Where are you?

For as long as I can remember, I have only heard my dad’s deep, bass voice call out “Where are you?”

Ma would yell out her whereabouts and he’d head to her.

And they’re not exactly the ‘Sunti ho MM ki amma’ type and neither does ma have dad’s name tattooed on her arm because she isn’t allowed to take it. They’re irreverent to each other at their best and rude at their worst.

In those days I found it deeply offensive and I’d ask my mom why she bothered to reply to a man who didn’t even take her name. Why did she reply to a mere “Where are you?” Didn’t she have any self respect? Gah (Oh, I also often told her to divorce my father and he’d look damn hurt about it, but that is a post for another day, Yes, I am like that – sometimes feminist without a cause.)

She would hear me out and just smile. Ma often does that. Smile instead of saying something substantial and committing herself.

With seven years of marriage behind us now, I don’t know when, but the OA seems to have slipped into the same habit. And when he yells out “Where are you?”… I know better than to insist that he takes my name. There’s something sweet about even the kids knowing that he is calling me and not them. No name required.

I guess there’s a certain simple pleasure in knowing that there is only person he ever seeks out. Only one person who is expected to reply to that call.

Almost an unspoken, unwritten rule like the one that no one but I am allowed to open the door when the OA  comes back from work. Silly. Romantic. Cheesy. Call it what you will.

It always takes me back twenty years to my widowed grandaunt who lived with us in our rambling, old house in ur mad joint family. She fell in love at 15 and jumped the wall to run away and get married  (Am I right, mama?), more than 60 years ago. A small town girl (Note, Perakath and Intern, I’m not referring to myself), who didn’t even complete her graduation,  this was around the time India gained her independence

She married the love of her life, and he promised to show her the world and he did. She was doing French Riviera Cruises and seeing the pyramids and learning from Estee Lauder and bringing home photographs, French chiffon and Guipure lace for her family who had never heard of such stuff. He spoilt her in ways I cannot imagine any husband treating his wife. It’s the kind of adoration that needed to be seen to be believed. Anyhow. To cut a long story short, she was devastated when she lost him. He died of a heart attack.

And for what was left of her life she mourned him. Pined away. The gorgeous woman of the world would wander around our old house humming to herself and telling us stories of her youth. And like a background score, she’d sing this song – Pukaro, tum kahan ho – by Runa Laila. Not too many people have heard it.  The words are beautiful. Khelo na humjoli, mujh se aankh micholi, raat hui, ghar chali, panchhiyon ki toli. Heartbreaking when I heard them in her context. I believe part of my image of what a good marriage should be like, were hugely influenced by her and my parents.

Anyhow, my introduction to the song was though her  – a slower version in her mellifluous voice (she and my grandmother used to sing for A.I.R). A bluer, smokier, more jazz version.

“I’m singing for my Don,” she’d say, her eyes taking on a faraway look. Convinced that he was out there somewhere listening to her. The departed never really leave our lives, do they? Not if we love them with such desperation.

Sometimes I think finding that one burning love of a lifetime is the worst thing that can happen to you. Because how do you cope when you lose them?

This one’s for you, Nuttie Natters.


62 thoughts on “Where are you?

  1. MM- what a lovely post!!! i agree about the no name calling bit..we dont have 7 years behind us…but yes i am now officially = “You”

    The Tall one oftens calls me and says – “i am stuck in traffic what should i do”…(thinks in head…ummm -“fly”) – but it’s sweet in a way that he actually thinks i have a solution to that!

    • MM- what a lovely post!!! i agree about the no name calling bit..we dont have 7 years behind us…but yes i am now officially = “You”. The Tall one oftens calls me and says – “i am stuck in traffic what should i do”…(thinks in head…ummm -”fly”) – but it’s sweet in a way that he actually thinks i have a solution to that!

      And the bit about ur relative is so sad…i think that might actually be my biggest fear – “needing” the tall one so much…

  2. I hate it when my boy calls my name. I have no idea why but I just hate it. Now when he talks to people about me, it is always “She” and they know. It is like I am the only she in his life which is kinda stupid! But it isn’t the word or the name but the blush that gives him away I guess.

