Nelly Furtado sung a very meaningful song. All Good Things Come To an End. Not many people recognized it as they were busy going gaga over her Promiscuity. She gave the sluts a literary mode of respect. Or at least I feel so for myself. The fad of promiscuity faded away, but over the time the song lingers in my head. That was a phase indeed when I realized that all good things do come to an end. They have to. Otherwise they would cease to be so good. I wish I had stumbled upon this great truth of life much earlier, then I would have at least spent a precious few moments bidding goodbye. We take life for granted and drive along way over the speed limit. But sometimes we forget some roads are just left behind. You can never return to them and instead of a drive, take a walk and cherish the view. We forget to cherish those views as all we see is the road ahead…
All this while I have been typing my life. My life may have been clouded with miseries to a great extent. But it's not all that bad. Right at the moment, it looks bad. But five or ten years ahead when you look back, you would say 'It wasn't that bad after all' No one's life is a complete misery. You have good moments in equal amounts. That's why you can tell which are the bad ones. Just that the bad moments are so intense and overwhelming, we forget to cherish the good ones. And we pump up the accelerator while the pin shifts from sixty to eighty and do our best to escape the bad moments. But the view is never going to be the same ever again.
Like I said nothing was ever normal in my life. Everything had to have a twist. But some of them were actually benefitial in a way. I was the first born in my maternal family. My aunt was the only sister of my mom, and she was unmarried, living with my grandparents back then. My grandfather was serving the government at a good post while my grandmother was a homemaker, and she did much more than just make the home. Dad was in banking, mom too was serving a government job. Three years, three months and three weeks after their marriage, I was born (amidst a lot of fiasco already brewing over). I don't exactly know the details, but for some reason it was hard for my parents to bring an infant in the house where both were working parents. So my grandmother offered to take care of me (or they asked her to, I don't know). And so there I was, the very first two years of my life growing in the lovable palms of my granny. Mom Dad used to come over on weekends to stay over and spend time with me. But my granny did all the major job of initial babycare. I was the first son of the family!
In Bengali, we call granny didima, in short 'Dida'. And grandpa, 'Dadu'. We call maternal aunt, Maashi. But even I don't have the vaguest clue why I have always called her 'Maany'. Learning these three words were probably the most valuable thing I ever did, as they are the three words that will always remain the closest to my heart, obviously after mom and dad. Dida, as I tease her today, had she been a top notch businesswoman, she would have surely been the real Miranda Priestley. She has always had a calm ferocity to her. As a homemaker, she always reminds me of Bree Van D'Camp (read: Monica Geller, for those who are not into Desperate Housewives) The only thing is that Indian women don't get so much freedom compared to the women in the west. I'm not talking about freedom from the side of the family. Dadu let her take the whole responsibility of the household, he knew it wasn't his forte, neither his place to say anything. The freedom I'm talking about is a composite one, that reflects from the society, relatives, friends, issues, yadda yadda. So I would say, she loses just by a point to them. Why? She was never obsessive compulsive as them, she can let things go in extreme emergencies like times when someone's broken an arm and fractured four tendons. But that would be a once in a blue moon things. The other white moon or no moon nights, well, she would be herself. She is organized. A little way too organized. Everything that she thinks is right, has to be right. If she has to dust the whole house every morning as a routine she will do it even in 104 degree fever. Or worst come worst, there's always Dadu. If anything is not according to her plans she would have sleepless nights. Her hyperenergetic superwoman image is a matter of awe for everyone, but at the same time very exhausting. In the day and age of free home delivery, its hard to keep up with her pace at times. Funny, we are constantly rushing in the rat race and we still can't keep up with her pace. That's why mom always shirks away from her, now that she has gotten accustomed to her modern day life of washing machines. Maany is a Leonine, so she's always bumbling with energy. The thing is,she may do the things, but her way of doing the things isn't exactly what is Dida's definition. Dida does everything right, but even the way of doing it has to be right. That is apparently the reason why these three mother and daughters keep squabbling time and again. But their squabbles aren't mean ones. They love each other to death. I still remember when Maany walked out and went back to her home after she had a nasty quarrel with Dida. The reason was that she broke Dida's lemon squeezer. Don't roll your eyes, I have always envied their relationship. It's more like a hate to love thing between them. They can't live with each other neither without. So I get the tales of my Dida's propriety affecting mom's and Maany's childhoods, in both good and bad ways. The good ones are when they are reminiscinzing the good ol' days. And the bad ones are when they squabble.
