The Compassionate Leader

There is a rice and potato shop bang beside my paternal house, run by a person whom we grew up calling as Prabhash da (da meaning elder brother in Bengali). Despite being a millionaire, he is one of the most humble persons I have come across till date. He dresses like an ordinary man, speaks very softly and always with a smile.  When the lockdowns began,  all shops in the market beside the house were closed. They opened on select days of the week and for a few hours only. Prabhash da however kept his shop's shutter partially down.  There were many vegetable and fish sellers who were stranded in the market. They somehow pulled in to cook vegetables for their meals till the supplies ran out. People thronged the market braving COVID with masks to buy weekly supplies. Soon, the sellers had only rice and potatoes as meals...mostly provided by Prabhash da.  I watched him one day, distributing the rice and potatoes to the sellers with a soft word or two and always a smile. As his is the m

The First Frenzied Shopping

  Episode 2 I remember rushing to my paternal house, bang beside Gariahat market, my husband, daughter and I. We had a long list of items to buy – grocery, meat, fish, vegetables – for the next 21 days. People thronged the market, buying things in bulk. There was a sense of urgency in the air. The stationery shops had a crowd of people in front of them and my husband, Jeet, despaired seeing the queue. “It will take us at least an hour here,” he mumbled. I smiled wickedly at him and called out in a pleading voice to the shopkeeper, “Shambhu da, here is my list. Should I leave it behind with you and go to buy fish? You can keep them ready?” “Sure sister. Just give me the list. I will keep it ready,” he smiled affectionately. He knows me since my diaper days. There are five stationery shops below and opposite my paternal house. They are our tenants. The fish market was overcrowded. “Impossible to get inside,” remarked Jeet, “And I’m sure the prices will be double.” I kept on

My Lockdown Ramblings

It’s been four months now, since the lockdown began. It started a few days after my birthday. We have been hearing about a new virus spreading from China to the rest of the world. However, most of us were hoping that through some miracle or divine intervention, the virus would not spread to India. There were many theories, the most popular one being “It cannot survive in our sweltering hot weather.” Another one was, “We have seen many such viruses. We co-exist with malaria, dengue and the likes. Corona is no match for our immunity.” Well, neither weather nor our immunity could save us or even prepare us for what followed. I am not going to write down any statistics of how COVID-19 struck India, how many were infected initially and how the flat curve during the initial lockdowns became hyperbolic soon after the unlock phases began. Anyone can get the details from Google.   What I want to capture here (so that the memory of this period does not die with me and stays stored in a c

Biggest mistake of my life

I have often faced this question in the last two weeks --- why don't you write a story about these times? By "these times" people meant COVID-19 and of course lockdown. I have replied sometimes with silence, at other times with a "let me think about it". Truth is I don't want to write about it. At least not in the next one year. Before you tick me off as a lazy lump good at giving excuses, let me explain. At least let me try  to... I want to write. Have been meaning to write and been doing a lot of research for the last four months. But not about COVID-19. I am researching for my next story after Five Spice Curry. I have the plot in mind, but I need a lot of research. And it is not even remotely connected to this virus that has turned our lives upside down. Ok I am exaggerating. My life has changed, but not upside down. More of lateral inversion. Instead of braving the Chingrihata road block twice daily for five days a week, I am now doubling up as my

The Old Shoe that Shines

The one thing we spend our lives looking for is often something that has been there all along with us. We never noticed it. No, it's not philosophy. It's just what happened to me. I started reading storybooks when I was 5 years old. I still now remember my first storybook that I read on my own, Daisy's Ducklings. Soon after I started reading kids' magazines, classics and novels. My school librarian refused to lend me Tolstoy's Anna Karenina when I was in class 6. Storybooks stayed with me throughout life, stabler than most friends and relatives. Reading was my Hobby No 1. Others being painting and singing. However, I also wrote. The lazy lump that I was, I never gave writing much thought though. It was always one of the everyday things I did. After I joined the professional world, then too writing stayed as an integral part of my job. In fact, it was like the old pair of shoes that you slip into on a day when you want to relax, but never wear on special occasio

Strange Twists of Time

Spoons, biscuits, coffee jars, notepads, pens, pencils, staplers, a half broken cup, and a stole --- these are the first things I can see now in the half-open drawer. This is just the top drawer, there are two more in my office cabinet. “Ok, I will do this tomorrow,” I decide quickly closing the drawer. This decision is easy for me. However, the decision to move out of the comfort zone has not been easy. It took me one year. To cut a long story short, I decided to do all the things I enjoy doing again. Things that make me happy – walking in the rain, travelling, whistling, to just start the list. Plus, I am ready once again to work for passion…. er of course without impacting my bank balance. Trust me, it is not easy deciding to be happy . We are brought up on the principle of forsaking our happiness for everyone and everything else. Sacrifice and compromise seem to be the main ingredients of love. Otherwise you are termed as selfish and self-centered. Mind you, t