Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Of friends and complicated situations

S and A broke up after four years of marriage. And even though I've always known that they were not right for each other and that they had made a mistake in tying the knot in the first place, the news still shocked me. I guess I am still the conservative kind. To me marriage is an institution that two people build over the years. And to see it fall apart just shakes up the very foundation of my beliefs. But the fact remains we had known all along that S and A had a very shaky relationship. They were two entirely different people who had very little in common. We've known S for a very long time and he is one of the most sensitive and affectionate individuals I've known. He is funny and he can make anyone smile and he is always a joy to have around. When S fell in love with A we were all a little taken aback because A was very different from any of us. I do not know whether it was because she was from a different background and culture, or it was the way she was brought up, but she was dominating, materialistic and demanding. We never thought S would end up marrying A but when he announced that he was getting married, none of us had the courage to dispel his cloud of happiness by telling him how wrong they were for each other. Right after they got married A told S that she did not like interacting with his friends and she was not happy when he chatted with them in Bengali because she was unable to follow the conversation. So S stopped calling his friends. We hoped with time A would feel more secure in her marriage and things would change. But they got worse. A hated the life as a graduate student. She was accustomed to a life of luxury in India and could not adjust to having to compromise and scrimp to make ends meet. They fought all the time. I guess it boils down to having two very different people who had very different expectations out of life, being thrown together in a relation that neither of them were prepared for. So after four years of bitterness and bickering and following the birth of their son, S and A decided to call it quits. I guess what has me most disturbed about the matter is that this could have been prevented if S had realized before he got married that A was not the right girl for him. But he was blinded with passion at that time and nobody helped him see through the haze. Now, they have not only messed up their own lives, they have brought a little child into the world who will grow up not knowing a proper family. I think it is tragic.

And now I see another close friend P going around with the wrong girl. Everytime I see P and A together (this is a different A), I see tragic consequences written all over. P is a nice guy, very friendly, outgoing and honest. And although A could be a very nice person in her own right, she just doesn't seem to be of the same framework as P. Granted that I have never seen P and A fight openly the way S and A did. But S and A's relation went downhill at breakneck speed only after they got married. I really care about my friends and I hate seeing them getting hurt. I spent sleepless nights after S and A broke off just feeling guilty about not having been there to prevent this from happening. And now once again I am at the same crossroad, pondering whether someone should talk to P, tell him that as a friend we are concerned about his relation with A. And then I hesitate. I think when people are in love they fail to see anything beyond what their heart is telling them. And may be P will hate me for saying these things. And may be things will never be the same for us again. And may be P and A will eventually get married and A will always resent me for not having wanted them to be together. And who knows....may be P and A will be happy together. I really hope so, because P deserves some happiness in his life. And I am confused. I don't want P to get hurt either way.

Why is it that we find it so difficult to tell the people we care about that we want the very best for them and that they would be better off not getting involved with the wrong person? Probably because it is none of my business or anyone else's for that matter. Perhaps it is the fear of hurting the person and losing the friendship. May be it is the apprehension that the truth will not be acceptable to my friend and he will reject it and hate me for telling him such "untruths". What does one do under these circumstances? I wish I knew............


Monday, November 21, 2005

Happy Birthday Daddy

I’ve always been “Daddy’s little girl”. My earliest memories of my Dad are the ones of him teaching me nursery rhymes. He would come home from work and sit in the oversized armchair in the living room and I would climb up onto the arm of the chair with my book of Nursery rhymes and he would read them out loud to me. I still have those books and every time I turn the pages it is like opening up a floodgate of sweet memories.

All my childhood I grew up knowing Daddy was a very busy man and he was never around because he had to take care of all the sick patients. For me vacations never meant going out of town because I knew Daddy could not abandon his patients and he never took a day off. Even on Sundays. But we would go to New Market every Thursday. I did not have school on Thursday. So Daddy would pick my Mom and me after his morning outdoor and we would go shopping at New market. And then we would have lunch at Park Street. I loved Thursdays.

And every night Daddy would come to wish me goodnight. I used to go to bed around eight, and often Daddy would still be at his chamber, attending patients. I would lie in bed waiting for him to finish up and stop by my room. He always did. He’d sit on my bed and ask me how my day was. Then he’d hug me, and say, “Goodnight, sleep tight, see you in the morning…sweet dreams”. Only then would I be able to go to sleep.

Daddy was always impeccably dressed. He had a whole array of cologne and after shave in the bathroom and I would go in after him and spray some on myself because I loved the way he smelt all the time. He once told me that when he was growing up in a huge joint family, there were times when he wanted something but could not get it because there were too many kids and too little going around. He grew up knowing that he would make enough money so that he would be able to buy anything and everything he wanted to. So now that he could afford it he indulged himself in buying the latest and finest gadgets that one could buy. You need to realize this was India fifteen or twenty years back. There was no globalization, as we know it today. And imported things were not only expensive, they were a rarity. But Daddy had a stream of electronics supplied to our home every month. And he loved it. And he spoiled me silly too. He bought me perfumes and other things and he never needed a reason to bring home a gift.

