May 10, 2013

Gagga, Didama, My Childhood

Gagga and Didama with a newborn me
As the bus entered Khanapara, the outskirts of the city of Guwahati, my heart would leap with joy. It was an inexpiable feeling- everything that this five year old required to feel a sense of paradise! Dispur was just over five minutes away. My Didama (grandmother in Bengali) would be waiting for us with her white Maruti 800 near the Dispur supermarket. She would drive us to the huge bungalow, where a huge pile of assorted Bengali dishes would greet me. Gagga, something that I fondly call my grandfather, smoking a pipe like Sherlock Holmes, would come down from his room and give me a royal welcome. Although I lived in Duliajan, some five hundred kilometers from Guwahati, these twelve hour bus trips were very frequent.

Gagga and me
My life as a child was centered around Gagga and Didama. Gagga would tell me stories of a certain Donny Mastan (Mastan in Bengali is someone who has a lot of fun), supposedly my alter ago, and his adventures in the jungles of Africa. They taught me what the Panchatantra teaches millions of other kids. These stories were supposed to teach me how my alter ego could conquer all fear and undertake difficult tasks successfully. Gagga had this great quality of never scolding me (expect just once when I destroyed a dhol in my rage). That made him different from any other elder- who would lose their cool pretty soon considering I was pretty mischievous. Sleep eluded me as a kid, and much to the annoyance of others. However, Gagga would make me lie down quietly without making a single sound- such was his convincing prowess. There are many other funny incidents from my childhood related to him. Whenever he would sip a hot beverage, I would imitate the 'Aaah', in a much more animated way! Didama, on the other hand, was important in a different way. She was the one who would please everyone in the family (and even beyond that) with her cooking. Such was the effect that even during my trips to Guwahati now, one important thing that I must have is her Payash (Kheer). As such, Gagga may very well be the head of the family, but Didama is the backbone!

Every trip to Guwahati would have me make a Putla (a sack) for myself, which would include things that I would profess to be unavailable in Duliajan. The items of my putla would range from soft drinks to soaps.

Me in my playroom
I had a considerably large room in that bungalow all to myself and my playthings. All those things which are important to me as a child would be in that room. That included things that I inherited from my mother (look at that horse in the picture). The horse has a story of its own. Apparently, on one of their trips to Kolkata, Mamma became really obsessed with this horse, with great difficulty, they had to bring that all the way to Guwahati.

Something happened after that. My cousin, Ryan, who is six years younger, a tiny lil' walking-talking thing at that time, came into the picture. Although playing with him was fun, being a kid myself, somewhere deep down, I felt that I was no longer the favorite kid in the house. Once, when everyone was busy playing with Ryan (who was just a few months old then), I sneaked into my playroom and sulked, until they discovered that I was missing (which was just a few minutes though) and consoled me. Things have cooled down a lot since then, and Ryan seamlessly got integrated in our lives. Gagga and Didama are just incomplete without their grandsons. Tony Mastan, Ryan's alter ego, got introduced into the stories, and served as a sidekick of Donny Mastan.

Ryan's first visit to Duliajan on my birthday, with Didama
Not only as my grandparents, but they are pretty funny as a couple too. Although they do not acknowledge it in front of their children and grandchildren, their love for each other grows every second of each passing day! It's been a long forty nine years, and I bet they have enjoyed every second of each other's company. I remember this one time Gagga was teasing Didama by saying- See, it is not a big deal for me to leave things that I have been doing for decades- like the pipe that I smoked. I left smoking at a single go! I can even leave you in an hour if the necessity arises!- to which she blushed and said- you'd do well to find yourself someone at this age!

Gagga and Didama in one of Ryan's birthdays
Diabetes, they say, is a silent killer. Gagga has had diabetes since time immemorial (or as long as I remember). He might have looked fit, with his highly controlled diet, but his lifestyle during his working days had caused too much harm already. After a miraculous recovery from a malignant tumor in his eye, life has not been smooth, but he carries on with a great amount of mental strength nonetheless. He wants to be able to attend my marriage (whenever that would be), and has been saying for a long time that it would be the one day in his life that he would forget about his highly controlled diet!

Didama has a weak heart. She was first diagnosed with a heart ailment at the tender age of twelve, but she has managed to carry on pretty smoothly, except a few rough patches here and there until now. In late 2012, she had to undergo an open heart surgery at such an age but fortunately, has since, shown remarkable recovery, which has surprised the surgeon himself.

Didama, two weeks after her surgery, with me
All of this was possible because of the huge advancements in medical science! Modern healthcare is touching lives, with a fare share in mine!


This blog is been written for the Indiblogger contest "How does Modern Healthcare touch lives?". For more details, check out the Cutting Edge technology of Apollo!

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