Monday, July 13, 2009

Nailclippers

Why did we have to have cities, I wonder? Weren't we happy in our villages, herding sheep and cattle, collecting dry wood and having our nails clipped at the local barber's? I have seen a village belle come and clip the nails of my granny, who used to sit like a matriarch in her huge verandah with two German Shepherds guarding her. Earlier in the day I would take the dogs out for their morning crap session, and they would drag me all around the village, Maheshpur. Maheshpur is now in Jharkhand, about two hours from Dhanbad in the mining heartlands, but those days it was in Bihar.

Sundar da (although a Bihari, he spent 40 years at our place and turned Bengali) asked me if I would like to go with him to fetch milk. I would jump at the opportunity. There weren't any other kids to play with at my granny's place and I would get bored playing with the dogs, who didn't think much of me as a playmate. We would walk to the khataal, a place where the cattle were, humongous black buffaloes mostly. The milkman would give us a canful of frothy, creamy milk that we carried home. Back to the dogs. The dogs ate beef and rice every day and hated taking bath. But we would tie them to a post next to the well and give them a nice bath every Sunday. Sundar'da managed this alone as I watched from the steps.

My granny was big, black, and wore black spectacles. I was told stories of how she once caught a robber on a running train and handed him over to the police at the next station. She sat alone, watching the road, huge stick in her hand, with Betty and Darling on both sides, ready to lick the world to protect her. She was sad. Four of her five children were away. Her youngest son was the only one who lived with her. My mom and I would visit often because we lived about 100 kms away in a neighboring state. Often she would lift her thick glasses and wipe her eyes. I couldn't understand why as tears always made me uncomfortable, but I lay there, at her feet, playing with a toy, perhaps, and thinking why the others couldn't come to see her. They did come, once a year, and those were times when I had a lot of fun. Four boys and three girls, we made quite a bunch, but I guess we all got together only twice in our lives. Those are memories to die for.

The food was fresh, we had a kitchen garden where we grew some veggies, and Maya di managed the kitchen. I remember her perpetually making rotis. She had a room in the garden and she would read Gopal Bhar stories to me. She wasn't as friendly as Sundar da, who had a golden heart. He came as a young boy to our place and died much later, some say of cancer. I never saw him not smiling.

Today when I bit my nail too close to the skin and shrieked in pain, it all came back to me. The girl who would come to clip our nails, making life so easy. Someone to cook for you, someone to look after your dogs, open the gate for you and close all the doors after you have gone to sleep. These relations were symbiotic. Poor people whom our government did nothing for survived on employment created by the middle class. Fresh milk, vegetables from your own garden, trucks carrying coal, the postman coming at 1.00 in the afternoon with letters from Australia, Madhya Pradesh, or Durgapur.

No such luxury in a city. Here you are handed a nailclipper, which you are too lazy to use. You end up biting your nails to their right length and shape. And sometimes, it is too close for comfort.

16 comments:

Shanks said...

Nice post Oreen....brought back a lot of old memories.

Sandeepa Roy said...

This brings in a lot of memories- sweet, like old wine :) Though I vaguely remember those get-togethers, I still dream of that bungalow. Our Roy Dynasty! servant cottages, L-verandah, black & white tiles, Krishnachura, the big iron gate.. so many. You really made me nostalgic, and thank you so much for this ride to our Maheshpur :)

Oreen said...

Shanks as in? Shiva?

sayantani said...

loved it...i virtually visited your mamabari once again...heard so much and so many times from you and ma that it feels i must have been there at the same time too...

dippyblogs said...

Ah the 'napeet's. My childhood holidays were spent in Calcutta with my grandparents and I remember the napeet coming to cut the nails for my grandmom/ dad. They had nailcutters (my grandmom kept nail scissors) - but those were for emergencies.

I agree. Progress seems to have made things simpler, in ways we dont really want them to be.
I would rather have a maid with whom I have a personal relationship and who can help me in many small things and vice versa, than a dishwasher - which pays only its manufacturing company.

Oreen said...

now dippy, your "personal relationship" with a maid may be read into :) especially after Shiney :)

thanks for your comments...and i know who you are, shanks, so thanks to you too...

mamon, sayantani, next time let's do a trip to dhanbad to see what they have done to our huge bungalow now... must be an apartment complex, who knows?

ashaan said...

Sweet memories.. you lived like royalty in those days!

Mampi said...

I presume it is a classic case of
what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. If the maid charged a hefty sum, we would remember her.
But yes, you are right, we miss what we lose.
I loved the nailclippers in the post though.

Anonymous said...

i'm only 13 so i don't know much about this but my parents have surely told me a lot about such things, and as a teen i really liked it!!! i just wished i was alive then so i could see what you all experienced and saw.but sure sounds like some sweet memories

Anonymous said...

i'm only 13 so i don't know much about this but my parents have surely told me a lot about such things, and as a teen i really liked it!!! i just wished i was alive then so i could see what you all experienced and saw.but sure sounds like some sweet memories. you guys lived like royalty in those days wish teenhood was royalty!!!!!1

Anonymous said...

u guys lived like royalty those days didn't u??? sounds like some sweet memories.just wish teen hood was royalty!!!

Anonymous said...

u sure did live like royalty in those days.what was the name of your dog??which breed?i just wish teen hood was royalty,i guess i just have to wait till i start earning!!!

kidash said...

awesome.... post.... u deserve a sugar cane for this... Next time when ever we meet at the court.

Oreen said...

kidash, i have a HUGE paunch now, can't be seen at the court like this...

Lazyani said...

Thanks for reminding me of similar memories of my childhood in Jamshedpur.

I guess we are used to cutting too fine and living on 'made for mass consumption' characterless objects.

Ou generation has unfortunately straddled over this changeover(degenaration?) of the once elite middle class and we live in the warmth of the memories these days.

Pinku said...

such a nostalgia filled post Oreen...but the thought of your grandma waiting for her kids and wiping tears...brought tears to my eyes...

Our house in assam too came to mind...where a small army ensured we had every possible whim fulfilled.