I knew a girl; she was the luckiest girl I knew. She had everything, the perfect family which wasn’t just well to do but also pretty honest about a lot of social stigmas. She could talk to her dad about periods and her mom about every guy she ever had a minute crush on. Her parents were not totally lenient because they kept a decent watch on most of her activities but they weren’t assholes who don’t let their daughter hang out with boys fearing she’ll get loose. They entertained that daughter’s friends, male or female. Because she was the only child, she was lonely at times. So they took her friends for trips, treated them like family. She didn’t always get what she wanted but she had what she needed and that was enough. That’s what her parents told her. That’s what she believed. Her parents were amazing. She was lucky that way.
She had everything a moderately happy person would wish for. She had great friends who had her back; at least for a long time. She was liked in middle school. She wasn’t immediately pretty at the first sight but if you looked at her for more than 4 minutes, you could feel her making a mark on you. You wouldn’t fall in love with her because she wasn’t pretty and she didn’t have a great personality.
She was shy, partly because she was an only child, always used to being alone; and partly because she was shunned by her relatives as a child. She wanted to disappear in the crowd, never wanted to stand out. She remembered everything. She remembered her mother lying to her when she asked for a bottle of milk at age 4, saying the monkey took it away. She didn’t believe her, but she never questioned either. She remembered her dad flipping out, breaking glasses, shouting on everyone almost killing himself and then being locked in the bathroom store beating the door violently from inside to be let out. She remembered asking him what happened and why had they locked him inside? She remembered getting no response. She didn’t ask again. She didn’t like to be a bother.
She only told her mom she didn’t want to go to junior school because the kids didn’t like her. No one talked to her, partly because of her pixie cut till 4th grade and partly because she didn’t fit in. They took away all her candies. She never argued; thinking that would make them accept her. They never did. They pretended she didn’t exist. She remembered that girl pushing her in the mud pit to hit her head on the cement boundary and getting 6 stitches after that. She didn’t remember crying after. She remembers being that girl’s friend later because she looked guilty after that incident. She desperately wanted a friend. She never told on her. She didn’t want to be a bother.
She remembers loving to eat non-veg as a child. She remembered her dad getting take out and everyone sitting on the floor on the mat with a small table in between. She remembered hogging on it, because it was home and she wanted her dad to know she liked it so she ate like there’s no tomorrow, soiling her hands to the elbows and dropping the gravy on her clothes. She was smiled upon. She thought they liked when she did that. They were just being nice; They were her parents; She was the only child.
The day she stopped eating non-veg that way was sometime around the age of 8 or 9 when her grandfather and aunt took her to a restaurant with her cousin. She ate the same way she always did. Only this time no one was smiling. But she was too engrossed to notice that. That was one of the best meals she had had in a while. While going back home she got tired and rested her head on her grandfather’s lap. A while later she heard her aunt saying “she eats like an animal”; but this was only said after they thought she had slept. She heard everything. She didn’t dare open her eyes, she wasn’t a bother that way. She never forgot about it.
She remembers hating Diwali, being alone on Holi and not having anyone to bother on Rakhi. All the festivals were the same to her. Lifeless. She hated the noise of Diwali; was always made fun of for standing in a corner covering her ears like her life depended on it. She remembers people laughing; sometimes forcing her to burst crackers by holding down her hands and placing them on her wrist. She remembers locking herself in the bathroom to escape. She remembers crying.
She remembers standing in her neighbour’ house on the morning of Holi with a water cannon carefully packed with coloured water. She remembers ringing the bell. She remembers wasting some water outside the door just to demonstrate the efforts she put up with. No one opened the door. She remembers leaving, confused; kinda humiliated. She remembers quietly leaving the water cannon outside her house, telling her parents maybe the neighbour were out. She remembers locking the bathroom door. She remembers crying.
She remembers going to her cousins’ house to tie Rakhi. She remembers her cousins playing, opening each other’s gifts, sometimes fighting together. She remembers being jealous. She always asked her mother why she could never have a brother. She doesn’t remember what her mother said. She remembers tying rakhi to the dog and the servant. The only people present at her house she could play with.
She remembers her mother’s muffled crying and her grandmother shouting for her to go away to her house, both of them. She remembers thinking what all she would take along because that seemed like a more important issue than the reason for leaving itself.
She remembers never getting the same sweets that her cousins got, when she visited her grandmother. Sometimes none at all. She remembers her mother telling her she’ll get the sweets for her, later. She did too. She just didn’t say anything while eating. She was never a bother that way.
She remembers her grandfather taking her to all the places he went to. She liked him. He was good to her. He held her in his arms. Her grandmother never did. She remembers stretching her arms and following her grandmother to the kitchen. She remembers her grandmother not looking down, too preoccupied with cooking the right amount of dal, totally oblivious of the right amount of acceptance a human was desiring from her. She remembered telling her mom about it and her mom bundling her with a hug. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t feel the need to.
She had a good childhood. She was pampered.She faked a cry when she fell down from the bicycle just so her mom would come running down and pick her up. She looked forward to the evenings her dad would come back early from work. She kept her change of clothes ready in her bag pack which she flung on her shoulders as soon as she heard the car honk; she rushed to sit inside the car. They would drive down to this amazing hotel surrounded by trees with a world class swimming pool and a little island between it. She loved that place. The gardens were so big she ran with her daddy; demanding him to chase her. He always caught up with her; she knew he would. She told her daddy she wants to jump into the pool from the little island. He complied. They swam for over two hours every day for 7 years of their life. 7 magical years. That place was like home. Sometimes better. She remembered it like a map. She had a lot of memories there. One day she almost got mutilated if not killed at that place. They were driving back home after swimming. She was in the car at the back seat clinging to the door with her head outside the window taking in the cool breeze. The car was moving, obviously. There was a turn; as the car turned that corner the door she was clinging to suddenly burst open – it was an old car – she was still clinging. She didn’t let go; she was lucky that way. She flew out still clinging the door, now hanging. She held tight. The car stopped. The occupants at the front got out, gasped, held their breathe for a moment and asked if she was okay. She was great. She had just missed the shot of falling out the door with the back tires of the car going over her neck.
Her dad bought a new car in less than two weeks. She chose the colour, obviously, but only when asked. She wasn’t a bother that way.
Author Bio : Nivedita Singh, from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. A participant of Quaterly Creative Writing Competition (OCT-DEC,2018).