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Sunday, December 2, 2001
Books

A girlís search for a home
Review by Jaswant Kaur

Somewhere to Go
by M.L. Sood. Abhishek Publications, Chandigarh. Pages 142.
Rs 295.

HOME is not merely a dwelling place for a child but it is where a solid foundation for future is laid. It is also a place where the child feels free to express its desire, show its anger and at the same time love and is being loved by the parents. The kind of love, care and affection it gets from its parents makes it feel wanted and safe.

Not only this, home is the place where it learns the basic lessons of living and develops the faculty to judge the right or wrong. In other words the child becomes a social and cultural being. But what happens when a child lives away from parents? Does the new home mean the same? Does the child grow normally. No, certainly not.

The book. "Somewhere to go" is a story of a 12-year-old girl Ratia whose parents have left her. Her father has married another woman and settled in Bihar and her mother elopes with another man leaving her with her grandmother to struggle and be a victim of her parentís misdeeds. While children of her age go to school, life is different for Ratia. She has to live away from her grandmother, dusty playground and the school routine. Her small world is of a domestic servant of a mistress of a rich house with all kinds of luxury.

 


She works as a housemaid to earn a living, to give her dadi and herself two square meals a day. She has seen rich ladies loving their children and meeting their extravagant demands and the children uttering the word "mummy" which sounds so sweet to her, raising in her mind many questions: "Whose heart bled when she was hungry: Fatherís? ĎWhere was he? Living or dead? Motherís? Where was she? Will she ever come? Will she ever love her, fondle her?" These are the questions she asks herself.

Poor little Ratia tries to see her mother in her mistressís face and a younger brother or sister in every house she works. She finds nothing but disappointment. The mistress treated her more like a servant than a child who could do all impossible tasks which she could not do. While playing with rich sons and daughters was only to to make them happy. Her desire remains unfulfilled. She moves from one house to another taking every house for a home, a home wherein lives a mother, a father and a brother or a sister, a home where she could live always. But in vain.

Her search continues, hope survives. Everything was going on smoothly. Her wage was sufficient to meet her expenses. Her occasional visit to her grandmotherís house gives her lot of happiness and satisfaction. Suddenly, one day she hears of her grandmotherís illness. All is over. Her dadi has died. The girl does not know what she hss to do? Where to go? The only relation known to her is no more. Her only link to the world is lost, with no hope of revival. She wants to cling to something, to hide herself from everything. But there is no one to whom she can cling.

A week later she hears of her fatherís arrival. She is thrilled to hear the news. Suddenly the hatred she had for him fades away and she decides to go with him. She forgets everything. The very thought of going with him comforts her no end. Where? She has the answer: "In her motherís lap under the canopy of her father." So safe and happy she felt in his presence. Well, that is not the end of her sorrows. The home she has gone to is not the home of her dreams. It is not that the stepmother does not treat her well. She loves her and Ratia too starts calling her "mummy". The household expenses have risen. It has become difficult for them to have enough food to eat. Every evening her father comes home drunk and beats his wife. The rosy days are gone. The image she had of an ideal father, a father who cared for the family and fulfilled all the demands, is shattered. Soon the father realises the need to get her married, a simple way of relieving himself of a burden. Young men clad in best of their dresses come to see her. Their eyes riveted at her beautiful figure and attractive looks. She does not like them.

The only man she likes is Shivaram, a watchman in Ludhiana. At last she is married to him. She does not understand anything. She is not yet ready for the new life. "Where are you sending me, papa?" She asked innocently. "To your new home in Ludhiana. I have found the best man for you," he says. The idea of a new home revives her hope. May be this is the home for which she has yearned. And rightly she guessed this time. Her search ended.

The home she lived in is not so big as are the houses where she had worked. The man she is married to is not so rich but gave her enough food to eat, good clothes to wear and a protective shield around her. She feels safe and secure in his presence. Unbelievable it is for her. A small trickle of happiness in her life is not less than a torrent of happiness. What else has she expected from life? The new millennium had dawned, a new life is born.