    It hasn’t been so long for us. Hardly months but I can already glimpses of this happening.

    On the other hand, isn’t it funny how our parent’s marriages influence us and our ideas of the perfect marriage?

      • Same with me .. I hate when he calls my name .. in all 4 years of married life i can clearly rememember he has called my name only twice .. once when i had a fight with him and our in-laws were visiting and we didn’t want to fight in front of them and he said ” my name – close the door” .. he knew that will make me all the more angry .. 2nd time was 1st or 2nd day of our marriage and he had to call me from a distance …
        to think of we were the best of best frnds for 3 years and back then he used to call my name .. how it all changed .. i dont remember 🙂

  3. I guess all of us have our versions of ‘Where are you?’
    Like you, I have asked my mother several times why she answers to everything he asks, she also used to give those enigmatic smiles. It was she who left early and my father is completely lost without her, he has her photographs in all the rooms and refuses to be with his kids even for a day.

    As you said, sometimes even I think, we should not love so much, but then, the joy that it gives is too much to give up!

  4. I have read it just now. And your grandaunt’s story has put a stone on my heart… God bless the couple, all couples…

  5. I loved this post 🙂
    But he’s also my “Listen”, and that in English! How stupid can I be to call him that, tell me?!
    I insist on opening the door when he’s back, and he also does the same. That’s somehow my definition of love, silly it might be 🙂

  6. Lovely!

    by any chance do you have those AIR recordings of your grand aunt and mum? the ‘lata’fication of female vocals in hindi film songs wiped out all else. i am convinced the rich spectrum of other genres exist in AIR archives and personal recordings.

    and the ‘where are you’ syndrome is one i suffer from, and its been there since age 19, slipping along the sides of our grand college corridors and huge classrooms. embarassing!

  7. Brings a smile to my face. After 7 years its like you are in your own warm cozy cucoon. There are so many unspoken but understood things between just the two of us. Its scary to even imagine losing the other one. But then, I guess its better to have known such love than to never have.

  8. I dont know if my comment is going to be related to your post. But when you said, that the departed never really leave us, I think its true.
    I feel my mother’s presence more than ever. So much that I don’t even cry anymore. I don’t know what I do more, love her or miss her.

  9. You open the door for him everytime? That is so adorable.
    TS calls me up n says he’l get terribly late. And then the bell rings and he shouts, “Fooled ya Babes” 😀
    Little somethings to enjoy life, no?

  10. Nice:)Hubby doesn’t call me by my name too.
    I remember this one time when we were dating, we were in a restaurant with some friends and for some reason he had to call out my name and the poor guy was so embarrassed coz he wasn’t used to it.

  11. “Mujhko yun na rulao – ho kahan tum bulao/batao” – Maan.. never thought I would ever be reminded of that song 🙂 Very sweet post.

  12. Lovely post.We both had always discussed what will we ever do without each other,the answer seems to be very rude,taking a life without the love is not easy.We had always felt dying together would be gr8,though it sounds mushy mushy,the fact is that.

  13. Me too! Though the MIL would like plot and plan and stay up to compete with me ( opening the door and all I mean)

    And how do you not miss your spouse, I wonder. I see my Dad sitting with two cups of tea, forgetting she’s not around, even thought it’s been almost a year.. It breaks my heart to see him like that.

    I sometimes have morbid thoughts about what would happen if P was’nt around. And I always think he’d cope easier with me popping off than I, you know what I mean. I don’t know where I am going with this, so I’ll just stop now..

  14. I can so relate to this, since we became each other’s “Listen”s 🙂 The funny part is that we studied together in a college where everyone had to have a nickname and it stuck. So we always used to call each other by the abbreviated forms of our nicknames before we got hitched and all. Now, with the in-laws around, it’s sort of derogatory 😉 So, we have turned to “Listen” and “Oye” (I’m not sure if this is less derogatory either)

    Well, about losing a loved one and the fear that comes with it, I know driving off the cliff together IS the answer. Btw, my maternal grandparents left the same day (grandmom couldn’t take the news), leaving their kids – all married by that time – devastated. Mum always hates to think of that day when they “suddenly became parentless”.

