The sitting room was lit up till few moments back as the frailing sun was still able to beam down its rays but in a conspiratorial manner, the sky had started getting overcast and turned grey in a drone like fashion. A strong breeze was blowing that could be heard whistling past the chink left between our building and the nearby apartment. One could see shards of paper and empty polythene bags flying outside that were dumped as garbage on the side of the busy road. It seemed as if they were appendages of a giant UFO whose machinery had gone crazy and therefore ended up doing this voodoo dance in the air. The rooms were now laden with a thick coat of dust and dry creaky leaves lay scattered every which way from the neem trees close by. The crackling and thunder in the sky was getting only fierce and threatening. Adheer ran towards the kitchen and the balcony to shut the doors and windows that had started to snap shut and bang every now and then. Roopa started bundling the clothes on her arms that were left in the balcony for drying. Everything and everyone in the room seemed to be like a subject from a ‘still life’ painting except Stupid’s wagging tail that was swaying in a furious pendulum like movement. Stupid had been Adheer’s maternal grandmother’s gift to Shruti on her fifteenth birthday and her trusted confidante since last five years.
From time to time, Adheer’s mother would rise from her bed and peer down from the balcony to watch as to who was entering the apartment. All the family members were waiting for Adheer’s father to arrive with a smiling face and a small bouquet of good news. The financial drought had lasted a bit too long and being unable to foot their telephone and electricity bills, the family had been struggling without these two social connectors of life for quite some time. In this din and commotion outside, Moku; Adheer’s younger brother lay calm jostling for an idea. He spoke to his mother that if they could share electricity with their grandparents who lived in the adjacent flat, they could be in light again. Although this was illegal but was apparently the only way to defeat this pall of darkness and a deafening silence that had enveloped their lives.
Adheer’s mother agreed to this ethical and legal breach and after extending a wire and plugging it to the main switch-board, their flat was bathing in light again. So engrossing and moving was the scene that even the fourteen year old Roopa was entangled in this whole family tragedy. Poor Roopa…after surviving a narrow escape from being trafficked by one of her uncles to a wealthy businessman in Malda, was cursed and plunged again in yet another set of family troubles. Adheer’s mother used to send a decent amount as Roopa’s salary to her mother back in an obscure little village near Monghyr. However, this flow of financial gratitude had become irregular in the recent past and now almost dead. But despite all the ups and downs in the family, Roopa was happy to be a part of it. She would alternate between playing with her dolls, hop-skotch and peek-a-boo with other children in the building in the afternoon, watch television in her spare time and would often hum a line or two from the Hindi movies while cutting vegetables. Her favourite serials were the soap operas that coalesced well with the other female members in the family and which were lined up one after another starting just before dinner time. Roopa would often fiddle with the little black buttons on the remote and loved pressing them and shifting her fingers from one button to another. It was a moment of metamorphosis for Roopa. She felt like a mare who had a sudden realization of space around her and a newfound freedom where she could prance and canter. No one could even slightly guess as to what thrill she got but she surely felt like a jaybird when she was in charge of the remote.
Moku was at the dining table (that became his study table when not in use) with his books but still couldn’t concentrate for his annual tenth grade exam given the exigency and plight of other members in the family. He sat with his mother and tried to soothe her pain and pacify her anxieties. Right from the beginning one could make out that Moku should have been the eldest among the siblings; matured, practical and having calm nerves. He would also double up as a consultant and a chief advisor for Adheer and Shruti in times of personal crisis like when Gungun; Adheer’s girlfriend left him and switched to another boy from her colony.
Moku was a saint in the making; a holy man who would visit the Swami Vivekananda Ashram every Friday and chant Hanuman Chalisa without fail after his daily bath. Adheer and Shruti took this as a waste of time and a complete charade in order to please someone or ‘something’ that remained unseen and unrealized at least to the best of their knowledge. They therefore kept away from the room and this mumbo-jumbo when Moku would be performing his puja and where gods and goddesses were given two berths in a wooden almirah which together comprised the magical space of solace and hope. He would light up the earthen lamp and a bunch of incense sticks and sing aarti and read shlokas while swirling the lamp and incense sticks in tandem around all the gods, goddesses and self proclaimed divinities in different hues, shapes and incarnations that his mother could assemble in that little sacred enclave. The last bit in this rite de passage comprised shaking the rather dull looking bronze bell and blowing the conch shell that marked the end of this scared paraphernalia.
