Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Strange how something, as innocuous as a film, can catch you mid-stride and lob you back into grief. Grief, you thought, was buried for good. Big Fish did that to me. To most, it is a fantastical allegory about life, truth and relationships. To me, a bittersweet reminder of my father and his fish stories.

The film is about a dying father and his alienated son. The son, sifting through the tall tales he’s been told over the years, slowly realizing they had a grain of truth in them. He discovers an adventurous man rooted in love.


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If there was one word that could describe my father it would be Mischief. Was being the eldest going to make him responsible and sober? No, sir. It would not. He loved driving his parents and siblings nuts. That trait redoubled after he had me – his small plaything to bemuse and befuddle. And befuddle me, he did!

I remember this one time watching him cook rice. Tottering on a footstool and peering in, I noticed holes stamped deep into the steaming rice. My baby brain could not understand  this marvel. The Learned One intoned that the rice had to breathe in order to cook well. So he had punched holes into it with a pencil. And I believed him… for twenty years!

Looking back, there were obvious red herrings like when he convinced my mother the moon was made of green cheese. Knowing her, she was probably fooling him too. Then there were stories which could have been fact, fantasy or somewhere in-between. His crazy classmate Wanterly who briefly sailed the drain in his upside-down umbrella during Shillong’s torrential rains.  My father’s first catch, a small crab, biting him and escaping back into the river. His first horse-ride ending in disaster when his younger brother hit its rump; the animal upending my father in the mud.

Then there were stories that I guess were true. Him catching a dragonfly, tying a string around its waist and running with it as it flew.  Always setting it free afterwards. I think that and his story about Androcles and the Lion taught me kindness towards all creatures. During World War II, he was befriended by an American G.I. who gave him a spin on his motorbike and gifted him a tin of jam. Maybe marmalade, something he was fond of.

There were tales of man’s inhumanity. His school friend who died at the hands of the Japanese during World War II. His scalp sliced open, salt poured in and sewn back on. My father almost lost his parents in the Calcutta riots during our nation’s birth pangs. Meikha (paternal grandmother) had gone to buy cloth for her store. Paieit (paternal grandfather) and khaddoh (my youngest aunt), a baby then, were with her. They were saved by kind shopkeepers who stowed them away when the killings started.

And of course, you cannot live in Shillong without earthquake stories. Since the wooden Assam style houses were built on sand foundations, they didn’t crack or fall apart easily. But they did sway from side to side and jump!

My father came from an era where the parents strongly believed in the adage spare the rod and spoil the child. Obviously an impish child like him got more than his fair share of the rod. He even climbed the roof so meikha could not spank him. The thrashing he got afterwards was twice as savage. Not that it would stop him. Oh no, it wouldn’t! When she said no, I think he heard her say go.

He even instigated his younger siblings. During Durga Pooja, they all sneaked off to watch the pandals (temporary structures erected during religious festivals) in Laban. They did the same to catch the late night Christmas celebrations. When they got back home, meikha sweetly asked them to enact what they saw. Naively, they danced in a circle while  singing O Christmas Tree. One by one as they passed by her, they all got whupped.

Adulthood could not rein in his adventurous streak. Late night parties were forbidden. Meikha even locked away his violin in a cupboard. But he picked the lock and grabbed his violin. He locked the cupboard again so she would not suspect a thing. He had a wonderful time at that party. An even better one at home when caught sneaking in.

Despite knowing all the mischievous things he did, I was never tempted to follow. I wonder if he used reverse psychology by telling me his life’s stories. Or maybe he aimed for much more than just coaching and entertaining me. A line from Big Fish aptly sums it up:

“A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.”


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The Unhappy Cat

Taut is a very unhappy cat. A very unhappy cat indeed. Her beginning itself was an unhappy one. She was part of the first litter of her parents, who were siblings. Her father had short, rough fur of white and orange stripes, reminiscent of a tiger. Her mother had soft, silky, sooty hair. So she got her mother’s luxuriant fur but in her father’s ginger tones. Maybe that’s why her mother didn’t take her for her own?


