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OP-ED: Bucolia – the journey continues

  • Published at 12:21 am October 5th, 2021
Weekend
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Life is nothing if it isn’t an ironclad hierarchy

Sunday morning, and the day unfolds with template languidness. Shantana, in the recent avatar of live-in help, and Nayan, her precocious six-year-old, occupy the quiet shadows of our home. Unaccustomed yet to this new life, the young woman strives to find rhythm between catering to our every request and waging a low-intensity war with the ever-questioning offspring and her nemesis in the form of Halima the Cook. 

Nayan is irrepressible, instinctively ingratiating in a manner that only young children are capable of, anything to earn a few precious episodes of Chota Bheem, Motu Patlu, et al, all of course at the imperial pleasure of Bodo-Ma.

I cannon out of the tower, and the citrus fragrance of a freshly pruned hedgerow overwhelms. Under a canopy of brilliant blue and white cotton, the custodians of the beauty of our oasis proceed with determined thoroughness, cordoning off the next patch of green to surgically apply shears and khurpi

The ikebana of Heritage City is the exclusive domain of the elders, and to the novices goes the privilege of weeding the flowerbeds and carting away the loose soil and discarded roots. Life is nothing if it isn’t an ironclad hierarchy.

I accelerate, and am again arrested in mid-stride. A slender fellow examines his reflection in the car window while methodically running a comb through his luxurious tresses. My bald pate still evokes despair, even after decades of mental conditioning, but fascination swiftly overrides envy on espying his sneakers. Parrot yellow, a shade that amplifies the effect to such magnitude that goldilocks appears borne along on a pair of boats, and not shoes. Chortling to myself, I proceed.

A gaggle of young friends are piling into a car. Good morning! Where to? Hello there! Brunch. Nice. Where? At Kulcha Lal Paratha Das. I guffaw at the quaintness. The name alone makes the establishment worth contemplating, and I have something to laugh about for a couple of days.

Sunday is a day of rest, you say? Perhaps, but only for the fortunate few. A generous sprinkling of charioteers is present, and the prospect of overtime renders hours of sweltering inactivity palatable. 

They assume the pose of waiting as per the dictates of personality, whether standing sentry alongside the allotted car, or in deep gossip of the evening past, or even in quiet repose behind the steering wheel, waiting for the mistress’s summons. 

One of the posse is most relaxed, presumably in deep slumber. His feet protrude, propped on the side-view mirror, and a pair of foot-soles is proffered to the world. The urge to tickle them rises, then fortunately subsides.

A maid sits on the bench outside our balcony, and mobile to ear belligerently takes on the world. Tirade accomplished, she then proceeded to the duty of the day.

A resident sits in lonely splendour on the bench ordinarily the exclusive preserve of the Satsangi Aunties, and gazes into the fathomless depths of her hand-held. Distracted by the scratch and crunch of approaching footsteps, she casts soulful eyes in my direction. I avert mine hastily. 

The steel trap of human melancholy is impossible to extricate oneself from. Our tragedy queen’s faithful retriever, golden and handsome, sprawls at her feet, attuned to every cadence of his mistress. I push on through the sodden heat and round the corner in anticipation of another sliver of drama.

I am not disappointed, for Act I of Romeo and Juliet unfolds, redolent of desire. The statuesque maid, suspended in the full length of the bay window on the first floor, wipes the glass desultorily while engaging her paramour at ground level in bursts of hastily-snatched conversation. 

Their cooing and billing is interrupted, and suspicious eyes follow me, willing me to disappear. Delicious, delicious gossip, but no scope, alas, to synchronize my gait with their sweet nothings.

Oh joy! There you are! Bengali Aunty, impeccable and authoritative, holds conversation in the backdrop of her garden fortress with a trio of men about, inexplicably, the next day’s menu. I wonder what’s up! The familiar rasp lends to the comforting sense of routine.

Monsoon, sweet monsoon, how you persevere. When I set out, the sun was smiling. By the time I round the last corner of my prescribed rounds, the sky is laden and a flurry of fat drops catches me just as I try and scamper the last few metres to safety.

What took you so long? Did you get wet? Bodo-Ma, aka, Uttara Basu, takes a moment to reprimand before going back to negotiating the vagaries of contractors and their personnel as she ploughs with typical elan through the projects for the day. 

Tiya Basu continues to incubate in the self-imposed exile of her room, valiantly defending the honour of BTS as only a true loyal member of the “Army” could. Mother and daughter revel in their favourite pastime of spontaneously manufactured attacks on the person and persona of the hapless paterfamilias. 

Ah well, I suppose you can’t have it all! Back to life, back to reality.    

Sumit Basu is a freelance writer based in India.

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