Do you remember that old farmer who I visited a few months back? He is the guy who helped my dad till the land we had and also put me up on this shoulder so I could pick up a mango here and a tamarind there. After my last visit, I have kept up with him thru monthly calls.
In my first call, I talked to him about how I had put up our picture on the “net” (He would not understand blog or Facebook or even internet) and that my friends liked him and that picture. He was aghast at this. In his mind, all Americans are my friends and all my friends are Americans. And all those Americans have seen him in shabby clothes.
“Bolbey to babu ektu aagey. Bhalo jaamata porey aastam” (If you had told me before, I would have put on my better shirt).
“Kota jaama aachhey tomar?” (How many shirts do you have?)
“Keney? Duto. Ekta bhalo aar ekta aatpourey”
So I gathered he has two shirts – one for regular use and one for special occasions.
This Wednesday, not having much else to do, I got my brother to point his car towards the village I was born in and headed back there again. Like last time, Jagannath-da was waiting for us at the Shib-tala. This time, we got him to climb in our car and then we went from village to village as he showed us various points of interest.
For example, he showed us a house in a nearby village which apparently belonged to my grandmother’s sister. I did not even know that my grandmother had a sister. That night, when I asked my dad, he did say there was a cousin my grandma had in that village.
One other reason Jagannth-da and we were going from village to village was that we were looking for somebody. It was a futile attempt this time but I have been looking for the first domestic help we had in Durgapur – who I can consider to be my first nanny too. She was a poor girl from a neighboring village that my dad had brought to our house. She got food the whole day and their family got money from my dad and she took care of us when my parents both went for work. It was a win win for everybody. Someday, I will successfully track down Pratima-di but this Wednesday was not that day.
Finally, we ran out of time. We went back to our village, dropped Jagannath-da and came back home.
But the remarkable part was how Jagannath-da had somehow whipped up a jacket. Extremely ill-fitting and certainly beyond his ability to know how to put a jacket on (check out the collar or the buttons he has put on), that jacket was nonetheless, his way of putting his best face forward to all my friends. He was aware that another picture will be shared with my friends (who he thinks are all Americans) and his chappals and lungi be darned, he was not going to let any body down this time!!
“Jacket-ta porey tomay khub manachhey”, I complimented him on his jacket.
“Sotti kata bolbo?” (Shall I tell the truth?)”
“Tomar saathey chhobi uthbey boley ekjonar kaach thekey dhaar niyechhi”.
He sheepishly admitted that he had borrowed the jacket because there was going to be a picture of he and I together!!
In my life, I think it is fair to say that I have had more than my share of travel. It is the human beings that I have met during my travels – regardless of who they are, how well off they are – that always make me feel that this is a wonderful world we all live in.