As a child I could not pronounce G so Geeta, my aunt became Etu not just for me, but for all children who came after me. Etu is my Baba’s sixth among his living siblings, two of his siblings died young in between, so even if there was an average one and half years difference between them, she would be around 15–18 years younger than him. She was married to a man my Baba selected of course, with a lot of fanfare, as far as we kids were concerned as the wedding was in Calcutta, another end of the world for us, living in Jabalpur, then. Etu’s first child was born in Jabalpur and named Jhumka. A very popular song used to come then and copying that we used to sing, ‘Etu ki god me Jhumka giri re’ (Jhumka has fallen in Etu’s lap). Even though I would love to take credit for it, I cannot remember who decided on the name. Jhumka was a mesmerizing child, we could not take our eyes off her and never got tired of enjoying her talk, as she slowly grew, but I always thought of her as an adult. She has remained her fascinating self. My Baba, her Boromama, mother’s eldest brother Baba, as I have been saying through my earlier blogs, had special relationships with many. So when I asked Jhumka to write I knew that she would be the only one writing in it. I am short of words to give an introduction to what she shares about her Boromama in her unique way so I am not even attempting.
Everyone who was remotely acquainted with my Boromama spoke about his Greek God looks. Well, for him it was quite natural because as per his research we were the descendants of Alexander the great!!! No one dare challenge his research or for that matter his deep knowledge about anything under the sun. Maybe, that’s one of the reasons why we make no bones about our complexion or looks.
A stickler for discipline and everything right and proper was what Boromama stood for. A major part of my childhood vacations were spent in Jabalpur, of which for a week we were packed off to Rampur (Boromama’s abode) to set all the things that had been derailed throughout the year back on track. I did not realise then what a world of difference it would make in my life. Then it was more of a punishment for me to be sent off to Boromama’s while the rest of the family were enjoying their vacations at my grandmother’s (Mummum) house.
Boromama used to take us out in the cold winter nights to teach us how to read the night sky and all about constellations and stars. While my ever loving Boromami used to grumble from the kitchen saying that ‘this man is going to kill the little kids in his bid to teach them how to read the night sky, that too in winter!!!’ Mind you temperatures could fall to as low as 1°-2°c .
A little bit about Boromami here, she used to be the balm or the antidote for Boromama’s strictness and indulge us during his absence in a way so that we would be prepared to face him when he would get back from office.
Even though I was educated in an Irish missionary school, with my knowledge, pronunciation and diction of the English language was drilled inside me till it started flowing in my veins. Boromama was one person who was extremely particular about all this and more. He couldn’t tolerate incorrect usage or pronunciation of any language. He wouldn’t bat an eyelid before correcting a person no matter who the other person was. I think I have got this from him. Needless to say that he was super proud of my language skills. He used to be a stickler for spellings too. Some of the words like cemetery, psychology, pronunciation, and many more are ingrained into my being. Anyone can be wished good morning if it’s the first wish of the day. It is bad manners to say ‘no problem’, after anyone says thank you, one should reciprocate a thank you with a thank you in return, or the pleasure is mine. (I found myself teaching my 25 year old just the other day!) As a family we keep reminding each other unabashedly of what Dada/Baba/Jethamoshai/Boromama would say if he heard anyone saying anything incorrect. One more thing that irks me no end in these days of increased social media usage is the use of short forms and writing without the use of any punctuation marks. He used to get furious if any of us called him Jethu, it had to be Jethamoshai (father’s elder brother) Boromamima (mother’s elder brother’s wife). Thankfully for us siblings, barring a few words, life was made much easier by our eldest sister (Bula) who was the first born of the clan. She had given names to everyone according to her understanding which was readily accepted by everyone including my Boromama!!!
Boromama was very particular about keeping the entire flock together. Not only his own but also his extended and remotely extended ones. It could become extremely irksome for us but woe-betide if we ever uttered a word of displeasure.
Boromama’s ability to strike up a conversation with just about anybody was something to marvel at. During my adolescent years I used to find this trait very strange. But as I am growing older I find myself doing the same much to the chag
rin of my adolescent children. Talking about family, Boromama had drawn up our huge family tree and distributed it to all of us lest we mistake the identities of the family members.
Not everyone is aware that Boromama was very active in the Swadeshi movement. In fact he had given up his studies to participate in the Swadeshi movement, but since he also had to support quite a large battalion of his family he had no option but to take up a government job.
Reading was one of his passions. I remember the Reader’s Digest condensed books that used to line his shelves. All of us were made to subscribe to Reader’s Digest in those days. One thing I continued till very recently. He also used to have books written by Daphne du Maurier and A J Cronin. Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay were the Bengali authors that he was fond of.
Baba, my father and Boromama used to share a close bond with each other — that of mutual admiration. Whenever we were in Jabalpur Baba used to visit Rampur every morning to have tea made by my Mamima and exchange enriching thoughts with Boromama. Then he used to recite from one of Tagore’s book of poems and sing songs for my Mamima and return back in time for breakfast at Mummum’s. My father was an equally erudite gentleman of fine taste and hence he used to find his match in Boromama. Baba had a habit of writing letters so both he and Boromama used to have an engaging conversation over letters even when we were not visiting Jabalpur.
I happened to take up the mantle of letter writing after Baba’s demise. We used to look forward to receiving these postcards from one another. I feel very proud to say that Boromama used to preserve my postcards and show them to people as an example of good handwriting and correct spelling and grammar. It was Boromama who visited my school after Baba’s demise and met my principal. Needless to say that she was absolutely floored by him so much that I was exempted from appearing for the class nine final examination and promoted to class ten. After which whenever my principal met me she used to enquire about my uncle.
Baba’s death shook our entire family and brought all of us closer to each other. Boromama, Mejo and Mamu promised us they would take turns to visit us for one year. Of course, this extended to many more years after that and ensured we were never alone. We used to eagerly await their visits. The three of them were always there to share all our life’s milestones. When we moved to our own home in Salt Lake Kolkata, Boromama was overjoyed. He used to love sitting in the balcony and called it the million dollar balcony.
Boromama still lives in each one of us in some way or the other. We continue to follow the high standards that he set in our subconscious.
I did not have words to introduce nor do I have words to conclude! The title too was decided by her, which each word of her sharing seems to exuberate.