29 March 2021

The unkindest cut of them all…

Retrieved this picture from more than 50 years back at my mother-in-law’s house. That animated guy – who is doing that “namaste” thing? – that is my brother in law!! That girl on the extreme right looking at my brother in law? – Sharmila!! I did not believe my mother in law when she said that.

That hairstyle is a far cry from what I was expecting. Apparently, my mother in law had her head tonsured.

“Why?”, I asked? (could somewhat fathom the torture of shaving a young girl’s head off)

She gave me the answer.

For marital harmony, I am going to avoid writing that answer here.

I will only say (with apologies to Dickens) – “Ask no questions about shaved heads, and no lice shall be told”

28 March 2021

A very different kind of trip to Durgapur!

This time, the trip to Durgapur has a decidedly desultory undertone to it. First, we are limiting our visits to only my uncle (mom’s brother) who our parents were closest to on either side of the family and of course, my mother in law.

I am going to ask all my friends in Durgapur to let me off the hook this time – while I have had both my vaccinations, my brother has had none. I would like to keep exposure on either side as avoidable as we can. Some of you have elderly parents at home. On the good side, vaccinations are available to everybody over 45 in India from day after. I am sure that the next time I come, we can meet freely like good old times.

Also, this time, there is no hurry to go back to Kalyani. It is not like my parents are waiting there. So, we tried out a couple of alternate routes to get to Durgapur.

One additional goal is to spend some relaxed time with my brother. He has done all the running around between hospitals, doctors, banks, cremation grounds and all that for the last few years. I just want to spend some lazy hours with him…

First goal fulfilled! That is the picture of my cancer-beating uncle, aunt, his daughter in law and two of three grandkids.

28 March 2021

A sister’s love…

In my mom’s memory, my sister made exactly the same food my mom used to make for me every single time – which used to be basically all the stuff I might or might not have ever mentioned to her that I liked eating at some point of my life. The potato fritters, fried eggplant, lentil dal, “dhokar torkari”, omlette curry … She even got the exact sweets and “misti doi” that my mom would get.

By the way, the next lunch was what my mother used to make for my brother. Apparently, his favorite food is “khichuri” (the nearest English word might be Polenta … something like what the Spanish have in their Paella). Of course, with all the assortment of fried foods around it!!

28 March 2021

Sometimes, that is how a void looks like

I was there like clockwork by 7am sitting the balcony.

The two other chairs however have become “extra” this time. There are no cups of tea and no thin arrowroot biscuits either.

And yet I can see down below, the vegetable guy is ferrying his fresh vegetables on his van from street to street, a few sleepy kids are on their bikes going for private tuition, some elderly folks walking slowly, the occasional auto plying by and in sudden bursts of unexplained energy, a few dogs growling at each other…

Just like every other morning.

And that is exactly what makes the void very personal. It is a walk nobody else can walk for you…

28 March 2021

Not sure whether it was a walk or a feeding frenzy…

Two things can easily grab full attention from anybody in the Roy family in India – kids and dogs. You probably remember pictures from the past of my brother or sister with street dogs. Well, what I was not aware of when I accompanied my sister in her morning walk is that there will be first a full ten minutes of feeding all the street dogs in the neighborhood. Some of them have become so lazy with the routine that they refused to even get up – my sister walked up to them and gave them some snacks.

By the way, when I say morning walk – for my sister it was a run. She jogged steadily for an hour and fifteen minutes straight. Which she does everyday. She just did up and down trips on that half kilometer street. I walked up and down (could not keep up with her). Since my brother has gone back to running again, now we are at full tilt count of three for three among our siblings when it comes to running.

I do think that the dogs are running out of the habit of running for food, thanks to my sister!!

28 March 2021

Throwback to the mid-70s

Woke up after a couple of hours of sleep at 2:30 AM due to jet lag. Could not go back to sleep anymore. Simply came out and sat in the balcony.

At 4:15 AM came down to the gate and saw my sister picking flowers from trees (as part of her morning religious rituals). She offers those flowers to various pictures of Hindu Gods she has in her house, a picture of her late in-laws and now, our own late parents.

That reminded me how she and I used to do the same thing – pick flowers (sheuli flowers to be precise) very early in the morning and do the morning prayers. Not sure I was ever a big fan of the prayers. But always loved getting up early in the morning before most of the world did and picking flowers from the tree. Distinctly remember the coolness of early mornings – sometimes with light breeze.

I waited till she finished and then went for a walk with her…

27 March 2021

The school kid is ready to report to class!!

Eight years back, while rummaging thru mom’s kitchen, I had found my lunch box from kindergarten class! (one and only lunch box I ever had). This time, while going thru all my parents stuff, found my school box from kindergarten too! Again, the only school box I ever had!

Two revelations… my parents, coming from the financial background they came from, apparently threw NOTHING out!!

Second, man, the sum total of my knowledge could be held in a fairly small, aluminum box!! That is disconcerting.

I think I am going to take these to the USA as a memory of how my parents kickstarted my education process. That is where the school journey of a once-shy kindergartener began…