Once more a bit of Calcutta

In the heat of Calcutta summer he would come to our house in the afternoons. He would sit down under the circling fan and gulp down the iced water. Once in a while he would come in the evenings and then he would have a cup of tea. Almost every time he refused any offer of food, I believe he was diabetic, and he controlled his intake. He was a fair complected man, with a kind smile and eyes. He would sit down and talk about his daughters, he had three. He would complain how they did not study enough, and how the older one was seeing a boy, he didn’t approve of. He talked about a shop he co-owned in Jadavpur, where he lived as well. His name was Runu, how sad that I don’t remember his formal name or even his last name. He used to come to the house to exchange dollars for Indian currency. It was more convenient for him to come to the house, instead of my frail mother going to the bank, and I think he gave a better rate too.
I called him Runu Kaku (Uncle), and he knew how much I loved sweets. Whenever he came he would carry a clay earthenware filled with my favourite sweets. Usually it was rosgollas as soft as sponges and syrupy, somedays it was ‘komolabhog’. One time he gave me a small bottle of Nina Ricci. I used it frugally, a few sprays here and there, trying to make it last forever. It had the fragrance of pressed flowers. He had received that bottle from another client of his, but he gave it to me. He had a big and kind heart, and a bigger smile. One day he stopped coming. After a few calls to his store we came to know that he had died of a heart attack. Ma called his wife a few times after that, but slowly those calls too faded.
That was it, the man totally disappeared from our lives. It is as if he existed for those afternoons and mornings only. With him disappeared stories of his daughters who did not study enough, and the good for nothing man his daughter was seeing. Their reality was through him, with him gone all was gone.

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As the school year end

May is a difficult month for most teachers. The STAAR testing is over, some kids are ready for High School, and they are so done that they throw rules out of the nearest window. This is the time teachers are ready for a break. This is for them… (wrote it after a rough day)

 

Oh my darling I watch you slide

when you could have walked

you choose to glide.

You crawl into the class and you roll

then you flip.

And in to your seat

with a clamor you slip.

You butt is restless, you move

you sway

I cannot keep you quite

I cannot, no way!!!!!

 

You flip bottles, you talk

without any warning, out of the class

you walk.

You enter again,

for the thousandth time doing the dab.

I am at my wit’s end

I feel like a mouse in a lab!!!

 

That fidget spinner you spin,

wants me to come at you chargin’.

Grab that contraption from your hand

and have it forever banned.

 

Halfway into the class

the glue stick  you toss,

with a small amount  luck

you make sure that to the ceiling its gets stuck.

 

Where is Mark,  Wendy, Juan,

where is Bradley, Megan?

They hide in the cabinets,

because they think they can.

 

What happened to the rules made during fall?

What happened to those boys and girls,

what happened to them all?

 

Spring break morphed them beyond recognition

They no longer want to work on their

metaphor, simile, subtraction or addition.

All they want to fool around and act silly

They think they can get away with it, they do really!!!

With the passing months I have grown fond of you all

Your quirks, your smile, even your classroom crawl.

 

I know in a strange way the craziness I will miss

But for peace and silence now I wish

Thankfully summer is round the corner, it’s near

Unfortunately it will not last long, that is a fear!!!!

Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry

Last evening we went for a walk. Finding a nice long stretch of road, without getting dunked in our own sweat or bitten alive by mosquitoes, becomes increasingly difficult around this time of the year in Texas. Last night was different, even though we are already in May. By the time we reached our preferred destination, the sun had approached the western horizon and was a beautiful orange glow. Harshness of the afternoon had already disappeared and the breeze was pleasant. It has been a while we have been to the Texas City dike. The last time I was there I remember it being a lot more rugged, the landscape in despair. They have spruced it up, they even have us paying at the entrance, a sum of $5. We parked our car and headed out– it was just us minus the boy, he was at a friend’s house.unspecified-14

The long 5 mile walk is an easy walk, only if you wear the right kind of shoes. I, unfortunately, was wearing a pair of sandals. The gravel under my feet crunched and was mercilessly uncomfortable for my feet. The breeze played with our hair and our dresses billowed and we walked. Since this was part of the bay, there was no salt spray, just the stench of fish. Also the smell of barbecue wafted through the air.

