Mother Oh Mother

My Mother never understood mathematics.

When I asked for one bread she gave me two.

When I asked for Rupees 20 to go out with friends she gave me 50.

My Mother never understood English.

When I told her “ I hate you”,

She loved me more.

My Mother was a liar.

When she did not eat she said she did.

Even when she was hungry she saved my favourite foods for me.

My Mother was Foolish.

Throughout her life she toiled in the kitchen

And kept bothering about our likes and dislikes.

My Mother was a Thief.

She stole money from my father’s wallet to give to me.

She pilfered my favourite eats from picnics she attended.

My Mother was Shameless.

I told her many times not to touch my things

But she kept organising my untidy and unkempt room.

My Mother had no common sense.

Whenever she saw food less on my plate she would fill it up.

Even after I ate a lot she thought I was hungry.

My Mother was careless.

She hid her pains and niggles and never took her medicines.

But she turned the world upside down calling doctors and hospitals even if I coughed a little.

My Mother was un smart.

She never wore costly dresses and never spent on herself.

She only thought of making me smart.

My Mother was selfish.

She could sacrifice everything on earth for her husband and her children.

My Mother was perhaps the worst person in the world.

That is why we children gave her so much trouble.

That is why we never cared for her much…

She was Mom just Mom.

(A Compilation and Translation from an unknown source)

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Relationships have their taste too…………….

I once saw a Whatsapp Video which spoke about the “Tastes of Relationship”.

It was an interesting video which very nicely linked Relationships to certain lingering tastes. The person spoke about his father in a small time job, who, once in a while on his way back from office, would save money to bring him “Samosas” (Samosas are a triangular savoury pastry fried in ghee or oil containing spiced vegetable) wrapped in News Papers.

This taste, it seems, lingered on after his death and the son would recall as to how affectionately his father would bring home these samosas for his son. Among the various memories of his father, this was one memory which stuck with him. I had tears in my eyes when I saw this video.

So that set me thinking and I have been able to discover a plethora of tastes in my various relationships. Some living, some gone, some in touch, some out of touch but when you think of it there is a taste to the relationship which stays with you.

Should we call it the “Essence of Relationships”?

Period: 1972 through to 1983.

I had my Nanihal at Bhagalpur. Emphasis on the word had. The house has been sold off long ago.

For those who don’t know “Nani” is Maternal Grandmother and the place where she would  live was/is called the “Nanihal”. Interesting that this word derives from the Feminine Form and not given to the oft practised gender bias- being called after the Nani and not the Nana ( Paternal Grandfather ).

The house at Bhagalpur was called the “Happy Villa”, It was a biggish two storey house with a lovely garden  and lawn at the front and a wonderful courtyard on the inside. The rooms, the kitchen, the storeroom were lined around the perimeter of the courtyard. The courtyard had a nice tube well at one corner and a Tulsi Tree (Basil Leaf Tree) at one end. The sunshine would bathe the open courtyard and in winters it used to be a lovely place to recline on an armchair and enjoy the sun.

My Grandmother would spend, as would most housewives in those days, a lot of time in the kitchen. You could always smell the various aromas that would emanate from this sanctum sanctorum of hers. The cooking was elaborate and meals were a well spread out family affair. There are certain tastes that linger about her.

The “Hing Kachoris” (Fluffy round shaped deep fried Indian bread with an essence of Asafoetida ) were her speciality and they would be served with lovely potato curry and would make up for a lovely breakfast. Every bite of it would carry the lovely aroma of the hing and the hot crispy crunch of the Kachori. I can even smell it now and feel the taste of it as I write. There were other tastes about her too. The taste of “Puli Pithas”( A traditional Bengali sweet of steamed rice dumplings ) usually eaten with a viscous melt of date jaggery.

 

Puli Pitha

Puli Pithe

Hing Kachori

Hing Kachori

She is no more and amongst the various memories she also lives through these tastes and also takes you back to the lovely house with its own crevices and corners and smells and the ever-cheery Grandfather who loved his food.

Period: 1975 to 1981

Long years of my life have been spent in hostels. St Xaviers – A Christian Missionary School to start with. I distinctly recall the Principal, Father Anthony Gatt with his Havanna Cigars and his pet Alsatian. The smell of the Cigar and the smell of the dog would precede his arrival and in that order.

Hostel food has always in all hostels been the most vivacious topic. No exception to this here. However, the taste that lingers is that of the brownish pooris ( An Indian deep fried bread ) which were served twice a week and the mutton curry which was served once a week. The brown pooris had a particular aroma and you could smell their cooking from the morning itself. The mutton had a typical taste too. Boarders of that era, if they happen to read this would surely be able to smell it  and feel the taste of it even today. Not to forget the sumptuous meals on hostel days…

Period: 1981 to 1983.

Moving on “Ramakrishna Mission Residential College” with its vast expanse and the hostel block “Bramha” had its own taste. I recall the “Moori and Bonde” served as evening snacks along with tea. The hosteliers would carry their own plate and stand in queue for the helping of this snack. ( Bonde – Indian dessert made from sweetened, fried chickpea flour. (Moori- Puffed rice commonly used as a breakfast cereal or snack food ).

Muri

Moori

Bonde

Bonde

I also recall the fusion whiff of various foods brought by parents on weekends as they came to visit their wards.

