Dinesh and Bawa

Dinesh and Bawa

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Email

Lemme introduce everyone to Suparna. She is a volunteer for the Art of Living in France. Lives in a small lil town called Fontainebleau with her hubby and daughter. She also writes short stories and is currently working on a full length book.

I loved this story that she sent me to read and with her permission have uploaded it on this blog, coz it definitely sounded interesting... If you like the story (and i am sure you will), please email her with your praises and comments at sue195chat@yahoo.com. I would love to read your comments on this story as well...

Tomato Rice and Alibag tomorrow :)

The E-mail

by Suparna Chatterjee

Ashimesh reads the e-mail for the third time.

It is written in multiple shades of blue and green. An invitation to a birthday party the following Friday. Ashimesh hesitates a moment or two before deleting the mail. He is unsure of the proper etiquette for misdirected e-mail, and besides, the intended recipient will not receive the invitation unless he points out the mistake. He clicks the Reply button.

Dear Sam,

I think you have made a mistake in sending me this mail, as I’m quite sure that you are unknown to me.

Ashimesh

Ashimesh Banerjee is a pucca Bengali. He attended Scottish Church School, and later graduated from the prestigious Presidency College, with a First Class degree in Geology. He joined the Geological Survey of India as a trainee and retired as a General Manager after thirty-eight years of dedicated service.

Like most Bengalis of his generation he mistrusted those who found their way into the city from the east of the border. He wholeheartedly supported Mohun Bagan in the local football league, and when it was time for the World Cup, the undisputed favorite was Brazil. He bought sweets only from Dwarik’s, one of the few establishments in North Calcutta that hadn’t yet compromised on quality, and fish from Hatibagan, where one was always sure to find the freshest.

The past few years, however, Ashimesh has been a shadow of his former self.

His ancestral home at Baghbazar, where he has lived all his life, is beginning to show its age. Walls are in desperate need of plastering, the leak in the roof is a constant menace during the monsoons, and the exterior has not smelt fresh paint in over a decade. Ashimesh rarely steps out of the house these days, yet he barely notices the decay.

The PC (a gift from Arnab on one of his visits) is the only living thing in his life now. He reads the daily news at the CNN website, and runs a Google search on classical music or FIFA. Occasionally on something more academic.

Ashimesh pops in a couple of valium tablets, and switches on the computer again.

There are ten emails lying in his mailbox. The usual solicitations…tour companies selling vacation packages, life insurance schemes, mobile ringtones. He reads them all, and re-reads them before deleting them one by one. He pauses at the last one.

Hi Ashimesh,

Sorry, I was sending the mail to a bunch of friends and in a hurry I must have made an error. If it wasn’t for your reply, Ashley Benson wouldn’t have received her invite. Thanks so much!!

I attend middle school in Richmond, Virginia. Where are you from? Your name isn’t American.

Bye for now,
Sam

Dear Sam,

I live in India, in the historic city of Calcutta. I am 67 years old. My son too lives… (He starts, pauses for a minute and shakes his head. No point in bringing up Arnab and his family).

Tell me about Richmond.
Ashimesh

People who knew Ashimesh ten years ago fail to recognize him these days. Ashimesh was a jovial man, the life of any adda. An enthusiastic participant in the local Puja Committee during the autumn festivities and a meticulous sport critic during the cricket and football seasons. Ashimesh and a few close friends regularly met at the Club House and discussed Satyajit and Jyoti Babu over a few rounds of Bridge, the innumerable cigarette stubs and the unending cups of tea from the local tea shop bearing testimony to their debates.

Dear Ashimesh,

Richmond is a historic place too. It was one of the first settlements of the British in this country, so Calcutta and Richmond have something in common after all. The weather here is temperate. The leaves change color every autumn to red, gold and orange and winters frequently cover the landscape with snow...

Ashimesh runs a Google search for “Richmond” before retiring for the night.

He wakes up with a start and a headache the following day. The doorbell sounds for the third time. Ashimesh opens his tired eyes to look at his watch. 9:30. He puts on his glasses and answers the door. It’s Subala, wiping her forehead with the tip of her once white sari.

“Have you been sleeping late today? Been standing here for almost 10 minutes”.

