Family anecdotes (Pt. II)

She died when I was in 3rd standard so I didn’t get to spend much time with her properly. The only vague memories which I have about her are from two incidents. The first one is one from my cousin sister’s marriage and the second one is from her funeral. She was always sick. She had been sick since my mother was born, who was the sixth child in the family. My mother told me that she became ‘mad’ after her birth and that she was almost totally bed ridden all the time. She used to do the chores and scream and talk to herself. Things got even worse after my grandfather died when my mom was just 16 years old. It was an unexpected death; an accidental death caused due to an injection containing the wrong medication. He was the breadwinner of the house and his death nearly made the family homeless. They had to vacant the quarters they were living in. Hopefully, there were a few of my relatives who helped and supported them in getting a house for my mother and her siblings to live.

I remember my maternal grandmother as a short, frail lady with an expressionless face. She was somehow frowning all the time; about what I never knew. I do not remember her being amused by anything in the period of time I got to spend with her. She was toothless and she had a hunched back. Her eyes were devoid of any light and I don’t remember how she sounded like. I don’t remember her ever speaking to me. There is a group photo which we have from my cousin’s marriage where she is seen sitting on a chair, eyebrows furrowed and without any expression at all, while I am standing with my cousin and two other people but right now, I do not remember who they are. I was wearing a red t-shirt with cream coloured shorts and I am shielding the sunlight from my eyes. The photo was taken one afternoon in the month of June and if you look at the photo, you can see all of our faces gleaming with the sweat. Apart from this photo, I don’t remember anything about her from the wedding.

I remember the day my grandmother died. It was another sweltering day and I had no idea why me and my mom were travelling on a bus to Biswanath Chariali. This is my mother’s native place which was around 400 kilometres from Duliajan, where we lived back then. It was a tiring 8 hour journey on a yellow coloured bus and I remember feeling nauseated by the end of it. I do not remember if I puked but I do remember that I stepped on cow dung and decorated the entire bus floor with it. My mother and the conductor were annoyed and the latter was ranting about the mess I had made and the poor guy had to wash the entire floor when we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch.

I had no idea whatsoever that we were going for my grandmother’s funeral, that she was already dead and that my relatives were waiting for my mother to arrive so that she could have a last look at her. That was perhaps the first day when I saw my mother cry. And she was crying hysterically while I was too petrified to react. It was my first time seeing a dead body and seeing people grieving. I was unsure as to how I was expected to react over this. All my relatives appeared crestfallen and my maternal uncle was holding my mother while weeping silently. I went and stood near the gate and cried a little but I didn’t know why I did that. I didn’t even properly know the lady who died. Perhaps it was because my mother cried. My mother stopped crying after the body was taken away to be cremated while I asked one of my relatives for some water to drink. I don’t remember much as to what happened afterwards.

Family anecdotes (Pt. I)

I feel that I should write about my paternal grandmother. She is around 72 years old. Both me and my sister aren’t emotionally attached to her in any way. She is not like the grandmother that you hear stories about from your classmates. I somehow refuse to believe that she was emotionally connected to her children, to say the least. She is one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered within my family, a person who is undecipherable. Whenever we used to go to Jorhat, where our grandparents used to live, we rarely used to spend time with her. My grandfather was a jolly and cheerful person while she was always a hazy being who managed her time between the kitchen, doing chores and looking after the cows with whom she used to talk a lot. Human interaction was somewhat a rarity for her. Somehow, I feel that the cows understood her as well. She used to milk them and take care of their food. We never heard any stories from her nor any lullabies. She was a lady who always had a serious look on her face as she passed her days, rarely smiled or looked amused by anything. She was always old, as long as I can remember. She rarely went out of her house to go anywhere until and unless it was absolutely necessary.  She is a woman who never mingled with anyone in particular. I once asked my mother if she ever had any friends in her life and to my utter surprise she said yes. She told me of the time when she had a friend who was the polar opposite to her, who used to talk a lot with everyone while my grandmother used to stay quiet most of the time. It is a mystery to me as to how they got along with each other but I guess the friendship didn’t last long because we don’t know that friend’s whereabouts and nor has my grandma mentioned anything about her. This wasn’t surprising to me. My mom got to know this story from my father apparently.