I loved Daddy as well as feared him. I was always scared of disappointing him. I wanted him to be proud of me, to bring him all the happiness in the world. He always wanted me to have the very best of things, to be the very best I can be. He never scolded me, never hit me, but I knew he would be hurt if I disappointed him. He refused to let me cook or iron my clothes for fear of me getting burnt. He disapproved of my wearing a saree for fear of realizing that his little girl was becoming a woman. He pretended to ignore all the male friends I had for fear of losing me to someone else. And yet when I said that I had fallen in love and wanted to marry, he never stopped or questioned me. That he trusted and had faith in my judgment was visible in the way he welcomed B into the family. And he has reluctantly accepted the fact that I cook and clean and iron and yes, wear a saree. And as I have moved from one continent to another, from one career path to another and back again, he has supported and encouraged every decision, every move.

And today from across the miles I love and respect him and hope I can still make him proud. And although I wish I could be with him on this day I do not think I would be able to tell him in words how much his love has meant to me over the years.

Daddy, you’re the best. Happy Birthday!

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Please let me be wrong

They say something about a woman’s intuition…. sixth sense…. hunch. It is uncanny but true. This time I am hoping that I am wrong.

Remember Joe, the security guard that I was talking about the other day? The one that says nice things and tries to cheer everyone up? Well I am getting a really funny feel about this whole nice guy business. Okay so it starts out with Joe checking my bag every morning (security reasons) and saying things like “how are you doing this morning” and “have a wonderful day”. Which was great. A few weeks later he is saying things like “honey you have a million dollar smile” and “I like looking at that pretty face of yours”. The context you ask me? It’s just that I had found a different way of getting into our building without going through the security check at the front desk each morning. Which means I don’t run into Joe everyday. Then one day I go round the front because I took a bus that dropped me off right in front of the building and I run into Joe. He asks me where I have been and why he hasn’t seen me lately. So I tell him that I go round the back because it’s just easier. And he tells me that would mean he would never get to see me again and that I should come by and show him my “pretty face”.

Okay at this point I’m thinking that he is just being extra nice and mildly joking. So I say that I will and go my way. Of course I did not take it seriously and keep sneaking in through the back every morning. Then last week I was leaving the building in the evening to go home when I hear someone honking from the distance. I turned to look because the street we are on is very quiet otherwise. And there I see Joe waving at me from the distance trying to get my attention. So I wave back and keep on walking my way. Then I hear him run after me and I stop. A little curious I turn to see what he wanted. Apparently nothing. He just enquired how I was doing and why I don’t come round the front. And then he says, “promise you’ll come through the front and see me everyday”. Now I’m beginning to think this was a really weird conversation and say something to him and start walking off. Okay by that time I am rationalizing with myself that I am just screwed up to think that Joe was being anything but his friendly self. But somehow I was not getting good vibes from my inner self.

Then this morning I had to step outside my building to use my cell phone (the dratted thing refuses to work inside the building) and just as I was about to return to the warmth of my desk I meet Joe again. After last week’s encounter I had purposefully kept away from the front entrance and was a little taken aback to run into him again. He comes up to me smiling and says, “I’ve been looking all over for you. Where’ve you been?” and hands me a little folded sheet of paper. I asked him what it was, all the while pretending to be entirely at ease and like it was the most natural thing in the world to be handed a note by someone you barely know. He says, “It’s a surprise I’ve been carrying with me to give you”. I open the note and in neat handwriting is his full name and a telephone number. “It’s my cell phone number so that you can call me anytime you want.” I go, “Oh…” as in extreme surprise and after a pause say thank you and run off.

By this time I’m hearing alarm bells going off inside my head. Is Joe just being friendly or a little too friendly for comfort? Why on earth would I need his cell phone number and why in God’s green earth would I need to call him? All I’ve ever done is smile and said thank you every time he has said something nice to me. He could be my grandfather for crying out loud. Okay…may be not that old, but older than my own Dad. And it’s not even that I am the available kind, if you know what I mean. So what is going on here? I call B and tell him what just happened and he laughed it off saying I was wrong and reading too much into things. Well, may be I am. And I sure hope so that I am. Because in this case I would want to be mistaken. But there have been other incidents over the years….., like when I was sixteen and a friend of my Dad tried to take advantage by touching me and trying to kiss me (on the lips if you still have any doubts) and all along I had these intuitions about this guy being weird. Or when my best friends boy friend got fresh with me. Or when….and every time I’ve tried to rationalize that it was me who had the sick mind who reads too much into things. And every time my intuition has been right. So call me crazy for being paranoid. But this is one time I am praying that I am wrong.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Those moments in life

Much has been said regarding life's precious moments.....the ones that transcend time, the ones that you cherish in your heart forever. here are some of my most cherished moments, inspired partly by this post and partly by the nostalgia evoked by my old friends.

