Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Innovative ways of getting in and out of relationships

Sonia Sarkar

A few weeks ago, a friend conducted a poll on Twitter. The question: If you had to end a friendship, what would you do – ghost or drift or confront or write a letter? To this, 53 per cent said they would like to drift, 20 per cent went with the letter option, 11 per cent chose to confront and 16 per cent said they would prefer to ghost. Ghosting, according to the, is the practice of ending a personal relationship by suddenly and without explanation ceasing all communication. Usage. “I thought ghosting was a horrible dating habit reserved for casual flings.”

Having been ghosted at least once, I could not agree more with the above sentence. But ask the person who ghosts and he or she would say it’s the easiest thing to do. Stop taking calls, stop replying to text messages, mail, stop explaining what went wrong, no hints, just cut yourself off. Easy.

Ghosting is a 21st century dating phenomenon. Since a fair many relationships these days are born off dating apps such as Tinder, happn, OkCupid, where you select soulmates with a left swipe or right, a lot of time is spent knowing each other just virtually. So when things lose their zing, it’s easier to ghost by “blocking” the person.

But if you are nodding and thinking this is a college-goer or a 20-something problem, you couldn’t be more wrong. You could be ghosted by a man in his 30s or 40s – we’ll come to the women in due course. Someone whose profile descriptor reads “progressive and liberal”. He could be a professor who loves to discuss Marxism over a glass of Old Monk or an engineer who is a self-proclaimed poet or a documentary filmmaker who looks genuinely concerned about the rise of young Right-wingers in the country. Then, just when you start to get along, one fine day, he disappears. And you are left wondering why such a “progressive and liberal” man hesitated to tell you that it’s not happening and he would like to move on. After all, you do deserve to know where you went wrong. What’s more, you might also like to hold on to that tiny little skein of hope that he might come back.

A friend who is aware of the trend has a theory. She says even liberal men get intimidated by career-minded independent women and find it difficult to handle them. They know such women will ask for a reason for the break-up and they do not have a convincing reason to offer. Does that mean women don’t ghost at all? No, they do too. The friend reasons, “Sometimes women think informing the other about the decision might force them to stick around longer and get stuck in this unnecessary but unavoidable rigmarole of accusations, counter accusations and sorting out. That is why they choose to disappear.”

Ghosting isn’t an Indian phenomenon either. In 2012, the Journal of Research in Personality, an academic journal focussing on personality psychology and published by Dutch publishing house Elsevier, listed “avoiding/withdrawing from contact with your partner – like not answering texts or calls” as one of the top break-up strategies the world over. Internationally, psychologists say, these days, everyone wants ways for “easy in” and “easy out”. You are most likely to be ghosted the moment you dare to ask, “Where is this going?”

Of course, if you have been there and done this long enough, you will be able to tell a ghost early on – guys who are effusive in private but refuse to even hold hands in public or someone who never makes definite plans to get together.

And it’s not a way to exit “casual flings” alone. Many choose to end steady relationships by ghosting. A friend was ghosted by an ambitious professional she dated for barely three months. The man, however, reconnected with her on several occasions thereafter for work. He follows her on Twitter. Over the past few years, he has sought her help for business contacts, inputs, information on a fellowship she cracked, etc. But not a word on why he disappeared and never replied to her personal messages.

Was he a coward to have avoided a confrontation or smart to keep the professional equation intact, or simply shameless to even ask for help from a person he dumped without any explanation?

So is this breadcrumbing?  if you go by this blog (, “breadcrumbing is essentially exactly what it sounds like: Leaving little tiny fictitious crumbs for another person to latch on to, leading them on even when you’re basically over it.” The writer further adds, ” Unlike ghosting, breadcrumbing doesn’t end all communication. Instead, breadcrumbing is the deceptive practice of giving someone just enough to keep them interested, even when you’re not. Breadcrumbing keeps someone around at your liking, taking the form of a half-hearted Instagram “like” once every two weeks, or even a text once every few months.”

