Written by: Angana Sengupta
Dr. Aryahi Banerjee,
Head of Research
Indian History and Culture
Dear Dr. Banerjee,
We are pleased to invite you to the “International Conference on Indian Culture and History”, scheduled from the 20-26th of September 2017 in Calcutta University from 9:30 am onwards.
It is an honour and privilege to invite you as the Key Speaker of the conference on the Significance on Indian Culture and the Transitional Changes over the years. We believe that your contribution to this field is unparallel and that your speech will be of utmost benefit for all our students.
We look forward to a positive confirmation by the 20th of August 2017.
Dr. Srikanto Mitra,
Head of Indian History and Culture
Finally the call had come.
Tickets booked. Passports taken. Bags packed. It was raining the morning Aryahi had to leave for Kolkata. It had been 10 years since she had last been to her city, to those known lanes, to the same house that once welcomed her with open arms.
“Why are you so cold ma?” asked Kuhu, her daughter. Her only solace in a world full of regrets and agony. “Nothing my love. I think it’s the rain”, lied Aryahi, while in reality there was a huge pandemonium going on in her mind. She even had the thought of leaving the flight and going back to the life she had chosen. At least no one would judge her there for her choices. But, it was too late. She had promised Kuhu a vacation to the origins she belonged. Also, she had one last unfinished business to take care of.
“Welcome to Netaji Shubhash Chandra Bose Airport. Outside temperature is around 30 degree Celsius, partly cloudy. Please collect your baggage from belt number 2…” Aryahi woke up from her dream. “We have finally reached Ma. Time to go”.
The same smell of wet soil, the same humidity and the same cacophony which Aryahi had left behind hit her back again. Tears rolled down her cheeks. After boarding the taxi and calming herself, she finally realised the reason behind feeling incomplete all these years even after she had everything. It was this city that she had missed. Its people, the yellow taxis, the riksha-walas, the traffic, the sweet shops, the Rabindrasangeet rehearsals from every second house, its celebrations and Durga Puja being round the corner, the city had decked up like a new bride as a custom every year. It was Kuhu’s first time to Kolkata.
Aryahi paid the taxi driver and entered the lane she had long left behind. After freshening up she headed straight to Calcutta University for her lecture as she hardly had time left in her hand. Kuhu tagged along with her because after the lecture got over Aryahi had promised her a city tour of Kolkata.
As she entered through those rustic gates of the University, she could see her college life literally flashing by her side. That college canteen, the smell of ‘bhaar’ tea, that guitar, those music and the constant political slogans protesting against something or the other were resonating in her ears. She could literally spend the entire day just walking by the campus and College Street. So many memories, so much of happiness and with that came back all the pain which she had once hidden within.
As her ritual Aryahi took Kuhu to the canteen, ordered ‘kochuri’ and ‘torkari’ along with a ‘bhaar’ of tea and all her tiredness just vanished. To her surprise even Kuhu did not complain even for once for being jet lagged. Might be even she was very excited to be in the city which she had only heard of and seen pictures that also after a lot of requests.
Aryahi began her speech upon the significance of Indian Historical Architectures and their symbolisms when she found a familiar face in the crowd. The face she could never forget the face that once meant the world to her; the face which was once the epitome of love for her…the face of her beloved Lolita. She stood there awestruck for five seconds not knowing what to do as she knew her tears were now not going to stop. Lolita on the other hand adorned her most astonishing smile that easily spoke about the years missed, the nights not slept and most importantly the love that was missing.
As her lecture got over, Aryahi rushed down from the stage to meet Lolita…her Lolita, but unfortunately she was surrounded by so many students and organizers that she just could not leave. Aryahi had authored a book this year itself and she had to also go for the ‘Q and A’ session. The auditorium was jam packed. Aryahi made Kuhu sit in the front row along with other professors. She had never seen a 15 year old so calm and composed. She felt proud and also scared but now was not the time to back out.
As the question and answer round began Aryahi came across a very strange question form one of the gentleman in the crowd. The question was very simple yet it hit Aryahi to her guts when she saw the face of the man. It was her father. The man who held her hands and took her through the ages of History. His question was very simple,“When will you come home Rahi?”
That moment Aryahi felt that the entire world came toppling down on her. The father, the family, the happiness, the culture, the emotions, everything that she had left ten years back was now standing just in front of her. The entire auditorium looked into the eyes of that expectant father, who had long longed the love of his only daughter, his pride who was no longer there to hold his hands.
Aryahi came down of the stage and immediately touched the feet of her father for his blessings. As she looked up this time she found her father was not standing alone. Lolita was holding his hand this time. She did not know what to say or what else to expect. To her surprise even Kuhu bent down to touch the feet of her grandfather and then Lolita.
Aryahi’s father had come to take his daughter home along with Kuhu. Ten years was a lot of time for him to realize his mistake. As Aryahi entered her lane of her house she could hear the dhaak along with the conch shell. Aryahi’s mother was standing at the door to see her daughter. Her mother hugged her and broke down in tears. This time even Aryahi could not stop herself. She hugged her, kissed her, and cried along with her. It was Lolita who picked up both the woman and along with the other took them in.
“Finally Ma Durga has come back after ten years. This year, Banerjee bari’s Puja will finally be successful. O ‘dhaki’ play the ‘dhaak’ harder. Can’t you see Ma Dugga has come home?”, was all Aryahi’s aunt could say while hugging her. This was Shashti. After 10 long years, the Banerjee family was finally celebrating Durga Puja.
Kuhu was finally happy to get a family filled with cousins, uncle, aunts and grandparents. For her everything seemed to be complete. On Dashami, the final day, when everyone was playing with vermillion, Aryahi’s father called in Lolita along with the entire family. It was time to amend something he should have done long back.
Aryahi’s father took Lolita’s hand and put it into his daughter’s hand and said “It was a mistake that I had done 10 years back by separating two people who loved each other by not realizing the fact that love sees no gender, no caste, no religion. All one wants is to love and to be loved. And I know you both have punished yourselves enough for your family, for the fear of society. But, the time has come for you guys to be together forever.”
Aryahi could not believe that this was happening. It was 10 years back that on the same day she left her family as they never realized her love for Lolita and now this Durga Puja the same family wanted to unite them forever. Aryahi looked at Kuhu. She had tears in her eyes and an enigmatic smile on her face. It was then she realized that all this while the only truth that she had hidden from her daughter and dreaded the most was already known to her.
Kuhu had found an old letter Lolita had written to Aryahi long back in college. She was then intrigued and upon doing further search she came to know about Aryahi’s past. She knew she was adopted and that is the day she started loving and respecting her mother more. She had decided come what may she would give her mother all the happiness she deserved and her happiness was Lolita.