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chapter 1- 23 Jodhpur Park
For many this was a house build by a stalwart our very own grandfather, some defined it was a house of two brothers, others specified the house with four sprouting sons, for few regular meaningless pin-pointed the house of that disgruntled little tot who merrily bruised a boy trying to mess with his 6 month older brother though the fairer sex babbled within the house of two sisterly brides beautiful beyond words, for marked few it was the house of a petite look girl who lived fortified from all forces residing in 23 Jodhpur, as for me the house had a Gatsby effect on that new generation emerging , a yearning to attain the unattainable. Now for some of you who is thinking why I am out today describing my old house that is about to get a new shape and dimension by the promoter who promises to build lavish floors for my family. No this is not about the new comings but a tale delineating an era, a lineage that draws deep in our veins and will continue to run till we drop the last sigh.
The Curtain Raiser
I was growing up in a four floored house amidst my uncle (Jethu),aunt (Mammam),my father(Baba),Ma and of course my four brothers. What amazes me now is growing with brothers ranging from 14 yrs to 7 yrs elder is like growing up with more than one father. It took me until end of quarter life, to remember that all the way, I’ve forgotten to celebrate ‘BROTHERS’. Especially post marriage helped me to decipher how lucky and fortunate I was to have born amidst such brothers. I was always woken up by Ma and to her morning accompaniments like devotional music or songs of Tagore ,Some bitter herb soaked water(God knows then why I consumed them without arguing) and her usual errand of drilling a notion the more you sleep the more sloppy your fate lies!! It may happen that the birds have forgotten to chirp but my mom was always up. Don’t remember ringing the bell ever in 23 J P, instead walked in through an open door into the vast swathes of motherly warmth where mouth-watering snacks were getting cooked for those school-returned hungry tummies. In today’s time my aunt and mom can make a livelihood by feeding people.All Masterchef challenges will fall short under the culinary tactics of our moms. My uncle and dad used to travel up north to mostly Kanpur and Meerut northern parts of India, for completing their never-ending construction projects and supposedly had their own share of struggles.
The supporting characters
On the other hand, we had all possible luxuries that every child desires, we had our chief chef (Rabi Da)whose red hue mutton curry could take your breath away, he had his subordinates who were not spared if they failed to obey his orders. Then we had the famous domestic helpers and the famous full-timers with an unique out-and-out streak that takes us all over to a laughter ride even today. I heard growing up that we had enough riches and opulence stored in this house. But my parents always reminded me that we are any normal middle class joint family with trials and tribulations where self-respect was of paramount importance. I can muse on those happy times forever capturing everyone in my minds’ celluloid. I was taught at such delicate age to share a Five Star or Dairy Milk with all my brothers and it appeared a public unfair to the little ‘ME’. After finishing my school I found out the feeling of ‘Thine and Mine’ had no dictionary in our lives, now I know why my elder brother happily gives his much loved Toyota Altis to both his brother-in-laws to take few rides on till he resides back to India.
How the ‘Mending wall ’of our house recognised all-time greatest neighbour; our very own ‘Banerjee family’. They say ‘good fences make good neighbours’ I vehemently differ that we didn’t need any walls and with every passing year ‘The Banerjees’ came closer as a family. Banerjee household is gifted with a profound professor, an enigmatic aunt she had a gift of a gab to foresee the future, their super talented son now a British Citizen and a flower-like gifted daughter, now an artist. They are so similar to us making me wonder why we aren’t born of the same clan or vice-versa. My Dad has two sisters, though I always remained close to my eldest aunt .To me she is my ‘Miss Marple' in her case Mrs Marple, Headstrong, fearless, calculative investigating things she found fishy with a powerful bent of mind are her assets; after knowing all the stories, secret, rituals of the our clan. Even in her 60’s she remembers all of it. However much I claim to learn the legacy from her at back of my mind, I know that I can never match up. She is nearly perfect in keeping them and remembering them.
I thought all of us underwent a smooth wedlock day due to my aunt's perfect knowledge of the ‘Mitra wedding Rituals” at her finger-tips. One year back she lost her ‘all-positive husband’ and we lost our warm-hearted uncle and our home, their first ever son-in-law. Both of them gave us (apart from pure love) two loving well brought up brothers. One of them, after cracking hotel management, has risen up as a senior manager in a top hospitality chain in our country; he has gifted me a lovely niece thereby granting me with the title of ‘aunt’; on the other hand the younger one is a budding fashion designer, a known name in couture /fashion weeks extending to even film fraternity and not to forget this year my husband’s Fifa world cup viewing partner; still happily unmarried son of our house!!