Perhaps, these men who ghost or breadcrump won’t know these terms but they should certainly know that what they do amounts to emotional abuse.
But then, chin up girls…I am sure, by now, you know whom to avoid on dating sites — The phone is aflutter with new notifications and to swipe is but reflex action. Cheers!
( A version of the story appeared in The Telegraph, India. This article is an edited version after being published in The Telegraph)

THE FINGERTIPS of the cobbler have turned yellow and pale. He must has been mending and polishing shoes for years, I assume. For me, the smell of polish and glue in his colourful boxes – black, brown and chocolate – brings a sense of identity and a sense of a home; a home which is not there anymore.

Standing on platform No. 1 of Dhanbad station, suddenly, this smell sparks a flurry of childhood memories – memories of several train journeys from Dhanbad to Calcutta, along with my parents and sister.

  • File photograph of a double decker train at Dhanbad

Black Diamond Express is usually on time. Even today, it leaves Dhanbad station at 4.25pm, as scheduled. As its wheels and piston gyrate over the rugged tracks, my mind begins to ooze nostalgia.

I recall how these five-hour-long train journeys led to endless conversations with my father about many things: the class-divide in our society, the need for civil resistance in a democracy, the roots of the Naxalbari movement in Bengal, many more such and similar things.

When we (my sister and I) were much younger, travelling with him would mean brushing up on general knowledge. Every time the train stopped at a station – Asansol, Andal, Durgapur – there was something new to learn about the place or its neighbourhood.

As a child I felt a certain sense of joy when the train arrived at Durgapur. Suddenly the black, dusty roads disappeared, an indication that we were leaving the coal belt and nearing Calcutta. I loved the fact that the next few days would be different – free of coal dust, potholes and incessant power cuts. We couldn’t imagine our life in Dhanbad without any of these evils though. Over a period of time, we even stopped complaining. In fact, we learnt to laugh at our own miseries like many others who lived in what was still Bihar.

  • File photograph of illegal coal loading in Black Diamond Express at Dhanbad Station

One may remember how the former chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad, coined a metaphor for bad roads that later entered the lexicon of political hyperbole. He said, “Bihar ke sadkon ko Hema Malini ke gaal ke tarah chikna bana denge (We will make Bihar’s roads as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks).”

Needless to mention, that never happened. Taking potshots at him, there was another joke that did the rounds. ” Sadke Hema Malini ke gaal ke tarah toh bani nahin, Om Puri ke gaal ke tarah ban gayi (The roads never became like Hema Malini’s cheeks but they certainly remind us of Om Puri’s cheeks.)” No offence to the late actor though!

Neither my parents nor I live in Dhanbad anymore but I must admit that the thought of potholes and coal dust makes me nostalgic today.

There is something else that is making me nostalgic now. It’s the smell of the scrumptious singara (samosa) served to a burly co-passenger by a vendor at Burdwan station. The man also asks a teaseller to pour him some tea. “Beshi chini nei toh (Hope there isn’t too much sugar in it),” he asks. The teaseller replies, ” Roj sokale morning walk korun (Go for morning walks every day)!” The man is at a loss of words. He probably never expected repartee like this.

While travelling alone, overhearing conversations of others makes a train journey interesting for sure.

If you are lucky, you may get to hear some interesting monologues too. Say for this one by a man trying to sell “air-conditioned” socks. He says, ” Apni hoyto bhabchhen ami bhaat bokchhi, kintu motei na… shei Black Diamond jakhon double decker chhilo, takhon theke ami jinish bikri korchhi (You may think I am talking gibberish but that’s not the case. I have a reputation of selling things on this train for many years, since when it had double decker coaches).”

Now the mention of double decker coaches reminds me of another eventful journey when I had lost my way to my seat. But of that, another day!

For now, it’s time to get off at Howrah with a fresh sense of longing for Dhanbad.

July 9, 2017. The Telegraph.



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A marriage bureau in Gujarat is facilitating gay marriages. What does this trend say about the future lives of homosexuals in India? Sonia Sarkar reports


  • AN EQUAL MUSIC: (Top)The Ahmedabad bureau has gay prince Manvendra Singh Gohil (below) as a counsellor

After years of dilly-dallying, Vishal, a marketing manager with a pharmaceutical company, decided to get married. The news far from pleased his parents. First, they threw a fit, then dragged him to a tantric. Next, his father brought home a female prostitute – for him.

“All this because I said I wanted to get married to a man,” says Vishal, who is from Mumbai but is currently settled in Ahmedabad.