Period 1983 to 1987

Fast Forward to the engineering college hostel at Behrampore, West Bengal. So many memories and so many tastes. I distinctly recall “Thakurmoshai” ( The Chief Cook / Main Chef ) cooking with his lungi ( A wrap dress worn around the waist ) and his vest stirring away with his ladle.

He was a chain smoker and smoked beedis ( Local cigarette made of unprocessed tobacco wrapped in leaves ) and the smell of the Beedi permeated itself through the kitchen into the dining hall. The taste of his watery dal ( Lentil soup ) and his chicken curry do filter through even now. Regular days were on cheap budgets save the once in a month GF ( Grand Feast ) day and the same lungi  clad beedi smoking, naïve cook would churn up various delicacies and the festivities  and their taste would traverse long into the night.

The Behrampore town, largely a sleepy hamlet in those days” has / had  its own food and the tastes of “Sar Rooti” ( Bread laced with burnt sugar and milk cream ) and “Chana Bada” ( A roundish dark fried milk based sweet meat dipped in sugar syrup ) seep in.

My mother has been a great cook herself. She carried forward the tradition of her mother and also many of her recipes. With time she evolved her own recipes and mixed and matched various recipes to create a taste of her own. She would also spend a long time in the kitchen and at one point of time cooked all alone for nine people each of whom had their own likings and disliking about various foods, different times for meals and various favourites.

She managed it all.

She is 75 Plus now and hardly ventures into the kitchen, more out of lack of confidence than out of lack of culinary skills but certain tastes about her cooking are still talked about.

The cherry on the cake surely was her light gravy, Mutton Curry. Sundays used to be Mutton day and every Sunday we would all wake up with the thought of a lovely afternoon meal replete with Mutton curry and rice along with a bit of salad and fries of some kind. My Father had his own style of savouring this mutton curry. The Mutton curry for him would be laid out on a large glass plate/rice plate. There would essentially be a half potato embellishing the gravy and father would eat it with great delight  and ebullience enjoying the light gravy with a tablespoon and licking his taste buds till the last morsel.

My father loved his “karaisuti Kachoris”( A puri stuffed with mashed spiced up peas ) too.

The smell of these Kachoris while being fried was an Olfactory delight.

The smell of Mutton undergoing the process of cooking would start enveloping the house from around 11.30 AM as it would get cooked and before Mom would eventually put all the contents into the pressure cooker for the final round I would essentially pick up a piece ( a bit uncooked ) and some gravy and enjoy it with bread or two. A sort of preview to the final meal.

Other tastes about her have been some more of her specialities. The caked baked at home, the lovely “Dahi Vadas” ( Prepared by soaking fried flour balls in thick yoghurt ), the pudding and the custard.

Father is no more now. Wherever he is I am sure he is not missing his Sunday Mutton as my mother no more cooks, except very occasionally but when she does she always places the first serving in front of the photograph of my father.

The first taste thus is still his……..

Two of my friends passed away in two separate tragic incidents. Vijay Benwal a colleague of mine when I was in National Insurance was a chirpy, vivacious, “heart In his sleeve” guy. Came up from a village in Uttar Pradesh and a carrier of a lot of the rural charm, rituals and hospitality. His family was a crowd as he had four daughters, one son, his wife, his sister and his mother all living in the same house. In those bachelor days me and my friend Himanshu Sharma ( Sometimes we would also have Neeraj, Vinay and Ram join in but I and Himanshu were the regulars ). Vijay’s wife would cook for us and her large chapatis laced with butter were a special attraction. We would sit on the floor in the kitchen and eat away. The smell of the thick large chapati emanating from the kitchen and served with either Lentils and/or mutton/chicken curry was a favourite taste.

Vijay Benwal passed away in his prime following a massive heart attack.

Surinder another colleague died out of a road accident leaving behind a cute little daughter and his almost newly wed wife. He was very fond of his namkeen ( Salty and Savoury snack ) and would bring large packets for us from his hometown of Jabalpur.

Namkeen

Namkeen

My wife Paramita kept learning and improving her cooking style along the way. Experimenting with her own recipes she kept on inventing and making certain delicacies of her own. The friends of our kids, today, love her cooking and frequently drop in to our house to enjoy a bite of it.

Largely on demand are her Chicken Curry ( In various styles ), the chicken kebabs, the egg kebab ( a process of making which she sort of discovered on her own ). She also is good with her cake, pudding and custard. Her “ Chaler Payesh”  (  A rice pudding made by boiling rice with milk ) made out of Date Jaggery is the “ top of mind recall’ or the lingering taste.  The Payesh creates its own aroma while being cooked and so does her mutton curry. The Egg Kebab hides its aroma until it hits your palate.

I and my younger daughter recall the taste of  her Mutton Curry while my elder daughter recalls the taste and aroma of her grilled chicken.

Let me now recall certain people and link them to taste.

My friend Sayantani’s Dhania Mutton ( Dhania – Coriander ), My sister in law Tumpa’s Prawn Malai Curry, The baked “Bhetki” ( A particular variety of fish ) of my  “Maima”        ( Aunt in law ), The Mutton cooked by Shantanu in his own style, The quintessential Bengali dishes of Chandrima and Dolon, the Idlis, Dosais and Vadas of Jayashree, Sudha , Vizy and Ram.

