Updated: Feb 20
Guest writer Amrita Valan
Doonti Mashi ( aunty) was the elder one of mother's two kid sisters. She was just thirteen years old when I was born, and by the time I was thirteen years old, the two of us were fast friends.
She was tall and willowy with wheaten gold skin, and her luminous black eyes under
arched brows made her face shine like a moon. Her looks were enchanting, her singing
voice was charming. She played the sitar and harmonium and had also studied cost
I was in awe of this beautiful virtuoso. More so because she was grave and reserved,
unlike my youngest Mashi, (aunty), who smiled and spoke liltingly to us youngsters.
The death blow to our budding “Aunty-Niece” camaraderie was dealt by mommy, who deputed her kid sister to teach me Math whenever she visited. My mother was a student of linguistics, only too happy to pass on my mathematics training to her baby sister.
Doonti Mashi was stern, cold as an icicle if I made obvious mistakes, and she made me
do grueling corrections, mercilessly.
I admired her pretty face and, awed by her regal air, submitted unhappily.
Sometimes she hummed Tagore’s songs by the window, as I worked.
"Wish you would sing the songs I like Doonti Mashi", I sighed. “I love Tagore's music but I love John Lennon more!”
Doonti Mashi arched her brows and said, ok!
I immediately put on Lennon's Imagine There's No Heaven on my tiny Sanyo Two-in-One.
She smiled dreamily as the song played and told me he was really good, much to my satisfaction.
The next song, however, cemented her love for Western music of a certain kind. It was the very simple yet profoundly powerful Love is Real, Real is Love.
Doonti Mashi learnt the song, and later the same day, she sang it for me, in her melodious voice.
My heart filled with such ecstasy. She was my idol, my role model, and she liked my taste in music! I felt proud, validated. To this day, I admire her open-minded approach to global art and music. Something I have witnessed in my mother, grandmother, and all her sisters.
Aunty and niece proceeded to the dining table, maths forgotten, as she and I enthusiastically played song after song on the old Philips tape deck and soon we had run through a gamut of golden oldies.
On future visits, we would croon and hum songs from the hit collection of the eighties, the “Best of Twenty Years Ago”, series.
The house rang with gleeful renditions of Run Samson Run, Sad Movies, Kiss me Honey Honey and Oh Carol.
I was surprised my demure aunty could even belt out Kiss me another Kiss with such impish verve. And the next moment soulfully renders Love is a river/ A river of no return…no return, no return…
Over the months, I got interested in dabbling with her beloved Tagore, too. It was not
quidding pro quo but an active interest in her, not just as a two-dimensional authority
figure, but a living warm flesh and blood friend in the avatar of aunty! To her and my
mother, I owe a lifelong debt of being conversant with the music of the king of poets,
Rabindranath Tagore, the soul guide of so many Bengalis from India.
And we even made a quaint parody of Aha ki Anando Aakashe Batashe (Oh! What Joy in These Breezy Skies), changing the words to mean “Oh! How many lakhs of mosquitoes and roaches roam these breezy skies!”
Aunty and I rolled off our chairs, cackling with laughter and mommy too smiled, blushing a bit at our childish disrespect to her other great icon, film-maker Satyajit Ray.
Aunty was no longer my idol but a sweet, warm flesh and blood vulnerable human being, my wise and fun loving friend and guide.
She fell in love too and was disappointed. I wasn't old enough to offer her much empathy.
I remember how she would listen to her favorite Lennon songs over and over again...Love
is Real, Real is Love… How much heartbreak was hidden there, I will never know.
Today I feel like her soul left its kiss on mine. To love, to grow, to be courageous.
She passed away too early when I was only in 12th grade.
She never knew the fruition of love or the fruitful happiness of her own family. Yet, she infected me with a fierce, poignant joy for life, a brave abandonment of the world for love, and steely composure in the face of heartbreaking disappointment.
I miss you. I know you would understand what I am about to say. That I unerringly know
you miss getting to know me as I have become, and that you know me already through
every experience of mine, every trial, and tribulation that I have overcome. That we were
meant to be connected by an indestructible bond of two like-minded souls were age,
death and the passage of time itself cease to exist.
Doonti Mashi, in my world, you exist still. Now and forever.
© Amrita Valan 2021
Brings me memoirs
Birthdays of prescience,
Gems of wisdom,
Heart grown kingdoms.
October was flame of the forest,
Flamingo and flamenco,
Tap dancing Diva
Down deep roads to
Bleakest bluest November.
Steel shrapnel curb ice,
Gun metal grey vice,
A curious crisp texture
Magic coiled in fresh air.
A lewd hint of fox fire
Smoked smiles and smog
Of veiled things dire.
Guns n roses appareled
Focusing on the
Real people, not
Reel life pretty poses.
Soak up baptism of
November's soft rain
Sweet after Samhain.
Subtle Eros reckonings
Ending callow love fests.
November's just desserts
Well met if taken not as
Sinful pleasures or
Mort by chocolat
Sin's soft wages.
Cornucopias, Cophetua, Cinderella festivals.
It asks us to lean into,
Soft hard blue grottos,
Perform penance in
Rustic woodland pews
Basilisk eyes of
Makes us hardy
Robust and ripe
For dour December's
Twelve merry nights.
Greet New Year
Sans past regrets.
Like bookmarks in
In altars of Our
Foolishness and excess
Footloose yet gathered
To each other, enfolded.
Our bindings tight.
Silence, silky smooth,
Airy and light,
Soft lofts of sunset,
© Amrita Valan 2021
Guns n Roses: Name of a rock band
November Rain: name of a song by Guns and Roses as well as the name of a movie