By Lawyer Asad
In everyone's life there's a man or woman who contributes an important role in that person's life.
In my life it was my grandmother. She was a fragile and tiny figured woman still when time came she could be the most strongest woman I've ever seen.
Before I start talking about my grandmother, whom I used to call as "Dadi Maa", let me give you a glimpse of our family and its back ground.
Both my grand parents belonged to the families of landlords with huge landed properties and spacious buildings. However, when my father was only 11 years old, my grandfather died at the very young age of 42. According to the Mohamedan law of inheritance the grandson is not entitled to inherit the propery of his grandfather. So my father was not given any property wheh his grand father died.
My grandmother, a very young widow with one son and two daughter, the youngest one being only six months old at the time, came to the house of her father. My grandmother's father was a very kind hearted man and he has given a building and sufficient landed property to her daughter so that it becomes easy for her to maintain her children.
My grandmother had settled in the house of her father. She had given her two daughters into marriage and later her son, my father also.
My father was 25 years old when he was married and my mother was 15 or 16 at the time.
I'm the eldest son of my parents. We're seven brothers and three sisters.
We lived in the building with five rooms, kitchen, etc which belonged to my grandmother.
It so happened that when I was barely six months old my grandmother took charge of me. She used to feed me and take care of me in every aspect.
My Dadi Maa was a very kind hearted woman and she has taught me some very valuable lessons of life. It'd be quite injustice if I don't mention about another man in my life. He's not our relative nor in anyway related to our family. A resident of Swarup Nagar, in the then 24 Parganas he came to our town Burdwan for work and stayed in our house as a paying guest. Later he became more than a family member and used to call my Dadi Maa as sister. We called him as "Mota Dada" or Fat Grandfather for his stout figure, though his real name was Atiar Rahman.
My Dadi Maa and Mota Dada were my mentors and they've moulded my life as what I am today.
Now lets come back to the subject of my Dadi Maa. She was an idol of patience and whatever naughtiness I used to do in the household she'd not lose her temper.
But when in the summer I used to swim in the nearby stream and won't come out of the water even after an hour or more she'd be furious. Standing at the bank of the stream she'd ask me to come out. And I as usual posed that I couldn't hear her so she would pick up pebbles, the big ones, and throw them in my direction to scare me. Though those objects never hit me still out of the fear I'd come out and run towards home. As it might be dangerous for me to go her vicinity when she was not in her good mood.
My Dadi Maa had a never ending stock of fairy tales and she'd tell one at every night to put me to sleep. Her style of story telling was so vivid that she had drawn a picture in my mind and I'd dream those fairy tale character in my sleep.
My Dadi Maa practised the principles in her own life to teach me. The poors and the less privileged people of the village would approach to her at anytime for help and she'd always obliged them smilingly.
It so happened once, we were ready to have our lunch then someone approached and told her he's starving with his family. My Dadi Maa instantly gave him all our foods. Mota Dada was irritated and asked why you've done so?
The reply which Dadi Maa had given is still rings in my ears. She told, we can cook our lunch again to have our lunch but where that man would go?
This was my Dadi Maa.
I was the most cause of concern for her with all my childish feats.
My maternal grandfather (mother's father) was a very skilled watchsmith and on Sundays when his shop was closed then he visited our home.
Oh sorry! I've forgotten to share a little secret of my Dadi Maa with you. She used to smoke hand made cigars, which we locally call "Beedi". She herself made her own Beedis from the tobacco and leaves bought by my father. She'd openly smoke at the household but she won't smoke before unknown persons or specially before my maternal grandfather.
Most of the Sunday afternoon these two would sit together and talked. I'd be at the vicinity and often tagged the Saree of my Dadi Maa and asked if she wants to smoke Beedi. She felt embarassed and showed me eyes with the gesture not to speak about it.
But I was a real dumbo and without asking her any further would bring the small tin container where she stored her Beedis. This was too much for her and she'd show me a stick to take it away. I know I was a less human being and more a donkey at that stage of my life, who won't understand the gentle language but knows what might happen when a stick is weilded to it.
The real scene started after my maternal grandfather left.
She'd get hold of me and started beating and started saying that whenever I request you to bring my "Dibba"(the tin container, small and round shape) when I feel like smoking but you never bring it to me. But when I don't even ask for it in the presence of my "Sumdhi"(or Beyai) (its a relation which is built between the son's parents and the daughter's parents after marriage of the both) then you bring it to make me feel embarassed.
After few beatings I agreed that this kind of mistakes won't be repeated again. But next Sunday was a long time and when the next Sunday afternoon had arrived then it was repeated again!
Lastly, she had found a solution. She'd entrust her "Dibba" with my mother and knew that I won't be able to take it from her.
My grandmother at a regular interval visited her daughters and obviously I was included in her chattel.
