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Babai, the man who introduced me to Bollywood

Posted on: September 30, 2015

Often, people ask me how I became a Bollywood addict. I tell them, “Blame it on my uncle. He made me one.”

Yes, it was Babai (my paternal uncle) who made me a Bollywood addict. It was Babai who turned our living room into a mini theatre twice a day, once in the afternoon and again, in the evening. Those days, video cassettes were available on rent. We watched almost every release (barring the third grade ones, of course). It didn’t matter to us if it was a hit or a flop.

At home, he had a collection of his own too. I remember watching some of the Bollywood flicks like Mother India, Sagar, Mr Natwarlal, Do Anjane and Silsila umpteen number of times. But as a kid, I enjoyed watching Lehren (the Bollywood video magazine), the most. It gave us a sneak peek into the high profile Bollywood parties. I vividly remember, one of the Lehren videos brought us exclusive images of a Bollywood party hosted by the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. That was the first time, I heard the name, Dawood Ibrahim. Bollywood actors, Mehmood and Govinda were spotted in that party, I remember.

Slowly, Bollywood became an integral part of our life. We grew up in Dhanbad and it was a ritual for us to visit Calcutta once in four months. When everyone else at home would eagerly enquire about our studies, Babai would ask us about the new releases that we would like to watch during our stay in the city.

My father introduced us to Geeta Dutt, Manna De, Salil Chowdhury and Shyamal Mitra but it was Babai who introduced us to the romantic R.D.Burman and Bappi Lahiri. Thanks to Babai, at a very young age, I was convinced that Bollywood music is a must for a colourful and musical life. But listening to Bollywood songs was not enough.He would also encourage us to copy Bollywood dance steps, flawlessly. He loved dancing. And he loved the company of people, who had a good sense of rhythm and beat.

In various house parties, the floor would be open for the kids to dance till they dropped. The evenings would start with performances to melodious Rabindra Sangeet and would conclude with foot- tapping Bappi da numbers like ‘jawani jaane man’ and ‘Koi yahan…’ He used to be the first one to hit the floor, always. And I was the last one to leave it!

Besides Bollywood, he also introduced us to the world of cinema. We spent many evenings watching classics like Ben-Hur, The Birds, The Great Dictator and many more at our north Calcutta home. It was a retreat for us.

But that’s not all. He was our guide to Calcutta, the City of Joy. Because of him, Calcutta appeared to be a dreamland for us.

It was Babai, who introduced us to Calcutta’s China Town, Fancy market, Burrabazar! A foodie himself, he loved taking the entire family (17 of us, then) out for dinner. It was also Babai, who introduced us to the exotic snacks of Calcutta such as Mochar chop, Kankroler Chop, Kobiraaji and Fish Orly.

When others in the family would put “rules” in place for the kids, he would give us full liberty to do whatever we wanted. But he knew how to control us when we crossed the line. If he called out to us sternly in his deep baritone, it was enough for us to rush for cover.

But he would never let us mix work and play. A very hardworking person himself, he always wanted the kids to work hard because he knew nothing comes easy in life. I remember, when I showed him my first bylined story in The Hindustan Times, way back in 2003, he shot back, “Show me your name in the paper. I am more interested in seeing your name than your story.” He was extremely happy to know that I got a job in Delhi. It was a sense of accomplishment for him to see me taking baby steps to self-reliance. Besides that, Delhi was very close to his heart (unlike my father, who has never liked Delhi). He loved Delhi and the various getaways it offered.

He strongly believed in the philosophy of trial and error and never gave in to any crisis in life. It was his sheepish smile, child-like laughter and teenager-like enthusiasm to live life to the fullest that made him so unique and adorable.

He was a die-hard dog lover. Every dog, my brother brought home invariably got attached to Babai. There was an inherent connect that every pet enjoyed with him. In fact, I had often caught him striking a conversation with Buzo, the black Labrador, we had at home. Whenever Babai spoke with him, Buzo responded by wagging his tail incessantly.

Babai was gregarious. He had a good sense of humour. He was a live wire. Also, he was the only one in the family, who had the capacity to bind everyone together.

He celebrated life every day. He loved to have people around and people immensely enjoyed loved his company too. He was the ever-enthusiastic Shyamal-da for his friends. He was the farsighted Mej-da for his younger siblings. He was the indulgent Maamu, Olu and Bhu-mamai for his nephews and nieces.

He passed away on this day ten years back but I strongly feel, he is around, watching us learning from our trials and errors in life.

Some people never go away…IMG_8786 (1)

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