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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Short stories about grandmothers and grandfathers

An excerpt from ‘Dance, Nani, Dance: Stories of Grandmothers and Grandfathers’, edited by Bulbul Sharma.

Update : 08 Jul 2023, 03:36 AM

“The big question is…what will you perform?” asked Mirelle, chewing her braid and watching Grandpa squirm in his chair. 

“Who is performing? I don't remember saying I'll come,” he shot back. “Of course you're coming. Everyone's grandparents are coming. So, do you know any magic tricks? Origami? Haikus?”

“You want to make a performing monkey of me?” Grandpa bellowed, lifting his eyebrows and then his newspaper as high as it took to block her out. “Anyway, I won't be there.”

“Grandpa,” she said sternly, peeping over his paper, “you've always told me to do my duty. For Grandparents Day, the teacher said all grandparents have to come to class, and each gets a turn to perform something. This is your duty.” 

But Grandpa only snorted and cast aside his paper in a huffy-puffy way. “Eh Mimi baby, I don't have the time for this,” he muttered. Mirelle sighed and looked pointedly at him sprawling in “The Chair”. From the time he rose, till the time he slept, Grandpa lived in that plush, purple, wingback chair. (Okay, except for when he got himself to the balcony to wave her off to school every morning.) He did sudokus and played Scrabble with her sitting in that chair, watched TV in it, even ate in it. If only he got himself out of it, he'd find all the time in the world, she thought, gritting her teeth. 

Aloud, she said, “Ira's Dada-Dadi are coming, Uma has four grandparents and they're all coming.”

“Ah. You, my poor dear have one and he isn't spending his morning in some school with noisy, rowdy…”

“Grandpa!” cried Mirelle, hands on hip, lower lip stuck out, voice getting all squeaky as it did when she got agitated. When that didn't work, she lowered her voice, and fluttered folded hands in his face dramatically, “Pleeeease? If you can't do this, who can?”

“Take your mother,” he said, shooing off her mother, who was dusting breakfast crumbs off him. “She is good at being a grandmother. And a lecturer. She will do well in a school.”

“What's this, Mirelle?” asked Mama, ignoring Grandpa. Mirelle read out from the gold-rimmed card in her hand while Grandpa groaned, trying not to look at Mama making big eyes at him from behind Mirelle: “The 10th, next month is Grandparents Day! ‘We'd like to invite you to class, to say ‘“Thank you, we love you, So come on over Sing, Dance, Perform, Make merry! With joy and chai and samosas let's –”'

“Samosas!” Suddenly Grandpa sat up, his eyes, brightening. “You hadn't mentioned samosas.”

“It's settled then,” cooed Mirelle's mother, “and there's a month to go, plenty of time to decide what you shall perform.”

Grandpa sat back. “I'll come on one condition – NO performance,” and he shut his eyes. 

Mirelle decided to continue the conversation later. Winning one battle was victory enough for one morning. Later, at school lunch break with Ira and Uma, she realised the battle had just begun. “My Dadi is telling a story. In five languages. Like she does in her podcast? Dadi ki Kahaani?

“My grandad is in Singapore. So he will join on Zoom and make a presentation on ‘The role of grandparents in modern times'.”

Saved by the class bell, Mirelle felt a ringing in her head that wouldn't go away. “Come on, Grandpa,” she thought, “there must be something you can do.” The headache and worrying continued all day and when she got back, she threw herself on her bed in despair. The trophies atop her cupboards looked down at her. “Bandra Zonals Elocution. First place”, “Interschool chess. Runner up”, “Primary School debating champ”. Was there anything she wasn't the best at? “Producing a grandparent who could perform,” mocked the ringing voice in her head. She stomped out and woke Grandpa from his late afternoon siesta.

“Have you thought about what you're going to perform?” she demanded. “Ungh,” grunted Grandpa, eyes falling shut again. “What will Ira think? What will Noorie say?” her voice rose higher. But he'd resumed snoring. “You're lucky he's turning up,” said her mother. “When I was your age, he was at his clinic or the hospital from before I woke up, until well after I'd slept off.” Mirelle made a sound, suspiciously like Ungh. 

Grandpa may have been a big, famous orthopaedic surgeon but what use was that right now? If he'd been a pilot, he could talk of his travels. If he'd been a scientist, he could wow her friends with experiments. But it's not like any of them were in need of a hip replacement or urgent spinal work.


Excerpted with permission from “The Surprise Act” by Nandita da Cunha from Dance, Nani, Dance: Stories of Grandmothers and Grandfathers. This excerpt first appeared in scroll.in and has been reprinted through special arrangement. 

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