Thank God, it was my birthday on the 24th of September. So many people called me up to wish me well. It was then that I realized how long I have not bothered to find out about people around me to who I mattered. Mother’s older sister’s was the first call in the morning; I call her Bachi. We talk regularly but on matters of mutual interest but on the occasion of my birthday it was she who did the talking and the listening. Bachi is troubled for a long time by illness of her older in-laws and to watch the senile decay progressively into states of vegetation has been not pleasant atll. I realized that in all those regular phone calls to her, though I asked her about her own health, I never did inquire about her homestead. Phone calls came from parents, brother and his wife and prayers went out of my soul, God, please protect my family. Kaki called up next and since I am not so frequently in touch with her, I did not know that she had in the meanwhile lost her only younger brother. She used to be forever worried of this brother, disapproved of his indolent ways but I never sensed that neither her parents nor her husband was really her world, this brother who she called as lazy and wayward was actually her Universe.
A cousin called up next, she is suffering from a degenerative eye disease and we have been in touch, but this morning she discussed my niece. Unnoticed by me, my niece has grown into a discerning adult, a tough college goer who knew her ways about in the world. Her friends had just let her down and yet she seemed calm and collected. I admit I would have reacted violently to such betrayals but she seemed unfazed.
Ilinapishi called to wish me a happy birthday; so long it was her daughter who did this chore. She died young out of an undiagnosed disease and how it must have pained Ilinapishi to have wished me on a day which is so close to her own daughter’s birthday. I saw Ilinapishi in a new light, a true Brahmo spirit, a soul that calmly surrenders to the Divine Will.
Phone calls came from Jethima in Chennai; please come down and visit me on my birthday in October, will you, she requested. She had never made such a request to me earlier; yes, I sat down on the Internet and bought a ticket. Tulupishi called me up and this was the first time that my pishemoshai was no longer around to wish me. I had a sudden feeling that slowly the people to wish me on my birthday are reducing and hence I savoured each phone call and every wish that came my way. Neela was chirpy as usual and a tad disappointed to learn that this time there would be no eating because I am convalescing from a bout of bad food poisoning.
Friends called and surprisingly each time there was news; Milind’s plot in Lucknow is now ready for construction, Ranjita’s maid has strangely disappeared, most probably abducted by her own male relatives; Ratri is suffering from chronic facebook depression, Sutapaboudi and Titli finally found the market in Amar Colony and were struggling with a design of a console table, Runa decided that I needed to carry only chips for the potlatch dinner. Himadri’s was a welcome phone call and never before now that I realize what a powerful film scholar he is beneath his professional veneer of being a modern historian. Roma’s mother not doing too well and needs to be escorted constantly, Madhuleena was feeling much better and Anu Sengupa’s daughter was now posted to Mumbai. Giri had called up the day before and I realized that I should call her up oftener than I do. Madhusree’s parents called up in the evening to wish me well. I exchanged valuable notes on my irritable bowel syndrome with her because both of us suffer from the same problem. I valued the fact that it is better to beat the disease early in its onset rather than allow for natural healing. Busydey, a fellow Libran discussed a bit of astrology on how the year would pan out in front of us and for the first time in my life I prayed for status quo; thankful to heavens that things are no worse. Monica called up later to remind me of a treat of a Bengali lunch which I promised to her but seemed to have forgotten all about.
Conversations over time become routinized, topics get standardized and perhaps I dominate all conversations with my friends and relatives mistaking mere vocal responses to my queries as being genuine dialogues. May be I was talking at my people because on a special day as my birthday when I have nothing to say and accept all that is being said, people, allowed space and time in my ears pour out a bit of themselves. This is why I rediscovered so many of them in brand new perceptions. I enjoy gifts especially if they are from Life itself. I think that the bouquet of new aspects in the familiar was my special gift for this birthday. Truly as the tarot had predicted for me, this birthday there will be a gift of the new message.
I missed several calls; I could return some but had to let others go; I will catch them in the course of today, the day after my birthday.
I got many wishes on my Facebook and I always take time out to reply each of my wishes. People take so much trouble to wish me perhaps the first thing in the morning and I think that it is being sinful not to spare adequate time on savouring these good wishes.