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Chapter 2 - The Ace of Spades
Born with a silver spoon
As a child what struck me was round marks on dilapidated walls of our rooms probably the reason I relate to E.V.Lucas’s ‘The face on the wall’ that well.To the extent fantasizing our great ancestors are coming back through the walls trying to disclose the hidden secrets locked up in these walls to this poor ‘ME’. Every room, every nook and corner of 23 Jodhpur has a tale to be told. The room downstairs listened to the melody of strings played by Bordada even in a busy weekday. ‘Buddada’ as I called him is the eldest son born in our house. It was a jubilee to have got the first heir to this mansion block. As heard from my aunts he too had the naughty streak but everyone including his own mother was not allowed to scold him. I feel he was born with that sterling spoon. And of course he was the 4-year-old ‘Nit Bor’ or the baby groom in his uncle’s (Kank) marriage.
As a child he had a fondness for dogs. Further, every morning someone in the family turn by turn had to sketch a picture of a dog furthermore he has to approve the drawing before going to school. My mom told me he was too attached to my father (his uncle) as a kid. He used to sleep with him hearing all folklores and horror stories. As a kid he probably didn’t approve the idea of my father bringing a new member in our house thereby someone coming to share his space in the bed. HAA !!! Little did the innocent mind know his new aunt (kakimoni as he calls her) will make for him one fine morning a perfect sketch of a Labrador. He was elated and that very moment the house saw a friendship kindling between the two. Since that day till today they both have kept the friendship ignited. He has always come up to share his pent-up emotions to Ma and I believe he gets the right guidance from her as well. What a relationship a nephew with his aunt. A bond build with trust, consistency in friendship top layered with love.
Sports & Exra-curricular life
Now coming to his sports life he was in competitive cricket when young and played first division and Under 19 Bengal at age 15.5 years which I think has been a big highlight of his life. He has been a University Blue in cricket as well. He was 100 % accountable for pushing his younger brothers to play games and sports. How proudly he claims today that all his younger brothers (Bumbada, Bappada, Bubaida) are all fine sportsmen excelling in more than one sport. Few days back he spilled the beans of how my father inspired him to be in sports. While returning for the first time from UK, Bordada had worked as a waiter in an Indian restaurant there and with his first ever hard-earned money he acknowledged his kank (uncle) with a VCD of Mike Tyson and James Buster Douglas. He strongly felt it was the gift best ever for a man who inspired him into sports.
His keen interest in music is also worth sharing .He was probably the first one to introduce Bob Dylan and an American band formed in 1965 in California. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae…yes the Great Dead. Recently he shared with me, having seen their concerts in London had a metamorphic effect on him, in simple words acted as life changing events in his life. !! He was the first to have graduated from a prestigious university in UK.He is the only one to take the risk of starting a business of creating an educational platform or rather an opening to pursue international studies for his next-gen. I will certainly ask him one fine day to narrate this journey of his. With time and years he has certainly taken it up to alarming proportions, though I have never discussed work with him .I managed to get a sneak-peak of his career while doing my R&D (Research & Development) for his space. His work has mainly revolved around Sussex and he has been the country head for Sussex in India for 18 years and of late 40 other Universities. Bordada have formalised several Sussex tie ups in India including JNU, TISS and Symbiosis. This unit has been the best International recruitment unit for Sussex for ten years in a row. The only study abroad unit in India to have received a venture capital fund from Bennett and Coleman. I know only a soupcon of his accolades, there must be many more.
Spell of crosswords
He never forgets to credit his teachers who preached him right in the study room of 23 JP. In his case Dorris Rodriguez (my granddad used to call Dori), His profound Jethu (Prof Ranabir Banerjee) and Gopal Sir had been his guide at different stages of his life. I feel he has pulled up the Gatsby show in his life at some point as for today I find him composed. No one can escape his panache even my spouse agrees to it as he happens to be his smoke companion few very times they met. His knowledge about music, movies, academics is laudable, he too adorns the west, more specifically London .Bordada had a spell for crosswords,Many times it was a tough deed to enter his ground floor office with scattered newspapers all over. That office room also managed to get a glimpse of an insanely passionate man all the more excited to solve a word game on paper. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the ‘time’. His zestfulness and spiritedness has often risen so high that he has forgotten his own existence therby making him a man rare. Joyda an ardent fan of Bordada, a great companion, a cracker jack to ‘JP thek’ or gathering often gets puzzled sitting with him for solving crosswords , trying to locate the right answers for Bordada’s out of the blue questions like ‘Will you have tea? Saying yes comes directly his another question –How many cups???? Joyda laughs before trying to locate the answer, probably like all of us he too gets enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life the man posses.
