11 March 2018

The great arcs of life…

“Dad, I want to go to Europe during spring break. I have saved enough money to pay for it”.
“Is this a sudden plan? How many of you are going?”, I asked the nineteen year old.
“Well, I will be going just by myself. I want to go to Berlin and then Prague. But I want to pay for it myself”

Ummm… payment was not the thing uppermost in my mind. I was probably quiet for a few seconds. Sensing not everything to be in order, she asked again “Are you okay with it?”
“You know mom will have conniptions about this, right?”, I tried avoiding her question directly.
“Yes. But what do you think?”

A few more seconds. Too many thoughts flashed by…

“Yes. I will be okay. Stay safe and make sure you are always in touch with mom and me. I will talk to mom and we will straighten this out”.
“But, I will pay for this dad”.
“I get it.”

Next few days was some hectic planning for the travel. When it comes to travel, I am a confirmed romantic. Nothing gets me more excited than finding out the best way to fly somewhere and where to stay and all that. There is something extremely exciting about planning for a trip – let alone the trip itself.

However, at that moment, when I kept the phone down after talking to Natasha, my mind raced back to an incident thirty five years or so back. I was barely sixteen and had just finished my tenth grade exams and I had a few months of summer vacation at hand.

I had walked up to my mom and said “Mom, I want to go see grandpa”. Grandpa – my mother’s dad – was not keeping particularly well and I had not seen him for a few years. My mom and dad – both of whom worked – had not had much time to visit him either. First, I had the all important tenth grade exams and just before that my grandma (dad’s side) had passed away at our place after suffering from cancer for two years. They had had no time to go check on my grandpa.

My mom immediately dismissed me. “You will go when your uncle goes to visit him”. (uncle being my mother’s brother who lived not too far from us)
“But I want to go by myself”.
“Do you know where your grandfather lives?”
“No. But I know the village name. I can ask my uncle how to go there”.

My grandfather had retired from work and then moved back to his ancestral home in a remote village. I had never ever gone to that village – nor knew how to get there.

“Talk to your dad when he comes back from office”.
I went off to sleep too tired to wait for my dad who was going to finish his late shift and come home that night.

Next day, first thing in the morning, I accosted dad. “Dad, I want to go visit grandpa”
“I just want to. He is not doing well.”
“Is uncle going?”
“No. I want to go by myself”
“Is a friend going with you?”
“No. I can ask Avijit. But I want to go by myself”
“So, you just want to travel by yourself, right?”
“Actually, yes”, I finally sheepishly accepted. I just wanted to make a point that I have traveled by myself. I could have gone to Timbuktu for all I cared. I had come up with the idea of grandpa thinking I would approach mom at her weakest point.

Dad looked at me. And then looked down. Could not have been more than a few seconds. It was eternity for me.
“Dad, please. I will be fine”, I pleaded.
He finally looked up and said – “Okay. I will talk to mom” and then laid down some rules for travel.
“Yes?”, I remember having almost yelled. Completely surprised, I might add.
“I had to get out of home at an earlier age to look for food. You should be able to do this”. And then he repeated the rules – lest I had not heard the first time.

Talking to Natasha over the phone the other day, I finally felt I was with my dad in those silent moments before I said Yes to Natasha. I realized that just like me on this day, he too would have flashed thru some worst case scenarios in his mind that day. These were days without any phone services. And by that I mean – no phone services – forget mobile – no land lines either. There were no Google maps. You just asked people for directions and help.

Once I left home, the only thing that was known was that I was going to return on a particular day. That was one of the rules dad had laid out. I was to be home the morning of the third day from when I left. Another rule, I remember he had for me was to wake up early in the morning to go anywhere. If I did not reach by 3 PM, I had to give up and make the return trip. Those days, there were no hotels – and certainly, even if there were, we could not afford it. (I had spent less than 50 rupees – or about 85 cents in today’s money) in that whole trip.

Somehow, me remembering my dad telling me “You should be able to do this” weighed very heavy during my silent moments with Natasha. I realized that the child had become the father of the man. I was put exactly where I had put my dad.

To finish up the story… Natasha is having a great time in Europe and she is keeping in touch with us multiple times every day.

While I did not have the maturity to realize then what my dad had gone thru mentally, I do now. I have a deeper empathy for the balancing act of all the worst fears and yet being able to let a child grow up that he had to go thru then.

One bus trip, two train rides and another bus trip later, I finally had gotten down at the bus stop close to our house. It was in the morning of the third day, as I was told. My dad was there at the bus stop!!

I now realize that I have never asked him how long had he been waiting at the bus stop (with obviously no information from my side – and heaven knows what he must have gone thru those couple of days). You see, that day I was too busy walking briskly ten feet ahead of him as he followed me – I was too mad that he had embarrassed me in front of our neighbors by coming to pick me up from the bus stop.


Strange are the ways how life reminds you that it works in great arcs …

Posted March 11, 2018 by rajibroy in category "My Family


  1. Saimoon BanerjeeBy Saimoon Banerjee on

    Awesome job Rajib and Sharmila! Our turn to wait for those moments! Already had a similar chat with our kiddo during our recent vacation to Cancun and I found several kids travelling alone( with some friends) and as we sat back on the beach chairs…we both were noticing them and prepping ourselves too.

