Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tied up nostalgia

On the 4th of July I was in Varanasi to attended one of my friend’s daughter’s marriage.  After a good rainfall on the 3rd of July,  the 4th was a sunny day. That day was very a sweltering hot day.  In the afternoon there was a small ceremony and all of us ladies were gathered at her home. As you may know, Ladies who attend marriages of kids who would be my son’s age, become nostalgic. May ladies started chatting about their own marriages. What she wore? How she dealt with her nervousness? What kind of comments did she face... etc.  Suddenly Joi, the younger sister of the bride, came to us and said, “Please! Can someone tie my hairs into pig tails?”   We Indian girls and women tend to tie our hairs as one or two pig tails. This is an age old way to keep our hairs neat and tidy. But now, girls commonly have their hairs dressed in various fashion.  Someone said, “Why do you want to tie your hairs? Because I know you spent a lot of money and time for it.” Another lady said, “Your untied and spread hairs are looking good.”  Still she said with some irritation, “All is true. But the weather… The weather is extremely humid and sultry, so I can’t manage it anymore.”
I volunteered and said “Come dear I will tie your hairs.”  One lady questioned me “Do you know how to make the pig tail (choty).”  I replied “Yes I do.”  Then I took a brush and start brushing. As I was brushing Joi’s hairs I felt nostalgic.

I was around 8 or 9 years old. In my school untied hairs were strictly not allowed. So every morning my mother used to tie my hairs neatly into two pigtails. But one day she fell ill. The Doctor came and gave us his report, “Viral fever. She needs medicine and proper rest. It will take some time for her to recover”. She was too weak to get up from her bed. My father worked hard to manage home and office. Dada (my elder brother) got ready for school by himself; but I was totally dependent on my mother, mostly for having my hairs tied up. Even though it wasn’t perfect, but somehow my father got me ready for school. On the first day I went to school with untied hairs and as per my school rules, I got my punishment for it. After I came back home, I was waiting for my father to return from work. When he returned, I burst into tears. Father calmed me down and asked me to come with him.  He took me to the saloon and said to saloonkeeper, “Abdul! Cut her hairs short.” The man picked me up and put me in a chair . Then he cut my shoulder length hairs in to boy cut. I felt happy that I need not worry about tying up my hair in the morning rush.

At school my friends and class mates giggled and laughed.  My teachers looked at me in weird way. I felt hurt and pathetic. After I returned home, I again waited for my father to return from work. When he returned, I again burst into tears. The next morning, my father covered my head with a scarf and as the day passed by, the girls giggled and laughed at me.  That day my class teacher asked me “Is there something wrong?  Why do you wear a scarf in such a hot day?” I was depressed. I could not say anything. Some girl in the class said “Miss! She has lice in her hairs so she applied medicine.” I could only shout.”NO!”. But it would have been useless. Nobody would understand that my mother was ill and my father did not know how to tie hairs.

On my way back home, one of my close friend walked back home with me. She put her hand on my shoulder in friendly manner and said, “You know! If you have some mental problem then my mother can help you. She knows of a very famous Ojha! Tell me honestly if you have any problem…

I said, “Joi! Here is your pig tail.”
She said “Thank You Mini aunty.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

Being bad is sometimes good.

If I am polite or talk normally with someone according to their wish or preferences, then I am a good person. But if I tell them my wish or my dislikes then I am a bad person to him or her. This is human nature. In my childhood whenever I raised my voice or said anything in a irritable way, my father would hold my hands tight and ask me to say the same thing politely. This prophecy made my behavior controlled and helped me become popular within my friend circle.

This incident happened in the year 1987.  That was the last week of June. I was in Varanasi with my in laws.  After spending quiet a good time with them I was returning to Haridwar, where my Husband used to work at that time. Those days there was no e-ticketing system so either me or my father in law would have to go to the station to buy a reservation ticket.   That month of June was scorching hot in U.P. and it was very difficult to stand in a queue under the sweltering heat.

