Sundays in Bangla books, and Bangali Sundays, well they’re not really the same any more.
That’s what Toton kaku says, every Saturday night while Ma and Chotomoni cut potatoes and onions in preparation for tomorrow’s mutton stew, big succulent chunks of meat swimming languidly in a dark spicy and wilfully oily stew, something to be drizzled happily over plates of fluffy rice, accompanied by never ending smiles of appreciation, and teary-eyed wonder from the receivers of this appreciation who cannot bring themselves to believe that their mangsher jhol, is as good as before.
The sun dances the required childhood Bharatnatyam course on our heads, as we wake up already bathed in the fruits of this astral fire’s dedicated labour, the backlanes of South Kolkata shimmering in wet sparkly dances;
to be able to see the mangoes on the tree growing in the dump at the dead end of the blind lane, you need to rub your eyes till their blink-blink coordinates with the shimmy of the air, and the heat slapping you, enveloping you, engulfing you in its warm embrace, ever so complete and so much more far-reaching than the motherly hugs prescribed in poems.
A subtle splash of cold white and cheery orange on the easel, “we Bangalis never used to drink COLD milk”, the dictum from end of the table, white rivulets winding down a grey dusted chin, and frozen water beads keeping time with those streams on his bowl – a summer smell of overripe mango, overripe banana and the slightly bovine, “I wanted to be sweet but decided not to be” flavour of cold unsweetened Mother Dairy Taaza.
Propelled to math tuitions, gaaner class, and art ma’am more so by the insistent prodding of the Sunday clock that is slower for everyone else but the children, who must not be allowed to slow down so that the grey ones may, than by any parental hand, hands which are busy chopping salad for lunch, reading the entire week’s papers, or scratching the sando genji entombed bellies in response to slow satisfied yawns.
Post-gorging, there is a thung thung thung of the rickshaw wala returning home, and slatted vehement sunshine burning the red shiny floor in righteous rage at having been denied its fun. A whooshing fan, creaking very gently, flapping curtains, and a silk cocoon of unacknowledged, repressive heat – snores. Occasional shrieks from the play room interspersed with clinks of the washing from the kitchen, the maids of course, long used to fan-less, sleep-less afternoons, wondering whether the phuchka kaku will still be there when she returns.
Indeed, not even alur chop, family gossip and cups of doodh cha with Ruskitt have been able to convince my Toton Kaku, that our Sundays are not very different from his Sundays. Not yet.