I think back on events from my childhood, and they seem to be wavy and shrouded in fog. A lot of my memories are in black and white, and the sound is garbled, as though I’m listening to them through the wrong end of a gramophone. I remember my father was very insistent that I learn English from a very early age. I cannot quite remember why, but there must have been a good reason. He would want me to speak in English with him, and not in our colloquial language (Bengali or Hindi). Most of the instructions that my parents would give in English would be unambiguous – like “Come here Ari!” and “Please be quiet!”. Such clear interaction allowed me to understand what was expected of me, and perform the task obediently.
Sometimes, my parents would use a phrase, that made no logical sense. Not that logic and reasoning were my strengths ever, but even to my under-developed brain, it seemed to make NO sense. I continued to work hard and try to find my way out of this “Phrase Maze”.
I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect my parents had learned that these phrases and comments were guaranteed to stop me dead in my tracks from asking any more of my usually irritating questions. My mom had a classic – “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?” – that question almost paralyzed me. My parents had never explained which was the wrong side. Adding to that was the confusion that the bed was set against the wall. So, there was only one side I could have gotten up. There seemed to be add up to the “Never ending” list of things that I just DID not get. I think I spent years wondering which step of my morning routine was causing the problem. Or, was it something I did before I went to sleep. The confusion lingered on.. I never REALLY found a convincing answer.
Even today, I hear my wife telling this to me sometimes.. And I feel compelled to answer, and not with complete certainty – “NO, I don’t think so”