Ashimesh walks to the bathroom as Subala gets ready to sweep the floor, all the while continuing her soliloquy in an authoritative tone. “I see you haven’t eaten any dinner last night. How long is this going to continue? Why don’t you ask Dadababu to come back? He has been to college; he will surely find work here. Or else, you go to live with him. He is always asking you to. Why spend old age alone when you can be enjoying your grandchildren, I ask…?”

Ashimesh endures this everyday, and it has now reached a point where it does not bother him anymore.

The emails from Sam soon become a certainty in his otherwise lackluster existence.

Sam loved school but hated Math, had a pet fox terrier called Woofy, spent Christmas with grandparents in Charlotte, and went to D.C. to watch the 4th of July fireworks each year. Does Ashimesh have any kids? Sam wants to know.

Dear Sam,

I have one son, Arnab. He graduated from IIT, Bombay, the best engineering college in this country. He then received a full scholarship to pursue a PhD in UCLA, and thereafter has chosen to settle down in your country…

He tells Sam about India. About its people. About Ramayana and Mahabharata. He talks about Durga Puja, the Christmas equivalent of his religion.

“…the whole city is bathed in colorful lights. Thousands of people throng the streets all night long, dressed in their best, limping from the discomfort of their newly purchased shoes, to pay homage to the Goddess in every corner of the city, munching egg rolls and fish culets purchased from industrious street side vendors…”

Atop the showcase in the living room are old black and white photographs in rusted silver frames. Pictures of Arnab in his neatly pressed school uniform, bag in hand, oily hair combed in place by his indulgent mother. Others show a family vacation in Puri or Darjeeling. Ashimesh picks up a photo and wipes out the dust with his thumb. It’s a photograph of Arnab with his new bride. He clearly remembers the day Arnab had announced his wish to marry Susan, an American school teacher. The news had left Ashimesh and his wife shocked and disheartened. Tanima had been bedridden for days, and finally succumbed to a heart attack. The day before she died, she requested her husband to make a place for this photograph, among the others in the showcase.

Dear Ashimesh,

Durga Puja sounds awesome! Wish I could be there.

We brunched at IHOP’s today. They make the best blueberry pancakes ever!!! Do you like music? I love N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, but mom won’t let me listen to Eminem.

Btw, my phone number is 080 234 5689.Do you want to chat during the weekends?

Dear Sam,

My favorite dish used to be prawn malaikari, prepared lovingly by my wife. No one could make it like her. I used to listen to music too, though the names you have mentioned are not familiar to me. I loved K.L. Saigal, and every winter, during the classical music festival, Barun (a close friend) and I would stay up all night at Singi Park to listen to the great maestros…

It is one year since the emails first started. To his own astonishment, Ashimesh remembers to send an e-card on Sam’s birthday. He has never sent a birthday card to anyone before. Not to his wife, not to his son, not even to his own granddaughter.

Ashimesh has trouble sleeping that night. The valium doesn’t help any. He gets out of his bed and starts penning down his long overdue apology. To Susan and to Arnab. But most of all to his grandchild, his own flesh and blood, whom he had chosen to disregard all these years. When his pen finally stops, it had covered eight sheets. Ashimesh seals the envelope and couriers it first thing in the morning.

Later that day, he makes a trip to Hatibagan and buys some of his favorite prawns and a coconut. He would have to give clear instructions to Subala on how to prepare it. On his way back, he picks up a couple of tickets to a Ravi Shankar concert, scheduled for the following month.

That weekend he calls Sam.

-Sam, I have some good news for you.

-Really? What?

-I might be visiting your country soon.

-Yes, I know.

-You know? How?

-Dadu, I’m Samhita.

It is the first time the little girl addresses her grandfather as Dadu.  

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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved it too !

Mrigank said...

Oh!!! Really Mooooving!! :-)

The instant chemistry between the lonely grandfather and his granddaughter is interesting...

As also the love of his son and his daughter-in-law for the man.... Without them, the little girl might never known anything about her grandfather....

It is really moving to see the kind of emotional maturity in the young girl, the desire to be with her grandfather, and above all, how her love rekindles the zest for Life in the disheartened old man....

The story also seems to carry subtle cues to the way our Indian society thinks and behaves - rigid and reproving of independent decisions taken by people of younger generations.. especially with regard to their personal lives....
The man's son no doubt loved him a lot but was forced to disobey them due to their own inflexibility...

Suparna said...

