Month: June 2019

Junction 40

40ssss! It seems so easy breezy now. I am happy, I feel fab. I have cracked the code, nailed it!!

I have embraced the 40s and I feel great. I am financially more solvent. Folks have stopped bothering me about my marriage plans. Maybe, they have given up on me and it suits me perfectly. I can go on with my life without having to frame polite responses to the very intrusive questions posed mostly by distant aunts and neighbours. “My Babli just had her second child. Her husband bought a Merc. So, when are you planning to settle down? You are seeing somebody I am sure?” While I would try to smile and say politely “I am already settled aunty, in my job and career,” my angry heart would yell out, “Well your Babli rides her husband’s Merc, while I drive around in my own car.” After a while, these questions stopped bothering me.

But trust me it hasn’t always been easy. It did take me a while to admit even to myself that I was turning 40. The first flush of youth, that I kind of took for granted, is over and I am entering a more mature phase in my life. I still remember when the neighbourhood grocery delivery boy called me aunty, I was shocked. I would have strangled him if I could, instead, I maintained a stunned silence. When my hairdresser casually mentioned, “You seem to be greying Ma’am,” I wanted to snatch his pair of scissors and chop off his ponytail. And then, when the grey streaks started showing up adamantly, I did get upset for a while. Finally, I streaked my hair red. To hell with the greys!

Mid-30s were probably the most difficult. I suddenly felt time was running out. I often pondered upon how life was passing by and I have done nothing worthwhile. Wallowing self-pity would engulf me from time to time. Fear of dying alone would keep me awake at night. I somehow blamed myself for the fact that I didn’t have a ‘special someone’ in my life. “Should I marry the next guy I meet?”, was the question I constantly asked myself.

One evening, while I was pouring my heart out to a friend who was on a sabbatical after having her second child, she looked at me enviously and said, “You are financially independent, you do whatever you like, go wherever you want. What more do you need?” Sounding a little exasperated she added, “Look at me! Even stepping out for a cup of coffee is a challenge,” Maybe it was me raving and ranting, maybe the baby girl wailing on and off, got on her nerves.

Driving back that evening I thought about what she said. My life seemed so much better compared to many people around me. I could get up in the morning and go for a walk or get up just early enough to reach office on time. In the evening I could meet a friend for a coffee or a drink, or just curl up in the bed with a book. I cooked when I wanted, what I wanted. My house was always in order. No toys or shoes lying here and there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling conjugal bliss or motherhood. My friends’ amazing kids somewhat take care of my maternal needs. I am the cool aunt who gets to do all the fun things.

When I look back at the nervous 21-year-old taking a DTC bus for her first job interview, the girl confidently driving to her own apartment certainly seems to have come a long way. Once I realized what I achieved, learned to look at the positives, I was freed from the occasional sense of panic or rush to complete the accomplished tasks. I decided to enjoy what I have instead of fretting over what I may not have. The approaching 40s didn’t look all that scary, instead, I looked forward to the years that lay ahead of me and what they may have in store. Having a supportive family and amazing friends certainly helped!

I recently came across an old clip where Simi Grewal was interviewing late Dev Anand. On being asked about aging the evergreen star said that he doesn’t feel old at all. “I still feel 20, I have only matured.”

I feel better than I felt in my 20s, the passing years have made me wiser and happier. I have learnt to love and appreciate myself and that feels great! Of course, the lush green has somewhat mellowed. But who wants to be evergreen when there are so many colours to look forward to – the yellows and the reds, the beautiful orange of the autumn or the serene white of the winter!

Junction 40, with so many choices, winding lanes and rich hues is probably the most exciting junction where I stopped a while to ponder!!

