Earlier, only my mom and brother were privy to my histrionics. Years later, A joined the club. As a child, I managed to give my mom a hard time, especially with eating, as my mom recalls. In order to put a morsel or two into my mouth, she had to tell and recount numerous stories: from mythology, freedom struggle, anecdotes from her life and the ones around her family and any famous, er, great person she had read or heard about (Though not explicitly told, my bro and I soon picked up the difference between the famous and the great). I was fed with food and stories. My meals could not start without a 'kahani'. Growing up, I always had a 'kahani ka kitaab' alongside my food plate. My mom would call it the most important 'sabzi' of my meal.
I had never read a 'novel' until I was 22; I had never heard about Mills & Boons till then: my dad's collection had only classics - books that could not just be labelled 'novels'. When I was reading these, I did not discuss these with anybody but my dad. Curious as I was, I read Freud's interpretation of dreams when I was still in school. At the same time, I read volumes of Swami Vivekananda and fell in love with him. My dad was a great storyteller; my mom, on the other hand, was the sutradhar, the narrator. My dad's stories had that charisma that would hook me and everyone in the vicinity for hours. Mom used to say he sprinkled a little something on his stories to make them more palatable; I found them delicious. And I licked every bit of the palate. I remember, once, still young and naive, I wondered how his stories would enthrall my betrothed whenever that happened. Sadly, A never got to chat with him. I learnt about politics, religion and even, love from my dad. My mom, on the other hand, handed down pre-independence stories, unintentionally taught me to question the norms, discussed mythology and its flaws.
While my mom's efforts had nurtured a curious soul and, of course, a reader, the world outside home made me realize my childhood was different. Not privileged, not deprived, but different. The difference caught up with me during discussions with classmates and friends, now colleagues. My Maupassant felt out of place in an animated conversation on Asterix so did my Mehdi Hassan when a conversation steered to 'to be' or 'not to be' a Pink Floyd fan. I had started developing a complex.
|With Ma, Baba and Bro in Orissa|
Coming back to my complex, I soon started picking things: most of the time, seemingly insignificant stuff, rarely something gigantic. Only with time did I learn that it was those tiny things that I picked along my way that opened up my eyes to bigger and wider horizons.
Like everyone, I don't know much. And I know things different from most of my acquaintances and friends. However, now, I don't feel out of place; I seek to learn from them something I didn't know before. And as I do that, I leave a bit of me with them.