Do You See?
My former newsroom senior from years ago (when I was a kid intern with THE SENTINEL newspaper) in Guwahati, my hometown , passed away recently. Six-foot tall, strapping handsome, well-built and a little headstrong — that’s how I remember him. It was difficult to retort back to his snickering at my pig-tails and the “Go back to school, kid” line. But soon we became friendlier. One Sunday, on newsroom duty, he had rushed on his bike to buy pork from Beltola market and himself prepared fresh pork momos (dumplings) for us weekend staffers in the canteen kitchen downstairs. There were a few more stranger escapades tied to him, but we didn’t mind all that. Used to adulation from mainly the female staff, he impressed men as well with his cooking, high-speed dirt-track biking and investigative journalism prowess. Only a scrawny teenager took some time to look upon him as the savior of the times. But today I’ll say, Sanjay Sharma was a brilliant man. And death had no business poaching on his life at 40-something. How unfair.
Sanjay went on to become the bureau chief of The Sentinel. I wasn’t there any more. After my university days we got back momentarily when I went for a work trip to TOI Ahmedabad, where Sanjay was in charge of the newsroom. With a couple of other distunguished journalists with us, a lovely dinner at a posh restaurant got us choicest wine/alcohol (Gujarat is a dry state; I know, how stupid) at a mere signal from Sanjay. He looked good still. A ladies’ man, a trusted comrade, a journalist with integrity.
Again we drifted away. I was in the US. Then we got back in touch, again. The wretched Facebook deserves my thanks at times like this. He and I became “friends”. He was running his consultancy service in Shillong, managing a newspaper in Tura, writing and publishing, and undertaking a motorbike ride across the country for his beloved boxer, Bonxie, who was inexplicably sick. Sanjay was a busy man, immersed in a few more social projects, but never failing to say an occasional hello through this strange medium FB is. In fact, I did suppress a smile when he commented somewhere: “Nabina is my protégé, you see,” after my book came out in 2010. Now I think, why not. He did teach all of us, young or old, in the newsroom, a thing or two about dedication, perseverance and commitment to our respective passions.
This is not a tribute to Sanjay, merely reminiscing about a friend. And I want to end this part highlighting his funny side too. An alumnus of St. Edmunds, he had written this doggerel, that is much celebrated among the faculty and students there:
FYI, my dad had taught for some time at St. Edmunds, when he was a young man. Way before most of us were born! It seems death takes away lives but feeds other lives in their pursuits. Talking about feeding, did we not discuss earlier that food signifies death, life and love?
On that note, a poem arrived at my doorstep as “food-gift” this morning. You got it, it is a food-poem. Dr. AV a.k.a. Prof. T (readers, I implore you NOT to decode the nomenclature, for you’ll never get it even if you unravel some of it) was kind enough to draw my attention to a Ben Jonson poem whose merit lies in its vast repertoire, sparkling wit, and “about hospitality and the virtues of moderation”, to quote Prof. T. Read it below:
Inviting a Friend to Supper
by Ben Jonson
|TO-NIGHT, grave sir, both my poore house, and I
Doe equally desire your companie :
Not that we thinke us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignifie our feast,
With those that come ; whose grace may make that seeme
Something, which, else, could hope for no esteeme.
It is the faire acceptance, Sir, creates
The entertaynment perfect : not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectifie your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better sallad
Ushring the mutton ; with a short-leg’d hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then,
Limons, and wine for sauce : to these, a coney
Is not to be despair’d of, for our money ;
And, though fowle, now, be scarce, yet there are clerkes,
The skie not falling, thinke we may have larkes.
I’ll tell you of more, and lye, so you will come :
Of partrich, pheasant, wood-cock, of which some
May yet be there ; and godwit, if we can :
Knat, raile, and ruffe too. How so e’er, my man
Shall reade a piece of VIRGIL, TACITUS,
LIVIE, or of some better booke to us,
Of which wee’ll speake our minds, amidst our meate ;
And I’ll professe no verses to repeate :
To this, if ought appeare, which I know not of,
That will the pastrie, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese, and fruit there sure will bee;
But that, which most doth take my Muse, and mee,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary-wine,
Which is the Mermaids, now, but shall be mine :
Of which had HORACE, or ANACREON tasted,
Their lives, as doe their lines, till now had lasted.
Tabacco, Nectar, or the Thespian spring,
Are all but LUTHERS beere, to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
And we will have no Pooly, or Parrot by ;
Nor shall our cups make any guiltie men :
But, at our parting, we will be, as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be utter’d at our mirthfull board
Shall make us sad next morning : or affright
The libertie, that wee’ll enjoy to-night.
The Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse.
H. J. C. Grierson and G. Bullough, eds.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934. 155-156.
Benjamin Jonson, after Abraham van Blyenberch: Wikipedia
In other news, the weather office says tomorrow will be warm and sunny. I should train somewhere and capture memories. Well, saying that just made me sad. How much impermanence do we deal with in our lives?