I grew up as a single child in a small town in Bengal called Berhampore. Every year my Professor father ensured that we had two vacations. The first one was always planned and it took us to Kolkata, then Calcutta. My mother had her parents staying in that city and I was amazed how different a metro city was from my town. But what I would look forward to was the unplanned vacation to a new destination during summer holidays. My parents would keep me guessing until we reached the spot. As I grew up, I would try to open the bags to see if winter clothes were packed because that would mean a vacation in the hills. Every year that I went back home, I took back fond memories of places I have visited and left a part of me in those places.
Much later, when I asked them about this game of suspense, my Dad had disclosed that he wanted me to feel the thrill of exploring the world without any preset ideas. He believed in striking a balance between bucket list, which helped tick off items after fulfilling of wishes and #TheBlindList which taught me to keep my heart and mind open to experiencing new things. This is how began my journey of travel to explore new destinations. Darjeeling, which was one of the first ever vacation spot for me is a personal favorite even today.
As I grew up, I moved to Kolkata for higher studies. This was my first date with the world. An eighteen-year-old was trusted by her parents and Permitted to stay on her own so that she could pursue her dreams. There were deterrents in the form of discriminatory behavior in college, heart breaks in the form of relationships gone wrong, harassment by random men that led to cringeworthy moments but I didn’t let the negativity ruin my journey.
It’s that time of the year again when the wait for the biggest celebration for a Bengali household comes to an end with the arrival of Mahalaya. For the next ten days, all that one can hear a Bengali talk about is how Durga pujo is nothing short of an emotion. It doesn’t matter in which city you are going to celebrate pujo this year. It could be Berhampore/Murshidabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, New York or London because the level of excitement always stays the same.
Mahalaya in my childhood meant the beginning of school holidays. Preparation began the night before as Ma pestered me to sleep early while ensuring that Baba kept the radio station sorted out for the wee hours of the morning. Sharp at 4 am, she woke up every year to turn on the radio. I would snuggle up to them with sleepy eyes as Mahishashur Mardini was aired on All India Radio. Birendra Krishna Bhadra chanted the verses of Chandi Kavya/Path while devotional songs played during intervals.
And then Doordarshan came up with a Mahalaya special episode of Mahishashur Mardini. My parents would watch till the end as I dozed off intermittently. Baba would next go to the local sweet shop Mitali and get us Kachori, Aloo Dum and misthi. I still feel those were the only motivating factors for me to wake up so early.
I normally spent the day reading books that I would stack up for the last few months. These were called pujabarshikis because these annual magazines were published only during pujo. For me, Anandamela pujabarshiki meant the world though we also got Shukhtara, Desh, Sananda and Anandalok. This hasn’t changed over the years. Last year I had written a post on how this is a gift from my father that I eagerly wait for every year. This year, I am hoping to get it when I travel to Berhampore this 12th.
I grew up in a household where speaking the truth was not just encouraged but diligently practiced. Baba always believed that when one speaks the truth, one always stays true to their conscience. Besides the stated facts always stay the same. Ma had the same version personalized when she had asked me to always be the first one to let them know the truth, even if it was something that might leave them appalled. Such principles shaped my nature and character in such a way that I grew extremely close and comfortable with my parents. I knew that I was believed in my house and was one of the strongest factors that built my confidence. The only not so likable attribute that I developed because of speaking the truth was my inability to sugar-coat my words or be diplomatic in my approach.
#MeToo was a movement started last year by Tarana Burke that exposed monsters like Harvey Weinstein. Since then, there have been skeletons tumbling out of closets everywhere. However, it is only recently that this movement gained mass momentum in India after Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar in a decade-old case of harassment. And for the past few days, there have been stories about media personalities, journalists, writers and stand up comics. People like Utsav Chakraborty, Gautam Adhikari, Kiran Nagarkar, Kailash Kher and many others have been called out by women who have faced harassment in their hands. India has finally woken up to #MeTooIndia and #TimeUp movement.