The Kachoris and Namkeens of Allahabad brought for me by my sister and her Dahi Vadas.

We spent quite some time in Gurgaon. Our family friend Sunita brought in a lot of her taste too. Especially the “Aaaloo and Muli Parathas”( Flatbreads made with a stuffing of Potato and Radish ) and also Methi Parathas ( Flatbreads made with Fenugreek Leaves ). The Kamal Kakdi Subzi ( Lotus root vegetable ) had its own flavour and taste.

Kamal Kakdi

Kamal Kakdi Subzi

My daughter Sanya loves her Pasta and my younger daughter Khushi loves her Garlic Bread, My wife Paramita loves her Jalebis ( An Indian sweet made of a coil of batter fried and steeped in syrup ). These are the tastes that go with them.

My Father In Law is a Health Freak and a disciplined eater so to say. I can associate him with his typical fish curry – largely a light gravy and his “Chana” ( Cheese curd made from regular milk by adding food acids ).

My Mother In-law’s Cashew Paneer vegetable ( An Indian Cottage Cheese Vegetable ) is a tasty delight.

These tastes get linked to them.

We recently travelled to Ostrava, a small town in the Czech Republic, where my brother and his family stay now. We spent a few days at their house. My Sister In law made some wonderful dishes. The taste of the Lamb Curry hangs on and so does the taste of the smoothie. There were other tastes too but since we ate a lot outside we need to make another visit to identify more tastes.

Niranjan was our Bungalow Peon when my father was in the Railways. Niranjan moved on to become part of our household and addressed my mother as mother too.

A great human being with great culinary skills he churned up various recipes for us.  I recall the days when we would sit around the earthen oven and eat while he cooked for us.

Most of his dishes stood out with special mention of his chicken curry, his sweetmeats, his chicken and mutton pulao and so on.

I can feel the taste of each of these relationships and I am sure as I continue further into my life’s journey more relationships with their own tastes will keep getting added.

There have been and are many more relationships with their own tastes and I would probably have to plan a sequel to this.

Quickly recalling “ Mantu da” the street vendor in front of National Insurance Head Office. Many from National Insurance and / or otherwise would recall Mantu Da.

I leave them with their own taste of Mantu Da.

I am sure to have missed out on certain tastes and obviously certain relationships linked with them in this piece.

Till then let us usher in the “Taste of the New Year”.

Harathi Nimeshaath Kaala Sarvam

Time

Almost 12 days have rolled by since Achintya left for his divine abode and most of us have returned to our daily chores and normal life.

I am Time……

I am Time, I do not wait for anyone. I cannot stop, I cannot be stopped. I just flow from the past to the present to the future.

The blog that I wrote on Achintya evoked responses from many friends, colleagues, acquaintances and I am sure each one of us who wrote about Achintya could visualize him while doing so. The all pervading Achintya would have been with all of us who wrote about him. There are many who also responded to me on whatsapp instead of writing at the site.

I am Time…….

On that day on which I wrote the blog on Achintya I had woken up early with a lot of chatter in my mind. Everything about Achintya had been coming back to me and taking up its own space in my mind and many of them moving down to the heart.

It was a difficult moment.

I realized that I had to get it out.

Therefore, I started writing about Achintya and I wrote in a trance till the mind had settled down and I could breathe easy and think easy.

I am Time……..

Many called it “ A  wonderful Obituary“ but it was not meant to be an Obituary at all. I could not have written an Obituary on Achintya.

As Suman Ganguly wrote “We are all Achintya”.  “I can still hear him laugh….. Ha …. Ha…. Ha”

How can there be an obituary.

Many people wrote a lot of things about Achintya and I would sit and read all that everyone had written Once, twice, thrice, many times.  He was there, he was laughing……..he was everywhere……………..

I am Time…………..

It would be apt for me to now create the essence of Achintya through the thoughts, feelings and emotions of everyone.

  1. Humility was definitely one aspect of Achintya everyone talked about. His feet never left the ground and that his why perhaps he leaves his foot prints.
  2. The simplicity of his thoughts and his calmness and  composure stood out to everybody. He just took it in his stride.
  3. He led his life devoid of conflicts and chose to be humane and just not human.
  4. He always seemed eager to help all and sundry. The helping hand was always kept extended for anyone who wanted to hold it.
  5. He carried no rancour.
  6. Most of us did re-visit his evergreen smile breaking through the barriers of life. The smile that stuck to him as if it was embedded into him.
  7. His intelligence shone to everybody and many thought that his potential remained largely un utilized.
  8. There was lot of mention of his hospitality too.

Specially for the family and for many it started with shock and disbelief and from there to belief and thereby to acceptance and then grief settled in……. But time intervened….

I am Time…….

The past moved on to the present and to the future. Anon and Yonder and the distant thunder no matter what they bring, time steps in, lifts you up and carries you away into the future, there is no wait, no halt just a journey….. I am time….. I will transpose you and not leave you in your present and / or in your past….

Time is the best healer. It will heal for the family too.

However, there will come moments when Achintya will come back in talks and discussions and the mind will go back in time… For the Wife and the Son Achintya will keep coming back even though time will keep pulling them into the future.

I am Time…….