 The girl had her music on and she repeated many times over how she loves such walks. The dog just looked and sniffed and skittishly scampered away when he saw or heard something unknown to him. There were cars parked, people were on the pier with their fishing poles cast into the water, some where waist deep in the water waiting for a catch. The seagulls hovered overhead and a family of cormorants bobbed on the water. unspecified-16.jpg

 

Further down we saw a black cat slinking in the shadows. As the sun dropped, I saw fire pit lighting up– maybe to warm themselves after a cold swim, maybe to cook those fish they caught. We must have walked 4 miles one way, still couldn’t see the end of the levee– (did I mention that Don Mclean’s song played a loop while I walked? This levee was dry too). It was pitch dark by that time and visibility was limited, so we decided to turn back. Across the water we could see the lights of the refineries, they sparkled and looked dazzling, like a string of expensive gems. Cars were also heading out, throwing some light on our path. Strains of Spanish songs were coming from those cars– that is when you once again realize how strong the influence of Hispanics is in Texas.

 

 

unspecified-13.jpg4 more miles to walk back, my Fitbit gleefully flashed that I have completed my 10,000 steps. Tired, yet feeling good we reached our car.

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It was in May….

It was in May that Ma passed away. As winter gave into summer, I got the dreaded news, living in a far away land. Eyes swollen, senses clouded I went about getting the tickets, packing, instructing Babu about the kids– what lunches they take, which lunch box belongs to who, making arrangements with friends for pick up and drop off, and also attending to those calls, calls offering condolences.. Then I hopped on a plane and flew off. I got a window seat, that was good because it meant I could avoid all and just look out at the darkened clouds. Going home always was a joyous affair, but this time I went with a heavy heart. I knew that they city that embraces me so deeply, has not changed. What has changed was that the person who felt the most happy to see me will be not there to greet me.. not now, not ever. What has changed is that the armchair, that was on our balcony will remain empty forever. As the sun glides from the cornices and warms the chair, the person who sat there sipping her tea is no more and will remain no more. She will no longer lean from the railings and watch the world go by. That absence will get bigger and bigger and on somedays will explode my heart.

Yes, it was three years back in the middle of May my mother passed away .. Three years have gone by, and my heart still remains heavy…

 

                                                                 Baba and Ma 10336606_10152510988287853_7127888578085107050_n.jpg

 

 

 

 

Janab of Jojupama (aka Bachchu)

It was in 1978 or 1979 that Bachchu was born. He was Jonaki’s son..only one survived from that litter and that was Bachchu. Jonaki and Bachchu were our fox terriers. I remember a lot about Bacchu. We had initially named him Janab, keeping up with all the J’s in our family, but because he was a bachcha (puppy) dog, he ended up with the other name, He used to escape a lot, he loved it when he was called “Bachchu babu good boy”, I used to play teacher/student with him. Once we couldn’t find him and finally found him between the trunks under our bed–we thought that a crow had snatched him, he was a itty-bitty puppy then. When we played and I ran ahead of him, he would pull my dress/skirt, nearly tearing it. He was feisty, he once even bit my mom. When he was a puppy and I was carrying him around, he peed on me. He peed on that red frock, with yellow flowers, even now I can feel the warmth of his pee. Then one day Baba decided to re-home him. Baba couldn’t take care of the dogs anymore and it was a better option giving them to a home where they would be taken care of. I hated that decision, and then when he was gone, I would cry myself to sleep every night. I don’t know how long I did that, but I think it was for very long. I don’t have any pictures of Bachchu, maybe my cousin has some and someday we will find them.
Today is Bachchu’s birthday. He was born on April 19th, in one of those years I mentioned earlier.

Ajoi nodir tirey

I so want to go back and revisit those memories–that one trip to Bolpur I took with Baba, but I remember almost nothing. Must have been during one of my winter holidays. The weather was cooler I believe. Baba and I took the bus arranged by the Dept of Tourism, West Bengal. We went to Shantiniketan. It was a guesthouse with white washed walls, and one room with a balcony. I remember waking up early in the morning and going to some bird sanctuary. We walked up some kind of a wooden contraption on a tree and looked out for birds. I remember the red soil. I remember staying one night in another small town, and in the evening going to a road side stall to buy ‘jilipis’. Next morning we did the same–those warm jilipis and us covered in warm shawls. I remember stopping by the river Ajoy. The river bank was dry, the soil yellowish–I remember nothing beyond that. We didn’t carry a camera. I didn’t jot down my experiences. Nothing…and this little I am left with. My memories of a trip with my father.

