I remembered what he wrote to me in response to my attempt at justifying my working for Playboy: So what’s the big deal? Haven’t  you  ever read Rasa Manjari?  It also reminded me of some plain-covered Hindi pornographic books I had found under the mattress on his side of the bed and once also a copy of Nar Nari, the sex magazine of the days. And I remember clearly what my grandpa, my father’s father had blurted out with big explosion of exclamation when he saw for the first time my parents’ custom made elaborate bedroom  furniture –  containing of a sofa set, a three way folding mirror and the larger than king size bed, all beautifully hand crafted with the motif  of louts petals. Looking at the bed, he growled to nobody in particular, what are they going to do there? Dance?

And to think that my mother didn’t know about those publications and the photos hidden away in the trunk? Aren’t we being a bit naïve, brothers? Certainly she wouldn’t have cherished my sisters and my brother’s wives seeing them. My mother was a clever woman, and must have imagined how my brothers would react to them and would want to protect her from the filth.

For even though, theirs was a conventionally arranged marriage, my father had to be the most romantic man of his days. I can totally imagine it having caused a minor scandal when instead of calling my mother by her given name, Prabha, he renamed her and started calling her Kanan, after Kanan Devi, the sultry Bengali actress and the singer. He must have admired and adored her enormously to name his own wife after her, and this in the days when actresses were looked down at and were seen as being only slightly above prostitutes. These were also the days when Indian spouses didn’t even address each other by names, but mere, hey, are you listening? please and such.

I could just imagine people whispering and rolling their eyes behind my parents’ backs. Especially the women,  going: just imagine, he calls his wife after that slut Kanan in front of everybody. Baap re Baap. Doesn’t he have any shame? But he must have been strong of character and defiant to the boot, because we had never heard him calling my mother anything other than Kanan. I only had a slight notion of what she looked like. For the first time I just pulled up her photos and the bio off the IMDB. and I must confess, Kanan Devi was the beauty to be reckoned with. Big black kohl framed eyes, a sultry sensuous face and the long shiny dark tresses. Good taste Dad! And fortunately for my father, so was my Mom.

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, October 26, 2013

PERFECTLY UNBOUND

Does anyone remember why the Playmates are called centerfolds? When Playboy  was saddle-stitched and not perfect bound as it is today?

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