When he couldn’t convince his parents, Vishal approached Arranged Gay Marriage (AGM), India’s first gay marriage bureau. A couple of interactions later the matchmakers there managed to get through to his parents. “They saw several videos on gay relationships on the Internet; they read about gay marriage on various websites; they sat through several counselling sessions to know how gay relationships work,” says Vishal. Once they were convinced, they started looking for a partner for him.

The search ended with Kartikey, a professor in a Mumbai college. “We are getting married in December,” says Vishal. Maitree Basu, who works for an IT firm in Bangalore, also met her partner Tanushree through the bureau. The two tied the knot last year.

Like Vishal and Maitree, over 23 other homosexuals – gays and lesbians – have found their partners through this Ahmedabad-based marriage bureau since it was founded a little over a year ago. To date, the bureau has facilitated four such marriages in India and 20 abroad. And its Facebook page is perennially flooded with queries.

Unlike Australia, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands and some states in the US, gay marriage is not legally recognised in India. In fact, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits it.

But legalities don’t seem to deter Urvi Shah, the 23-year-old owner of the bureau. “Gays and lesbians also have the right to live a normal life just as any heterosexual,” she says. “Everyone needs a life partner. Moreover, marriage reflects traditional Indian values.” Having said that, she is well aware that in India “coming out” is no easy task, forget deciding to get married. She feels strongly about the social exclusion and psychological distress homosexuals are subjected to and through the bureau offers counselling support to those who want to come out of the closet.

For homosexuals opting or wanting to get married, the idea is to publicly claim their societal space as a married person just as any married heterosexual person. Only last month, Manjit Kaur, a 30-year-old Punjab Police woman sub-inspector married another woman at Pucca Baugh, in Jalandhar, complete with Hindu rituals. Mumbai-based Gaurav Salve, a chartered accountant, married Jake, an American, last year. He says, “I am a religious person and I wanted to get married. For a man in India, getting married to a man was impossible.”

Manvendra Singh Gohil, the celebrity gay prince of Rajpipla in Gujarat, often counsels the clients of AGM. He asks, “When heterosexuals have the liberty to marry, why should gays be deprived of the same right?”

No reason, except that among other things it isn’t easy for homosexuals to find partners keen on a long-term relationship and commitment.

“Homosexual men do have a tendency to have multi-partner sex as their stable relationships are not recognised by society,” says gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi. “Our first baseline survey in Mumbai in 2000 showed that gay men had an average of 11 casual partners in a month. This figure has now come down to four and even this is reducing,” says Ashok who is chairman of the gay rights organisation, Humsafar Trust. He stresses that as society is getting used to same-sex couples, the chances of stable gay relationships are increasing.

In the meantime, however, the going continues to be tough for Urvi who runs the bureau out of Gujarat, the BJP-run state that supports criminalisation of gay sex. She will tell you it is considered “unethical for a Hindu girl to support homosexuals” and she is used to receiving random threats. Recently, an anonymous caller threatened her with acid attack.

On the home front, too, niggling worries abound. Her parents seem to have got past the initial worry about what people will make of such an initiative. But they cannot stop worrying about how it will impact Urvi’s own marital prospects. Perhaps they worry that no one will believe that she is herself of heterosexual orientation.

Urvi, however, is unbudging. Her steadfastness holds out hope to the homosexual community. Gaurav is thinking of adopting a child.

From counselling and facilitating same-sex marriages will AGM diversify into helping homosexual couples raise a family? It well might, once the trend they’ve floated settles in.

Returning to Bangladesh is like going away to find myself home


DHAKA IS a bit like Calcutta – noisy, chaotic. I connect the Bangladesh capital with traffic jams and those cage-like green auto-rickshaws that give new meaning to claustrophobia. But this time, as I leave the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport behind, on my way to Banani in the north of Dhaka, I cut through an eerie silence.

The city is a ghost town. The autos are missing, and there are no crippling gridlocks. A festival is around the corner, but there is little sign of the joyousness that comes with Eid.

Dhaka is observing a two-day national mourning to pay homage to those killed in a terror attack in an upmarket cafeteria. I land there three days after the attack that killed 20 people, most of them foreigners, in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone, Gulshan.

