27 July, 2021

'A Foreboding, And A Longing For Something Soft And Pretty'

Nayantara Sahgal turned 13 in 1940

'A Foreboding, And A Longing For Something Soft And Pretty'
Vacation began with a visit to Dehradun jail. We were used to jails, having visited our parents many times in prison. At 13, I could make the visit by myself, accompanied by my younger sister. This time it was to see my father and uncle. It was depressing, these jail visits. But both my father and uncle had this gift of making that time together almost fun. They were determinedly cheerful, making us laugh and asking what we’d been up to in school in Mussoorie. Their cell was enclosed by a high wall but faced a little yard. My father led us at once into the yard. As in all the jails he’d been to, the yard was blooming. He had green fingers and always wished to leave something beautiful for those who came after him.

We went home that holiday to a large, empty house. Sometimes Padmaja Naidu, a great friend of my mother’s, used to come and stay with us. I can’t recall if she came that winter, but we had our governess, Anna Ornsholt. Anna was the last in a long line of governesses my parents employed to make up for their frequent absence....

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