Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Non application of mind.

I am often accused of a very serious crime: Non application of mind.
Take this for example…..
One morning when I was busy with yet another mindless crossword, I get this call: “you know ML Roy?” without waiting for a reply he continued, “the shop near triangular park.”
“Yes, yes,” I replied, I didn’t want to sound like a fool.
“Can you go there and find out if they have a rain shhhr shhhr…….” The cordless crackled.
“Eh, can you say that again?”
“you know a rain shrrr shrr…crackle crackle…shop…..”
“Eh”, only I said it in Bengali and as any Bengali will tell you its impossible to reproduce in any language, much less in a limited language like English…
“ok, don’t bother, I can see you are not thinking…I’ll do it myself.”
“no, no, you tell me once more, I can’t hear you”
“it’s ok,. You don’t have to do anything, I will manage…”
So I call my husband and narrate the conversation.
I learn that ML Roy is a renowned sanitary ware shop. (I had no idea, it’s not like I go running about buying commodes everyday…..)
And I was told:
“rain shower, cant you understand rain shower? Couldn’t you figure it out? You just do not apply your mind.”
“so should I go and get one?”
“Do what you want, don’t disturb me, I’m busy.”
So I look up the yellow pages, call up some sanitary ware shops, find out if they have a rain shower and arrange to pick it up and have it installed.
Now if anyone asks, I am a minor expert in rain showers, they have an arm and can be square, round or rectangular. The sizes vary too. And the water falls like big fat rain drops…hence the name.
The more I live the more I learn.

Or take this instance. My mother calls.
“you don’t talk to me anymore……you know the other day I called the girls and they just returned from school and they were having curd and rice…can you imagine, only curd and rice.” (Sure, Ma, on a hot day at 3 in the afternoon, it’s a crime) “they need nutrition, they are not getting enough nutrition, you want them to be tall…and when you were small I always ensured you ate fish curry and rice, it makes your brains open up” (no Ma, didn’t work on me, either the height or the brains) “and they should have eggs, have you seen what proteins they have and you don’t buy any fruits for them, when will you learn about a balanced diet and you give them that worthless maggi blah blah blah ….” I resign myself and listen…words beget words, so I shut up and listen…or continue with whatever I am doing with a few mumbles, then my ears perk up “…..haven’t been paying the rent”
“Whoa, stop, what rent, who has to pay?”
“Obviously the tenant, you think I’m talking about the girls, you just don’t like to think.
Ah. There we go again.

Or take this.
We’re at this fancy shindig party and everyone is busy kissing everyone’s cumulative backsides….we have to attend these social dos a lot. And I spy some friends in a corner, and make a beeline for them. On the way I have probably ignored the chief guest and looked through the host but I am undaunted. I have my drink in my hand and turn with the latest gossip that I heard on the way to the party, “You know, X’s wife ran away with her gynecologist…that old pervert ….” I feel a hand on my arm. I hear silence. X is standing next to me pretending to admire some flowers. My friends take me away. My husband says “you just don’t look around you and you don’t think.”

So the next formal do I go to, I resolve to be quiet. But what does a gal do when she’s decided to shut up? She drinks. One thing I’ve been blessed with is a strong constitution when it comes to alcohol. I can put away amazing quantities and not appear drunk. I am a quiet drunk. So I quietly sms my husband, skip dinner, or forget all I have eaten and go home. Only in the privacy of the car do I admit I may have had too much. Hubby grunts, drives home and sends me to bed. I lie in the dark and think I’ve escaped this one…….
Oh no. Next morning I’m looking at life though a jar of Vaseline, my tongue feels like it has been scraping paint off the walls and a marching band is playing in my head and my husband says, “you were drunk last night” (Bingo!) “ at these formal places you have to act like the other ladies and chit chat in the corner…you don’t think about these things.” I groan and say I’ll fight about it tomorrow; I’m just not in the mood today. Thankfully, sweetly, he gives up.

At the Bar Library, I’m the last to understand the bawdy jokes. I’m the one who gets kicked under the table when I launch on yet another embarrassing story and the one who’s glared at for speaking out of turn.
I believe I am at an age when I can say what I want and get away with it…because by now anyone who knows me knows what I am and the ones who don’t can go hang themselves for all I care!

A lost cause? Or just guilty as charged?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An ordinary man