  2. Sarani GhoshBy Sarani Ghosh on

    Very well written Rajib Da…. they myriad emotions as a parent one goes through when the baby flies from the nest!!

    1. Rajib RoyBy Rajib Roy on

      Sibapriya, thank you! I have met your kids – they are awesome. I know you think the daughter is shy and neither of them focus on studying… but on this one… I agree with your wife…. behind every successful kid is a surprised parent!!!

  3. Indu GoduraBy Indu Godura on

    Very catchy narrative and realistic too.Life brings you at such cross roads when you you have to take such tough decisions……tough because things have changed for better and worse since your growing up year.I wait with abated breath when my grand children come with such situation (me belonging to your parents generation) but feel their parents are competent enough to take decisions.

  4. Mallika MandalBy Mallika Mandal on

    Wish Natasha dear a very pleasant and safe trip .

    Rajib ,I think the same situation and experience every parents faces from generation to generation ,when for the first time they allow their wards to travel alone ,whatever be the mood of communication between them .

  5. Madhuri AgrawalBy Madhuri Agrawal on

    Thanks for sharing Rajib! It is easy to not remember our parents’ doubts and tribulations even as we go through similar fears ourselves. But this reflection is beautiful and makes me grateful for the fine balance my parents constantly struck while raising me.

  6. Ma Nithya NanditanandaBy Ma Nithya Nanditananda on

    I hope Rajib you publish your rumination and memoirs – they are so beautifully expressed. That be said, I traveled alone for the first time when I was about 16.5 yrs., by train, from Bombay to Bangalore returning from a 1-month vacation there! There were a few don’ts, which included “don’t you dare get down from the train for water or wanderings at any stations!”

  7. Bijit BoseBy Bijit Bose on

    For me, dad’s decision was not that tough. For my times, I learnt cycling very late – when I was in Std VI. So I never learnt that “half pedalling” as we used to call it – was right on the seat from day one. Trying to compensate for the late learner tag, by Std VII, I was cycling to my uncle’s house, that was in DPL township, a good 14 kms from our house – did it the first time without informing anyone and dad/mom came to know about it only after I returned home – there was this anger on their side but it had its share of happiness too. However, my first trip every with my friends never happened till I was in Std XI – the request for the one to Darjeeling with school friends when I was in class VII (class excursion) was summarily rejected stating I have a habit of catching cold so no Darjeeling (the usual ‘shordi lege jabe” story).

    My first outing happened with Apu (who else?) – as you know, our ancestral villages are nearby – so we planned a trip together to that zone, that was immediately after we passed our 10, and there was no resistance at all, not even an extra cent of concern, as, by then, my parents have got used to me going places on a cycle and they did notice particularly my strength with directions/routes and knowing a place very quickly once I am there. So we went ahead with the trip, we took a SBSTC bus to Garhbeta and then to Amlagora, followed by our trips to Hoomgarh and Nohari had our share of our first few smokes followed , a little extravaganza at the Silabati river, a lost and found story on the only towel (gamcha) I was wearing. We returned 5 days later, grown up.

    My first trip to a place of tourist interest (well, couldn’t get a better word for this) was to Puri, when I was 19, with a couple of my college friends. I had become a man by then, so will not speak about it in this context.

  8. Suzanne McBrideBy Suzanne McBride on

    This is truly one of your best stories Rajib. Both from the repeating arcs of life to the insights on what it means to be human, to become and adult, and to truly love another enough to let go.

  9. Sabya GhoshBy Sabya Ghosh on

    It was a joy, reading ! Children have grown up fast pushing us behind into the laps of memoirs of our parents. Too many things crossing my mind, as Mr. Ghosh(Jr) is also about to embark on a journey a few days after, needless to say, on his own. The concerns that grip us, even on a techno savvy world of now, is enough to roll us back to yesterdays of our progenitors who had no means to connect with darlings of theirs. Good luck to all children and wish a safe travel !!

  10. Priya BasuBy Priya Basu on

    Lovely write Rajib da. My journey has just began and I still do not know what conniptions mean let alone imagine having one, on account of my son 🙂

  11. Bill HubbardBy Bill Hubbard on

    As parents, we want our children to FLY. We wont always like where they fly off to, but we must develop & encourage independent thoughtful humans. Trust that you have done the pre-work and she is a brilliant woman, clearly able to FLY independently.

  12. Geetika Pathania JainBy Geetika Pathania Jain on

    Nostalgia! I remember this child sitting quietly in the back of my car on the days it was my turn to take her to Montessori school. Is she really this grown up now? Oh yes, so’s my son 🙂

  13. Melania DomeneBy Melania Domene on

    Hi Rajib,

    Just to let you know that should anything happen (I doubt it would), my parents live in Berlin….

    And should she ever want to come to Paris, she can stay in our guest room (we live in Montmartre which is one of the top tourist attractions of course ;-))

    Would be lovely to meet your daughter.

  14. Elizabeth ConwayBy Elizabeth Conway on

    Catch me here in DC next week to learn about the unique differences in setting up a Public Affairs Program in new markets with the Public Affairs Council


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