December 19, 2013

The Return... - Soumalya Chakraborty

The streets were narrow with rickety shops encroaching from both directions. Pedestrians barely avoided colliding with each other as they hurried past her. She stood-confused, in a daze. Trying to make sense of it all. What happened to the wide and well-maintained roads of New Jersey which she was so familiar with? Where was she? It appeared like a post-apocalyptic world where humanity was struggling to establish itself all over again. The picture of squalor and chaos everywhere.

With trepidation, she gingerly moved forward, trying to avoid the crowd, the rush of oncoming people, vehicles, cows and stray dogs. Avoiding the stares of curious onlookers, she searched for a sign of familiarity. Something that would clue her in as to  where she was.

Then she started listening and the rush of sounds poured in. Voices, honks, shouts-they were all a cacophony to start with but the language slowly filtered in and started making sense. The language her parents spoke. The one she spoke as well, albeit with an accent and haltingly. She caught a few stray words as she listened “...Sealdah”, “...Moulali”,”...Puja Pandal”,”...Santosh Mitra Square”, the names didn’t mean anything.
She trudged along, the sounds slowly mellowing and not threatening as before. The smells and sights evoking curiosity and occasional wonder at the elaborate decorations around her. The crowd seemed energetic, enthused and not oppressive as she moved. She caught a number of happy faces-looking their best in new dresses. It suddenly dawned on her that wherever she was, it was festivity all around.

She stopped at a street food stall, curious to sample what’s on offer. The crispy, circular eatables stuffed with mashed potato and soaked in tamarind water tasted heavenly. A confectionary nearby introduced her to a couple of sweets which tasted delicious beyond imagination. The taste was further heightened by the feeling of a deep, previously unknown connection that was awakening inside her. As if she was meant to be a daughter of this soil. This unknown land that was suddenly becoming so familiar with every passing moment.
“Fasten your seat-belts please. We would be landing shortly at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata...” a booming voice over the intercom startled her into opening her eyes. She sat up and caught her parents‘ faces as they were looking out through the window, eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of a city they had left 15 years back.

Seeing her awake, her father smiled, “Welcome to Kolkata sweetheart. Am sure you will love your first visit

“But Dad, this is not my first visit! I have already been here”
“No my dear. We left long back and you’ve never been here since you were born!”
“No papa! You never truly LEFT! Neither you, nor mom and not me!”
Her mother smiled and took her hand, “welcome home!”


Soumalya Chakraborty

About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now.


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