When the puja was over, Moku would sprinkle the holy water from the Ganges that the family’s staff and Man Friday Girija jee used to get from the mighty river every fortnight in a small canister. Moku would then cast this purificatory element in every direction and would repeat the same action meticulously in every room while passing the lamp and wafting the smoke in front of the family members by his hand one by one and asking them to seek lords’ blessings. Everyone followed his instructions meticulously no matter whether they enjoyed this spectacle or not. Moku was a dormant volcano who ‘contained’ lot of molten magma inside him and no one had the slightest idea as to when it would explode.
The figurines and framed posters in the twin chambers ranged from their conventional versions in clay and bronze to the kitsch ones that were cut out from huge glossy calendars and later framed in cheap wood. The two berths therefore formed interesting polarities where in one of the posters Shiva would be having a full blown blonde beard and a slender frame like a 1970s hippie standing half naked beside Parvati. In the other, he would be sitting in a yogic posture on leopard skin in a transcendental state smoking up marijuana while celestial creatures, elfs and fairies would be shown showering flowers from the heaven above. There were other sacrilegious ‘actors’ in this proscenium theatre too like Hanuman, Rama and Saraswati who enriched and heightened the drama.
The vermilion marks applied to these figures had thickened as a result of constant supplication and were smeared almost all over. But it was this thickness and the ashes from the incense sticks that provided Moku and his mother the strength to negotiate and needle through life’s vicissitudes. However, this everydayness had become choppy and threatening in the recent past owing to the constant dribbling of resources and had reached a point of total surrender.
While the family was reeling under a financial onslaught and craved to hear or even see something pleasant, Shruti as usual was bereft and cut out from this kinship and affective loop which at present seemed to suffer under the heat of this ‘tragic saga.’ She was like a driftwood and wee bit indifferent to all that was going on in the lives of other people at this point in time. After all, she was made of a different stuff and belonged to a higher ground. She had other dreams and ambitions that were much removed than what the rest of the family could even think of at least in the present conditions. When back from school, she would shut herself from the entire world and enter her forest of dreams where all tall, dark and handsome characters from Mills and Boon novels would come alive in front of her and beg her to pay a glance. She was the pampered kitten and the Barbie girl in fancy clothes, big cars, palatial house with a string of attendants ranging from those who would do her coiffure to the one who matched the shoes with her clothes and temperaments. All these peripherals formed an integral part of her surreal joyrides and carnivalesque festivity everyday. At times, Adheer felt as if his sister was having an intimate conversation with the stars and could even demand her father to have them in her closet.
Shruti liked to emulate the cinema stars who wore shiny outfits with layers of make-up and had a certain way about them. At the bottom of it all was her penchant for money. This lure and incessant craving of the rich and famous had catapulted Shruti towards a different zone where others were dwarfed by her personae and therefore rendered undesirable and misfits in her cloud-cuckoo land. But whatever one might say, Shruti eclipsed her other siblings in certain key areas. In studies, she was counted among the top three students in her class although no one in the family got any wind of how and when she found time for her studies. Moreover, she was also gifted with a commendable sense of aesthetics. She kept a keen eye on the latest fashion trends and style statements in the film industry. When tired of listening to the family woes and financial squabbles, she would slip into her own world of fashion, romance and Elysium and would indulge for hours in her scrapbook. Shruti’s scrapbook was her only dream companion in times of duress where she would transform into a dress designer whilst keeping herself as the model. She would emerge from her room only when she was exhausted and done with the tete-a-tete with her aspirations from a melange of what lay cluttered up in her mind that she had read and seen in the magazines and on television. She once dreamt of owning a company that made underwater hairdryers and diamond studded thermal gowns for party wear. Shruti was chasing a rainbow which only she could dare to see.