Amidst all this, I realize how pathetic the state of affairs is in our country. Is there any girl who has not faced harassment at any level ever? Right from being groped in crowded buses, receiving unsolicited pictures of private parts, getting masturbated at and being felt up, the list seems to be endless. Beyond a point, every girl has learned to keep her sixth sense in the maximum alert mode and be armed with a device for protection like a pepper spray. Even I have had the most horrible experiences. Most of these abusers were random people whose perverted minds derived pleasure from such sickening acts. But what does one do when this kind of sexual predator lurks in their closest circle!
S has been a family friend for ages. His father had been my Baba’s friend and mentor. Despite the huge age difference, I grew up calling S as Dada (elder brother in Bengali). I had met him many times as a child and always found him to be affectionate and caring towards me. So, I was taken aback when I felt his hands brush my chest area on the pretext of picking up a paper from the table. I was barely thirteen then. But I was so sure that it had happened by mistake that I forgot about it soon. Unfortunately, this started becoming a pattern very soon. I met him during family functions and festivals and each time he made me so uncomfortable that I started avoiding him. The mere sight of him would make me run indoors. Sadly, my parents loved him like their own son and they could never understand my sudden disappearances. The hide and seek game went on for another two years till it was my board exams and I was excused from attending all events until I completed my exams.
October 2012 – it was the first year of Durga Puja without Ma being around and cajoling T and me to try coming back to Bengal at least for a week during the pujas. We had decided to go for a small trip to Kerala instead. Our three days trip had three places on our itinerary – the backwaters of Alleppey, the Chinese fishing nets of Kochi and the majestic waterfall of Athirapally.
Athirapally was our last destination before returning back to Mysore. When we drove down from Kochi through Challakudy to reach this place, we had only heard about this place because the movie ‘Ravana’ by Mani Ratnam starring Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, and Vikram was shot here. However, when we witnessed the 80 ft fall in front of our eyes and heard the sound that the water generated, we stood mesmerized.
This post has been pending for a long time. Thank you, Priya from priyareflects.com for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award. The fact that I have written a detective novella ‘Deal of Death’ in the genre of mystery/thriller makes me feel extremely happy at receiving this award. Love the squirrel for being the cutest presenter of any award ever.
Coming to the award, it was started by Okota Enigma. She had an idea behind this award. “It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”
So here are the rules of this award –
1. PUT THE AWARD LOGO/IMAGE ON YOUR BLOG. LIST THE RULES. 2. THANK WHOEVER NOMINATED YOU AND PROVIDE A LINK TO THEIR BLOG. 3.MENTION THE CREATOR OF THE AWARD AND PROVIDE A LINK AS WELL 4.TELL YOUR READERS 3 THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF 5. YOU HAVE TO NOMINATE 10 – 20 PEOPLE 6. NOTIFY YOUR NOMINEES BY COMMENTING ON THEIR BLOG 7. ASK YOUR NOMINEES ANY 5 QUESTIONS OF YOUR CHOICE; WITH ONE WEIRD OR FUNNY QUESTION (SPECIFY) 8. SHARE A LINK TO YOUR BEST POST(S).
The first three points are already attended to, so here’s the answer to number 4 –
Three things about me –
There are three men in my life who I love the most – my toddler, my husband and my father. There’s nothing that makes me happier than spending time with my Dad, having a heartfelt conversation with my husband and playing with my toddler.
I quit my Banking job to become a writer and it is only recently that I became a published author. I nurture the dream to continue writing Detective thrillers with my protagonist Raya Ray and hope to see my book in the bestseller racks someday.
I am a night owl. I can work till the wee hours of the morning but if you ask me to wake up early, I find it extremely difficult to implement.
Now coming to the five questions that Priya had asked me –
If you were to choose a pen name what would it be?
It would be Raya Ray. It would be a lot of fun writing as the protagonist of the detective thriller itself.
