Last weekend we had been to The Heritage Centre & Aerospace Museum. Apart from the aircraft on display, one won’t fail to notice the lush greenery all around the campus. They have a beautifully maintained garden and a fish pond. When we retired in the garden to inhale some fresh air and soak in the nature, I was startled at the sight of a crow perched on a tree. I pointed towards the tree, showed Mantam the crow and also took a pic of it. There is no guarantee that we might get to see another crow again, right? The sight of crow transported me back to Kolkata, the days after the demise of my Ajja (grand father) saw me in absolute melancholy as I could not see him or be with him during his last few days. A crow would come near the kitchen window and somehow, I began assuming it was my Ajja. The crow would come daily and eat whatever food I would keep there. At my parent’s place, there is a belief that people come back in the form of a crow after they depart from life. The thought gave my aching heart some solace. After coming to Bangalore, I had almost forgotten about the existence of crows. Spotting this one at the museum was however a refresher… I have been thinking too much about my Ajja lately (not that I had forgotten him otherwise). Here I write about him… It hurts to speak about him as a thing of the past. I want to live with the belief that he is still alive, somewhere up there and happy for me.
He is a self-made man. At a very tender age, he lost his father.Apart from being deprived of fatherly love, he had to let go of a childhood too. Responsibilities of raising his siblings automatically fell on his shoulders. He bade good-bye to education in Class IV and took charge of a petty shop owned by his father. He provided for his brothers’ education and sisters’ marriage. He looked like a Greek God and apparently many young girls would come to the shop just to have a glimpse of him. (As told by one of his younger sisters) An alliance was referred to him by one of the elderly related to the family and he was told that she would bring him luck and prosperity. Apparently she fared quite low on the yardsticks that measured physical beauty and the couple was sneered upon by a few as they considered the marriage a terrible mismatch. In due course, he expanded the petty shop gradually to become an established Whole Sale Dealer of reputed brands and his family too. The couple was blessed with a baby boy only after having 4 daughters.
Although I do not know much about the kind of husband or father that he was, I can very much vouch for his role as a father-in-law and a grand father. When my Annu’s (dad) alliance was fixed with Amma, he would take / send gifts for her after the engagement as he noticed that my Annu wasn’t paying required attention to his fiance. During festivals, he would remind Amma to soak lentils or any other preparatory chore the previous night itself. He was a doting grand father and loved to indulge us always. He would return from the shop daily with chocolates for us. He would buy fruits, snacks, even jewelleries for us. He would get angry on us if we stayed back at our maternal grand parents’ house even for a single night. He would miss us terribly.
I was so attached to him and I also believe from deep inside that the feeling was mutual. He would begin being excited from December about my birthday in Jan 🙂 Almost daily, he would ask me what I wanted for my birthday. On my birthdays each year, he would take me along with him to the temple. He had a humongous pot belly and I would always ask him ‘How many months Ajja?’ and he would say ’13’ to which I would question ‘When will the baby come out? It’s already 4 months overdue’ to which he would have a hearty laugh that would result in the pot belly rigorously moving 😀 Due to extravagance in the name of a paunch, he would not be able to trim his toe nails. I would pitch in whenever I would see him struggling to get hold of the nails. He had this habit of shaving almost daily or at least on alternate days. He despised sporting a stubble. A stubble on his face was a clear indication of him being sick. I hated to see that look on his face and would urge him to shave whenever I saw a day old beard. The very next morning, he would be waiting for me to wake up to show his clean-shaven face and expecting a ‘You look stunning Ajja’ from me. Same goes with his dresses. Amma would buy Khadi material and get Kurtas stitched for him. I loved accompanying Amma during her shopping trips and choosing fabric for Ajja. I would express my disagreement when he would wear any old Kurta and appreciate whenever an attire would aggravate his looks by a few notches. He always looked forward to receiving compliments from me as much as I loved giving him them.
He would wake up sharp at 4 AM daily, Annamma (granny) would follow suit, make coffee for him. On days when I would wake up early, we would read newspaper together and Annu would join after a while. Individual pages would get shuffled among the three of us 😀 He had a hearing disorder which got passed on to him by the virtue of heredity and wore a hearing aid. As he aged, even hearing aid was of little help. There were instances where all of us talked and he hardly got to hear a single word. But he would smile all the while. I still remember a phase where I was crazy about ‘Hip Hip Hurray’ and ‘Roadies’ and they would clash with the only program in TV that Ajja watched, DD Chandana news at 7 PM. He would never let me switch channels during the news. I used to get so bugged, especially when he hardly could hear the news but still wanted to watch. One day, I put the TV on mute when he was watching and switched on Worldspace radio. He didn’t have a clue what was going on and pretended to be immersed in the news.
He was a foodie and would grimace at my fussiness with food. I was a very picky eater, he would exclaim ‘Dunno which corner of the world is your husband sitting. He will have to tolerate all this Nakhra’ and now it turns out that I eat everything on the face of this earth that is edible and my husband is a picky eater. He would challenge us to kill 100 mosquitoes and the reward would be a One Rupee Coin. We would murder with vengeance to grab the coveted award 😀 He had lost pace with the inflation rate as he hardly bought anything as he grew older. I still remember the day when we bought a Microwave oven home, he asked my Granny secretly what its cost was. Knowing his knowledge of current affairs, she lied ‘It cost 200 Rupees’ and he gasped with his mouth wide open ‘Whattt?? Twooo Hundddreddd Rupees aaa? What was the necessity to spend a bomb on a gadget?’ And I was ROFLing then and there literally 😆
Ajja, I have hundreds of such pleasant memories of you to keep me going. People accuse me of having brought a black spot to your reputation that you built over years of hard work. But had you got a single chance to mingle with your grand son-in-law, I’m sure you both would have hit it off too well and I would have been jealous of your bonding with him. I miss you but you are always in my thoughts and are very much alive in my senses…