As kids, grandma used to regale the kids with stories from the past when their father used to study in a local school in Tajpur; a village close to the capital Patna. Today, she was in a different mood and we were all lined up in a platoon like formation to be her victims. She said, “Try to be like your father and your grandpa. Your father has studied in a village school but look at his English today.” She continued, “I am sure he can beat a laatsaheb when it comes to speaking and writing English.” Sensing that this wasn’t enough and that she needed to be tougher in her reproach, she raised her pitch and drawing a commanding voice thundered once more “What good are you lazy bums…aan? Hogging and watching stupid television serials the whole day. Don’t you feel ashamed of your selves and think even once of giving back some respect and pride to your father? He has squeezed every bit of what he has and made sure that atleast you get the best education that he couldn’t.” It seemed as if the grand matriarch had turned into a non-stop gramophone that had got stuck at a point and was belching out a monotonous and loud shrill. Anyone outside the flat could overhear everything that was going on inside. But, she was a tough lady to be stopped and difficult to budge in moments of crisis. Walking a few paces towards her room, she turned again and as if charging like a colt, pounced on the teens once more. “You all study in one of the best schools of the province and yet manage to scrape through in your exams.” The new canon ball was directed towards Adheer since he had failed in Mathematics and Chemistry paper in his last mid-term examination. Grandma continued once more, “Think of your father who is still struggling for you all to give you a better tomorrow even at this age.” All those present in the room could now sense a dint of satisfaction and pride flashing across the septagenerian’s face. In this entire monologue, Adheer’s mother remained invisible like a ghost figure in the family regalia as if her contribution to the family wasn’t noteworthy enough. With passage of time, she had turned into an icicle…numb and cold to emotional outbursts and to what others spoke and did.
It is true that Adheer’s father had a unique memory as a child and later as a student. He still does especially when it comes to numerals like car plate numbers, telephone numbers and even mobile numbers which drag on till ten digits. They say it’s a godly gift to remember such minutiae at a sagging age. Although Adheer’s father looked quite young for his age but it was his mother who wore those extra crumply creases on her face that were witness to the agonies of fate and slippage of time. When she was young, Adheer’s maternal grandma would liken her to the famous actress from Indian cinema and say, “Ahh….Radhu is like Mala Sinha…none else. Look at her flawless skin…not even a single spot on her face.” Pointing her fingers towards other siblings, she would say, “I do not need to worry about her. I have a sure feeling that she will get married to a Prince.” Although a bit dusky in her complexion but Adheer’s mothers’ beauty was unmatchable in the entire Railway Colony and was blessed with the quality of being non-chalant about her virtues. She knew fluent Sanskrit like her youngest sister and being the eldest among the five siblings took on the household responsibility adroitly at a very early age. Her culinary talents were well known and everyone from the family in Patna was invited when she prepared mutton curry but that was long back in the PAST. Ohh…those were the days!! Now Adheer and his siblings get fish curry only when grandpa feels it is high time to eat something special and spicey prepared by the master chef in the family.
Adheer’s uncle on the other hand was a drunkard who had promised his life to spirits and was despised even by his own wife and children. He was raised under preferential conditions where he had a freewheelie at his fancies and demands. As time passed by, he grew up into a stubborn Goliath who would get what he desired. Adheer’s paternal aunt on the other hand was run of the mill kinds who after completion of her basic education entered the marital realm and started running her family of four children.
Life was a precarious enterprise in the village in Tajpur and therefore Adheer’s grandpa decided to move out from his ancestral village, leaving behind his childhood memories as well as his two other brothers who were agriculturists and lived with their own families. With the little money that grandpa had managed by selling his share of agricultural land, he rented a tin-roofed room in Danapur; a rurban locale on the outskirts of Patna. After a tough wrestle with fate and time, grandpa was able to find part time employment in a book shop in Patna. When grandpa was away on work, Adheer’s father would juggle between his studies and guarding his other two siblings who were much younger than him.
After work, Adheer’s grandpa would often spend time with his neighbours most of whom were left party activists involved with social work in the slums and Ambedkar Colonies in Patna. He was so influenced by the left ideology and held under its sway that he quit his part time job and embarked on a new career as a full time left activist working in the ‘shatter zone’ of the city. Seeing his dedication and involvement, in no time he was given the sole responsibility of starting a district level CPM office in Danapur. Grandma too couldn’t stop herself from being swept off by this deluge of selfless work and commitment and grandpa’s contentment after coming back home. She joined the bandwagon of grassroots activism and started working with him in the slums of Kusumpur. It seemed as if someone had cast a strange spell on the couple.
