Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When I was very very young - smaller than even the smallest me you can picturise, Dhaka used to occupy the central place of my imagination.
More than tuntuni, more than red-riding-hood, heck, even more than random cat under the water tank.
My earliest memory of being told a Dhaka story is when we would all gather around the huge table at the boroghor, gulping down mounds of butter and rice. A dollop of salt, and a generous helping of incredible stories. Which would almost always be told by dadumoni.
It seemed a magical place. A place of less than perfect boundaries. With more than perfect people.
We were told of the steamers till Goalindo and the high-ceilinged musty smelling ancestral house where 35 people lived under the same roof. Scratching his throat, Dadumoni would recall how once he had gotten stuck in a Muslim mohalla during a riot, and how he had escaped with the help of the family dentist, who happened to be a Muslim. 35 people under the same roof, and not a single dent to show for it, he said. All of them having muri and batasa out of a single bowl and rushing off to school. Kilos of fish needed to feed the entire lot. And how my great- grandmother would cook, ghomta in place, throughout the day – huge pieces of ilish, gleaming with oil - and still have time to read the latest Sharatchandra. Dadumoni had come home from school one evening, he said, to find the house in an uproar. Because there were escaped freedom fighters in the chilekotha, and the police at the backdoor.
Each mouthful of rice I took would demand a story. The story of how 35 people slept together, for instance. All my grandfather’s cousins in the same room. All over one another. All around one another. And not one word of complaint.
Eggs being divided with a piece of string, he talked of. Because, heck, you can’t have whole eggs for all 35 people.
Dadumoni, white haired and scratchy bearded, eyes gleaming - would talk of my great grandfather. And how he would teach and look after all the cousins at one go. Correcting phrasal verbs and factorisations simultaneously. With equal elaan.
And then, there was the first journey to Kolkata. So many of them crammed into one space. Ans so much fun.
And then there was the last journey to Kolkata. So much space crammed into all of them. So much nothingness inside each when they came down to India. Leaving old houses behind. Leaving old lives behind. Leaving old blood behind.

35 people! He insisted.
35 people and no dent to show for it. Eggs and ilish maachh. Maths and English. All devoured together. All together. Together.

The old man lives alone, with his wife, in a clingy, house now-a-days. 35 people at the beginning of his life, and 2 at the end of it. The sons and the daughters are scattered in snazzier flats all around the city. There is still a fat cat under the water tank. And the huge table. But no boroghor.
Dhaka still remains. As well as the white beard.


But it’s once again like when they left Dhaka. There is a huge, empty house. And so much emptiness within. So much emptiness without.

I miss you, dadumoni.

20 comments:

yippeeHippie said...

how do you do it? time and again?

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

"And then there was the last journey to Kolkata. So much space crammed into all of them. So much nothingness inside each when they came down to India. Leaving old houses behind. Leaving old lives behind. Leaving old blood behind..."


You managed it.... my eyes are brimming now...

I remember it.. remember thakuma narrating the story, story of leaving dhaka... leaving everything behind.. leaving their identity behind....

Would love to meet dadamoni...

The none said...

sobai eksathe school jeto? 35jon-i schhol-e porto naki? ar sobai eksathe shuto-o? iye, private life hampered hotona? aar seshTa besh Nochiketa-r "Bridhhashrom" marka hoyechhe. :-D

Apart from these, ekTa kotha bole rakhi. BhaT bokar byartho cheshTa manush tokhoni kore jokhon onyo kichhu bolar moto thakena. Amar moto mohan ek lekhok jokhon bhashaheenota-r sweekar hoy taar cheye boRo compliment ar ki hote paare pNuTu? :-)

Aar hNya, aamar baap-o ei ek-i rokom goppo shonaato amake. Jotto sob bangaal-er dol!!!!!!!

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

out out ghoti...
you are nothing but a morose shadow. :x

The none said...

sob baangaaler ek raa
jomidari koi gelo ga?

:-D

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

ghoti ta ke ber kor to...

Opaline said...

I've heard Dhaka stories too, only they were'nt about Dhaka but about a house and the people who lived in it and on one occassions about scandalous boys and girls and and houses with big gardens in Chandpur with eggs hidden in rice to taunt siblings and about the time the aeroplane crashlanded and one time about a little girl's holiday to Rangamati but never in great detail about the final journey epaar. I think it's because both my grandparents, individually, crossed over to live with their older siblings who were established here. Uff sorry Bee, onek lomba comment, I'm going to post about this too. I loved reading this, absolutely very much. Please go visit your dadumoni and sit with him for hours because you'll regret not doing it once he's gone.

The none said...

@Heathcliff

sob bangal-i jaat haarami
sob bangal-i gulbaaj
kaal ki chhilo tai niye
goppo diye jachhe aaj.

Dhruva said...

An incredible post. Ami er agey tor blog du ekbar porechi. I remember the Aguner Paroshmoni post as well. In a strange, mildly related way, I know what you mean. :|

DD said...

striking post. fortunately, my thakuma still has 16 people living under the same roof.

oracle said...

i have heard stories too. a bit of dhaka, a pinch of old calcutta, the big big BIG house crammed with kaka, jyatha, dada, khurtuto bon and puri visit (change-e jawa) with them, and how, all of them drifted, drifted away one by one, slowly, silently, noiselesly, without a word into the open city, into the wide wide world. it brought a lump to my throat. and eyes would be wet.

and after a while, when we started drifting, we forgot all about these tales. now that i read your tale, the lump comes back. thanks for letting me bring back that tiny speck of sunshine of circa 1987/88.

ThaMMa, Dadu are no more. The tales remain.

panu said...

oh maa how can you write so beautifully? I remember my thamoni telling me..

the one who must be named. someday. said...

all right. you made your point. The Dhakaa stories bind us all. But the thing is, u manage to tell it rather well. Too well, now that I think of it. Hmmmmmmm.....

NAh. thats a good thing. :)

mojo said...

good but oh-so-sentimental!! but yes, i spent my childhood in a house with 25 other people, now there remain barely 6...so you lose these things one way or the other,...

now good things said and done with, i can't restrain my self anymore....BAAANGAAAL!!!!

March Hare said...

@yippeehippie - erm. was that a compliment? or not?

@heathcliff - would love to take you to meet him. :)

@none - and because you are you i forgive you for sniding at bangals.:)

but one more time young man, and you are dead.

@opaline - post koro. and what was the story about rice and eggs again?

@dhruva - thankew.:)

@dd - bhagyobaan. bheeshon. :)

@oracle - it is frightening we sometimes end up thinking the exact same things.:P

@panu - :)

@sonai - ah well. :P

@mojo - dur hot shala hybrid.:x

Whim said...

kolkata.
sunset.
Lantern.
A story weaver.
memoirs.
childhood.

Man...u take me back.

and i guess its good to let these things come out in tis way....
man..I envy u.

Astraeus said...

i could identify a lot with this post too bimbo....

in my shildhood too stories from opar bangla took me to a place which i hadnt seen but was already a part of me...

mojo said...

shoishob+childhood=shildhood?????nirghat comparative...jogakhichuri,bokochchhop types!!

Necromancer said...

O Bimbi you touched that nerve that seems, to our generation, to be quite non-existent but is not so.

Roots,
Sagas woven around them,
Our own pictures of another time and land,
To become someday,
Our own pictures of yet another time and land:

"35 people at the beginning of his life, and 2 at the end of it."

I do wonder what our numbers would be...

saptarshi said...

Bimbo!