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29-Jun-2005

June 29th, 2005

28/06/05

 

This evening, I was interacting with seven seventy-year old (and plus) women of the Communist Party. Comrade Tara had invited me to talk to her women’s group about my visit to Bangladesh and what I had seen there.

I have known Comrade Tara for a while now, about four months. I like her a lot. She is perhaps more than seventy years old, but is very active, sharp, vibrant, alive and most importantly, playful. Both of us like each other, but her way of expressing her liking for me is indirect.

Comrade Tara and her six seventy year old friends are politically active and alive. They write articles and plays. Some of them walk with walking sticks, but the spirit of life is evident from their talks and their belief in what they are doing.

 

I landed at the venue ten minutes late. They were busy with their meeting. “Ten minutes, and I shall introduce you to them and them to you. They thought it is a lady who is coming to talk with them. I told them she is a young girl, mulgi , not any lady!” and saying this, Comrade Tara started laughing, the usual playful laughter which I completely adore. She is my heroine.

 

Ten minutes later, Comrade Tara started opening her huge bag and brought out two plastic bags with some snacks in them. “Here,” she said, handing over the bags to her colleague, “Eh listen,” addressing me, “We eat these everyday at home, but I have got them for you especially,” and I know that she is showing her affection for me. Comrade Tara, who believes in shaking hands with me instead of giving me a tight hug to show what she feels about me. Comrade Tara, my friend!

 

As we each took one of the fried pieces of the snack, she suddenly asked one of her colleagues, “Eh, is your shravan (Hindu calendar month of fasting, vegetarianism) going on?” “What shravan ?” her colleague replied surprised. “Why not?” Comrade Tara responded, with a bit of irritation, “This poornima has gone so now shravan .” Her other colleagues began to say, “Eh, this is ashaadh . You are jumping months,” and they did some calculation to prove that this was not shravan . Comrade Tara bit her tongue and started laughing, “I don’t know these things!”

 

I bit into the snacks and realized that they were chicken kebabs. Perhaps that is why Comrade Tara was asking her colleague whether it was shravan in case she was following it and was supposed to maintain vegetarianism. We each enjoyed the kebabs. After finishing mine, I began to fish for a tissue or kerchief to wipe my hands. Unable to find anything, I began to close my bag when one of Comrade Tara’s colleagues started whistling out to me, “Tch, tch, eh, you, mulgi ,” and she began gesticulating to me, suggesting that I simply wipe my hands with my dress. I started smiling. Usually at home, I am a clumsy person, wiping my wet hands with what I am wearing. But outside, manners take over. Perhaps there is a sense of consciousness, the feeling that I am being watched. I actually wiped my hands with my dress, after the cue from the lady. It felt quite nice, the feeling that what the heck, the emperor is naked!

 

When Comrade Tara came in again, her colleague said to her, “Wonderful cutlets!” Comrade Tara shouted back, “Arre, do you know the difference between kebabs, cutlets and pattice? These were kebabs, actual kebabs!” This is what I enjoy about Comrade Tara. She is straightforward, no-nonsense and playful!

 

Sipping our teas, we chatted with each other about my trip to Bangladesh . I began to mull over the space that had been created between us, a kind of public space in that little room. Perhaps then, public space is that space which facilitates meeting of minds, between different peoples. But more than public space, my thoughts were focused around aged persons, whom we now call ‘senior citizens’. Sitting among these women, I realized that there is an immense value which elderly people bring to our society, to our lives. They are important for the growth of our individual selves as well as for our society as a whole.

For some days now, my thoughts have been focusing on how identity formation takes place and how we become ‘independent individuals’. Independence is about an internal belief system which we develop for ourselves – a belief system which defines us, our convictions. It is like forming a backbone. Living with people is a process of individuality and learning to grow with differences. Standing by our convictions in the face of differences, as a matter of principle and not out of stubbornness, is one of the processes of identity formation and growth.

Perhaps we have defined our individual spaces narrowly, perhaps! It excludes different peoples from our spheres. Sitting with Comrade Tara and her colleagues, I felt the value of our interaction today lay in understanding elderly people and respecting the importance they hold in our lives. Perhaps one more nuance of courage – being able to live with differences and maintaining an identity of my own.

 

At the end of the interaction, despite our disagreements and differences, we were friends. Comrade Tara and her colleagues are now part of my space in my life. We shook hands with each other and promised to meet again soon. The atmosphere was light; they were child-like, squabbling with each other and then laughing at their own messiness.

 

I am beginning to believe that there is lots of love in this world. It just requires us to see things differently.

 

Discovering love and identity in a city …

xanga

  1. June 30th, 2005 at 08:25 | #1

    I am becoming a bif believer in serendipity. I have been coming across people I never thought I would bump into at most unexpected places. Perhaps it is just chance as usual, but we tend to notice it and remember when it happenes. How many bus rides have you taken to Kala Ghoda and never met a familiar face before!

  2. July 1st, 2005 at 06:00 | #2

    Hi Zenab, I came across your blog on amit varma’s Uncut, of which I am a frequent reader. I am quite intrigued by your observations on East and West Pakistan. The partition and its influence on our identities. It reminds of Sadaat Hasan’s Manto’s ‘Toba Tek Singh’ where a bunch of lunatics cant decide which of the two countries should they go to at the time of partition.

  3. July 1st, 2005 at 06:09 | #3

    Hi Zenab, I came across your blog on amit varma’s Uncut, of which I am a frequent reader. I am quite intrigued by your observations on East and West Pakistan. The partition and its influence on our identities. It reminds of Sadaat Hasan’s Manto’s ‘Toba Tek Singh’ where a bunch of lunatics cant decide which of the two countries should they go to at the time of partition.