The ways colleagues and friends have stood up and continue to do so has been commendable. The least one can do is to hold the hands of the bereaved family and walk them into the future and allow time to heal.

The Son will go back to his studies and one day meet his calling. He shall blossom into a fine young man and do well in life and everyone through him would again see Achintya. More so Rakhee for whom the blooming of Arijit into Achintya would be for her a home coming, a return to the past….

And somewhere in the firmament a star will twinkle brighter and we will know who that star is……God knows some day when we keep looking at the sky the Star might just smile back at us……………

But I am Time……………..

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

 

Om Shanti Shanti Om

Main Pic

News of deaths are not infrequent in today’s world. Many die every day around the world and many of these deaths don’t move us and even those that move us do so momentarily, after all we are human beings and we do feel sad about say a bus accident, a terrorist bombing killing innocents and so on and so forth.

We all know that while life may be uncertain the only certainty that comes complimentary with life is death.

Even then there come deaths which shake us badly and shake us to the very core.

18th of September, 2018 was one such day.

I was in office and into a meeting when Ratan Sengupta, an old and senior ex colleague of mine, called me. Being in a meeting I was unable to take the call. It was then that Ratan da texted me and I reproduce the language of the text verbatim:

“ Achintya Mallik Passed way today morning at Mumbai”

My return call to Ratan da and a few more colleagues / ex colleagues / friends confirmed the news.

On the fateful day Achintya went through his usual morning routine, had breakfast, packed his lunch and left for office. He took an auto from Hiranandani Gardens, Powai to the Kanjur Marg station ( from where he would board the train for office ), stepped out of the auto and collapsed. The auto driver and a few passers by propped him up by the road side and used his mobile to make a few calls on the basis of last few numbers dialed and the speed of technology carried the news through calls, texts and whatsapp messages everywhere.

The time of death could have been around 8.55 AM or so maybe 9.00 AM. At around 8.45 AM he had sent the following whatsapp message  in his friends group. Perhaps the last communication of his life.

 

Last Whatsapp

His colleagues from National Insurance Mumbai rushed to the spot, retrieved him and carried him to the Hirandani Hospital where he was declared “Brought Dead”

At 56 a life had come to an end sending tremors of sadness among friends and foes ( He had none ) and leaving the family devastated.

I perhaps  met him for the first time in the year 1996 and was not impressed at first sight. Here was a boy in very simple attire who hardly spoke, always smiled at anything and everything and seemed to be too casual about his demeanour and gait. He did not fit in my own muddle-headed description of an officer.

Gradually we became personal friends first, family friends later and realized how wrong and in-accurate my first impression had been. Hiding behind the shadows  of what I just described was a highly intelligent, calm and composed human being. A person who was an Aeronautical Engineer from IIT, highly efficient and capable at his work, had not the slightest airs about anything, could smile away  even at the very tense of situations and who was always eager to help anyone and everyone.

What amazed me was the purity of his heart and intentions and his uncanny ability to face any situation in office or personal life with a calmness of composure and a patent smile that went on to become a hallmark of Achintya. In many of my trying situations in life just his presence beside me had always been a great pacifier.

His wife Rakhi would always jocularly tell my wife that they were a unique husband and wife who never had a fight. You know why……………No matter what happened and no matter how angry Rakhi would be Achintya would never fight back, never utter a word, never try to defend himself and in his own hallmark style  just stay calm and silent with that patent smile of his hanging on his lips. In the absence of fuel, therefore. the fight would die at birth or get nipped in the bud.

Many a times I even thought that this was perhaps the only grievance Rakhi had about her husband that she never succeeded in engaging him in a heated argument or debate.

Once my father fell seriously ill and was hospitalized. The situation was serious as he was passing blood with his urine. I had decided to stay at the hospital but the situation being tense I needed company. I called Achintya and he was there in a jiffy. He spent two days and two nights at the hospital and every night we would sleep together on the floor and get up to attend to my father when required. During these two nights  my father kept passing blood with his urine and as advised by the doctor we would collect my father’s urine in bottles for testing the next day.

During those days Achintya was like my own brother helping me to collect the urine without any sense of disgust or disdain. His mere presence was soothing enough to make me believe that my father would come out of this and come out he did.

I walked out of the hospital not only with my father but also with a sense of great respect for this man. Whenever I have thought of him the one image that would always cross my mind was his presence at the hospital beside me. Even as I write this I can visualize the hospital room with my father on the hospital bed and Achintya and me in the room on the floor trying to catch up with some sleep.

In those days, mid nineties , he would smoke a lot — a habit which he discarded in a couple of years. Most of the times I would borrow cigarettes from him and on many occasions out of the pack of ten I would end up smoking Seven/eight leaving only three/two for Achintya. One day he told me, jokingly of course, that he would calculate the number of cigarettes I took from him and find out the monthly amount which I was blowing away at his expense. Not to be let down by this I retorted back saying that he should consider himself lucky that I left for him the two or three cigarettes which should be accounted as his savings. This was a cause of much laughter amongst us and the joke went around our office and our colleagues too and many would actually pull Achintya’s leg saying that Prantik was actually ensuring a savings for him instead of an expense.

He lived his life in a very simple way. Extravagance, the lure of consumerism and brands never touched him. He spent what was needed, made no compromises on his spending when required and at the same time was never an extravagant or an impulsive spender.

