(My Mother’s Father)

There was nothing like sitting on the ‘tarboozi’– red Kashmiri carpet in my grand-father’s room, sharing with him a wide open platter of fresh-cut mangoes and melons filled with varied varieties. I saw things in melons which formed a major part of my appetite to convert me into an impatient audience; I showered such ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ (there were no ‘wows’ in my time) upon the cheery melons’ inner colours! Those beautiful hues reminded me of a full-hearted rainbow – the kind, which gives a leap to your wish-lists-imagination; and when you are breathing down your lungs those wishes, the rainbow still remains standing in the sky.

Since the time, I was a mere child of six-eight-nine, I have never ever stopped discovering the marvels of nature through God. “Bauji, aih rang kharboozian dey Bhagwan ne banae hai?” –– “Grand-father, the colours in the melons, has God made them?” He kept his activities to cutting the fruits. Cut. Slice. Deliver. Cut. Slice. Deliver. Most conversations would begin and end with Bauji advising me to eat more of the fruits and talk less.

But, how could I be quiet! Inside of the melons hauled fairy-magic. There was dancing, singing and even poetry going on in me while feasting upon those honey-filled containers! How could I be quiet? I wasn’t a cow holding a set of jaws displaying a placard that said, “Munch On. Don’t Speak”. As if, holding a scroll of great light, my mother would come to rescue my query and say with a pat on my back, “Baby, everything is made by God”. I seldom brushed aside my mother’s statements… I realize this even more, after she is gone.

Bauji carried ‘open’ surprises for me in numerous successions; one of the nicest would be when he dropped dozens of ‘dusheri’, mangoes into the swimming pool’s c-o-o-l waters, on a hot summer’s Sundays. The scale and magnitude of this ‘open’ surprise completely sold me to a dizzying delight. SOOOO MANY MANGOES! SUCH A LOT OF MANGOES! SUCH MANGOES! Heaven’s marvels again showing up! In that afternoon’s glory, whatever worked for the mangoes, worked for me. If they floated on the water, I floated with them; when they bobbed side-ways, I went along with them side-ways. If they scattered on the pool’s floor, I invested my time diving to wrest control of the booty. “Oie, Bholi, kha aamb, kha aamb, kha” –– “Oie, Bholi, eat mangoes, eat mangoes, eat.” A man of few words and not easily accessible with his deep thoughts, my grand-father’s addressing me with those recurring statements seemed straight-forward to my child-mind. I dug out his ready affections very easily from his noble heart. How I would launch a savage attack on those yellow-struck-oblong-objects… grasp them in my small both hands, bite the acidic tip off and plunge into the sweet flesh and juice; they were designed to be eaten only that way! Not in plates, I thought. The way, the lip-smacking job was done showed all over my sun-tanned face. After devouring six mangoes in a row, I had to stroke my plump wet tummy and announce, “Baujeeee! I think I’m going to burst now”. The statement actually suggested that I could still have a few more mangoes; unknown numbers still remained to be eaten and today… today… no obstacle (by the way of my younger brother) stood in my way. The idea seemed legitimate, but not the setting; because by now my mother arrives, with a warning. Raising an alarm on my consolidated capacity to eat, she settles down fairly quickly and asks me most reasonably, “Now, Baby, why would you eat up six mangoes?” It is true, my inside was dying to answer back, to my mother, “Should I have had EIGHT?” To test the situation further, my nanny also remembers to pass by the swimming-pool. The possibilities of Mai (nanny) throwing herself into a dialogue were always endless. As she was included like a family-member, the right to test most waters was her birth right. “Hai Raba! Hai Raba! Meri Baivee, Baivee nu bacha” – “Oh! God, Oh! God! save my Baivee, save my Baivee”. Six years of my training remained unrewarded, forever. Mai, simply could not pronounce my main pet name: Baby. (By the way, apart from Bholi and Baby, I also responded to a third pet name, Chotti.)

At this point, my grand-father is expecting the crisis to deepen. By nature, he has never trusted himself as a negotiator or an arguer. But, I think, he knew the reliability of buying time. So, he enters the pool remaining silent for the future of the overall situation. Meanwhile, moving beyond her powers, my nanny has captured the entire scene; she is producing the sounds that our cocker-spaniel makes when he is upset with the crows. My mother understands the lady. But I know my nanny. I know her dramas! One minute, I am the best diamond and pearl; the other minute I resemble Jack – our all-black-fat-fat-dog – the cocker-spaniel. Look at her assessment, I am thinking all the time.

As we are leaving to go towards the house, with the spirit of his status and indulgence, Bauji says to all of us, “Carry away all the mangoes and make some mango-shake for everybody in the evening”.

That’s how, I can still remember Bauji. I can still picture the smile passing on his well-chiseled face.

Geeta Chhabra

Bauji — Grand-father.
Bauji — My Mother’s Father.

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