Chapter 32 (ii) The Addams Family — Train to Delhi


It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.

–Pope John XXIII

trr-father

My father was the kind of man who delighted in the asking of nonsensical questions. By me, of course. It assured him that his offspring was using her mind, probing at the world instead of taking it as given. So questions like, “Why is a mango called a mango?” were never answered with “Well, that’s just how it is.” They were answered with equally nonsensical, hilarious episodes created extempore by his fecund imagination.

“You see, when the British came to India they had no clue what a mango is,” he would begin, with a completely straight face. “And then one of their higher officials received a gift of a bushel of the best quality mangoes, which was brought to his room by a servant. The servant, while setting the bushel down, clumsily dropped a few and they rolled into a far corner. Irritated at the man’s clumsiness, the officer shouted at him, pointing at the dropped fruits: Man—Go!”

And he’d pause, eyes twinkling, to smile at me conspiratorially.

“The servant, of course, took this as the name of the fruit,” he would grin widely, “And so, my dear, ‘Mango’ got its name!”

I would break into squeals of delight, entirely aware of the answer being utter nonsense, but happily satisfied nonetheless— for I knew my question was nonsense, too. But this was two years before Google was even born, so you couldn’t just type in random questions and get perfectly logical answers to them. (In case you do want to know how the Mango got its name, you can just click here: http://www.skymetweather.com/content/lifestyle-and-culture/how-mango-got-its-name-interesting-facts-about-aam/)

But here’s one of his best answers by far, in response to my query: “Why is a ‘naao’ (boat) called a ‘naao’?”

“There were two friends who first made a boat to cross the river. No one had ever wanted to cross the waters before, and so they never knew what the thing was called. When they had reached the middle of the huge, wide river, they were spotted by some villagers on the other shore, who waved frantically at them. The villagers knew there was a storm brewing over the river and wanted to warn the men who’d be caught well before they reached the shore. So they waved vigorously, shouting at the men to stay back.

‘Naa Aaao!’ They shouted. Don’t Come Here!

‘Naa Aaao!’

But the men didn’t speak the same language. And so they inferred that the thing they’d made was a ‘Naao!’ and the villagers were cheering them for having created it!”

And I dissolved into peals of laughter.

The thing about these funny little stories was that they satiated a little heart’s yearning for an answer—any kind of answer, in the absence of the correct one. Far more importantly, though, they taught a curious 7 year old that no question—no matter how strange or nonsensical—ever had to be quashed. Questions were meant to be asked—and answered.

And above all, that life’s nothing without a sense of humour.

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Distance makes the heart grow fonder, they say.

Not if you’re running away.

Home was never home enough without my father in it. By the time I was in college, I found myself aching to be away, to cut myself off from the place that had sheltered me all those years. The cage is always safer, but the sky is irresistible.

My moment of freedom—a brief one—came for a month during my internship at one of India’s leading news dailies. I remember waking up that first day in my dank hostel room and whispering a prayer of thankfulness that I was here and not back home.

Later, when I started my first regular job as a journalist, it was always a thrill to go back , to the koel on the neem tree, the hibiscus flowers in the garden, the pink walls of my room and the bookshelves lining those walls. It was a pleasure to be back with family and catch up on all that we’d missed in each other’s lives. Sometimes I even ached for home, for the feeling of just flinging my shoes over with abandon. But it never ran so deep as to make me wish to go back. Delhi was my destiny, my ticket to freedom.

Every time Gomti, that ever-so-dependable train to Delhi, began slowing on the outers of New Delhi Railway Station, my mind switched on its background music.

“Yeh Dilli hai mere yaar… Bas Ishq Mohabbat Pyaar…”

And this is Delhi, my dear. Longing, Love, Amour…

And it was. Delhi was my amour.

India’s most polluted city, queen of traffic jams, rape capital of the country—call it what you may. To millions of small-town cage-breakers like me, Delhi is the place where dreams come true. Yes, you’d have heard that more often about Mumbai—the one with the glamour and star power. But Delhi is, shall we say, more inclined to the intellectual side. Of course, since I’ve never so much as smelt the Bombay air, I cannot really compare. But I will defend Delhi to the last of my pollution-plagued breath. Every time I sat in the women’s compartment of the Delhi Metro, I couldn’t help but smile incessantly, much to the astonishment of fellow commuters. But that’s exactly what I was — happy for no ostensible reason, except that here I was, sitting alone in a Delhi Metro compartment, like a stray cloud that can drift in any direction that catches its fancy.

