Anumita, in her letter to Bon (younger sister), talks about their life and times with their Baba (father). The author moves from the present to the past, reminiscing their childhood and worrying about their father, whose advancing age has made him frail and forgetful. It’s the author’s tribute to her loving father. It’s a part of special feature in Different Truths on Father’s Day.
My Dear Bon 1 ,
Now that your little ones are spending so much time with Baba and Ma, I was wondering about our childhood. Although we travelled so much, we always were together. Life taught us in a beautiful way about love and care.
Do you remember when we moved back to Kolkata? Baba constantly kept telling us that we are going to know our family. I was about thirteen and you were still younger. Ma never said anything but she kept us strong. Baba knew that we needed to learn the ways of life around our extended family.
You were very fond of thakuma (grandma), but I could not set myself into the mould the whole family wanted. Cutting corner was never easy for me. Baba saw that. He understood me. He found a way out for me. He introduced drawing and painting. As you and the rest of our cousins were bellowing the harmonium and crooning melodious tunes, I sat down with charcoal and chalk to learn the basics of light and shade. Baba taught me how to move line, how to bend thoughts in each stroke on the canvas.
He was so sure that I had a volcano in my brain, and often explosions happened on slightest provocations. Do you remember how he made a jest of me? He told Ma, in a very serious tone, “We need to make a special hat for Moon. That hat should have a cooling fan fixed on it. The way this girl has a hot head, I worry about her.”
Bon, do you think he thinks the same about me, now? I wonder…
Yesterday, while talking to him on skype, he could not remember the name of my elder son. We laughed reminding Baba how he had forgotten mine.
I was in 7th grade and Baba had come to school to drop some papers in the school office. Once he was at the gate he stopped. He realised he had forgotten my name, which was used in school.
He could just remember what I was called at home. He stood outside for good 20 minutes racking his brain. He remembered yours and thought would ask for Susmita’s sister. He got lucky as he was entering school the lunch bell rang. The first person to come out was my close friend, who smiled and called me saying that my Baba had come.
When I chided him about this, he gave a funny smile and said, “I cannot keep up with you, after all you gave your own name.”
My kiddos were intrigued at this and insisted on the story.
Baba started narrating them how he had taken me to school for the first time for admission. I was standing in front of him in the line. The convent sisters was walking along and introducing themselves to us. One of the sisters, got on her knees, held my hand and asked me my name. I smiled and proudly announced Anumita Chatterjee. Baba recalled how flabbergasted he was, as he had filled in the admission form with Madhumita Chatterjee, the name given by my family to me.
You see Bon, Baba still can pack a punch. He teased me back in front of my kids. We all had a great laugh.
Under all the laughter we both are worried about him. Age has dulled much of his senses. His hearing is low and this keeps us both on the edge. Baba’s vision is not as sharp as before. His body shows signs of fatigue. Yet he is our pillar. His temper does not remain even and calm as we knew him. When he is agitated, our concerns increase.
We live physically in different geographical locations on the earth, yet we wish and love our Baba.
Wishing him a very happy day each and every day of his life. May we be able to give him some happiness!
He has given us all.
Love you, Bon. Wish to talk to you soon.
Yours Didi 2 ,
Pix from author.
1 Bon in Bengali means sister and is an endearing way of addressing Lil’ Sis.
2 That’s how elder sister is addressed in Bengali