Yesterday my wife and I took a trip to Sheoraphulli to invite my aunt, Chhotomashi to my daughter’s wedding. Sheoraphulli is about 50kms from my home in Kolkata, in the very heart of Hooghly district. Winter in Bengal is charming with a wee bit of a sniff in the air. The Delhi road as it separates itself from NH6 is frightful and the jars we received prompted us to take a bladder halt at a petrol station. The toilet was not very clean and not very dirty but served its purpose.
We went unannounced and were graciously received by my Chhotomashi in her majestic house on the Ganges. They don’t build such houses any more. She is nine years younger than my mother and stays with the family of her younger son. She lost her husband a couple of years ago to old age.
Munna, her daughter in law, is a delightful woman and a wonderful conversationalist to boot. She regaled us by telling various stories of the happenings at Sheoraphulli. My Chhotomashi is no longer her ebullient self; age has mellowed her. She was in her bedroom reclining, and nursing a sprained ankle. Her eyes had a visionary look and I deeply pondered what those eyes had beheld in the vanished yesterdays. Life had not been easy to her; her husband being a man of the world and she had mostly confined herself to household chores and rituals.
These two women were very pleased to hear about our daughter’s wedding to be solemnized next month, and the necessary questions regarding the groom and his family were asked and replied to.
What struck me most was that there was no friction in the atmosphere at all, and for once the Dowager Princess gave the impression that she was genuinely happy with our presence. She promised to make it to the wedding, health permitting. We politely refused to have lunch at her place and had tea and a few sweets instead.
After spending more than an hour, we took leave of our ancient relative and headed for home. We pray that she lives for a thousand years and a few years more.