Getting drenched in the first thunderstorm of the season on a hot summer afternoon.

Smelling the wet earth after the rain has seeped through the parched soil.

Catching up on life with a school friend you haven’t seen in years and find it still feels just as good.

Checking your email and finding it overflowing with mail from friends.

Making someone laugh in the midst of all life’s worries.

Finding a letter from home amidst all the bills and junk in your mailbox.

Wiping a tear when he leaves only to find the flowers he left behind for you on the dresser.

Coming home from work to find a warm dinner on the table.

Walking home after an exam knowing the finals are over.

Watching the look on your parents face when you walk up the podium to receive your degree.

Answering the phone to hear a romantic love song being played on the other end.

Calling up someone at midnight and talking through the night.

Vowing never to speak with him only to find him waiting outside your house all night to say that he was sorry.

Thinking that it would be a “blue Christmas” without him to having your brother buy you a Christmas tree out of his pocket money to make you smile.

Reading the opening line of your favorite book for the nth time.

Wearing a dress that you haven’t worn in years to find it still fits you.

Sipping your morning cup of coffee while watching the sun come up in a wondrous display of colors.

Stretching in front of the fireplace on a cold winter evening and sipping hot chocolate.

Waking up early on a weekend and being able to go back to sleep.

Smelling the fresh print off a morning newspaper and being able to read it from cover to cover.

Listening to Joshua Bell play the violin for the first time.

Looking into his eyes for the first time and knowing that you are in love.

Waking up each morning feeling loved and wanted.



Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bhai Phonta

Bhai er kopaale dilam phonta

Jom duarey porlo kaata…

Bhai phonta as I remember it always started out the same way. A crisp November morning when you wake up knowing that school would reopen the following day and the Final exams would be in less than a month and that the month long Pujo vacation was over. Bhai phonta marked the culmination of the seasonal festivities and celebrations.

Mamu-dadu would be the first one to arrive. He was my grandmother’s brother, elder to her by a few years. He was remarkably fit for his age and would take a longer than usual morning walk and travel the entire distance from his house in New Alipore to our place in Kalighat on foot. Didibhai (my grandmother) would be all ready for him, showered and dressed in a crisp white cotton saree with a bright red border. She would have the prodip lighted, the five essentials for phonta: ghee, doi, white chandan, red chandan and kajal, and a bunch of freshly plucked grass (durba) along with a few grains of rice (dhaan) for the ashirbad. Mamu-dadu would sit on an aashon that Didibhai had stitched herself and she would give him a phonta wishing him a long and healthy life. Then she would touch his feet and he would be given a plate full of sweets to enjoy.

By that time Mamu (my mother’s brother) would arrive. And it would be my Mom’s turn to give him phonta. And the whole routine was repeated. Mamu was always a little pressed for time because he would have to leave right away for work. So right after that there would be plates of luchi and alur dom and fish fry that would be served to the brothers which they ate before they left for their respective offices. By this time my Dad and uncle would have left for their phonta at my Pishi’s house. They would take the phonta, have breakfast and leave for work from there. The big feast for Bhai phonta would usually be a dinner at my Pishi’s place later that evening.

Meanwhile I would be getting ready for my share of phonta dewa. I always started with giving a phonta to Dadubhai (my grandfather). Next in line would be my Kaka’s son, P. P was younger than me and we’ve grown up together under the same roof very attached to each other. P would dress up for the occasion in one of his new Punjabi’s from Pujo and I remember how serious we would try to be and not burst out laughing while we sat there for a few minutes staring at each other’s face, with me reciting the lines praying for his health and long life while the rest of the family stood watching and blowing the conch shell when we were done. My Mashi would bring her two sons over, for the few years that they lived in India. So B and T were next in line, followed by two other cousins A and R. I happened to be the only sister available to give phonta which worked well for me because with every phonta came a little gift as a token of love, which for me more often than not turned out to be books, given that everyone knew that I was an avid reader. So every Bhai phonta would mean at least five or six new books that I would be craving to devour since I would not be allowed to read any once school reopened until the Final exams would be over.

Every Bhai phonta I would be introduced to a set of new books, a new series of unexplored delights. I went from strength to strength starting out with Enid Blytons, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys to Agatha Christie and Alistair Maclean to John Grisham and Robin Cook. These would be interspersed with some bangla treats from Satyajit Ray: Feluda, Aro Baro, Professor Shanku. The hardest part was waiting the next month to start reading the books while studying for my finals.

And now years later I remember those days with nostalgia. Things are not the same. I live in a land far, far away. Dadubhai has passed away. Mamu-dadu is old and frail, just went home after spending the last month in the ICU and cannot leave his bed. P is in Indiana, B is in Minnesota, T is in Australia, A is in Chennai, R is in Pune. It would be a real stroke of fate if we ever got together, all of us, for Bhai phonta. May be we won’t. But I will always cherish the memories that I carry from those days and will wish them the best of health and a long life, no matter where they are:

Bhai er kopaale dilaam phonta......

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