Monday, August 11, 2008

Bad boy.

That I was far from the ideal son to my parents is now apparent to me. In fact, my performance on that score was far below par, nay dismal. I must have been pretty self-absorbed, insensitive and indifferent child. Take my knowledge of my parents' antecedents, for instance. All I know about my father's father is the name, Keshav. From hearsay, I know that his son spent his early life in Navi Wadi But that's about it. About the parents of my mother, whose maiden name was Manak Ajinkya, I'm totally blank. Her elder brother who lived opposite Roxy Cinema apparently brought her up and gave her away in marriage. Her second brother, a qualified physician, had migrated to Great Britain probably at around the time of World War I. (This too I came to know much later in life accidentally when my mother asked Manna, my college friend, who was sailing to London for higher studies to try and trace her brother's whereabouts. He could not.) The third brother lived in Gamdevi with his family. Her younger sister, married and with three children, lived in Nowroji Street in her own house close to where I live now. My mother studied in the Kamlabai Girls' School situated in the same street, opposite my aunt's house. It seems she considered aborting me because she was going to have a child pretty late in life but was persuaded not to do so by her friend and physician. (Just think of the huge opportinity of writing an angst-splattered tale of "The man who almost never was" I've let slip through my fingers!) As I was the only son in the family, I was over-pampered My mother was involved, at almost every Hindu religious feast, with some puja-paath or vrata. She used to recite every now and then Shivalilamrut (Tales of Lord Shiva's Miracles), particularly the 11th Adhyay (chapter). We used to have Laghurudra and Satyanarayan Puja every other month or oftener. On Shravan Mondays and Shivaratri, I used to accompany her to the Shiva Temple at Babulnath. On the Ram Navmi day, we used to visit twelve Shri Ram temples. Vata Savitri, Gauri Pooja, Diwali ... you name it. She used to do it. She also used to go to an astrologer as well as a Guru for a while. I remember there was a lot of fuss and furore when I touched the feet of this Guru on my mother's instructions at my thread ceremony. I did not have any friends to talk of till the end of my high school days. So, I used to accompany my mother wherever she went in the evening. After I started going out with my friends, my mother took my desertion of her in her stride. She was always generous, nay magnanimous, about my trespasses and transgressions. Even in her last illness when she was suffering from blood cancer and died on 28 July 1962 in Bombay Hospital, it was Ujwal (of whom both my parents were very fond) who took care of her. I abdicated my responsibilty as usual, owing probably to a fault line in my character. This pattern of behaviour has been repetitive. I have abdicated my responsibility as husband and as father as well and repeatedly. Remorse has been my companion for quite a while. There comes to mind, however, what Aldous Huxley wrote in his Preface to the 1946 reprint of Brave New World:

"Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoiong. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean."

So what amends should I be making?

At (Aldous Huxley Recollected An Oral History page 83), Huxley's daughter-in-law/Matthew's wife, Ellen Hovde, recalls how both Aldous and Matthew refused to acknowledge that Maria Huxley, her mother-in-law, was dying of cancer. Maria who had watched over Aldous like a mother hen right from the day they were married found this denial very hard to take. On page 104, Theosophical Society's Sydney Field, a friend of the Huxleys, mentions the oft-quoted account of how Aldous read to his dying wife from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. After Maria's death, Aldous told his sister-in-law, Juliette Huxley, that Elieen Garrett, "a genuine medium", had contacted Maria who told her that she had been helped by what he had done for her in the dying moments. Was that how he made amends to her, I wonder?