bhOndOO is terrified on seeing a missed call from Daadi. She is his grand father’s sister and the eldest member of his family. She lives in a village and has some goats to look after. bhOndOO has bought her a mobile phone and taught her how to use it — by asking someone to dial the number.
She is a terror in bhOndOO’s family since she scolds anybody and everybody, that too on anything. She loves bhOndOO a lot and vice versa, although she doesn’t spare even bhOndOO of the scolding. Looking at the missed call, bhOndOO knows that he has committed a crime by not picking up the call and is bound to get a scolding. He calls back.
Daadi: “Kaun hai?” Who is it?
bhOndOO: “Daadi, this is bhOndOO.”
Daadi: “Kahan mar gaya tha?” Why didn’t you pick up my call?
bhOndOO: “I… I… was just…”
Daadi: “Thik se bol.” Talk clearly.
bhOndOO: “The mobile was on silent mode, Daadi.”
Daadi: “Silent mode maane?” What does Silent mode mean?
bhOndOO: “Maane, I could not hear the voice of the mobile ringing.”
Daadi: “Kyun! Kaan mein tel daala raha kya!” Have you poured oil in your ears?
bhOndOO: “No Daadi. Sorry Daadi.”
Daadi: “Sorry Daadi! Sorry ke alava kuch aaye hai tum logonko!” Do you know anything other than saying sorry?
bhOndOO keeps quiet.
Daadi: “Angrez chale gaye aur ye sorry chhod gaye!” The British rulers left the notion of Sorry in India.
bhOndOO continues to keep quiet.
Daadi: “Ab kuch bolega bhi! Phone baat karne ke liye kharida raha ya chup rahne ke liye!” Now speak up. Phone is for talking.
bhOndOO: “Haan Daadi.”
Daadi: “Achchaa, chal bata kahan hai?” Where are you?
bhOndOO: “I am at my workplace, Daadi.”
Daadi: “Tu kaam pe lag gaya? Tere baap ne to kuch bataya nahi!” You joined a job? Your father didn’t tell me!
bhOndOO: “No Daadi. I am in the institute, working.”
Daadi: “Haan to aisa bol na! Khwam khwah tere baap ko meri baatein sunani padati.” I see; otherwise, your father would have had to listen to my scolding.
bhOndOO smiles but the smile lasts only for a few moments.
Daadi: “Tabhi main sochu, tujhme itni akal kahan se aa gayi ki tu job karega. Pachchees saal ka ghoda ho gaya hai aur abhi bhi padhai poori nahi kar paya! Kamayega kab? Daant toont jayenge tab!” When will you start working?
“No Daadi. I have completed three years, I will finish PhD in next two years.”, bhOndOO says proudly.
Daadi: “PhD maane?” What does PhD mean?
bhOndOO: “Maane, currently I am in twenty first standard. As soon as I finish twenty third, I will start earning.”
Daadi: “Tab tak kya baap pe bojh bana rahega!” You will be dependent on your father until then!
bhOndOO doesn’t dare talk about his scholarship, lest he receives further scolding.
Daadi: “Aur wo chori pass hoye rahi kya? Kya naam hai uska?” Did she pass? What is her name?
bhOndOO: “Shami… Which chori Daadi?”
Daadi: “Wohi jo mere pair chuye rahi pichle saal jab main aaye rahi tere college ma.” The same girl who touched my feet last year when I came to your college.
“Not yet Daadi. She will pass this year.”, a shy smile appears on bhOndOO’s face when he continues, “Her name is Shami.”
Daadi: “Hmmm… Waise tu kar kya raha tha?” By the way, what were you busy with?
bhOndOO: “I was simply surfing the net…”
Daadi: “Surfing maane?” What does surfing mean?
bhOndOO: “Maane, I was reading.”
Daadi: “Kya padhe hai tu?” What were you reading?
bhOndOO: “I was reading friends’ diaries.”
Daadi: “Kya? Tu dostonki diariya padhe hai! Sharam nahi aaye hai towe!” You were reading friends’ diaries! How could you do that!
bhOndOO: “No Daadi. These diaries are on the internet. These are meant to be read by friends.”
Daadi: “Menu samjhi nahi.” I don’t understand.
“See Daadi.”, and bhOndOO goes into teaching mode, “If we are in trouble or want to discuss something, we talk to friends, right?”
