I know it’s Mother’s Day and all that jazz, and that I should be feeling tender and family-struck. But at times I can’t help but wonder what living away from The Family does to one’s sense of attachment. Does distance make the heart grow fonder?
A friend recently moved from Delhi to Bombay. “One reason I’m leaving Delhi is my parents,” he said. His parents live in Shillong. “It’s so easy to come down to Guwahati, hop on to the Rajdhani Express and chug across to Delhi.” So? “Well, it’s so easy that my folks were doing just that at least once in three months — at times without giving me notice even,” he explained. “They’d take over my pad, and I’d have no place to be up to no good with my girlfriends.”
Now that he’s in Bombay, his parents can’t catch the Guwahati-New Delhi Rajdhani. And they hate travelling by air. “I’m loving my new-found freedom,” has become his signature tune.
But then, I have another friend in Delhi who has family ties that bind (not gag). Abby makes it a point to “go home” to Calcutta once every two months. Whenever he hankers for a new job (once in every six months), he looks for openings that are wide enough to accommodate a once-in-60-days trip to hometown. “I don’t mind getting paid a bit less,” he explains. “But I have to see my parents – particularly my mom.” Happy Mother’s Day Abby!
The reason why I’m writing about familial ties this Sunday is not because it’s Mother’s Day today; it’s because I slipped up very badly this week. It was my brother’s second wedding anniversary on 6 May –– and I clean forgot.
That day –– Tuesday –– I had even gone to Gurgaon on some personal work (obviously not delivering Happy Anniversary bouquets to bro and sis-in-law). What’s more, I passed the Bata showroom right in front of their colony, expressed a desire to purchase sandals, and sighed deeply when I realised it was a Tuesday –– the day when shops in Gurgaon keep their shutters down. To which my friend (who was driving me around) comforted me saying: “You’ll have to come here soon, hai na –– once your nephew or niece is born?”
Oh yes, how could I forget?
On Thursday, an upset sis-in-law called me. “You forgot!” she accused. “Forgot what?” I asked.
“Omigod, I don’t believe this,” she screamed. “You forgot our wedding anniversary!”
Damn. I had goofed up.
My brother gave me a lecture on impropriety. “Didi, how can you blame Black Sheep and write nasty things about him when you are just as bad?”
I hung my head in shame. Too bad he couldn’t see me.
The parents-to-be are clearly not proud of me, but I’m suddenly very proud of my parents. They went to Europe for a couple of weeks, and their minds have broadened considerably. “We went to a Lido show in Paris,” my mother called to boast. “There were naked girls dancing –– but there was nothing obscene about them. The whole thing was very, ahem, artistic.” (This is the same woman who insisted I cover my eyes when Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr indulged in heavy-duty kissing in From Here To Eternity; I was, of course, 11 years old then.)
My father came on the line. “They (the Lido dancers, I gathered) were,” he said triumphantly, “TOTALLY naked”.
“Yes, yes, I get the picture,” I hurriedly interjected.
He then gave me a blow-by-blow account of the European countryside (comparing it with the Bengal one), while I gently dozed off. I sat up very straight when he came to the part about how, on a bus trip to Heidelberg, he broke into ‘Vande Mataram’— for the benefit of the other Indian travellers. “I sang it after 45 years [the last time he got patriotic was when he was in college],” he said, adding that he got a standing ovation for his effort.
This Mother’s Day, here’s to Vande Mataram.