In mid 60’s it was perhaps the dream of every Indian to fly to Europe or America to follow the dreams which Indians were made to believe in by their former British Masters. The Independent India, and on the other side, Pakistan, had nothing much to offer to the young graduates, for the opportunities were limited and poorly paid jobs literally forced them to seek their abode somewhere where they could see their dreams materializing into reality.
Monika was born and brought up in Delhi, in the part which is now called New Delhi. She was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Sharma. Father, Rajat Sharma was the owner of a cloth shop and mother, Renuka Sharma was a teacher in an English Medium School. Renuka had chosen the profession because she was in love with the language which the British Masters had brought with them and very kindly bequeathed to the Indians, who with their hard work and dedication had succeeded in, to a great extent, mastering over.
When Monika was born, Renuka was very delighted, not for being blessed with a beautiful daughter, but for the reason that she being a teacher could definitely see her daughter grow up under her vigilant eye of an English Teacher. Renuka herself was studying to be a doctor and in the near future she was going to be called Dr. Renuka Sharma. After the delivery it was difficult for one year to give required time to her studies but she managed everything very efficiently and won her MBBS degree. Her husband had some other plans; he wanted to sell his business in Delhi and look for better opportunities in USA, and he did succeed in his endeavor.
Sharma family came to New York in 1968. It was the time when America was dazzling the whole world with new machines and discoveries. The world had accepted America as a Super Power. It was not difficult for Sharmas to settle down. Rajat Sharma started a small shop and mother started working in a hospital.
The mother was waiting for the bird to enter the cage; she had her right hand on the door of the cage. But, the bird would hop from one place to another, sometimes on top of the cupboard and sometimes on the window sill. Renuka was afraid lest the bird should fly out of the window; she was calling the bird, with a few grains of rice on the palm of her left hand. The bird was a kind of magical mirror which brought retrospection of the events which she was never ready to erase from her memory.
Her darling daughter Monika was the little bird of her memory. Jumping and running in her laced frock, rolling on the sand on beach, yes, she was her bird. Everyone called her bird in the house. She ate like a bird, twittered like a bird but she had no wings which could enable her to fly away. She hopped from one branch to another. In India the branches were in plenty, the lap of one aunt or another…
Renuka wanted to make her a doctor, and father a lawyer. There was no dearth of money, encouragement, and the guidance which is required. Only at the age of two, Monika was able to read and write, which was no less than a miracle. Her parents were very proud of her.
“What happened at school?” was the question which would always be waiting for the little child on her return from her school. Renuka was, no doubt, a concerned mother and she wanted to do her best for her daughter. She was always skeptical of the babysitter, for she had a notion that in her absence the babysitter sat in front of television and made Monika do the same.
When Renuka was free after the daily chores in the evening, she would often make her daughter sing some nursery rhymes.
“Mummy, will you go to work, tomorrow?”
“Yes, my darling, I have to, otherwise who will pay your school fee?”
“I don’t want to go to school, tomorrow.”
“No, that is impossible. You have to go to school.”
“No, we go to the park.”
“We will go there Sunday.”
“No, mother,” the bird would insist.
She would somehow persuade her little bird to agree with her, and for this purpose she had to be bribed with some different types of goodies.
Monika reaches Grade I after K.G.
“Mom, who do you love most?”
“My darling bird,” the mother caresses her hair.
“No, mother, that is not correct, my friend Johnny says that everyone loves himself most. You love yourself most, not me!”
The mother was shocked and she was at a loss.
One day, while coming out of a departmental store, Monika asks for some money to help a poor beggar by the side of the road. The mother scolds her, “He is not a beggar. They are drug addicts and they waste their money on drugs and once the money is finished, they trouble the passersby. We should not encourage them by giving money.”