Cat called Caeser

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I see the black and white cat everyday. I actually look for him. He sits on the driveway, surveyor of his claimed land. He sits there protecting all that is around him. As these two dangling dogs pass him by, he swells up with fury. His body doubles it’s size and it lets out a low hiss. The dogs lunges, and then whimpering walks four steps back. They look at the cat with great concern. The cat unblinkingly looks at them while they get reduced to flapping paper napkins ready to blow away with the next gust of wind.17203033_10155180705607853_686689978110114093_n.jpg

….and the dreams continue

I wrote this last year, on the same day (March 29, 2016)

Today while I was drifting into sleep, I saw a very familiar street. Maybe it is because a friend is in Kolkata, and her picture of the morning sky and description of sounds brought this dream to me. It is a winding road, slightly winding. In my thoughts it seems never ending…like the long and winding road. In reality it is not that long, I realized it when I was in Kolkata last time. It is a street I travelled every day of my life. Exited my house and there I was….in the beginning the street did not have trees. Or maybe it did, but they were saplings. While walking down I always turned back to see my mother standing in the balcony, watching me. Most days I would wave her goodbye. The days I was angry, or upset I would not turn back to look. And when I reached the bend I would turn back the last time and wave again. Unfailingly everyday she would stand and watch till I was out of sight. Then the trees grew, spread it branches..and the view to our balcony was blocked. I had to finish the last goodbye wave much before I reached the bend.
In my dreams the street is lovely. Warm sunlight filtering through the leaves. It is clean, the yellow and orange flowers of the Krishnachura and Radhachura scattered on the sidewalk. In reality it is dirty, potholes, broken pavements. And somewhere between that dream and reality I have left my thoughts there.

Keys and chaos

It was past 11 last night, when I returned from watching a movie and I decided to take Apollo for a walk. It was shorter than my usual walk. As I walked past a pile of leaves, I felt something crunching under my feet. I wondered if I had dropped something–not that I had anything in my pocket. It was a moonless night and I couldn’t see anything, but instinctively I made note of the exact location. I forgot all about it…..till now—As I was about to leave and went to the spot where I keep my car keys, I noticed it was missing. I looked all over the house ,when suddenly I remembered last night. So I took my extra key and drove by the spot. It was 17 hrs after the fact…and I saw it !!!!! The key was kept by the sidewalk. Whoever found it in the pile of leaves was kind enough to place it in a place easily visible. A big thank you to you, random stranger.

Tales from Kolkata

As the lane turned and came towards my house, that is where she lived. A few houses before ours. I knew her since babyhood. We spent many summer afternoons playing together. She was a little older than me. We used to play make believe games, enact fairy tales, even talk about boys. Time passed us by, and I got closer to other friends. Every now and then we would meet and hang around, but I had moved on. Maybe she did too. We had nothing left to talk about. Slowly we stopped hanging around. Then one day i found out she had eloped, and stopped coming home. Few years later I saw her again. She was visiting her parents, now she had two gorgeous kids–one boy and one girl. I also heard that her marriage was not as great as she had expected. Once an only, much loved child, now she was struggling to keep things together. Maybe that was a rumor, maybe it is true. One of the last times I saw her was when she came over with her two kids to visit me. I was still sleeping. Like in the days of past, she crawled into my bed and woke me up. We talked a lot. I think that was actually the last time we had a heart to heart. After that I would see her in the passing. Then one day her mother passed away, then the dad. The house went back to the original owners. She also stopped coming to our neighborhood. And just like that all traces of her was gone. She became a memory.
Facebook happened and the kids from that winding lane got connected again. We started sharing as adults, but she was never found. She remained lost. I have some photographs of her. I hope she is doing well. I hope the dreams she dreamed , the magic she waited to happen..eventually did happen.
Today I suddenly remembered her.