Dadu was a very different man since forever. He has always been a man of honor. He has always been ethically correct. And in worst of situation he has at the most tried his best to do so. If he is just not able to do the correct thing, he would simply stay silent. But he would never do something that is ethically wrong. He was an ex Air Force –man. So as I hear he was a very aggressive man in his youth. But a very affectionate father too. As much as my mom and Maany feared him, they loved him to the core of their heart. But what I have seen of him has mostly been the latter stage of his personality. They say his anger has cooled down to a great extent over the years. Now he's a very calm and cool person. And he seldom displays emotions (What is with all defense people? Do they teach them that emotions are something too sinuous?) But one thing. Of all the aggression and ego, he was a ladies' man. Let me correct that, he was a lady's man. And that lady was Dida, has always been and will ever be. He just can't say no to her. Although they fight half the time like cats and dogs, but ask him to stay for more than a day without her and he would turn into this restless five your old dropped at school on the first day. Like even a day consists twenty four hours, for Heaven's sake! So Dida found the most apt companion who let her propriety of good housekeeping flourish to its best. And pobably that's why they are famous for their coupling in the whole clan.
But here was the cherry to the topping: I being the first son (read it more like, Sun) not just of my family but of the preceding generation too, I was their favorite. Can't stop grinning at the mean fact that I still am although no one would agree to it in fear of hurting my brother and my cousin! But the truth is, I'll always be. So, of all people, I was probably the very first human being who was exempted from Dida's lifestyle. Not completely though, but she made it a point of taking care of everything possible. Although we did spend all mornings with her screaming at me to brush my teeth or take a bath. Still, that was the only place I really cherished my true childhood. But that comes much later. The first two year of my life was obviously something I wouldn't remember. As I hear the tales, I was the apple of everyone's eyes. Dida gave me the pet name, Raja, which means the king in most Indian languages. Even today people taunt me with that for my seemingly lavish ways (which are not, honestly). Two years went by. Dad purchased a flat in Noida. It was time for me to move in to my real family. Or like I said the term 'family'. This was the ironic part. Children start remembering things from the age of two or three. I wish I stayed with Dida-Dadu till much longer. Why I say so, is that it really pains my heart when I try to recall something of my first two years but to no use. The earliest I remember was when Maany's son, my cousin was born. Here was the element of irony. Dida Dadu had been living in their government flat allotted to Dadu from work. This was where I spent the two years. After I left, Dadu retired and they purchased a house in East Delhi. So when after my cousin's birth, I went to their new house with mom for the first time, I just couldn't remember anything as the whole environment had changed. Everything was new to me. I couldn't even relate to Dida. I still feel guilty when I think of it. But then, it would get compensated in the years to come. Rather the fact that we rebuilt our unique relation over the next few of years was even more valuable.
As I grew up I started to understand things. I was now able to perceive, receive and execute (my definition of how we relate to things external to us: P.R.E. And don't you dare call me a nerd) I wrote a whole chapter how my childhood was in general. But here was the good part: Every summer vacation I was exclusively sent to spend the whole summer at Dida-Dadu's place. Those one and a half month of summer vacations were the bestest time of my life (I know the grammatical error, it's intentional) I would desperately wait half of the year for this time, and sulk the other half after I would return back home. This was the time when I got to be a child for a change. Free from all worries and hatred. No responsibilities (for the most of it, that is) No one expected me to grow up beyond my age. No one expected me to take care of myself during my parent's absence. I spend half my life in daycares. And I swear those were the weirdest time of my life. I was like a robot. Living life the way I was told to. Dida's place was my heavenly abode! I was sooo pampered there (Yes, this one's intentional too!) Back home every morning, dad would wake me up and shove the toothbrush (with paste applied) in my hand so that I would start brushing my teeth and get ready for school. Mom generally got up later on to prepare my lunch. The only good morning I remember waking up there, was once when I woke up and found mom cuddling and caressing me and telling me in her sweetest way that it was time for school. I still wonder what came upon her that morning. Anyway, once the vacations were on, the first thing it meant was getting up late! I don't know how many feel so, but getting up late is one of the greatest luxuries of life which just anyone can afford if he or she wants to. And getting up was fun at Dida's place. Early morning she would be cooking and post 11AM, in the breaks she would come and purr and pamper me to get up for breakfast. And in the meanwhile Dadu always had this naughty Gemini streak in him. He would sneak upon me and pull my toes until the bones would crackle! And I hated that the most, so I would break out into a loud scream, 'Dida! Dekho Dadu ki korchhe!!!' (Dida! Look what Dadu's doing!!!) And she would scold him to leave me alone.
