As part of my blog’s first anniversary, I am hosting a ‘blog party’. Today is the Grand Finale and my guest is Esha Mookerjee Dutta. To the blogging world she is Esha@Soul Talk but for me, she is my dearest Mituldi. My sister from another birth, my soul sister. The lady whom I grew up admiring and till date to me she is the most beautiful woman, I have come across. Today she has written about ‘our’ childhood days. This post is extremely nostalgic for both of us. I hope you all like it as well. Enjoy!!!
It was sometime in the early nineties. I had come to Calcutta for a postgraduation programme and was staying with my maternal relatives in the satellite town of Salt Lake, in Kolkata, when I first met this 13-year-old girl called Tina. Effervescent, full of boundless enthusiasm, chatty and affectionate, and, always, in two pigtails—that’s how I always recall her.
They lived on the same floor as kuttimashi, my aunt—mom’s youngest sister, and mejomama, my uncle—and mom’s brother #2. My uncle and Tina’s Dad were Central government employees and although they worked in different organisations, heated political debates and animated discussions often found their way into their conversations on many a Sunday morning. Tina would initially come to visit Babai, my mejomama’s son— a boy of eight, who had lost his mother under the most tragic circumstances a few years back and who always looked for an opportunity to skip school and stay at home. Being a motherless boy, Babai always rebelled against Kuttimashi, who, inspite of her best efforts, was always left feeling powerless because she couldn’t drill any sense into him. Usually, that was when, Tina’s mom, whom I addressed as Mami, would be called in to offer an encouraging word or two to try and “convince” him to change his mind and focus on studies. Their words usually fell on deaf ears because the boy never listened, but the ladies never gave up hope and continued, despite their failed attempts, to bring the prodigal son home.
In fact, my uncle’s place was an open house, so much so, that their front door would always be open for anyone to wander in for a quick chat. Not an exaggeration, if you ask! In fact, Tina’s mom was a regular visitor whenever our extended family visited, so they were known to almost our entire family (which was and still is, quite a large one!) and in no time, Tina and her family became an inevitable part of ours. My aunt, always referred to Tina’s mom as “Bose boudi” and looked up to her for any help or advice, as one would, with an older sister.
Tina had bright curious eyes, a cheerful disposition, was eager to be friends with me, and was always ready for a little chit-chat every time she dropped by, which happened to be almost every day after she got back from school. I too dropped in every now and then, on the weekends, when I got bored, I’d drop in at theirs, sometimes along with my aunt, and sometimes all by myself. It was the pre-cell phone era, and face-to-face conversations still ruled the roost. We often had a lovely time sharing anecdotes about our lives in the hills—theirs from the Gangtok days, and mine, from our life in Kohima. Mami always offered me something delicious from their kitchen. It was always that way with her.
As time went by, Tina and I got to know each other better. I was privy to all her secrets and she happily shared the latest stories from her school, not forgetting the neighbourhood, and I was amused to know that there was so much going on in the apparently drab lives of the neighbours. In no time, I knew all about her latest screen heartthrobs and schoolgirl crushes, and not only hers but that of her friends too. On weekday evenings, if I happened to be back early from my classes, she’d come asking me for an evening walk in the compound, and I’d happily comply. In her, I found company and every time I wrote a letter home, Tina and her family always had a mention. Always.
Tina, being the only child, probably found a sister in me while I, never having had a sister of my own, felt I’d finally found one. As an older sister, I often shared my wisdom about books along with a recommended list of music she ought to follow. She always listened intently, to all that I said and would often ask me for advice when she felt she couldn’t share it with her mom. I remember once I took her along to watch ‘Swan Lake’ when the Bolshoi Theatre were performing in town. At other times, we were happy to spend many a bored afternoon, playing antakshari or chatting away in the tiny balcony, during one of the frequent powercuts. Somedays, Kuttimashi read out her poems to us and we listened, wide-eyed, at the magical play of words that was her hallmark, for she was, till her dying day, one of the best poets that I happened to know at close quarters, whose poems spoke best about her loneliness, her pain and her heartaches more than what she ever could express in mundane prose. This usually happened when we watched the sunset over the horizon, as another day came to an end. Tina was too young to grasp the full extent of those verses but we were both in awe of my aunt’s skill and believe she might have impressed upon our young minds to turn to writing someday, something we both do now, many years hence.
And, as it happens, life went on. In the course of time, I completed my postgraduate programme and moved out of Calcutta, carrying some very warm memories along. Once back to my hometown and a teaching job that occupied me with new challenges and an exciting turn of events that were about to unfold in my life, I hardly had any time to reflect on the past. But, whenever I looked back at those days I had spent at my uncle’s place, I wondered about Tina and her family. By then, we had lost touch completely. And so it was for years, until many years later, one fine day, mom chanced to meet her parents—Bose mama and mami— at their home, while attending a wedding reception of an old family friend, who happened to live in the same locality. And, that is how, once again, so many years later, the connection between our families got revived. Her mother’s health was failing in spite of the best treatment and Tina was undergoing her graduation and had almost reached a marriageable age, for her parents to start looking for a prospective match for her. Only time would tell, that fate, had other things in store for her.
And, thus, many years later, during a visit to Calcutta in the winter of 2004, I finally got to speak to Tina, who was doing her MPhil then. She came to visit me at my parents’ home one day and was rather keen to see my five-month-old baby. Once again, it was like the good old times when we caught up with the events in our lives. So much catching up to do when so much had happened in our lives. When she broke the news of how she had lost her mother we were shocked and felt as if we had lost a very dear one! Such was the bond we shared. This was the same, simple, unassuming girl I had met years ago at my uncle’s place. But, now, she had matured, way beyond her years!
Life does come a full circle. Just when we feel like all hopes are lost, we find a ray of light to light up our path ahead. Over the years, we have kept in touch through most of the important events in our lives. Tina has had to brave many a battle from a very early age but, having seen her from close quarters, I can certainly say that she has always emerged a winner, no matter how many volleys life has thrown at her. Her dad, who fondly called her Titi, singlehandedly fulfilled the twin roles of mom and dad, and was like a rock, throughout, supporting and encouraging her through the worst of times after her mom passed away. She, in turn, stood by him in his twilight years, taking care of him almost like a mother, while his faculties were giving way, until last year when he finally found eternal peace, leaving a gaping hole in her heart, forever.
Through the good times and the trying ones, Tina has been and will continue to be a part of my life— as a sister, and a friend. As a fellow blogger, and a member of Write Tribe, I feel immensely proud to see her go from strength to strength. Today, all I wish for her is happiness and blessings in abundance as she continues to pick up innumerable awards and recognition for her writing over the past three years or perhaps, more. I know her blog will touch new heights and she will soon find her place amongst the very best in the industry!
A very happy Blog-versary to you, my dear soul sister and friend! Keep writing and keep up the fabulous work.