Chaos on the roads is a sign of normal life in Dhaka; calm indicates that not all is well. When I visited Dhaka for the first time in 2011, all was well: the city was loud and messy. I was on my way there from Jessore – and was surprised to see towering buildings, flyovers and glitzy malls in the capital. Jessore, on the other hand, was the archetypal sleepy town.

Jessore is an hour’s drive from Benapole, the Bangladesh border town which is commonly used as a crossover between Dhaka and Calcutta. I was there to chase a story on child carriers who illegally ferried sugar, urea, bicycles, cough syrups and even country-made pistols to Bangladesh from India.

Unlike Dhaka, there was no “rush hour” in Jessore. There were no newly-paved footpaths or highrises either. There was a time when Jessore had the biggest cinema hall of Bangladesh. But Monihar had been overtaken by multiplexes elsewhere. Jessore, however, now boasts of a technology park, multi-cuisine restaurants and malls.

It is also a treasure trove of heritage. The Jessore Institute Public Library, established in 1851, is Bangladesh’s oldest and largest library, with a huge collection of books, manuscripts, journals and newspapers. And you can’t go to Jessore and not see the massive sculpture called Bijoy, at the Michael Madhusudan Memorial College campus, dedicated to the martyrs of the Bangladesh War of Liberation of 1971.

Going to Jessore was like going home – albeit a home I had never visited. Jessore is the place my ancestors came from. For years, I held up the flag of “Opaar Bangla” and participated in various Bangal vs Ghoti debates, where I left no stone unturned to make the former look superior in every respect (knowledge, food, hospitality and much more) to the latter. So when I reached Jessore, it was like a dream come true – I was in the place that I belonged to. Like a true Bangal, I told myself, ” Aah, amago dash.”

My paternal grandfather, Adhir Kumar Sarkar, a timber merchant, lived in a sprawling two-storey house with long white columns, overlooking a thakur dalan (where the deity was kept for daily worship), in the erstwhile Khashial village in Jessore. Several acres of rice fields surrounded the house, we were told. Middle-aged Nakuruddin Mia used to look after the fields when grandfather shifted his base partially to Calcutta in the late 30s. Even though he visited Khashial at regular intervals, the visits during the Durga Puja were special for the family: gatherings, lunch, new clothes, entertainment, celebrations.

My efforts to locate Khashial were in vain. The village doesn’t exist anymore, I was told. But I traced my roots partially to the ancestral house of the Bengali poet and father of the Bengali sonnet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt. At his house-turned-museum in Sagordari, I came across a signboard of the Jessore and Khulna Co-operative Bank, which had an office in the complex. My grandfather was a member of the board. I felt like an achiever to have partially traced the past.

The spiral staircases of the house took me to the room on the first floor, whose walls were plastered with photographs of Dutt, his poems and even some of his answer scripts. At the entrance of his house was his epitaph, a verse of his own. A few days before his death on June 29, 1873, Dutt gave the verse to Debaki, who, some historians say, was romantically interested in him. It read:

“…On the bosom of the earth,

Enjoys the sweet eternal sleep

Poet Madhusudan of the Duttas.”

These words rang in my ears for days.

As I touch the soil of Bangladesh once again this June, I wonder how life would have been if my grandfather had chosen to stay back, like many other Bengali Hindu families. But the thought doesn’t stay with me for long as I quickly recall the words of a Hindu friend from Dhaka: ” Din kaal bhalo na, bujhla. Amra khub bhoye thaktesi” – these are not good times, we live in fear.

Indeed, attacks on Hindus – bloggers, priests and activists – by Islamic radicals are rampant in Bangladesh these days. The social fabric of Bangladesh is changing. Young men from elite families are joining terror outfits. The other sign of radicalisation is the use of veils by women. Hijab or burqa is not mandatory in Bangladesh, yet more and more women are wearing one these days. An old timer of Dhaka tells me, “Even some years ago, if a woman from the relatively conservative part of old Dhaka stepped out of her house in a burqa, the local urchins would tease her with the words ‘Burqe wali bua, tere burqe mein chuha’ (There is a mouse in your burqa, aunt).”

But I decide that for my grandfather’s sake, I will always celebrate Bangladesh. I leave for India after a special Eid meal at my friend’s place. The taste of the shorshe ilish – mustard hilsa – and maachch chorchori – a mix of various kinds of fish – stays with me long after I return home.



