Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Mr Mookerjee dimly heard the cellphone alarm go off on the far side of his bed. Within a few seconds his little bedside clock began to sound its own alarm as well. He fumbled around for the clock first. A firm pound on its little button shut the alarm off but the cellphone required the bedside lamp and some sleep-dazed reading of buttons. Not for the first time he wondered why these phone makers had to complicate life.

Anyway, his sleep was broken and not a minute too soon. He heard the first strains of Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s chant from Mr Rai’s flat above and hurriedly switched on his own cassette. As the powerful voice filled his bedroom he sat on his bed and closed his eyes. These were the times when he was grateful that he could get around on his own, that he was dependent on nobody for his money or welfare.

Thoughts of independence and of welcoming Ma Durga home inevitably brought memories of his daughter, missing yet another Pujo. At least this year’s celebrations in Canada would be closer to the actual date since the dates were near the weekend. He understood the need for those Western weekend pujas but the concept never felt quite right to him.

At least, he shrugged philosophically, in the last phone call Renu had assured him that the new clothes had reached them in perfect condition this year, that the baby dhuti-punjabi were a perfect fit and her Canadian in-laws were charmed at what they called princely attire. He had sent trousers and a shirt for his son-in-law, as always, never quite sure of the size and missing his wife when he went to Gariahat. Rinita had always known what to buy for whom. He never did and had an uneasy feeling that Renu would never tell him if the clothes didn’t fit or weren’t to their taste or something else was wrong.

The sky was lightening ever so faintly now. The birds had begun to call a while ago. He put on his rubber slippers and went to make himself some tea. Mr and Mrs Singha, through Sona, had gifted him an electric kettle for his birthday last year. Sona had even made him set it up on his little writing table in his bedroom and insisted on arranging a cup, a saucer, a teaspoon and a bottle of tea next to it. He kept the kettle dusted and plugged in so that she would not notice that he never used it. He liked his tea boiled strong and dark red. These fancy kettles couldn’t do that, could they? But he couldn’t possibly hurt Sona so he made sure his maid changed the cup and saucer everyday.

He stepped into the kitchen and turned the light on. He filled his little saucepan with water and set it to boil. When the water was rolling furiously he dropped a spoonful of tea into it and lowered the gas. As he smelled his tea brewing over his stovetop he felt a peace filling his heart. This was to be yet another Pujo spent away from his daughter, but if she couldn’t come home this year too, at least he could welcome another Daughter.