Between Staying and Going away (2)

For my farewell from the Huchukparah mess we made that trip to the lava mounds of Tulin with the lac trees growing among the boulders. We drank Mohan Meakin’s Saki (a blended whisky) sitting on pure geology and stared down at the lakes scattered among the green fields like the red earth’s blue, placid eyes. There’s a worm in those waters which eats into the skin between the toes and works its way up through the body.

The railway line and the Hindal aluminium factory on the other side of the highway looked like the history of civilisation but we were sad. We were sad because I was going away from Purulia – forever. Unless I returned as the Branch Manager some day. All my mess mates wished that I would. It’s the way human beings fool themselves when parting becomes inevitable.

I, we, the expat family, used to go to India every other year and I remember my mother’s face the day that we arrived and the day that we left. Like sunrise and sunset. Like that song in Fiddler on the Roof.

You see, human beings were nomads first, who stayed together wherever they went, it was the earth that moved. And then they built the villages, each village so far away from the previous one that they wouldn’t be able to see the smoke from each other’s fires and distance and absence and forgetfulness were born.

Mother never blamed me. Nor my siblings. Nor my father. Nobody in the family. They all left me alone with my guilt merely asking: ‘When are you coming next?’ And it was my turn to lie. Whereas I had disembowelled the family when I went away, I had taken away its centre, that’s what I believed. My elder sister heard that one and laughed: ‘Just who do you take yourself for?’ Her eldest son has migrated to Australia now, serve her right.

Mother standing on the landing in front of the entrance while we piled into the taxi, two taxis, as a matter of fact, would be ‘Taxen’ in German, as I was explaining to my younger brother, as if it was a joke, as if all languages were a joke, countries, jet flights and ‘When are you coming next?’ were a joke. Mother had her aanchal, that’s the border of her sari, to her mouth, covering half her face. Like all Bengali mothers, she knew it would be inauspicious to cry at the moment of departure. At what other moment should she cry, should we cry, can someone tell me? While writing a blog eight years after her death, perhaps?

If you want to kill a blog, try getting sentimental about your dear departed mother, or father, or even your youngest brother who was in a hurry to meet His Maker or maybe His Maker was in a hurry to meet him. God will know what do with such a soul, clever, compassionate, generous, gregarious.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to return to my theme, which is between staying and going away. I thought I was going away, huh! Mother didn’t even tell me when she went away, they rang me up later. My youngest brother told me when they were taking him to the hospices and we did talk a few times after that. But even he didn’t tell me when he’d be coming next.

I’ll come and see him when the time comes, he knew.