The fear of unnecessary cuts and the desire to have a natural and private delivery are prompting women to have their babies at home. Not surprisingly, this has led to a demand for trained midwives, says Sonia Sarkar
Three years ago, when 30-year-old Bincy Shibu Thomas of Cochin went into labour at 2am, she was not rushed to the hospital. Instead, she called a midwife home. The midwife delivered her second child, a baby girl, in the comfort of her own bedroom, with her husband and two-year-old daughter by her side.

“It was a happy and intimate experience,” says Thomas, a homemaker married to a software engineer. “It was so smooth that none in my building got to know that a child was born in my house,” she adds. Thomas opted for a midwifery-assisted birth again for her third child last year.

Kundo Yumnam, a 32-year-old Imphal-based entrepreneur, gave birth to a baby boy last December at home. “Lots of people had been scared of what was going on in the bedroom, not realising it was how birth happens naturally. Some still think I was crazy to have had my home birth without medical interventions, while others have changed their opinion and said that it was brave of me,” she says.

More and more women from middle- and upper-middle class families across India are reaching out to midwives because they say they want the process of childbirth to be natural and safe, and only midwives can ensure that.

“In a month, at least 10 women ask about midwifery-assisted home birth. Four years ago, there were just one or two inquiries,” says Manjari Kawde, a Mumbai-based gynaecologist and obstetrician who runs Beams Hospital.

Independent studies on childbirth second this. In her paper, Childbirth Narratives: Voices of Educated Urban Women, Subarna Ghosh, a researcher with Mumbai’s SNDT Women’s University, says five out of the nine women she interviewed for her paper had a midwifery-assisted birth. “Affluent women are engaging midwives who are trained abroad or have come from the West. They keep doctors only as a back-up option,” Ghosh says.
Kanika Aswani with her husband and child
The demand for midwives is also linked to the fact that hospital births are seen as impersonal. “Midwives do their work with love and care. Women need that most when they are birthing,” says Hyderabad-based practising midwife Vijaya Krishnan, a graduate of New Mexico’s National College of Midwifery. Krishnan’s role typically starts around the 12th week of a pregnancy and continues for six weeks after the birth. Charges vary between Rs 45,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh, depending on the city.

Many women prefer having their babies at home because hospitals are too public. “In the hospital everyone is watching me writhe in pain. At home, it was my own space. I felt safe, comfortable, not agonised,” says Mumbai-based reiki healer Kanika Aswani, who gave birth to a baby girl two years ago.

Couples also appreciate the fact that husbands have a more active role to play in midwifery-assisted births. “They massage and encourage their wives. They are aware of all their choices, pros and cons of any intervention, and can make effective decisions without getting into a flap,” says Thomas’s midwife Priyanka Idicula, a certified midwife and director of Birthvillage Natural Birthing Center, Cochin.

But in a country where babies were once mostly delivered by midwives, only a handful of them are trained and registered. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the density of nurses and midwives in India is 17 per 10,000 population, which is low compared to Finland’s 108 and Britain’s 88. The midwives available in large numbers are either traditional birth attendants (such as a dai) or those who have completed a two-year auxillary nurse and midwifery programme. They, however, are not equipped to play an active role in birthing and merely assist doctors.

Childbirth with the help of midwives has been popular among poorer people, but of late the government has been promoting institutional deliveries among them to check maternal mortality rates.

The ones in demand are those who have received advanced training. “Only some of us, who are adequately trained in midwifery, can handle cases holistically like our counterparts in countries such as Britain, New Zealand and the Netherlands which promote midwifery-assisted home birth,” says Lina Duncan, who runs Mumbai Midwife, a private midwifery practice.

These trained midwives, equipped to deal with issues such as vaginal bleeding, irregular movements of the baby, emotional disturbances and mental trauma of the mother during pregnancy, can administer emergency medication during birthing. They also provide check-ups, nutrition counselling and baby-care training later. Some provide services at home and a few run their own centres. There are also foreign nationals, trained as midwives, who deliver the services and often tie up with obstetricians, who support home births.

Another oft-quoted advantage of midwifery-assisted home birth is that midwives are on call 24×7, unlike doctors. Medically too, the benefits of midwifery assisted home birth are plenty. “Post-natal depression is lower among women who opt for home birth. Risk of infection among babies is lower too,” says Ruth Malik, founder of Birth India, a Mumbai-based NGO to promote safe childbirth practices.


