Musings, Uncategorized

Rolling Stone

Black sheep? He was hardly even a sheep. As one friend said, boundaries did not apply to him. My uncle traveled more miles, encountered more scandal and embarked on more adventures by the time he turned 18 than most people I know have in a lifetime. Sadly, I no longer have the chance to hear these tales from his own mouth.

One out of four sons in a litter of seven, nature won out over nurture with my dad’s brother. My grandfather’s near-asceticism didn’t keep chachu from literally marching to the beat of his own bass drum (music was strictly forbidden in the household, so you can imagine the fury unleashed when my grandfather spotted him rolling with the marching band on the street). My grandmother’s nerves were apparently fried worrying about chachu, especially when he ran away at 13 without a trace. Several years later, she found out from other relatives that he somehow worked his way to Kuwait via India and ended up in Sweden.

I didn’t realize just how much love he had for family until I noticed how he had pictures of each and every one of us, his nieces and nephews, alongside black and whites of him and his siblings, snaps of children and grandchildren; weddings, graduations, candids, the home a visible record of the Choudhury clan.

Among these is a photo in the dining room I try to sear into my mind: him and my aunt perched on a rooftop with what I imagine to be Stockholm in the background, embraced in a kiss with her long blonde hair and his thick black mane flying as if he had just pulled her in as the shutter flashed. It was young, unapologetic love like I could not imagine from someone in my family. That’s right: my Bangladeshi uncle married a Swedish woman, in the seventies. He was decades ahead of the interracial curve. On top of that, they had my Jenny apu before getting married. Sex–and therefore procreation–out of wedlock was and still is virtually unheard of in South Asian circles, so there’s another mold broken. We tend to forget all too often that the elderly were in fact young at some time and had lives as pressing and developing as ours feel now.

Source: HRH Walls

Source: HRH Walls

I see a sitar sitting in the corner of the living room and ask my dad if chachu played. No, but know what he did play? Harmonica and banjo, metal picks and all.

I had no idea about this uncle for the longest time. The uncle I saw at dawats was norom, soft and stout from age and poor health, who brightened up whenever I came to say hello. The last adventure I saw him pull was running his own Indian restaurant years back (which of course was still a feat). Sure, my aunt stands out in a sea of brown, but I got used to it and never questioned how they met. I hear tidbits now about how much she helped my uncle become successful in Sweden and how they struggled together to build a good life. This part is vague since these pieces, along with the majority of his life, are still missing to me. It’s not that my uncle has kept his life a mammoth secret from everyone (although some parts still are). He is a family favorite and his reputation for wilder days is well-known to most. I just never bothered to ask and find out for myself. Fortunately, he had been working on an autobiography recounting his experiences before passing away. Unfortunately, the ‘manuscript’ is rough– out of order in trying to recollect increasingly distant memories and written in broken Bengali. Several relatives have mildly attempted to get his work published before, but the pages remain uncomposed, put off and off for another time.

Going to his house tonight reminded me of how long it’s been since the last time I came, even though he often asked me to visit. He had my graduation picture on the kitchen counter and I can count with half a hand how many times I came over. woulda, coulda, shoulda, didn’t.

As I begin to learn about my uncle’s life far too late, he has shown me the truth of cliches by breaking rules and wandering willfully. He lived YOLO before Drake’s parents even thought about conceiving him.
Life is too short. Just do it. Live your bliss.

I miss you for the brief moments we had and for all the ones we never did.


Sunrise : Sunset :: Pastels : Jewel Tones

Strange, seemingly poignant thoughts can pop up first thing in the near-dawn hours, and the title phrase is one of them.

This is a real-time post, as it is 6:28 AM and I am currently sitting next to the balcony window in the near-vacant guest room facing the backyard (much better viewing than my own bedroom). Ramadan is in full swing so I was up a couple hours earlier to eat my only meal til sundown. I looked to YouTube to help me drift back to sleep but, as usual, it kept me up further. Soon enough, faint daylight peeped in from my windows. While my online search for an Otterbox is indeed urgent, catching this sunrise couldn’t be passed up.

I actually prefer sunrises to sunsets. Sure, sunsets are gorgeous in their own right, and I love staring at the rich colors bleed into night. But sunrises offer so much more peace. There is such a stillness and calm in the silence before everyone is up and about–the start of a new day. Almost anyone can watch a sunset (unless you’re nocturnal), but sunrises are more happenstance so there’s an added joy at actually “catching” one.


Stolen from Raome R.’s files

Watching the sun rise with friends and loved ones is a different happiness altogether. It’s often the result of a night so well spent together, that, before you realize it, you all are still awake into the next day. That’s what happened during my most recent trip to England for a cousin’s wedding. Just about every night was summed up by chai and shisha at our uncle’s house. But one session in particular ran longer than the rest, so that the group of us cousins and friends decided to drive out to a field in a nearby town to view the sunrise. This is November mind you so that morning-as every other- was chilled to the bone and damp with the dew that was already setting in. After parking and a little trek through a wooded area, we popped out into what seemed to be a country club golfing green. Suddenly our pack of early to mid 20 year-olds broke out in a run like schoolkids getting out of class, skipping and piggybacking onto each other towards the light.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t really see the sun itself, only the light growing brighter over the horizon of the small town below. We just stood there in the empty field, all together; shifting and hugging to keep warm, taking pictures to remember the save memories, couples embracing in bliss. The cliche is painful, but time really did stand still for a little bit. Some of us hadn’t seen each other in years, some of us just met a few days before, and most of us would scatter apart again soon after this. Finally, a groundskeeper from the club had to shoo us away, but not before snapping a last group shot of us huddling on a bench.

Afterwards came the first Full English Breakfast those of us from the States had ever tried (baked beans for breakfast whaat.) and so on and so forth. The wedding was, of course, beautiful and memorable, and we all had a good time up to the last minute of the trip. Yet this memory of the sunrise excursion still stands out out to me. The best times usually come from spontaneity and this was definitely one of them. It just…happened.

Well I didn’t envision this post detouring into Memory Lane, but what do you know, happenstance.