“To phir?” Daadi never responds with “Right.”
bhOndOO: “Similarly, internet gives us the ability to express our opinion in public. We can write about anything, about our advisors, about stock market, about our goats, about our village, about our Daadi, anything. Not only that, even our friends can give us their opinions on our thoughts. Thus, if your goat is ill, they can mention the nearest doctor to go to. This not only allows us to bring out our thoughts, but also to analyze those in the eyes of others. It helps build our personality, Daadi. And it keeps us in touch with our friends — always — irrespective of which corner of the world we are in. Further, it helps you build new friends. Thus, if someone else writes a diary on the internet on an interesting topic, you can become his friend and start discussing with him — without ever meeting him. And after some days, you can go back and read your own diary to experience your own past.”
bhOndOO takes a deep breath. He decides whether further explanation is required. Daadi’s next statement clean-bowled him.
Daadi: “To itna ghuma phira ke kyun baat kar raha hai? Seedhe seedhe bol na ke blog padh raha tha.” Then why are you talking about it in an indirect manner? Say directly that you were reading a blog.
After a short pause, Daadi says, “Accha, maine phone isleye keya tha ke mein tujhe batha saku ke es shanivar Bittu ka Mundan hai” Well, I had called you up to inform you that it is your nephew’s Mundan (First Haricut) ceremony this Sunday.
bhOndOO goes home. This is the mundane Mundan ceremony of a cousin’s son, who is two. Everyone has insisted bhOndOO to come. Apparently, the reason behind this is that his presence would help his nephew to become an engineer.
bhOndOO catches cold in the train while going home. By the time he reaches home, his nose has started raining more than the monsoon. His condition is very bad but bhOndOO decides not to take any medicines as usual. He has forgotten that he is home.
His father brings him two tablets, his sister gives him 2 tablets of vicks, his mother dozes him off with ginger kaadha, his cousin suggests him to wear a sweater, his cousin’s wife suggests him to use monkey cap and his cousin’s wife’s son (the Mundan fame) suggests him to wear socks and gloves. After all the suggestions are implemented, bhOndOO now looks like a mummy with only his eyes visible. In order to prevent damage to the monkey cap, he has to adjust it a bit to let his running nose perform its operations smoothly.
During the ceremony, the monkey cap is forcibly removed by bhOndOO’s mother. “It doesn’t create a good impression.”, she remarks. The Mundan is held in the morning, but turns out to be a nightmare as bhOndOO’s nephew Bittu manages to stay awake during the whole function and create a lot of trouble.
It all starts with Bittu sitting with his parents along with the Pandit around a havan. Bittu initially tries to imitate his parents by putting ghee into the ‘aahuti’, but it spills and falls onto a lamp that gets extinguished. With the sophisticated Indian mindset, everyone does a hassh-hussh and continues to look at the pandit, since untimely lamp extinguishing is considered a bad omen. The pandit tries to pacify the crowd by chanting more mantras and voicing them a bit more loudly. As soon as he realizes that he can actually receive more ‘dakshina’ by taking the family out of the trouble, he stands up and starts whirling around himself with eyes closed chanting something (which anyway anyone never understands).
Meanwhile, as everyone is busy worrying, Bittu manages to pull out a small burning wood from the aahuti. As the pandit is performing his rounds, Bittu tries to move the wood to-and-fro, imitating him. When his father tries to snatch it from him, he resents and in the attempt, the wood swings into air and falls right onto the bottom part of the pandit’s dhoti. The spectators shout and tried to warn the pandit, but he is busy chanting and whirling. Fortunately, before he looked inappropriate, the dhoti is extinguished and he is brought to senses by our dear bhOndOO, by throwing water on him.
Bittu continues his attempts but they are all turned futile by his parents’ strategy of finishing the pooja as early as possible which almost all pandits are well capable of. Poojas are the best examples of scalable algorithms. You decide the time and money and the pandit can do the same pooja within those constraints. It is quite amazing!
As the pooja and the mundan ceremony get over, Bittu, not finding anything interesting, starts feeling sleepy. Since his parents are busy looking after the guests, bhOndOO is given the responsibility of putting Bittu to sleep. Bittu initially resists a foreign face, but when he finds himself sleeping on a fleshy shoulder without any signs of bones, he allows himself to be settled.
bhOndOO is told to sing some song in order to put Bittu to deep sleep. But, bhOndOO is in no mood to sing. After he takes over Bittu, he realizes that he should go to the bathroom. He is in a dilemma what to do, but thinks of waiting until Bittu sleeps. He checks if Bittu has worn a diaper and, to his relief, he finds that he is safe.