My grandmother was superstitious and believed in magic and voodoo that other people could apparently do to harm someone. I am not sure how she feels about it now. My mother told me about this one time when someone got a dress for my sister when she was very young. At that time, my parents used to live in Jorhat. This relative got a red dress for my sister. After the relative left, my grandmother took the dress from my mom, poured some kerosene and turned it into ashes saying that it had black magic in it. No further explanation was given. I remember my mother saying to me that it was a very beautiful dress, something which caught her eye on the first sight. Many such instances have happened. She has ended up blaming the maid countless times for indigestion that occurs after eating something too spicy. All this sounds too bizarre for us but we cannot do much about it. She belongs from a different era and we can only nod in disdain.

Her life revolved in a monotonous cycle which she followed ever day. She never read anything, never sang, never went out, never showed excitement  over anything, and never showed happiness or any kind of expression of love towards anyone. She is cold and somewhat devoid of emotions. I do not know if she has the characteristics of an introvert. Maybe she has. But it became more profound after my grandfather died. She somehow made up her mind that she won’t do anything for the rest of her life except the basic human processes. She gave up cooking, interaction with people unless it is absolutely necessary and important or if someone is willing to interact with her. She left her home where she lived for around 60 years, left her cows without thinking twice, forever.

The many expressions of my father

My father is one of those people who has a nature which is nothing short of a puzzle. I haven’t been able to decipher that puzzle in all my 20 years of existence and I don’t think I ever will. Sometimes, it is difficult for me to understand what actually is going on inside his mind and the fact that he likes to keep certain things to himself makes the task even more difficult. Nevertheless, I have admired him for everything he is and for everything he has achieved in his life. His stature is a driving force which pushes me forward to stand up to him in all phases of life.

Simply put, my father is a person who has one central virtue governing his life, being practical. He has always been a no bullshit, no sloppy behavior kind of a person. He hates it when people behave like a wuss, he expects everyone to be active and energized. He goes for morning walks everyday at 5, need I say more? He searches for the essence of practicality in everything that he does; the clothes that he buys, the food that he eats, the money he spends upon himself (which he rarely does). He is short tempered, I guess that comes as a part and parcel in the persona that he has. He gets irked off at the smallest of things and approaching old age has increased this phenomenon. Nevertheless, he has a serious minded character and people who know him know well that bullshitting is not his thing. He probably isn’t the best person to have fun with and I feel that I have inherited some parts of all these traits from him. I can gauge the similarities which we have based on these small aspects that we share. His short tempered nature is something which I failed to inherit from him, something I am thankful about.

My father came from a very poor family. My grandfather worked as a junior engineer and earned a meager salary to support his family consisting of three children. My father had been quite meticulous in his studies and worked hard during his university years to get himself a job to support his family. He has told us stories of how he spent his college years having only two shirts and one terry cotton pant and how he had to borrow notes from his friends and teachers because books were something which could be afforded by only a few. All of this seems surreal now but that’s how his life was. His childhood consisted of fishing as his favorite pastime activity in the two huge ponds that we had in our ancestral home, indulging in farming activities, playing football with musk melons, eating mangoes and a wide variety of other fruits while lazing under the simmering sun. Not even close to how my childhood was.

But his hard work enabled him to have the pleasures of life. It has enabled us to have a decent life, a privileged life. When you think about it, you get a sense of how fortunate you are. And how grateful we should be for everything our parents do for us. Although my father has achieved a lot in his life, he has never hounded behind the pangs of luxury. Luxury is not a word that one would find in his dictionary. Living life contently with the basic, essential necessities is what he believes in. And he teaches us the same. We find it boring and shrug it off. After all, most of us crave for a luxurious life, filled to the brim with all the amenities this world has to provide. That’s the very purpose in everything we do, our education, the degrees that we obtain. Everything to have a life filled with fun, frolic and fancy Italian dinners every weekend. Isn’t that what we are? My father has never believed that.

The thing that my father isn’t a very orthodox or a conservative person makes me proud and happy. He isn’t one of those close minded people although he belongs to a generation which has many of those sorts. He has always supported us in all the decisions that we have taken in life, however bad they have turned out to be. He has always put our priorities first than everything else; he has always bought two or three pieces of clothing in an entire year; he has provided me and my sister the education which we have desired, never questioning any of it.

He might show signs of introversion sometimes, he might be a person who doesn’t have a lot of fun, he might be downright mundane as well but I think that all those traits turn pale in comparison to the things and virtues that I have learnt from him. I have adjusted to how he is as a person, I respect his persona and his behavior and I don’t flinch to point out at times when he is wrong. But still, he has given me a wonderful childhood, he has a big role in whatever I am now and I can never think of disappointing him. Maybe the puzzle in him will remain unsolved but I guess that is what makes each of us beautiful in our own way.