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Aaditya and Me by Aditya Joshi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the Neighbourhood - SERIES 01

This is a story of a family who lives just in our neighbourhood. 'Our' stands for a generalization. We are talking about a typical family from Mumbai - It is rather important to mention which part of Mumbai. Because within Mumbai, there is a lot of classification. People look at you in different ways depending on which part of Mumbai you are from - Kalyan, Thane, Ghatkopar, Carter Road or Vile Parle. This one is a typical Maharashtrian family - the Guptes.

Girish Gupte is the patriarch - a banker by profession who takes a train daily from Dadar to Churchgate. A twenty minutes ride - more often than not, crowded.

He woke up at 6:30 in the morning. He was wearing a loose t-shirt purchased from Fashion street. He got out of his bed. His alsatian dog, Terry had already woken up. "Terry, let's go for our walk", he said.

He got the leash of the dog from the brown cupboard and tied it to the dog.

His wife, Sukanya had woken up by then.

"Sukanya", he said to her, "I am going with Terry for a walk. You want me to get something?"

"Get some biscuits please", Sukanya replied.

"What shop would be open at this time of the day, wifey?"
"Why did you even ask then?"

He walked out of the house. "Collect the newspapers and the milk bags, they are lying here at the door", he said as he left.

Sukanya took the milk bags and the newspaper. She kept the newspaper carefully on the coffee table. The previous day's papers were already lying there. She huddled them together. She could see the table-top now. She remembered, they had purchased the table when they purchased the house. She saw the table and loved it - and insisted on buying it. Girish always thought it was an extra frill. But Sukanya still loved the table.

She then took the milk bags to the kitchen, opened them and poured them in a stainless steel vessel. She turned on the cooking gas.

She wiped sweat on her brow with the pallu of her sari. Then she walked towards the kids' room. Fifteen year old Shyaam and nineteen year old Anushka were fast asleep.

"Get up both of you.. Jojo.. Anu..." she tried waking both of them.

"uhh, aai.. five more minutes please", Shyaam said as he hid under the blanket.

"Anu... you have your dance class at 7:30, don't you? Wake up baby.."

Anu opened her eyes. She could see slanting rays of light coming in through the window.

"That's like a good girl. Now you wake your lil brother up while I make breakfast." Sukanyaa hurriedly went to the kitchen. The milk had just boiled over.

She switched off the gas, heaved a sigh of relief.

Twenty minutes later, Shyaam and Anushka sat at the dinner table.

"Mom.. ", Shyaam screamed, "where is the breakfast!"

"Jojo.. relax now. you didn't wake up on time - now how do u expect me to give you your breakfast on time"
"Mom, I'm already late! Why are you giving me these moral science lectures now."

"Shyaam! Mind your language. How can you speak to your mother like that", Girish who had just returned said.

"Here's your cheese toast, your pohe and your corn flakes." Sukanyaa served three plates - for the three members of her family.

Girish loved toasts and sandwiches. Anushka had taken to corn flakes following the diet craze. Shyaam needed something filling.

The three ate in silence. It was intermittently broken by Girish who asked the kids how their school/colleges were going.

"So, Anushkaa, are you participating in the intercollegiate dance competition this year?"

"No Baba.. they said only the senior college students were allowed to participate. I blasted off at the cul sec yesterday for that"

"Cul sec? What's that?" Girish asked.
"The culture secretary dad.. the guy who manages all this?"

"Oh hmm.. I never understand these terms."

"Aai, these pohe are too sweet. Why don't you ever put some more chilli in them?", Shyaam screamed nearly.

"Shyaam, eat what you want to. They have been made for you - and you better finish what's on your plate. You kids don't value what you get these days", Girish would get visibly upset when Shyaam threw tantrums - especially about food.

Sukanyaaa came out of the kitchen and said, "Please don't scold him Girish. I will be better next time ok Jojo.."

Forty minutes later, Sukanyaa was standing at the balcony. Waving goodbye to Shyaam. "Jojo.. don't get late from tommorrow ok."

"and Anu.. don't board a train if it's too crowded. You can reach ten minutes late - you must just reach safely.. give me a missed call after you reach."

Sukanyaa came back to the dining area. Cleared the plates.

Took a little bit of what she had made for breakfast - one last piece of toast and some pohe. Finished her breakfast in less than half the time her kids had taken. Hurriedly took a duster and began dusting the house.

She started with the photo frames - she loved photographs. She had almost eight of them in the drawing room. In fact, she had done up the entire house herself - collecting articles from different places. Every summer, she would go for a vacation with her family and bring back atleast one thing that would add to the decor.

She was a very tasteful lady - knew a great deal about art, colours and aesthetics. She remembered her college days - everyone admired her fashion sense. She was certainly the centre of attraction in the class.

She looked at herself in the mirror. She saw a lady in a worn-out blue sari, the end of the pallu tucked near the waist. Dark circles engulfing the eyes, hair gone haywire - she had a drop of tear in her eyes.

It did not take more than three seconds for her to come back to reality. She continued dusting the house.

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