As Bittu starts fidgeting, bhOndOO has to start singing. He tries all kinds of Hindi songs he knows, like Dheere se aaja re akhiyan me nindiya, Surmai akhiyon mein nanna munna ek sapana de ja re, but finally, Bittu goes to sleep on hearing Dhoom machale dhoom machale dhoom, being played on a tape-recorder.
bhOndOO wishes to go to the toilet but he has to keep the sleeping Bittu on his bed first. bhOndOO is happy, as he would then be able to respect the nature’s call. At this thought, bhOndOO sneezes heavily and Bittu partly wakes up. bhOndOO skillfully puts him to sleep again. As he reached Bittu’s room, he hears someone playing Kaala kanwaa kaat khayegaa loudly. In fact, it is his mobile that is ringing. Now, bhOndOO is in an awkward situation. He is holding Bittu cautiously on his left hand and the mobile is in the left pocket of his jeans. Moving Bittu to the right hand is risky as he will wake up. Hence, the only solution is to try to pick up the mobile in the left pocket using his right hand.
It is difficult. I mean, it is difficult. The reader should try it, with a baby in his left hand. Tension is piling up. His hand is not getting hold of the target and the target is simply ringing. bhOndOO realizes something else.
He feels a small cold moving sensation in his nose. The sneezing a few moments ago has done its job. The speed with which bhOndOO’s right hand is penetrating into the left pocket has now doubled, since bhOndOO’s handkerchief is also in the same pocket, below the mobile.
Let us summarize the situation. Bittu is sleeping on bhOndOO’s left hand. The unending ringtone can wake Bittu up anytime. bhOndOO is an awkward posture trying to take out the mobile & handkerchief using his right hand while phlegm is running steadily down the nostril. Only an octopus can take care of all these activities in such a situation. But our bhOndOO is b-O-n-d. He finally manages to take out his mobile and … well, sneezes six times on its screen.
After the debacle is over, bhOndOO realizes that he has missed the call and the younger male is looking at him with not a frightened, but a very curious face. The well-awake Bittu raises his hand to slowly move in the direction of bhOndOO’s mouth. bhOndOO is worried about his waking up and cannot not fathom why he is doing this. Only when Bittu touches bhOndOO’s lips, does bhOndOO realize that a lot of viscous fluid from his nose has encroached on the mouth area of his face. Bittu has found the jelly quite interesting to play with and he has got enough time to make maps of various countries on bhOndOO’s face. bhOndOO shifts him to the right hand and takes out his handkerchief.
bhOndOO does not bother about the missed call but he definitely thinks of rushing to the toilet attached to the same room. He is not sure how to go about doing this since he cannot take Bittu along. Handing him over to someone outside will be too insulting. Hence, bhOndOO decides to keep Bittu on the bed, instructs him not to move and then perform the ritual. Bittu listens to the instructions carefully. bhOndOO finally goes inside the attached toilet and relieves himself.
The extent of relief is quite comparable to that a PhD student feels after completing his comprehensive examination.
As bhOndOO comes out, as you may have guessed, Bittu has disappeared. bhOndOO goes out running and the first person he encounters is Bittu’s father JoJo.
JoJo: “Oh! Slept?”
bhOndOO: “Umm… well… yes…”
“Great! You will become a good father.”, says JoJo and goes away.
bhOndOO realizes that Bittu has not gone out. He rushes in again and searches the rooms more carefully. He panics on finding no signs of Bittu.
“I think I should tell his parents. But what will they think of me. And what reason should I tell them? That I went to the bathroom leaving him alone? This sounds so silly! They will call me stupid! But searching Bittu is more important than being tagged of stupidity. Anyway, this won’t be the first time someone is calling me stupid. Yes, I should tell his parents.”
bhOndOO makes up his mind and comes out. He looks around to see some familiar faces.
“Bittu’s mother will panic. I better talk to Bittu’s father.”
bhOndOO goes to Bittu’s father, JoJo. JoJo is talking to some guests.
bhOndOO: “Excuse me, JoJo?”
JoJo: “Yes, bhOndOO?”
bhOndOO: “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
JoJo: “Yes, please go on.”
bhOndOO: “Can I talk to you for a minute in private?”
