It was a different Kolkata, when the not-do-urban middle class families were still flexible to accept one or two single woman in all white-linen sari, as a part of their own. That was a different time. If you belong to that time, come and join the author. If not, that shouldn’t stop you either!
Kunjo dida ….and that’s what we all called her!
My mom, her younger sister and I, still in grade 4 then, almost made ‘Dida’ her last name. It goes the same annoying way the Bongs add ‘da’ after men of any age group. We weave bonds, like the lonely garden spider at the ‘gandharaj‘ tree.
‘Kunjooo didaaaaa……oooo…Kunjo didaaa!’
She was selective when it came to hearing. A very handy trait when you are living with a ‘Rabon er gusthi‘* and if I try with Google to translate that phrase, it will be a disaster indeed. So I leave it to my readers to guess!
She knew when to hear and what not to!
I still don’t know how she was related or if at all, but she was always there in my memories of a time, when not-so-urban families were still flexible to accept one or two single women in an all white linen sari, as a part of their own.
Sreeman AkkuR SNatra
Srimati Ranulata SNatra
Gram (village) Narohari
Jela (district) Adaani…
I don’t remember the rest! But I had to write to her daughter and son in law in a tamarind yellow postcard, often, and specifically right before Durga Puja. She would sit in her grey white linen and as she swayed and dictated, her voice used to drift far away. Still below 10, I was also selective in hearing but quite open in adding up lines of my own. My tongue used to stick out when my imagination flew.
Instead of quoting ‘don’t sell the milk to Nanda babu’, I would prefer writing, ‘Water the tamarind tree well!! This summer I need to bring a bunch of ripe sweet-sour treats back for the little girl when I return to Kolkata.’
Thankfully Kunjo dida couldn’t read and I am doubtful if her daughter could as well. Because the letters were always posted and they never came back and neither promised a reply.
Berries grew on our terrace…abundant and wild. Like stars on a night sky.
During the power cut, the late Kolkata afternoons grew very quiet. Quiet to the extent that the ugly extended pair called ears could stick out a little bit further gaining supersonic power.
Some random tap far away at the backyard dripped and dripped and so did the lame spotted dove which kept on chanting ‘ghu ghu…ghu ghu…’
I could hear Kunjo dida as well, upstairs in her attic muffling a cry…all alone…every afternoon…by herself. I tried in vain to put pillows around my ears…to stop that cry…to block that droning sound.
Even today…some afternoons when it got quiet, I could hear her…I could still hear her.
In desperation I would take out my postcard…and try to write a letter…this time…
Shreeman AkkurD SNatra
* This untranslatable Bengali idiom loosely means a sprawling family akin to the Ravana clan
(Photograph – Amrita Gupta)
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