Experts also feel that the new midwifery assisted birth options have empowered women to take a decision of their own, in child birth. “Traditionally, in India, even if the woman is educated, everyone else would decide for her, when she is pregnant. At least, home birth options are giving them a ‘better’ or ‘braver’ choice of child birth leading to their empowerment and satisfaction,” Ghosh adds.


One reason why pregnant women are opting for midwives is the increase in Caesarean (C-section) deliveries. Often, hard pressed doctors find it easier to deliver a C-section baby than wait for a natural birth to occur. Delhi-based Divya Deswal, who runs Birth Bonds, an NGO that provides childbirth support, believes that doctors also instil a sense of fear among expectant mothers.

“In most cases, mothers have been told there are problems with normal delivery, so they are forced to go for a Caesarean or an induced birth,” says Deswal, a doula and hypnobirth practitioner. Doula is the term for a birth companion and post-birth supporter, while hypnobirthing is a childbirth process that uses a combination of techniques – breathing methods, positive thoughts/language, deep relaxation and visualisation – to remove fear. A lot of women also opt for midwifery-assisted birth for their second child, because they want to forget their previous traumatic experience.

Thomas recalls how the doctor induced labour during her first pregnancy. She had to lie down for 12 hours before her child was born. “Before the delivery, an episiotomy (surgical cut at the opening of the vagina) was made. It was painful and the doctor never took our permission,” she says.

According to WHO guidelines, only 10-15 per cent of births in India require surgical intervention. Another WHO study that reviewed 1,10,000 births from nine countries in Asia, including India, in 2010 revealed that in hospitals where Caesarean births took place, more than 60 per cent was done for financial gains and not because surgery was required.

“Women being led to agree to Caesarean surgery on the basis of false information, like C-section is safer than vaginal birth or telling them their baby might die without the surgery when the baby is absolutely fine, is a violation of the human right to autonomy,” says Hermine Hayes-Klein, executive director, Hague-based Human Rights in Childbirth, an international NGO.

Gynaecologists, however, are not convinced that midwifery-assisted home birth is a feasible option in India. Renu Misra, a senior consultant at the Delhi-based Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, says such births are feasible in countries which have a community health service integrated with higher centres. “There, a woman can be transported to a hospital in no time if she develops a complication,” she says.

But women like Thomas are happy with their midwives. For them, the transition to motherhood is less scary and painful.


a shorter version of the story appeared in The Telegraph on June 26,2016.


Prakton made me realise a few things related to a man-woman relationship. A movie which didn’t really capture the correct image of an independent woman but could rightly portray a “modern” man, gave us a few lessons of life.

Here is my takeaway.


A man could be very progressive professionally but he could be absolutely traditional in his personal space. A man, may get attracted to you, because you are independent and forthright but he would still like to be domineering. He would be proud of your “achievements” ( it’s a disputed word though) but he would be uncomfortable if you are praised a little too often.

So never try to adjust with a wrong person. Understand the early signals and move on. It will hurt you a lot, sometimes, for next few years (if you are extremely sensitive person and slow to changes) but you will torture yourself if you linger on.

After many years, he might tell you that you still occupy a part of his mind but he would not like to be with you for all the qualities that you have.

He would choose to be with a “not-so complicated” woman because this gives him more peace.There is no questioning. There are no arguements. Since his word is the last word, there is absolute peace.

But this movie also tells you to respect the fact that some women, amongst us, believe in sacrificing and compromising because that’s where they find happiness.Don’t look down upon them because their larger goal is also to be at peace. You may not approve of their ways of seeking peace.

A movie, sometimes, helps one understand the complexities of life.


I thought of writing this blog several times earlier. Every time, I collected my thoughts, I made an excuse not to pen them down. Strangely though, this perpetual desire to delay, perhaps, came from my unjustified fear that I might have to go through the pain once again.

But today, I forced myself to write it. I felt an internal push to flush out all fears and apprehensions that I have developed in the past two years. It is certainly cathartic.

In fact, a piece written by one of my ex-colleagues on her ailing mother, in a way, inspired me to start writing it. In that blog, she mentioned, how her mother cannot recognise anyone after she met with an accident some months back. After reading it, I was reassured that life is all about sudden changes and we should gracefully accept them. And we are not the only ones dealing with it.

