16 March 2016

Tracking down Mr. and Mrs. Raychowdhury

On Oct 29 last year, I had written a post on how I finally traced “Tata” down. We were neighborhood friends from very early primary school days. Of course, thru her, I was able to talk to her parents too. You probably recollect from that post how auntie was once a life saver for me when I had messed up my new sweater while playing cricket…

I have been waiting for a chance to meet them. Day before was that day. After battling thru a lot of roads under permanent construction around the airport, I managed to show up at their house.

We talked and talked and talked about our good old times. I was able to give them updates on quite a few of the other neighborhood kids. And picked up leads on a few more… Mr. Raychowdhury was visibly taken in by the powerful nostalgia.

After an hour and half of reminiscing those days, he concluded “Those were the best days of my life”. Certainly, I was glad to know that I was part of it…


15 March 2016

The indomitable spirit of a nonagenarian

Next up after Mr. and Mrs. Biswas was to stop by and check on Mrs. Mukherjee. I had met her for the first time two years back and had heard from her son Amitesh that she is unable to move much these days. Last time, she had come out to the living area to meet me and talk to me. I was aware that she was not going to be able to do so this time.

Fortunately, I do not usually wait for such niceties in life like invitations. Not only did I barge into Mrs. Mukherjee’s house, I went straight to the inside room where she was resting in her sofa. As you can see, she is not able to sit up straight due to her backbone and most of her leg muscles weakening beyond a level to sustain her body weight. What you cannot see is the indomitable spirit behind the fragile bones of this soon to be nonagenarian.

Gracefully dressed in a white saree, she was half-laying and filling her Form 15H. For the Indian tax-ly challenged, that is a form you fill up for taxes to be deducted at source at your banks. The interesting part is she lives with her son, daughter in law, and has access to many others who would be more than glad to fill up the forms. But she insists on reading up the whole thing and filling it herself!!

I asked her how she was coping with her recent bout of illness. She showed me a bell and phone she carries with her whenever she has to move. Apparently, when she falls down, she just lays there ringing the bell or calls somebody on the phone to get some help to be picked up!! Not even once did she complain or feel pity for her condition! There was a walker in the corner of the room – but apparently, she does not even touch it.

As you can see in the picture, we had a good long and intense chat. When this picture was taken (by her son), she was recollecting in a very soft voice – and I am not sure why she opened up to me – about her late husband’s last few days. She described in great detail how he had lost a lot of zest for life towards the end. There was a poignant moment where she described how he was taken to the hospital and she felt the way he said Bye to her, she had a premonition that he knew he was not going to come back…

It was very very hard for me to hold my tears back…

If I ever live to be a nonagenarian, that is the kind of nonagenarian I want to be. Bent, might be; but never broken!


15 March 2016

Returning a favor…

A few months back, Mr. and Mrs. Biswas had visited us in our Atlanta house (they were in US for a few months with their daughter Mukta and son-in-law Supriyo and grandson Aarush). After my hosting duties – which mainly comprised of serving cocktails and wine to all the guests that had come over – was done, I took Mr. Biswas out for a walk.

We went for a long walk on the dirt roads near my house. The very soft spoken gentleman was totally taken in by the hills, forests and horse farms near our property. As we turned around, he softly said “Tomar baari khub bhalo laaglo. Ebar amader baari eso.” (“Enjoyed your house. Your turn now to visit us”). That was the first time I had ever met him, but I did promise to return the favor.

Which I did yesterday. Spent a beautiful morning hour with Mr. and Mrs. Biswas …


15 March 2016

Reconnecting with Mr. and Mrs. Dutta

I had not seen Niladri’s parents – for that matter Niladri himself – since the early 80’s. There are too many lovely memories that come to mind thinking of them. Those days that I used to bike – and sometimes simply walk – to Niladri’s house during my middle school days. Often, together with my best friend Avijit.

There was the lovely flower garden that his dad used to tend to. There was the old record player he had together with the collection of LP records. And his mom’s hospitality – never, ever would she let us leave without having sweets.

More than three decades later, I again got a chance to see Mr. And Mrs. Dutta. And Niladri. And his wife and son!!

Was amazed by how active and alert Mr. and Mrs. Dutta are. I was thrilled to find both of them in great health. What was totally mind blowing is that it is Mr. Dutta that helps out his grandson with all his studies. What a great influence!! And Mrs. Dutta’s sense of hospitality has remained exactly the same – we could not leave without some “luchi-mangsho-aloor torkari”.

What lovely elders I got influenced by when I was a kid!!


14 March 2016

Meeting Suntu-di! After 32 years!!!

The biggest regret I had back in 1984 was that I did not get a chance to attend Suntu-di’s wedding. She was our next door neighbor and was senior to me by a few years. However, I was packed off to a residential school when I was sixteen and therefore missed the wedding.

Finally managed to meet her and her husband – Debashish-da yesterday. Unlike others, I did skip the two daughters they have had in-between but I had a lot of fun last evening. We could not finish off all the stories.

I need to come back – maybe Suntu-Di will perform some of her favorite songs for us. She was the first person who I knew personally whose voice I had heard on the radio. I remember distinctly that evening when quite a few of us from the neighborhood had gathered around our radio to hear her voice being broadcast!!! She was our local hero those days!!!


13 March 2016

See, this is why I foxtrot to India every three months…

Yes, the primary reason is to check on the parents. But I am not ready to give up on the “extras” either. How else would I have been part of history repeating itself nearly forty three years later?

Most of us in the picture have one thing connecting us – we were in the same first grade together in a small school in Durgapur. Some left the school after one year, some, after a couple of years, and yet some others stayed for the long haul. Regardless, we knew we had made lifelong relationships in that early stage of our lives. How else do you explain Nishi flying in from Delhi just for a few hours to spend the time with her classmates that she had not seen in over four decades?

And when you realize that it was a girl in the group who placed in her first order with the waiter, before anybody else could, enquiring what her options were in scotch, you knew that your interests have naturally progressed almost in synch with each other from those starting days of common interest in red and black Nataraj HB pencils and those white and green scented eraser with a picture on the top. Notwithstanding the fact that we had people from all far flung corners of the world and certainly separated by – as I mentioned, a little over four decades.

What a wonderful afternoon! Mrinal’s quiz questions about the school (an example – what was the name of the guy who would sound the school gong at the end of every class? – apparently, the correct answer was “Shyamlal” ) kept us regaled in between the ribbing I took to be the first one to cross the five decades old age mark and the constant clicking of pictures being taken.

Who realized in 1973 that while life was going to take us down very different paths for forty plus years, we were going to actually come from all walks and corners of the world to be together again for essentially one simple reason – because we were together in 1973? !!!!

What beautiful and gracious people I have had the privilege of meeting at such an early stage of my life!!

I think I am ready to raise the toast with that scotch now!

Here’s to your health and happiness – Malabika, Mausumi, Suparna, Nishi, Anshu, Arindam, Arindam, Mrinal, Subhasis and Subir!