Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Rummy Dream


Much as I would have liked to pose as an exception, my much too known past defiantly stands in the way of even soliloquizing, “I didn’t live a clichéd life.” But, you know, even in some ordinary run of the mill lifestyles there could be sparks of extraordinariness. And in my case, it happened on the first day of my earning life. 

 Trust me, I never wanted to be a journalist! I wasn’t remotely interested in anything to do with writing. But like millions of youngsters brought up those days with a heavy dose of a “secured life should be your life goal, and a first-class is a must” life mission, my sleeps were dogged by nightmares of failing in exams and the waking hours by being a disappointment in academics. 

 All parents dream of children achieving success. My parents couldn’t have been an exception. But they never told me what it was. Yet when I would write an essay without a mistake with a few nice lines thrown in, I couldn’t but notice that glint in my father’s eyes. Or, coming back home with less than ‘worthy’ grades and the consequent thrashing from my mom would tell me that she also had aspirations. 

 But you know, my parents were indeed different. They would seek happiness in my writing that nice sentence, reading that difficult book and holding forth on it as if it were written by me and working out that Euclidean geometry problem that even my seniors would struggle with. And if I could do all that I would naturally win grades worthy of a middle-class Bengali son. 

Yes, I could do all that but not consistently. Some days I would write a few good lines and on some others, I would be an Einstein. But I could never be an Einstein and a Tagore on the same day!  Unlike many other, my parents were strangely also happy with their ‘not so Einstein, not so Tagore’ son. But to be honest, they never tired of talking about achievers in the family. And believe me, they all were, bar me! And my grades also kept swinging from Einstein to Tagore, without adding up to that hallowed status of a scholar. 

 I was growing up. By the time I entered college, I became an intellectual – not by virtue of my scholastic prowess but by the grace of spirit. I cleared university in good time and was in the labour market as an aspirant. My family wanted me to follow my uncles and become a teacher. 

As for me, I didn’t really have a clear goal. But yes. Teaching was an option because of the holidays and the possibility of enough time to spend with the spirit. But that spirit had a different idea. 

 So I got a job in a newspaper where you could drink during the night shift! And the blighter of a Monk decided my fate. So here I am -- a scribe with a clichéd life and without a pension. Sadly, you can’t do that anymore. Life has indeed changed. So has the cliché about a scribe’s life. And I have yet to collect my degree certificate!

Thursday, July 01, 2021

But his father was no AB!


When Usha knocked on the door and told me about the call from Calcutta, I walked into their flat like a zombie. Someone from the other end said something. I mumbled a response and cradled the receiver. Usha said, “Congratulations.” Even then it didn’t register: For I was sozzled. 

I had every right to be. My stint at the IIM, Ahmedabad, was coming to an end. My paper won the registration the day before. Padmakumar, now the HR Director at one of the multinationals in India, had this bright idea to celebrate the occasion. (If you are wondering as to how in a state under prohibition I could get drunk, I will say only this – it was never an issue.) Not that we needed one. But Padmakumar was a clever one about excuses.

To run a long story short, my wife was in Calcutta expecting our first child who was supposed to be born sometime in December but merrily dealt a surprise by deciding on 25th November to be his birthday. Those days you had to book a call and wait for the connection to materialize. Lightning calls charged a bomb and urgent calls had no urgency to connect though they also cost a packet. So the day he was born, my parents and hers were busy with the grandkid. Sometime along the way they remembered my existence and the call materialised the next day in the morning. 

One good thing about inebriation is that you are not fuzzy all the time. There are moments of lucidity as well. As I entered our apartment that moment of lucidity hit me. Usha, the daughter of our neighbour Prof Jain and my wife’s close confidante, congratulated me on my becoming a father! And the lady talking to me was no other than my proud mother-in-law! Broke the news amongst my friends littered across the floor,  and again it called for celebration and so on and so forth. That’s how I landed in Calcutta to the realisation that I was a dad! 

But no sooner had I landed than my father handed a diary to me saying, “Go through it and take a call. You need to get his birth certificate fast. Time is running out.” There we were with a diary full of hundreds of possible names to choose from. His nickname though was fixed. He was his grandparents’ Tartar. I am Suparna, she is Shubha so what about Shinjan! And it went on and on. Cousins chipped in. Uncles had their own views, aunts would, of course, have a different opinion. In short, there was no agreement. My logic was simple. Pathak is given. Both my wife and I have had the bitterest of experience of always being last in the queue because of our names. We wouldn’t like our son to suffer the same way. 

Thus determined I walked into the Corporation office, filled in the form and named him Abhishek. The clerk took a glance at the form, looked at me and smiled. I wondered why and it took my father to clear the reason. Amitabh Bachchan’s son was also called Abhishek!

With hundreds of Abhishek around and with Pathak as his surname, he still comes almost last in the queue!

A Bong will always be a Bong

  I have known Rajib and of him ever since he started his professional life as a journalist and then of him when he decided to say adieu to ...