Story 25: Rishtey naatey
Ankit glanced at the clock and wondered why time was moving so slowly. The Zoom meeting was going on forever. Everyone – except the speaker – was slyly checking their phones. Like the art of listening to lectures with eyes open and brain shut, this was a newly acquired skill. How else to cope with endless ‘work from home’…
*ping* Tata launch its shopping site. Please use this instead of Amazon or other Chinese site.
There goes Mamaji again. First of all, this Tata shopping site has been around for, like, at least 3 years now. Secondly… ab kya kahein. Jab se Mamaji Allahabad High Court se retire hue hain, Family WA group mein apna raub jhaad rahe hain. He has knowledge of some things, but an opinion on everything.
On our Family WA group, the day starts with a devotional photo, shared by Sudha mausiji. That’s her one and only daily contribution. Someone will reply ‘Jai mata di’. followed by a dozen messages with *namaste emoji*. Though originally created as a hi-five, we Indians have nicely adapted it as per apna requirement. Go, India, go.
In a single day, Mamaji covers more topics than Arnab Goswami – from the state of the economy, to the state of the world. The only thing we are spared are his bowel movements. He is against stray dogs, cold food, delivery charges and Arvind Kejriwal. I have half a mind to exit the group but then, who will keep track of birthdays. Besides, there is something called ‘respect for elders’.
“Yaar, isi liye to hum Mamaji ko kuch keh nahin paatey,” grumbled another cousin, Guarav, on PM.
Matters came to a head in Udaipur, where we had all gathered for Akansha’s wedding. Following the ladies sangeet, there was an impromptu mehfil. Which brought out the other side of Mamaji. Urdu sher-o-shayari, a purana shauk from his student days at Allahabad university. Suddenly, you could imagine him, in a bandgalla with a rose. A kinder, gentler, younger man. Like you and me.
After the oldies were fast asleep, the cousins sat around the terrace with a bottle of Old Monk to keep themselves warm. And Gaurav, finally got drunk enough to blurt out.
“Yaar, ek baat batao. Yun to Mamaji har waqt Ram Rajya waale forwards daalte hain… “
By that logic, he should be reciting Sanskrit poetry. Kal farmaaish karte hain. We all laughed as if the best joke in the world had just been cracked. *thumbs up* *smiley* *smiley*. Naturally, no one had the guts to say anything but the next day at lunch, and at dinner, we had a private joke to keep us all *smiley* *smiley*.
On the flight back to Mumbai, I accompanied Sudha mausiji, who was travelling alone. That’s when I got to know the real story. Mamaji had fallen in love with a Muslim girl, in college. Both sets of parents opposed the match fiercely. The girl was married off post-haste, while Mamaji became love-lorn and expressed his gham by writing couplets.
“Pitaji ne phir ek din bula kar zor se daaanta – yeh kya naatak chal raha hai?”
The next morning, Mamaji shaved off his stubble and started preparing for his law exams. He qualified as a judge, got married. But kabhi donon ki aapas mein bani nahin. To bas, they lived together under the same roof, but apart. Mamaji in the court, mamiji in the club. Until retirement, when suddenly, there was ‘nothing to do’, nowhere to escape…
Ankit blinked. How little he knew of the ‘man’ behind the Mamaji tag.
2 years later
The Netflix series ‘Rishtey Naatey’ has debuted online. Reviewers are all praise for Ankit Agrawal, the writer of the series, who quit his job at Deloitte to work on a compelling script.
“I got all the material and inspiration for this saga spanning 3 generations… from my own family.”
For once, all agreed when Mamaji posted *clap* *clap* for Ankit in the WA group.
While Ankit returned a genuine triple *smiley*.
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