Friday, February 26, 2016

Making Daughters' Hearts Strong

Summer Sunset by Afroz Jahan

My earliest memory of my father, Anna, playing the "Scare Game" with us, is some time in the early 70s.  I think it was autumn in Delhi. The weather was cooling after oppressive heat. Heat that had been borne without air conditioners and coolers. Heat that had made blood rush to my face and show red under my brown skin. Heat that had enveloped me like a sleeping bag while sweat had been my constant companion.

A Family Eats in the Dark - Courtesy
In those days, it was common for Delhi to have power cuts, with nary a warning. Unlike Bangalore that published when and where there would be load shedding (and still do). And often the power cuts would be in the night.

So, the six of us would have candle-lit dinners; (till date I have never understood why they are considered romantic, for I associate them with no electricity). We would then clear the table, clean the kitchen, brush our teeth, change into PJs, crawl into bed and cover ourselves with a thin cotton sheet.
One night, when there was a power cut, all was pitch black and very quiet. Weak moonlight tried to gently push its way through curtained windows. Just as I was about to fall asleep, the bed sheet that covered me, moved on its own. The tops of my toes felt the downward pull of the sheet as it slipped from under my chin. I grabbed the sheet and pulled it up again and tucked it securely under my chin. Less than a minute later, the little tug pulled the sheet down again.

Frozen in place, every muscle absolutely still, my heart started to pound. I wished with all the power in my heart that the sheet wouldn't move on its own again. My worst fears of ghosts, monsters, and aliens all became clear and very live possibilities. And 30 seconds later, I felt the sheet tug downward again.
Paranormal Activity : The Ghost Dimension
Copyright Paramont Pictures

Do I scream for my parents, or keep still for the monster / ghost / alien to lose interest and go away? Intense fear  kept my body petrified, my heart pounding, and my mind racing with the worst possibilities.

Whoosh! Suddenly the sheet is pulled off me with a huge tug. I scream loudly. 

I hear my mother call out, "Yainree? What's happened?" as she rushes to my room with the sole torch we own, lit up.

And there is my father, sitting back on his haunches, head just above my bed, laughing loudly. Seriously!! 

My mother berates my father with, "What are you doing? You are scaring the girl!" 

By then, I have swiftly moved from intense fear to loud laughter with my father. All fear has gone tho' my heart continues to pound.

Anna's tucks me back in bed, calms my mother, and settles down for the night.

If you think this is a once in a life time event, think again! From early childhood till teenage-hood, on multiple occasions, my younger sister and I have been subjected to my father's invention, the "Scare Game."

My father has jumped out from behind a door or cupboard yelling "Booooo!!" He has floated on tip toe around a dark flat, torch lit, covered with a white sheet, making soft "oooo" sounds. He has let out loud witchy cackles from under beds. He had squeezed himself into small crawl spaces between furniture and walls, to slide a cold hand to tickle an unsuspecting back or neck or arm.

We never learnt to expect that Anna would do something to frighten us. He would repeat the events, and yet we wouldn't learn.

Each time we have frozen and then screamed.

Each time my mother has come running from wherever she is in the house to find out what has happened.

Each time my father has been caught laughing.

Each time my mother has asked Anna, “Why are you scaring the girls?”

Each time he has responded with, “I am making their hearts strong!”


  1. Literally rolled over the floor laughing at your comment on candle lit dinners ;-) ;-)! Contexts are so important to every perception!!

    Anna appears to have that magical balance between having the cheeky innocence of kids and the responsible thinking of an adult :). Amazing!