Ten years a home

Duliajan is also known as the Oil Town of Assam. Digboi, the place where the Britishers dug the first oil well in the country is situated just 80 kilometres away. Oil India Limited found oil fields in Duliajan and established a modern0town with quarters and various other amenities for their employees. I was born in a hospital which had the words Oil India in it. C-Type, our first quarter was a cramped 2-BHK house which was excruciatingly hot during summers, owing to the asbestos roofs above. It was the house where I watched Teletubbies and Kaun Banega Crorepati as a toddler for the first time while my father struggled with the TV antenna outside to get a good signal. Cable hadn’t arrived till then. It was also the house which housed our vomit yellow FIAT Padmini in the cane-walled garage while the red Hero Honda gleamed beside it. Most importantly, it was the house whose walls were abused with crayons by yours truly in such a disgusting way that the occupants after us were traumatised.

 

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Somewhere in Duliajan. Credits: http://dada.theblogbowl.in/2012/11/the-badminton-chronicles.html

 

I was a particularly shy kid, as my parents tell me. Babu Dada was my favourite relative. His mother used to call me out from the back of their gate in the evenings while I stood behind our gate looking like some lost puppy, drooling. Sometimes she opened the gate and advanced to pick me up and that was when I ran inside. They lived opposite to our house. Babu Dada was a teenager at that time and he had a lot of good toys, especially that green truck which was my favourite among the lot. He gave me that truck when we left C-Type as a parting gift. I was ecstatic. I attended a play school for some time before going to Tiny Tots for kindergarten. My father used to haul me up on the petrol tank of our Hero Honda and drop me till the school, which was actually a house. On a hot summer day, the tank used to burn my bum but I seldom paid any attention to it. A few passers-by giggled as they saw me sitting awkwardly on the tank and not on the back seat. I was too young to sit back there without falling off. When my father napped in the afternoons, I used to go near the bike and twist its accelerator while making bike noises. I could never reach the seat. One foot rested on the ground while the other used to stay at the footrest. There is a picture of me doing that when one day my father saw me and got very fascinated. We had a Yashica back then and father used to take a lot of pictures with it.

Outside our quarters, we had a small garden in which big, yellow dahlias bloomed during spring. My mother was fond of gardening and there was space to do all that. We also had a few jasmine plants and chrysanthemums. Then one day, there was a storm. We had been reading the papers that a cyclone was imminent and we were terrified. Father was out of Duliajan for some reason and my mom and sister were even more worried as to what was going to happen. None of us even knew what a cyclonic phenomenon was. There were high-speed winds that day and it rained for hours. We stayed inside and I think my mother was praying now and then, she is immensely scared of thunder and lightning. The cyclone didn’t blow us all away but it decimated the garden outside. It was pitiful to look at all the dismantled flowers which my mother painstakingly grew. She was upset. I had experienced a cyclone for the first time and survived through it.

Father got a promotion and we had to leave C-Type by the time I enrolled into a nursery. We moved to the quarters named DD (pronounced Double D) which were a few kilometres away. DD was resided by people who belonged to the ‘executive classes. We got free gas, free electricity, free water, a maid, and a small patch of a garden, a large 2-BHK house which had a terrace which made the house hot yet again and three families as immediate neighbours in the block. Parul Didi was our maid and she used to take me to Tiny Tots. She was from Andhra Pradesh but she had lived in Duliajan for many years and had learnt Assamese. She used to bathe me, feed me and tolerate all my not-gonna-go-to-school tantrums early in the morning while my mom shouted in the background; I hated school from the very beginning. I walked with her to Tiny Tots for three years. She introduced my mom to idli and even got a cooker from her native place and taught her the process of using it. Back then, my mother was one experimental cook. We got a microwave oven and I was fixated in just opening and closing the damned door of it. It was probably the best invention I had seen till then. Mom even made dhoklas in that oven.

