This year has been the year of losses and they seem to keep piling up with heart wrenching regularity. Around a month back Choddidima, my grandmom’s younger sister passed away. I was in office when the news came and it just did not make sense. Slowly ties to my past were weakening and growing up was seeming a lot tougher than I had assumed it would be.
Choddidima was an outstanding lady. I still remember I was in college and I had called up. After enquiring after my health, her first question was had I heard of this young writer called Chetan Bhagat. I hadn’t. She had. And within a few years all of India had heard about him. She lived to learn. There was not a single news item in our daily newspaper that missed her hawk eyes. And she loved to get to the bottom of things. Like most people in my grandma’s generation, she could quote Tagore at will and there would be always the right song that she would burst out singing and it was difficult to keep up with her.
She was one of those who supported wholeheartedly my decision to head out of Calcutta for college. She was way ahead of her times and yet when it came down to checking the right ways to conduct a religious function at anyone’s house, she was the ultimate authority. I have heard so many of my uncles and aunts just pick up the phone and call choddidima before they performed any form of worship, lest they offend the Gods. It was always safer to call her and be sure.
My favourite memories of her however were through the movies. We discussed movies over the phone and when I used to come home for vacations, we would go together and watch movies of Shah Rukh Khan, her favourite young actor. I remember watching Swades with her, skipping a college reunion. It just seemed the more fun thing to do.
As I grew up and started working outside Calcutta, our meetings became infrequent. Telephone calls would have to do. However, I did try to meet her every time I landed in Calcutta at her house in Nalin Sarkar Street because of her stories. Her stories were a connection to our family’s past. India has a long tradition of oral history. She was my historian.
Like all good Bengali boys, I have numerous nicknames given to me at various stages of life by the large joint family I come from. She called me Ganguram. And after today, no one will. I guess that’s how life is. One less person to pamper you when you head home.
Will miss you loads