That was my Dad, reaching new levels of paternal competency. No. My name isn’t Lebu Mama. It couldn’t be, because Lebu Mama, when translated from Bengali, means Lemon Uncle (the kind of Uncle that’s your mother’s brother). And no. My mother doesn’t have any brothers of her own, either.
Don’t try Googling. It won’t help. You’ll get a reference to Lebu Mama in the memoirs of Satyajit Ray. Some uncle of his, mentioned in the book “Jokhon Chhoto Chhilam” (“When I was Young”). And an MP from Congress, Mausam, who’s 28 and a management graduate might be found using the words to address her uncle, Abu Something, who was not so lucky politically.
Lebu Mama, is the name that I choose to use while talking about Swami Vivekananda. My father, having completed part of his education at Ramakrishna Mission, found it extremely objectionable at first. He asked me if the name has anything to do with the yellow monkwear. I couldn’t be sure. I told him someone must have started it. My father was quite sure it was me.
But somehow, when he gave in, a strange burden lifted off my shoulders. You see, he ceased to be the sibling I need to be jealous of. I share my birthday with him and have kind of grown up in his shadow. He’s been to Chicago and meditated and won people over with his speeches and lived in a box and progressed along the path of spirituality whereas I have been an only child wheezing with asthma and then working in a beer company and occasionally imagining I am a popstar with loads of cash and my own hit single “Saaalo re saaalo o o, jhinchikichikchik jhinchikichikchik jhinchikichikchik” (to be sung in the tune of Nazia Hassan’s “Disco Deewane”, the last three words in Gibberish refer to the percussion).
Anyway, the point is, suddenly my father is okay with his daughter calling this guy “Lebu Mama”, because he has made a decision. It might be Mama whose photograph adorns the calendar in my room, but it’s my room. I didn’t flip the desk calendar yesterday to see what Lebu Mama had to say on the 19th.
I guess he has finally become a part of tea-time conversation. Actually it has a nice ring to it.
“So how do you like your tea? Black? Milk? Sugar? Honey? Lebu Mama?” :)