We lived on the first floor and DD-39 had a balcony too. Overlooking the balcony was a badly maintained road and across that was a high concrete wall with barbed wires on top. Beyond the wall lay a stretch of tea plantations which extended all the way to the horizon. Sometimes we saw women and kids plucking tea leaves and they waved at us when we stood in the balcony. I waved back at them but my mother was a bit reluctant to do that for some reason. There was a road on the horizon which went to this place called Tinsukia and the vehicles plying looked like fireflies at night with their headlights. My mother got a lot of potted plants and decorated the balcony to match those of our neighbours. Our neighbours were nice people but I never had the kind of toys their children had. They had Beyblades and Hot Wheels sets while I was only permitted to have a small blue Maruti Zen and a yellow Tata Sumo. Sometimes I felt that gross injustice was done to me but I seldom protested in front of my parents. There was this one incident in Oil Market. Everything in Duliajan had Oil in it, even the market. So, Oil Market was this enclosed bazaar that we frequented. There was a shop named Pick-Me which we crossed on our way to other shops. It had a glass-paned counter and behind that were chocolates. There was one big blue pack of Dairy Milk which I will never forget; it is perhaps the biggest Dairy Milk I have ever seen. I don’t remember how many times I begged my mother to buy me that, but she never did. One time, I got so hysterical that the shopkeepers inside looked surprised as to what was happening outside. My mom, on the other hand, did not budge.

Our neighbours included our family to the executive life by taking us to Zaloni Club. The place was a hangout place for many of the people in our colony and others. It had a movie theatre which was also an auditorium, a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, a bar, a restaurant, a canteen, open space with a stage for events that happened, a gym, a place for aerobics, a venue for table tennis, a small cricket pitch and a lot of rooms behind which I don’t know what lay. None of us had seen a place like this and we were surprised by the openness of culture over there. Kids were roaming around in shorts, speaking fluent English because they were from DPS (I was in KV and there was a rivalry with them) while their mothers walked around in high heels with short hair and smeared themselves with red lipstick. All the kids in my neighbourhood did some kind of coaching in Zaloni Club, some did tennis, others did squash or swimming or TT. Naturally, my parents expected me to do something as well. My father joined the gym and found his long lost love for swimming and so did my sister. Mom joined aerobics and gym for a short time as well. Everyone lived a very healthy, active lifestyle. I tried swimming but failed miserably due to hydrophobia and I screamed and wailed in the swimming pool and made life hell for my father. “I am not taking this good-for-nothing back there again”, he told my mom one day. I enrolled for TT instead because tennis was beyond my physical capabilities. I was the only noobie in the TT department and the coach ignored me because he already had some ten kids who were playing quite well and deserved more attention. I learnt some of the basics but failed to catch the attention of the coach. My first time of watching a movie in the theatre happened here as well. It was The Polar Express which was screened as part of Club Week, a week long fiesta involving a lot of food, games, competitions and other upper-class stuff like flower shows and all. Most of my friends in the neighbourhood went there while I was forbidden to do so. Kids were allowed to buy ice cream by just signing a coupon and writing their parents’ name. They didn’t have to pay money because it got deducted automatically from the parents’ bank account. I was strictly forbidden to do this as well.

In the Club Week of the year 2004, I decided to take part in a children marathon race. It started from Zaloni Club went through the DX quarters, took a U-Turn, beside the Golf Course and back to the starting point. It was a beautiful stretch, shady with trees and shrubs along the side of the road. There was a kid who lived in a couple of blocks from us named Riki. Now, the news was floating that Riki had been practising for the event with his father in the Golf Course every evening. Everyone in the neighbourhood was sure that he will bag the first prize. I didn’t do any practising but my father gave me a couple of tips. Start slow, keep your stamina for the final 400 meters, let everyone pass you first but they would eventually die out, regulate your breathing and do not open your mouth at any cost. I did the same, I was in the third position for quite a long time and was content with that. The organisers gave everyone Center Fresh before the race. That’s when I got greedy. I stopped and my fingers went into the pocket to get my chewing gum. I looked back and saw a few kids but they were far. I forgot the last rule my father said and ate the gum and started running. Naturally, I inhaled from my mouth and that’s when my lungs got tired and the lactic acid crept in. There was a shooting pain and I lost my speed. There was still around 300 meters to cover and my breath was gone. I saw a kid run past me and then another until some four kids crossed me. Ricky was in the first place as expected and he won. I sipped the glucose which was given after the race dejectedly, cursing myself. Back home, I told my parents what happened and they face-palmed themselves on my stupidity.