As part of their bedtime stories, Adheer’s father had once told his three little ‘stars’ that grandma and grandpa were imparted training in basic First-Aid education in a string of medical camps setup by the party headquarters. Here, of all intricacies they learnt, the most difficult was giving syringe injections. This was a feat after all…no medical schooling and yet possessing such technical sophistry. Now whenever anyone in the mohalla had to get injections or ask for medicines for minor health problems, they would rush towards House number 72; the place which was always overflowing with CPM workers, activists, neighbours and their tiny tots. By now, Adheer’s grandpa was renowned as a veteran Left leader who would attend party meetings and lead demonstrations against the exclusionary policies of the government in power. Once he was sent a big parcel from the Communist Party in China as a mark of honour for his work. This gift consisted of seven silk banners with huge prints of Marx, Engels and Lenin laced with Chinese poetry written by Mao Tse Tung in calligraphy.
So intrusive and deep was the sway of leftism in the family that its veritable proof lay in Adheer’s father’s name ‘Biplav’ which meant ‘revolution’ in Bangla. This name was given to him by a left activist and a naxalite from a remote village in Calcutta who ate, slept and swore by Marx and later wanted to marry off his daughter with Adheer’s father. However, this could not materialise as there was something else destined for him.
During the Emergency years, grandpa had to go underground and couldn’t see his children for weeks which later turned into months. Life was difficult and living it every day was an even more gruesome exercise as the family had been walking on a razor’s edge for sometime. Grandma soon realized that things had to change and took some tough decisions in the interest of the family. She lessened going to the party office as there were three mouths to feed besides other necessities of life especially education. After years of fugitive like existence the couple had thought it wise to continue being party workers but concentrate more on a sedentary life with some regular source of income as the kids were growing up and needed father’s care and attention.
Grandpa shifted to Patna and took up a rented room in front of Science College and started carting books and selling newspapers given his love for Marxist literature. Though he is no more, his wooden almirah today is loaded with left literature and books by various people ranging from Marx, Engels and Lenin to Gandhi, Nehru, Vivekananda and Ramkrishna Paramhansa. Grandpa had a magnetic quality about him that would easily attract people. Slowly, his hard labour started getting noticed by the professors of Patna University and he was asked to supply books in the University Library. Things changed for the better and there was never a looking back.
Two big events took place when Adheer and his siblings had started ushering into the real blue world. Grandpa became a businessman from a small time newspaper vendor after he started two book shops in quick succession namely Bihar Book Centre and Readers Corner. He handed over Readers Corner to Adheer’s uncle and decided to run Bihar Book Centre himself. In the meanwhile Adheer’s father had got admission in the College of Art and Craft in Patna and was doing well.
As a young man, Biplav was a gifted artist and an autodidactic at that. He was a charcoal artist par excellence and a pen sketch that he had made of Bertrand Russell used to hang in the shop. There was another charcoal sketch of a Chinese monk; a piece of haunting work given the dark and lonely mountains in the background decorates our sitting room. Some of his sketches were so close to being labelled ‘photographs’ that once after he had completed a charcoal portrait of his sister’s husband, uncle out of praise wrote…‘Patna Colour Studio’ on the right bottom hand corner. For all practical purposes Adheer’s father was an aesthete and a dream paratrooper and grandpa’s decision to summon him in his second year of college wasn’t a very wise one. He was called to look after the book business as grandpa was not keeping well and started falling sick regularly. After days of mulling over on the issue Adheer’s father finally decided to comply with grandpa’s wish and in an overnight turned from an upcoming artist to a businessman sitting in a book shop. Sometimes, one could see him sitting glum in Bihar Book Centre late in the evenings possibly mulling over his life and the twist of fate and the future of his three pillars of strength and hope.
