Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Original 2 States

(Starring :
Shreyashi Dutta, George SamuelPradipta DuttaMayurakshee Dutta,
Upasana KhoundDiganta BoraBalamurugan Rajagopal and many more.........)


Not so long ago, in 1983 on a misty night, me and my friends rode on our bicycles towards BTPS Hospital.
We waited impatiently.
Chitra Baidew, the nurse, came out. On seeing us the smiled at said, "Tumar Vonti hol, Tumar Vonti hol (you got a sister, you' got a sister)".
 

The pretty little sister started growing up.
I still remember her growing.
I still remember all those lovely little things she used to do.

She came out with flying colours in her graduation from Gauhati University.
She decided to go to Coimbatore for her Masters.
That was 2004.

In the meanwhile we lost our father.

In 2005, my little big sister once rang up from Coimbatore and said, "Dada, what to do now ?"
Her masters course was about to end. She was confused about her future.
I guessed she wanted to try to get some job in Bangalore or maybe Chennai.
It was decided that she would try her luck in Chennai.

On a Monday morning she reached Chennai.
Next morning she rang me up, excited, "dada, I got a job."

Her life in Chennai, started.

In 2011 She resigned from her job and came back to Guwahati.

As soon as she landed in Guwahati, Ma started to look for a match for her only daughter.
Me and my brother also started looking for a suitable brother-in-law.
We knew, since our father is no more it definitely is our duty that we find a suitable match for Pahi, yes Pahi is our sister's name.
 
But, in spite of our efforts we could not find a boy to our sister's liking.

One day, I had straight one on one with Pahi.
Pahi,"Dada, there is a boy."
Me,"Wow! thats nice."
Pahi,"There is a problem."
Me,"Is he from Chennai ?"
Pahi,"Yes."
Silence.
Me (smiling),"No big deal !"
Pahi,"He is Christian."
Longer silence.
Me, "No big deal."
Pahi, with tears in her eyes, "If ma does not agree I will not marry Sam."
Me,"What is his name ?"
Pahi, "Sam".
Me,"Lets see !"

I understood that it definitely is BIG Deal with a capital B.
How to convince Ma ?
I tried to talk to Pahi in stead, hoping she would change her mind.
I tried to explaining the distance, the difference in culture, religion.
But within minutes into that explanation I understood I will have to try to convince Ma to agree.

I promised to Pahi, "will do something."
But, how to do that ???????

Ma refused to have any discussion on "that matter".
I kept sitting on my promise.

Once me and my wife were at Diganta's place. The topic of discussion shifted to Pahi's wedding. Diggy gave a long lecture. On the way home I told my wife, "will rang up tomorrow."

Next morning I asked Pahi, "what's Sam's number ?"
My little sister's beautiful eyes told me a thousand stories, "shall I ask him to call you?"

I had a talk with Sam.
I knew our late father will be very happy.
The Original 2 States - Part 2

I had a talk with Sam.
I knew our late father will be very happy.

But.................
There was no way that I could talk to my Ma. She came to know that I had a talk with Sam. Maybe she understood that once her eldest son talks with her she will have to agree. She started avoiding me. For months I kept looking for an opportunity to have a "One on One" with Ma.
 

One day, sometimes around the middle of 2013, Sam rang up, "Hi Dada, this is Sam."
Yes this is how he always addresses even though the mobile phone tells me that is Sam.
"Dada, I would like to invite you for my brother's wedding."
"Wow ! that’s nice. When is the wedding? Where will it take place ?"
Sam gave me all the details. In fact Sam is very good in giving details
  .
I kept thinking, "Sam's bother's wedding ? Simon is his younger brother. Does he have an elder brother ? Will have to ask Pahi."

"Pahi, Sam called me up. Invited me for his Dada's (elder brother's) wedding."
Pahi corrected me, "No no, its Simon's wedding."
"How come Simon's wedding is taking place before his ?"
"Because his marriage is not taking place. Simple."
"And why is his marriage not taking place?"
"Well he will marry only me and that too with Ma's blessings. Until then he is not getting married."

I walked away.
 
