Our new home on the fourth floor has three spacious bed rooms.The lovely lounge and the three balconies make you comfortable. You can get a look at the sky as well as the road in front of your apartment. You can stand and stare at the rushing crowd and feel relaxed as you are no more a part of the game. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and you try to enjoy the leisure.
Yet sometimes I feel bad. I recall the old familiar faces ,the adoring eyes , the halo around my head , imposed by my pupils for decades. I become nostalgic as I miss the glory. The sense of isolation prevails as I keep myself segregated from the trend. I fail to keep pace with the trotters .I blame my parents. They brought me up like this. They did not have foresight. They never knew about the metro- culture. So I am surrounded by all NO-s and not a single YES. However I forget everything when I look at the wide smile on the face of the cute three-year old ,my neighbor’s child, a delicate darling.
Like the bright morning sun, she peeps through my kitchen -window and shouts “Aunty—Aunty ---Aunty---“. The graveyard silence is broken. I laugh heartily and reciprocate---“Yes ,yes my child—come, come---“ and she bids adieu and tucks her face away into her mom’s skirt .Her Mom is a radiologist.
Here at Varanasi, I met a beautiful family. They are a couple with two children—one boy-one girl-the ideal nuclear family. The children are grown-up. The boy is working with some multi- national and the girl is pursuing her medical career in Chennai. The father is a Professor of Microbiology . The mother is a beautiful woman and a perfect homemaker. But she felt ashamed when we were introducing each other..
“I’ m not working, not earning a farthing for the family. I just pass time gossiping in the Ladies club nearby .Sometimes I assist the children when they prepare for the cultural shows, teach them some mudras of Bharatnatyam or Rabindra Sangeet. Nothing special----.”She blushed. “That doesn’t matter”, I said .
“The glow on your face tells ---. Yours is the one of a concerned and contented mother. Isn’t it?”I tried to hide my tripping zeal as I cannot be tagged in the list of successful mothers.
My son is a Revenue Director in a seven star hotel at Dubai and my daughter is a simple arts- graduate and has a bachelor’s degree in Tourism as well. She is not a working-mother like me. But she has achieved her goal as a perfect mother because the tiny lady at her disposal is a jewel in the crown of her married life. The little fairy is the embodiment of perfect calm, composure, courage ,intelligence and beauty. And the credit goes to my daughter who has gathered a lot of appreciation for her careful steps taken to rear up her child which I could not.
People cast sacrilegious stares at me when I boast of my two children .I feel I’ve been irresponsible to bring them up in such measures. But my children never feel like that as they belong to gen X. They are proud of their parents and themselves too which I’m not, I don’t know , why. Is this the limitation of the generation I belong to? Is this the same gap which I have with my parents? So I try my best to change –and change even if sometimes I feel suffocated with the irregularities my own children are up to.
The other day my next-door neighbor, an industrialist with a beautiful wife, dropped in---a happy family with a daughter and a son—the daughter, a dentist and the boy, still building his career ,holding the traditions tightly even if sharing the changing trends---- We had a beautiful evening exchanging our views about our native places and our occupations. The lady with a smiling gesture showed her respect for me as I unraveled my past glory as a teacher. I wished she had a child who could take lessons from me as my instincts of a teacher tried to get hold of each and everything around me. Now I could empathize why the old man, earlier a teacher, even in his nineties, tried to grab every situation to sermonize whoever came in his contact. This old man is none other than my father who had to gulp down his ego and had to stay with me and my husband—his son-in-law.
Years ago, my mom escaped to her heavenly abode ,leaving me and my father at others’ mercy. We lived in a small town without any exposure to western culture but we always tried to tag ourselves with our own national art and culture. Dancing ,singing and acting were our daily extra-curricula and we used to enjoy the evenings ,joining the rehearsals for the cultural shows to be organized on the occasions of Durga puja , Diwali or Holi. Everybody was curious about the role that would be assigned to him or her from the Tagore dance –dramas.
Our dance teacher was a big fan of Devanand ,the super –duper hero of
Guide , the film which was a huge box-office success in the sixties or seventies. She also used to teach us Bengali in our school and would scold her whoever hid a picture of Devanand in her notebook and would show it to her friends. As a punishment ,Devanand’s picture would be seized and would be taken to the staff-room where everybody present would try to have a look at the precious possession and finally it would go inside Geeta masi’s handbag as I called her. In that govt. school, our teachers were our kith and kin, there were no Sirs and Mams, no smart classes, no computers ,only big classrooms with huge windows and a lovely garden with swings and slides. We loved our friends without any expectation that they would be useful in near future.
I enjoyed the music classes because music was in the family. My mother was an A-grade artist in All India Radio. She used to sing Thumri and Dadra. My father is a violinist who toiled a lot to give a platform to my mother as a singer. My uncle used to play sarod, an instrument Mr. Ali Akbar Khan played. So music was in my blood and I started learning sitar ,an instrument played by Pundit Ravishankar. I also enjoyed the Sanskrit language taught to us by the universal Chachiji who always tried to find fault with the children. I liked this subject because at home my father used to teach me this language along with English and I used to understand each and every story from the Hitopadesha or Pachatantra.I was able to answer all the questions put to us. At that time I used to mug up the nitislokas even if I was unable to understand many of them. We had to recite them in the assembly, everyday, so we had to learn.
