Thursday, December 31, 2015

Because, some things are traditions

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
  • Visited Cambodia and Thailand. Sat on the steps of the Angkor temples at dawn, effectively crossing off one thing from my bucket list.
  • Adopted a cat, my first pet ever. 
  • Adopted another cat.
  • Re-learnt swimming. Swam relentlessly all summer.
  • Started volunteering at a community library for underprivileged kids (It soon became my highlight of the week)
  • Set up a translation blog that people actually read.
  • Completed my 2015 Goodreads Challenge (30 books were successfully read in 2015.)

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Kind of. Yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Cambodia! Thailand!
Also, the following places within India: Jaipur, Gushaini (Himachal), Bangalore, Bikaner, Jim Corbett National Park, Kashipur, Benares.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
Job satisfaction. Money.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?
19 December, for heartbreaking reasons

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
  • Finally getting my act together to change teams within my company
  • Making Cambodia happen

9. What was your biggest failure?
  Money, mostly

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing horrific, thank God (fingers crossed, knock on wood)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
 Tickets for Cambodia. Sushi for my birthday lunch. My first ever smartphone.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mine. S'. D's (surprisingly enough)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
K's, I think.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Food. Cat stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Cambodia. My cats.

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2015?
"Mohakaler koley eshe, gouri holo mohakali..."
"Everything is awesome."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
1. Happier or sadder? The same, I think.
2. Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
3. Richer or poorer? Richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Swimming. Dancing. Reading. Spending time with my grandfather.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating. (Good God, the procrastination. I think it's become some sort of a disease.)

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas with good friends, eating cake and biriyani, and drinking mulled wine. It was a good Christmas.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
The mother and the mother-in-law. (Such domesticity. Shudder.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?

23. How many one night stands in this last year?

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
  • True Detective
  • Masterchef Australia
  • Inside Amy Schumer
  • Lizzie Bennett Diaries; Pitchers; Permanent Roommates (Evidently, this was the year of the Web series.)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
Ooh ooh, this was the year of author discoveries. Fell in love with Chimamanda N'gozi Adichie and read "Americanah", "That Thing Around Your Neck", and "Half of a Yellow Sun" in one go. I also discovered Margaret Atwood, and was riveted by "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Stone Mattress: Nine Tales". This was the year of much good reading.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The existence of 8tracks

28. What did you want and get?
A new job

29. What did you want and not get?
Money. Peace.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Masaan. Asa Jawar Majhe. Ugly.
(This was also the year I discovered Star Wars, which should, I think, get at least an honorary mention.)

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
27. Sushi for lunch, and a party the day before.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
 More money. A bit more spine. 

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

34. What kept you sane?
 Cats. Books. In that order.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
 Ranveer Singh. Neil Gaiman. Chimamanda N'gozi Adichie. John Oliver.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The "intolerance" debate, and everything that happened around it.

37. Who did you miss?

38. Who was the best new person you met?
M and M. Hands down.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Mortality is a bitch.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
"Here comes the sun/ And I say, it's all right.
Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter..."

Monday, December 21, 2015


Dadumoni loved his coffee, even though, due to health issues, coffee was a strictly regulated treat. That was a pity, because every time he drank coffee, he told me stories about Dhaka. To this day, Bangladesh evokes memories of sitting on top of a large dining table, sharing a bowl of muri and an occasional sip of coffee, listening to stories about countries torn apart; countries mended.

My earliest memories of my grandfather mostly involve that very large dining table. He would sit at his customary chair and tell me stories about the "homeland" across the border. About graduating, and struggling for a job. About being friends with Bhanu Banerjee and being taught by Satyendranath Bose and Mohitlal Majumdar. About being stuck in the "wrong locality" during a Hindu-Muslim riot, and about his thrilling escape after running into his Muslim dentist. He spoke about the interminable journey from East to West, when there was so much emptiness inside, but not much outside. He made "bhush bhush" sounds with his hands while talking about the packed steamer from Goalondo. And he smacked his lips when he spoke about the delicious chicken curry to be found aboard those steamers.

Dadumoni was a writer. The house was full of diaries where he wrote about hilarious real-life anecdotes. Stories about how he bluffed his way through exams, helped his sibling shelter truant freedom fighters from the British police, and made friends at work. Dadumoni taught me to love afternoon soaps, Sri Lankan batting, and the “lyaja” piece of the fish. He taught me how to sharpen pencils with a piece of blade, how to create elaborate collages by cutting up old pictures and newspapers, how to craft greeting cards for every occasion, and how to laugh without restraint. A belly laugh, he called it. He gave me my very first copy of Charles Lambs' "Tales from Shakespeare", and was the first person who read to me from Wordsworth.

He was also usually the first person to get up in the morning, generally by five. He would go about brushing his teeth and entertaining my infant brother by lustily singing "Dhono dhanyo pushpo bhora" or "Tomarei koriachhi jeebonero dhrubotara" at the top of his voice. (Even today, lines from these songs remind me of groggy winter mornings and a smiling grandparent.) Eventually, he would totter off to the market, with his walking stick and his precious bajaarer bag in tow. I learnt my first "bajaar skills" from him (always check the gills of the fish), and my first Nojrulgeeti (“Mohakaler koley eshe gouri holo mohakali...”). Everytime you went somewhere with Dadumoni in the picture, you had to build in an extra fifteen minutes, because he would invariably delay you with his inane anecdotes and his insistence of waving at you from the main gate whenever you left the house. (He couldn't walk fast due to acute arthritis. Not that you ever heard him complain.) And on exam days, when I would quickly do a perfunctory pronaam and try to rush out of the house, he would always take his time blessing me, whispering "Hori hori hori bolo/ Ajker porikkha bhalo/ Buchu porbe bhalo/ Buchu likhbe bhalo" in my ears. Strangely enough, the days that I insisted that I didn't have time for the prolonged blessing were invariably the days when the question papers seemed particularly tough.

Like millions of others, he immigrated across the border during tumultous times, and went on to live his life with unapologetic aplomb. He sang songs, drank coffee, hosted get-togethers, and opened his doors to guests from all over the world.

Dadumoni collected coins. He would give away shiny two-rupee coins every poila baishakh and bijoya. Once, on my birthday, he gave me a chocolate box full of old coins of various denominations. I carry around a few coins from that box till today. They are my lucky charms, my hereditary talisman.

My grandfather, Arun Kumar Sen—fish lover, Partition survivor, Ranatunga admirer, belly laugher, collage enthusiast, adda addict, Wordsworth aficionado—passed away in his sleep two days ago. But that's not how I imagine him going. I imagine him striding into wherever he is right now, demanding coffee, adda, loud songs, Goalondo chicken curry, and an uninterrupted cricket match. And sometimes, I imagine him looking down at me, and smiling, as I curl my fist around my lucky coin, and demand the same from life.