Looked at the calendar for 25th December, 2013.
That will be Monday.
I rang up Sam, "Sam this is dada. Sam can you give me some time ? I am not asking for much. I know you in Chennai and Pahi here is Guwahati have waited patiently for more than two and half years. Can you give me 6 more months ? Time till this Christmas ? I promise to do something before that. Please."
"Dada, it is absolutely OK. No issues at all."
I smiled and thought, "No issues ! That’s how you think !"

I did not tell anyone What I have promised. I did not want Ma to know that she needs to say "YES" before Christmas. I wanted to catch her Off Guard.
But being Ma she is always One Step ahead. She came to know about my promise.
She simply stopped talking with me.
Every summer Ma visits our mama's place at Dibrugarh.
In the summer of 13 she declared, "this time I will not go to Dibrugarh."
Alarmed, I almost shouted, "Why ??????? Why will you not visit Dibrugarh ? You always go there. This time Maina (my younger brother) is also in Dibrugarh."
Ma explained, "My hands are hurting. That’s why !"
"Come on Ma !!!!!!!!!!! that can not be an explanation. You know that our mama, your dada is a retired professor from a medical college. What better place can you find to treat your hands than Dibrugarh ?"
Ma replied, "I know that. But with this injury I can not board into Rajdhani Express."
My wife joined in, "why would you travel by Rajdhani ? You will travel by Air."
"No I won't. It is so expensive."
I shouted in anger, "Your two sons earn enough to buy two air tickets for their Ma."

I wanted to tell Ma that, "why nobody told me about your injury earlier ?"
 
Later on my wife and sister told me that they also heard about the injury for the first time.
My Ma also, maybe wanted to tell me, "why do want me to send to Dibrugarh ? You want me to go their so that your Mama can ask to say Yes ? I will not go there. Simple."

So that plan simply did not take off.
Days went by.
I stopped looking towards Pahi's eyes.
She keeps looking towards me.
Her eyes kept telling me, "Dada do something, P-L-E-A-S-E !"

Then came October 2013.
4th October, 2013 to be precise.
Pahi said, "Dada, forget about the biya (marriage). Do not tell anything to Ma."
I said, "I know what to do."
Pickloo, my wife and Luna my sister in law kept looking towards me.
I could sense the alarm in Luna's eyes.
I said, "I know what to do. I will do that. Its now or never. Just over 80 days left for the Cristmas. Let me do it."
 

I looked at our Deuta's (father) photo.
 

The Original 2 States - Part 3


Pickloo, my wife and Luna my sister in law kept looking towards me.
I could sense the alarm in Luna's eyes.

I said, "I know what to do. I will do that. Its now or never. Just over 80 days left for the Christmas. Let me do it."
 

I looked at our Deuta's (father) photo.
 

after that...............

The next day Prapti's 9th Birthday.
All the family members were chatting after the dinner.
Talk was around how to build a new home for us.
All of a sudden I told, "Ma, we need to finalise Pahi's wedding with Sam."
"Are you mad ?", Ma retorted.
"Yes, we all are ! This two people, one in Chennai and the other in Guwahati, are waiting and waiting patiently for last 3 years, to get married with the blessing of their near and dear ones.
And look at us !
The Mad people ! We have done nothing. This is a serious crime.
They could have easily married without informing us. But they did not do that. Sam told me he will not marry without your blessings. But.."
"What ever ! I will not say yes. I do not want to lose my daughter." Ma replied.
"Lose your daughter ? Who asked to do that ? We are talking about Pahi's wedding.", I got confused.
"Ma, tell me what is your problem ?", my soft spoken brother Maina asked.
"He can not speak Assamese, I can not speak English. Language is going to be a great problem.", Ma replied.
"He understands Assamese, he will learn to speak.", Pahi answered.
"I will get you a Rapidex English. You will learn to speak English in 30 days.", I figured out a solution. I tried to keep a straight face. But I could not. I realised I would be able to "finish-off" very soon. Ma does not have a case.
Ma might have realised she did not put up a strong opening argument.
Arguments and counter arguments continued.
Ma on one side and her sons on the other side.

Felt very odd.
I did not like what we were trying to do.
We were trying to marry-off our sister against our mothers wish.
Ma had every right to have her reservations.
The distance, the cultural differences, the religious differences and what not differences !!!!

Every mother would have objected.

I stood up.
"Yes I understand what you are saying. If you say NO. Then that is fine. In such a case..................





