Friday, 9 May 2014


When one Mr. Gangopadhyay got to know that his would be son in law’s father was in the West Bengal Police Services, his eyebrows took an inverted U-turn. After all, ‘Judgmental’ is a Bengali’s second name. He asked me if I had met the father of the groom. I said, I did.

I had just appeared for my Higher Secondary boards then. The boyfriend introduced me to his father. I was tensed and perhaps spoke a little more than what was required. (Yes, I talk more when I am tensed, sad, happy, angry….okay okay, I generally talk slightly more than the rest of the world. So?). When I left their place, he told his son, “Meyeta kharap na. Kintu khub beshi kotha bole”. (She is otherwise okay, but too talkative for comfort). The son handed over the report card to me and I could see my heart break into two halves, the insides being churned, chili flakes and onion being sprinkled and an omelet being made out of it on a frying pan. : (

I sent him a note a few days before our wedding day. “I don’t think you like me because I talked a lot on the first day. But I was a kid then. I hope that the first impression won’t have an effect on the lifelong engagement we two are about to begin.” In response, a five-page letter (big sheets) arrived which referred to me as “Paramadorer Parama” and by the time I finished reading, the fears turned tears and my doubts turned Dr. Hajra…….Vanish!

When my father met him for the first time, he came home and told me, “He should have been a writer. He talks like a poet”.  The marriage happened smoothly thereafter.

Strangely, we came a long way. Our relationship elevated from ’formal, all-smiles’ to ‘brutally scold each other and protect each other with all our might, as the case may be’ status. I am happy we took time to love each other. Because, I have begun to believe that relationships that happen in a jiffy, take no time to crumble.
Last year, my father and I were going to Shantiniketan for a day-trip. My mother wasn’t in town. My father in law packed food for the road trip. Yes, he is strangely and uncannily caring. ‘Tiffin’ cakes, chocolate biscuits, cookies, shondesh and Frooti (small tetra pack with a white straw). I was very happy.

After having finished off most of the things, I found, lying at the bottom of the jute bag, a handful of Hajmola candies, Chocolate éclairs, Parle orange lozenges and Fatafat. My heart skipped a beat and my throat gulped a tiny lump. I realised for the umpteenth time that the phrase “Daddy’s little girl” was not meant for biological fathers alone.
This year’s picnic had prawns on the menu. I am allergic to them. While everyone was busy making prawn-hillocks on their plates, I was controlling the flow of saliva which could, at any given moment put Niagara Falls to shame. Baba called me, handed over a strip of Avil 250. “Gulp this quickly and go ahead.”

‘Why are you carrying Avil to a picnic????’ I was startled.

He flashed a smile. A smile roughly translated would mean, “I knew the menu. And, I know my greedy daughter”.

I will remember the smile for an entire life time. There was unfathomable love in that one simple gesture and it was a reason enough to love him forever. (PS: He flashes the same smile every time the Vodafone Roaming Bill ad comes on TV. :/)
~ Hello, Baba?
He: Hyan Ma.
This unfailing response is one of the best in the world.
Drink water after consuming a piece of aamloki (Indian gooseberry). You will know the feeling.
In the midst of all the sunshine, we share cumulonimbus moments as well. He scolds me ruthlessly when the situation demands and he is so irritatingly accurate in judging me that it leaves me almost speechless. We have our stark differences as well. (I saw admiration in his eyes for Swastika Mukherjee’s character/performance in Jatishwar. I ultimately overlooked, considering the fact that it is a genetic problem among males in his family when they see Swastika. *deep breath*)
While I can go on and on with these asterix-lined paragraphs narrating the little stories of our lives, I decide to refrain. This post is not about how I turned Tulsi Virani or how he turned “Biswas-e melay Chhobi, Sanyal-e Pahari”. This is something about Baba which makes his daughter in law his greatest fan ever. Baba records everything in his life with utmost precision. He is the epitome of “you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool me”. His diaries from time immemorial are impeccable records of everything everything everything.

A few days back, I finished reading all of them. He not only allowed me to read them but also read out to me a few pages himself. Fathers and daughters have strange ways of bonding.

