As a kid growing up all over the country, all I ever wanted was to have a large family. I was the only child of my parents with no easy access to cousins or the large extended family that I am still in the process of discovering. As a result, books became my best friends and our dogs, pigeons, rabbits, cats and other creatures became my siblings.But that’s another story.
Cut to the present and I do believe in dreams coming true – at least some of them. In contemporary terms, I have a large family comprising my husband Parag, sister-in-law Mona, son Manoj, daughters Aarzoo and Tamanna and my mother who we all live with. Add Supriya the General Manager of the Devaya-Sen "baadi" (Bengali for household) and a three bedroom flat can be quite a hovel. Won’t blame you if you think of it as such when you visit.
Be that as it may I love dinner time as it is then that the entire family gathers at the table. I rush home from work, wash up and sit at my place expectantly. Tamanna is asleep at the time; baby that she is. But the rest of the family is no where to be seen either. I begin the task of gathering my flock round the table; manage to get three and somewhere one will disappear.
Getting Ma to the table is yet another mammoth task. She sits glued to the TV watching her favourite Malayalam serials and quite unwilling to take a break during commercials; instead she prefers to switch channels from Asianet to Surya TV and back. Aarzoo poor thing has little choice what with me alternating between gentle coaxing and threatening her with dire consequences. Phew! I finally manage to get some of them to the table and there it erupts, the ring tone of a current favourite Hindi film song. The husband is off in a merry trot. Yet the conversation round the table is on when there is another urgent call from yet another cell and off goes the sister-in-law. Midway through the meal my son is summoned by his cell going off as though the house was on fire. Lanky chap that he is, three strides are enough to get him to his destination.
Even when we are out for lunch/dinner, I find these three musketeers on the cell jabbering away. Frustrated at this I once quipped, "Next time please date your cellphones"! The husband will probably have to hunt for a wedding ring for the cell and I have visions of the family courts having a new reason for a divorce petition - incompatibility owing to spouse spending time with his/her cellphones!!!
Mom grabs her plate and rushes off to her room to watch TV. That leaves a sulking Aarzoo at the table with me and my grandiose dreams of a large family gathering at the table blown away to “ring tones”. But hey the “hovel” leaves little space for the privacy of a long drawn telephone conversation, especially when the two balconies are already taken. Little evil nuggets of knowledge that I can take comfort in; short lived though it may be.
A Reader’s Digest piece with the title “The Television ate up my best friends” comes flashing through the inner recesses of memory; a story of how the advent of television left play areas bare and the narrator no friends to play with. Today is no different; the TV has eaten up my Ma and the cellphone the rest of my best friends!
As for the computer and its seductive prowess, well, no competition there. Ah! But I shall leave venting about that for another time.