The Original 2 States - Part 4

"...... such a case this Biya (wedding in Assamese) will never take place. I have made a promise to Sam that his biya with Pahi would be finalised by this Christmas. But he told me that he would not marry my sister without our mother's blessings. Now it is final that you will not change your No. I will call Sam now and tell him that Ma is not going to say YES. I will also tell him you either marry Pahi without Ma's blessings or forget her."

Long silence.

"You see, we should not expect Sam to wait for an eternity.", I tried to explain.
"I do not have any problem. I will not marry Sam if Ma does not want me to marry him.", Pahi said.
I saw a hint of smile in Ma's face.
"But then I will not marry anyone."
I saw the hint of smile fade from Ma's face.
"I, too, do not have any problem if Pahi does not marry. But I will have problem if Pahi marries anyone other than Sam. I will not be a part of that Biya. I do not want to be present at a Biya that is bound to destroy three lives or rather three families.", I firmly said and started to leave.
Ma slumped on the sofa, "Do whatever you want. I have nothing to say."
There was resignation in Ma's voice.
I stopped and turned back, "What do you mean by do whatever you want to do ?"
Everyone present there first looked towards me and then towards Ma.
"You do whatever you want." Ma reconfirmed.
"Do you really mean that ?", I wanted to reconfirm the reconfirmation.
"Yes I do."
There was clear hint of anger and frustration in Ma's voice.

I picked up the phone.
"Hello Sam, this is dada.", I said.
Everyone present in that room were looking towards me.
Pickloo (my wife) and Luna (my sister-in-law) with curiosity.
Maina (my brother) as always had hard to read expression.
I tried not look at Pahi's face.
There was alarm at Ma's face.
I continued, "Sam, can you come down to Guwahati."
There was long silence from Sam's end.
Finally, "When ?"
"Very soon. Maybe next week. You see this is 4th of October and I need to finalise the wedding before Christmas."

Ma almost shouted, "what are you saying ?"
I calmly looked at Ma's eyes, "You told in front of everyone that I can do whatever I want to do. You have nothing to say. Now, I am doing what I wanted to do. Please trust me everything will be alright."

But then everything was not alright.
I never thought of that.
Not only me, none in our family thought Ma would do that.

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The Original 2 States - Part 5

So finally Sam got the invitation for which he waited for close to three years.

The very next day I got a phone call from Bala Anna.
"Tambi , Tumar Bhontir Biyar Kotha je Asil Ki Hol ?"
Tambi is the Tamil for Younger Brother. Anna wanted to know 'what happened to the supposed wedding of my sister."

Bala Anna !

Few months prior to my interaction with Ma one fine evening I rang my Balamurugan Rajagopal's number, "Anna, care for a beer ?"
Being a Monday he refused politely, in fact very politely.
Few days later Anna called me.
We met.
Got to know about him.
Some 50 years ago Anna's father came to Guwahati from the then Madras and never went back. Anna spent all his life in Guwahati. Anna is an Assamese Madrasi by his own admission.

As Anna was speaking I said,"Anna, I will also have a Madras connection."
Anna stopped and looked towards me.
Although he did not ask anything his eyes aksed, "what ?"
"My would be Bhoni Juwai (brother-in-law) is from Madras.", I told.
"Oh, that’s great ! When is the wedding ?"
"Well Anna, that's a long story.", I let a sigh out.
Told him the whole story.
"Anna, if and when the wedding takes place you will have to be my Man Friday."
"Tambi, no worries."

As days went by Bala Anna turned out to be the perfect Man Friday.

On 4th October I called up Sam.
On 6th we went for a road trip to Menchukha, an Indina town near Chinese Boarder.
It was an eventful trip.
While returning to Guwhati, about 30 Kms from Likabali, the inter-state checkpost we saw a gentleman  out and a bike lying on the road. The gentleman was writhing in pain. We jumped out of our car and ran towards the gentleman. The gentleman had a broken ankle. Gave him some biscuits and  a pain-killer.

