I visited Calcutta once in the late 90's, with my neighbours. they stayed in a rickety damp building, Phulan stayed neaby. The name, without prejudice,creates a beautiful image. It must have been sometime in late March, the year I don't remember. I had never seen roads as sluggish, smoke as tarred; and an omnipresent nausea at the back of my head, that mingling of my conscious with noises and more noises.

But Phulan stayed in a 2 bedroom shack below the building. There was a courtyard, around which there many similar rooms. When I crossed them, I wondered if they housed dying men inside. May be they did. We never found out, we headed straight for Phulan's house. We, as in Anu and I. Anu was my neighbour's daughter. Now she is married and lives in Delhi. Every morning she wakes up and makes breakfast for her in-laws, I have heard. When we were children, she had such fair skin and silk like hair that her mother braided beautifully, I gazed at it and wondered which strand went into which.

The three of us sat on the single bed in her living room while her mother cooked in the other room. I wouldn't take my feet up on the bed, until asked to. In a stranger's house, how could I do that? And a simple gesture of putting my feet up on the bed, marked a very important transition in the relationship, somehow it did.

And then Phulan was getting married, in a month or two, or in six months or a year, I don't know when. But that dictated her moods every now and then. I remember the ring that shone in her finger, that was the proof, no matter what, marriage was on the cards. When she took out his picture from underneath the pillow, to show us, I did not know what to say. I glanced at Anu from the corner of my eye. Neither of us laughed. And then the three of us burst out into gurgles of unstoppable laughter that her mother had to scream from the kitcchen to make us stop, for god's sake. Phulan, despite her petite features, appeared older than us, by how many years, I don't know. And we called her didi though. But I still have fragments of those memories, her slim wrists, dangling earnings bought for five rupees at the street corner, oiled hair, the smell of it, the run in the afternoon for papdi chaat.. and other things

I wish I had a picture of hers with me, that revealed half a nose, one eye, strands of hair on her cheek, that would make you imagine what she looked like for real. But I don't. I don't even remember what she looked like. Nothing, none of it. But these days I am touring my past, fighting against my age to regain bits and pieces of memory, that could give me just an excuse to get over my present.

An excuse is all I need. And I named it Phulan for today.


blunt edges said...

someone's getting old :P

$uch! said...

ulan devi ki jai hoo!!!! :P

arvind said...

u lovely described the kolkatta..
just feel me too - remember those days me there..

just u remember them again - THAT'S ENOUGH..

wildflower said...

@ blunt
dat was blunt :D arent we all gettin old anyway ? :P

@ S
now that's prejudice baby :P..but still i luv yu fr sayin that..

@ arvind..

aria said...

me too was reminded of calcutta..
and you write really beautifully ..

wildflower said...

it feels even better to hear that from you :)