JoJo gets serious, looks around at the guests, then at bhOndOO and says, “Please excuse me.” and comes to a side along with bhOndOO.
JoJo: “What’s the matter, bhOndOO? Anything serious?”
bhOndOO: “Actually, JoJo…”
“Am I disturbing?”, Bittu’s mother JiJi approaches.
Both bhOndOO and JoJo do not answer.
“Bittu slept?”, JiJi asks without waiting for the answer to her first question.
“Ummm… Yes…”, bhOndOO replies.
“You were saying something.”, JoJo enquires.
bhOndOO: “Ummm… No, nothing… really. Just… just asking whether there is enough food for the guests.”
JoJo: “Oh! Don’t worry about that. Our caterer is very experienced. And this is a very small function for him.”
JiJi puts her hand around JoJo’s and almost pulls him away, “I want you to meet my…”
bhOndOO is left alone, disappointed and more worried. His pulse rate is continually increasing at the thought of losing Bittu and not informing it to his parents.
“I need to be brave. I must tell it to JoJo and JiJi. Who knows, Bittu may have been kidnapped!”
The last thought makes bhOndOO miss a pulse. He thinks about the consequences of kidnapping, shrugs and rushes towards JiJi and JoJo.
bhOndOO: “JoJo, JiJi, I want to say something.”
Both of them turn around.
“Actually, … Bittu is kid…”, bhOndOO cannot utter further.
“Ofcourse he is a kid. What do you mean!”, JiJi.
bhOndOO: “No, I mean, he is a kid and he is a sweet kid, but currently, he is not…”
“What’s the matter, bhOndOO?”, JoJo gets serious again.
bhOndOO: “JoJo, please don’t misunderstand me, but Bittu…”
“Is here.”, a familiar sweet voice is heard.
bhOndOO misses another pulse on hearing the voice and again when he sees her. Bittu is comfortably asleep in her hands. bhOndOO’s face suddenly starts glowing with surprise and pleasure. For a moment, he forgets the whole world and he does not even bother how she is there.
“She… is…?”, JiJi asks looking at JoJo.
“She… is…?”, JoJo asks looking at blushing bhOndOO.
“She… is…”, bhOndOO doesn’t utter her name.
Shami: “I am Shami, bhOndOO’s colleague from IISc.”
“Oh! Nice to meet you.”, JoJo says shifting his notorious gaze towards bhOndOO.
“Please give him to me.” and JiJi comes forward to take Bittu from Shami. Bittu opens his eyes and sleeps again.
“Okay, then. Enjoy yourself.”, JiJi and JoJo leaves the love-birds.
There is an awkward silence between them for a few seconds. bhOndOO is so pleasantly surprised that he does not even care about knowing the reason for her presence. But the only normal way to break the silence was to ask the following question:
bhOndOO: “So,… how come… here?”
“Main bulaye rahi.”, bhOndOO’s Daadi enters the conversation. I invited her.
“Oh!” and bhOndOO cannot question further.
Shami touches Daadi’s feet.
“Khush raho.”, Daadi blesses with her right hand on Shami’s head and her eyes on bhOndOO. Be happy.
Daadi: “Safar thik raha?” The journey was okay?
Shami: “Haan Daadi.” Yes, Daadi.
Daadi: “Thik hai. Tum log baat karo. Main jara mehamaanon se milke aati hoon.” I will be back after meeting the guests.
The love-birds are silently alone again. The awkward silence brings bhOndOO back to his senses.
bhOndOO: “So, where did you find Bittu?”
Shami: “In that room, below the cot.”
bhOndOO: “Oh! But why did you go to that room?”
Shami: “I called you, but you didn’t pick up the phone. So I asked people here for your whereabouts. Someone directed me to the room. I didn’t find you, but found Bittu.”
bhOndOO: “Oh! It was you whom I missed!”
The statement makes Shami look down and bhOndOO hold his tongue in his teeth. He adds, “I mean… on the phone call.”
Shami does not say a word. But bhOndOO continues…
bhOndOO: “You don’t know, you just saved me from big trouble.”
Shami smiles. bhOndOO does not understand the meaning of the smile: I will always be there whenever you find yourself in trouble.
“So…, what’s the plan?”, bhOndOO asks.
“Lunch! And then you are showing me your city.”, Shami replies.
They both smile… a little longer.
“Sure.”, bhOndOO says joyously.
Looking after the guests, Daadi keeps an eye on the two colleagues from IISc.