{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Friday, September 07, 2007

Random Respite : Sum of Parts

As I look back, I smile at my mother's intelligent ways to tease my father, me and my sister in the same sentence, or rather tease her in-laws, with me or my sister as a weapon. The comments were of varied degree, from "aalsi to apne papa jaisa hai", to "gussa to bilkul dadi ka aaya hai isme". Some times, insults were more ambiguous and artsy, as my mother would say seeing my hindi handwriting, "chalo, papa ki ek to achchi aadat aayi", or when I will hit my sister, my mother and father will show occasional unity to scold me, and my mother, while slapping me, will even sentimentalize the matter by saying, "kal chali jaayegi, tak yaad karega" and I will murmur, while being slapped, "usse to koi kuch nahin bolta". I am used more often for this inheritance comparative study than my sister because she once wept inconsolably when her greed for sweets was compared to a distant relative, and that too in front of my Dadi, who hated that relative and attributed every wrong in the world to her.

Whatever be the case, my Dadi always took my mother's side, her only regret was that my mother is "saawali" (a bigger regret was that none of her fair son got a fair wife and like a family joke, none of her fair/dark grandsons got either. She had no hope from the few unmarried grandsons, as she says "saaro ko saawali hi pasand aave"). Her way of throwing sweet insult was saying "Saawali hai, par photo achchi aati hai", that statement used to take an extra dimension when she will comment so while seeing my parent's marriage album, and will hold the statement till we reach the page where the pictures of my mother and father, which were exchanged before marriage, were pasted. But the best part was to ask my Dadi about the reaction of whole village when she came there after marriage. She knew that we had asked that a thousand times, but her every reply had the same exactness of detail and pride. Ours was supposedly a village that has never seen someone so fair. According to her, she never worked in sunlight, till my dadaji was alive, lest she might get dark. She is always in praise for her mother-in-law who cared for her more than her own mother, who married her in a far off village (none of her relatives were even in the same district, she always regretted that she didn’t go to her mother’s place at her first Holi). She used to say "agar tere dada hote to yeh karte, woh karte", my mother would quip "aap hi bhatera laad karti ho, phir to pata nahin kitne bigadte", hearing this, my fair Dadi will look up to her saawali bahu with an old-worldly praise and pride while stroking my hair and asking my fair sister not to play in sunlight.

I revolted much later to these ancestral comments but by then I had the realization that its more for fun and sarcasm than for any hurt to anyone, and by then I would team up with my father and sister to invent sly comments on my father's in-laws, which my mother resisted by saying "bacchche bigaad ke bahut khush ho rahe ho, bilkul apni maa pe gaye ho". But the hell broke when I commented on my mother's treasured possession, the sewing machine, which she brought with her as marriage dowry. It must have been one of those occasions when my mother was again telling the story how my Nanaji did research to get her the best sewing machine in the whole town and when my father came that night, I proudly announced "aaj phir machine-chaalisa thi ghar mein" and my sister giggled sinking her head in my father's lap, but to our utter surprise, my mother started weeping in the most silent way (and that meant she meant it, in this particular kind of weeping she will keep on working her chores while weeping and we all knew this is the danger zone), and although we were little and immature, we knew for sure that no talking will undo what we did, so my sister and I, half thinking and half instinctively, started sobbing and slowly changed side moving near to my mother. Getting the signal, my father, to fill in a lighter mood to an all-weeping scene, softly said, "ab bachche majaak bhi na kare kya?", and getting the signal back, half-thinking and half instinctively, we both started weeping more freely, as if little relieved that the father spoke for us. My mother got up without saying a word, leaving the exhausted weeping kids behind, went to the kitchen to make dinner. When she came back, we had slept, but not fast enough not hear my father say "Dekh bhukhe hi so gaye", but fast enough not to hear my mother's reply.

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