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Let me begin by wishing each one of you a very happy year 2012.
I think I had an okay kind of year 2011. The year began with my service getting extended by two years and in no time it has passed by and here I am looking forward to retirement in Jan 2013. There is a likelihood of our retirement age getting extended to 65 years and my husband has already begun to hope that it does not. It must be hard for him to spend time alone at home while I lead a life of my own with my colleagues and students.
Since my work life also doubles up for social interaction, till date I haven’t felt the need to socialize much outside college. If I retire next year I may have to start making friends in and around home. As of now I limit my interactions to a nod and/or a smile. People inquire after my children and I reciprocate and I am done. I wonder what happened to those that belonged to my immediate circle of friends 30 years back when I was not working. I devote this post to my initial years in Jamshedpur trying to recall the good ones in my life as a young bride and mother.
I have mentioned my friend Prema in quite a few of my posts. I am still very much in touch with her even now. But as a new comer to Jamshedpur it was always Prema/Lalli. Lalli was Prema’s younger sister and equally dear to me. Those were days when as unmarried girls they would form a group and go for movies. I would always be invited to accompany them and I would join them if the movie was exceptionally good. ‘Madhumati’, ‘Nagin’, Ek Duje ke liye’, ‘Silsila’ etc. were some that interested me. Unfortunately Lalli met with a tragic end and is no more. I cannot understand how and why a high spirited girl like her decided to end her life.
Then there was ‘kuttai’ (short) Vijaya. She was among the very few who were shorter than me. She impressed me with her expertise in house keeping. She was married at the age of 15 and when I arrived in Jamshedpur she had already been married for four/five years although she was two years younger than me. She would prepare mouth watering sweets and savories during Deepavali and Gokulashtami and would find time to sew clothes for the children in the family (5 of them) though at the time she had none of her own, stitch blouses for herself, her co-sisters and mother in law, keep a sparkling house with no maid to assist her. Ever smiling, she would be available for help to anyone in need. Once she gained confidence she offered to stitch blouses/frocks and skirts for children of outsiders, including me. We just had to buy her matching thread for the purpose. She needed to practice but could not afford to buy cloth. This way both groups benefitted. A little before I started working, she left for Hyderabad and I never met her again.
Lakshmi got married and came to our neighborhood around the same time as me. She had no knowledge of Hindi and learned the language by jotting down the Hindi equivalents of Tamil words in a piece of paper and learning the language by talking in broken Hindi to vegetable vendors. In a year’s time her Hindi was passable and after 2 more it became proficient! She did not attend tailoring classes but learnt to sew from Kuttai Vijaya for free. Symbiosis, I suppose. Lakshmi left for Chennai for her children’s higher education. Her husband later took voluntary retirement and they settled down in Chennai.
I got acquainted with Susila Mami much later. She had lost her husband and had just taken up a job in Tata Steel on compassionate grounds after 5 years of struggle. She had 4 children, none settled. She was a very self respecting person and refused to accept the job of an office girl/temporary worker that the company offered her. She met the chairman Mr. JRD Tata, in Mumbai to plead her case. I watched her children move up in life. Her sons would often have a tiff with her and come to me to air their differences. They would want her to exercise less control and understand that they were now grown ups. The very next day she would come and share her point of view with me. She was unable to see that it was time for her to let go and was always worried about their welfare. They have now moved on in life. I hear from them once in a while but it is evident that the closeness that we once shared is no longer there.
Then there was Meera whom I have mentioned in this post. The Sinhas were such a happy family when I first got to know them. It all ended with the death of their first born at the age of 31. Meera was just a living corpse after his death. She is no more and though a Bihari she was closer to me than those from her community. God bless her soul, she was a second mother to my son and looked after him while I was away at work, from keeping track of his toys to putting him to sleep by her side.
I often wonder if it is possible to make friends anew at the age of sixty. It was so much easier to bond back then. I know that Prema needs me and so does Protima who lives closer to my home. Protima is unmarried and continues to work as a teacher after retirement for about a quarter of her earlier salary. She lives with her brother’s family. She has stopped having dinner saying that she does not feel hungry but the truth is that she feels that she is not able to contribute as much as before for the family expenses. How come no one seems to worry?
Whenever someone asks me if I plan to relocate to the south after retirement I feel insecure. This place has given me an identity and I am not sure if I would be happy anywhere else. But then this place is a pain to reach at short notice and I cannot ignore the problem faced by my children who may land at Kolkata by flight but the lack of connectivity to Jamshedpur puts them off. It would be best if my service period is extended and I get a lease of 3 more years. Will worry about relocation after that, won’t we?
The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its
Hello G’ma – How are you?
I am sure that your college would not have let you go and that you are still working. “Visiting” after a long time. Have to read a lot of your posts.
Thanks for taking time to read my posts. No one seems to be interested anymore.
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