Bihar Book Centre stood proud on the ground floor facing the main road and was in the same building from where Adheer’s grandpa had started his book business. The living quarters were just above the shop and then fanned backwards leaving a square courtyard in the middle which was inhabited by a retired professor who ran a printing press and published his own books. The book business was going brisk and Adheer’s father and grandpa started making regular trips to Delhi to buy books directly from the publishers. These business trips would fill the kids with ecstasy just thinking about the numerous toys and gifts that would trickle out from their suitcase every time after every return journey.
There was an unexplainable sweet excitement in touching the new books that shone like mirror and were pregnant with colourful pictures. Apart from this, one got a peculiar whiff from the white pages that would send the kids into rings of delight and provide them with flights of euphoria. Adheer even remembers how Moku and Shruti would peek from behind the curtain when a book seller ‘uncle’ would come from Calcutta or Delhi and open his tin trunk that was packed with foreign books. I guess it was the ‘sesame moment’ and the thrill of seeing something new and colourful that was joyous for the kids. In order to get a close glimpse of these ‘uncles,’ the kids would then switch over to a small ‘role management’ and transform into suppliers of tea and snacks while Adheer’s father and grandpa would be engrossed chatting with the guest.
During those giddy days, direct outstation calls were not possible and therefore ‘trunk calling’ was the only recourse to eliciting details of the journey and health condition. The entire family would congregate near the telephone to hear their voices from Delhi. On many occasions there would be connectivity problem and the kids would take turns to dial the number of the patent hotel Rangmahal; an ugly looking monolith where Adheer’s father and grandfather always stayed and which still survives today in Daryaganj.
Delhi is a crowded place where space loses its meaning Daryaganj is close to the Red Fort and old Delhi; a reminiscence of the Mughal period which today is a robust commercial zone with its endless spirals of lanes and bylanes and one of the busiest and most polluted areas in the capital. It is also the biggest book mart in India where publishing companies and small retailers hook up together like beehives and where heavy transaction results in a perpetual flow of green bills. Adheer’s father used to tell the kids that it is the meeting ground of the bigwigs in the publishing industry and there were umpteen stories about people making it big from rags to riches. It was just the other way around in Biplav’s case. His foray into book business as an enticing option did not last long and the giant wheel of dreams came down to the ground with a thud. The publishing house named Associated Book Agency was born as a partnership with my grandpa’s friend who also used to own a book shop in Patna. But sly as he was, he palmed off with the entire money and went into hibernation. What could he do…poor him. We always had this feeling that Adheer’s father was never cut out for doing ‘business’ nor was he suited for spending his time in a metropolis. He always hated Delhi of all the metros and would pass a sneer when someone mentioned Delhi. Over the years, though he has become somewhat tolerant of its uncouth and rustic character, yet he will never like to live there for an extended time interval. But now, he was all alone since grandpa had retired from active life as was mostly confined to his bed.
A new government had been sworn in which though had socialist ideals in its party manifesto were dreaded goons, killers and rapists in the dingy alley of politics. Things looked very stifling and choppy now as the book climate and readership in Bihar had been pushed to the gallows and terror reigned. It was not that books were not being bought and sold, but that they catered to a different kind of ‘public’ and therefore were fit enough to be labelled ‘pedestrian literature.’ More of it had to do with the government in power that encouraged petty bourgeois elements and power peddlers in Universities and educational institutions. It was the age of ‘maximum jeopardy.’ Vice-Chancellors of prominent universities along with Registrars and Professors were beaten up by students for no fault of theirs and sometimes murdered by the goons if they did not follow the dictates of the Education Minister. Book purchase in the libraries had come to a grinding halt. Crime was order of the day and kidnappings and murder became regular features. Business had come to a grinding halt and Adheer’s father had started staying at home as the shop was closed down and the family had shifted to another rented house.
