Chapter 3, Pt 2 of 4
INCIDENTS CONNECTED WITH THE SURGERY AND PATIENTS
I was more than grateful and happy with those first new things, which Sheel bought for me out of his earnings. But strange as it now seems, I never then could utter a word of thanks to Sheel personally.
Why? Well, I had never been brought up with the idea of expressing my appreciation in words, especially to my near and dear ones. In our Indian homes in those days, we showed appreciation through our obliged expressions and an inward promise not to forget that kindness and to do something in return.
Nevertheless, I was greatly attracted by this instinctive habit of the British people to announce their thanks for every little thing to strangers as well as their near and dear ones. When Sheel sometimes took me to Mr and Mrs Selby’s home, I admired the way Mrs Selby stressed the importance of saying “ Please“ and “Thank you” to her four-year-old daughter, Joy, who in return would very proudly repeat these conventional phrases of courtesy in her bright squeaky voice which charmed us all.
Mr. and Mrs. Selby (they preferred to be called Elsie and Les) and grandma Selby who lived with them, were always ready to shower praises on little Joy and were forever uttering the phrases “Good girl”, “Clever girl “, “Pretty girl” and so on. Even when she got a little older they did not relax in their efforts to pat her on the back at every little excuse. I could not help realising that in this respect our Indian parents were very different, because they as a rule gave very little praise (in some cases none at all) to their children. They did not believe in it and were of the opinion that unnecessary praise made the growing children rather conceited.
I was struck by the light-heartedness and the sense of humour of the Selby family. How could anybody laugh, sing jolly songs and cut jokes for hours on end, was beyond my comprehension. I could not help realising that in the art of living I was very backward. I took most of my duties too seriously and it was impossible for me to get them out of my mind However, I tried to follow the example of my new friends and sometimes, especially while in their company, succeeded in shaking off my primness.
The entertaining in the English homes seemed to be much more elaborate and formal than I was used to in India. It is true that we mostly went to them by invitation or after letting them know that we were coming, and we did not stay there longer than they wanted us to, but to me the whole principle of entertaining seemed different.
In India, whenever some friends and relatives came to us (and they could come when they liked, sometimes they even decided to come after ten o’clock at night, quite unexpectedly) my mother would not breathe a word of complaint, and would welcome them with open arms, cook fresh food for them and spread out their beddings. They usually came to stay not for a few hours but for some days or even months.
The Selby family and the other few friends we made in those days never showed a colour- or race-bar towards us. This might have been partly due to the fact that we were not just ordinary coloured people and that Sheel was now holding a high and respectable position in the town and that they had got used to him, but I heard Mr. and Mrs. Selby and even grandma say many a time (and I believe they were sincere in their expressions) “No matter what colour skin we have and what country we are born in, we are all God’s children and we must love each other.”
I am proud to say that in this respect, I have been very fortunate in Laindon. I do not remember a single incident when I was made to feel inferior to anyone else because of the darkness of my skin. It is as well that it happened that way for I have an instinctive dislike to the various bars between human beings, and would have hated to live in an unnatural atmosphere.
I felt pleased with my new house into which we had just moved. The only thing I wished and prayed for then, was to have the efficiency to look after my good husband and to do my duty towards the patients.
I knew I had a long way to go and to gain a lot of experience before I could acquire that efficiency. But my training started with a great velocity. I felt as if I was plunged into a fast moving stream of events.
Let me relate some of them to you.
We went through a severe winter that year or so it seemed to me. Much of my time was taken up with bringing bucketful’s of coal from the shed and feeding the two open fires, one of which heated our water. Another continuous duty of mine was to run to the telephones and the doorbells. It was just as well that I had to be on my feet nearly all day long, otherwise I am sure I would have felt the cold more than I did. But strange as it may sound, I did not catch a single bad cold that year.