Till I completed my novel URMA, I was sure of having spent my entire childhood in Iran, a country I have extreme adulation for. This is a given I grew up with. And then, came questions for interviews and I had to answer questions about my childhood never raised before. Never had to be answered accurately. I remember my parents returned when I had completed 12th and I came to India when I was in year 4. I left India when I was in year 1. Other than this, I did not calculate much. Was never needed. Never thought numbers were of any importance. But when I counted years on my fingers, they didn’t seem as much as I had always felt them to be. I was confused, yet I brushed it aside. Then, a dear friend shot me point blank saying what are you talking so much about your childhood in Iran? Count on your fingers and they aren’t even double figures. After all, you stayed 3 years initially and then if you calculate all holidays together – still they do not add up to a double figure. I didn’t have much to offer in explanation. I just let it pass. But I couldn’t take it off my mind. I just couldn’t detach. It was like a bullet had hit right through my heart. No one had ever questioned my devotion to the country I love. I had never questioned so much myself as to why I had such feelings myself, right up till that moment.
But my friend was right in a sense. For a normal human being it might not be such a big deal as may be it was in my case. A few things are extremely personal. And one does not want to justify them either. However, it just weighs too much on your heart to let it pass.
I know of one of our Iranian friend who got married to an Indian and stays in India now with her sons. Though she is an Iranian herself, her sons do not speak Persian and I do not think, visited Iran again. I would think, and maybe I am wrong, do not have any memories of Iran though they also spent childhood in Iran and their own mother is Iranian. Why me then? I wondered. I sat and revisited my childhood again. I was restless and I needed an answer for my own peace.
I got an answer in my childhood, in the way I was separated from my parents. I read a lot after my friend had posed that question to me and had added to it that I do not remember such details of that age. I read research papers on childhood memory and amnesia and its clear that a child’s earliest memories can be way back till the age of 3 years and prior to that is called childhood amnesia. Also, it’s an individual capacity to remember specific details. Another factor is gender. Females score higher on details remembered. More important is the parent-child relationship.
I sat and thought with a heavy heart. A part of me that I had killed and buried, I revisited. All my holidays spent in mountains of Iran. I remember a car journey of over a 1000 km every holiday. The rest of the days in India, I would only strike the days off the calendar to go back again. We as a family were extremely influenced by Iran’s culture. When we returned, the culture was kept alive in our home. My sister who was born in Iran, but brought-up in India, speaks Persian fluently. We mostly speak Persian at home. Mom prepares Persian food at home and the only anecdotes and stories we have heard are those of Iran and Iranians. You can call it obsession or whatever. We truly are a unique lot, I must say and my husband is a witness to it and I am sure, it took him a while to adjust to us. Now he also speaks a few phrases of Persian and we eat the Persian food. Not only that, my daughter has a fancy for the language and is learning from me because she is fascinated when I speak with my sister and mom and she wants to join the conversation. And all this happened much before my novel, URMA took shape.
Today, I come across as an extrovert. I remember that I was depressed as a child. Then, couple of years back, I dug my old diaries and stumbled upon one which was dated 1989 and in that, besides the pages of Urma dated back then, I found a part of me. It was like re-introduction with my old self. I had been so depressed that I had no hope from my life. Life really is like waves – low and high, low and high again.
In my diary, I found a child who found the most beautiful life and just when it was perfect, it got snatched away from her. I found a child who scribbled with that state of mind. Being an obedient child, she could not express her displeasure. She adapted. After every summer holiday she returned to the country to attend school without her family and without her sisters. That pain can be only experienced and not expressed. And again, this is different to different people. One might not be so affected. I had forgotten how affected I was – till I found myself in those pages dated back, in 1984, 1986, 1989.
Grandparents were never harsh, they were wonderful and the most loving people one could imagine and I was under the best care possible. Will be indebted for all the values they have ingrained in me. However, here we are talking of an internal vacuum for parental love alone that cannot be compensated by anything else.
I hope someday my friend reads this and realizes that one discussion raised a tsunami of questions in my mind and I couldn’t concentrate on anything till I satisfied my quest for my past.
I also learnt, love and attachments do not have a reason and one should topple things in the way trying to justify them. What is, will remain – etched. We just select a part of our memory – a drop at a time. Sometimes a part that soothes us and at others a part that perturbs us. That’s how sometimes we have happy dreams and at others nightmares.
May we have lovely dreams ahead to cherish and look back upon 10 years hence?
(P.S.: Images are not mine and courtesy image owners and for illustration purposes only)