The other thing that inspired me to write this blog is the film, Piku, which, I thought, is based on a father-daughter relationship (For me, it was not just about constipation of an aging man but something more). I watched it with Baba and both of us could relate to the main characters – Bhashkor and Piku.

Both of us enjoyed the nuances of the relationship. I could see Baba smiling and laughing, every now and then. Sometimes, he cross-checked the names of the actors with me. He looked very involved in it.

These days, very few things amuse Baba. So when we see him smiling, we feel relieved that he is happy. We keep a constant watch on his expressions because he doesn’t articulate his feelings as immaculately as before.

Yes, all four of us – my father, mother, sister and I- live a life, which is clearly demarcated into two phases – before and after. The event which divided our lives into two separate phases is my father’s cerebral stroke on April 3, 2013. The stroke paralysed his right side. It robbed him of his speech too.

But after rigorous sessions of physiotherapy and speech therapy, he is now able to walk with the help of a stick and he has regained his speech, to a certain extent. But his comprehension skills have been badly affected which delays his speech. Sometimes, he fumbles. He takes a little longer than usual to gather his thoughts before he can speak.

But this has been a long, very long journey for him. When he came home after spending 17 days in the hospital, he was no less than a little baby, who had to learn everything afresh. He was nose fed for a week before he could start eating through his mouth. After many months, he learnt to eat on his own, using his left hand. He learnt to pronounce words and speak in sentences. Initially, it was very difficult to understand what he wanted to say. We repeatedly failed at our job but he never gave up. Now, we don’t make guesses anymore. He is coherent and clear in his speech. He also learnt to write with his left hand but surprisingly, his handwriting remains as artistic as before.

These days, his job is to write short sentences and essays to let his thoughts flow. As part of his therapy, he makes small additions and subtractions too. I am proud to see his diligence and sincerity in doing his homework. His honesty and hard work remain the same as it used to be before, when he ran a fire bricks factory as a works manager on the outskirts of the mining town, Dhanbad in Jharkhand for more than three decades.

In these two years, there have been many ups and downs. Some days, he would walk well but then, there would be phases, when his pace would slow down. He would sink into bouts of depression, when he would refuse to speak and would gradually forget basic words of communication.

Every time, the pace of progress is lost; there has been a whole new process of starting things afresh. But if we cajole him to keep trying, he makes an effort to overcome these hurdles. He, truly, has the spirit of a fighter.

For the past two years, many have questioned his abilities to cope with physical deformities. It is difficult to convince people that he is doing enough to live a normal life but it’s not easy for a stroke patient to recover fully. Only a few understand that his journey from the hospital ventilator two years back, where he was lying like a vegetable, to a casual evening in a nearby theatre today, has not been easy. He is not suffering but he is struggling. He is struggling to live a “normal” life.

On many occasions, I have asked myself, why does my father have to go through all this? Why a stroke? Is stroke worse than cancer? I must confess that there have  also been occasions, when I have secretly envied acquaintances whose parents are hale and hearty and can move around alone.

That’s when I also remembered what my father always said, ‘you are better off than many, in many ways.’ After reading my ex-colleague’s piece on her mother, I am clearly convinced that we are better off than many.

People who know my father well remember him for his sense of humour, which is laced with sarcasm. He is a man with immense knowledge about practicalities of life. He is an intelligent man who has made the most of his resources.

As his child, I have always been in awe of  his spontaneous thinking. Whether it is making protective gear with unused welder’s glasses for us to watch the solar eclipse or covering the damp walls of my room with Rajasthani paintings in Delhi’s Outram Lines, he always thought on his feet. Even now, when his brain functions only partially, he has surprised us by thinking on his feet, more than often.
Whenever I try to remember our lives before Baba’s stroke, I feel, as if, I am talking about some past life. It feels a little distant because a lot has changed in these two years.

But it’s my mother, whose life has certainly changed in a big way in this period of two years. A homemaker, who preferred to spend most of her afternoons reading Bengali novels and watching television, she was oblivious to the world’s various games. But now, she has stepped up in a much bigger way than we could imagine. Someone who needed guidance in her bank proceedings or to book a taxi is now handling everything all by herself. She always looked up to Baba for every big or small advice but now she has only her own judgement and wits to rely upon. Not like Baba can’t help her decide but these days, Baba chooses to be nonchalant about worldly matters. Sometimes, it is difficult to cope with his insouciance.