Well, it was soul stirring, to put it very mildly. And, I am tempted to share snapshots of the less-personal ones with you.

He has a detailed record of all the books he has read. Trust me, the six-seven fat leatherette diaries can put our Goodreads reading challenge to shame. The basic list contains names of the books he has read, name of the author, the date when he started reading it (and in most cases the year it was first published) and lastly, the ‘grade’ (ranging from A+ to C-). At the end of each diary, he mentions BF/Balance Forward and carries forward the ‘profits’ to the next year.

A more specific version of this record is a diary where he maintains, in columns, different years in which he has read the same book. Each year would have a different marking. Let me give you a hypothetical example.
Devdas ~ Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
1963 – A
1982 – B-
1997 – C+

He also has Author-wise lists in big fat diaries. In Baba’s ‘Literary Fests’, the 153 year old is an unchallenged chief guest. These lists have five columns. Name of the book, Publisher, the number of pages each contains, price of the book and the day he bought/received it. Can any list be more detailed? :D

(click to view a larger image)

Now that Baba has his own library, he has separate diaries for enumerating his collection. These lists are very basic. Name of the book, author and year of acquisition. Simple.

And what fun it is when you discover that you know some of the authors personally! :D
The man is equally passionate about the reel world. In his teens, he did not maintain a diary. So there were loose sheets. These lists have the following: Date of watching the movie, Name of the movie, Actors, Venue and people he watched it with. The venue ranges from “Dutter Mathh” (a public park where huge white clothes were used as projection screens and people would sit on the grass and enjoy the film) to multiplexes.

I keep on telling Joydeep, “I can’t believe that you are HIS son! What happened to his good genes?”  While flipping through his diaries I gulped back all those words. There are several days when he has watched four to five movies in a day!  He had told me that for Uttam-Suchitra movies, he and his childhood friend would book the first show in Basusree, watch it, run to Ujjala, watch the matinee show there, come back to Basusree for the evening show and call it a day with the night show at Ujjala again. Two movies, twice a day. Phew!!! Yes, good genes are adequately passed on to the two sons….

(He has seen Paapi Guriya [Serial No.80] as well! I always thought it was porn shown in cinemas like Prodip in Tollygunge)

He maintains his “Films I have watched” diaries like an accountant! Bengali (B), Hindi (H), Others (O), Grand Total. :D

Click for a larger image
On Poila Boisakh, I found stacks of Ruled Registers in College Street for sale. It reminded me of school, our Attendance Registers, Ma’s mark book and my father-in-law’s Sidhhu Jyatha records. Baba’s collection of newspaper clippings accumulated over the years is a treasure trove and makes him a quintessence of knowledge about everything under the sun. Books, music, theatre, politics, cinema, history, famous personalities, places, plants….name one and he has an answer to it. The best part about asking anything to Baba is, he not only gives you the correct answer, but also adds all the trivia connected with it. “Baba, which Rabi Thakur’s poem is this line from?” He will tell you the name of the poem, the year it was written, the particular volume of Sanchayita it belongs to and a few anecdotes as free gifts. Same applies to songs….Rabindrasangeet, Atul Prasad, Rajanikanta, D.L Ray to Kabir Suman, A. R. Rahman, Pritam et all. “Barir youtube”, my colleague called him.    

     (Yes, I have personal and biased reasons for putting this particular page. The newspaper cutting on the extreme left was written by yours truly's biological father)

  (And my father in law has his personal and biased reasons for putting this particular page. The advertisement on the newspaper cutting was made by his younger son)

While reading his diaries and books, I found incense stick-covers made into book marks. The smell of lavender, patchouli, jasmine, sandal and ylang ylang guarded by pages on both sides. Scented memories of a very special man….

Women often compare their husbands to their fathers. “You can never be like my dad!”, they say. I get tempted to say the same, every time JD calls my father Lalmohan Ganguly on account of the apparent similarities of their physical traits. But I refrain. He doesn’t need to be like my Dad. He has his fair share of good genes from the man I wrote about.

There are certain books in the book shelf which you don’t read for days. You just know that they are there.

Those same books are the first you pull out when you are standing at a crossroad of blind alleys.

Geetobitan is one such book. 
Baba is one such man.