  15. Sigh…that was beautiful, MM. I wish everyone had such a strong belief in love… it’s hard to see that in any great measure in today’s cynical world!

  16. Oh! It’s the other way round with us… I never call him by name… never can get around to doing it… I call him all sorts of names when it’s just us and feel terribly awkward when there are others around 😀 On some occasions in a crowd I’ve actually walked up to him and tapped to get his attention, I’m that bad! 🙂
    Been a lurker, but had to comment on this one! lovely post!

  17. Oh and I came back to say if the fake IPL chappie can publish a book using that ridiculous pseudonym, why not you as the Mad Momma? Publish, publish, publish!!!

  18. MM,

    I’ve known my husband for nearly 7 years(married 6 of those), but till now, not once have I actually called him by his given name. Depending on the company I always refer to him as Doc(his AF nickname) or by his “daak nam”. He’s given up trying to get me to call him by any of his better known names, a long time back. What he hasn’t stopped is teasing me about it, because in a weak moment I confessed the real reason why I don’t address him by his name–when we were getting to know each other, I was kind of nervous that given the fact that he’s nearly 5 years older, and my chronic case of foot-in-the-mouthtis, I might accidentally call him “Bhaiya” !!One thing led to another and here we are 7 years later , one “Mini” and one “You”

    I feel for your grandaunt, as I think any one who’s found their one and only would.

    • that is sooo cute!
      I actually know someone who married a guy she called bhaiya and continued to do so until the day she died. the maid’s daughter who grew up with me. She died in childbirth. I’d blogged about it.

      • Oh!That poor girl!Did her child survive? You know, before having to undergo a C-Sec, it never occurred to me that THIS is why a lot of women used to die in child birth !
        Would you a give me the link to that post please?

  19. “Sometimes I think finding that one burning love of a lifetime is the worst thing that can happen to you. Because how do you cope when you lose them?”

    The answer would be something on the lines of “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

    • 🙂 do you remember my post on my nani then? how sweet!
      yes.. they were. we’ve had love marriages for 4 generations now and i sometimes think its worth all the tamasha of different communities etc
      as you can see, i wildly swing in my opinion on this matter from one day to another!

      • Yes, I remember the post about your nani, but I was refering to you too, aren’t you ADORED and SPOLIT by OA?????? 😉

  20. my parents were never the mushy sort- atleast in front of us. now i see my mom wistfully looking out into space hoping to see dad somewhere, somehow and now i realize that even thought they were never overtly affectionate, what it means to her to be alone, without her partner. and she tells me that it was almost after centuries that she told my dad how much she loved him the day before he went to hospital. and he said that once he came back, they would do a holiday together, just the two of them, like old times, like a honeymoon all over again. he just never came back

  21. MM, sorry if I appeared a little crazed out in my last comment, but talking about Dad and Amma, just does crazy stuff to me. I get all teary eyed and can’t stop raving and ranting. Apologies.

  22. Mad Momma is not crazy. Her dad and I have decided to drive full speed into a fast moving truck or drive of a cliff. Whoever is left behind will drive whichever kid is looking after us crazy ( god forbid that ever happens) as we would be absolutely lost without the other. No one to argue with, which is our favourite pastime. No one to share a laugh with , no one who will finish our sentence just as two words are uttered. It has come to a stage where we now say what the other was about to say. Someone who knows me better than myself. How would I live without that “where are you”??

  23. Beautiful post.
    It’s been so long that we have used our names.When he calls my name it sounds so strange..it almost feels like he is talking to someone else.Come to think of it I have never heard my grandparents,parents or inlaws use names to call one another.

  24. Pingback: The Grannies | Nuttie Natters

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