So yet another year has passed by, and yet another batch is going to be ex from next week. I have written goodbyes before, so look them up if you like, all: I cannot think of something new to say to your lot. One of those posts, I seem to remember, was titled Bye-bye time again. Use the search bar, will you? And remember: I shall look out for the few who keep sincerely in touch, and forget the rest soon.
Ancient Egyptian records claim that Rameses II was ‘very old’ when he died; modern tests on his mummy indicate, however, that he was only 52 – just my age. Well, perhaps in those days people grew decrepit very quickly (in Bengali we have a saying about girls: ‘kurir agey chhunri, kuri perole buri’ – she’s a lass before 20, and a crone thereafter – and men only get a few decades extra) – though our epics tell a very different story. Anyway, I felt very old when I was 17, and surprised that I had survived to be 40, and now I see ancestors carrying on into their 80s, so I don’t know what to think any more! In fact till my mid-40s I could outwalk old boys fifteen years younger, and the little paunch has become prominent only because following the accident I have been virtually immobile for six whole months: maybe once I get back to my usual exercise routine I’ll be able to trim it down again to something respectable enough compared to the rolypoly teenagers I see around me!
Ageing is also to a very large extent a matter of mental condition. I certainly have much more grey hair than I did in early 2013, and no wonder: these last two years and a half have been one of the most traumatic periods of my life. There is a chapter in To My Daughter with the title Expect the Unexpected, but it is always hard to take your own advice, so I have had trouble coping, and that is now showing in many little ways. My knees creak and hurt much more these days, too. Who knows if there’s a turn for the happier around the corner, I might be looking younger again in two years’ time, despite those knees…
I have been thinking aloud in class about how I am going to change my style in the years to come. Fewer girls as the years pass is one very strong possibility. Another is giving more time to stories and movies and games and quizzes. A most exciting option is going out on holiday trips with a largeish gang, provided some dads come along to help – and mothers strictly stay away (unless someone is a most exceptional mother, a type of whom I have seen hardly five in my whole lifetime). More frequent breaks, as my daughter travels farther away and I want more and more to go to stay with her. It will amuse me to see how this town adjusts to my changing outlook. Meanwhile, this year I have turned my mind to gardening, and there might be a dog in the offing. A new car, too, maybe, and a trip abroad. But most of all I am looking for a housekeeper – remember Holmes’ Mrs. Hudson? Short of having a Watson around, that is the best I can think of.
An old boy – one of the few who have come back to this town with a decent job – took me out to dinner the other day, and I enjoyed it hugely, despite the fact that I have never much liked eating out, however fancy the restaurant. It was all about the company. Thank you, Abhik. I wish, so wish that many more like you could have come back to settle here. And until that happens, nothing bar nothing is going to convince me that Durgapur is ‘developing’. What they did instead the other day, as a small step I suppose towards making this a ‘smart’ city (how I hate that word!), was to bring a bulldozer and flatten some of the shanty shops along the main road near my house: shops selling all sorts of things from fruits to snacks to washing services. I know all these people – they are perfectly nice, harmless folks working hard to eke out a living in a country where government and society use them but don’t care a whit whether they live or die. Not like the fortunate few million parasites who have been lucky to get cushy jobs in non-performing public sector companies and government departments. I like them, I identify much more with them than with the brash, uncultivated but snooty, lazy, greedy, irresponsible, unsocial middle class. The only option they have is to turn to crime or beggary. Of course their shops were eyesores, and so this draconian step by those who wield power (all safe and comfortable themselves) can always be justified in the name of ‘beautification’ – they were littering the surroundings and bringing down real estate prices, weren’t they? Well, nobody ever took care of the root problem of an exploding population, and nobody seems to be even interested in making them permanent places to work out of, from where they can run registered businesses and even pay some taxes. Talk about poorly thought out projects. Naturally all those shanties have mushroomed again within a week. Where else would they go? Why don’t the big talkers in the ruling parties learn how it should be properly done – from a country like Japan, for instance, which too has a very dense population, and has managed to grow rich and stay spankingly clean at the same time? What a tragedy that a country which breeds ‘successful’ professionals by the million cannot produce leaders who can lead, who have even cared to find out what it means to lead!