My youngest aunt has a son. My uncle (Jethu) lovingly named him Rishi Raj(meaning kingly sage),taking a good look he had no traces of sagely quality forget about kingly!! Though his facebook status shows he a ‘sole proprietor’ none of us actually knows what he does. Once looking at his facebook profile and wanting to know whats up with him, on seeing his update as ‘open relationship’ made me lose all the more. My early thirties littered me up, some bonds on earth develops with time, some we make out of choice and a few happens due to spinning tricks of ‘that force above’ others are born with a surgical birth. I share that latter half with him. I may get annoyed at him or even my words can make fun of him but on the contrary I can never fail to admit he was or remains my one year youngest little brother, for others their all-time-favourite ‘Kala Chand’ or simply ‘Kala’(his nick name). My youngest aunt was named P.P. None of us had answers as to why P.P or so much so my dad was allotted with the title of ‘KANK’.
My Two Moms !!
I grew up hearing this word' Kank' from Bordada and Bappadada (my immediate first cousins) and I had the toughest time trying to relate to this word’s origin.To this my Mom cleared my doubts that (Bordada), the first born in our house was the sole giver of such unique unworldly sounding names. Today’s this word ‘kank’ appears to be far more stylish and chic than ‘kaku’, ‘kaka’ or whatever Bengali colloquial names for an uncle could be. As for me I called my uncle ‘Jethu’, my father’s elder brother. I don’t need any photograph to remember him; simply closing my eyes brings back scenes of how he caught me by slap of my wrist when I was busy gossiping with my‘ friends for life’ and once censuring me ‘only Adda Adda Adda’ !!! Little did I know it was a valued warning for me as for the word ‘Adda’(means meaningless gossips) is the sole reason why Kolkata remains nothing more than a retired person’s paradise. And the word ‘Adda’ became parlous of middle-class houses in kolkata even today. He had an art of making sarcastic comments sound beautiful. One 12 o’clock night coming from my other dwelling ‘Zee TV Networks' he saw my steps going upstairs .The next morning he asked me how much I earn, hearing the figures he patiently patted my shoulders saying ‘I would give thousands more, stay at home in the nights’.Little did my small brain know it was ‘the age’ catching him up that on seeing his blooming daughter first and later his niece coming home at such fearful hours.He was inflicted by a chronic disease that has shaken us all.
I missed him all the more on 5th may 2009( MY Wedding Day) regretting not treating him with ‘my best cooked’ ‘his much loved’ Mutton korma or even introducing him with my husband. For no other reason as such but only for him I would love to go Austria vacationing as he told me once it was his best spot in Europe. His two sons will agree first how aptly he called their mother ‘Bourani’(meaning the queenly bride). I will always visualise my aunt’s (Mammum )beautiful round face with flawless white skin without indulging any Forest Essentials, Bodyshop or even much higher Elizabeth Arden. Her charming grin from ear to ear can melt your heart at a stroke, a stone of diamond pricked on her perfect nose and that big round red dot dominating her pretty forehead. She continues to pamper me even today with her never ending fleet of gifts. How covertly she furnished us with our pocket money, some odd hundred rupees for having chocolates or snacks. Mind you the denomination was huge for pocket-money standards then! If any one of you see her yester years frames she comes no far to the Classic Bengali heroines of her age.
As for my mom is concerned it will take several pages to describe her electric nature. Her favourite high is to call guests over and treat them to those dishes, well mastered over the years. Sometimes she can even get over-bearing, mind you. On a daily basis, I see multi-tasking people galore. Very few of them fascinate me. The reason is because I’m too used to my mother treating multi-tasking like a piece of cake. The powerhouse of energy that she is, that 'high-strung syndrome' trait has often won her embarrassing titles from the more passive members of her associations and friends. You’d think that would act as a 'nip in the bud' for her. But, hell no! And she never tires of some more. The rest of us have now given up expecting her to calm down and give age its due in other ways than just flaunting the silver streaks in her hair. In my prime college days, while discussing life and love in general, she once disclosed she was the coyest, sylphlike of a girl who got married in her delicate 18 and one day, endowed with three children with a husband who was battling with the outside world to make his foot firm probably he was game for anything. Naturally she had to resort becoming a lioness protecting her children from the big bad world outside. She was always a fighter.
Considering my father’s health keeping him in the safe hands of my brother and sis-in law in London she goes to fulfil her dream of touring Europe. At her age when others will simply shiver hearing the idea, going with a ‘strangers gang’ she did it with no fear so much so managed to shape few friends on her way. I can blurt out today, for many she can be tough to crack, some may say she is too direct ‘in your face’ but very few (including her children of course) know she has a child-like heart and only have a yen for love, a feeling that is not artificial or rather superficial in her words .I know now, how much she loves me, calling me in the busiest hour of my day just to say ‘ did you have your lunch’, how she came running once in Mumbai when I needed her the most, how she took care of my long hair and my troublesome pimple skin, how she initiated me to step outside Kolkata just to make me strong and independent , Today how she misses me even more by simply texting me ‘wish you were here’ .Even today she fails to see why her husband, my father always pin-points flaws in every good-looking women or even today’s’ film actresses the reason being – life has unveiled him the ‘ perfectly beautiful face’ of my mom.
To be continued....