Staying in a joint family can be a boon and a wonderful experience for many but for Adheer’s family it was walking through hell which dragged on for fifteen long years surpassing even Rama’s exile in the forests. Adheer’s uncle found all the reasons to make sure that his elder brother’s peace of mind was supplanted with trouble and pain. Time and again, he would tease his elder brother by creating ruckus after coming back home in a drunken state. However, he was a successful businessman in the book world and was known in the commercial circuit for having a fetish for money and luxuries of life. He earned fast money and soon became peregrinatory in nature venturing into other provinces as well. In no time he started investing in real estate and other kinds of profiteering ventures like being one of city’s major loan shark. Adheer’s two cousins Monu and Sony were pampered brats who were raised on all possible comforts that one could wish for at that age. Adheer’s family on the contrary were reeling under acute financial impasse that seemed to be perpetual. There was only one reason to make Adheer feel proud, and where the siblings beat their cousins and that was their educational institution. Moku and Adheer were in St. Michael’s and Shruti was in St. Joseph’s Convent at a time when getting admission to these schools was very difficult. They had British and American fathers and brothers as school governing authorities and therefore selection was undoubtedly an impartial process. Just to make sure that the kids made it to the most talked about institutions and its big wide portals, Adheer’s father had decided not to leave any stone unturned for the entrance exam. The kids were the only medium through which he wanted to realize his dreams of a proud father and did not want either Moku or Adheer to sit in a shop and be labelled as ‘businessmen’ for their entire lives.
While preparing for the entrance exam, Adheer’s father had made his children’s lives hell in mathematics especially in rote learning the tables; Adheer’s Achilles heel. He would shout and scream and at times mock at his problem solving skills. “You will never make it Adheer.” He would continue, “Anyways, your name means ‘impatient’ and it does speak a lot for your destiny. You better quit thinking about St. Michael’s and start sitting in the shop from tomorrow.” He will lie on the bed looking at the ceiling and say “Maybe you will learn a thing or two about the practical side of life which I am struggling with.” This seemed to be his defining statement and then he would not speak to anyone in the family.
When Adheer’s mother tried to intervene she would be swept off by the torrent of anger and helplessness which the man felt during those moments. She would then try to assuage his fury and try to make up things by calling her children for food. But when the results were declared, anyone can tell, he was surely one of the tallest fathers in the world and couldn’t control his tears that had welled up since ages. Adheer’s mother was even teasing her husband that it was her love and pats that saw the kids through and not his torturous drilling and poking. And so, the kids finally made it to this ‘Hall of Fame.’ However, hallowed persona and stardom doesn’t come free and this was proven in no time. Adheer could still recollect seeing his mother on several occasions in the school requesting the authorities and the school Principal to extend the school fee remittance deadline.
As grownups, the children suffered from an acute sense of guilt and embarrassment since they could neither call their friends at home nor feel confident while entering the ancient building which needed to be balmed and mummified. The most awkward moment was when one had to walk past the hanging bridge like passageway that connected the front portion of the building to its backside where the living quarters were situated. The worst of it all was during the rainy season particularly at nights when all of us were supposed to do a hop-scotch and snoop around under the leaky roof. All the three rooms were porous enough to not to leave us with a sound sleep and a nice dream and wake up refreshed the next morning. Truly, the occupancy of this house by the family’s ‘bravehearts’ made it unique. Adheer thought that maybe grandpa felt it was lucky for the family since he had started his ‘new’ life here or maybe that one day the family could have stumbled on a treasure tucked in some greasy corner or unknown depths.
Our school fee was astronomical during those times as the two schools were among the most renowned and envied ones not just in the province but also in the four metropolitans where most of the Michaelites and Josephites took refuge after their higher secondary exams. The parents had sworn that their kids would get the best of education and for this they were prepared to endure any pain and ignore all embarrassment. On a few occasions, Adheer’s mother was successful in convincing the authorities and got a fresh lease in order to expedite the fee but when it became repetitive in nature, the authorities started turning a deaf ear to her pleas. As a result, she had to sell most of her jewellery which after a major drain-out was reduced to her earrings and one thin gold bangle reminiscent of a gift that her husband had given her on their marriage anniversary some ten years back. After all this personal drifting, the only thing that left with this hapless mother was HOPE.