Duliajan was one terrific place. After father got a transfer and we shifted to Tezpur, I and my sister got a tremendous culture shock. We had to leave our executive lives behind and move to a place which was ordinary and mundane, didn’t have clubs or swimming pools or round-the-day electricity. It took me around six months to assimilate with the new place but I missed Duliajan a lot. Many years down the line, I occasionally gave a thought as to how life would have been like if I grew up in Duliajan as a teenager. It would have been exciting and active and fun-filled maybe. But in some ways, I was also glad that I was able to grow up in a much humbler setting than Duliajan, amidst the common folk. I left Duliajan in 2005 and haven’t seen it ever since. From what I have heard, things are pretty much the same. There are still Club Weeks and other stuff which happen every year. Many of the kids I knew played with are doing different things in different places. Duliajan was my hometown for nine years but it gave me moments worth writing for.

 

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Ma isn’t that mad

The first instance I remember of my mother showing her wrath for me was when I refused to go to kindergarten. It used to be a daily ritual for me to cry like a lost chicken while my mother would hurl curses and abuses from the balcony above. Our maid Parul didi would try to tug me like one would tug an adamant, immovable cow. Teary eyed and sad, I used to reach my school with Parul didi and sit beside this certain girl who fed me apples during recess for an entire year when I was in Nursery. There was very little conversation between us and I don’t remember anything apart from the pieces of apple she gave me. After reaching home, I used to recite the rhymes that were taught to us in class and say one line in the end, “Ma, we don’t have school tomorrow. It’s a holiday.” Of course, it wasn’t always a holiday and the cycle continued.

I have seen the not-so-pleasant side of my mother multiple times. Some of them have been so extreme that I possibly cannot write about them here. There have been times when I have refused to do household chores or bring oil from the nearby departmental store. This has produced two kinds of results; one is that my mother gets a bit irritated and mutters under her breath without further action and the second is that she transforms into one angry human, spewing venom and sometimes throwing the only nearest thing that she can deem as a weapon. This has varied from chappals, brooms to moisturizer bottles and spoons. I was stressed most of the time during my PU years and as I was a science student, the prevailing atmosphere at home was stressful as well. My mother had all of her stress visible on her face as she contemplated my purpose in life in front of our neighbours and practically everyone who came to our house. My poor marks during tests in school didn’t help to the cause and my prevailing laziness in terms of everything else made things worst. My mother was totally dissatisfied with my existence and she used to repeat time and time again, “Why did I give birth to this good-for-nothing creature”. I could understand her existential questions. “At least study and get some marks man, we know you can’t do anything else anyway, So, at least be good in your studies. How hard can it be to be good in one thing?” she repeated the same for two years. It hardly changed anything. There were days when I used to wake up really late; waking up at 9.30 AM is the biggest sin any mortal can make in our household. My mother would be doing her kitchen chores and she would start with her morning ‘why-did-I-give-birth…’ chanting early in the morning, in a voice loud enough for me to be heard. Let’s be real, it is certainly not pleasant to wake up in the morning and hear your own mother curse about her decisions in life, especially when that decision is you yourself. It gives such a bad taste in your brain, the likes of which is equivalent to getting a whiff of vomit while walking on the road. On other days, she used to come to my room with a broom to sweep and howl in order to wake me up. I will describe how the scenario actually feels like as best as I can. Your mother barges in and starts shouting at you, the day is hot and humid and the first thing she does is to switch off the fan and you start sweating immediately. Maybe you have been already sweating. The vomit distaste of the brain has already set in and the first question that pops up in your mind after you wake up is “why on earth did I ever take up Science”. Your mother goes on to describe how Sunny who lives five houses away, goes to play cricket at 6 in the morning and is also preparing for his medical entrance exams while you are doing nothing, not even maintaining your health. She sweeps the room angrily while you choose to be adamant and stay on your bed. “Uthiso ne nai?!” she shouts at the top of her voice and threatens to call your father who is busy working in the room upstairs. You realise that things wouldn’t turn out well if the father gets involved so you make a move to get up but your mother isn’t convinced. She gets really angry by now and the broom comes crashing down on your bare legs which tears apart the remaining sleep that you had like mozzarella cheese is detached from a pizza when you take a bite. It just snaps away and all you are left with is a lasting burning sensation and a very bad start to the day. There have been times when I had stayed put even after she was done using her weapon, just as a sign of protest and there have been times when I have angrily snapped back at her. This happened to many times during my gruesome two years as a high school Science student. Sleeping and waking up on time is a big deal in our family and my parents still haven’t been comfortable with the idea that every individual has the right to sleep and wake up whenever he/she desires.