The Fashionista !!
My very dear second cousin Tubaida handed me over the knowledge of Bordada’s quirky fashion perspective. He pens down ‘His good looks, his impeccable British mannerisms, his sporty yet uniquely lazy demeanour added with his bold yet balanced fashion streak could have easily given the “Virats” and the “Yuvis” ( The Indian fashionable cricket stars) a run for their money in the present day scenario. How beautifully he expresses – ‘When most of his brothers idolised him for his academic milestones and cricketing skills and hence followed suit. I was probably the only dark horse in the family who got fascinated by his sense of fashion and followed him blindly even to the extent of how he wore his trousers low or lazily half tucked his shirts and even copied the way he walked with a light shrug in his shoulder.’ Yes he was the one who have supported Tubaida when he decided to go the unconventional fashion industry. In our Bengali household Bordada introduced in the wardrobes of all his brothers the finest weave composition of pricy Sarbori Dutta (Well known name in India for bringing a monopoly in Men's fashion).Even the son-in-law keeps one in his collection. While shaping his character in my blog I experienced a tender feeling of curiosity to know this man more and more. All said and done his heart is in a constant, turbulent riot, the riot to achieve ‘the unattainable’ and ‘the unfulfilled’.
As for me I thought.....!!!
Who says you can’t repeat the past …why of course you can.I have still preserved the kitchen set he gifted me from wonderland toys, taking me to Banthai was my first introduction of Thai food on my palate. Others call him Raja which means ‘king’ justifying the fact he was the only lucky kid going to school sitting like a prince on a convertible Dodge Kingsley. The history of 23 JP says my grandpa had bought this car from legendary actress Suchitra Sen( yester-years top rated actress of Kolkata) As for me I have always felt he could have made a much deserved CEO or a Partner of a firm with first class oratory skills. I will have difficulty to write in words how he is or was to his parents. He has struggled for 5-6 years running around the top-notch doctors trying his best to revive his father from the malignant. He stood together with his younger brother (Bappada) like a shield – standing solid beside his mother giving her assurance about their father’s revival that he will come back gallantly defeating ‘that enemy’ in the battlefield. . Perhaps my eldest brother has seen the most, some big losses yet bigger gains in this house since 1974 -2014.
Born with a Cool Briliance
The now much preserved bed of my parents saw three advancing naughty kids carrying out Bruce Lee stance; in the process one of the gang members (Bappada) hits the back side of the tough teak wood furniture with leaden bolts. That very day the room witnessed a puddle of blood and the weeping of the bleeding child. The faint stitch mark on his forehead bears testimony to the occurrence. He had varied names his earliest name was Pagla Dasu which later became Ghisu ( the famous character of Nukkad) a famous Indian series.He was also named by my maternal uncle as ‘Dekhon Hashi’ in English meaning catching sight of anyone makes him smile all the way. I believe from then onwards he emitted that positive energy. As a kid I heard he had a grin like a Cheshire cat.Our two-roomed family kitchen has merrily witnessed him eating tons of rock salt just like that. There was a man who sits with a stall of pickled dried mangoes and all such delicacies in our locality .Bappada used to buy ‘Amshies’ ( dried mangoes with out-of-the world black coloured chutney) from him on his way back school. Adding further he was a special privileged customer of that ‘pickle man’ it’s only him who could buy on Credit. Once he ran up a credit of Rs 50/- for buying packets of pickles and ‘Amshies’ .In 1989 Rs 50/- was equivalent to Rs 1000/- in today’s time. This theory has come from his much treasured friends not me. He had a technique to put inside his month one full packet of pickle on a single shot. He was very fond of “Rabi da’s Masala Muri” and that caused Jaundice twice but he was unperturbed!! On the other-hand he was the least problematic kid in the house, was such an obedient child making no troubles on the dining table. Though his all-time-favourite plate was ‘Beulir dal and aloo posto’ he could even clean his plate neat slurping down simple starchy streamed sticky rice and mashed potatoes with a dash of butter on it. Well there is a small anecdote about his herculean strength as well coming from his brothers and friends. Once in a local brawl my elder brother (Bumbada) was getting badly squashed by a small-time local gang-lord, he was standing few meters away merrily smoking observing the show. He saw a situation where my brother received some tough blows, what Bappada did was calmly opened his flip-flop came near the junkie, striking some blows just using his powerful foot. On the spur of the moment the battered fellow fell straight to the ground knocked out. Many have compared him to the epic ‘Bhim’ who was born with the strength of 100 elephants in his case it was buffaloes !!
