People say running away is difficult. I would say running away is easy; not knowing what to do next is hard. I’ll tell you why…
I think I lived most of my life before I turned ten. I had my first crush, heartbreaks and here I’m talking about running away from my home.
It was a summer day. Maybe a Saturday or a holiday, as everyone was home. Can’t be Sunday because I don’t remember going to the church that day.
Like most of you might know I have an elder brother. Even though he is just 1.5 years older than I am, he used to act like my grandfather.
I was playing in the living room with my cheap Barbie, can’t even call her that. The one in which her eyes shut when you lay her down? That toy! Creepy too.
My parents and brother were having an argument. My dad was sitting at the dining table he gifted me on my birthday. Yea.. Our birthdays used to be an excuse for my dad to host his friends and buy things needed for the house.
Anyway, back to the story. He was in his mund and baniyan. My mom was standing next to him in a nighty. She kept walking in and out of the kitchen. The argument was getting heated. I was four then, so Ashish must be five or six. My brother got really mad at my father and rushed to his room.
Unaware of what was going on I continued to play. He walked out of his room with his school bag and walked past me. He stopped. “Archana nee va” (Archana, you come!), he said looking at me. I looked up and saw my brother’s angry face. He asked me to take things that I would need and come with him. I went to my room. I took my play school bag. I remember it was a pink and green bag. A hand-me-down of my brother. I opened it and took out all the books. Clearly that was the last thing I would need or would like to see. Somehow I was happy to get rid of them and stuffed the bag with a few clothes and toys. My fake Barbie couldn’t fit in the bag so I carried it in my arms.
I walked past my parents and stood next to my brother. We were expecting this brave act would stop Dad from letting us take the next step. Ashish and I knew I was his favorite child. I still am. Whenever Ashish needed something from my parents he would ask me to ask them. He would stand behind me and say “Ro na! jor se roh!!” (Cry, cry louder). And I would follow. It worked a few times till my smart mom crackled it. I really think my mother would be a great candidate for CBI.
But this time nothing worked. Dad opened the door for us. Ashish looked at me and signed to follow him. Now I had no option but to go with him.
We got out of the house and started walking down the stairs. I heard Amma say, “Papa entha cheyanne… Avare vilikyu.” (Papa, what are you doing, call them). Guess it was working. If you can melt my mom, you can melt anyone. But strangely my dad was adamant this time. He said, “Avaru pogatte” (Let them go).
We walked slow enough to give them the opportunity to call us back but fast enough to protect our self-respect. All our acts went in vain.
Appa went back inside the house and asked mom to come in as well. They didn’t shut the door. We walked down the stairs to the next floor. Now the only man/boy I could trust was my five-year-old brother. He is the smart one between us two so I was sure he had some plans. That’s when I realized I had forgotten to take a bottle of water.
As we were going down I imagined us walking on the streets and maybe in future end up begging or a rich family would adopt us because of my cute smile.
Maybe we were going to the house of one of Ashish’s friends till our parents realized how wrong they were? What if they don’t come searching for us? Anyway I had full faith in my brother. Like I said he was the smarter one. My thoughts got disturbed by a dog’s barking sound. I saw my brother freeze. There was a white street dog below our building waiting for us. Fine, let’s fight it, I thought. But my brother took a U-turn and ran to our home. I followed him without thinking much. Like I said he was definitely the smartest but maybe not so brave and it’s okay everyone can’t be everything. I thought we were going back home, defeated. He stopped right before reaching the flat. His steps slowed down, as if he was thinking what to do.
So the apartment we stay in has two flats on a floor with a small common area between them. I saw my brother sitting down there. He said, “Aaj se yahin rahenge (We will stay here from today).” It felt like ghar — ghar on a much larger scale. I took things out of my bag and kept it at different corners. Setting up home was something that gave me joy even at that age.
Our parents came to the door to see us but no one called us in. The neighbor aunty stepped out. She smiled at us. “Aaj yaha khel rahe ho? (Are you playing here today?)” she asked and we smiled back at them and said,“ji.” She somehow tiptoed her way out.
We started painting, drawing and playing with our toys without any cut off time. It was much better living outside the home than inside. We were left to do whatever we wanted.
After a while, lunch was served and my parents sat down to eat. We thought we would be called in but there was no sign. They didn’t even look at us. I don’t know why you have children if you can’t take care of them.
They finished their meals and went to their room. My brother and I stayed out. We didn’t want to go in without them calling us. You know we have some self-respect. We stayed.
After a while our self-respect started taking a back seat. What’s the point in having one if you don’t have a life to save it? We slowly packed our things. There was no-one in the living room so we kept everything in the room and went straight to the dining table. They food was still kept and Amma had kept two plates for us. She had made our favorite chicken curry with coconut milk and there was no way I could have missed this.
We happily ate. Our parents joined in. No-one asked questions and everything was brushed under the carpet.
Years later I asked my brother what was the issue. He said, “yaad nahi hai yaar… Per Tu kyun mere saath aayi? (I don’t remember dear. But why did you come with me?)”