It is soon going to be thirty years since I came back to Durgapur, twenty since my daughter was born, and fifteen since I quit my schoolteacher’s job. In seven years’ time, if I survive, I shall have reached the official age of retirement, and qualify to be a senior citizen.
It’s been a long haul, and not too painful but certainly disappointing and unrewarding on the whole – I have in mind the lives of many a thousand man to compare with when I make that assessment. Maybe that’s the way it turns out for most people. It has also been a long, long slog, and I am not sure whether I can look forward to something better at last. But anyway, 2016 is also done. We are having a long winter this time, so that is good, though I wish it had rained a bit…
It has been a quiet and satisfying year on the whole. A year of travels, a year of living with my parents again after ages, a year of watching my daughter grow into an adult. A year of strange surprises, whose sting is going to be felt in 2017 – the election of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi’s demonetization circus. A year of feeling too often that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. A year of walking on my own feet again: and doing everything a normal man can do with a once-broken leg except jump, but knowing sadly that it will never stop hurting as long as I live. A year without too-serious accidents to self and family, thank God. One more year of hoping and being disappointed about a few good things happening to India. A year of a great deal of reading and TV-serial watching.
I came back from a big city when I had begun to feel that I was not destined for great things, and it would be pathetic to spend a lifetime in a metropolis unless you were doing great things (my view is that if you live in Kolkata, it’s worth it only if you are either Didi or Dada. That is a very short but very pithy summary of my outlook on life. I have seen New York and Delhi at close quarters too, and I have found no reason to change that opinion. In Delhi you are a nobody unless you are at least a Lok Sabha member as well as a national celebrity or dollar billionaire). Much better to be a fairly big fish in a small pond. I am eternally thankful to this one-horse town because it has fed me well and on the whole left me at peace to live my own life. My only regrets are that it is getting too crowded, dusty and noisy for my taste, that I could never have a swimming pool close to home, that ‘educated’ people here by and large don’t have any civic sense and charity, and don’t read anything at all. Not a very big list of grouches, really. Now that there are fairly decent hospitals nearby, and high speed internet at home, and the NH2 is getting better still, I am sitting pretty. My investment advisor assures me that if things keep going as they are, I shall have a pretty good ‘pension’ to draw upon after I am sixty, and by that time my daughter is likely to be looking after herself, so I can be a free bird. The rest is in God’s hands.
I have been travelling more and more often these days, so I need a good car. My own, a small hatchback, is still in fine fettle, but getting old. I am not sure about buying a new one, because my car sits in the garage for most of the year. It makes far more sense to hire one whenever I go out of town. I was delighted to hear that a new startup called Zoomcar has begun to hire out self-driven cars for exactly this purpose, and I contacted them, but they don’t have any plans to start a service in this region anytime soon. There are lots of people in my town who give you cars on hire, but they come with their own drivers, and I insist on taking along my own. So this is a request to my readers: can you put me in touch with someone in the Durgapur-Asansol region who is willing to rent out a Toyota Innova in good condition on those terms, at, say, Rs. 1500 a day, fuel and driver excluded? I shall always ask for it with several days’ notice, and how good care I take of cars will be evident to anyone who tries driving my own.
One good thing about street culture hereabouts in passing: during the time I grew up, Bengalis who were strangers addressed one another as dada (an honorific equivalent to elder brother). I have made fun in the other blog of people who have of late begun to address all females as madam instead of kakima, mashi or didi as they did in the old days. I am pleased to note, though, that of late men of all ages are increasingly addressing one another as kaku (‘uncle’) by default. I think that quaint though it is, it is certainly an improvement – just as I insist that all who address me by my first name though they don’t know me from Adam (as the call centre-operative type, trained ‘American’-style, tend to do) have taken one big step backwards towards monkeyhood.
You’ve got ten days to give India a pleasant surprise for a change, Mr. Modi. We are waiting.