I just returned from a short, two-week trip to India.
It was way too short. Two weeks in India, especially when you’re visiting only once a year or every other year, is not enough time at all.
But new responsibilities at work do not allow for more than two weeks of away time. Plus, traveling by yourself and leaving your family behind here in New York, in this extreme, February cold when temperature is always below zero, it does not allow you to relax. You always have anxieties and worries about the people you left behind.
But India is always fun. Calcutta is always fascinating. Two weeks or one week. Meeting old and new people. Walking down the street — North to South, East to West. Crossing the Ganges over the two big bridges. Calling friends. Getting calls from friends you haven’t seen in thirty…even forty years. Attending weddings. Visiting someone in distress. Sharing stories of a friend of a friend who poured his heart out for you…just because nobody else wanted to hear his story anymore.
Waking up at three in the morning…for the first couple of days because of a terrible jet lag, and then followed by barking of street dogs…followed by crowing crows at four thirty…followed by the same-old old man whom you’d forgotten over the past twelve months since you came here the last time…the man whom you never saw but heard every morning at five to five fifteen before he disappeared rambling strangely…to himself. He had a strange, deep, eerie voice. Or, it could be that because you heard him in those strange hours, he sounded so.
Then the sound of the Hindu household dawn worship…the conch shell or sankha followed by soft, tinkling hand-held bells…and you know it’s about time to wake up…and ask for some early morning tea…and stroll off to do your early morning green vegetable and fish bazar at the open, country-style market…fish is now very expensive…fish is out of reach of a middle-class, lower middle-class Bengali family…and you know Bengalis couldn’t eat their rice without fish…in fact, everything is so unbelievably expensive…you can feel it even though you came back only after a year!
I went to the famous annual book fair. Books are expensive too. But I went twice. I had to. It brought back so many memories from those wonderful, romantic, youthful, Kolkata days. I couldn’t possibly miss the Boi Mela, as they call the fair in Bengali.
I went to see Sandipta Chatterjee’s grieving parents. I was by their side for two hours. I had to. It was too precious of an experience. To know how she died. Why she died. How careless her own people had been. How brutal the so-called, modern Indian medical system had been…how cruel they had all been to her!
To find some peace back, I went to our Scottish Church School alumni’s Saraswati Puja and saw old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in forty years. And they spoke with me with an incredible affection and love…the typical Calcutta way. And some others called to find out how my twenty five years of American living had been. And some of those I met asked me sing a few Tagore songs…just the same way they asked me to sing a few Tagore songs forty years ago…
Tired. Will write more. This is just the start.
I hope you come back and stay with me. This is a new, fascinating journey.
A journey into humanity.
Sincerely Writing Again,
Brooklyn, New York