Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman
My cousin, Arati, and her husband, Satyen, were visiting from Japan. As usual, after the initial refreshments of tea and biscuits, Satyen walked to their guest bedroom and returned with a bag of gifts for us. Japanese smock for my wife, Nanda, and a ladies handbag with their famous calligraphy art work. Then followed a variety of Japanese packaged snacks, some surprising, especially the “Aji-No-Shouyukai”. All the snack bags have Japanese labeling. I knew its contents from the dried fish picture on top. Satyen read the label and description, and food contents. I was ready to sample. Arati said hold back, she had not yet given my gifts. From prior experience when they visited us from India, England, or Japan, I waited for a traditional Japanese shirt. This time it was a small, plastic grocery bag (pictured here), wrapped with a typical Indian jute twine (also pictured here). The contents felt hard, the size of a chocolate bar, not soft, very light. Curiously I tappped on the object and it made a metallic ring. My heart skipped. Could it possibly be … highly unlikely I mused, as I unwrapped the twine.
At a first glimpse I saw the rusty metal case.I did not need to open it any further. I knew its precious contents. I could picture my Aunt Usharani, Arati’s mother, wearing her gold-rimmed glasses, turning her mechanical Usha sewing machine, snipping with a heavy steel scissors at the fabric, recreating a dress for one of her daughters from a fashion magazine. I must have been three or four years old. Already determined that one day I would inherit her priceless gold-rimmed glasses. Last year (2015) I got the news that our large joint family home, some two hundred years old, in our home town Uttarpara, had been sold to a developer. I telephoned my cousin Jayanta. I told him that all I wanted from our home was the memento of my aunt. Jayanta is her son,
Arati’s older brother, my “Mejda”. Mejda said that the glasses had been misplaced or most likely lost in the frantic task of disposing off such a large house. But he reassured me when they move into their new flat, he would personally supervise the unpacking of their belongings. They had brought an old, heavy trunk, probably also my aunts’, and in it lay our priceless family heir loom, some hundred years ago in the 19th Century, when Aunt Usharani needed a pair of sewing glasses!