Asha: Hello. I like my new bedroom. Daddy made us a swing. There are lots of beggars here. At first I was scared of them, but now I look at them. Daddy and I took some food to town and we gave some to a lady and her baby and a man with no feet. I felt sad because he had no money to buy more. I got scared when I saw a man whipping himself in the street. He doesn’t know Jesus. I have also started to get scared of Hindu music. Outside our house in Bombay, a mommy left her baby in a plastic bag in the gutter. Everyone was looking. I didn’t. I felt very sad and mommy had a pain in her heart. I like school and I like to write. I also like to sing this song, “Love is a flag flown high on the castle of my heart, there are flies in the sky let the whole world know.” I like doing concerts for mom and dad and Zoë. We have fun. We can also walk to the shop. Our children’s church is nice but it’s so hot and I get thirsty. I miss all my friends and I’m getting bored at home. I went to sleep the other night and Zoë was tickling my face. When I woke up I had blue pen all over it.
Zoë: Hello. I am very happy and I laugh and play all the time. I have also been a bit naughty. It doesn’t matter ‘cause I little. I got a wooden spoon called a “Bum Woody” and it can be sore but sometimes I laugh. I love to play with onions and garlic. The paper comes off nicely. I’m “itsy” all over from sweating. I’m a good girl now. I don’t cry at children’s church. The people pinch my cheeks all the time in the street. Sometimes it hurts. I just shout and say, “No! Don’t tuts me!” In Bombay a little girl in the street bit me and another one smacked me. When mommy blew my nose it was black because the cars smoke. It is very hard for me not to do naughty things. I look and look and it looks so nice and I have to do it. I am trying to be good. Sometimes my monkey does things, but mommy says he doesn’t.”
We thought we would see how Ash would do at school. We put her into the one that was attached to the church. She looked so cute in her red, white and blue uniform. It was shocking to learn how much 3½ year olds needed to know just to get into the school system. They knew the alphabet, how to write it and numbers 1- at least 20, as well as the names of plants, animals, parts of the body and Indian festivals. They also did exams, which put a lot of pressure on them and their families. We spoke to the headmistress and they agreed that Asha could do what she was comfortable with. Within a few weeks of her attending school I wrote: “Asha is becoming sort of ‘wild’. The Goan kids are very much like that so she’s probably copying them. It is hard to cope with. She’s teasing Zoë all the time. They are squabbling constantly. They are driving me mad!!”
We got a bit of conjunctivitis, which was going around the community. One in thirty people had it in Goa. They called it “sore eyes” which was an appropriate description. Apart from that we were all very healthy and got plenty of exercise walking around the town and market. It was like a gym circuit and we were exhausted by the time we got home. Zoë put on 2kgs in a month, which was amazing for her! The girl’s favourite was going on taxi motorbikes. Tony would go on one with Ash and I would go on the other with Zoë.
One day we were in a shop and a funeral went past. The music was so loud and so sad. Everyone stopped and stood still in respect of the dead person. When the music stopped, Zoë went to the door and shouted, “Don’t do that again!” We had a quiet laugh.
After three months we made another twenty-hour train trip. This time it was to Bombay to pick up our second-hand, blue and grey, four-wheel drive, Gypsy jeep. We were so excited. It took us sixteen hours to drive 670kms back to Goa. We did an average of 40km per hour. The National Highways were a nightmare; hairpin bends, potholes, demonised bus drivers and fatalistic truck drivers all added to the chaos.
We were happy that we would be able to visit our Goan friends in their villages and not have to worry about trying to get a bus back in the middle of the night with two sleeping children. Once we had waited for an hour to get a bus. There was only standing room on the steps but I managed to force my way in to the second row holding onto Zoe. There was only room for one foot so I leant against all the bodies around me as I balanced on one leg. Zoë let everyone know that they were “skossing” her. The driver was obviously on a mission to get home and so were we.
When the Watkinson kids, John, Esther and Grace, came home for the holidays we had lots of fun. We would pile all the kids into the jeep and head down to the beach. Tony loved being able to drive along the sand and in and out of the waves while the kids screamed their heads off in the back. Once, while we were all relaxing and getting some sun, a fighter jet flew really low and started firing blanks into the sand as if we were it’s targets. All the kids fell to the ground as if they had been hit. They lay dead still until the plane disappeared. Just like that and just another day on the beach in Goa.
Lying on our bed one night, after a particularly nice day in Goa, Ash made a comment. “God has worked so hard for us hey? God has done all the work”. With happy hearts, we all totally agreed.
So lovely Lin. A mum’s memories.