Earlier, Baba used to call the shots on every occasion but now his interest lies only in deciding what time he will go for a walk or what snack he would like to munch in the evening. (He insists that he should be fed  “phuchka” every day but his demand is difficult to meet with).

But as a daughter, I celebrate my association with him for a lot of things. I love the way he has lived his life on his own terms and conditions. He has never toed the line. He has never taken the easier road. He has always taken a stand. Perhaps, it is his rebellious nature that pushed him to participate in the uprising in Bengal in the 70s.(Many young men in Bengal in the 70s were part of the movement).

Since childhood, I have heard many stories from my grandmother and Aunts about how he had to be away from home, for months. Once, he came to our north Calcutta house to see my grandmother. The cops got to know about his whereabouts and chased him. He would have been shot dead if a neighbour hadn’t helped him jump off the boundary wall of the colony and flee.

Every time, I have heard these stories, I basked in the glory of my father’s “not so glorious” past. I developed a sense of pride to be the daughter of this rebel. I have shared these stories with people I trust.

Baba is well versed with Mao Tse Tung’s The Little Red Book and Lenin’s ‘What is to be Done?. Baba deeply believes that it is important to challenge the establishment. He has always been a great supporter of the masses. An avid follower of the Leftist ideology, he strongly believes that there will be a resurgence of the Left.

It is some of these ideologies that make him different from others. But let me also confess, as a child, I felt deprived because he didn’t behave like any other father. For example, when our school bus would break down, he would come to school, on his motorbike, to check why his kids haven’t reached home yet but would not take them along with him. Instead, he would go to the BCCL (Bharat Coking Coal Limited) office and ask them to send another vehicle to fetch all kids from school. (Just a backgrounder, most school children in Dhanbad used to commute in buses provided by the BCCL).

That was in the late 80s. In the early 90s, when he graduated into a four wheeler, in similar occasions, he would invite other kids of the neighbourood to come with us in the vehicle to ensure they don’t feel deprived.

When we used to visit Calcutta during vacations, I remember, my father used to buy clothes for all our paternal cousins. For him, every child (we are seven of us in the joint family) held equal space in his heart as his daughters, sometimes even more. He always felt indebted to his brothers who took care of him after his father passed away. He was only 11 then.

All his life, he accumulated memories. But these days, he tends to lose them, bit by bit.

My father is the salt of the earth. Just like before, he will be the first person to offer help to anyone. Since his mobility is restricted these days, he expects us to execute duties which he would have done earlier.

In these two years, I have seen an ebullient man slowly turning silent. I have seen a workaholic, forced to be confined to home. But I am happy that certain things that make him special such as his temper (I inherited it from him), his straightforwardness and his ever-forgiving heart (which my sister has inherited) remain with him.

He loves people unconditionally just as before. Till today, he is a big fan of women who make it big. He continues to be a liberal thinker. He would always encourage his daughters to fight for their rights. He would want young women to make a career before focusing on marriage. He would advice us to work for our own satisfaction and not for money. (He followed this principle all his life.) He is the same man who would prefer to wear a shirt worth Rs 50 if that fits him well. He still abhors branded clothes.

He continues to remain someone who we can fall back upon. But yes, sometimes, he responds, sometimes, he doesn’t.

But even now, he continues to be my confession box. When I complain to him about a frustrating day at work, he says, “Take it easy.” When I confide in him that I have been drinking a little too often, he says, “Be careful. Don’t make it a habit.” When I tell him, I am dating someone, he curiously asks, “Are things  serious?”

I realise, the more he changed, the more he has remained the same.

There is something else that remains unchanged. It is his love for music. He starts his day, listening to his favourite singers – Begum Akhtar. Manna De. Shyamal Mitra and Geeta Dutt. Even today, he flawlessly sings his favourite Shyamal Mitra number, ‘Na na na jaabo na, mono jete naahi chaaye.Ei shundor prithibi chhere..mono jete naahi chaaye.” (No, I won’t leave now. I don’t want to leave this wonderful world, now )