My father was an ordinary man. He had ordinary hopes, dreams and fears. He grew up in a typical North Calcutta household and did not attend school till he was nine. He did his engineering from IIT Kharagpur and went on for higher studies to Glasgow University. That too was not uncommon those days. He returned to Calcutta sometime in the early sixties after his first wife left him for another man and took up service as a construction engineer with CESC. His family was up in arms as boys from well to do old business families do not work ( the singular reason for the destruction of most old Bengali business and zamindari families in Bengal!)or divorce, for that matter,...anyway Baba was not interested in the family business or opinions and found support from his father who told him to leave home, go through with the divorce, stay somewhere in South Calcutta and follow his heart. So that's what he did. Baba married my mother in 1967 despite a lot of odds....from various family members but as usual he had it his way.
Baba loved his work. When I was young I sometimes accompanied him to the work sites and power stations and I remember my intense fascination with the coal shutes which to me were like gigantic slides. My father was a gregarious happy man who loved life and living and gave of himself just as he gave of his wealth. We often had unexpected guests for dinner and there was always laughter and warmth resonating in the house. He always found time to be there when we needed him and made it a point to share in our successes and achievements. He was there for every school play, every prize distribution and school sports that I ever took part in. My father never hit us or shouted at us. One look was enough. He tried to instil in us the virtues of honesty, integrity and responsibility. He gave us the values and set us free. And if he asked me to do something, I dared not disobey.
My father did not win any accolades, never made the headlines. His picture never appeared in the papers, his name will not appear in history books. He is the common man who dreams of a home and someone to share it with. He is the man driving down to work each morning. He is the quiet man crossing the road early in the morning returning from his morning walk. The only uncommon things he had were his passion for yachting and surfing. Today I feel so proud, when people who knew him, and they are many and from all walks of life, be it a carpenter, a gardener, a CEO, a colleague, or friend or relative or just a mere acquaintance, they always have a kind word for him, some happy memory to share.....It surprises me that even after all these years they speak of him with love and affection. Otherwise, as I was saying, he was just the man next door, the ordinary man who took his family out for holidays, struggled to make ends meet sometimes, neatly organised his life so that should anything happen to him, his family would not have to suffer. In all respects he was very ordinary...if you passed him on the road, you probably would not even turn to look, a straightforward common man who was suddenly, cruelly snatched from his family at 59 by a common disease called cancer.
Yet to me my father is an extraordinary man, he is my hero.
He shielded us from griefs, kept us safe and warm and gave me the security of loving arms to cry to. When I was ill he'd sit by my side all night and never complain. Even when he was dying and the pain coursed through his veins and burst forth from his eyes, when he saw me,he managed a smile. Yes, he lives forever in my heart and each day I am grateful that I had him for my father and no body else. In my teen age years, I had one very common intent: to be different. And I always thought that no body understood me (how terribly ordinary).....during those troubled times when everyone agreed that I was insolent and "difficult", my father faced my tantrums alternatively, with indulgence and indifference. As a result, I never could shut him out...no matter what. For he never judged me and always had faith that I would turn out right. I did not believe it myself, even now sometimes I feel I have screwed up big time...but that faith also carries with it a lot of responsibility... I constantly try to live up to the expectations of the man, imitate him, be like him. In essence, be someone he would be proud of.
What I am going to do next could be termed as plagiarism. Theres this song by Dan Fogelberg called "The leader of the band"....and the words there somehow open my heart.... So with liberal liberties, here is my version of the song:

"A child of a large family
a business man's son
his hands were meant for luxuries
his heart was second to none
He left his home and went his way
to a dream he believed in
and he gave me a gift
I never can repay...

A peaceful man in his soul
denied a simpler fate
he couldn't carry a tune
but had music in his heart
He earned his love through discipline
A thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
took me years to understand

The others' lives were different
for they heard another call
they carry on in limbo
and I'm here where I stand
living out this life I've chosen
and come to know so well

I thank you for the dreams
and your faith in my goals
I thank you for the freedom
when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness
And the times you got tough
And Baba, I don't think I said
"I love you" near enough.

The hero of my life
is dead and his pictures' turning brown
but his blood runs through my veins
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I am the living legacy
to an ordinary man......

Monday, July 5, 2010


“Ma, Ma, can I not have my egg today? And there’s ‘shor’ in my doodh…yuck…and I said I don’t like Complan…can’t you get Milo? Please Ma. And Ma, Suhasini wants to have a dog, can we get one too? At least a kitten? And you know Suhasini’s father said he cannot teach her Sanskrit…I told her that you once got 3 out of 100 in Sanskrit. …do you think Miley Cyrus wears baby dolls to bed? When will you get me those socks, Ma, you know the ones I wear have become too small. Ma, you are not listening…I said I need bigger socks…Ma, Amisha is sleeping at the table. And I need chartpaper, don’t worry I’ll take six rupees from the tray and buy it myself in school. And Ziggydidi said when Amisha’s friends come on Sunday I can go and watch ‘Legally Blonde’ with her because Amisha’s friends are sooo naughty and VERY irritating and I do not want to be here… and you know all my friends are afraid of Amisha and her friends, you do like Selina Gomez, you remember her, the girl in that movie we saw at the hospital…and Ma, yesterday Amisha and Subhika made Ziggydidi chase them in the rain..do you thing Ziggydidi has a cold today? And NOBODY scolds Amisha,, even you don’t tell her anything…I AM eating…and you need to get another toothpaste, something minty. I like minty. And where’s my badge, AMISHA where is my badge, oh yes, it’s in my yesterdays uniform. Ma, do you think I can also call Tatjana and Suhasini on Sunday? Hey, have I taken my Arith CW book….ah there it is….And you said I could have chewing gum, so where is it? And my friends loved your cake, can we have brownies? Yuck you gave me sandwiches again today……Can I watch TV when I get home……..”
That’s Isha for you in the morning…a non-stop prattle jumping from topic to topic that goes on and on till she’s out the door. I just grunt in desperation while Amisha sits and groans and wishes she was back in bed…But a thousand grunts or shut-ups cannot quell my elder daughter’s tirade…. Not being a morning person, I stumble to the kitchen to make their tiffin and save for a few “shut up"s and “hurry up"s, bury my face in the morning Sudoku and wait for the storm to pass….In the 50 minutes it takes for them to have breakfast, get ready and leave for school, I am a wreck, praying for quiet…. Amisha sits at the breakfast table staring at the food and willing it to disappear until one yell from me gets her moving…Then she wants to jump back into bed and pretend it’s a Sunday….
I growl. I grunt… I yell. I resolutely tie their hair, pin their badges, ensure that they have brushed their teeth (Amisha’s the slacker) and mumble a quiet “bye”. They leave and peace descends…..softly, and I have ten more minutes before my day begins……..