Thursday, March 28, 2013

Headache Brother

When I was in school, Rakshabandhan was one attractive festival. Rakshabandhan is actually not a part of Assamese culture. But growing up with non-assamese communities for whom it was one of the major festivals, we were also enticed to tie rakhis on our brothers' wrists. Rakhi is a decorative thread. Well now, my sister and myself are the only siblings plus our cousin brothers did not reside in the same town. But in schools and colleges, tying rakhis on male friends' wrists and making them brothers is a very common phenomenon. And many of us girls did this in our school too. Now it was also likely that girls would tie rakhis on that boy's wrist who were in love with them (puppy love mostly) but did not reciprocate the same. So the festival was one which such guys dreaded and many of them even skipped school that day. Anyways, what I am going to narrate is about a boy in my class whom few of my gal friends and myself unfortunately tied a rakhi and made him our brother and hence our protector. It was when we were in high school. The day we did that turned out to be one of the most unfortunate days of our lives. If not for all of us, but it certainly was for two of us . Let's call the boy 'Bro' and my friend 'Moti'. And this post is on Moti's demand.

Moti has one younger sister and one younger brother of her own, while I have one younger sister. In Moti's family, rakshabandhan is a major festival and apart from her own brother, she has several cousin brothers to celebrate the festival with. Still, going with the trend Moti, a couple of others and myself tied a rakhi each on Bro's wrist. In return, we got our gifts and were very happy. But actually that was the start of our unhappiness. 'Raksha' means protect and 'Bandhan' means relation. So basically rakhi is tied on a brother's wrist symbolically asking him to protect us at all times. And the problem was Bro took his job of a brother very very seriously. Bro does not have any sister of his own, only a kid brother. His mother used to invite us (his rakhi sisters) over to their place for lunch and treated us really well. She even gave us gifts on his behalf. His mother is a real sweet lady and we never understood how her son turned out to be such an annoying creature.

Bro turned into a full-time brother in no time. Since we were in the same class, Bro would keep an eye on us. I have to admit, we did a lot of mischief and played a lot of pranks on him too. He would observe how we behaved so that he could lecture us later. He would advice us on everything about school and life. While in tuition classes after school, Bro would give us lectures on friendship and relationships. He was jealous when we spend time with our guy friends and ask us why we need so many friends and that best friends are always few. And after the tuition classes, his consistent irritating lectures continued over the telephone. There was a time when I told my family to tell him that I am not at home when he called. 

Gradually, Moti and I started avoiding him. His other 'rakhi sisters' were not bothered much by him. It seemed that we two were his favourite sisters, or I should say victims. And avoiding him was not at all easy for us. At school, he would face us and ask us emotionally why we were avoiding him and what had he done. It was pathetic.

After the Xth standard, most of us went off to different institutes for higher secondary studies. Moti and I went to the same college and fortunately for us Bro went to a different school. But again we could not escape him for long for we had one common tuition class and of course there was the dreaded telephone calls. During one such telephone call, I could not bear his irritating advice anymore and told him what a irritating jackass he was. And unbelievably he replied, "Tell me more about my negative qualities so that I can work on them". I was speechless.

On one new year's eve, he came to our house. But my sister, I and our common friends had gone a picnic nearby. Ma told him that I would not back anytime soon. But he said he would still wait. After sometime, she treated him with some snacks. He had them but still did not leave. Ma again told him that I would not be home soon. But he continued to wait. Finally when it was almost evening, he left.

Among all the painful memories Moti and I have of Bro, we do have a hilarious memory. We had a close friend who relocated to a different town when we were in the IXth standard. And there was a rumour that Bro was quite friend of her. So so too decided to jump into the bandwagon of Bro's sisters and posted us a rakhi to be given to him. I remember the day well. It was a bright sunny day and the sky was clear. There were several young trees in our school and we decided to meet Bro near one of those as it was a warm day. The moment we handed over the envelope containing the rakhi to Bro, there was a loud thunder! I swear it was real. Moti can testify. Believe me. It was like a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie. It was hilarious.

Now how did I escape his vicious brotherly affections. It was very easy. After my XIIth, I left my home state for graduation. But Moti continued to study in the same town and so did Bro. When I got a cell phone in the new place, Bro used to call me. I used to pretend that there was a signal problem and say that I could not hear him. Sometimes I would put the phone under the mattress and sit on it. And poor Moti had to bear the burnt of the actions. Bro would tell her that I had changed and blah blah. Moti is too good in character and simply could not resort to immoral tactics like me. So she put up with his lectures for a considerable time. But may be Bro finally found other things to do in life and stopped bothering her. Subsequently Moti also moved to a different town for higher studies and saved herself. The last we heard was that he had got a girlfriend. I wish well for her.

After all these years, Moti and I still have a good laugh when we talk about him. Although it seems to be funny now, it did not feel so then. I can not say that I behaved quite well with him at the end but believe me there was no better way to do it. He was long time headache and I needed a cure. I do not have a blood brother, but after meeting him I did not have any wish left for any kind of brother.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A house that became home

Our home for 19 years
For 22 years of my life, I had called Jorhat my home town. And for 19 years  out of that 22, a house was our home.

Deta (my father) served Assam Agricultural University his entire job life and the last 22 years of that he was posted in Jorhat. He had also been educated in the same university. On the other hand, my maternal grandfather (Koka) was also educated and served the same fraternity. So Ma and her brothers also grew up in the university campuses in different towns. 