And directions there were many —the bookshops that beckoned like Aladdin’s Cave, where you could sip on a lime soda, sprawl back on the couch and read one of those seductively beckoning paperbacks for as long as you pleased. Or just ogle at them lustfully and never have your fill. You could spend endless weekends exploring themed restaurants and actually have stuff like ‘Pizza-Parantha’. You could find a monument right around the corner—no matter which corner you turned, and you could sit in the gardens round India Gate doing nothing but sighing at the night sky.

I felt one with Delhi— enfolded in her embrace. The proverbial monarch of all I surveyed.

A cloud floating over the Qutub Minar.

Every day before I entered the gates of the newspaper office where I worked, songs from the adjoining music shop would gently waft their way over to me.

“Yaaron—Jee bhar ke jee le pal

Lagta hai aajkal

Daur apna aaega….

Yaaron—jo khud pe ho yaqeen

To zindagi haseen

Tujhe kal bulaega….

Hai Junoon.… hai junoon sa jeeney mein…

Hai junoon… hai junoon sa seeney mein….!”

 

“Hey mates! Live this moment now

For the day will be ours

And this era will bow down to us…

Hey mates! When you believe in yourself

The world is beautiful

And tomorrow beckons.

Let the passion rule your life!

Let the passion overflow your heart!”

[And may the force be with you, ahem.]

It would give me infinite pleasure, like the office building had clandestinely winked at me, as if the world were leading one grand cheer for me. It was my moment. The era that would belong to me. The passion overflowed my heart.

My mother would miss me immensely every time the song came on air, for it reminded her of me. But years later, the song would make her weep as she watched my battered, broken, bitter self— submerged in self-pity and pining for the life I’d loved. She would gaze helplessly at the shards of my soul sticking out at the edges, without the faintest idea what to do about it.

I had tasted one large slice of utopia before the pie had rudely been snatched from under my nose. Unable to cope, I kept reeling under shock, dumped right back into the bickering, boiling, rancid swamp of ceaseless family drama.

I was right back where I’d escaped from.

 

Chapter 10: Happiness is…


Happiness is ever-changing and ever-elusive. You cannot know it until you feel it. Happiness is a walk in the breeze… happiness is a drive in the rain… happiness is a midnight date… happiness is a moment shared.

May 14, 2012

We are in Aligarh. Sajjad is sitting before me on the bed. We’d been away from each other for about 15 days because I came here to meet my mom. He hasn’t felt his baby’s movements yet; when I was with him they were too light to be felt on the outside. He has his hand on my belly as his eyes search my face with anticipation.

BUMP!

That was a huge one!

I’m delighted to see the astonished, wondrous, childlike grin on my husband’s face. He laughs out loud. He is amazed… It’s a moment we’ll cherish forever.

June 15, 2012

This baby is gonna be a really naughty one. Lord knows how she/he manages to do it, but every so often I feel 4 simultaneous kicks (or whatever they are) at 4 different places in my tummy!  There’s hardly a moment when this little one lies still….!

My sister says she can actually see him/her “swimming around” in my tummy! I know what she means, the bulge often seems to “glide” from one end to another… the doctor says these movements are so visible on the outside since I’m so thin and there’s been no fat increase whatsoever on other parts of my body.

June 25, 2012

It’s post-dinner and me and my husband are talking our daily walk around the park. I love these walks with him. Love the wind in the trees, flapping our clothes and sweeping our hair…love the moon beaming gently down on us…love holding his hand and talking softly…  In a way, it’s been a good thing I’ve taken time off from work—with our busy schedules we’d never have got time for these leisurely everyday strolls. It’s moments like these that make life beautiful.

July 14, 2012

It’s raining hard in South Delhi. Monsoon has arrived in all its glory. Sajjad has come back from work sometime ago. He takes my hand.

“Wanna go for a drive in the rain?” he smiles at me.

Yes. Of course. Would I say no?

He’s backing up the car to bring it right to the door so I don’t have to get wet. Our neighbor comes out of his house. “Coming from somewhere?” he asks.

