Saturday, 9 April 2011

Finding Forrester - an anecdote

   Movies, I believe, are a manifestion of imagination with a figment of reality. So often, it happens that we watch a movie and experience some kind of Deja vu."Finding Forrester" a movie about an Afro-American teen writing prodigy played by Rob Brown, who finds a mentor in a reclusive author,played by a grey-haired Sean Connery.Watching it reminded me so much of someone I was very close to.Since she is no longer alive,I was kind of apologetic that I had not thought of her for so long.

     We had moved house, and were still getting to know our neighbours, when the lady in question announced herself. She was an old frail woman dressed in a worn out saree, a white one with a red border.She looked ill,and walked with a limp.We actually thought she had come to ask for charity. She introduced herself as a distant relation of our landlord, and then unraveled some facts about herself which almost left us gaping in wonder.She lived alone, had retired from a senior position in a government department, never married, had studied medicine for a year before abandoning it due to health reasons.She had had multiple fractures, the reason behind her limp. She had been hit by a car and lay in hospital for months with none of her relations knowing or caring. She said with absolute frankness that she was guarding a lot of heirlooms, and people were forever trying to dupe her.We thought, like all old people, she had gotten a little delirious and irritating.She said that my brother and I reminded her of her grand nieces and nephews.

     The visits became frequent, and once she landed up with an oatmeal porridge for me.I was around 10 years old then.I desisted it, but as a polite gesture, I had to taste it - and to my great surprise, it  was yummy!She had prepared it with date jaggery, an awesome experiment.So my tummy sent some good signals to my heart.My 2 year old brother had correctly guessed that she was too old to be an aunt, so he suggested we call her 'Thakuma'(paternal grandma in Bengali).She was delighted.

    She would spend hours chatting with my mother, offering her some words of wisdom, telling her some medical facts, and sharing hundreds of stories. She seemed like an enclyclopaedia. This was the time when my parents were quite busy to help me with my studies,and once, my mother suggested that I ask Thakuma to clear my doubts.I was sceptical - she was so old, I thought, what would she know of the latest curriculum?Forget know, the lady was competant enough to give my teachers a run for their money.She corrected my grammar exercise and numericals with utmost precision and gave me some great tips.Another lesson in humility.

   She gave long sermons on the use of grammar and language,one discussion led to another,and I ended up writing loads of stuff.I would leave my notebooks at home when I went to school, and came home to find comments and suggestions scribbled in red ink on them.Informally though, she had become my mentor.For my now impressionable teenage mind, I could see beyond her shabby exterior.I started visiting her home, which was more like a storehouse for furniture with her tiny little kitchen, where she would cook up some tidbits for me.We discussed all kinds of topics,more like friends than anything else.I would actually look forward to her visits now.

    I was doing well in school, and she would always say that she looked forward to seeing me take the Civil Services exam.Around this time, she had another rough patch with her health, a fracture and she was confined to bed for a few months. We would go visit her from time to time.Our association was now almost into its seventh year, and there was some talk of shifting into a new locality.In course of time we moved, and saw less and less of Thakuma now.It was difficult for her to take the numerous steps leading to our new home, so she would call us.But she did not miss my 10th Board results, and landed at our doorstep with the newspaper announcing my results and a box of sweets.

    Two more years, and I got busy with my exams,tutions, and saw her once in a blue moon.I met her before leaving for my engineering course.She was not entirely convinced that I was sure of what I was doing, but encouraged me nonetheless.From time to time I would get news of her from my mother, she was totally bedridden now, and some of her relations had finally taken pity on her.And then she left us forever.

   It is strange how people you least imagine can leave their mark in your life.For her selfless affection and all the knowledge she shared, I dedicate this to her.And thank you CC, for telling me to watch the movie.