Shelling her peas... sounds off. Surely, she's chheeloing matar. Yes, much better -- that's what she's doing. Every now and then, she'll give me the small, sweet ones to pop in my mouth. Besides the shelling/ cheeloing, she's also looking at some crap movie on TV -- Barsaat Ki Ek Raat -- featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhi, Ajmal Khan and tackily picturised songs.
She's still making faces. She's still chheeloing matar.
Annoying before-dinner rhythm we've got going. I'm eating the matar, popping them in my face, also chheloing the matar, tossing the chhilka aside on a steel tray.
Again- faces! Now she's making faces at me. No -- TO me. I don't understand the look and it's pissing me off. And what's this wink thing happening? I say, irritably: kya-a-a-a? i.e Why are you winking at me, Nanu?!
Nanu starts nudging me to look in the direction of Bawa, my grandfather. He's sitting next to her. She doesn't want to say look! look! out aloud because hen he will hear her and be conscious. But really, WHAT am I supposed to be looking at?!
I break the whisper-wink one sided conspiracy, and say in a perfectly loud tone: WHAT is it, Nanu?
Bawa, dekho, tv dekh rahein hain, she says softly, i.e look, Bawa's watching telly.
So he's usually not interested in anything.
I look at my hunch-backed, wavy-haired, grey tracksuit- wearing grandfather sitting frozen and compact in a red plastic chair that's too small for him -- or is it that he's gotten too fat for it? Which is it? And is he watching or just looking? Looks like he's watching, alright. I excuse myself from the rhythmic peeling of peas and and go get my camera. It's a hobby, this constant chronicling of the long established body language of my favourite goldies. I need to remember their wrinkles. Photographs are the preservatives you can't dunk in jam.
This afternoon, he, my grandfather Bawa, couldn't remember who called five minutes ago. Nanu gave him hell for not trying hard enough. My mother, like all daughters in this family, took her father's side, saying, let him be etc. I was with my grandmother on this. Shout more, I wanted to tell her. Pressurise him into racking his brains. This not remembering nonsense is too easy. But he I'm not sure, gives a damn about the nagging of the domestic queen. And I'm sure he's not trying to depress anyone by being extra slow but it's no virtue and nothing he will get credit for, not from me.
Of late, at meal times, on the dining table, everyone else will be talking, and my grandfather, the old pilot, Bawa, in this classic way he has of resting his temples on the bent wrist of his not-eating-with hand, will just stay shut and chew and chew and chew. Which is fine, as far as digestion goes. But it worries me how much we're lowering the bar for him -- Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, really? My grandmother was watching it for him. He likes this shit, not her. She wants the 9 o clock news. Hence the faces. But she'll bear bad cinema if it means her husband and childhood sweetheart will look up and alert and interested and participatory. All the while, I'm imagining dramatic scenarios in my head, the inevitable ends, the future without them and and feeling angry that they're shamelessly deteriorating. Never mind the stupid fox and his unreachable grapes, it's the matar that's never sweet.
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