“Why the hell don’t you come and meet me?”

Once again, last Tuesday’s speaker needed no introduction. However, to satisfy the curiosity of those wondering how she didn’t slip into obscurity like most actresses of her generation, a little must be said about Tanuja Mukherjee’s new avatar. Yes, she’s featured less on page three, but stills gets ample coverage for her work as a “fierce environmentalist.”

095At present, she resides in Khandala, and prefers to host her friends and family there. That’s not because retiring to a hermitage is her way of counting off the days, but because she wants to put an end to the destruction of the hill by unlicensed builders. In fact, it was she who filed a PIL to curb illegal construction in Khandala, after which the government appointed a special committee, headed by a retired judge, which oversees all the approvals granted by the Lonavala Municipal Body for new constructions.

To our pleasant surprise, she did not speak about the environment. There was no mention of the environment, until she was presented with the honour of trees planted in her name in true Rotarian fashion. Instead, she took the opportunity to share her views on “What the future holds for our children, and what we, as parents, have to deal with in the rapidly changing Indian culture.”

121Like most of us, she faces the careless indifference that people show by getting distracted by their phones when you try to engage them in a conversation. It can get a tad unnerving when your own family members behave in such a manner.

“It occurred to me when my grandchild was on the iPad all the time. Even when I went to meet them, they had no time for me,” she said.

Many nodded their heads in approval when the veteran actress drew upon the conclusion that “we human beings have lost touch with our humanity.” Why else would “we not talk to each other anymore, write letters, or even speak on the telephone?” Although her grandchildren do lift their heads up from their mobile screens to acknowledge her presence – with the nonchalant “Oh, hi nani!” – she does not believe that is communication.

169Her solution is to “go back to being human again.” That’s why she tells her grandchildren, “The next time you come to my house you are not allowed to bring your mobiles.” Since it is best that they either visit and talk to her or simply “go back home.”

Understandably, Mukherjee isn’t playing the hostile granny for the sake of being one (and, no it isn’t her excuse for getting into character for an upcoming film), but because “one must be strict.”

178She deals with her children similarly too, as was established from this anecdote: When she finally returned her daughter’s call, after the latter had tried incessantly to get through, the conversation took an interesting turn. It began like this, “Mom! Why the hell don’t you answer?” To which she snapped back, “Why the hell don’t you come and meet me?”