Sepia Relationships

My work was over and I was passing through the crowded passage of the office, when I heard a ‘hey’! The voice was familiar. I looked at the person. The gait was familiar too; beard also was same, except the color. Siba – Siba Misra, a photography student from my batch. In forty years all he had developed was hint of a paunch. Earlier he used to be like a banana leaf. He was completely recognizable to my forty years weaker eyes, even in that dim evening light. ‘Siba’, I shouted and we hugged. We barraged each other with, ‘How are you? How is your family? Children? What are they doing? How is wife?’ and then answered each other. Don’t ask me if the answers are still in my system. I told a fellow recordist in the office that we know each other since 1969!

You joined them recently? He asked. I said, yes, less than three months. Very good. It is the best TV software company in Bombay. They are very strong. I did not know those details, so I said, I am sure. Siba said he is in the team of directors that make CID. His production team surrounded him, so he got busy discussing work. I patiently watched him do that. After he finished we both walked out together. He was limping. I knew the story. I also knew that when we meet and time permits, he will narrate it to me himself with all the details and underlined passages. Although, the incidence had happened more than six years ago, it still is a strong experience for anyone…

He was accompanying his son to a college in Pune. They were going by train. As the train moved, Siba lost his balance and fell between the track and the platform wall. Train wheels pulled off a large part of his flesh just above his foot. There was panic. His son pulled the chain and jumped off the train. Soon he was pulled out and made to lie on the floor. As Siba lay unconscious, his very upset son was making calls. One of them was to owner of this TV production house. Brij reached there and got him required medical care until he was fine and ready to go home…

On the staircase of the office, he pulled up the bottom of his pant and showed me his right foot. It was jet black and was very badly swollen. He wore a sock over it to keep it hidden. He was always in chappals. But that was his usual style too.

We walked talking for about 10 min to reach his humble Maruti 800, just stood there and kept exchanging more notes. We had missed personal contact for years. I asked if his foot pains while walking. It is always paining, he said flatly. Only when he gets up in the morning and swelling is less, pain is a bit less; but as the day passes it swells up and pain also goes up.

We spoke about ‘Aangan Ki Kali’, a movie that we did together. We had many good things to talk about it: it was a clean, well made film on child adoption as its central theme. You couldn’t find any part that was done unprofessionally. It was shot well. Actors were good, Rakesh Roshan and Lakshmi. The child artiste, Geeta won a national award. Music was very nice too, ‘na rona munni na tu’, ‘saiyan bina ghar soona’, ‘tumhe kaise kahoon’. Bappi da was at his melodious best then. Siba said many years back he too directed a movie, which did not fare well on the box office, forcing a setback in his career. We spoke about a lot of setbacks in both our careers. In our unorganized entertainment business, there is no security. You can be out of job for years and then suddenly bounce back sometimes without even working on it.

We both were in no hurry for anything. Our comfort zone was completely in place. I said let’s find a place to sit and have a cup of tea. It was a bit noisy there. We looked around and found a decent Udipi restaurant, but he said, forget it; we will have a ‘cutting chai’ from the pavement. We walked some more and found a tea stall. As we sipped tea from little plastic cups, he said his injured foot reacts a second late to the mental commands. So he has to be very careful while driving.

There is so much to talk about so many people you have spent time with, especially as young students. They say every human being is a volume, if you know how to read him/her. So if the story is about two people it could become an epic…

On my last day, rather last night in the FTII in 1972, we both got very drunk on desi ‘ilayachi’ liquor. We slept in the same room. Due to overwhelming insecurity, we started making promises to each other that would make us feel better: we will stay together in Bombay too. If possible even work together.

When I took an auto for Poona railway station on May 3, 1972, I don’t remember if I was upset and to what degree. But I noticed that familiar places like the main theatre, wisdom tree, canteen, badminton court that I started, security cabin and finally the overhead sign board of FTII seemed different that day. All that had been a part of my every moment for the past 3 years. I also knew that it was going to be lost for a very long time to come. No, I don’t think I had time to feel sad, because I must have been too tense about my immediate future in the most ruthless dream city. To put it on record, I went back to FTII just for a day in 1974 for my convocation and then could never go back for next ten years!