The Ghosts love him too!!
For I know he has a much bigger mental strength too. Bappada to whom I grew calling, is today an accomplished Londoner as if he has a domicile of origin in London. His definition of homecoming limits meeting his mother, big brother, his treasured J.P thek friends and our house. He may discuss shortcoming of a London life but I know how much he loves that zone. How both his parents remained stress-free being around him. He tells me he has been bestowed with a vision to see supernatural spirits and has seen my late grandfather sitting calmly on a chair. He has confidence in seeing his own father someday.
He has a special inclination with spirits or may be the latter keeps on following his trail. I heard a conjuring style story from him once in London during his struggle days he with his all-time comrade Sauvik Bannerjee aka Tinkuda sharing with two more boys, were staying in a manor house in Wood Green north London. The first floor was an office of a travel company and they lived on the 2nd floor. Every night at 2 0’clock the lan-line of the office used to ring. After stepping down the stairs and receiving the phone, all the time the boys including Bappada found out it was a blank call. No one used to answer but there was a faint sound of a breathing that was clearly heard. One day Tinku dismantled the phone removing the wires and everything thinking it will be a peaceful night for the first. The clock ticked 2am, to their sheer surprise this time also the ring continued Trinnngggggg..Trinnnnngggg Bappada descending down the stairs notices the sound of ringing invariably stops. The four boys were left with nothing but a pool of mystery. The house soon became a closed book for all. But Bappada continued to live in the same locality so much so even bought an apartment in Wood Green. I assume he loves spirits and spirits in return love him too. His elder brother says perhaps he is inspired by Bruce Wills in ‘6th Sense’.
Apart from my joking there is another trait which I adore the most – One of the biggest hallmarks of Bappada is his level-headed nature and his capacity to analyse things. I have never found him angry or displaying temper at any given situations though he discloses to have broken a laptop in fits of anger. Heard from bumbada(my elder brother) once Bappada became seriously annoyed when he failed to receive Bappada in Mumbai airport( the reason was he fell asleep) . It took Bumbada several months to set ones hand on Bappada. As I am concerned I have always found him keeping one’s cool. Furthermore I have never seen him talking negative about anyone or even indulging any tittle-tattle. Ghisu as he was called (by his elder brother) was an excellent student and never stood second in class till Std VI and till the time he came to Delhi. In DPS he got a few ‘Ustads’ as friends and started to do weights and according to his mom his “prakhar buddhi’ or his sharp brain eloped and he came down from 1st to 3rd in class!! Bappada was good in games and sports and still continues to play cricket at Botany Bay in London Hertfordshire league. His skills and temperament has got better with age and he did exceedingly well last year and was ranked the player of the year, I am certain staying 15 years in London he must have had a gruelling journey but ultimately came out with life of ease.
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself !!
I have never seen a man as content as he with life, confidant to his fellow friends, his mom’s best friend, a heart rare, and a movie buff as he spotted not-much-watched Rajesh Khanna’s Red Rose to an award-winning Iranian film ‘The Separation’. His elder brother thought he belonged to Film Institute Pune instead of Sussex University and he could have made a very good director of masala films in Bollywood but as fate would have had it he was pushed by his father mom and his elder brother to do Electronics instead!! There is a unique feature in him that is out of the world whenever he perspires only three drops of sweat appears on his nose. It’s an unlikely quality indeed, was trying to ‘Google’ about the symptom I still came to nothing.
He was the first one to break shackles of a bore, a system of marriage with sheer family alliance. I tell his beautiful wife how envious I am to her fate. She an out-and-out vegetarian, cooks mouth-watering non-veg plates without tasting a bit. Her hand cooked biriyanis, chicken & mutton curries are blockbuster hits in streets of London. Their love story blossomed in Pune is no less compared to ‘Two States’. Hearing every bit of their love story from my sis-in-law has left me to love my brother even more – their first unpleasant meeting, how he used to travel by train from Mumbai to Pune just to meet her at the college gate, his endeavour and determination to convince a Kannada family to marry a Bong , in spite of all the upheavals they tied the knot on Feb 2004 with the due consent of both the families.
I heard she had impressed my uncle and aunt on her first shot. Talking on this line I recollect a hilarious incident that happened with her in our house. My youngest plus naughtiest brother (Bubaida) had seriously advised her singing a Bengali song at front of her would-be in-laws, hinting her; this gesture would certainly conquer their hearts. She innocently approved the idea asking him to teach her a meaningful Bengali song. The evening when my uncle was sitting eagerly to hear his beautiful would-be daughter-in-law she began confidently – ‘Bhoot amar poot, phetni amar jhee,ram luxman shathe ache bhoy ti amar ki’ ( it is a Bengali song for kids) not knowing it would sound very eccentric on the part of a daughter-in-law to sing this cradle-like-song for her in-laws. The room in 23 JP that very day heard few thunders of laughter coming from both my uncle and aunt or even anyone present in the room. Since that day till today the Kannadiga girl has mastered speaking the language so fluently that I look at her with awe.