There is one more topic which irks my mother like anything. And that is me and my sister’s marriage. Time and time again, both of us have tried to show my mother reason that it might be alright for Brahmin people to marry non-Brahmins because we live in a modern time and old rules and ways should change. My mother is not okay with this ideology and once she told me angrily that she wouldn’t think twice before disowning me and giving away all of my father’s property to some charity or orphanage if I end up tarnishing the family name. She has cursed our generation, for us being “so modern” so as to forget our family values and culture. Above all, she believes that cell phones are the reason for this abomination of the mind and it will give all of us cancer. She has become a lot more liberal now but her stand on marriage remains more or less the same, especially when it comes to me.

“It’s only because of marriage that I had to leave my job, or else I would have been in a good post by now”, one can hear this line emerging every now and then in our household, mostly after my mother has had an argument with my father. This is the time when she reviews many of her life decisions like her marriage to my father, her deciding to give up her job. In the midst of all of that, she would turn towards me and blame me for my existence as well. If the maid is absent on such a day, she would be blamed as well. According to her, she was a teacher in some adult education school before her marriage but after the wedding was fixed, she had to leave her hometown and come to the sasuraal, which was situated some 250 kilometers away. The saddest part is that she never tried looking for a job again. Even in front of relatives, she has expressed this loss in her life as she mentally calculates the salary she would have been earning right now. Mother gets mad for the most trivial reasons nowadays, sometimes I feel like she is getting more and more short tempered with age and there’s nothing that can be done about it. “We come from a different era. Just like there is no point in giving manure to a matured tree, there is no point in giving me all your modern ideas okay”, she would say as a concluding remark to every argument. In a way, it is true.

 

Firing on all five ‘Piston’s

I had heard of this thrash metal band called Piston for quite some time now. The first time I came across the name was on a Facebook post by a friend who had watched them live and was writing about how ‘tight’ their performance was. And when I saw that they were going to perform at VR Mall on the 24th, I was all the more intrigued, mostly because of the venue. I called my sister up asking if she was interested but she sounded disgusted when I sounded thrash metal. “Not my scene bro” was all she said.

After a gruesome and traffucked two-hour drive with two uncles in an Uber, I reached Phoenix Marketcity. The courtyard is the place where all performances generally happen and I jogged my way to the venue only to find a reggae concert in action. People were cheering from their seats amidst the banging of djembes and other types of drums. The singer was telling the crowd to put their hands up. I looked around for help from someone to guide me at the right direction; mostly I was looking for someone wearing a metal t-shirt like me. I decided to go to VR Mall, which is right beside Phoenix Marketcity, maybe the show was happening inside the mall. It was already 7.30, the show was supposed to start from 7. I asked one of the security guards if a show was happening somewhere and he pointed towards the left. I followed his finger and saw a small platform that had been erected and some twenty clueless people lingering around. Some kind of a live EDM track was playing from the speakers, which was bizarre. The four people on stage were all clad in black, three of them having a guitar and one of them with glorious, curly long hair. Something I could only wish for.