My friend Ranjana, who was from Haridwar, was also in Varanasi with her parents. Her father was (and still is) a resource full person, so I requested him to book my ticket to Haridwar along with Ranjana’s.  He said “Ho jayega beta.” (It will be done). 

The day was a Friday. I do not remember the date. The train was Doon Express and those days there was no A.C. coach in that train. Our reservation was in a first class coupe.  We had four reserved berths. One for me, one for Ranjana and two for Sona  Guriya (Rajana’s children) and  Pakku (my child). The kids were on half ticket.  At 9 am Ranjana picked me from my home and we headed for the railway station in her father’s official jeep. Sanju (Dr. Sanjiv  Sharma),  her younger brother accompanied us. In the jeep she asked Sanju “If Raghubir does not come with ticket then….?”  Sanju said “Aaa jayega.” (He will come).  I was shocked.  “If Raghubir doesn’t turn up in time, and if we didn’t have tickets by then, how………?”  Sanju  interrupted  “Don’t worry." I looked at  Rajana who  looked worried.  She asked Sanju that what if that fellow arrived late or if he could not get reservation for us?  Sanju said in very relax way “Then you girls can always return back home. What’s the problem?” However, I understood that I would be in a problem. At the station that Raghubir was waiting with the ticket and we felt relieved.  I asked Ranjana to show me the ticket. She passed the piece of paper to me. It was a paper ticket with names of passengers written on it. I took a good look and screamed. It was a confirm reservation ticket with individual names. The names are like this:

Ranjana Dube
Abhishek Dube (Sona)
Anjali Dube (Guriya)
Minu Dube
Abhinav Dube (Pakku)  

I protested “If the ticket checker challenges me over this name, then what I will do?” Sanju said, “How will that man know that you are not Dube but Banerjee.  And besides that, you can always tell him that you are my sister.” (Those days there were no e-ticket and identity proof was not asked.)
The train had arrived about an hour late.  Our seats were already occupied by lot of people. Sanju, Raghubir and the jeep driver carried and put luggage under our seats. We somehow settled down. Most of them said that they will get down at the next stop.  One husband wife said they will go to Lucknow. A middle age man with two women said that they will go to Haridwar.

Soon, the journey began. I told the man with two woman, “Please get down or change the seat from Lucknow.” In the evening 7o’clock the train reached Lucknow junction. The husband and wife got down. They thanked us and said sorry for our inconvenience. We said “Good Bye.”  The other man with two women was still on our berth. I said “You should leave.” He said “Oh no. We will go along with you.”  I retorted back, “This is my reserved seat and I have paid extra money to the railways for little comfort.” The man laughed out aloud. My head busted with anger. I raised my voice a little and said “Leave immediately”.  The man stood up, so I also stood up and shouted at him with full volume,  "Leave  immediately… or… I will pull the chain… I will call the police..." From my right hand I snatched a bag of his belonging and threw it outside the coupe.  Ranjana held on to my left hand tightly. Three - four men came outside the coupe.  I stretched my right hand with my finger pointed outside and shouted “GET OUT!” The women left the cope and then the man dragged his suitcase under the berth and left. Ranjana released left my left hand. I shut the coupe door with a big thud.

I sat down on the berth and took few deep breath. Guriya came into my lap. Pakku and Sona looked confused. Then I looked at Ranjana. She was breathing with quick and short breaths.  I got scared as I knew she was a chronic asthma patient. I pat her back gently and children gave her some water. Soon she felt better. She asked me, “Are you ok?”   I said, “Yes. And you?”  She said, “Now I feel better , I never saw you in such state of fury in past 7 years that I have known you. We all thought that you never lose your temper.” I said, “Yes, I am not a short tempered person but that man thought my politeness is my weakness. I  allowed him to sit and he was occupying my berth so I was compelled to throw him out.”

The night fell soon . Rest of the journey was peaceful . The children slept as I and Ranjana chatted until midnight. Train kept moving in the darkness...