Tug of War: Dream vs Reality

Caught between dreams & reality
 Little Rhea had many dreams
To go off to a far of land, surrounded by mountains with singing rivers and streams
To sit on the mountain top and ponder on the many marvels of the world
To sit by river and write beautiful poems to touch beautiful souls
To teach little children to read, write and dream of a life beautiful and full of wonder
 
Little Rhea had many dreams
To leave her small town for a big city
To travel to the far-off lands, to visit many countries and cities across the world
To sit on a tall tower in a position of power
With her power she would create a better world, she dreamt
 
“Oh, you must be someone of position and power”, she was told
She studied hard, worked harder, and slowly inched her way up the tower
Reaching the top is all that matters, it will give a new meaning to her life, she thought
Once on the top she was precariously perched, caged in lonely rods of futile power
She tried very hard to make a difference, but was torn between position and power
The material life and its glamour and glitter, kept her away from the dreamy mountains and singing rivers, from the little children who were waiting for her to teach them to dream
 
Many a night she would lay awake for hours, trying to figure what Rhea really wants
She has achieved so much – power, position, wealth, can she give up all up for a childhood dream
A gentle sigh would come out of her lips, “Someday I will. I will go to the quite mountains and singing rivers and write the unwritten poems and sing the unsung songs… Someday I will…”

Beat the heat with vintage drinks!

Temperatures are soaring, and the soft drinks and cold drinks makers are making mullah, wooing millennial with fancy ad campaigns. Be it Coke, Pepsi, Limca, Fanta, Thumbs Up, Tang or Paper Boat they come with the promise to quench your thirst, beat the heat, add style to your swag and so much more. Some of them can even transform us into superheroes by helping us achieve the impossible. And then there are fruit juices from Tropicana and Real which are supposed to be healthy as well, if the ads are to be believed. Kids crave for Cola’s and Tang and synthetic juices. Teenagers hang out with cans of aerated drinks; these are in vogue you see!

Whatever happened to good old nimbu paani or lemonade. When we were young that was our only treat on hot summer afternoons, sweet and slightly tangy nimbu paani or lebur shorbot (as we Bengalis’ like to call it). In Bengal, we get a different variety of nimbu (lemon), mildly fragrant gandharaj lebu that add aromatic flavour to the nimbu paani. We had gandharaj lebu plant in our courtyard then and nimbus were in abundance. In summer, mom used to keep sugar syrup in a glass bottle in the fridge. As soon as we were back from school, we were given a cool glass of lebur shorbot with a spoon of sugar syrup and a pinch of black salt. Sometimes she added roasted jeera powder for variety. It was both refreshing and healthy. But there was something amazing about the lebur shorbot that Didun (my naani) used to make, I am yet to taste a drink so delicious!

We were occasionally allowed to have orange squash, orange concentrate that used to come in a 1-litre glass bottle. One-tenth orange squash mixed in cold water was a real treat for us. A few cubes of ice would make it even better. You would find a bottle of Kisan orange squash in every house in summers. Roof Afza was available too, but we Bengalis are not very fond of that drink.

Bel Pana – a drink from of the pulp of Bel or wood apple, is yet another summer drink I so crave for. It involves straining the pulp of Bel mixing it with curd or cold milk. My mother would also add jaggery to it. The process is slightly complicated, but Bel Pana is delicious and one of the most nutritious drinks that you can team with your breakfast on a hot day. When I was a little girl, fruit sellers from nearby villages would sometimes get Palm juice or Tal Ras in an earthen pot early morning. The giddy sweetness of the palm juice was a rare treat that we would look forward to on Sunday mornings. There was always homemade aam panna and lassi and cold coffee and fresh coconut water. We had a coconut tree in our courtyard with the sweetest tender coconut water. 

No matter how much Paper Boat tries, their aam panna or thandai will never match the homemade flavours of my mom and Didun! Nimbus is nowhere close to lebur shorbot and Homemade’s aam panna couldn’t be further away from it. The aerated soft drinks don’t even quench my thirst, forget about adding to my style quotient. Instead, I use my superpowers to recreate the magic of Didun’s lebur shorbot and mom’s aam panna. Couldn’t find Bel in Gurgaon or would love trying Bel Pana.

