” The family- that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.”-Dodie Smith.
I was looking forward to an interesting birthday month…had a crazy, solo road trip planned. I was going to be upto my usual shenanigans for ten days. Adventure I wanted and an emotional roller coaster ride I got!
I can’t seem to string the words together to write what I feel or to get into what happened (It’s not an unusual occurence when I speak…I fumble, my mind draws a blank during most conversations). All I can write for now is- this month has been about family, gratitude and the hope that my loved ones go away painlessly and peacefully when they do.
Crafts Museum, Delhi.
It’s the birthday month and one is just looking to spend more and more time with oneself. Although, there are fewer cars on the road than usual, there’s a lot of hustle bustle at the Crafts Museum. A few years ago, the institution that was set up by a freedom fighter to preserve Indian arts and crafts, would be quite deserted even on weekends. But Cafe Lota, that is nestled inside the Museum has managed to increase the footfall. I’m not there to enjoy the ambience of the completely packed restaurant but to check out the Folk Craft Festival Of Gujarat. I interact with craftsmen, pick up a few tit bits and enjoy the performance (although the music is playing on a phone and isn’t audible). The only thing that hasn’t changed about the place is the mismanagement.
Address-Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Marg.
Nearest Metro Station-Pragati Maidan
Closed On Mondays
It’s the month for melodrama and yet there’s no mental turbulence…no depression…no need to make any life altering decisions. Maybe it’s because one can smell change in the air. Intrinsic or extrinsic? It all seems entwined, now. After all, it’s begun like this-
“Do you remember why we stopped speaking to each other?”, he asks sipping the Merlot.
“You were angry with me for going to Kashmir!”, I promptly reply to the man who was once my hero.
“You know if my daughter decided to do that, I would lock her up! I love you and I figured you are just not going to listen to anyone. So we might as well salvage this relationship before it’s too late. But there’s another reason why I was angry. It’s because you stopped tying Rakhi to me. If you had two brothers the thought wouldn’t have crossed your mind. But you made me feel like that’s it! He was your only brother!”
I stare at the trees outside B-11, nursing my drink and flashing back to all the Rakhis. Growing up, I tied that thread to practically all my cousins, my best friend’s brother and most of the domestic help. Not because I needed that much protection but because it was a family tradition. The year my brother passed over, a cousin left the festivities at home and came to meet me. I of course did what I do best – shunned him away. Barring, the one I sat opposite now and the little one who has never forgotten to message even once in the past decade, everyone knew that for me – Rakhi went away with my love.
“If the rest of them were this angry, I would have understood. But you’ve never been like a brother. Growing up, you were a substitute father to me!”, I replied. As a little girl, I was crazy about the Father. After Mom’s illness and some escapades he fell from grace. The closest resemblance I had to a Father figure between the ages of nine to fourteen, was a teenage boy…three years older than I.
A minute of silence and we know enough has been said. Six maybe seven years of ignoring each other wiped away, in ten minutes. There’s non stop chatter after that. We chat like long-lost friends. He no longer seems fatherly though he is a father, now. ‘Wow! I’m actually getting a handle on the Daddy issues,’ I think to myself.
On the way back I wonder if blood is really thicker than water. I find family members gravitate back towards one another irrespective of how far they go. Not necessarily in dire straits but somehow the bond doesn’t break that easily. It maybe due to proximity, a common social circle, marriages, the birth of a child or the death of a relative. My mind wanders to the boy who called me ‘family’. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude. The letter ‘G’, has very thoughtfully not been mentioned, once.
I head home, leave for Rishikesh with Mom the next day. Bicker over her sleeping habits (she’s a complete nocturne) for three consecutive days. I want to step out and she wants to sleep. Argue and make up every twenty minutes. Laugh, cry, kiss and hug every couple of hours. Our moods swing like pendulums, synchronously. The one thing she gets excited about is the Air Safari on the Flyboy. I make the booking for the two of us. We reach the destination which is on the Haridwar highway. The pilot suggests that in her condition it isn’t a good idea. I board the damn thing and it suddenly hits me, ‘shit I hate to fly!’
The excitement over Mom wanting to leave the hotel makes me forget my discomfort with this kind of adventure. After two failed attempts at taking off, we finally do! I look down and plead, ‘please Death, please take me when I’m in my car alone. Not like this with an amateur pilot.’ The amateur is a certified commercial pilot, by the way who is thoroughly enjoying the terribly windy conditions. I on my part keep chanting, ‘like a bird in the sky, free in it and bound by it’ (a dialogue from my movie Loss) for ten whole minutes. The landing is a bit dramatic for my liking but it’s a must do for people who keep bucket lists of silly things.
A few nights later, I get a call from my friend Ocean at the usual hour (1a.m). I’m awfully chatty. ‘When are we meeting?’, he asks. We haven’t seen each other for a really long now. ‘God knows! I don’t know when am I meant to meet anyone, anymore.’ As I sleep that night I think, water can be pretty thick, too!