“No, going for a drive!” I giggle.

“In the rain!?”

“Yes…”

But obviously, lost in our fancies we had forgotten that we’re in Delhi, not the Garden of Eden and rains here mean just one thing: Traffic jams. But I have Michael Schumacher for a husband and I could trust him to find the best routes away from the traffic.

Never loved rain so much….

July 21,2012

12:00 a.m.

We’re having dinner at Comesum, the all-night restaurant near Nizamuddin Railway Station. Hadn’t even heard about this eat-out until today. Sajjad’s trying hard to make this right for me, to assure me that nothing’s gonna change between us.

Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps it will. But what won’t change is what happiness is….

Happiness is US. Whether it’s BOTH of US, or THREE of US. Happiness is “Us”.

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{Read from the beginning }

(For more good things about pregnancy, read http://thegoodandthegood.wordpress.com/)

Chapter 9: And now for the Awards…


Life is made of people. Some people matter always and every second. Some people matter during a certain period of time. Some people matter all your life, but during a certain period they seem to matter even more.

FARHAN

Your name appears at the top of the list because you were a special sort of angel-cum-devil sent to me during the most turbulent period of my life. I discovered I was expecting precisely four days after you descended upon us.  And one month after my son was born, I relocated to a different town itself. You see? You were especially sent by God during my pregnancy.

My husband’s cousin is the guy who I’ll always remember for making me breakfast when I was too sick to even crawl out from bed. He’s this too-loud, always-arguing, always-cracking-jokes type wise guy who watches movies all night. Early in the morning, when he’s just gone off to sleep, I call him. Call him on the phone, because I can’t even raise my voice enough to shout. I request him to please get me an egg and a glass of milk.

“La rhe hain bhabhi,” he says, groggily. Of course, you’d expect him to go right back to sleep. But I didn’t have to call him twice. Not a single day.

There are so many reasons I could write down here, but this is the one that’ll always stand out. And that’s why, Farhan, you’re being featured in a pregnancy blog .

MUM-IN-LAW

That word always seems to have a forbidding ring about it. Not just for women, but men too. Well, I suppose not all mother-in-laws are satan’s assistants.

My mum-in-law gets a mention here ‘cause she got me up and running from down and moaning.[i]She dragged me out for the walks I needed, cheered me up with her personal pregnancy anecdotes, prayed for me and made me pray more, and generally did her best to pull me out of the manic-depressive state I was fast sinking into.

MUMMY

I was never a Momma’s girl. During my childhood, we were friends, we played a lot together, and she has saved all the poetry I wrote during my beginning years. Whenever I travel I miss her because she loves to travel and we have oodles of fun together. When I am away from her she loses weight worrying because she never believes that I can take care of myself. But, I repeat, I am not Momma’s girl. I did not miss her at all (yes) when I came to Delhi for my internship, started missing her only after about 2 months when I got a full time job there, and I didn’t shed a single tear at my rukhsati or bidaai (wedding) , unlike most girls I know who cannot bear to part with their mothers. I was always more eager to be out on my own, get some independence, see the world and all the rest.

So it was a totally new emotion for me when, during my pregnancy, I started crying about being away from my mother. I missed her like never before. I wanted to hug her, wanted to do the “Bare necessities” Mowgli-Baloo back-scratch that we always did, wanted to have those intellectual, philosophical talks that used to be a trademark of our relationship (it was she who introduced me to the Classics and to the general love of reading). Oh, the relief when I finally got to be with her…

SAJJAD

I saved his name for last because I’ve probably already bored you with all my gushing about him. But he’s kind of the most important person in my life…. The best and happiest time I spent in my life—since my father’s death—was after I married Sajjad. This is the man who tolerated my evilest, foulest Mr Hyde version and loved me all through it. The man who truly was my partner and not the “superior authority” that most small-town husbands believe themselves to be. I’ve met so many people—men and women—who think that a husband who cares for his wife, and particularly one who cares for his baby (which includes burping, bathing and changing nappies, not just playing with the kid) is either a sissy or is doing a great favour.

But You are a REAL MAN  for doing all this and never once trying to make it out as a favour.

 

So who are the people you’d like to nominate for your awards? Let me know!