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Friday, February 24, 2012

It's official. I am Babaji

A little girl compared me with her 'babaji' yesterday. It took me back a quarter of a century.

In 1987, I was crossing the railway bridge at Dadar in Mumbai, and I heard a young female voice. "Uncle? Which platform do I go to for the Borivali train?". I was hardly 'uncle' material in my jeans and sneakers, although I was a faculty at the University Department of Chemical Technology.  And this twenty-something actually called me "uncle"!! Most educated 'young' Indian men suffer this shock at one time or another. Samsung has tried to use the 'uncle' problem to their advantage in a commercial recently.

Strangely, it felt much better to be called 'babaji', as in grandpa, at 57 than being called "uncle" at 33. 

In my last blog I had written about the class in Seelampur and how Beena and KumKum had startled us all by reading out a passage. The story the class was reading was about two friends Chunnu and Guddu. One liked mangoes, and the other did not. There was a donkey in the story too, and apparently he did not like mangoes either.I asked the girls to do a role play. So, one girl said she would be Chunnu and the other Guddu. Who will be the Donkey? No one! So, I told them that the story would not be complete without the donkey. They all giggled but finally, Rani, who was clearly more confident than the rest said. "I am Donkey!". They all laughed and Rani laughed with them. So, they did the role play. There were only three lines to say but Chunnu and Guddu could not get them right so the 'donkey' got up and whispered their lines in their ears. When they did not walk like they were supposed to in the park, the 'donkey' got up in exasperation and showed them how to.

They had a ball and I had a great time. Much better than sitting behind a desk writing proposals and reports.

When it was time to go, I asked them if they were afraid of me when I walked into their class. "Nooo!" they all said in a chorus. Rani, our lovable little donkey, did not join the chorus. Once everybody had quieted down she said. "You are like my babaji". So, I asked who babaji was and she told me it was her grandfather who visits them every now and then and tells stories.

I liked that. Being babaji feels good.


  1. I can relate to this easily. During my recent extended trip to India over a couple of months I have been called Dada almost everytime when a stranger called me. In US, this never happens. Here strangers invariably start with "Excuse me...". Which is better?

  2. बहुत सुन्दर. दिल्ली मेट्रो में "वृद्ध एवं विकलांग" वाली सीट के सामने खड़े होने पर दो-एक बार कुछ नौजवानों ने मुझे देखकर सीट छोड़ दी. सच कहूँ तो मुझे कोई ख़ास अच्छा नहीं लगा!!