Chapter 2, Pt 4 of 4
MY FIRST HOME
However, I scrubbed, polished and did the weekly wash. I did the cooking and prepared some Indian delicacies which as they melted in his mouth, unfailingly succeeded in arousing his tenderest feelings towards me. He came home to all the meals and insisted on dining in the kitchen at a scrubbed wooden table. After lunch, he would even have a snooze (and sometimes indulged in snoring) sitting on a hard wooden chair, his head slightly bent and both his hands folded in his lap. How anyone could snore in that position was beyond my comprehension.
I myself, however, could not relax properly. I was unaccustomed to doing so much work in a standing position, and consequently as soon as I sat down to meals, or relaxed, my back ached dreadfully. I thought of my dear soft-hearted mother more during those first few months of my arrival here, than all the years afterwards. But I was resolved not to breathe a word about my discomfort and pain to Sheel. I had made up my mind to fight my battles alone and to learn things the hard way.
Two incidents of the time I spent in “York Villa” stand out in my mind. The first one happened when one morning, while in the middle of cooking lunch, I discovered I had no salt left in the pantry. Taking some money, I rushed out of the house and banged the door behind me. I was not accustomed to these Yale type locks, and did not realise that I had locked myself out, until I returned with my purchases. I remember running back to the shopkeeper and asking for help. He brought his extending ladder and after entering the house through one of the bedroom windows opened the back door for me. I felt rather guilty about letting a stranger enter our house without Sheel’s consent, but I just could not bear to stand outside for long and to neglect my cooking.
The other harassing experience I had was when I picked up the receiver to answer my first telephone call. As luck would have it the chap at the other end of the line was a proper Cockney and apart from the “Yes” and “No” I could not understand a word he was saying. I asked him his name and address several times but he was slightly hard of hearing as well. So after struggling for some minutes, I gave up the ghost and stood there almost in tears. I felt I was defeated and that Sheel was right in saying that I would not be able to tackle the work alone. How could I be a success, I pondered, if I could not even take the messages for him?
But these discouraging and morbid thoughts were soon banished from my mind when I thought of my dear father and his teachings to us. “There is nothing in the world you could not do if you tried hard enough,” he used to say. These words acted like magic and my usual optimism was supreme once more. I promised to myself there and then that I would always answer the telephone myself. I kept this promise for years and even when afterwards, I had a resident maid, I used to run to the telephone myself.