An 'ode' to a special friend...

She likes to swim with the dolphins, hold a tiger cub in her arms and be a horse whisperer… whatever that means. She advertises herself as a crackpot, a mad-hatter… it’s not very difficult for me to comprehend, because I’m an unorthodox person myself although I’d prefer to hold a pup in my arms rather than a cub… Well, it’s been a meeting of minds – this young woman and I. And from out of the blue she had appeared...

However, what has bound us together in a sense is our common upbringing - she grew up in Jamshedpur, I in Calcutta, she was an ace swimmer and state badminton player, I was a school footballer, she is an animal lover and so am I, she’s had connections with Anglo-Indians and so have I, she seems to bear nostalgia for the old and so do I… the list could probably go on…

Common interests apart, our lives seem to have a followed a particular pattern as well. Her father retired in the mid-1980s and the family moved south. My dad retired in 1978 and we hung on in Calcutta till 1983 when my mother, whose decision was law, decided to move south. A year after her mother arrived in Kerala, she died, possibly find God’s Own Country not really the place she wanted to be. My dad passed away less than a year after he arrived in Madras; it was clear the city was not where he belonged and he found the uprooting too difficult to take.

Thrown into his state of disarray was my state of unemployment, but by the time I got the job of my life in a Brooke Bond tea estate in the Niligiris it was too late – he had decided to leave. For her, it was a double whammy – her father died less than a year of her mother passing away – four days to her first anniversary. So, perhaps you understand what it means when you say your world can turn topsy-turvy in the space of a year.

While she has, after a lot of hardship, got used to living life in Bangalore and loves the place. I wouldn’t still, after 25 years and more call Chennai home. I love Bangalore though – there is still an old world charm to the city, especially in the Cantonment area, that is hard to miss. And then, there’s the weather that Calcutta doesn’t have (save in the winter), weather that is a balm for weak spirits and jagged nerves.

At this stage, relocating to Kolkata is simply not on, although my sister is there and almost a thoroughbred Bengali at that. But visiting the City of Joy, whenever I want to, is certainly on the calendar. After all, there’s absolutely no match for steaming hot Bangla masala chai in a hand-crafted bhand and inhaling sweet cigarette smoke whether you are standing at Gariahat more or Ballygunge Phandi or Camac Street or even outside the Metro Theatre that once was.

There’s no moral of a story here… no finales… no ending as such… Life goes on… but it’s wonderful, and sometimes even mysterious, when you find you’ve hit a chord with someone you hardly knew. That’s why life can be so fascinating, so inexplicable, so much so that you wonder whether is it possible at all!

Well, on a Sunday evening when the earthquake in Sikkim has carved a territory encompassing several states, and when a ‘drowsy numbness pains my sense as if of Hemlock I had drunk’, here’s cheers to good old times, to people of the same stock, and of course to nostalgia and healthy friendship!


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