I have seen him struggle with his finances in a big way when he decided to buy an apartment at Kolkata. He surrendered all his Life Insurance Policies, channelized his savings, took a House Building Loan from the Company and bought a small flat at Garia, Kolkata. The flat was small, short of space but abounding in love and hospitality. Whenever we went to the flat both Achintya and Rakhi would go overboard to ensure that we were comfortable, felt at home and that we never left without a very fulfilling and wholesome meal.

I never heard him complain about anything. Not even about his job. Many a times I thought that God had forgotten to put the word complaint into his being. He was as comfortable in an over crowded bus or train as he was in a limousine. He could happily sleep on the floor in the absence of a bed and I gradually realized that life could never disturb him, definitely not on the outside. If there was some disturbance or turmoil inside it never came out.

He was a great father and a great family man too. He brought up his son in the most practical way possible and Guddu eventually went on to study at Ramakrishna Mission Narendrapur, Jadavpur University and eventually went abroad to Spain, France and Germany for his higher studies. I met him after long recently following the demise and he had blossomed into a man of 24. He appeared calm, quiet and composed as well, a trait which I am sure got passed onto him from Achintya and Rakhi.

Achintya was proud of his son and you could sense the pride whenever he spoke about Guddu. I am sure he did not speak about Guddu much to many people. It was not his habit to talk about the accomplishments of his son. When he spoke about Guddu to me he would always refer to Guddu as “Shriman” and this world echoes in the hollow recesses of my memory now.

He bought another flat at New Town, Kolkata and a big one this time, a 3 BHK Flat and proudly took me one day to show me the flat during its construction stage. The slabs were casted and the construction was on. He felt happy and relieved to have eventually managed to buy a decent sized flat. He would have never known then that in future he would not be there to enjoy the flat he so proudly acquired..

Quite some time ago when he was posted at Dumka he had met with a serious accident but pulled through it. He was transferred to Mumbai recently and stayed for long at the guest house. Eventually took up a Company Flat at Powai and shifted Rakhi only recently ( just about 20/25/35 days before his death ).

They had both called us and it was their desire that this year we would celebrate the Durga Puja at Mumbai together. My wife told Rakhi that she should now enjoy her life without tension as Guddu was doing well with his Doctorate abroad and so on and so forth. Rakhi said who knew what tension the future brings. None of us knew then that in the very immediate future Achintya would just drop dead in the most bizaare way and in the most untimely fashion.

As a group, ex colleagues and friends from National we had met a few months back at a club at Mumbai. Organised by Bhaskar and Sumona we had a wonderful evening and dinner together. Bhaskar, Subhankar, Amitabh, Sumona, Achintya and yours truly.

While this group in their fifties was largely discussing about retired life and pension Achintya was talking about getting transferred to another city in a few years which would allow him to savour in the flavour of  another city of India as a part of his job.

The entire team of National pitched in to support on hearing about his death. Everything from the post mortem to the funeral was handled by colleagues and friends who loved him. They stood firm, they consoled and they cried. They are still around trying to help the family through this phase of crisis.

When the body was brought to the Cremation Ground at Vikhroli and laid supine on the slab it was decorated and embellished with flowers, garlands , incense and smeared with Ghee. What an Irony. The man who shied away from Public glare and all sorts of embellishments in life was decorated, embellished and garlanded in death.

I could not muster up the courage to look at the body. However, there is on thing I am sure of, that even in death just as in life, his lips would still have been curved up in that patent smile of his.

During the three days after the death, Rakhi would cling to my wife and cry. She kept hoping against hope that Achintya might just call or might just ring the bell and walk in. She  held my hand and said

“Prantik da is he really gone”. I couldn’t reply because I was not sure if he was really gone. He seemed all around me with his inimitable smile.

Achintya knew Rakhi since she was in class XI. They had an affair and a marriage. One fine morning Achintya just walked up to Rakhi and said “Lets get married tomorrow”. This simple girl from the suburbs of Kolkata just obliged and thereby began a journey of togetherness “In Filmy Style” says Rakhi…….. looks blank, drops a tear or two and says

“ He passed way in Filmy Style too is it not”

Paramita and me didn’t have an answer again.

When I left Kolkata we were not in regular touch with Achintya and Rakhi but in touch we were though a bit infrequently.

He kept a tab of my whereabouts, my life, my children and so did I. For all these years I have been trying to find one moment when Achintya was angry or had a fight. I haven’t yet been able to find one. All those who happen to read this and who also knew Achintya to them I say…. I am looking for a single moment when he was angry and shouting and fighting. If you find any such a moment do let me know….

There are many memories, many incidents and recounting all of them would take up a life time of blogging for me.

Achintya very soon we will join you. We have to because that is the certainty of life. Friends and Foes ( did you have any? ) alike. We will meet again and we will start again like the inimitable smile which never left you, like the candle and the wind, like the rubber flip flops which you used to wear, like the wills navy cut packets, like the home that you built brick by brick with layers and layers of love and caring, like the car that you bought like the book on Aviation Insurance that you wrote but never gave me a copy, like the fried fish you ordered for me when I visited you in office.

There was a gathering long overdue. Subroto and Mallika, Joydeep, Suman, Debasish and Dolly, Me and Paramita, You and Rakhi.

