31 December 2018

Seen on the road…

For the Bengali-wise challenged, that Bengali sentence on the top of the back of this pick up truck that could barely move with all the weight it was carrying is asking you not to be too jealous of the truck … the financing installments are still being paid for 🙂

The backside of all these vehicles are usually a smorgasbord of exhortations. This one for example, is leaving nothing to chances and has written messages in three different languages. There is one that is a mix up of two languages – “Horn Maro”. It would mean honk your horn. For some unknown reason, if you get behind any of these vehicles, they want you to raise a ruckus like it is a fourth down and inches situation and the opposing team has decided to go for it!!!

It also wants you to stop. Perhaps it does not like all that ruckus after all.

And that line in Bengali? For a vehicle that is clearly on the wrong side of the road, that sentence is reminding you to obey the rules of the road!

If that was not confusing enough for you, they have put a red traffic light and a green traffic light for you. This would not be Indian hospitality and humility at the end of the day, if they had not put that “namastey” in Hindi in between those two confusing lights!!


31 December 2018

Like good old times!!

I used to visit this guy almost everyday if I was in Durgapur. I really liked him. Or was it his sister? I forget now.
But it is true that he and I used to be pretty close at one point of time. Marrying his sister fixed that problem!!
Like clockwork, I would show up at his house in my dilapidated Vijay Deluxe scooter on winter mornings and he would still be in his sleeping clothes. He would just put a couple of layers on and we would sit out in the sun outside their house and talk about – whatever it is that we used to talk about in our twenties. Till his mom would declare that his sister had finished cooking noodles for us.
We did EXACTLY that today. Admittedly, I did not have my scooter with me. And I have gotten tired of his sister… errrrr… I mean noodles 🙂 But the rest of the stuff was as much fun… if not more…

31 December 2018

That was totally worth it…

After reaching my mother-in-law’s house, I had called up my brother-in-law and let him know that I was with her. He, in his turn, decided to come over to Durgapur too. Five hours later, he was there. I went back to their place in the evening. With a bottle of wine and some dinner that I had picked up from one of the restaurants.

Well, my mother-in-law did not partake of any of the wine but you would not have realized that given the amount she was laughing. What was remarkable was that my brother in law mentioned that that was the first time he had noticed her laughing like that after losing her husband.

Tried my best to take a couple of pictures of her laughing without making her too conscious about it. This was the best that I could do…

30 December 2018

One more neighborhood friend tracked down

I had finally managed to track down Smitan – or “Buri”, as we used to call her – a few months back. She is one of the last neighborhood kids that I have managed to find. I spent about three years in that neighborhood and had friends in ten of the twelve houses. I am down to one last house after this.

The last time I saw Buri was when my sister got married – that is a good two and a half decades back! I had received a few updates here and there in between. I had heard about Buri getting married and then about her dad (“Dutta Kaku”, as we call called him) passing away suddenly. But never had managed to talk to her till a couple of months back.

Surprised her last evening by walking into their house unannounced!! We continued with the reminiscing of those days right where I had left them with Bhoju and Paku a couple of days back! Got a chance to meet her husband and daughter too!

I am sure her daughter thinks I am a cool uncle because I told her everything that no other grown ups tell her – like studying to do well in tests is not really that important in life and that she should pursue what she wants to pursue (which is English, by the way) and so on…

I am not terribly sure Buri is going to open the door next time, at this rate 🙂

30 December 2018

Finally got some one on one time with him!!

Every family has one of these guys. The ultimate go-to guy. For us, it is my maternal uncle (mother’s only brother). Long time back, my father had helped him get a job in the same company he used to work in and had moved him to Durgapur.

Ever since, he is a permanent feature in our lives. Always the person we turned to when we needed help. I needed to be rushed to the hospital after being felled by typhoid? He was the one who took me. While his wife was having a baby at the same time in the same hospital!

Rushing my dad to Kolkata by train when we almost lost him to sodium deficiency? Again, my uncle was the guy! A total rock solid stand up kind of person. Our family – I suspect like many others – are filled with emotional decision makers with a particular penchant for the drama. Not this guy. It used be fun growing up watching him articulate very logically constructed, see-from-both-sides arguments to any decision making that was at hand.

It has never been the case that I was in Durgapur and I did not visit him. However, over the years, most of the time was spent catching up with my cousins (his three kids) and then when the nephews and nieces started happening, playing with them. Last ten years or so, I have spent most all of my visit time with his youngest grandkid – who is one ball of energy.

Yesterday was different. Nobody was home. My cousin and his family was out for the day. I spotted my uncle walking down the street as I entered. I asked my driver to drop me there and started walking along with my uncle.

We came back home and chatted for another hour. It was the first time after a long long time, I got one on one time with him. It was a great throwback to those years about four decades back. Those logically constructed arguments, that ability to see everything from both sides of a position – everything is still there! Best part was catching up on our common memories of my grandfather and grandmother.

I hope to get many more opportunities in the future…

30 December 2018

First stop in Durgapur – my mother in law

During my trips to India to check on my parents, a must-do is to swing by Durgapur (about three hours of drive from my parents’ place) for a day. Usually, my father in law would enquire about the folks he met when he visited us in the USA and about the various things he saw in our house. (The pool was his favorite). My mother in law and I would, in general, keep arguing about why I was not eating all sorts of food she would have had prepared and sticking to my routine of a cup of tea.

This was the first time I was visiting her after my father in law passed away a few months back. It was a wee bit strange to me to enter the house knowing that he is not there. I was also not sure where my mother in law’s mental state was.

