The sound of the beep peep! beep beep peep!! of his car horn in it's rhythmic tune would in a way create a war of muscle where we would jostle and use our might as right just to leave the younger and weaker siblings sulking far behind.
The car being parked and when he would alight the peon would scurry to get his briefcase and his files if any.
Then ACTION...a clamour for his attention as he tried to hold all four of us in one go.My brother and me propped on the either side clinging hopelessly with our arms around him for the simple apprehension of being dislodged while he would try to grab the two little ones who would be nudging at his legs and pulling his trousers. All this between a chaos of complaints of the little ones about the atrocities committed by their elders and sounds of affectionate kisses lodged on us one by one...words of affection coined for all of us which had no other meaning but unconditional love.Can anything like BHATKALE,MANCHASI,JORJREAL,GALBADIN mean anything but that.
The eldest son and me always asking him if he got the things we had asked for be it some stationary item, toy or even cinema tickets for the weekend show while the younger ones would be listing out the complaints non-stop on:
a) the errands they were made to do perforce,
b)all goodies that was not shared by their elders and
c) who got clobbered by whom during his absence from home.
He would then settle all of us one by one in a manner that gave us the first lesson on democratic justice which was to hold the eldest son who was a sort of a bully in a firm grip and ask us to give with all our might our best shot on his bony but strong back.The only condition being that pinching or biting was strictly prohibited.
After the settlement of disputes and complaints and still holding the youngest of the sibling, my sister who was in her kindergarten, he then would walk towards his room to change into easy clothes and freshen up.
Tea with hot snacks bought from the Secretariat Canteen would see all of us happy and contented as we would dig into the yummy pure ghee Kachoris, Samosas and fresh melt in the mouth sweet Boondi.
Can't paint the divine glow that radiated his face while he saw to the even distribution of the bounty between all members of the family among those seated with him and those absent including my Ma and all the helpers who would be busy with other chores.There was always enough for everybody.
Then very respectfully in his local lingo he would call out for Ma and ask her to wheel us away to do our homework but before that inquire about her needs if she wanted anything from the market or on other matters of domesticity.Mundane activities discussed between the two was least interesting as we would smile at each other munching away to God's glory.No war but only peace emanating through our smiles.
This is the earliest memory i have of him my HERO.
The phone rings and when i answer it is my hero who among other things warns me not to be on my laptop all the time.
"Run around and do your work sometimes the conventional way instead of internetting all the time; it is very good for the mind and body.By the time you are fifty your fingers would be rendered useless...are you listening to me Munni?", the hero asks impatiently.
This after the last one month spent tirelessly on the laptop trying to get his itinerary done for this trip abroad for the person whom i now prefer to call the Lusty Traveller not for any other reason but as a shortcut to his lust for travelling. An avid globe- trotter who chooses his destinations to be what he calls them Civilisation Tours as a free individual tourist, his next and the last mission is China and his choice on the four provinces of China which he is hell bent on visiting.All i can say is Amen!
Handsome as ever and a walking encyclopoedia on most disciplines one cannot deny his presence even when he is 78 plus.It is not uncommon to find him center stage in all discussions ranging from mundane to political and is as amazing on matters spiritual.A realist to the core he keeps his audience enthralled and speechless with his arguements which have a strong penchant towards rationalisation through scientific enquiry and logical reasoning.
Sometimes it feels like we fade away in front of his brilliance and at other times his biting truth about matters we don't look eye to eye with gets on our nerves.Technology and the new way of life being one of them.The other being about education and this mad rush for IIT/IIM and the so called pay packet that IT sector offers.
''Ghanta PAY PACKET!!'', he would sound very agitated and disturbed and continue, "And what about quality life with family! what about that!."
Dead against the gruesome and backbreaking curriculum children are forced into which according to him is inhuman he often wonders why more and more parents are subjugating their smart and sharp kids to such torture.
When we were kids he made no such demands and signed our report cards happily even when we had done average or even less than that.
