Brother’s and sister’s families left this morning. And I came over to Kolkata airport to commence the 4 airport, 33 hour trip. For the first time, I am feeling lonely. As long as the siblings were around, it took the edge off missing our parents. I am sure they are feeling the same way.
There is an old Hindi song that I am constantly reminded of…
नI जाने क्यों होता है
ये जिन्दगी के साथ
अचानक ये मन
किसी के जाने के बाद
करे फिर उसकी याद
छोटी छोटी सी बात
नI जाने क्यों…
Na jane kyun hota hai
Yeh zindagi key sath
Achanak yeh mann
Kisike jane key bad
Kare phir uski yad
Chhoti chhoti si bat
Naa jane kyun…
Roughly translated (improvements welcome)
“Don’t know why
This keeps happening to me
After somebody has taken leave
My heart is suddenly flooded
By memories… of that person…
… of the snippets of dialogs we had
Don’t know why….”
It was a fantastic family time in India…
Four days and four nights were enough for me to make a lot of new friends among the staff in the JW in Kolkata. From Simran at check-in to Parash, Kalam, Suman, Aayushi, Boni and manager Rahul in the restaurant to the two Tathagatas – one at the concierge and one in the lobby and the gentleman helping us at the pool (I forget the name), I got to know the life story and aspirations of a lot of new friends.
And guess what they did for us? As we were finishing up breakfast to start getting ready to checkout – a farewell cake showed up!!!
Over 500 stays in different hotels in different parts of the world in the last 25 years. This is a first for me!!
(BTW, do not worry about mask standards in the JW. It is very strict for staff and the guests were also more or less compliant. The staff took off the mask just for a couple of seconds for my brother to take the picture).
One effect about the pandemic is that we have decided not to increase our exposure outside of the immediate family. So, we have stayed in the hotel the whole time and neither taking visitors nor visiting anybody. Which means, the nephews and niece are spending most of their time either in the pool or eating all those great food lined up.
It was certainly very relaxing to just laze around in and out of the pool. It was a hot and humid day and the pool water felt perfect. Of course, it did not hurt that the service was top notch – including getting us tea and cookies (“cha-biscuit”) at regular intervals.
One of these days, I am going to figure out how to get all these salwar kameez wielding womenfolk in my family in India to change into swimming gear and get into the pool too.
Even for a very un-Bengali Bengali, not eating sweets takes the level of blasphemy against everything Bengali to a whole new level. At home in US it is easy. In India, I had to come up with all sorts of tricks – the common one being “Sugar aachhey” (meaning I have diabetes). The identity of Bengalis is so intimately intertwined with eating sweets (and trust me on this one, they are nothing short of heavenly) that sometimes even after forwarding an argument that is designed to shut down all debate “daktarer maana” (meaning the doctor has proscribed it), I have had a few hosts saying “Kichhu hobey na. Ekta osudh kheye nebey”. (meaning – don’t you worry, take a pill after the sweets).
Today, in a bit of misguided adventure, I ventured into where I have not ventured in a long time. I decided to dig in to the sweets section in the lunch buffet arranged at the JW Marriott in Kolkata. And when I say “dig in”, I went all in. Rosogolla (there is no such thing as a Bengali plate without Rosogolla), Pantooa, Mihidana, Sitabhog, Gajorer Halwa. Name it and I had it. Admittedly, I put about one fourth the portion of what others were putting in their plates.
These things usually soak in sugar syrup and are often fried (some of them in clarified butter called ghee). Certainly not for the weak of the heart – at least not the ones insisting on keeping their heart valves and pipes clean. Or for those not wanting their sugar levels to scale nearby highrises.
But, I swear, they are the most delicious tasting stuff one can have in God’s green earth!!
Again, why are great tasting things so bad for you?
In a rare trip outside hotel/home, went to Free School Street in Kolkata to pick up some vinyl (LP) records. This street used to have at least a hundred record shops. There are only three surviving.
I went to only one this time. Picked up about a dozen. All are Bengali records that has at least one song that was a favorite of either parent or I had heard them singing.
The one exception – Mukesh and Lata in Albert hall – has a story behind it. Back in June 1984, three of us had pooled all our pocket money to buy this record for the fourth one on her birthday!!! (the four of us were fairly tight friends those days)
The mercury is flirting with three digits
All of us have now checked into a hotel in Kolkata to spend some time together as a big family. Against the backdrop of solemnness in Kalyani, here our mood has a lot more levity. We are remembering some of the most fun moments with our parents. And some of them were outright hilarious.
As we were going thru my blog where I had documented some of those funny incidents, I almost felt a great justification for writing down the small moments in the History of my Future.
Sitting by the open pool at the hotel, some of us were laughing hard enough that we could have rolled off into the pool.
It was a lasting sense of satisfaction and joy to see my family in India this happy. I think I am going to keep coming back to India!!