A short story about Ladies Fingers.

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Didu and me. August’23

Do you remember the taste of a bhindi/ dhyarosh/ okra/ ladies finger that you had 36 years back?

What did you say? You are not even 26 years old?!

Well it was a rhetorical question!

It’s raining heavily in Mumbai today. I called my granny in Kolkata up.

I try to talk about diverse topics when I call her Some from the present. Some, the past. 

She’s 94. Or 95. “Back in the day birth dates would not be recorded. It would be linked to an occasion. It could be something like ‘he was born in the year when there was a bumper crop.’ Or ‘she was born in the year when the river was overrun with hilsa’ and so on,” she told me during my recent visit to Kolkata, when I asked her what her age is.

It’s not moot whether she is 94 or 95. The thing is that she has a lot of ailments which accompany this age, barely staying afloat… letting self pity get on top of her at times.

I talk of different topics to divert her mind to happier moments. It works without fail.

I told her that it’s Janmashtami today. The day on which Lord Krishna was said to have been born. It is said that it always rains on Janmashtami in Mumbai. I told her about the human ladders which come up on Janmashtami, aiming to break the vessel hanging from a rope at a height. I told her about how the rains make it more dangerous. 

She said that she saw this on TV last night. Then added, “they say that it rains on Janmashtami. On Ratha yatra, etc, but on some years it’s quite dry.’

“The must be celebrating it in a big way in ISKCON,”

said didu.

“Your dadu and I would often go to Nabyadip and  Mayapur and stay at the the Iskon HQ.”

“Once I’d gone with you, mum and my aunt,” I replied.

“They have a centre in Kolkata,” said didu.

“I know,” I replied. I’d gone there once with him. It was was raining heavily that day.’

It all came back to me. It was a Saturday. He’d taken me to the dentist that day. The roads were flooded because of the rains. The bus couldn’t move. Nor could we after getting down. I was hungry. 

We could not  reach Rim Jhim, the restaurant at Camac Street which is now no more. Mom would take my brother and me for dosas and medu vada treats after the dentist visits. Something that I looked forward to all week. Mom couldn’t make it this time and she said that dadu would take me once done. I felt cheated by the rains.

Suddenly dadu remembered that the ISKCON premises was next door. He rolled up his trousers. I was in ‘half pants,’ shorts, and we waded in knee deep water and reached the building. 

Dadu bought meal coupons from one of the saffron robed American volunteers.  The two of us sat down to a piping hot lunch of dal, gobindo bhog rice and sautéed bhindi.

That was Kolkata, 1987,

and that was the bhindi that I remembered today. 

Mumbai,

August 2023


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