Over and above working at a government office, Papa used to tutor in the mornings and evenings. He had hardly any time left for us. I spent most of my days with my mother and sisters, and sometimes with Suk-hwan, but I relished the few hours I used to get with Papa on Sunday afternoons, when he used to take me to the park or to the city. Holding Papa’s hand, I beheld the decoration in the city: lights and banners of advertisement. I liked to watch Lipton’s advertisement showing tea being poured into two cups from a fully filled kettle; when the cups filled, the kettle was empty and ready to be filled again with tea.
I cherished the 15 minutes I used to get every morning from Papa; in these 15 minutes Papa used to shave before going out for the morning tution. I used to tell him how I’d translated a piece of text from my dialect to English. I used to read the text, sentence by sentence, before and after translation. Papa would listen to me and correct my text if necessary. On some days, Papa taught me maths and grammar as well, mostly by listening to my answer to the questions, while his hand was busy with shaving razors.
Papa never asked me to shun the company of so-called bad boys; he never stopped me from watching movies and reading books. He used to say, ‘If you’re good enough, you needn’t keep a distance from bad people; rather you should help them to choose better options’. Later in life, I thought, this was the way he initiated me in Oneness. ‘Don’t keep anyone outside your boundary. Be with them.’
I was the most beloved kid of my mum. On those days chicken eggs were banned in the family for religious reasons. Mamma used to keep a few utensils and a petrol stove outside the main house to boil eggs and prepare poaches for me; since I was sickly in childhood, she used to take special care of me. I didn’t know whether my siblings used to get any share from this special outdoor kitchen. I returned the favour in my own way; I knew Mamma liked to read novels, but couldn’t find the time so, in the evenings when Mamma was engrossed in cooking, I read stories and novels to her from library books. While reading books, often I tasted the dishes being prepared.
As I spent most of my time with my sisters, I used to watch how they did their homework and prepare for the next day. This kept me ahead of my own class-work; I knew what to expect in my own classroom. Some days Suk-hwan used to examine me and my sisters with dictation; Suk-hwan often awarded the one who produced all correct reproduction of the dictated text. I won the award most often.
Both Mamma and Papa liked to play at cards and we developed this habit after them. I was addicted. Often I used to force my sisters to play cards with me with the threat that I wouldn’t take my dinner unless someone played with me. This was a big ask of my sisters before their exam days, especially when I hadn’t started going to school and hence had no exams to appear in.
I remember, on one Sunday afternoon, Mamma, Papa, Suk-hwan and I had been playing at cards for hours. We were not aware when it started raining heavily and our courtyard and the kitchen got flooded. Mamma and Papa had to run through the flooded courtyard several times to bring the food pots from the kitchen to the main building.
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