“Kotha thekey beraatey esechhen?” I asked casually. (I enquired where they were visiting from).
“Philadelphia,” replied the gentleman, taken aback by somebody speaking Bengali in a free shuttle bus that carried us from the resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to a nearby marketplace.
You see, Amitesh, Anusuya and I had run out of wine for the evening (I totally blame Anusuya for this 🙂 ) and needed to replenish the same. The daughters opted to stay by the pool and we three got on to the bus. As I got on, I heard the gentleman talking to his wife and two young sons in that unmistakable language that I grew up with in my early childhood.
Once the ice was broken, the seven of us chatted for quite some time. As you might have imagined by now, I was busy finding out intersection points. There were way too many. I think, it all started with me mentioning that both my daughters were born in the Dallas area. Quickly found out that Sumana (the wife of the aforementioned startled gentleman) was a relative of Debjani. To put this in perspective, Sharmila and I were very very close to Debjani and Subhasis (Subho) when we were in Dallas as our kids grew up together. In fact, we exchanged some great stories of Rishi (Gampu) – one of which involved his teacher asking Debjani if they had a pet duck! Story for another day!
Indrajit (by the method of elimination, you have no doubt figured out that he was the startled gentleman) and we were talking of Atlanta when he mentioned that they knew Rupa. That was too much of a coincidence.
“Do you also know them?”, he asked
“What do you mean know them? Of course, we know them. In fact they were the first Bengali family we were introduced to when we moved to Atlanta eleven years back. Rupa and I have another weird connection thru her husband Abhijeet and my wife Sharmila. Rupa’s father in law and my father in law grew up in the same small little village somewhere in Midnapore district in West Bengal. In fact, there was this time that both were visiting Atlanta and recognized each other !!!”.
Amitesh and Anusuya were also talking to them about Rupa when I got myself busy on my phone. Looked Rupa up quickly on my Facebook friend list and showed them the picture…
“You are talking about this lady, right?”
“Yes, she is wearing my saree,” Sumana responded.
“What? What do you mean she is wearing your spree??”, I asked, somewhat incredulous.
And that is when I learnt about Sumana’s booming saree business in all of US. An Indian saree merchant selling direct to Bengali women all over US? I knew I had hit the jackpot.
For the uninitiated, “Bengali woman” and “saree” are uttered like you utter “Marco” and “Polo” in that kids’ game. I was sure we were going to have a lot of intersection points and perhaps she might be the link that might get me to many of my unfinished searches!!
The conjecture was not false! In the next half an hour or so, we found out about a ton load of connections we had.
Bidisha in Dallas? Her customer!! Also, somehow I am related to her thru Sharmila. It is very convoluted but I think I am her grandfather or uncle or viceroy or something like that. Funny part – Bidisha and her husband Neil are excellent friends of Amitesh and Anusuya and that is how I got to know them to begin with!! To think, we were all standing in front of the same family that had been hosted at a party in Bidisha’s place just a few weeks back!
Sabori in Dallas? Same connection!
Satabdi from Maryland? Her customer!! Turns out Satabdi and I grew up together literally a few yards away from each other in the early 70s!
Indrani from New Jersey? Her customer again!! Funny part – I had to let her know that Satabdi and Indrani are actually sisters!!
“So, how do you know Shravani?”, I asked. By now, I was going thru Sumana’s Facebook friend list to see if there was any answer to many of my unfinished searches. “Don’t tell me – she is your customer!”
“Yes, how do you know her?”, she asked.
“Ummmm… let me reconstruct… yes… her husband Prasenjit was my wife’s classmate in Shibpur”.
I am fairly sure, she was thinking I waste too much time getting to know people with all sorts of weak connections.
Then there was the Narendrapur friend of mine…. and the list just kept growing!!
Finally, it was time for us to catch the return bus.
But not before I learnt an important lesson. My street Spanish has gone down considerably from those days of haggling with taxi drivers in the streets of Lima to getting myself understood of a simple request I was trying to make to the security guy outside the grocery store. Many Spanish words and wild gesticulations with my phone later, I made a breakthrough!
“Oh! You want me to take a photo”, he guy deadpanned in chaste English!
As we reached our destination, Indrajit and Sumana made me promise that they will get a chance to meet Sharmila some time.
“Only on one condition”, I insisted.
“And what could that be?”, they asked curiously.
“Just do not mention about your business to her,” I said looking squarely at Sumana!