Hello! I am Sujata. Most of you know me as an award-winning writer Julian Davis but in reality, I am Sujata, Sujata Mendes. You probably heard this name before. Remember the Bengali writer Subodh Ghosh’s legendary story about the love life of an untouchable girl “Sujata”. Well, I am that Sujata. Still doesn’t ring a bell, eh? Oh! How silly of me, I should have named the movie instead. Remember the Nutan and Sunil Dutt starer film directed by Bimal Roy. Yes, now you have got it. I am that Sujata only with a different history and a less light baggage.
Well, this Sujata’s story begins in the IT hub of the country, Bangalore. This fat little girl, yes, that’s me lived in a populated seemingly eco-friendly but human unfriendly city with her parents. Unlike the other Sujata, I belonged to a loving family who possessed all the luxuries of the world. Well almost all, except a pet. My father was quite afraid of pets. Having bitten by his pet dog at a young age, he grew resentful towards. So here I was ridiculed by my friends and devoid of any pet friends. But I did have some FRIENDS and those are my refuge.
Powered by these limbless colorful creatures I went about my usual business. While others needed vehicles to travel I had my own 2-wheelers for that purpose. The limbless colorful friends again came handy. Yes, I am talking about those books. So, there I was traveling the world and living my life.
Gradually, the years passed by and the lonesome girl turned out to be a tomboyish girl who had no fear in this world. It was during this time when I came across the love of my life Rakesh. He was a funny young man with an eccentric way of looking into life trivialities. While I was a hopeless romantic, he was a useless unromantic fellow obsessed with astronomy. Did I mention my obsession? Well, it was volcanoes. While he was a failed astronomer, I was a failed geologist and together we made a fine dysfunctional couple.
Our parents were quite happy to get rid of us and hence they wasted no time getting us hitched in a pious ceremony filled with unholy people. So, there you go within 6 months our acquaintance we were man and wife or perhaps woman and husband, whichever way you may want to look at it. Now, this failed geologist and failed astronomer were on their usual business – the business of slogging hours in front of a lighted screen and called it “Research”. While he was busy saving the IT world from bugs, I was busy saving hapless blokes getting ditched by beautiful girls. In that sense, the writer’s world and the engineer’s world was perfectly compatible. We were getting along as a house on fire.
All was well until the deal breaker turned up. It was an imperfectly perfect summer afternoon, I was busy doing the dishes and thinking the plot of a new novel while he slogged for hours on the ESPN. “Kring, Kring” rang the doorbell. The sound itself gave away who it was. It’s time to let in the guests.
So there it was, a pot-bellied gentleman and a potbellied lady along with their angel like good for nothing kids grinning at me, with a “we are here to screw you” look. I wanted to throw a fit and instantly escape through the balcony but good sense prevailed and I said,
“Namaste Uncle, welcome home.” My summer holidays were up for a toss and so did the idea of a novel. The next few days went with the usual “Atithi Devo Bhava” routine.
“Where’s your mandir?” asked the pot-bellied lady.
“Ummm. I do not believe in God”, I murmured reluctantly.
I was scared to tell her that I have no time for this hara-kiri. But as usual, the lady won’t budge.
So she went onto ask my husband who gave a funny expression and a green signal for the mandir. Within 3 days I had a mandir in my house with more than 10 different Gods on display each having a separate day of worship.
Well, the gods turned out to be the least of my trouble, it was the mortals who were breathing on my neck. Cooking for the Gods was a different task altogether. Apparently, you can’t feed them the same thing. Each one of them followed a different routine. While some wanted milk, others wanted sweets cooked in ghee. Some wanted bananas while others needed date palms and coconuts. I was beginning to feel like a wholesale fruit-seller and the pot-bellied lady a local fruit shop owner. That makes the Gods regular customers.
“Where is the coconut?”
“Did you bring the date palms?”
“You must make besan ladoos tomorrow.”
These were regular instructions that came with the package.
So the fruit-selling business was going on pretty well with occasional rebuttals from either side until that eventful summer weekend.
There were some awful happenings associated with Bruno, my pet cat. Yes, I had a furry feline now full with 2 pairs of limbs. The times of the limbless colorful pet was long gone. Now, this feline friend of mine found the melons quite happening and started to play with them. I was busy slogging in front of the computer that night and didn’t pay any heed to her misgivings.
