Thursday, August 04, 2005

I didn't know that the end of my stay with my grandparents was nearing and also probably the end of my feeling of security. I was seven years old and had completed my second standard education. Suddenly one day my uncle Ramakrishnan said that I had to live with my parents henceforth. I was aghast. "Why?", I asked. I didn't know that such a day would ever come when I would have to be away from my grandparents inspite of being in the same city. I ran to my grandpa and cried. My grandmom heard me say that I was going to be sent away and started worrying. My grandpa just smiled and consoled us. He called my uncle and told him that I should stay with them at least for two more years. But my uncle never paid heed to this. I realised that when he called my mother and handed over my school Leaving Certificate to her. For the first time I saw my name printed on it. It said - Nandini Srinivasan. I pointed out that it was a mistake and that my name should be Nandini Narayanan Iyer. I had seen my aunts write that suffix. But then I was told that the suffix is generally the father's name. But my grandfather was elder to my father and if we have to respect our elders as we are told, then why can't we take their name as suffix? And also, my mother's name had that suffix, didn't it? It didn't, I was told. Only my father's name mattered. But I wanted to take on my grandpa's name. There was nobody to listen to me.

My memories of my father were very grim. I had the image of him as a huge man with a moustache. I was scared of him. My grandpa never had a moustache. I remembered that this man had pinched me hard when I refused to go to him, when he called me. Nobody saw him pinching me but the mark stayed on. He would play with me on his stray visits to Kerala, where I stayed with my grandparents before coming to Bombay. And I would play with him too, not because I liked it, but because I was scared of being violated. I was scared of being beaten or pinched. I never liked him. I didn't know him. How could stay with him? I shuddered at the thought. I knew my mother but I never trusted her. She was a stranger, she was nice to me now but she too had beaten me for not listening to her when I was two years old. I didn't want to listen to her then. I didn't think she was worth listening to, only my grandparents were worth listening to.

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