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By Nickunj Malik - Feb 01,2017 - Last updated at Feb 01,2017
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I loved hanging around our neighbourhood houses.
Those days, our front doors were never locked and the main gates were permanently open, so it was easy to skip from one house to the next without any obstacle.
All the aunties in the community were our surrogate mothers anyway, and did not think twice before feeding us when we were hungry, or pulling our ears when they were angry.
The ancient African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” was most applicable in the small coal town where I grew up because everyone was indeed involved in raising me.
When I was in kindergarten, I used to have my morning breakfast of milk and toast at our immediate neighbour’s house. Every day! Why I did that I do not remember clearly but it was something to do with their son being a fussy eater and his mom deciding that if I ate there, he would perhaps mimic me and, well, eat better.
But the real reason was that this boy’s mom wanted me to relate whatever happened in class to her daily, and word for word accurately. She would place me on her lap and feed me the buttered toast; all the while asking me detailed questions about her son’s school life. Needless to say, I loved all this attention and blabbered to my heart’s content, holding nothing back.
This was not a time of “alternate facts”, which as we all know now, is a phrase used by Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the US president, during a “Meet the Press” interview.
There she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statements about the attendance at Donald Trump’s inauguration, as president of the United States.
However, to my classmate’s dismay, I was not used to uttering any falsehoods.
Therefore, if our class teacher punished him for any misdeed, other children bullied him or vice versa, he got low marks in a test, he threw away his lunch and so on, everything was dutifully reported to his mother.
The poor chap would suffer the consequences of my action soon afterwards as his mom started disciplining him immediately. I ran away to safety and watched from a distance as his cheeks got slapped. I was afraid that a few of them would land on my back too, if I ventured too close.
It never occurred to me to tweak the reality so that the unfortunate boy was not at the receiving end of such harsh admonishment.
The nuns in our school had factored the “always be truthful” drill quite strongly into my head. I could not manufacture any “alternate facts” willingly.
This troubled me to no end, so one day I went to my older sibling for advice.
His suggested that I stop going to their house for breakfast altogether. I did not like that idea because no one made better golden brown, crispy, fried and buttery toast, than our neighbour. “Do whatever you want then,” my brother announced, giving up on me.
Next morning I got a brainwave. When aunty started the quizzing, I decided to answer sketchily.
“Tell me sweetheart, was my son punished yesterday?” she asked me.
“No,” I shook my head.
“Thank God!” she smiled in relief.
“He was just made to write,” I said vaguely.
“What?” she questioned.
“I will not throw my lunch,” I confided.
“One hundred times,” I added, sliding out of her lap.
Pammi Aunty was in Jordan last month. Who is Pammi Aunty?
When I was in college, I loved coming home to my parents’ house at the end of each term.
While I was in London last week, everyone on social networking sites, including Pammi Aunty, was wishing happy friendship day to each other.
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