Share your best memory ever?
There are too many to write especially during those years when my mom was still around. But the one memory is etched in my heart forever was when I held my son for the first time after his birth.
Tell me about your most romantic date
My husband and I have been friends for two decades now. We had lost in touch for a good number of years before meeting each other again in 2010. We met at a restaurant called Casapicola in Bangalore for lunch. When we started talking, it never felt like there was a gap in between. Even without expressing our feelings, we knew that we were meant to be together.
If you were to act in a movie (or play a literary character) which one would you choose and why?
I wish I could play Feluda – the sleuth in Satyajit Ray’s detective novels and essay the role of Vidya Bagchi (played by the super talented Vidya Balan) in Kahani. Both belong to my favorite genre of thrillers and Vidya Balan is a personal favorite.
What would be the absolute worst name you could give to a child?
If you have heard Bengali nicknames, you would know that there are quite a few names that could scar the child forever. So Pintu, Ghoton, Babla are just a few among them.
I nominate the following people for this award –
I would want them to answer these five questions –
Tell us one thing about yourself that nobody knows.
Which genre of books do you enjoy reading the most and why?
What is the best piece of advice or feedback that you received for your writing?
If you were stranded on an island, what things would you take with you and why?
What is the weirdest or craziest thing that you have ever done?
My best post till date is also a personal favorite –
I stood near the door of the ICU gathering my thoughts. I knew that I would be bombarded by questions the moment I walked out. I understood how anxious they had been for the last one week. It was not easy for any family to see their child in a state of coma with little hope for revival immediately after giving birth to a baby.
They had been hesitant to consult me until it became evident that the pregnant girls’ condition was worsening. Her blood pressure refused to come down even as the due date drew nearer. Her body had started swelling up because of fluid accumulation leading to edema. I wonder why her gynecologist didn’t realize the criticality of the situation and insist on a premature delivery!
I took control of the situation despite knowing that I was mostly fighting a lost battle. Getting a team together in a Government hospital of a Tier-2 city wasn’t an easy job. No gynecologist was ready to take her case initially because of the risks involved. So I had no option but to encash on my personal equations within the fraternity to ensure that she gets the best facilities despite limited means.
A week back, her c-section had led to a successful delivery. The families danced with joy as the bundle of happiness arrived in the form of a baby girl. I left the hospital around 2am knowing that God had helped me win a race against life. Both the mother and baby had been doing fine.
But my happiness was short-lived. At 6am in the morning, when my phone screen buzzed with a call from the hospital’s land-line number, I knew there was bad news. My fears were justified as I was told how the new mother had concussions followed by a heart attack. She had slipped into the comatose state. I rushed to see her in the hospital ICU. Except for her eyelids, no part of her body responded.
For the last one week, she had been on life support system. I saw the families crumbling in front of my eyes, trying to fathom the uncertain future that lay ahead. It pained me the most to think of the plight of the newborn. Every time I saw the baby, I was reminded of my own two-year-old.
2008 – I was in my first year of B-school. Four of us took an all-girls trip to Chennai followed by Pondicherry. The trip was my first sojourn with my girlfriends and the city mesmerized me with its beauty, cleanliness, and calmness. The sea was both rough and serene here. And the environment of the Aurobindo ashram had a deep impact on my thoughts.
2011 – After the sudden demise of my mother, grief had engulfed my life in a way that rendered me static at Mysore.
2012 – this was the first city that my husband had coaxed me to visit. He insisted that a change of location was needed for my mental health.
This picture was clicked from the room of the hotel in Pondicherry where we had been put up. The balcony had the most gorgeous view of the sea. I sat out for hours gazing at the sea. Probably it was the enormity of the sea here that absorbed some of my pain during that phase.
Today when I look at this picture, I see a perfect frame of a beautiful world captured by a person in the most imperfect state of mind, fighting her inner demons.
This is the twelfth and last post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the previous eleven posts here.