In Patna, the crime situation had spun a new career for itself as two influential businessmen having political ambitions were reported kidnapped in the capital city. A huge ransom was demanded by the criminal gang involved in this act. Adheer’s father was planning to move to a recently carved out province which had peaceful climes and a much better business environment. After all, most of the wealthy businessmen and retired people had migrated either to the metros where their extended family members lived or else had decided to be silent spectators and put blinkers on their conscience. For a while, a state of uncertainty prevailed in the family and Adheer’s father wanted to give some more time to give a final call. In the meantime, Adheer and Moku had decided to help their father in his business by procuring library orders in far flung colleges and Universities in the province. By now things had stooped to its lowest ebb and in a fit of rage, Adheer’s father plunged into transport business initially seemed lucrative in order to ease out the financial bottleneck. Unfortunately, the transport company too collapsed like a pack of cards. The truck driver along with the conductor collaborated in an unholy partnership and had all the ways to milk money on the pretext of fines to the police on account of overloading or else machine malfunction which needed to be rectified. The bills were fake and so were their stories. The family decided to put an end to this business and had to take a hefty loan from the bank in order to clear off the debts. In the meantime, Moku and Adheer took admission in a local college and Shruti was in a well renowned girls’ college in the city.
Somehow, in this din, Adheer’s mother hadn’t stopped going to the temple on Tuesdays and offer her regular prayers. Soon, this became a serious affair and the entire family started circambulating the shrines of famous saints, Gurudwaras and held close door parleys with astrologers and palmists to know a way out of this financial impasse. The family had surrendered before stones and amulets and the daily round of ubiquitous (and intense) prayers at home continued unabated. Nothing had changed still and now despair and an acute sense of solitude ruled in everyone’s lives. To beat their boredom, the kids had almost given up on their studies and resorted to watching TV serials. Adheer’s mother would watch her religious channels along with Dadi and the teenagers would switch to English channels late night when Adheer’s parents were fast asleep. There was nothing left to be discussed or talked about.
They hadn’t realized as to when it started pouring heavily and the traffic too had come to a screeching halt. Suddenly the bell rang and everyone lunged forward towards the door. Adheer’s father was looking like a seal with water dripping from all his pores and from his long sad face, the family members could sense the outcome of his arduous travail. After long last, everyone had consigned to fate. Nothing is certain just like the sudden change of weather. In the end, hope is the only thing people are left with.
Neem is a tree mentioned in the ancient texts and treatise on medicine and in Ayurveda; a branch of medicine where it is supposed to have great medicinal value.
Hanuman Chalisa is a scared chant in praise of the monkey god Hanuman and according to Hindu mythology he was known for his loyalty towards Lord Rama.
Aarti is a chant of a religious hymn from the sacred texts of Hindus like Ramayana or Gita sung in order to praise the gods and goddesses. It is sung solo or in a group and with or without some musical accompaniment.
shlokas are the religious and sacred chants to please gods and goddesses.
laatsaheb is the Hindi term for a British.
Ambedkar Colonies are residential dwellings constructed for the most oppressed sections of the Indian population namely the Scheduled Castes. The houses in the Ambedkar Colonies are either given at a very cheap price or else in some cases even given free of cost depending upon the financial condition of the applicant.
Naxalites are all those who are associated with the naxalbari or naxalite movement which has been a significant political movement of our times. It owes its genesis from an uprising of tea workers in 1967 in the tea gardens of the north Bengal countryside near Naxalbari thana. Since Naxalbari is situated on the tri-junction of India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the movement soon spread violently to almost all parts of the country. A movement which had its genesis in the womb of a completely lopsided land reform system in the country, one finds that today over one third of the country is affected by naxalite violence and in a span of 40 years, the group has affiliations from close to 30 Leftist groups.
About the author:
Subir Rana has submitted his Doctoral thesis in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and awaiting its defense. He was a Charles Wallace Fellow (2012) at the School of History and Anthropology, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was also a Visiting Fellow (2011-2012) at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Subir has represented India in the 2nd Edition of the Fellowship programme titled ‘International Course on Applied Anthropology to Developmental Processes’ in La Sapienza, Universita di Roma, 2009-2010. He was also a recipient of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust Library Visiting Fellow at the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Subir has presented his papers in international symposiums and seminars in Korea, Rome and Belfast and received grants for doing fieldwork and archival work from Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) India and Charles Wallace Trust (CWT) in London. He has received travel grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea and Reset DoC for attending the Summer Schools in Korea and Istanbul respectively. Apart from this he has worked as a Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd, Care India and Action Aid and interned with the Planning Commission of India.
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