The gentleman with that broken ankle was Mayurnathan.  It turned out that Mayurnathan is from Chennai. He along with two ladies Viji and Priya were on a bike trip to Menchukha along with a group called Riders@50KMPH. On the last leg of trip that accident took place.
We tried to help Mayurnathan as much as we could. We accompanied them from North Lakhimpur to Guwahati. During that journey I told Mayurnathan about Pahi’s proposed wedding. Mayurnathan’s  eyes lit up. He showed a thumbs up sign and said, “as soon as you land in Chennai you just let me know. I will take care of everything.”
I gripped his hand tightly, in gratitude.
I knew the wedding would be in 2 parts, in 2 states – Assam and Tamil Nadu.
For the Tamil Nadu part I need not have to worry. There is Mayurnathan, there is Viji, there is Priya, there will be Bala Anna and there would be several students of mine.
I was worried about the Assam part.
Forget about the wedding. As the date for Sam’s arrival at Guwahati drew closer I started having nightmares. On more than one occasions I woke up with cold sweat. The night before Sam’s arrival at Guwahati I simply could not sleep.
At around 4 AM I woke my wife up and told her, “Should I call Sam and tell him not to come ?”
My wife answered angrily, “You must be mad ! Why on Earth are you not sleeping ? If you do not want to sleep just go out for your jogging. Let me sleep.”
I had no option but to wait for  Sam’s phone call.
I gut feeling sometime told me “everything will be all right” and some other times told me “things will be terribly wrong”.
I had no option but to wait for  Sam’s phone call.

The Original 2 States - Part 6

I kept waiting for Sam’s call.

Then I had a candid chat with my Deuta (Father).
I told him, “Deta I know I could not live up to your expectations. I know you wanted me to do something else in my life, but choose to do other  things. I know you wanted me to be as honest as you  but  I choose to be otherwise. I almost did everything that you did not want me to do.  I am sorry for that. In spite of all these, Deta, I am sure you would find the Son-In-Law that I choose for you to be the perfect one. Trust me, Deta, you would not find a better one than Sam.”
As usual Deuta did not speak much but nodded and gave an assuring smile. I got Deuta’s approval.

After Deuta left us for heavenly abode way back in 2004 I saw Deuta in front of my eyes. Before I could hug him or touch him he suddenly disappeared.

But I got the much needed approval.

I needed his approval because I started having doubts. After the incident on 4th October  Ma never ever talked about Sam. Ma even did not bother to ask who would be visiting, where would Sam be staying, what will we talk about or for that matter anything. Ma, in fact, stopped looking towards me.  There were very few rare moments when we came face to face.

Initially Sam told me that if possible all his family members would like to visit us. I agreed. Then one day I rang up and with lot of hesitations explained my position.
“Sam I would love if Uncle, Aunty and  Shirley (his sister) visit us. But there is a problem. Ma has not spoken a single word regarding your visit. Lets take this visit as an Ice-Breaking session. There could be many more visits later on. Would you mind if this time I request only you and Uncle to come ?”

“No issues Dada. Its fine.”, Sam assured me.
I got the much awaited call from Sam, “Dada, we should be reaching Guwahati Railway station in half an hour.”
I started my car and drove towards the station.
Me, my brother and Agni waited for a while outside the station. The train from Chennai Central chugged into platform No  4. Passengers rushed towards the foot bridge. I tried to spot my would be brother-in-law amongst the crowd. Suddenly a tall handsome man smiled and waved towards me.
“That’s Sam”, I told myself.
I was correct !
We dropped Sam and Uncle at hotel Priya Palace and drove back home, happily.

As I returned home my worries back to haunt me again, “Why Ma is not saying anything ? Am I doing the right thing ? If Ma is against the match should I go ahead ?”

I came face to face with Ma. I wanted to ask something, but Ma gave me a piece of paper with something written on that. My heart skipped several beats. I took that paper and tried to read. Ma had written something on that paper was all that I understood.
Confused I looked towards my wife and almost shouted, “what is this all about ?”

The Original 2 States - Part 7


That piece of paper was in fact was a long list.
A list of things I was supposed to buy, a list of things I was supposed to do.