Bappada became my trip adviser in London in 2012 showing me all the landmark sites, until the end of time I will treasure my punting experiences with him in Cambridge, treating me and my husband with his hand-cooked recipes, sharing Jaffa cakes over horror movies, getting us introduced to some awesome Turkish cuisines, hanging out with him in Golders Green over a cafe latte’ or mocha, giving me updates about the ‘true sale’ fashion stores thus encouraging me to ‘shop till you drop’ , midnight ‘addas’ with him and his comrades, his lovely weekend drives and many more. Even going with a 7 year older brother to a casino joint Grosvenor in Leicester square was so much fun. Sometimes while drawing my family tree my friends have questioned me is he my first cousin or my own brother making me ponder what to say ????I say he is my best brother my elder brother !!! In silence I pray to give this brother of mine all the happiness in the world
He is the best 'Mitra' Son
Bappada loves London ,Pan Parag and everything about Great Britain. He doesn’t ever regret being an non swimmer or he never-ever indulges in any water sports in any beach destinations.The reason being water came as a dreadful devil in his life nearly choking him.
Once Bappada went speed boating in Atlantic in Brighton and he did not know how to swim. He had another pal with him in another speedboat called Ashish who was a swimmer. There came a big wave tumbling him about 1km inside the sea. He must have held his breath for some time, hallucinated the faces of his parents, praying God to come for his rescue… as luck would have it Ashish got hold of him and they floated till the Pamela Anderson’s of Brighton came to the rescue. He says that he slept in the beach for an hour, frightened and promised never to touch the sea again.
His elder brother sums up saying ‘I have been blessed by God to have got a brother like him and with age he is becoming more of a friend, philosopher and guide whilst I am getting senile’.hahaha!! To this he says –‘ Dada had been like a father in my life and so there was no reason for him not to do well .To me he is the best Mitra Son this house has ever produced.
Jethu was a master in the game of cards
My uncle (Jethu) had a huge influence in both my brother’s life. He was the one who triggered on their minds to make a life abroad by pursuing international studies. Jethu (my uncle) was a good Hawaiian guitar player and learned guitar from Kazi Anirudhha ( Kazi Nazrul Islam’s son). He has done many good performances as a guitarist and has played with people like kankan (piano accordian) and Jashoda (tabla player).As a child I heard from my father that my uncle had a sweet tooth so much so he used to figure out a comfortable corner in their Dhakuria house and ate soundless some 50-60 rossogollas not even putting any mercy to the left over sugar syrup. He as a child had a very sharp-edged mind. On larger part Jethu executed naughty tricks but at the right time he slipped through leaving my poor Dad no room to escape. He was a Champaign in the game of cards , his favourite hangout place was ‘Bandhob Samaj’ a club formed by his comrades. Every evening was well spent by playing endless bridge games, spades and hearts but he specialised in the game of bridge.
Similitude with Sam Pitroda
A son never forgets...
Whenever he used to win he came home with a box of 'Rabri', a bengali sweet calling his other sweet tooth partner (my elder brother) bumbada to share his triumph. The greatest gift ever for his elder son was a deer that he got from Betla Forest in Ranchi. The first time his elder son fought with him was for his English pronunciation. He argued why he spelt instead as inostead AND in spite as inospite. His father told me that their teacher ‘ Niranjan Mastarmoshai’ taught him so. I too recollect a similar fight with my father spelling wound as ‘yound’ and many more such weird pronunciation of the English language. He had a wry smile behind his Sam Pitroda beard which we all loved, to this sometimes his elder son used to call him Sam!!
He had shared some amazing father-son equations with both his sons. As for the elder one he was most worried about his fanciful nature telling him once ‘See your younger brother, he is so matured and sensible look at you, you are so whimsical Raja!! But I know deep in his heart my uncle enjoyed this streak in his son. My uncle once took his elder son to the steel authority of India not informing him took him to the room of Bhishan Singh Bedi (Former Indian Cricketer) Bordada was totally taken aback. My uncle had taken special appointment from him to provide some words of advice to his son, an aspiring cricketer then. His father always dreamt he would take up his cricketing career to a height though this dream of his couldn’t be fulfilled as Bordada went abroad .After completing his computer systems for 2 years once Bordada called my uncle from Brighton saying he was completely bored and wanted to pursue medicine .After this Jethu did not speak to him for 3 months as a result his whim-wham got vanished for the time-being.
