Proud sisters prepare for Pranab Mukherjee's big day


'Chhorda' the disciplinarian will become the new president of the country on Wednesday, and his three younger sisters cannot stop gushing. "Pranabda" to the world, and "Poltuda" to his village in Kolkata, for the three — 16, 18 and 21 years younger to 76-year-old Pranab Mukherjee — the veteran politician remains the brother who fussed about them returning home late and hiding novels in between their school books.

A day before Mukherjee's swearing-in, his residence at 13, Talkatora Road, is abuzz with such recollections and a mounting excitement. Jharna Biswas, the youngest of the three sisters, earlier managed to somehow escape the TV cameras parked outside to bring in fresh fish from Gole Market. The other two were preparing to lay out an assortment of Bengali delicacies sent by "Priyoda's" (Priyaranjan Dasmunsi's) wife Deepa, in time for lunch.

Everything is being discussed in detail for the big day — from the saris and jewellery to wear, to the sequence in which they will leave for the swearing-in. Mukherjee, it has been decided, will leave first, followed by his wife Suvra, then the three sisters, the children, and then his aide of many years, Hira Lal.

Almost all discussions veer around eventually to life at Rashtrapati Bhavan. "How many days in advance do we have to inform dada before visiting?" is a common curiosity, followed by "How many rooms are there?", "Can we decorate it our way?", "Is the Mughal garden open 24/7?".

One thing they are sure they wouldn't be allowed to do is cook. "Dada does not like any of us working at all. He won't let us enter the kitchen. Also, when it comes to food, he only loves Annapurna didi's food. He cannot resist shukto and poshto (traditional Bengali vegetarian dishes), cooked by her," Krishna Chatterjee, 60, a Maths teacher in a government school in Ballygunge, and Pranab's second sister says.

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