Maa- Few memories

My first memories of Maa are of a woman in a Taant saree, wrapped in Bong style, fussing around the home. Always associated delicious aromas with her. Cooking up a warm meal for us in the cold Jodhpur evenings, Dadabhai and I would finish the chapatis before the next one came down from the stove. She was not a great cook in the strict sense of the word, but she fed us enough and proper, home cooked, rice in the day, chapati in the night, even when I try I still can’t get the same taste. I guess she poured a dose full of love in her creations.

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The beauty of the youth

Maa, beautiful and declared incompetent, mostly because she bore the brunt of Baba’s wrath, was a philosopher and quiet personality. Her passions in life were literature, drama, music and God. A person who went about her tasks quietly, unlike most other Indian females of that generation, but who was mentally strong enough to fight with her husband for her rights and later with Cancer. A person of few words, she could act, write, recite, direct and sing beautifully in multiple languages. Quite an opposite personality to the extrovert Baba, she would be mostly found immersed in a book or smiling indulgently at his loud bong jokes. As I grew into my primary school days, I adored her multiple facets. She was a fantastic storyteller. Her recitation of Tagore had me mesmerised and at times I would cry uncontrollably as the story ended, feeling the pain of the characters along with the undulations of her voice. I wish I had recorded that treasure house. The next generation in our family was equally blessed with her stories of “Ek Haath lamba Aadmi” (The man as tall as the arm) and so many others.

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In her college days

A few years later I started taking advantage of her gullible nature. She could never say no to me, I would play for ever, lie to her face, did whatever I wanted and she indulged me. But at times influenced by the interfering neighbours, she had this incredible vision of a docile daughter. One day, she stated, today you are not going to play with the boys, sit at home like a girl. I fell from the seventh heaven, what happened to my docile Maa, what’s wrong with you?  I begged, cried, please, I must go; my friends are waiting. But she was determined. Finally, when all means of persuasion failed, I was dramatic enough to fall on her feet (actually) and begged her to let me go, today is the last day of my happiness, I am ready to stay a prisoner for the rest of my childhood. She just laughed her hyena laugh (at least that is what It felt that time) and proclaimed, No. To hell with all niceties, I got up, opened the front door and walked out to play. She still never said anything. I sometimes think she was incapable of scolding us kids. When Dadabhai and I used to fight, she would come and make a feeble attempt at scolding us and we would start laughing and forgot the reason why we were fighting in the first place.

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Playing an old woman in her thirties

The Banerjee family had the tradition of falling ill one after another, first I would start with the cough, followed by Dadabhai running away with his nose. Interestingly, when we got the flu, as they say, we would be firmly put in bed, covered with three blankets up to the neck, temperature measured every 3 hours with the thermometer stuck into the mouth between coughs and sneezes; while Maa would be coughing away, cover herself with a thick shawl and stagger to the kitchen to cook up something bland for us. And then my dear Baba, would fall sick, all he would do is hold Maa’s hand and cry that this time he was definitely dying and he wanted his entire family around him for his last few precious moments. I guess he got the man-flu that made him sicker than the rest of us mere mortals. But finally when Maa succumbed, we all would have recovered and just left her to tend for herself. What a selfish family we were!

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The Banerjee’s in the 70’s

I used to share everything with her. The bond that we had can’t be explained. We spoke about sex, love, philosophy, books, life, anything under the sun, no taboos. In the 70’s and 80’s, where majority of India was so prude, I had such a great thing going where I could ask my questions to my friend, philosopher and guide. I learnt compassion from her, the caring nature that she implicitly had, I got in my genes. Now people say I also look like her, that is probably the best compliment I can get. There are times when we did not need words to communicate. We just understood and the eyes would twinkle, and lips slightly curl.

Of course she had her weaknesses. She was hopelessly inadept in household work, couldn’t see dust under her nose. Had no idea of how to manage money, having been patriarchally shielded by my grandfather earlier and later by Baba. A working woman throughout her life, first as an English teacher in school and later in a college. M.A twice over, she never knew how much she earned, never bought jewellery in her entire life and rarely bought expensive sarees. As I grew older, she started relying on me to manage gifts for relations, buying a bra for her, getting household items, because she would not go to the market to buy for herself. She was superstitious to the S, sit down, if you have sneezed, black cat crossing types. Any gift had to be vetted for a week. If anything, even slightly negative happened, the gift would be wrapped up and go into the extreme gut of the almirah, never to be seen again.

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An epitome of simplicity- even on her daughter’s wedding day

She was so into culture and literature, I gave her a rude shock when I declared I wanted to marry my now husband. Her first and strongest reaction was “How can you marry a non-Bengali?” In her mind it was clear that there were only two classes- Bongs and the rest of the world. And of course, Bengalis are the elite ones, how can anyone even think of competing with Rabindra Nath Tagore and Uttam Kumar, Shuchitra Sen, the literature and एकला चोलो रे and the rich history? How could I stoop low enough to give up the cultural heritage and other such blahs for matters of the heart? When I said it doesn’t matter to me- she could not believe her ears- are you my daughter? Is this the संस्कार that I taught you?  Her next problem was “he is so dark; your kids will not be fair”. Long story short, she relented after a long time and was quite happy with the prodigy produced.