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Unlike most heavy metal concerts, nobody stood near the stage

Across the mixing table, I saw four guys wearing metal tees, looking all pumped up while the rest of the crowd murmured and continued to linger around. The weather was windy and chilly, after the rain. Someone from the mixing table started speaking on the mic. Took me a while to figure out where the sound was coming from. Salman U. Syed, the boss of Bangalore Open Air welcomed the gathering and talked about the ‘promotion’ that they were doing for the fest, by organising this show. The drummer of the band spoke next, introducing themselves and pointing out that this was the first time a metal band in Bangalore was playing in a mall. They played the first song and surprisingly, it was the drummer who was singing and not the guy with the long hair, who I presumed was the singer. Whoa moment, indeed. I know Rakshith on Facebook, because I went to ask for drum lessons from him a long time ago. That didn’t work out. The sound was achingly loud and distorted but that is what you get from an open air venue like this. Towards the end of their second song, Rakshith said that their singer was sick and couldn’t make it so he was taking up vocal duties for the day.

I was more interested to look at the crowd. Most of them had no idea what was going on. There were a few uncles and auntys who were making faces while Piston was covering Slayer. Five hands went up when the band announced if the crowd knew who Slayer was. Only those five hands clapped after the second song. “It’s very odd for us to play here. We usually play in places where people are drunk as f**k. I see a few people who look my parents and that is so weird because they have never approved this kind of music” Same story everywhere, I tell you.

The quintet went on to play a few more songs and covers while the crowd slowly got the hang of their “no core, no fiction and only 80s thrash metal inspired by real life events” music. Rakshith kept alive the profanity and made the crowd realise that the music is a bit difficult to take in and also pointing out facts like God indeed is dead. Their rendition of Slayer’s Disciple proved the statement for them. For a moment, I was worried if this venue was appropriate for such subtle blasphemy but luckily there wasn’t any divine intervention. I, for one, was happy that this music was being introduced to an oblivious population. I heard a few girls admiring the rhythm guitarist’s long hair, an aunty telling her husband “aise gaane sunta kaun hai bhai?” (Who listens to music like this?) and a father coaxing her five year old daughter to dance to it while he tried to click a few pictures of her. The drummer was the only person who did all of the talking on behalf of the band and apart from giving reality checks like of how the world is a living misery, he did a pretty good job on the drums. Personally, I was left with a constant ringing in my ears after the show was over, mostly because I was standing too close to the speakers and guitars were too distorted. All in all, it was a good show, the first of its kind. People were affected by it, in both ways. And yes, metal is pretty much alive in this city.

 

 

Those deceiving paintings

I have had a track record of events not deceiving me. By deceiving, what I mean is that the events take place wherever they are designated to take place. It has never happened that I reach the venue to cover something and find out that the complete thing was a hoax and that there is no event happening at all. When I first saw the details of this event, I noticed the vague information that was put up on the newspaper. “Painting Exhibition – Gallery Third Eye (Till May 31st, 10:30 AM)”. There was a small thumbnail of what looked like a painting and apart from that no further detail was mentioned. Nevertheless, I decided to go and cover this. Painting exhibitions have been a personal favourite plus this was a gallery I hadn’t been to. I asked Vijeta ma’am if she knew about this gallery but she said no. Another thing which pricked me was the absence of the artist’s name. But I thought that perhaps this was an exhibition involving various artists or something like that.

After consulting uncle Google, I came to know that the gallery was situated in HSR Layout. Around 8.4 kilometers from Shanthinagar, so taking an auto was definitely out of the question. I searched for bus routes but that also turned about to be a complicated mess involving two bus changes at the least. I went for the cab apps and saw that it wasn’t going to come below 80 rupees. One way. I even tried to borrow the scooty that my landlord had but it didn’t have petrol and the honk wasn’t working. The day was hot, the sweat had started trickling down my spine and a slight irritation had already set in. Finally, I decided to go forward with taking a cab and packed my bags. I was confident that the event would provide sufficient material to write a decent piece.

