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?