We arrived in Jorhat in the year 1990 when my younger sister and myself were just kinder-garden students. We moved into the quarter we would call home for the next 19 years in August, 1993. Interestingly, Ma had also resided in the adjoining quarter as a child when Koka was posted in Jorhat. So you can imagine how old the quarters were. The house was one of the fives quarters amid students' hostels. It was an Assam-type house with three bedrooms, two washrooms, one living room, one dining room, a kitchen, a puja ghar and a store room. We had a front yard as well as a backyard and also verandas both in the front and back. The kitchen and the puja ghar were around 10 steps from the main house connected by a veranda. There were several trees in the house compound and kept us well shaded. There was a fishery pond in front of our house. There were three houses on our side and two on the other side of the pond. There was also a pond on our right side.
The path leading to our home
This was the house, my sister and I were allotted a room of our own and allowed to decorate how we wanted it. How excited we were! This was the house we got our first puppy, learned to ride a bicycle and years later learned to drive a car. In this house we had three dogs, two cats, two parrots and several fishes for pets. It was here, we got our first barbie dolls, learned new games, learned to knit in lazy winter sun and enjoyed the juicy mangoes in warm summer afternoons. In this house , we sisters turned into gawky teenagers and enemies. And in this house we rediscovered our love as adults. 
A rain lily in bloom
All seasons seemed charming in our home. In the spring, I would collect the golden gulmohor flowers strewn on the green lawn and collect the bright red seeds when the time came. In cool summer nights, I would fall asleep watching the pond water reflections on the wall and with moonlight on my face. And summer days would be noisy with squawking parrots.  In monsoons, I would sit on the front porch steps to enjoy the cool wind, as I watched the tree leaves turn bright green against the grey sky just before the rain lashed out. And then all the sleeping rain lilies would spurt out in pretty colours--pink, yellow and white. Autumn nights would be scented by the night jasmine while winter sun would be followed from the back to the front yard with a book.
Night jasmine (sewali)
In this house, I completed my schooling and went to college. It was here that I loved and hated my parents. It was here that I learned their value. It was here I realized how lucky I have been. It was here I told them that I was in love. It was here that I actually grew up.

The house witnessed the lives of its inhabitants entwined together, watched us grow older and wiser. It became our battlefield as well as refuge. It became our catalyst as well as our solace. It basked in our rise and comforted when we fell. It is said, "Home is where the heart is", and this house has definitely captured our hearts forever.

Deta retired last year from service last year and my parents moved to his native place. And with that we have lost our true home. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Pink Zone

Delhi Metro is now a lifeline for the two million commuters (number of metro commuters on a weekday) of the city. In order to make women commuters feel safe and comfortable, Delhi Metro reserves one coach (the first or the last one) exclusively for ladies. This step was taken in October 2010 and a fine of 250 rupees is slapped on males who travel in these coaches.

When we were studying in Kolkata, almost a decade back, we used to travel by metro all the time. Kolkata Metro is our country's first and of course there were no seat reservations for women then. I had first traveled by Delhi Metro way back in 2006. And when I had traveled recently in the same, with my sister as the guide (she's been working in the capital since two years now), I was actually more comfortable. Thanks to the Women Only coach.

For convenience, the Women Only coaches are usually the first ones in the rail. But in one route it is the last coach. The coach is demarcated by a pink sign which says "Women Only" in white with little white flowers. The same sign stickers on the floor leads you from entry to the platform. The signs leads you to that part of the platform where the ladies coach halts, which is conveniently near the stairs/elevators. There are also overhead boards of the same sign to demarcate the platform space to be occupied by the said coach. Besides there are guards to guide and prevent chaos.
Inside the ladies coach, it is a Pink World. Inside the pink zone, with the announcement “Male passengers are requested not to travel in the first compartment which is reserved for ladies only. Doing so is a punishable offence”, played repeatedly, the women seem to get more confident and empowered. Here the chicks rule. You can see women from all walks of life--students, office goers, tourists, mothers, sisters and friends. Here you can witness the latest fashion in the city, what's in and what's out. Here you can see younger ladies giving up their seats for the older ones. You can see aunties who have just met, rambling about their life histories, making you wonder if they have known each other for life. And you can also see your spilled over male counterparts from the adjoining coach looking longingly at the empty space plus the women in the Women Only coach. But this was not the scene till recent times.

Men would on purpose travel in the Women Only coaches. And the women would look at each other, hoping that someone would raise her voice. Even if women constables came aboard and ask the infiltrators to leave, they were ignored and no fine were pressed. But since the sensations created by the recent brutal rape and murder case of a woman in the city, my sister informed, women in general have become more conscious towards fellow women. Men who stray into the compartment are literally shooed away by the women commuters. Guys are shamed and made to leave the compartment. I have also seen young guys who happily hop into vacant seats one moment, and the next moment they are seen getting up mumbling a apology like "Sorry, this is my first time", etc. But again, there are guys who get in with their girlfriends and travel with confidence.

Whatever it is, it is true that these Women Only coaches have given women peace of mind while traveling. At least while commuting they are spared the glaring eyes and "accidental" brushes of men. And in this pink zone women can literally sit back, relax and bask in the protection of womanhood.