Last month when Sharmila came to check on her, one of her relatives had mentioned about the blogpost I had written about my father in law. My mother in law consumes her digital devices only in a minimum 31 inch screen size (her constant companion – the TV) but when it comes to a phone or Facebook, she is totally a reluctant neophyte. She had asked if somebody could read out the blog to her some time.

This time before I left home, I had collected about twenty of my blogs with my father in law’s pictures in them and printed them out for her.

As you can see from the picture here, she pored over the articles and read them slowly and painstakingly. The article she is reading here IS the one that the relative had mentioned. The story was about me meeting my father in law’s American manager (Charlie from TVA) when he had just entered job life.

My mother in law would read one line at a time and then lament that my father in law would have been so happy to hear that I had met Charlie or she would ask me all sorts of questions about Charlie (how old is he? is he tall?). I did not let her on to anything.

That slow reading and continuous interruptions continued for a good half an hour. Then it stopped as she started reading up the end of it. Finally, she finished it and looked at me. She realized it was just a dream.

You could see she was choking up too much fighting her tears to say anything.

I sat there quietly.

Five minutes or so later, she got up and quietly said “Lekhata khub bhalo hoyechhe”. (She liked the writeup)

29 December 2018

Those two inimitable brothers

It was December, 1979. We had just moved to a new neighborhood. I was yet to be a teenager. One of the first kids who came to introduce themselves were these two brothers – barely 5 and 3 years old then. Found out their names were pretty long – so they went by Bhoju and Paku. Also found out that their mom was a schoolteacher like mine – although very different schools.

For the next few years, before I left home at the age of 16, Paku and Bhoju were part of our neighborhood games like soccer and cricket every evening. And during holidays and vacation, we would gather to play in the morning too.

The thing I remember most about Bhoju (the younger one) is how pleasant and uncomplaining he used to be even in those days. There were positions in the teams that were unpopular – goalkeeper for soccer or the one near the boundary line for cricket – since they were not too close to the action. It was difficult to convince anybody to man those positions. Except Bhoju. He was always willing to go stand wherever he was asked to. Never said No. More importantly, he would put in his heart and soul into the game from there!!

I had lost touch with both the brothers over time. And then thru a common friend – Antara – who had moved into the same house after we left that neighborhood too – had helped me get hold of Bhoju.

If you go to my blog – www.rajibroy.com and go to the posts of Nov 6, 2013, you will read about how I had finally cornered Bhoju in a cafeteria of a bank building in London where he was doing some projects and I had stopped by in London for half a day.

From then on, I have kept up with the brothers – certainly with those birthday phone calls. Also got to know about their wives and kids thru Facebook.

Finally, yesterday – lot of thanks to Tathapi (Bhoju’s wife) – I was able to meet the whole Chakraborty family in one place. Both the brothers and their families were there. So was Swapna masi and Chakraborty kaku!!!

As you can imagine – it was a great evening remembering those good old childhood days. We talked about the “masi” (lady) who worked as a help in their house (my neighborhood peeps who are reading this might remember her famous words after she got exasperated with the two brothers – especially Paku – “Bagaaitey pari nai, jhikimiki legey jaay” ). We talked about those neighborhood games… those “pochisey boishak” skits we used to put up and those hilarious non-acting we used to do!

The hours just went by. Eventually, it was time for me to take leave.

It was great to see everybody in the Chakraborty family. But the most heartening was to see that both Kaku and Masi are keeping up with their good health!!

Till next time!

29 December 2018

Couple. Decouple.

Let me see if I can recreate all the ways we are different… In this picture you see…

Two are born Bengalis and one is not…
Two have married Bengalis and one has not…
(for that matter), Two who are married and one is not…
Two have lived in Chennai and one who has not…
Two live in America and one does not…
Two are from Corporate and one is not…
Two studied Economics for graduation and one who did not
Two who are bereft of hair on their head and one who is not…
Two who are from the same dorm in their MBA school and one who was not…

… I can keep going like this…

Not sure what strings thru the three other than having studied MBA together and being in Kolkata fortuitously together today at the same time.

The discussions were as lively as I would have expected in my MBA days. I saw Prakash (man, can I just say “Flojo”? – I struggle to even remember him as “Prakash”) after nearly 28 years. I saw Abhijit (again, “Goofy” is what I remember him as) a few years after a chance meeting at a bar a couple of years back.

Some of our discussions were a little mundane e.g. “How many of our batchmates that went around with other batchmates eventually tied the knot?” (the answer is “1” out of “way too many”). But some were a little more philosophical – “What have we learnt after leaving MBA school?”

There were some personal learnings for me in the discussions. Abihijit’s take on how he has learnt what he is good at and what he is not is something I am going to ponder over for some more time. But Prakash’s point on “it is fun to see the world from the others’ point of view” (he is in Advertising, by the way) is something I could relate to immediately.

Personally, I am still confused what the MBA classes, per se, taught me. What I have no doubt on is what I have learnt from the folks that I went to MBA classes with. Today’s lunch was a great reminder of that.

Abhijit, we live literally three hours of drive apart. Let’s not make Kolkata the only place we meet.
Prakash, for crying out loud, your sister AND your sister in law is in the US. Let’s make that maiden voyage there. I will come out and see you there. You are absolutely worth it!

29 December 2018

I believe Pink Floyd had it right.

We don’t need no education that takes nephews away from family members – even an admittedly self-described “amazing” “jethu” (uncle) – because of some stinking tests that one has to ace.

That said, I would not give up anything to get a chance to see these two – even if for a short-lived 30 minutes visit at their place during a break in their studies.

I have gone from relying on these two receiving me at the airport every single time to waiting for them to get out of school so that we can have some free time together again…

Now you know why my life long ambition has been to never grow up. I refuse to do it even now.