could hear the sadness in her voice as she told me about him. I sympathized with her and tried to explain in my broken Hindi that God had given her 2 beautiful children, so to be thankful for them and love them the same way she would have loved the son she lost.

Farheen told me she liked her father better than her mother. He was a painter and would sometimes take her and Mohammed on his cycle. He would go out to some place on Sundays and buy eggs, biscuits, etc… for them. He had bought them a new fan recently, but Farheen had put it away because she was afraid other children would play with it and break it. She complained that her father made the house dirty though, and she and her mother had to clean up always.

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, and to my disappointment she replied that she wanted to be a maid like her mother. “You don’t want to become a good teacher or something else?” “No, I want to clean homes. People make their houses dirty, no? I want to clean their houses.”

I saw a big mark on Farheen’s left arm and assumed it was a vaccination mark, but it didn’t strike me that she had probably never been to a doctor in her life. What it was was the scar from a brutal beating. Her teacher had beaten her with something (I couldn’t understand what) because she hadn’t paid her fees on time. The scar seemed so deep. Farheen told me it had swollen so big and didn’t heal for a long time. Her parents had shifted her to another school soon after. I asked her, “Farheen, did it hurt?” “Yes.” “Did you cry?” “No…” “Why not?” “Only small children cry…”

So little, and yet she spoke as if she was 10 times her age! I had to gulp down tears and the lump that had formed in my throat by then. My heart went out to this little child who had an entire lifetime before her, but had already suffered so much, lacked so many things that I took for granted, and had resigned herself to her fate. In her little mind, all she knew was the life she lived and she didn’t even think or wish that life could be any better for her. She was content being who she was, willing to accept her life as it was, and was determined to become whatever she thought it was her duty to become.

All the words in the world are insufficient to express what I felt at that moment. When I returned home and thought about it, I was moved all the more and could not contain my tears. To think that there are millions of Farheens all over India (and probably the world), needing a good education, a safe environment at school and home, basic amenities, nutritional food, better facilities and opportunities, genuine love and care… and just needing to know that God loves them, cares about them, and wants nothing but the best for them…

What am I doing to make life better for someone like Farheen?

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I’m not sure if this is something that only I experience, or if there are others out there who have similar experiences… and neither do I want to offend anybody’s religious sentiments… but one thing that always intrigues me is this little voice keeps singing all the time… 24 x 7, 365 days a year, there’s this non-stop record playing inside of me, singing songs so relevant to my situation at any given point of time.


For background’s sake, I’ve grown up in a family that loves music and singing comes quite naturally… in fact, my mother says that when she was expecting me, she heard an old Kid’s Praise cassette that had a little girl singing on it, and she prayed that she would have a child who could sing just like that. J I remember she even used to wake me up to music every morning, just so I would get up in a good mood!


And in answer to her prayer, right from my earliest days, I’ve sung at church or at camps or meetings and functions… I remember singing a solo at Parent’s Day in my very first year at school, and have always been on the choir at school and college or in an acapella group… and now I even lead worship at work… not that I’m an exceptionally good singer or anything, but it’s just something that’s in my veins and I can’t help it.


Anyways… the first time I remember actually becoming aware of this little singing voice was when I was in my 6th or 7th grade… I was on my way to the school Sport’s Day in the school bus and I was feeling quite sick and low, wondering how I would get through the day in the hot sun… and then I heard this little voice singing “He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able, I know my Lord is able to carry me through…” For a moment I was shocked, and I wondered how in the world that had popped into my head from seemingly nowhere… I must have thought myself a genius or something…


But over the years, I’ve become quite accustomed to this little voice that peps me up in my lowest of times, celebrates with me through my highs, loves with me through my romances, and sighs with me when I’ve accomplished something big – but never for a moment is that voice silent. It’s always singing, singing, singing… and I wonder how and why?


This morning, for instance, I was in a very contemplative mood because something unexpected came up that seems like a big u-turn in my life. Everything I’ve been focused on for the last 3 years, my career, my goals, my ambitions… I will soon have to give them all up and step into something new yet again. What that will be, I’m still not sure of yet…


I was thinking about this all night and day when I paused for a moment to listen to the record playing in my head. It was singing this: “O my soul, do you not know, have you not heard? It’s been told from the beginning, the Lord your God is on your side, O my soul, don’t be afraid, trust in the Lord, by His righteousness and power, He will strengthen, He will guide… I will soar on wings like eagles, held by the hand of God, I will run and not grow tired, on His name I call, for the Lord is never weary, His ways are beyond my thoughts, I will trust in Him with all my heart.”


Fascinating? Yes, I was awestruck too… and I still am, as I wonder, is this what they mean when they say, “singing in the spirit”???

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