Any young prospective IITian visitor is then sermonised profusely on the easier choice...a choice which according to him is less burdensome mentally and financially both to the parents and the students alike.A choice which according to him gives a good family life and begets a lot of respect .
His panacea to all such evils regarding the rat race to finding a good career is THE CIVIL SERVICES.This for both genders.
Fiercely independant still, my hero prefers to do all his jobs himself be it raining heavy or shining hard.My attempt thus to be a good offspring meets with this response about my fingers becoming severely arthritic just because i sat at home and tried to prevent him from running helter skelter for ticketing/hotel booking and other formalities in this sweltering and humid heat of the South.
But the moments which bring laughter now and not when it happened was when my hero sat next to me when all this was done . i can only say this that if a Uncle Podger Hangs a Picture scenario can be applied to any such instance in my life, it could be best fitted here.
All confused options by him were dealt hastily by me as i tried to prove my mettle with new technology.
Only the Heavens know how i was praying for miracles to happen with my clicks as i was ashamed to admit that i was not as net savvy as he assumed me to be. And at that time i could see the man who really wanted things done at the snap of his fingers had no patience when data was being processed by the machine.
'' Tell you beta i will go there and get this done better because on personal face to face enquiry I might get a better deal.'' he would be butting in every second with additional queries and causing me to jump and startle with the new instruction even when the old is still being processed. On reflex i would land up giving the wrong command and mostly all the wrong clicks.As i would focus hard on getting the work done he would in his above normal pitch which sounded more like an irritated command rant off four other options which i should look for before i could ok the earlier one.Little realising that the ok command has already been given.
My hero shares all my interests but one. This being his intense passion for secateur and lopping all plants to give it a proper shape.Have to be very honest i am glad i don't own one.Or else he would be lopping away all my babies to what he feels would make them look neat and well groomed.
He is quite a sight, back home as he gingerly tries to climb the compound walls with a large secateur in hand going khachack ! khachack! at the Mauleshwari tree which looks awful and sort of pathetic just like the sad bird that has lost all it's feathers, the day he has done the pruning.We see him from the balcony laughing at how comical he looks in his TRANSPARENCIES.. a term we have given to the white lungi which shows the shadow/silouhette of his thin but muscular and well formed legs as he perches balancing himself.This is most prominent when his white lungi is against the light.
His pruning done on one he would eagerly look around for his new victim .Surveying the masterpieces that he has created he would look at us and question us on our laughter and we just keep laughing all the more because the explanation to the reason now has another extension... his masterpieces in his transparencies.
Nevertheless have to accept this that when the new foliage covers the tree they do look qutie sculpted and round rather just too round which kind of looks cute if not artistic.
He also is a movie buff but i am shocked as to how when we were young he would mimic the dialogues of Guns of Navarone to perfection or even the fast American ones to our glee and clapping in appreciation and awe.But now has a hard time catching the dialogues of today.Often the symbolic aspects would go over his head now and in an irritating voice he interrupts our concentration at some serious scenes by putting forth the dumbest question.Today we laugh out aloud remembering and mimicking him but on seeing the movie called 'Misery' which deals with the story of a insane maniac fan who tries to murder the writer of whose book she is an ardent fan of, we were getting very irritated and cheesed off with his angry and irritating questioning, " Why is she doing like this... and is her name Mijree?"The way he kept butting in with his exclamations and his mispronunciation MIJREE still makes us roll with laughter.
(Brilliantly played by Kathy Bates as the maniacal fan Annie Wilkes for which she bagged three prestigious awards including the Oscar and Golden Globe in the year1990.)
Maybe we were watching the wrong movie because this man actually has a particular choice in which he will remain absolutely quiet and non questioning.
Loves Greek epics and Biblical movies which he prefers to watch close to the TV but within the prescribed distance with proper lighting. And i the all knowing one about movies dare not go any where but to sit tight next to him explaining all that he is unable to figure out.He would be vigilant enough to pause while i satisfy his reasoning.Needless to say then that when i get DVD'S for him i am dead if it does not have English subtitles.