Now anyone who knows anything about ginger cats will tell you that most of them are males. And so it was that Taut and her ginger-haired sibling were thought to be males when they came into this world. Her sibling died within a week – most probably out of shock that Taut was a she and not a he…Or due to lack of mother’s care. One will never know.

Her mother was a placid Sphinx-eyed diva who just wasn’t prepared to take on the burdens of motherhood. Oh it would never do, you see. She had to maintain her position as the top female feline in her neighbourhood. She was much in demand at all the midnight soirées where all the tomcats would vie for her attention.

And so it was that eventhough Taut was still a mewling kitten, her mother started staying out more and more. She looked upon the poor helpless kitten as more of an impediment to the good times – her good times.

But what surprised everyone all round was that her father started staying back at night instead of being up to his usual tomcat antics. He played with her. Mewed at her. Bathed her. And for a short while, Taut was happy. Very happy indeed.

But as with all good things, these too came to pass. Her mom was having kittens with the largest, meanest ginger tomcat in the neighbourhood. She was on top of the scratching post, so to speak.

Tensions rose between Taut’s parents day by day. They reached a peak when her mom finally brought the two ginger kittens home. Her father started staying out more and more till one day he never came back.

And Taut? Well, like I said. Taut is a very unhappy cat. A very unhappy cat indeed.

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I have noticed for quite some time now that I seem to be forever running out of it – Time that is. No matter how efficiently I try to do the dishes, fix breakfast, make sense of the chaos in office and on the road, I never seem to have enough time. I don’t even seem to have enough time for my Maker!

Strange how unhurried my childhood seemed to be though it was spent in the urban jungle. I was used to structuring my schedule by the clock. But back then I had enough time for studies, music, books, play and sunshine with a few tantrums in between.

Time seemed to shift to an even lower gear when we used to visit my grandparents’ homes. The clock face always wore a mournful number as it was paid no attention. Days were replete with games, laughter, rock salt and stolen candies as we forgot the lessons learnt in the classroom and gained new ones through experience.

The night air was suffused with stories of our ancestors, ghosts and genies as we slept under the mosquito nets gazing at the shimmering starlit scene above.  Of course, the mere hint of rain sent us packing – nets, bamboo poles and all.

Visits to the bazaar were a special treat where we tried out different dishes at local food stalls unmindful of the questionable hygiene and more focused on the taste – much to the chagrin of our mothers! We respectfully greeted the grocery owner and the tailor master that had known our family for generations. I still remember the bewildered happy face of the tailor master as he looked at the prayer mat I got for him from my visit to the Middle East.  There was always enough time to chat and to make relationships grow over generations; irrespective of our differences. How many of us do that anymore?

Now it is always a mad rush from one deadline to the next. There is no time to know anyone, much less ourselves. One feels like in a matrix trying to dodge one bullet after another, not knowing which one will finally hit the spot. It feels like one will be remembered only by the deadline that one missed.

Is this how we want to be remembered?

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I had been thinking of starting a blog for years, researching on how to select a topic, what to write, how not to write, what fonts to use….  And now when I finally sat down to pen my very first post… Words fail me!

What does one write about when interests are varied and hobbies last as long as the sighting of a rainbow? I guess you can say I get bored easily. I might be chasing down butterflies on the sidewalk one day and not giving them a second glance the next.

But then what is Life but a series of accidents, happenstance or dare I say…. Miracles….

Miracles? Yes, I do believe they happen… Some to help, some to uplift, some to soothe and some to teach…  But miracles are not always as obvious as they show them on the silver screen with thunder, lightning and background score…

No… They are usually subtle… Soft as a baby’s caress or unseen like a mother’s love… It is more in hindsight that we realize what miracles God had wrought in our lives. The first and what should be the most obvious miracle is that we have been born… But how many of us really feel thankful for it and express our gratitude in prayer? Not many I guess…

It is way easier to crib about the loss of a job, a lousy boss, bad health, demanding spouse, errant children… Don’t get me wrong. Even I have been guilty of complaining about my circumstances like everyone else. But then when I reflect on the many things I can be grateful for, I feel a sense of peaceful gratitude that is difficult to describe.

So learn to be grateful from the heart and who knows… You may sight miracles more often than others…

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Potent as Moonshine on a Silvery Night


A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.


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