She was a widow: someone who flaunted societal rules to enjoy life. He had been enamoured with her, but chose not to acknowledge it: he knew he could not face up to his family, and society, to marry her. At-least that’s what he told me.
Over the years my father has let small clues spill. He lived in Calcutta, early in life: at the start of his career. From him, I pieced together a picture of the girl he met, the one that got away, someone who loved to dance the twist, and drink lots of cha. When he speaks of her, I see the look of a man frozen at the crossroads of life: one from which he never really moved. But leave he did.
Then, it was my turn to meet the city.
|Image: courtesy http://www.buzzintown.com
Calcutta had always seemed to be in a dimension apart. As if it were existing on this planet on one plane, and that exalted epitome of imagination on the other. Did I have enough soul to be accepted into its fold, I wondered as I walked through Park Street hand in hand with a man, born not too far away. He, whose parents met in this city fifty years earlier, and had been together since.
Turning up at Trincas: me in a kanjeevaram sari, enroute to a wedding, we were ushered in past the rows of music lovers waiting patiently to the knee-bump-knee table. Perched on a narrow chair, I could hear the ghost of Usha Uthup belting out to the crowd. Why does the past always seem timeless and the present difficult to pin down?
Mistaken for a foreign bou at the Indian Museum, being Loki–that’s how Laxmi is pronounced in Bengali, something I love especially now that my alter ego here is the delicious Tom Hiddleston– at the family wedding, watching bemused as my husband wolfed down puchkas on the street, meandering through the now defunct Oxford Bookstore, lunch at Flora (served by the waiter who would never leave, but when it was time for the other world) haggling for Pashminas at the government showroom, culminating in gin & tonics at the Oberoi.
I came – a tourist: coming away with a new way of life. It wasn’t the architecture or the experiences, nor any one person. It was the collective. There was power in the us here. It needed the us to create that net of support, where you could free think and be understood for what you expressed.
My comeuppance? Having a small shard of the soul of this city embedded in the person I spend my most waking hours with. My own private reservoir of inspiration to dip into whenever the adrenaline of the modern connected world proves too weary; for I am surrounded by a cat’s cradle of coincidences, all linked to this space.