There was so much of life left in you. How could you just leave mate?  How could you just throw away your wicket.  There are many more overs to go and many more runs to make. I look up from the Non Strikers’ end but don’t see you. I look all around and don’t see you. You have already walked into the Pavillion and disappeared.

I am blank, I am stranded at the Non Strikers end, I look at the horizon and hope for bad light……… at least for now.

In Hinduism we believe in the passing away of the soul and in the cycle of death and rebirth till we attain Moksha. Will Achintya be reborn? I don’t know. Will Achintya attain Moksha? I don’t know. Will I hear is voice again? I know I wont….

 

Agni Dahe na Jare                                          ( That which fire cannot burn )

Shastre chende na jare                                 ( That which weapons cannot pierce )

Na Hanyate ayee Hanyaman Sharire          ( Immortal in this mortal body )

P.S: The obituary written by friends is reproduced below.

In Remembrance

Remembrance Pic

QUOTE

It is said that good men are so loved by God, they get called to the heavens earlier.

Mr Achintya Mallick (6th December 1962 – 18th September 2018) was a great employee, a better father, and a best friend to many. 

Mallick Da, as he was fondly called, will always be remembered for his soft, humble nature, which gracefully hid the sheer volume of talent and knowledge he held. Nobody ever saw him scold anyone, no matter how grave a crime or insubordination someone committed. He always had a way of getting people to turn around, find a better path, and love their life. And he always did it with a smile on his face.

While nothing can ever fill the void left behind by him, we vow to carry forward his legacy and his teachings, so that the world can be blessed with more people who think and care like him.

We pray for his soul to rest in peace, and hope that his family is able to cope with this untimely accident…

Our deepest condolences are with his family…

With heartfelt sorrow:

          FRIENDS

UNQUOTE

Passing of a soul foretold- A Chronicle

It was the winter of 2004. Early January. Kolkata however is not famous for its severe  winters and the winter of 2004 was not different. It was cold enough for the elderly, pleasant enough for the young, just about enough to bring out sweaters and shawls and allow picnickers to revel.

There was no profuse sweating ,no killing humidity, no garrulous rainfall. It was the season of book fairs, film festivals, week end breaks. The biriyani was easier digested and hot chocolates made a comeback. The morning sun was soothing to the body and christmas had just got over having handed the baton to the new year and another calendar year to the Doctor.

The day before the death Doctor Mitra felt fine. In the morning he sat at the lovely balcony of his house, read the newspaper and sipped on to his tea. The morning sun bathing him and caressing him. He felt nice and cosy. He had a shawl draped around him. His conventional dark greyish shawl which made him feel cosy. Inspite of his weakning heart and his age of 84 he loved this morning ritual of the balcony of his two storeyed house. Many a passerby in the street below wished him and he exchanged pleasentaries with them.

Dr Saha was a regular ” late morning” walker. At his age of 79 he felt no need to rush early into his morning walk. 7.30 AM was a good time for him to leave and return by about 8.30 AM or so. The day before the death he started off in his usual round and route. Stopping once below the balcony of Dr Mitra, as was his routine. This day too he shouted out to Dr Mitra. ” Hello Doctor Mittir , what are the headlines for today” . “Nothing new” said Dr Mitra . “Some news on Vote on Account , one of the coldest winters reported at Kokkata @ 9.4 degrees ” went on Dr Mitra. ” Yes this winter is colder ” agreed Dr Saha. They then chatted for a while and then Dr Saha went ahead with his morning walk and Dr Mitra continued with his newspaper reading.

The day before the death Mrs Mitra got up early.She always got up early. She had to make tea for Doctor Mitra and for her eldest son Babu. She would follow it up with breakfast preparations. She decided on Luchi and subzi for breakfast. In any case Dr Mitra had wanted to have Luchi and subzi today. She was a bit reluctant because she thought that such deep fried preparation was perhaps not good for Dr Mitra’s heart but she fought the reluctance back with the thought of allowing the old man, who had always enjoyed his food, his choice of food. More so, as she felt that she could pack the same for her elder son Babu towards his office lunch. That saved her the arduous task of trying to make something else for Babu and in any case Babu liked Luchi for his office lunch pack too.

The day before the death the elder son Babu went about his own routine of getting up, having his tea, quick breakfast, bath , pick up his lunch box and rush to office. He and his friend Chandan, also his neighbour, took the 8 AM Chartered bus together. To the bus stop from the house was a five minute brisk walk. Chandan as usual walked faster than Babu and Babu was always trying to keep pace with him. The bus was on time and once settled inside the bus Babu’s thoughts veered to the pending tasks at office. There were two important claim files to be attended to, there was a discussion on the structure of the presentation to be made to a client and so on.

The day before the death the younger son Bunti had to rush to the factory at odd hours to attend to a breakdown. His job location being far away from Kolkata he always made it a point to call his parents Dr Mitra and Mrs Mitra daily. He particulary would check on his father who had survived two mild heart attacks in the past. However today was different. The breakdown at the plant was serious and he realized he would have a long day perhaps spilling over to the night.