The list of things that I was supposed to buy did not make any sense.  Rice, Refined Oil, Sugar, Chicken, Sweets, vegetables etc. I usually do all the household marketing and my experience told me the amount of thing that the list mentioned could feed us for over a month. I did not understood why all of a sudden Ma wants me to buy  several kilos of chicken.
As my wife did not answer anything I looked towards Ma.
“Go and get these stuff, quickly. After that we need to go Fancy Bazar. Lot of marketing to do and we do not have time.”, Ma told me.
“But why do want these things ? Only last week, I bought all the household provisions for this month !”,I confronted Ma.
“Are you mad ? So many guests will come. Quickly go to Medhi’s Dukan (Shop).”, Ma again told me.
“But why do you want to go the Fancy Bazar ? And who are the so many guests ?”, I was still confused.
“You have really gone mad. Do you know that my Son-In-Law is coming to meet us along with his father ? Why will not our relatives not want to meet Sam ? Now you go quickly and let me complete the preparations. With you around no one can do anything with going mad. Go Go !”, Ma shouted.
I was truly dumb founded.
Ma’s  Son-In-Law is coming ? Did I hear correctly ?

I smiled silently and drove towards Medhi’s Dukan.
Within minutes I was back home with bags full of Ma’s Rice, Refined Oil, Sugar, Sweets and what not !
I had a big smile on my face. Everyone else had bigger smiles.
Sam and Uncle came to our place. Ma ensured that all our relatives, near and dear one in Guwahati that day were there at our house to meet  Sam.
To me and like me several others, it appeared that Sam had come well prepared for the most important appointment of his life. I must say, “Pahi, you did a great job. You groomed Sam really very well.”
As Sam walked into the living, the first thing he did was to say Namaskar to Ma, remember he did not say Namaste. (Namaskar is Assamse of Namaste). After that he walked straight towards our Borma (Borma is Aunty;  father’s elder brother’s wife).
“You must be Borma”, Sam said to the utter astonishment of our Borma. Somehow Borma mumbled something and gripped my arms, “How come he knew that I am Borma ? He has not seen me earlier ! This boy is amazing. Such a lovely boy. ”
I did not want to tell Borma that “its all about grooming”. Borma will not understand.
All people present mostly either kept silently looking at each other or Sam kept talking.
Me and my brother went outside to have a smoke. 
While smoking, I remembered, “Oh Shit ! This was supposed to be an Ice-Breaking Session ! I did nothing to break the ice.”
I rushed back to the living room. I kept think what should I use to break ice, “an Ice Axe or a Jack Hammer ?”
As I entered to living room I heard my Khura (father’s younger brother, Chacha in hindi)  saying,” .. since we have agreed this far the sooner the better.”
For moment I thought, ’are they talking about the wedding? How come they talk about that ? Ice has not broken as yet !”
The Ma said, ”We will discuss with everyone and let you know about the date very soon.”
In horror I asked, ”What date ?”
Everyone present in that room answered in unison, ”the date of  the wedding !”
I learnt that by the time me and my brother finished a smoking a Wills Navy Cut Filtered cigarette ice has not only melted. The water from that molten ice formed a beautiful lake and lotus and other flowers have also blossomed there.
I came to know that there will be court wedding at Guwhati and a Church wedding at Chennai.
I calculated, “I usually take 5 minutes to finish my smoke. So Pahi’s wedding finalised in 5 minutes flat !”
I could not but help wondering what kept Ma behaving the way she behaved for close to 3 years . Sure Ma had her reasons.
That day several of our aunties were present. All were very much disappointed with the anticipation that they will not be able interact with Sam simply because they can not speak English and Sam can not speak Hindi. Needless to say our aunties can not speak Tamil and Sam can not speak Assamese was something everyone understood.
After the lunch at one point of time I found all our aunties and Ma surrounded Sam and chatting animatedly. When I asked Borma, “did you understand him and did he understand you ?”
With a look of incredulity Borma answered, “Why not ?”
“In what language did you speak ?”, I asked.
“Assames. Sam understands Assamese.” Borma told me.
“Assamese ? can he speak Assamese ?” I asked.
“No he can not speak Assamese.” Borma answered.
“Then ?”, I asked again.
“Then what ? Why do you need language to speak ? Its love my boy. He is such a lovely boy ! I simply love him.”, Borma patted my back. Of course the smile in Borma’s face told me about Borma’s love for Sam.
In the evening my brother went to drop Sam and Uncle at Priya Palace.
I looked towards my wife and smiled, ”All Set, Wedding On, My Job Over.”
My wife looked and smiled back, ”No your job not over. It has started.”