However after so many years , today ,I can realize the true meanings of those slokas as I can apply them in my real life.
Ours life was simple ,like a straight road leading to its one and only goal, a happy married life after completing the maximum education. This could be graduation or post graduation in any subject.
It was a special glory for a girl if she could excel herself as a doctor. One could never think of a girl working as an engineer , a lawyer , an architect, a fashion designer , a singer, a dancer , a model or an actress. One of my cousins had to fight a lot to become a doctor. However, teaching profession was assumed the best for a lady.
I lived in a joint family. My grandmother used to look after me as my mother went to school. My mom used to teach English in my school. Whenever she came to teach us, I looked with awe at her face .I could not assimilate the fact that she was my mother. At home , my uncle, aunt and my cousins were my best friends. A distance had developed between me and my parents and I hardly used to share my secrets with them. I think that it was the same gap which lurked around my own children as they did not wish to discuss anything with me even if I tried hard to wipe out the gap.
I grew up and completed my graduation. My father got anxious about my marriage as my mother was no more. So I got married to an engineer who had recently come back from Canada. Everybody expected that he would
like to eat continental dishes and would talk in English all the while as he was highly qualified and had come back from abroad ,but it was just the other way round. He always loved to look at my veiled face and would never allow me to wear the trendy dresses or the gaudy make-up which was quite usual for the newly-wed bride. All my dreams shattered as I had thought of getting liberated from the taboos of my parental home. He was highly possessive and would never encourage me to talk to the male-folk. My in-laws were supportive and never tried to impose anything on me .Nevertheless, they preferred a truly submissive bride who would always dance to their tunes. This was nothing unusual in those days as who would like to be dominated by their juniors and that too especially by the new-comer who must adapt herself to the norms of her new home?
I can recall many of the funny incidents of my newly married life which took place on the next day of our reception. I went for a wash in the morning and the body-oil kept in a small container fell into the huge well-like tank in which water was stored for bathing. And somebody was knocking vigorously at the door as it was getting late as they were very punctual about breakfast. I was really at a fix, didn’t know what to do or how to manage. I started praying . “ Goddess Durga, please help this stupid girl who is without a mother and does not know about the tricks and twists of a married life.” It seemed she heard my prayer and an idea clicked in my mind and I opened the tap which was connected to the tank with the help of a pipe. Water poured in and started overflowing. The oil got separated and flowed down .At least the water in the tank was not so much oily as to create a fuss in the family about the idiosyncrasies of the newly -wed. At night,I ,all decked up in a gorgeous banarasi, was made to sit on the bed and had to perform some rites like feeding my life-partner some sweets and washing his feet with water and drying them up with my hair in front of a huge gathering of kith and kin. Then everybody left and one of my sisters –in-law started undressing me .”Hurry up! Just put on this sari and don’t be scared. Hope your husband won’t mind.”I was stupefied and was trying to gather some courage to ask a few questions regarding this ritual. But to my surprise, she locked me in the dark attic and went away. I was about to cry. A number of tiny creatures started welcoming me. The rats were surrounding me as if I was playing the pipe for them. I was trying hard to open the door but it was locked from outside. Ten minutes passed and I was really passing through a mental trauma when loud peals of laughter broke the uncanny silence and someone opened the door. My Canada-returned hubby was peeping inside the room and my cousin, who had come with me from my parental house , donned in my banarasi, was making fun of her jamaibabu. Later I was dressed again in banarasi and was made to sit on the bed as it was the custom .I felt a little bit low as the charm of the first night had vanished and everything was crystal clear for me and my husband .Gone were the dreams of a fantasy-filled first night ,as we used to find in the 1970 Hindi movies .Forgotten were the words I had practiced so long to utter on this special night. Nevertheless, it was something ecstatic and we were in a trance .We had never seen each other. We had not spent a single evening together. Yet it seemed we belonged to each other for decades. The night passed like a soothing melody ringing in my ears for a long time and was preserved as a cherished possession which was far more precious than the ornaments I had been gifted during my wedding .
Next day , most of the guests left and I tried to show my concern for the household work but was not allowed to do anything except making tea for the elders whenever they wished. After a few days, we had to leave for Chennai as my husband had to join his new job there. I found that everybody was in a very serious mood. Nobody was talking to me or just tried to ignore me. It was a difficult situation for a new bride to make out the meaning of this all. I was apprehensive. “Have I done something to bring disgrace to the family? Is it very serious?”So many questions were aroused in my mind that I was totally confused to find any answer to them. I tried to enquire of my husband but he would not talk to me privately in the daytime. He was only giving me instructions to pack up the things we would need there.
Chennai was totally a new place for us. Both of us were unable to understand Tamil and felt very awkward. However, we managed with English and every day we had some new experiences which filled us with fun. Days passed by in the blink of an eye and I was now preparing for the most important period of my life ----motherhood when my husband left his job , joined another and came back to stay with his family.