Dr Mitra finished reading the newspaper and strolled in from the balcony to enjoy his breakfast which he ate with great satisfaction post which he opened his file of investments to review them and later in the afternoon decided to walk down to the bank near his house for some work. Dr Saha in the meantime had gone to his chamber to attend to his patients. Dr Mrs Roy a gyanecologist and neighbour of Dr Mitra had a Ceaserian to attend to and she was preparing herself for the OT. Mrs Mitra was supervising the maids and preparing for lunch, Babu had just made an office note on the first claim file and put it up to his manager for approval, Bunti was inside the plant giving directions to his foreman. The breakdown had halted production and it was important to get the plant up and running soon. Chandan had a lot to attend in office and was busy.

The afternoon before the death was thus mundane in nature. There was nothing unusual about the afternoon. No storm, no rain, no hail, no breaking news. Nothing really to disturb the routine.

After lunch Dr Mitra had his medicines and settled into his Siesta. Before he did that he spent some time reading a novel. He was nearing the end and the suspense leading up to the climax was intriguing him. He decided to leave the last chapter for the morrow. Going into siesta thinking of the climax, which was still unknown, was , as per him, the readers’ delight. Mrs Mitra was winding up her work for the day, organising and cleaning the kitchen. She too loved her afternoon nap. It was a much needed rest from the din and bustle of activity of the morning.

Soon the afternoon dissolved into evening and Dr Mitra settled down to watch TV, Dr Saha was getting ready for a family get together, Chandan and Babu had started back home from office, the breakdown at the plant was taken care of but Bunti decided to stay on till normalcy of production returned, Mrs Mitra was relaxing at the balcony waiting for her son to arrive back from office after which her chores would again begin.

The night before the death it was all quiet at the Mitra household. Dinner was laid out at 10 PM just after Dr Mitra had had an early dinner. Mita Babu’s wife had also served early dinner to the two kids who had been sent off to sleep. The kids were too young and early to bed was the norm for them as set by Mita. Mita, Babu and Mrs Mitra then sat down for dinner. The talk at the dinner table was usual a bit about everything, a bit about the kids , a bit about Bunti, a bit about Dr Mitra’s health…. a bit about everything really. Finally they all retired for the day and the Mitra household had gone into slumber for the night.

Dr Mitra felt that the night was slightly colder as he needed two blankets today. He checked the usual things by his bed side. A glass of water, sorbitrate tablets, his pullover which he would need as he got up in the morning and his slippers just below the bed.

Chandan got the phone call at 7.30 the next morning and rushed.

Mita had rushed to Dr Mrs Roy at 7.35 the next morning. She rushed too.

Bunti got the call around 8.00 AM and rushed to his home to plan for the immediate journey to Kolkata.

Dr Saha during his usual morning walk found the balcony empty and rushed in.

Mrs Mitra had discovered him lying in the bathroom and thought he had fallen. She rushed to call her son Babu who was taking bath. Mita heard Mrs Mitra scream and rushed.

Babu cut short his bath and rushed out.

Dr Mitra had got up at his usual time. He had his glass of water, got out of his bed, wore his pullover, took the sorbitrate tablet wrapping in his hand and went into the bathroom to wash his face and brush. Inside the bathroom he felt a numbness and a pressure on his chest. Being a doctor himself he had an inkling. He tore upon the tablet wrapper and fell to the floor littering the tablets all around him.

Babu found him on the bathroom floor and tried to pump his heart. He also quickly called Chandan.

But it was late.. The SOUL HAD PASSED AWAY…..

But for the Indian Railways…….

IMG_3859

It was perhaps the summer of 1978. Definitely it was summer as Babu could recall that he was wearing a half shirt and his father was wearing a half shirt too. No mist was getting formed from exhaled breaths and no one was in woolens. It was definitely summer. Sitting in 2018 and thinking of 1978 that is forty years ago was not easy but certain incidents get etched in your memory and when you think of them and travel into the past they unfold like the images in a Kaleidoscope. They are now unfolding for Babu.

It was leading upto summer vacations and soon the school and the hostel would close for a month. The students were generally happy as their parents would come to pick them up and for a month or so they would enjoy the comfort of home and home food. The hosteliers , of course, always wanted to come back soon as the hostel was more fun and the roving eyes of parents were not always on them. Hostel life pranks and such nuances probably had a greater endearing charm so punctuations of home stay were fine but their hearts eventually fell for the hostel life.

On the D Day Babus father came to pick him up as well. Babus father being in the railways had the luxury of a cosy railway rest house whenever he came and Babu along with his bedding and trunk would first normally accompany him to the rest house. There he would take some rest , have a delightful meal attended to by butlers and leave the rest house only minutes before the scheduled time of the train. Most of the railway men were known to Babus father and one important ritual was to get a trunk call through to Mom and speak to her and sense the delight in her voice. Her ebullience and happiness would be palpable in the phone itself driven by the news of Babus home coming for the vacation.

In those days for reaching home Babu had to change trains at a place called Barauni. Father and Babu boarded the train and settled down. The train was scheduled to reach Barauni at around late morning the next day from where they were supposed to change trains for Sonepur. Babu and his father got down at Barauni only to realize that the connecting train was scheduled to leave in the next five minutes. A coolie was summoned quickly and they had to make a dash to the other platform. The coolie first, followed  by father and Babu. Father got in the compartment followed by the coolie but as Babu was about to get in the train took off. There was a melee at the door as many other people rushed to board and Babu was knocked aside. He watched helplessly as the train sped away, his father inside trying to pull the chain to stop the train, Babu lost in reverie and struck by nothingness. Had he discerned a small glint of tear in his fathers eyes as the train sped away.