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One of my most treasured moments- smiling away

Oh, I love her so much. When she looked after me, and when I looked after her. When I lived with her and when she lived with me. When I was her child, and when she was my child. I don’t want to talk about her later years. She lost interest in God after multiple illnesses that ate her away. She would say, if God did this to me, enough though I prayed all my life, I am denouncing God. And she did. She stopped praying, looking at the idols. She stopped crying. But she felt, how she felt, her looks said it, her writing said it, she was strong enough never to break down. She lived on and fought on for almost a decade. Fought on till her last breath. Then she gave in. Last year. The morning after Dusshera. But never once did she say I am in pain, always “bhalo achi” (I am good).

Gl(amorous)

A few days back I got an invitation to attend an event for celebrities, hosted by celebrities, of celebrities and for shmucks. I am a shmuck.

Wow, I thought. I have never seen ramp-walk for real, up close and personal. It will be fun. Mrs India like. All the hot babes in swimsuits, the eminent jury, ex Mrs/ Ms/Mr Indias, and an opportunity for selfie with a celebrity. I must go and ogle. 377 egged me on. Now I can stare at girls without guilt.

So along with few more of my amorous friends, I went. Trust me it was tough. I had work at home. Leaving work alone almost broke my heart. But opportunity had knocked, if I missed it (or Mrs-ed it), I would never be able to forgive myself for the lack of respect shown towards all the females who were out there to make a mark in the …. carpet with their high heeled shoes.

Reached sharp at 7.00 pm. And bagged the first row. The event started sharp at 8.00 pm, just an hour late. And with the side-kicks. With the host and dost, Aman Verma, who needed to find a joker in the pack for all his punchlines. As he scouted the audience, his eyes passed by me, paused and stopped …. at the guy next and he became the butt of the attraction for the rest of the show “Hello Sharma ji”, “are you enjoying”, “breathe normally” in the insinuating hosting liberty, the “Sharma ji” enjoyed the attention from the host and the audience for rest of the 4-5 hours and refused to leave his chair, just in case he lost his 15 minutes.

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you got a few laughs

The side-kicks continued for a while, taking photos with so many partners, I quickly forgot. I started getting a feel of the event. It doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, thin or obese, if you can speak or not, all you need is your guts and …. the right wardrobe and connections to be right up there looking down at us plebs.

And then there was a break, go have some drinks and snacks before we start the main event, and as we wait for the celebrities who we know are going to be late. Too many hungry people, and not enough to eat. By the time the waiter reached, his plate was hounded and emptied. Once I managed to grab the tissue and a toothpick, yeee! And with all sugary “cold” drinks around, there wasn’t much choice. In my current stuck-on-calorie-count days, when I am counting every morsel, I stayed hungry.

We didn’t want to lose our front row seat so rushed back in 20 minutes, the timeout imposed on us. After half hour, we were asked to “can you pls sit somewhere else” by a girl with a large mouth and a larger derriere. This one is for organisers. Every man around me complied meekly, they were mesmerized by her moving …mouth, what did you think 🙂  And there lies the advantage of the back seat, you can’t be seen watching the backside from the back row.

Waiting and tapping your feet, it will start, be patient, we shall overcome some day, mood. Maybe an hour or so later, things started moving. Few low priced, affordable celebs came in, a former Mrs India, an actress of dubious origin, a singer, a TV star. Trust me, I have nothing against celebrities, they are the ones who have arrived… even if late. People hovered around them, I was somehow reminded of moths. Everyone took photos, their selfies, videos, and they smiled the same pouted smile reserved for such mindless activities.

Finally it started, at 9.30, more than 2.5 hrs later than the scheduled time. Half an hour was reserved for the introduction of the rich and the famous, with Aman falling all over the place reminding them of “Of I know you from so many years” “do you remember when” and “my very good friend”. The falseness was dripping and drooling all over the place. Most pseudo-celebs had a gown on, tight, skin fitted, with fat jutting out unglamorously from a number of places I would not care to describe.

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Ah my legs beyond compare

Then the ladies started walking on the ramp. Various shapes and sizes, tall to the short, married women, coming from all walks of life, from Pune and Chennai, from Assam and Bengal. They all looked cloned, wearing a saree with golden blouse, hair tied up tightly into a bun on top of the head, swaying hips, tons of makeup and still angular pose with a hand on the hips. They would all look so much better if real and normal. Mostly they looked stressed out, fake smiles, standing straight but still looking as if they had a back problem.

Interestingly a bunch of software engineers among them. As an engineer myself, all I can say is, nerds and glamour in the same package is rare and the sooner we realize it, the better for the world.

And then some of the divas opened their mouth to speak. Seriously, they should be banned from speaking. Most lost whatever little charm they held, as soon as they uttered their first sentence. Why? Did no one ever tell them, Hindi is also a language, if you can’t handle English, it is ok. Rote learning long poems to introduce themselves, and partially forgotten in the stress. Remember the children that are lined up “son, one poem for uncle ”.And everyone wanting to change the world since Sush did. It was so.. for a change I have no word to describe it, so unreal. To be honest, it was just a “show” (pun intended ) put on that tried to reek of glitz and charm, but ended up feeling fake and hollow.

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I have a backache pose

By the time it was almost 10.30 and I was hungry. I needed my daily dose of calories so decided to pass on rest of the evening for those who have the right level of interest in page 3. I had absolutely no inclination to continue for the rest 3-4 hours without food. The more amorous continued to wait with bated breadth for the Baywatch round that never came.

P.S. No intention to discredit any individual, the glamour industry involves tons of hard work and effort, just imagine the hours in the gym and parlours, and it is easy to find faults, maybe not everyone’s cup of (very sugary) tea.