If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A birthday as a birthday gift

When I met Manjari Fadnis last month, her first film had just been released. Manjari is a budding heroine who has been fighting it out in the cut-throat world of Bollywood.

Budding or fully budded, I should normally have nothing to do with a film actress, being the humble teacher that I am. But as you read on, you’ll see that this is an exceptional case. Every human being is related to everyone else in the world as they all dry their clothes in the same sun. But Manjari and I have a more intimate kinship. Firstly, she is the next-door neighbour of my friend Animesh in Mumbai; secondly and more importantly, she and my friend are served by the same domestic help. My friend took Subhadra, an orphan girl from Kolkata to Mumbai to look after his ailing mother. Subhadra also works part-time at Manjari’s house.

Recently, I spent three weeks at my friend’s place and Subhadra took good care of me. And didn’t she impress me by talking about her heroine didi? In fact, she wouldn’t let go one opportunity to mention Manjari didi: You like fruits? Didi too likes them. … You have a dog? She too has one. …But she’d be angry if you called her dog a dog. She says the pup is her daughter. …

Khuswant Singh once wrote: “I pity those who don’t know what pet love is.” (Or words to that effect.) I agree. I have also noticed that animal lovers are by and large nice fellas, although I am not sure why. I must quickly add that I’ve also met some lovable blokes who hate animals, particularly dogs. Humans are too complex a creature to fit into a stereotype, but it’s a fact that when you love your pet, you do so without expecting anything in return. (That pets give back much more than what you give them is a different matter.) Without getting into a controversy, one can say that if a girl seriously treats her pup as her daughter, she is likely to be tender and compassionate, and perhaps have a few bees in her bonnet. My friend’s wife Munmun told me a story that confirmed the first part of this sentence.

Once, Manjari asked Munmun, ‘When is Subhadra’s birthday?’

As Munmun didn’t know, Manjari said, ‘Please find out and tell me, but don’t tell Subhadra. I want to give her a surprise.’

The next day, Munmun told her neighbour that Subhadra’s birth hadn’t been recorded. She herself didn't know when she had been born.

Manjari was more surprised than disappointed. Possibly she was not familiar with a world in which human identity was so insignificant that one didn’t even have a birthday. But she couldn’t be put down by such technical problems. She said, ‘Would you mind if I gave Subhadra a birthday? … Let’s select a good day for her birthday …. Let’s make it the 14th of February.’

On that somewhat incongruous day of romantic love, when millions of dreams were realized and shattered in university campuses and elsewhere, Manjari invited Munmun for the first birthday of a girl without a past who was around twenty. She sang ‘Happy birthday …’ made Subhadra blow out candles and cut a cake, and gave her a teddy bear.

I met Manjari once on a Sunday morning, when she walked in to leave her fawn Labrador puppy with us for a wile. As I took the pup from her hands, I thought her face was as beautiful as her mind and I silently wished her well. I wished she becomes the Madhubala or Madhuri Dixit of the future. And I secretly hoped that when I had grandchildren, I’d be able to tell them that once I played with the screen diva’s dog!

Kolkata, 10 December, 2007

[I thank Ms. Manjari Fadnis for allowing me to use her name and photograph.]


  1. Manjari is in the latest hit - Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I was taken aback by the fact that you had really met her. The movie is a good one and a must-see for any teenage lover.

  2. Dear Sir,

    I am Joydeep and I got to know about your blogsite from Suvro Sir's blog. After reading nearly all the posts in this site, I couldn't resist writing back to you, although my comment is not pertinent to any particular post of yours. A little self-introduction shall not be entirely out of context here: I did my schooling from St. Xavier's, Durgapur, and then graduated in Computer Science and Engineering from the National Institute of Technology (formerly known as R.E.C.) at the same place. Since the past two years, I am working as a software engineer ('cybercoolie' would be the more appropriate designation) in a firm in Bangalore. I have a strong liking for reading and writing, and though my work schedule doesn't permit me to do justice to the latter avocation, I do read as much as I can, if I say so to myself.

    Having said this, I would like to congratulate you for your extremely coherent, thoughtful and interesting blog posts. You have a simple, yet powerful way of writing things, be it in the form of a memoir, or a travelogue or an anecdote. There's something about these short stories which you recount that pleasantly reminds me of the little pieces of incidents told to me by my grandfather, who spent his entire working career in the rural areas of Bihar, and had a potful of real stories to narrate after his retirement. The only grudge that I hold against your blogsite is that you don't write much, and I shall be eagerly waiting for your posts from now on.

    May Lord keep you in the best of health and spirits. I don't have any blogsite, but you can always reach me at joydeep4u@gmail.com. Take care and good bye.


  3. Thanks, Subhanjan. Yes, I met Manjari Fadnis and whatever I have written about her is true.

    Thanks, Joydeep, your response to my posts is touching. I am delighted to know you and about your interests. Keep reading literature. (I don't mean my stories!) Those who have never read literature are like those who haven't seen the sun rising.

    I am proud that my story telling reminds you of your grandfather. I make it a point to go out of my way to meet elderly people and listen to their stories. Every elderly person is an oral historian in a way. We have much to learn from them. Maybe, I would write about a grandma and an uncle of mine, sometime.

  4. Dear Dada,

    I feel honored that you graced my blog. Thank you. Are you based in Kolkata currently?

    I have read all your post and look forward to more. For myself, I try and write virtually everyday because I believe that is what I was supposed to do all my life but sadly I need to earn a living and work as a Consultant.



  5. A note to Tanmoy:

    I live in Kolkata, but at the moment, I am in the USA.

    I will be very happy if you write to me at santanusc@gmail.com.

    I enjoyed reading your blog, and I will surely go back to it often.

    Best wishes and regards.


I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.