The tender bond of friendship

A story of friendship that began decades ago, in a small town and blossomed over the years.

When my parents moved back to Agartala I was just 5. As my parents wanted to educate me in English medium I was admitted to Holy Cross, a Catholic school and the best-known English medium school in Agartala in then. New town, new school far away from home can be a little disconcerting for a little girl. I remember the uncomfortable first few days when I would be headed to the bus stop holding my mother’s hand, reluctance to let her go when the school bus arrived. Of course, like other little girls, I made friends in no time both at the bus stop and class and school seemed fun.

Our school buses had had fancy names, mine was Flavia. As I boarded the bus and sat quietly on the first day, I noticed a girl with curly hair and a friendly smile board a few stops later. She had an unusual name, Swadhinata. She was in the 1st standard like me but in a different section. Though I made her acquaintance, I was more friendly with kids of my section and was quite happy hanging around with them. Things were going great till 3rd standard when they decided to split up out section. My friends and I were in different sections now. I was in the same section as the curly haired girl. After the first few days on discomfort in a new section, I remember making friends with her. I don’t remember all the details now but very soon we were best of friends. Be it in the class or in the recess we were always together. We made other friends as well, especially two other girls from the class Jayeeta and Nilanjana. Four of us would hang out together all the time, playing Hide & Seek, Colour – Colour or having lunch under a tree. With our long plaits dangling we would huddle together and whisper little secrets. Holy Cross of our times had a huge campus with many trees. We would sit under a different tree every afternoon and have lunch. I remember one afternoon it suddenly started raining and by the time we ran back to the classroom we were all drenched. Be it our lunch, discomfort of our first periods, our first crush, our first love letter, we shared everything.

Though the four of us were usually together and we had many more friends, there was a special bond between Swadhinata and me. We shared everything, was privy to each other’s every little secret, hopes, dreams and fears. Silly as it may seem now, a boy staring at you or your favourite teacher not paying enough attention were matters of grave concern then. There were other important things like occupying our favourite seat on the bus, having lunch under our chosen tree, being selected to the school choir. In senior classes we would go for tuitions together, save on rickshaw fare to have mutton chops on our way back. Roadside mutton chops or chanachur (Bengali mixture) sold for five bucks were the only things we indulged in then.  I remember we vouched to stay in the same city, close to each other once we grew up. Promises that little girls make to each other!

Life had different plans for us though. After school, we went to different colleges, then left Agartala and went to different cities for higher studies. There were no mobile phones then, no Facebook, not even email, but we stayed in touch, our friendship only grew stronger with years. We took up jobs in different cities, she was in Kolkata while I was in Delhi. We would meet only a couple of times a year, but nothing changed between us. We would talk and laugh like two schoolgirls, pick up pieces from where we left as if distance and time were no factors at all. Then one day she told me that she was started seeing one of our former classmates Saptarishi. The news took me by complete surprise, in all these years I had never imagined her to be even remotely interested in him. But things happen when they happen, and they happen for the best. They got married soon after and her husband, who I didn’t particularly care for in the school, became a great friend as well. We are in different corners of the world now, hoping to meet sometime this year, but distance only seems to make our bonds stronger. They say friends are the family you choose, but I would say friendship chooses you stays with you for the rest of you

Sometimes…

 Sometimes I say too much
Sometimes I say too less
Sometimes I am too verbose
Sometimes I am at a loss of words
I never know what’s the right way to tell you ‘I love you so much’
 
I love you so much, sometimes it scares me
Sometimes it gives me strength
Sometimes it fills me with unbridled passion and happiness
Sometimes it makes me miserable
 
Loving you, wanting you, the fear of losing you…
Sometimes I am convinced things will work out for the best
And we will walk hand in hand into the ‘happily ever after’, wherever that elusive land is…