As i grow older, specially over the last few years, often enough i come face to face with myself. It may be a bout of depression or a bout of stomach upset that happens to leave me alone with my turbulent thoughts. I remember all those people who were there in my world and have left for their heavenly abode. They do not fail to slip in and out of my mind and make me, for a while at least, lonely in life. Departed family and extended family members combine with friends and classmates and there is only a thin line of difference between them. They all leave me with the same sense of sorrow and loss.
One such person is Taposhi. When I first met her in my new school in Ranchi, she was just any one of the others in the class. It took about 2 years in standard VI, when she first drew my attention. She would usually top the class! A precocious child, she was a step ahead of most of us in her reading. She would use new words unheard of till then. Fat, fair, medium height with short curly hair, she was bespectacled. She was loud-mouthed, rude and proud. At the slightest pretext she would lose her temper. Unprovoked she had kicked me in the shin one morning! This upset me and I complained to Mother, who was taking a round there. Mother called her and just asked, “Does a lady ever kick?”, that was insult enough to her, and I was appeased.
Yet, I admired her. An only child she must have got a lot of attention at home. In the VIIth standard we had a smart and popular class teacher called Miss Kaur, who we were very fond of. A knowledgeable lady, she had helped me with a book in the library by Aldous Huxley, about whom I had just heard. Soft spoken and approachable, Miss was also a friend and I guess she liked us too. After the half yearly examination, there was a parent’s-teacher’s meet and we students were instructed to receive the parents and attend to them. I was eagerly waiting for Taposhi Sirkar’s parents to come and meet Miss Kaur. After a long while, a black ambassador drove into the school premises. Taposhi’s mother, an aged looking lady, emerged from it and came up to us. I hung around expecting Miss Kaur to shower praises of Taposhi to her mother. As usual she had done very well in the exam.
I was shocked to hear what Miss had to say! She complained about her like anything. Undisciplined, rude, ill-behaved and what not. It was a monologue more or less. My mouth fell open! Only once she said, “About studies I have nothing to say.” That’s all. Taposhi’s mother of course had nothing to say to all of this.
Anyway we became friendlier, she being a Bengali girl like me. Once she had come second in the class. Next day I found her morose and sulking. When I went closer she confided in me that her father beat her up with his belt. The reason was that she came second in the class. I was driven to tears almost at the poor girl’s plight. When in the IXth standard, she invited me along with four other friends to her house in HEC as there was no class that day. In the “F” type of quarters for senior officers, I met her father, an engineer from Glasgow. I came to know that she was born very late to them. Aunty’s bhapa iilish and hospitality was perfect. We enjoyed the stay very well.
After Senior Cambrige results were out and we met in school, Taposhi said she would shift to Calcutta for further studies. She would join Lady Brabourne College there. I was quietly happy for her. Time went by and we lost touch with each other. Years later, after my marriage and when my son was a year old, I applied and got my first job in Bombay. It was in Dalmia College, Malad (West). Principal Mrs. Bhandari wanted me to join on Saturday itself, after the interview, but I wanted to go through the syllabus first. I said I’ll join on Monday.
Monday came and I was shown into the staff common room of Dalmia College. A voice in Bangla greeted me from one of the chairs there, calling out my name. It was Taposhi! 🙂 However she looked different. No spectacles and boy cut hair. After my introduction with the teachers, I sat in a chair waiting for her to get up and walk. She had a typical gait and I would be convinced only after that that it was Taposhi! Yes it was Taposhi alright.
Over the months, we renewed our friendship. She was married years before me and lived two stations away in Borivali. She was unable to conceive due to some problems that she had. She was working in Dalmia College for a few years now. Her mother had cancer and Taposhi had a difficult time doing the hospital rounds as well as attending college at the same time. She confided in me how sorely she missed having no sibling to share her grief, later when her mother died. She poured her heart out to me often enough.
A few years later her father expired, leaving their house in Salt Lake, Calcutta, with a tenant. They had to pay a huge amount to the tenant in order to make him vacate the house, before selling it, she told me.
Years later an obituary in The Times drew my attention. It was for Taposhi. We came to know she had died of renal failure. Her story filled me with pain. To add salt to the injury, her husband, who was having an affair with an office colleague, got married again within a month of her demise. Taposhi did not even see her 37th birthday. Ostensibly she was so well off but was so unhappy in real life. She was abused by her parents who had inhuman expectations from her. Loneliness was the reason that she had behavioural problems. You are happier wherever you are now, Taposhi. Rest in eternal peace, my dear.