My neighbours and friends are often quizzed and one of them calls me a rare sight as they don't get to see me even in the balcony tending to my babies, every time he comes to visit me.He is all consuming, for from the time he wakes up till he is tucked in, i have to be by his side.That's because he wants to impart me with all the knowledge he can as if i was a knowledge soaking sponge.It will be dishonest on my part if i do not agree that i love to be that sponge and of late i try to scribble down as much as i can cause i can't help my failing memory.
The best is when he follows me to the kitchen and gives me all his fine tips on the right amount of spices to make my baby potatoes and methi bhaji (fenugreek greens) perfect and too chatpata (piquant) that it can be eaten just like that straight from the kadai hot and singeing the tongue...in between trying to blow to prevent the burning.
i remember his stirring the Colocasia slivers crisp with the minimum amount of oil just by monitoring the flame of the gas stove.Oh! he is not a health food freak, no ways!.He has nothing against the use of oil but he advices on the use of the amount which is generous but just sufficient to fry it crisp and that it should not show on your plate.But strange, this miracle happens only when he is here with me.
For a self restrained smoker and his medicinal drinking two pegs of good whiskey daily he is quite a stunner so far as health is concerned.The amount of stamina and self control that he possesses would put a non smoker and a teetotaller to shame. Everybody who knows him is much in awe of this fact as how he stays off all this twice a year when he does his Navratra ( Nine days of worship for Goddess Durga) or when he takes his pilgrimage.Recently to Amarnath and after his retirement , to Kailash Maansarovar which was not a weeks affair but was a month long trip.No one has seen him restless for the intense urge of any of these on any such occasion.Thus i feel my Hero is a Sanyaasi (sage) of sorts.When i ask him how he does it he replies quite as a matter of factly,'' Beta it is an exercise i do on purpose which certifies that i an not an addict."
He was my first teacher on all aspects be it femininity of the Indian woman when she dons a saree which was when i had my first farewell party in school, to teaching me how to drive a car when i was in the 9th std.
His words are going on inside my head now as we both sat in the FIAT Premier Padmini, he in his driving seat and me on the next passenger seat reckless and impatient to roll.
"The car is your baby in which you shall be breathing life.You have to be very attentive to her sounds because every time your baby is in discomfort it will try to speak to you and you have to attend to it or else your baby will get sick."
Later he went on to show all the gears which then was a rod with a smooth knob projecting below the steering wheel.1st,2nd,3rd 4th...he would show me gliding his hands and reminding me to be a smooth operator on that and never ever be rough.
"Now you have to breathe life into your baby and how will you do that?You will turn on the ignition like this at which you will get the vibration of it coming to life... ."
What happened on my first solo drive on the way to my Maternal Grandparents village 6 hours from Patna is history which needs a separate narration altogether.
Now as i read this article which i want to share badly with him i am falling back again on what he will definitely not want me to do.I know he will prefer that i post the cutting to him instead what i do is to email the page to my relatives back home requesting them to take a printout of this and hand it out to him. http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOICH/2010/05/16&PageLabel=13&EntityId=Ar01301&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T
His forgetting things especially what he said the previous night does not disturb me more than his new found pronunciations . My younger sister was shocked to hear him say,"Here Chotki i got you the water of river Neel..." after he had returned from Egypt and she was wondering if it was Hinglish that he's trying to familiarise himself with.Thus Nile is Neel now and Richard Gere is Richard JERE but the best one ,Yale is YAALAY according to him.This is so strange because so far as correct pronunciations is concerned he would do his best by correcting us when we defaulted as kids.He was so particular about the correctness that he would consult the Websters and even discuss with his friends who would also be professors in Literature.
Sometimes i think it is a trick he plays to give me a false sense of pride that i am teaching him now finally.Maybe he smiles internally to see my consternation grow with every new one.
What am i trying to do? Teach my hero, my guru who has been my teacher all my life and will continue to be so.And what am i trying to teach him or rather tell him? That he may be wrong here when in my heart of hearts i know he is right very very right when he asks me to keep the usage of technology at a level that should keep my mind and my body healthy.
Oh! Papa.... tussi great ho!!
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