The train was gone and Babu just about 13 years old was suddenly stranded at a railway platform with no clue what to do. He sauntered down the platform , found a bench and sat down. His mind was blank and in hind sight luckily so as that prevented any sort of action from Babu.

In the meantime Father was speeding away in the train which would stop next at Sonepur only three hours away. He was tremendously agitated and constantly thinking of ways to locate and retrieve Babu. Getting down at Sonepur and catching another train back was a matter of seven to eight hours that too if immediate connections were available.No, he had to activate the railway network.

Meanwhile after sitting on the bench for long Babu fell asleep on the bench. He must have dozed off for at least two hours or more. He was woken up by two gentlemen who were enquiring his name and whereabouts.He was terrified, he had heard about child trafficking and other such things and withdrew from them giving them a false name and stating that he was waiting for the next train. The gentlemen eventually left. They appeared perplexed but Babu didnt care. He was happy getting rid of them. Considering safety first Babu moved to another bench at another end of the platform and settled himself there. He was fairly ensconced thus when after about fifteen minutes he found the two gentleman returning , this time with a third gentleman who was quite well dressed and appeared the Senior of the two. This well dressed man approached Babu held his hand and tugged Babu along. This man looked decent and well groomed and Babu did not resist. Along the way this well dressed man quipped about the other two getlemen as being foolish and irresponsible.

Babu was brought to the Station Masters room and this gentleman turned out to be the Station Master himself. Babu was now relieved. The Station Master placed a trunk call and on connection passed on the receiver to Babu. On the other end was Dad. Dad advised Babu to stay calm and just follow what the Station Master said.

The Station Master ordered some tea and snacks. The next train to Sonepur was due in another half an hour. All arrangements were made and when the train came in Babu was put into the guards compartment in the custody of the train guards who were advised to handover Babu specifically to Dad at Sonepur.

Dad was eagerly waiting at Sonepur as the train chugged in. Babu was reunited with Dad.

An ordeal thus ended.

What if Dad was not in the railways?

What if the Station Master had not come himself?

What if Babu had sauntered out of the platform and into the city?

40 years and Babu has no answers yet……..but for the Indian Railways…

Clarion Call: Back To Base

We were happy and merry, we had a spring in our steps, our stomachs were full and our capital was restored.

We decided to walk to the station and eventually return to base. We were dishevelled, dirty, stinking and weary but happy and cheerful. Enquiries revealed a train at around 5 PM which could take us back. We decided to take that by mamaging the TTE with some money. Being late afternoon we had enough time and in the interlude Vivek ended up making friends with a Sardarji , a senior army man who was travelling with his unit and was to take the same train we had decided upon. The officer soon became friendly with us, introduced us to many of the jawans and also treated us with Tea and snacks. As he was conversing with us we told him our story which really amused him and he eventually offered us to travel in the special compartment which was specially booked for the army men.

Since that meant the luxury of free travel we all agreed.

However, just half an hour before the train arrived Sridip took us all aside and sowed serious doubts in our mind as regards travelling with a bunch of army men. Even when I recount this now I cant help but laugh out loud as to how stupid, naive and gullible we were in our thoughts and wisdom.

As per Sridip army men due to their difficult postings and long periods away from their family tended to be largely homosexual and once inside their compartment we were easy prey to their lust. Sridips way of telling and expressing made the narration a stark reality and an impending peril and the more we discussed it the more we believed it and the more it scared us. We finally decided to drop out much to the surprise of the army officer who was urging us to board when the train came in and we were looking the other way and Vivek was trying to explain to him in Punjabi that we wanted to take a later train and so on and so forth.

Finally when the train chugged out it took our fears away with it and we were left to look at another train which was coming in around 930 PM. We eventually took this night train by managing the TTE at Rs 90/- and setlled down at various vantage points inside. We largely fell asleep.

Early morning we reached Khagra station from where we took rickshaws to the hostel. We reached sometime late in the morning and were quickly surrounded by eager, worried and angry faces. We were missing for three days and set alarm bells ringing. Snehangshu who had left us at Malda had gone back to his native place instead of returning home and the only information the inmates had was through Jhilik who had returned from Siliguri.

The warden took us aside and gave us a piece of his mind but we could sense that he was relieved on seeing us hail and hearty.

ALL WAS WELL.

Till this day when we friends catch up this trip definitely forms a part of our discussions. It is now a great memory. All the members of this trip have also passed on this incident to their children and by word of mouth this incident lives and breathes as it gets passed through our children to their friends and through us to our friends and acquaintances. Writing it down has been a great and fulfilling experience.

Till date I feel GOD travelled with us too, taking care of us whenever the need arose.

On the way back in the train when we were all stinking at different degrees Saibal and Dhruva had coined a name for each of us relating to the extent and degree of stink of each… I cant remember the names. ” Gandhachudamani” was one. I dare not translate it.

Unfortunately Dhruva is no more. GOD beckoned him too early.

While narrating this I had forgotten that he is no more as he was living in flesh and blood with me through the narrative.

Now the stark reality hits me. RIP…..MAN….