It was about time. We walked back to his car. I said I will take an auto from here, but he said; I will drop you to the signal. So just for hundred meters I sat in his car and 15 seconds later got off; jumped in an auto and waved him bye. Strangely the content of our entire conversation was far from pleasant. It was mainly about sickness, failures, accidents, joblessness; but we went through it without feeling emotions attached to such conversation. I guess because the positivity of our meeting did not allow the sadness to take over. With such friends you are always on the same page, same pitch. No loss occurs in relationship, due to time lost.

Affectionately yours

We remember our past either due to associations with some people or because of certain unique unforgetable incidences. Past always comes to our mind not as a date or a period; but as its various association. There is no reason to think about May 3, as a date, but when I know on this day I came to Mumbai for good that makes the association and significance of a date gets established. In everyone’s life there are faces and voices that keep surfacing in memories.

But whenever I think of about love, affection, friendship; Jackie’s face emerges in my mind. Jackie was a female Doberman of pure breed. She was very agile, alert and smart. She lived with Babu Family, in the house of my sister-in-law in Pune. It is a large house, with open space all around, large trees and lot of foliage.

Jackie had company of Zara (again a female Doberman) and Gypsy (a female German Shephard). In the morning all three would be kept locked at the back of the house, because Zara was capable of attacking odd guys bringing news paper or milk. But all three of them were allowed to roam everywhere after awhile. Our trips to Pune were good fun because of these three highly entertaining dogs. All three were trained to not enter inside the house, unless it was raining or it was too hot. Pune does get very hot in summer…

Jackie was a very understanding person. It showed in her tolerance towards children. She was always very mild with them. She never ran up to them or played high energy games. Many toddlers in the family would sit on her, pull her ears or even try to poke her in the eyes; but she would sit patiently and take it. Only if the condition turned too difficult for her, she would get up and walk off.

Although Jackie and I met only on occasions, she became very close to me. I was always greeted with a lot jumping and licking every time we visited Babu Family. She wanted always my hand petting her head. If I moved it away, she would lower her head under my hand and put it back.

We hit out very well. We played games like grabbing the ball. But the ball would always end up in her mouth. Obviously it was impossible to beat her in it. She also loved ‘find the right stone’ game. In this, I would choose a stone, memorize its shape, rub my hands over it for smell to stay, make her smell it and throw it away hard. She would dash off in that direction, find the same stone and get it back. She it did every time. She was so swift that many times she grabbed the stone while it was still in hopping in the air. She had become so fond of playing stone game with me that many times her teeth bled while grabbing at the moving rough stones. But she would be too excited to bother about it. In fact I would stop playing or try to find lighter or smoother stones for her.

My best memory of Jackie is very sweet. It was during a hot afternoon siesta. Everyone was asleep. I too was sleeping on a mattress in the hall at the ground level of the house. Except for the whirring of fan and scant calls of afternoon birds, it was quiet…

And suddenly the silence broke with a loud crackling bang- very close to my own head! It sounded as if a piece of brick or concrete had fallen. With a shock I opened my eyes to see from where it fell. I looked up to see if any part of the ceiling had come off. It was not so. Then I saw Jackie was sitting next to my bed and staring at me anxiously. Just there on the floor was half a brick. I realized that it was her who had brought the brick and dropped it down as an invitation to play. I don’t have any memory of real people approaching me like that for anything.

Jackie was very affectionate, gentle and fun and she displayed it too very well. She was very sensible and attached to her family and vice versa. Due this she lived a very full and very long life. Of course she did turn very week towards the end. Once I was helping a vet who had come to check her up. I was holding Jackie while vet gave her an injection. After it was over, doctor said she must be very nice to you otherwise we always tie up dog’s mouth in case they bite due to pain.

It is nearly 5 years that she died a mysterious death. Early morning of Dec 5, 2002, she was found dead under a tree, some distance away from home. No one had seen her going out and perhaps no one saw her dying too. There are two versions to this mystery. Firstly there is a belief that dogs never like to die at home. When they know it is time, they just slip out quietly and meet their end. And perhaps that’s what she did. Another version is that when Aarti left for her gym, perhaps the gate was left open and Jackie followed the car without Aarti’s knowledge. Later street dogs chased her and perhaps she got cardiac arrest trying to outrun them. Jackie was nearly 17 years old, when she died, which is equivalent to 17×7 or 119 human years! I had felt very bad for many days after the sad news was conveyed to me in Mumbai. Everyone in her family mourned for days. Her memories are still cherished by all and that is why I took more than half a day putting this piece together.