Thank you so much Bawa for publishing my story on your blog! And thanks to all the readers who sent wonderful comments..I will be replying to you individually :)
Jai Gurudev!

Uday said...

the story is quite nice. i think being from Kolkata made me like it even more because I could relate to everything that has been written about bengalis (though i am not a bengali). The story is very simple and gripping and I loved it :) Reading it was a bit nostalgic because I would be relocating from Kolkata soon and I didnt know that I like Kolkata so much :) Also, I suddenly feel like writing again, used to write lots of poem and had started off with a novel which i left mid-way:(

The blog is getting more and more interesting everyday and as far as this short story goes - it definitely sounds interesting.

jgd :)

Anonymous said...

Very touching story, also shows that lack of belongingness can make life so boring.

JGD
Siri

girijesh said...

o bau, its really heart touching...
in middle it is boring, ye ho kya raha hai? but in last I socked.......arre!!!!

gauri said...

very nice...covered every emotion in such a small space... loved the description of Calcutta (still like to call it that) and the Durga Pooja... reminded me of Malgudi Days...

Kashish said...

Dear Bawa,

An interesting story. I was really captivated while reading it. I was touched by the message.

For me the message was: We keep living in our small shell and just unaware that there are so many people wanting to talk to you, wanting you to be a part of them and their world. We just need to get over this shell and we will see how much others care for us. We will realise how beautiful this world is. Also by accepting people and situations as they are, we will make our life even simpler.

i am looking forward for reading more stories by Suparna.

Jai Gurudev

Anjana said...

it's a very nice,touchy story bau.i spent around 2 hrs today on your blog .. it's very addictive.. learnt and copied down some receipes.

Throughly enjoyed being on this Blog.. u are too Much Bauuuu... Lovely bubbly bau.- Anjana.V

Anand said...

very touchy...
:)

sunil said...

superb!bawa u have great tatse,as usual, for everything.
Sunil;Indore

Anonymous said...

really a nice one..loved it
Simran...jgd :)

aman said...

looks like its an experiental story..
really nice n 4m d heart..

labelled this and that said...

wow!! badiya hai !! :D

Streax said...

AWESOMEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Deliberate plot!! superb!! look at 67 yr old lost every relation ship.. and an email changes the whole look and pursuit! Just awesome!

Jai Gurudev!

Anonymous said...

A lovely story !
Couldn't help feeling overwhelmingly :
if there's anyone in your life that you've loved and cut out, let them back in asap!
Life is far too short, and far too precious - and so are the people in your life !
Guruji ofcourse has said this ..!

Srivi said...

Overwhelming..very well written..inspires the reader to value each relationship so much more..also inspires ttc applicants to write their story for the form!
JGD!

Shreyans Mehta said...

This is so beautiful :)
Jai Gurudev. :)

chintan said...

itz tooo moving bau
the story instantly reminded me of namesake.....to some xtent

star on cloud nine said...

totally loved it!! Very well written.To be honest,before i started reading it,i thought it'll be a cute little story but when i started reading it, i was like 'wow!'.
In today's world, where children leave their parents for better careers or their life partners, it's good to read about a family where the grand daughter goes all out to connect with her grandfather, which would certainly not be possible without help from the father.

milan said...

lovely story my heart felt wishes to her

nibbles said...

lovely story... :)

Bipasha said...

that was an interesting story. the narration is simple, yet lively. liked more becoz of the connection that i have with Bengal. everything in the story is so familiar. reminds me of Anjan Dutta's 'Priya Bandhu' and also the coming back of the grandson to search his musical roots in Kolkata from the US in 'Bong Connection' and ensuing interaction with his larger-family members.
to summarise - lovely one. keep writing Suparna!
Thanx Bawa for putting it here for us.
Jai Gurudev!

anita said...

bau n xcllnt stry....leave u wit a tear in eyes and sml on face....

apur said...

good story ...nice one ...
waitin for somemore !!!!!!!
jai gurudeva!!

Monica said...

beautiful...
really loved the story.
all the very best with your work :)
Jai Gurudeva.

Vishal said...

hi bawa dinesh,
damn good story.please keep sending such stories
vishal

Abhi said...

I love French rats.
They ate the rosogolla and the roti completely leaving no trace !

Such a perfect crime.

Some rats cook well too.
Check out the movie Ratatouille.

an endearing experience :)

Anonymous said...

its realy an heart touching storY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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