Introduction: Find the One Lie!

I was born in the late sixties in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA and for the first three months of my life lived in a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, my arrival was at the tail end of my parents’ five year long stay in this fiftieth state of America and from the tropics the small family of three ventured straight into the Tundras. The next two years of my life were spent in snowy Canada. I can’t really tell you much about the time spent there because, honestly, I don’t remember a thing. The pictures look good, with me in snowsuits, romping around, accepting the snow, relishing it. Far cry from the misery ice and snow now invoke! My pictures bear a striking resemblance to my Anoushka.

The Canada phase lasted two years after which my father, who hails from an extremely patriotic, freedom fighting family, felt the urge to return to the homeland. My parents were terrified of raising smelly, LSD’d flower children in North America and so we moved back to India via Europe. Once again, the pictures show that I had a wonderful time in Europe. My Mom tells me I picked up rocks on the Swiss Alps and having seen Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, imagined myself a moonwalker, proudly displaying my collection saying, “Look Mommy, Look Daddy – Moonwocks!”

I am told I displayed amazing poetic talent as well and my first composition celebrated the Niagara Falls region with the following words, “Green, green grass/blue, blue sky, looks nice, I rike it!” (I couldn’t say “l”). Alas, the muse fell asleep soon thereafter!

No moonwocks, or inspired poetry in Patna, Bihar, where we landed next. After Patna we went further into interior Bihar to a place called Sabour. It was a pleasant place, truly bucolic, with mango trees and flower gardens surrounding our government quarters. My Dad got an award for growing the biggest tomato there, I still remember walking up the stage to receive his award for him.

But this is when the music changes, these were the years when I slowly learnt how to be fearful of all my teachers and shy around all fellow students. The sisters at Mt Carmel Convent School had a tendency to smack the kids with rulers and so I developed an interesting habit of never turning in my examination papers. I used to take the exam but then stuffed the papers into my satchel for Mom to discover after the report card showed mysterious absences, especially when she knew she had dropped me off in class. Those were some trying times for my parents. What can I say, the penguins terrified me!

Idyllic Sabour, where time stood still, was left behind in a quest for a better life and so began the New Delhi phase. My shyness and quirky student habits became more pronounced here, much aggravated by my extreme shyness and fear of teachers. I kept marking my own work with a red pencil, impersonating the teacher’s initials, confident in my seven year old forgery skills. I even sat on my bookcase for several months because my chair had been stolen by the class bully. My younger brother who used to spend his time in my classroom after his kindergarten hours went home making dire pronouncements one day, “Mommy, Didi doesn’t even have a chair in class, she sits on her bookcase!” Took quite sometime to shake off some of this irrational fear and even longer to shed the shyness.

The episode where I lost track of the rest of my Delhi School of Economics, Class of 1987 classmates, during a Jim Corbett park tour, and got hopelessly lost in the jungle, can be attributed to my extreme shyness. I branched away from the others thinking I wasn’t cool enough to stay with them and walked away to a point of no return in the middle of the jungle. Soon as I realized I was lost I started looking around and spotted elephant droppings. I decided to follow this trail back to safety until the ground shook beneath me and I turned to see an enraged wild elephant running toward me. I remember thinking “musth”, that must be “musth” and running like crazy! I kept running, stepping into soft warm heaps at various places, finally stepping behind a tree while the elephant ran ahead. I waited awhile, until I could breathe normally again and then continued along the fragrant trail, all the way back to safety and civilization covered from head to toe in prickly burrs and other stuff. There were a couple of friends who had missed me and were worried about me. How heartening that was!

That was the last memorable experience in India. I left the country in 1988, to reclaim my birthright of US citizenship.

I have been in the US for eighteen years. I met my husband Anil in the February of 1991 and married him on the American Independence Day, July 4th, 1991. Indian weddings are usually characterized by the groom and his family leading a procession (Baraat) to the bride’s home, where the marriage usually takes place, but in my topsy-turvy world I drove my rickety car, family within, as “Baraat” to Rochester, New York, where Anil and I tied the knot. We used the long holiday weekend for a brief honeymoon in Toronto and then it was back to work.

We’ve settled down now to a quiet life in New Jersey, Anil, Anoushka and I. We are wrapped up in our own lives for the most part until at night, before bedtime, the Internet opens up its virtual doors to a wonderful circle of friends and family the world over.

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