1957-58(?) / Colvin Rd, Civil Lines, Allahabad, India-
“Where’s Jobbu Shona, Where’s he hiding? Let’s see, oh No I think he’s lost. Wait, what’s that red piece of cloth under the sofa. mmmmmm…. aha…Gotcha! You think you can hide from your Baba, do you? Jobbeeeeee!” ***throws me up in the air,*** ” Jobba Babu hasn’t been naughty today, has he? He didn’t pester mummy, did he?” Tosses me up into the air once more.
December 1962 / St Thomas High School, Kidderpore, Kolkata, India / School entrance gate-
“Have you checked your pencil box? Is everything there? Let’s see…what’s this?” He fishes out a small paper sachet from my pencil box, “Oh, Ma’s Puja flowers.”
Looks me over,”Where’s your water bottle? Don’t drink the tap water.”
Gives me another going over,”Remember BODMAS (brackets over division, multiplication, addition and subtraction) and you’ll never go wrong. Don’t rush, take your time. If you’re stuck somewhere, just skip it for the moment and go over to the next one.”
Holds me by the shoulders and looks me in the eye. One hand leaves to muss my hair and returns,” Don’t forget to touch the puja flowers to your forehead before you open the question paper.”
Lifts my chin up gently,”Tui to amader genius. Porikhkha chomotkar hobey. Dekhbi. Aami bolchi.” (You’re the family genius. The test will go just fine. You’ll see).
October 1965 / Home- E34, MAMC Colony, Durgapur, W.Bengal, India / 4.00am-
“Jobbu, it’s starting. Birendra Krishna Bhadra will be on air any minute now. Get up and go wash up. Ma is getting the snacks and tea ready. It’s Mahalaya time, folks!”
August 1967 / Seeing off eldest son, going off to college / To fellow passenger in Ranch Hatia Express-
“What do you mean this is your berth? It’s my son’s berth, Sir. See him? He’s my son and he’s going to college. See here, the berth number is 37, it’s clearly printed over here,” dismissive wave,” Please, leave us alone, go talk to the TT, thank you.”
January 1969 / Chung King Restaurant, Hazratganj, Lucknow / With youngest son, Achyut / on Day-Exeat pass from La Martiniere for Boys-
“There’s something I have to tell you. Your mother and I….it’s no longer possible for us to live together. We have decided to separate. You have of course seen it all, lived through it all. Ma will go back to Kolkata next week, after I return. I know that this will upset you but in time, you’ll realize that it was for the best. For you, nothing has changed. I, and I’m sure your mother too…we still love you as we always did.”
September 1975 / IIT Madras, Tapti Hostel, Room 314 / With youngest son, Achyut-
“I have married again. This is your new Ma………………pronam koro.(touch her feet and take her blessings)……….”
February 1993 / Long distance call, Pune – Kolkata-
“It’s nothing really. You know how the doctors like to scare you. I’m absolutely fine now. I’ll be back home maybe by tomorrow evening. We’ll talk then. How is work, son? Any chances of a posting to Kolkata? No? Well, do what is the best for yourself, you hear.”
July 2010 / Visit to India- Kolkata / On the news that Ma has passed away-
Holds the sides of the bedposts and slowly lifts himself up. Brings his shrunken feet down to the floor and tries but fails to slip his feet inside his slippers. Ma (stepmother) sits down on her haunches and fits the slippers in and gently pushes him to a sitting position.
“What is there that I can say? Except, may God bless her soul?” He looks down at the floor,” Have you eaten? Gaurango’s has good kochuris and doi at this time of the day. I’ll send Nitai to go get some for us.”
17 June 2012- Father’s Day / Long distance call, Ile Perrot, Canada, to Kolkata, India-
“Hello? Hello?……..Hago, can you turn down the volume? It’s Jobbu! from Montreal! Quick! Help me sit up! Hello, Jobbu? Are you there? ……Oof! I cannot hear a word! What was that? Fathers….oh, Father’s Day, Father’s Day! Thank you! Hello, Hello, Jobbu? Are you there?…………He can’t hear me I guess. No, wait…….e ki? kandchish naki? Hago, I think I can hear him crying……….Hello! Jobbu! Hello!….click…went dead…..
….don’t lay me down yet. He’ll call again. Bring me the hand fan. Open the windows wide. Get me a glass of water. He’ll call. I’m sure of it. I want to be able to hear every word. ………..”
08 July, 2014
Baba passed away today. In spite of having three able sons, none of them were by his side when he breathed his last.