My mother shares her birthday today with two of her idols... Jacqueline Kenendy and Gary Sobers. And like them, she is a flamboyant, attention-grabbing Leo. When she is in full flow, nobody can get a word in edgeways! When she is in a room, she grabs attention like no other!
Now, flamboyance and gift of the gab is something I have forgotten to inherit from her. Though my entire clan vouches that I am a spitting image of hers in every other way. (You only have to watch us both eating hilsa to get the picture!)
Yes, that. And some of my most enduring traits are all her doing.
Chocolate, for instance.
I crave, demand and snatch chocolate almost in the same way as cocaine addicts hunt for their daily fix.
A recurring story of the family is how I embarrassed my mother in front of her mother-in-law (God forbid!) AND her friends (aarrgghh!)... somebody gave me a 5-Star bar which I started to unwrap but ended up making quite a mess with my four-year old fingers. When my grandma asked me to take my mom's assistance, I promptly reported that she would eat it up if I did! I swear I have no recollection of this... though I have to admit grudgingly that neither of us are beyond this!
She was an English Literature student and topped her University in the MA examinations. She took her final exams when she was some 6-months pregnant with me - and my later ease in learning & loving the language is dutifully attributed to the Abhimanyu Syndrome.
And I appreciated at a very young age, the difference of diction between her (educated in a convent run by Irish nuns) and my father (educated in the heritage-laden, Bengali-medium Hindu School). On how the word 'shirt' is pronounced, I knew, "Ma boley thirth, Bapi boley tharth". Well, I had not got over my baby-talk but I knew the finer points of English diction!
And of course, movies.
There are not too many mom-son duos who dutifully discuss the best entry scenes of Hindi film heroes... but we did (which I have dutifully chronicled here).
My mom had collected every single Stardust that came out between their first issue and the day she got married. Not only did she collect them, she had them bound in volumes for scholarly pursuits of future generations of film-buffs. She did not have to hunt for them, as she gave birth to one!
And her two loves - romantic movies and Shakespeare - merge in a brilliant scene of Saptapadi (a huge huge huge Bengali hit!) where Uttam Kumar plays Othello to Suchitra Sen's Desdemona! We warn each other by SMS whenever Saptapadi is shown on TV!
During the days of Chitrahaar, there was a gap of about 5 seconds between the song starting and the title coming on. Mamoni managed to name the song almost every single time in that gap! And in the remainder of the song, she managed to squeeze in a brief summary, critical appreciation, social impact and future replicas of the film!
One thing - I thought - I had NOT inherited from her was her sentimentality.
She cries at patriotic songs (not very rare). She cries at weddings (even if she is from the boy's side!). She cried at Maine Pyar Kiya (understandable). She even cried at Koi Mil Gaya (huh?). I ribbed her mercilessly on this. She once told me that the scene she cried the most is the one in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, where Shah Rukh and Jaya meet after a very long time. And I was at my sarcastic best!
However, about a month back, there was K3G on TV. And the scene came on. Shah Rukh entering the mall. Jaya sensing his presence. And then the meeting. I suddenly realised that I had a lump in my throat. I did not exactly cry but I had to make an effort not to.
Maybe it was because I had not seen her for quite some time. Maybe the stress of an impending fatherhood was getting to me. Or, maybe it was the genes showing up late.
We have an eccentric custom in our family. We never wish each other Happy Birthday. We call on birthdays, send gifts & cards and take detailed descriptions of festivities. But we never speak out the words (which irritates my wife to no end, because she is prone to singing loudly on the phone!). I called her in the morning. We talked about the weather, her school and my crazy travelling. I didn't say it then.
But, I will say it here... Happy Birthday, Mamoni.