(This is my 50th writing. What else could have been more befitting as the 50th one than
Since early morning every one in the Das family seems to have become very busy ! The men-folk are busy going up and down to the market, making hectic buying…. fish, vegetables, sweets… Women in the house are engrossed in the kitchen, making various preparations. Only exception is Pramila, the daughter in the family…. she is given rest for the day. Today is the final negotiation day for Pramila’s marriage.
Pramila was waiting for Manilal, her elder brother who, someone told, gone out to invite a few elder neighbours for the afternoon negotiation meet. A little later Manilal came home and came straight to Pramila
“It seems you wanted to meet me…. is there something “ asked Manilal
“ No Khoka da (that is the name by which Manilal is called at home), I was er.. I mean.. you know..”
“Okay, Okay, my little sister, I understand…. you need not be nervous about it. I know this boy very well… he works as a police officer….. handsome….. well-built…. very well behaved…. his name is John… John Solomon.
“But Khoka-da I don’t know a thing in English !”
“ha..ha…ha” Manilal had a real loud laugh now and said “ He is a Bengali with an English name… originally from East Bengal .”
“Dadima (Grandma), can you hear me ? Are you sleeping “
At this Pramila opened her eyes “ Sorry Deep I was not sleeping, just lying down.”
“Uncle told me that you wanted to discuss something with me”
Deep noticed the photo frame of Grandpa was placed on the wall facing grandma’s cot. It is several months now since Grandpa left this world….. left Dadima to be precise. They spent a long happy period of married life. They had seven children, every one was well educated…. since Grandpa was a police officer and always on the move, she managed the entire family responsibilities single handedl…. and successfully at that.
It was not easy to participate in all whims and fancies of Grandpa! But she handled them with elan. For instance “Pension” . For long time, since childhood, Deep understood “Pension” has something to do with eating ! Like “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Dinner” and there was this “Pension”. “Pension” is taken in the afternoon… once in a month ! It was like this, on every first working day of the month grandpa John Solomon will set out early in the morning to collect his monthly retirement pension money. Those days one has to physically walk down to the pension department to collect the pension. Our Grandpa on his return journey used to buy sweets, a few loaf of breads and some bananas.
We the grand children, about 10 in number, used to gather at the dining room at Grandpa’s house in the afternoon. We would sit around the large dining table. Dadima would cut banana leaves, cut them into perfect square pieces. Make neat pieces of the bread loaf (those days pre-sliced bread was not in the vogue) and then serve two pieces of bread, sweets and two bananas to each of us. Grandpa would take the centre seat and we would be talking on all kind of things with Grandpa….. from our progress in studies… to the forthcoming birthday plans of one of us to any thing, even the drama script we are planning to stage at our family gathering ! All along Dadima would serve more breads or sweets to some of us who would need them.
“I have a little favour to ask from you, Deep.”
“Listen Dadima, no need to hesitate…. just shoot “.
“Okay…. I want a Stone Tablet to be made for you Grandpa…. it should be nicely done… I know it is expensive…. but I have some money. And don’t share about this with anybody. Well… I feel a little….Well you know”
Deep now laughed loudly “Okay Dadima, I understand . Today itself after the college hours I would start working on it”
Dadima took up one corner end of the white saree she was wearing, then opened the neatly tied knot there. Inside the knot there was a hundred rupee note. She handed over that mani-folded note to Deep and said “This is the advance. When you go to take the delivery of the tablet, collect the balance amount from me. And yes, take a taxi when you bring it”.
“I think I got your idea Dadima. You want to put this Tablet on the wall of our church…. so that hereafter when you go to the church on the Sundays you have a company ! (there was a church within the campus of Grandpa’s house, for, he wanted to donate best portion of his land to his Lord )
To this Dadima threw a very innocent smile “you little naughty one !!!”
When Deep reached the Marble Shop, located in the Dalhousie – the central area of the city, two weeks later, the stone tablet was ready. Indeed it was looking great…. the engraver man told that this is Jaipur marble, a bit expensive, but engraving work looks nice on them. By the time the bill was settled and the tablet was wrapped with paper it was already raining. Deep was waiting for the rain to subside. It was a long wait before the rain stopped. The area was flooded with water…. Deep started walking… the water at some point was waist-deep. Deep now understood that the marble was quite heavy…. but he lifted the tablet up on his shoulder and started walking briskly. Deep visualised the broad smile which Dadima would give when she first see the tablet … in remembrance of her loved one. Deep suddenly felt the tablet was now weighing much lighter on him !
(I was happy that some of the Pension Chairs still survived the test of time !)
Photo: Subhadip Mukherji