Though he says his main accolades in work ushered when Jethu was not well or even after his demise thereby concluding ‘that stands out as a mission not accomplished for me’. To this I defer to agree he has always been watching this son of his, even from above with that ‘wry smile’, enjoying all his new ventures and medals. There is no doubt about it that Jethu was a perfect father who worked every step thinking to give his family a well-to-do life. Once Jethu told Mammam –‘Our elder son has an eccentric trait but he does with so much style’. Few days ago while interviewing Bordada about his father, my uncle he said Jethu was very supportive of his work. He still remembers how his father gave him 60,000/- for placing an ad in Hindustan Times Delhi and said he should make the most out of it and immediately should lay the first stone. Since then there was no looking back and Bordada made it all – So a son never forgets.
There is only one God his name is Death.
With his younger son too he was close-packed. He had always believed in him knowing so well his younger one was the most mature. Even when he was unwell, he used to tell him – Set everything up in London I am coming soon. I have always found my uncle standing calm and maintaining ‘a cool’ even in a make tight situation. Probably now you know where Bappada gets his cool’. My uncle came up in Pune as an initiator to convince the kannadiga family to allow their eldest daughter tie the knot with Bappada. Jethu had a prowess to paint his speech with such an arrangement of words leaving people open-mouthed. The entire family from the girl’s side came to meet my uncle and aunt , he amazed everyone by asking a steel ‘katori’ or bowl for resting his smoke ash knowing very well the word ‘smoking’ seems as alien in this house.
To this I can only say – If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him. Further assuring the daughter’s father not to bother about two cultures’ differences rather to honour the decision of two individuals who dreamt to grow old together hand in hand. The two individuals are their very own son and daughter and as parents seeing them happy is all a parent desires. His daughter-in-law confesses it is only because of her baba’s (father-in-law) undertaking that both of them on 22 Feb 2004 were declared as Man and wife. The irony of the situation comes now, after tying the wedlock the couple had come down to the hospital rather than in wedding venue to take his blessings. Apart from his Sam Pitroda beard , his wry smile he also had a kind of voice that follows up and down, for people who cared for him will have difficulty to forget it.
More than anything he has inflicted the importance of ‘bringing home the becon’ in other words getting accomplished in life. I remember in 2008 after a gap of 4 days I went to visit him in AMRI, seeing him in ICU closing his eyes supposedly sleeping all I planned was to touch his forehead and leave, little did I bent to touch his forehead he instinctively pulled my hand close saying – ‘Buri finally you came. How is your Adda going’ I somehow managed to withdraw my tears coming down just smiling. It was like a moment of truth in my life realising ‘love’ is much more than those three little words or any given definitions. He used to get elated to see Bappada when each time he came to see him from London assuring his son quickly of his health stability. I could actually see him getting well as he saw the face of his younger son, I could know he must truly be feeling ‘fit and fine’ around him. Once he had almost become cured coming back to 23 JP, doing his usual errand ,hanging out in ‘Bandhob Samaj’ made me think – He is finally back but as fate would have it he left us all and 23 jodhpur park in late 2008.After losing Jethu I realised it – There is only one GOD and his name is DEATH. And there is only one thing we are left to say to DEATH ‘Not Today’ .My uncle must have said exactly these words-‘Not Today’.
The non-living things of 23 JP has acquired life too..!!
The tale of 23 JP continues… Even the kitchen utensils have produced such lavish Bengali spreads for the never-ending fleet of guest. The temple room has served as evidence to the unlimited prayers my aunt chanted for his ailing husband, when my uncle got shifted to AMRI for an indefinite time period. That one window pane where my expecting mother after two sons desperately waited for my arrival, those sprawling high windows that can be shaped into a room in Mumbai standards saw a friendship of two girls, spending hours together chit-chatting, yes this is how I got my first friend Koyel Mitra now Basu. The spacious back courtyard of 23 JP saw my brothers playing badminton in winters, cricket in summers or even when it poured torrential the courtyard flooded with rainwater; saw the boys playing football almost like a water-polo. Even the window grills in our rooms felt the touch of a small hand stretching out in an attempt to touch the rains, the ground floor office getting disturbed on a sleepy afternoon hearing the ring of that old black telephone of 23 JP.The 12 seater dinning table which saw my uncle and father for the last time-sharing a light moment over a cuppa. The central hall which welcomed every new member, witnessed the’ quite bride’ about to carry forward the stride.