I shared a very love to hate relation with Dadu. The only way we would express our affection for each other was by picking on each other. But he was the one, who would start everytime. I only never missed an opportunity to complain to Dida and get him a good scolding. This kind of feisty connection held for many years until one day I realised that I was taking him for granted and missing out on a lot of precious little moments in the mean time. He was a much deeper person otherwise. Very knowledged and talented. Later on as I grew up, I cherished a lot of meaningful moments knowing him better.
There were lots of regularity here too. Dida was strict about timing. And I stuck to it. But not unwillingly (except for when she would make me sleep after lunch as I wasn't habituated to afternoon naps) The whole deal was that there was just too much love. Dida loved me more than anything. I was the son she had always wished for. She taught me most things. Like reading time. The introduction to written bengali. And the ninety days would be of a complete fiesta. Dida has always been a great cook. I have never tasted better food anywhere. So in that short time she would pour in her whole cuisine. Puddings. Bread Rolls. All kinds of bengali sweets (for those who know Patishapta, Bhaaper Doi, Paayesh so on…) And chicken and mutton preparations were in abundance. And all this she did on Dadu's mere pension. She would spend a lot of time playing with me, indulging in whatever I did. And even let me indulge in whatever she did, if I took any interest. I still remember she was an avid fan of the Doordarshan daytime soaps like Shanti, Swabhimaan etc… Every Friday she would treat me ice creams. That was a must. There were bad times too. Since I was so pampered and in the center of attention, this was the only place I could throw all the tantrums I wanted. But I wasn't all that bad. Just some times. Once she scolded me for something, and I ran away from home. I didn't return for four hours. The whole block had gotten into searching for me. When I finally arrived, and listened to the whole lecture process et al, I discovered that there were two Cornettoes in the freezer. It was Ice-cream Friday.
Over the next few years, things changed. Things changed back at home. I was emotionally volatile and weak. There was just too much hatred around. I didn't know exactly that the feeling was hatred. But the negativity had taken a toll. Also my brother was born around this time. So the whole attention was shifted to him. There was an added negativity of sheer lonliness. So of all people I really got attached to was Dida. The summer vacations in those years would be so precious to me that I actually made it a point to cherish each and every single moment of it. When the vacations would end, the worst part would be the departure. Two days before leaving for back home, I would be all in tears. Constantly crying all the time and pleading Dida to keep me with her. I know this sounds weird, but it was true. I was a little child deprived of love. So whatever love I did get in those ninety days, I desperately wanted to cling on to them. But it wouldn't be so in this case. I had to go back home. So she would bid goodbye to me with tearful eyes and I would cry all the way back. I would be crying for many following days after that. And when the whole thing would subdue, I would just silently do what I'm supposed to do like the same old robot. But the very same night after returning from Dida's place, I would dream that I'm still in their house. And the dream would be so convincing and joyous that I would wake up thinking Dadu is pulling at my toes again. But when my eyes open, to my dissapointment, I'm back home. Its not 11am, its 7am. And there's that toothbrush in my hand…
By the time I was 14 things had changed to a great extent. Rather everything had changed. Now I had a very personal life. A fake girlfriend. A closet boyfriend. A class popularity. Half the responsibility of the household chores. Mom was different now. After my brother had grown up to a point where he didn't require constant attention of an infant, her affection returned to me. Now she treated both of us equally. She had changed a lot in her own life too. Dad wasn't there, so there were no more quarrels. Life was completely different. But in this difference, one thing I didn't realize then was that my attention towards Dida-Dadu had depreciated to a great extent. I wouldn't even spent my vacations there anymore (for obvious reasons) I would just go there time and again for a day or two and come back. I was just too caught up in the newfound life I had recently discovered, that I just didn't reminiscize the good ol' days of mine. I was speeding up the road ahead. I had taken these views for granted. I thought the views would be here for forever, I'll cherish them later on. I wish I had pulled the brakes just once and looked around.