As luck would have it, Bruno went on a rummage in the Gods’ resting place, wrecking a havoc in my world. I woke up with a dizzy head and some loud noise emanating from the living room.
“Bahu, look what your beloved Bruno has done” taunted the pot-bellied woman.
“Now, what has she done?” I enquired with a sleepy voice.
“She rummaged the mandir and ate all melons”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll get you new ones tomorrow. Use something else instead.”
“No, it won’t too. It’s part of Tuesday’s special offering.”
Apparently, the Gods had special days of offerings, it’s not like our regular “Rice and lentil” diet. So the tussle went on until Rakesh came back with some new melons. All was well until the next happening.
I thought the tide had stemmed down but it was indeed the silence before a storm. That night Bina Aunty made it clear that she won’t have our liberal ways of living. She wanted Bruno out of the house and her mandir left at her own will. As usual, I didn’t budge this time.
When it comes to choosing between a crazy lady and an insane cat, I had made my bed with the cat. So the priority was pretty much set. The condition came to such a pass that it became a do or die situation.
“You shouldn’t have pets in the house they aren’t good for vastu,” said Uncle.
“Do away with her, have some plants instead”, he added.
“Yes, let’s have a garden on our balcony”, exclaimed my upbeat husband.
“Do whatever you want but I want that cat out of the house”, ordered Bina Aunty.
“It’s either me or her”, she said.
“Then it better be her. I would rather have an insane cat than a crazy aunt”, I retorted.
Seeing the situation turning bitter, Rakesh suggested a viable alternative.
“Let’s think of it this way Sujata. How about we keep the cat chained to a position?”
“Obviously not. I wouldn’t think of it in a nightmare. This isn’t a zoo, it’s a house. Her house.”
”It is a zoo and you are the rarest animal in this zoo”, said the lady.
“And you are an antique from the museum”, I retorted.
Bruno seemed to purr in agreement of my statement.
So, the tussle went on and on with no solution in sight. That night Rakesh and I had our first fight. Well, first fight post marriage that is. All because of my feline friend or the crazy old lady.
Unable to handle this Rakesh left the house in search of world peace and eventually landed in my parent’s house. So, as usual, I woke up to a phone call from my father.
As with all men so it with these two noble gentlemen. They were happily going about their world of political discussions while I was sulking at home.
“Cut him some slack”, said my father.
“The poor guy is caught in a rift between you 2. How can you choose between his mother-like aunt and his beloved wife? Pay heed to his suggestion. It’s just a temporary arrangement. As soon as they leave Bruno will be back in your bed.”
“They are never going to leave. You have no idea what is happening there. Already 3months have passed by. They said they were here for a month. They will never leave. NEVER “, I grinned.
I left grudging, leaving my husband behind. The afternoon went by and he still didn’t come back.
That night I slept alone, a first since my marriage. I was tossing this side and that side and lied sleepless on the soft mattress, missing him dearly. I was both furious and angry with him. Sleep seemed to have been eluding me. So I started writing the novel instead.
“She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse.” I stopped typing. I was reading the paragraph and cursing my own foolishness.
How stupid I have been. I was indeed getting too far with this. Fighting over a silly issue and losing both my tooth and my husband along the process. There’s no need of this hullabaloo. I could easily make way with this new arrangement. If all else fails I can live with my parents for a few days.
“But Pappa is afraid of them”, I thought.
“Oh, wait a minute he said he won’t allow any pets but he didn’t tell what kind of pets.”
“Maybe it’s just the dog he is afraid of. He might allow Bruno.”
The following day I called it a truce and agreed to agreement. Rakesh came back and our first successful fight was over in a day. But this time Bina Aunty wouldn’t have it. She wanted a relief from this city and its animals including Bruno. So, the next morning Rakesh went running about the station in search of a ticket. It finally happened on the next day. That is on Tuesday.
What the gods couldn’t do, Bruno did it in a week. In a matter of 3 days, the “Atithi” was gone but the “Devtas” remained.
Bina Aunty still instructs me every week over the phone.
She and I have continued the fight.
We both live in the museum now and are still going about the fruit-selling business.
Once a fruit-seller always a fruit-seller.