First we'd go to Panagarh (48 kms away from our home) by Bus to meet her youngest daughter. After spending there few days we'd start for the home of her elder daughter. Panagarh was my favourite place because of my cousin Salim. He was only 21 days younger to me and was a deaf and dumb from birth. But his physical inabilities never stood in our way to have our fun. Only I could understand his sign languages. They lived in a village named Kanksha and Panagarh was just 1 km away. A small town known for its Army base. And a Cinema Hall. Kavita Talkies. Which fascinated both of us. So we made our adventures to that Cinema Hall for seeing the movies. In the wired campus of Army there was a Cinema Hall too for the Army and their families.
Public could also enter in it but after six in the evening the gates were locked. We've been there once too but couldn't enjoy the movie with the worry if the gate is closed then how would we return and about other consequences.
Salim's father, my uncle, and his brother were cloth merchents. They would visit the weekly market to sell their clothes. On Sunday and Thursday it was their own village market. On Monday and Friday it was at Sagarbhanga, Durgapur (near Durgapur Railway station). On Wednesday and Saturday it was at Randiah, which was near the Damodar river.
Tuesdays were off for going to Howrah wholesalers market for purchasing stocks.
I'd go with them in all the three places and at Howrah too.
Now lets come back to our journey to my elder Aunt's home.
Distance between the houses of two Aunts were about 15 kms. We had to go all this way on foot because there was no transport.
But the journey was worth walking.
At the early dawn, about 4 AM, Dadi Maa and I would start walking towards South. First we crossed the Grand Trunk Road (G.T.Road) then took a branch road which had lead us to the Railways level crossing adjascent to Panagarh Station. Walking further was Kabita Talkies at the left. After walking past the Cinema Hall the actual thrill of the journey unfolded. The road was earthen and red in colour. On both the sides of the road were date fruit trees. During October-November there was light mist at that hour to make everything look like frosted. The people who collected juices from those Date Fruit trees for manufacturing mollasses and sweet condiments had climbed upon those trees with an earthen pot or small earthen vessel hanging from a hook from their waist. They'd collect the filled on pot and replace it with the empty one. There were scores of those farmers hanging from the trees. It was a scene to behold. I can still see it in my mind's eye. During rainy season the scenario was different. There were drains on both the sides of that earthen road which used to over flow with water. The fields were green everywhere from the paddy plantation.
The Damodar Valley Corporation had built a gigantic canal for irrigation of the lands and the main canal was in this road. Almost 100 ft high from the ground level and the banks looked like hills. Beneath it were the lock-gates and other things.
Crossing all the way we now entered into the final phase of our journey. And it was the best of all.
We had to cover the Damodar river on foot and on boats during monsoon season.
The river bed was littered with shells of various sizes and shapes. Those attracted me much. I filled my pockets with those to take back home. These shells were my prized possessions over my siblings who had no opportunity to see the river or to pick up few.
The river water was divided in two streams. The first one had chemical mixed with water which flowed from the Durgapur Steel Plant. It was pollution. Then came the main stream. Clear water and the bottom of the river could be seen. Traders, milkmen and others would cross the river on foot. And we two just followed their trails to reach the other side.
After reaching the other side of the river we took a break. My youngest Aunty would pack some "Moori" or puffed rice for taking on our way. And there was a shop on the bank of the river which sold deep fried salty cookies. It was perhaps the most delicious snack I've ever tasted. The "Moori & Jhal Bada" (made of flour by mixing it with salt, pepper, black cumin seeds and deep fried) was an ideal match. Made for each other.
Just in front of that snacks shop across the road and on the bank of the river was such a place of which I was very scared at that age of my life.
There lived a hermit in his abode. The most dangerous looking man. Cladded in red loin-cloth, beard and hairs has obscured most of his face leaving his eyes only which were as red as his attire. There was a clay statue of Goddess Kali in his abode, which was under an old and big banyan tree. Very rarely that hermit could be seen but the atmostphere was sufficient to send chill in my spine. Because my Dadi Maa told that this man is a "Kapalik" and sacrifice men, specially the little children on "Amavasya" (night of the no moon) at the alter of goddess Kali. Then she non-challantly and as if not talking to me said that she'd hand me over to that dangerous looking hermit. The stament was enough for me to forget the taste of the "Jhal Bada" and I pleaded not to take such a cruel decision because henceforth I'd abide by what she'll say to me. And insisted that we leave the place on the earliest.
After an hour we reached the house of my elder Aunt.
My grandmother was everything to me. She consisted my world. For which I have never grown any affinity with my parents and siblings.
She was slow but steady in driving home the message she wanted to convey to me. A very strict task master.
From her I've learned to:
1. Respect women, irrespective of their age, caste and creed.
2. Value of education.
3. Imagine the life I want and to have it in my life.
4. Become kind to everybody and reach out to them whenever possible.
5. Become responsible for my activities.
And lastly to be a good human being.
When she died my life became a vacuum. A big void was created. Life, as it seemed, came to an abrupt halt.
But luckily for me then Mota Dada came forward to take my charge and became my mentor.
Someother time I'll write more about both of them.
I love you Dadi Maa & Mota Dada.