After travelling for around 50 minutes, I reached this four storeyed building near the BDA Office in HSR Layout. The time was around 12.30 in the afternoon and I was pretty sure there would be very less attendees. After a bit of checking, I approached the lift and proceeded to the 2nd floor. The ground floor had a spectacle shop and a SAMSUNG mobile dealer. The second floor had a small boutique and on the other side rested Gallery Third Eye with a small banner that can easily miss your eye. Through the glass door, I could see the paintings but couldn’t see any humans. Above the door I saw a rectangular banner which said Hygiclean Autowash Detachable Bidets on italicised fonts. For a moment, I was unsure if I was in the right place. Perhaps, the exhibition was happening upstairs? I lingered outside for a moment thinking what to do. I went inside and saw an uncle peering into a computer screen while a fat bunch of papers lay beside him. Behind him were three white and gleaming commodes, magnificent spotless beings placed on raised platforms. I went and asked if any exhibition was happening here and he curtly replied no. The place only sold paintings. I told him about the newspaper clipping I saw and he seemed unsure as to what I was talking about. He worked for the commode business but was supervising the gallery as well, I concluded. I realised that the whole thing was a hoax and that no exhibition was taking place. Heck! This wasn’t even an art gallery! A second uncle appeared from behind the room carrying a cup of tea. I tried to veer away from my frustration by looking at the paintings and reached the end of the room. There lay a microwave oven and a coffee maker with a small wooden table and three chairs. There was a transparent Tupperware box and inside contained what looked like Saranna. Lunch for those uncles, I thought. The room was filled with panels, most of them featuring abstract artworks by artists I do not know about. Others included vibrant landscapes, a few portraits of women and Gautam Buddha. All of them were oil paintings on big wooden glass frames.

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Some of the artworks at display. Expensive, of course

Since there was no other thing to do, I decided to gather some information of the place. I hadn’t given up hopes about not creating a piece out of this hoax event yet. I went to the first uncle and asked him as to when this place was opened. Three years ago, came the reply and he went back to his peering. I asked him about the prices of the paintings and he told me to check the website, this time without peering up from the screen. I nodded and didn’t say anything more. That was the end of my information mining and I resumed looking at the paintings, clicking a picture or two occasionally. So, a reporting piece was out of the question and what lay was a feature-ish kind of a thing. Also, I was hungry so that had to be urgently tackled too. The commodes gleamed and I was thinking as to who does a commode business with a so-called art gallery? But then, people have used commodes as an example for modern art so I guess it goes with that.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) Source: http://www.tate.org.uk

//

// I have come to realise that human touch is important. Being isolated for a long time messes up the psyche quite significantly. More than anything, you feel extremely bored and mundane. For the first few days, it feels quite peaceful to retract away from the general, everyday maddening crowd. But then, this retraction becomes sort of a permanent phase and that’s when you realise that this is not what you asked for. For me, periodical isolation is fine but a prolong state of that starts eating me up as you crave for some human company. Sure, I can immerse myself into all forms of technology and back-lit screens to fill the time up or work on writing a piece or get busy with some internship work but no matter how much you try to divert away from the fact that you actually want to hang out with your friends or just anyone for that matter and no one is actually available, all of your diversion methods become futile. Even the PC games that you love playing so much become unappealing. //

// My teacher told me to write about sounds that you hear in summer. The sound that I can mostly hear when it’s summer is the whirring of the fan above my head although I can hear it throughout the year. But I guess the sound matters more when it is summer. I also hear the sound of ACs when I walk in alleys or beside buildings from where the AC exhaust boxes jut out. The loud whirring sound is accompanied by occasional pouring of water from it. I used to hear the sound of the blowhorn of the Ice Cream vendor who came on a small three wheeler with a box attached to the rear side in the afternoons when I was back home in Tezpur, and how the kid in front of our house always threw tantrums whenever he came. I also remember how the Ice Cream vendor used to deliberately slow down in front of our house as a result. I remember how people sighed and moaned whenever there was a sudden power cut and the entire area was momentarily filled with darkness until some of the backup generators came on. But the world used to be so calm during that flash of a moment of total darkness. //

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.