I did not like to look and the smile. I have been married for more than 12 years  to understand.............
The Original 2 States - Part 8
Sam and uncle went back to Chennai.
It had been finalized that on 23rd April, 2014 there will be a civil registration of the marriage at Guwahati. That very day there would be a small reception at Guwahati. After that the Chennai leg of the wedding would take place. On 28th April, 2014 there Church Wedding would take place at Chennai.
The dates were finalized I booked the wedding hall for the reception. Also, called Peenaz, a very dear sister and an advocate, for the court wedding part. My brother, back in Dibrugarh, booked the flight tickets to Chennai.
Me and my brother patted each other, “Bhai ! we did our bit. Now we can sit back and relax.”
There were rude shocks awaiting.

“Xuna na  (hey listen) !”, my wife would say.
I realised by saying that my beautiful wife actually gave my heart a few seconds of advance warning of thing that were supposed  to follow.
After that the “demand” was normally about taking her to boutique  or to a shopping mall or to the Xunari’s Dukan (Jeweler’s Shop).

By the time January 2014 came I got to know about Mrs Kharghoria’s Boutique, Mrs Chodhury’s Boutique or Mrs Ajanta’s Boutique. By that time I became an exponent on “how to spend  time in a Boutique while your wife is selecting a dress without banging your head on the wall”.

By that time I came to know that when a wife asks, “eei khon vaal lagise ne  (is this looking nice)?” it is better for the husband to act as if he is both deaf and dumb. Whenever my wife asked that question I tried to keep my face as straight as possible. That did not deter my wife asking for my options. She once asked me, “will these Pator Mekhela Chadors (traditional Assamese dress made from Silk) be very uncomfortable in Chennai heat ?”
I seasoned pro like me should have been smart enough to know that answering to questions like that could only mean more trouble.
I tried to impress my wife by saying that in Chennai heat she might find those Pator Mekhela’s a bit uncomfortable even though I did not have any first hand knowledge on Chennai heat.
My answer meant that I had to take my wife for a round of “search for cloths suitable for Chennai heat”

In the meanwhile one day I was pleasantly surprised when my wife told me, “today we will buy your dresses.”
We reached the only shopping address that we know in Guwahati.
I started looking for Cargos, T-Shirts, Casuals, Denims etc.
“have you gone nuts ? you plan to wear these at the wedding ?”
Then my wife explained to me what are the cloths that one is supposed to wear at a wedding, in front of few bemused floor assistant of the shopping mall. After my wife’s discourse on “what to wear at a wedding” was over although I remained as ignorant as earlier, thankfully the floor assistants understood everything that my wife said.
They showed me a whole of cloths to choose from and even without waiting for my nod or approval looked towards my wife and told, “Baidew (madam) these should look nice on Sir. Should I pack them ?”
“Yes, yes, this one … and … and this one….”, came the approval.
“Anything else?”

I slowly walked away to have a look at the Barmuda’s and T-Shirts that one is not supposed to wear to a wedding.

Finally I paid the bill, got my stuff and went back to our car.
As we drove back my wife asked, “Happy ?”
“Yes, yes ! But I did not try them ?”
“Why should you ? They are all standard size.”

3 months later the day before the wedding when tried to wear the cloths it turned out that the cloths were of course of standard size, 2 size smaller than the standard size for me.

“juwa juwa (go go) xunkale juwa (go fast) and get something for tomorrows wedding.”, my wife shouted in horror.

I drove back to the only shopping address that I know in Guwahati and
Bought “Cargos, T-Shirts, Casuals, Denims etc”. All those cloths that one is not supposed to wear at a wedding.

The floor assistant who once attended my sermon 3 months earlier remembered me and asked, “Sir, biya hoi gol (wedding over ) ?”
“No, its tomorrow”. I replied.
She again looked bemused.


(continued…………..)  

2 comments:

  1. After reading the culmination of Paploo- Pickloo love story with immense happiness..amazement and renewed faith in love stories..I was eager to read the Original Two states! To my delight...it gave me much more than I anticipated...your words are not mere words...it gives beautiful visual representation of real life happenings in a very well expressed way! ..totally in love with you, your family and specially your mom, who at the end so cutely got into the groove and welcomed Sam & his family with our typical Assam fervor for the most loved and revered "juwai"...so so so love the whole story and the way u have articulated it! Thanks so much for letting me a part of Pahi-Sam romance❤️❤️

    ReplyDelete