There was an another change after dad left. My brother was very attached to him from the very beginning. After dad left, he went into depression (or so what mom said) I don't know whether it was depression, but yes he changed to a great extent. This was the first time he was away from Dad for such a long time. And it took a toll on him. He stopped playing with his friends in the evening. He would just sit in front the TV all the time oggling Cartoon Network. He stopped talking. He stopped smiling. He wouldn't take interests in things anymore. He was all cranky and irritable all the time, snapping at everyone around and throwing tantrums. All this, while he was just six years old. Mom couldn't obviously take this condition. She started to constantly blame herself for all this. It was until then that her guilt took her to the greatest depths that she decided to resurrect things.
Dad in the meanwhile worked really hard and got a promotion. I don't exactly rememeber the details, but he spent a lot of time in Kolkata and then he was back in Delhi. This was the time when mom's guilt struck her. One evening we were simply sitting in the living room and my brother watching TV in the other room. We were discussing about him and his emotional health. After a long worried conversation about his emotional health, she said she had been pondering over this. She asked me, 'Should I call Dad back home?' What was I supposed to answer? There was no man in the house. Since the age of seven, when my brother was born everyone expected me to be the mature one, since I'm older. Even now I was expected to be the mature one. Instead of thinking about myself, I was supposed to think of everyone else. So I said 'Yes'. In the times to come when this decision would backlash, mom would blame me for saying 'yes'. She would say, 'It was YOU who said "Yes"!' No one can hardly imagine the amount of frustration I felt then. But what could I do? I did say 'Yes', didn't I?
After that, its hard for me to keep a track of what all happened. Everything happened at such a speed of light I just didn't know where to look and where to speak. Dad returned. They decided to start a 'New Life' in Kolkata. Everything was planned. We were going to Kolkata. Moving there. Forever. It happened so fast in a span of two months, I missed out on a lot of things I should have done. Fourteen years of spreading the roots in a land, suddenly your life is uprooted and placed at a completely new place. And that even in two months. I did a lot of errors. The biggest one was that I forgot to bid farewell to Piyush. I was so carried away by the whole idea of 'New Life', that I actually ended up betraying my old life. Being gay had always been a question mark for me, even though I had absorbed it into my life so easily. I thought, maybe starting life afresh, will be a good oppurtunity to turn straight and start a 'New Life'. My worst decision was to shun the old life right away. I simply prepared myself for Kolkata now. I just wanted to go there as soon as possible. I didn't meet my friends at school. I didn't meet my teachers. And I didn't even meet Piyush. Today I feel so low and shallow whenever I think of what I did. Maybe he didn't feel so intensely about this, but I do feel I betrayed him in an aspect. I should have had at least met him once and said goodbye.
Everything was packed. Everyone was packed. All the formalities were done. One by one the tasks kept getting ticked off the list. Rail reservations were done. All the furniture was packed and trucked off. Finally the day arrived. The night before I decided to call everyone. Dida, Dadu and Maany would be anyway coming the next day to the station to bid us goodbye. Still, I had to call them once. Our phone was disconnected. So I had to go to the market to call from the booth. I called Dida. I could tell from her voice that she wasn't really glad of having half of her extended family living in an unreachable position. I called for Dadu. He said a couple of formal words like 'So you're leaving… All the best' and stuff like that and then suddenly I heard a weird noise and heard the reciever of the phone from the other side slam to something. Dida picked up. She was crying. She said, Dadu broke into tears. He was crying and couldn't control himself so he left the room. An ex Air Force-man, whom I never witnessed ever display any kind of emotion, was crying. And just then everything came to a screeching halt. I hit the the brakes. But it was too late. Suddenly everything started flooding into my head like the dam was broken. The dam that I had put up against all practicality. I asked myself, "What am I doing?". A strange intuition pierced through all rationality. Something was screaming inside me. It was begging and pleading me not to leave Delhi and go to Kolkata permanently. But it was too late. It was over. The road had come to an end. The views were gone. And I couldn't go back. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't. I was standing in front of a completely new road. All this while I couldn't wait to hop on to this new road and start it afresh. But now, the gates were open and the road was mine. But I was standing there. Thinking about those ninety days of summer vacation. After a really long time I felt the same kind of helplessness I used to feel in those last two days at Dida's place. I never wanted to come back home, but I had to everytime. And now, it seemed like the Ninety Days of my life was coming to an end. And I don't want to step on to the new road. But I have to. So I take a deep breathe. And here we go.