Monday, June 30, 2014

On Knowing

I'm feeling overwhelmed. I've just been handed a broom. A simple Indian broom. The kind with long bristles, tied at the top. It was purchased for me by Nirmal as a gift while I was in the hospital, because he remembered that weeks ago I'd said I wanted an Indian broom to bring back to the states. I feel a lump forming in my throat and swallow repeatedly to make it disappear. I haven't booked a flight home yet, but it will happen soon. And I haven't begun to process what it means to leave Calcutta and especially what it means to leave the family that I've become so close with.

After thanking Nirmal profusely, I excuse myself from the group and walk up the fourteen stairs to the top of the stairwell. The late afternoon thunderstorm is just starting and I watch the lightning off in the distance while the sharp scent of Calcutta rain fills my nostrils. It's here, at the top of the internal stairwell of No. 5, that I allow my tears to flow freely. After 15 minutes or so, Nirmal comes up to cross the roof to his own home. I quickly stand and give him a big smile and try to brush past him, but he puts his hand on my shoulder to stop me. "You are okay?" he asks. "Yes." I smile. "You..." and he gestures with his hand to imitate tears running down his cheeks.

"Yes," I say. "I'm crying."

"You cry." He says.

"Yes," I say. "I am crying because dhonobaad, to you and Juma. Thank you for being my friend. Bhondu."

"You are my friend, this side," says Nirmal.

I cock my head and cross my wrists over my chest, in what I assume to be an international symbol for love and gratitude.

Nirmal puts his hand on his heart and says, "My heart. Juma heart. Kumkum and Lalita heart." He points to my heart and says, "Your heart."

I don't hide my tears.

"You go back your side soon. If you have any problem with your family, you come here. You stay my side. When you come Calcutta, we are your family this side. You call Nirmal mobile and say, 'Nirmal! I am coming!' and you come and stay our side."

"Yes," I say. I smile over and over but the tears don't stop. I can't stop them, it's too late.

"You... Kumkum and Lalita Auntie," says Nirmal. "Auntie Kristen".

"Yes," I nod vigorously. "Kumkum and Lalita. They are smart and beautiful girls. Shundohr. You are a good father."

"Kumkum and Lalita they are not you going to airport. You fly, fly, home to your side. Kumkum and Lalita no taxi to airport," he says with a smile.

I laugh, picturing the girls holding hands, barricading themselves in front of a taxi that will take me to the airport.

I put out my hand to shake Nirmal's. In India it would be inappropriate for a woman to hug a man in some contexts. Nirmal takes my hand in his, and I cover his with my other hand. We slowly nod at each other, no words needed anymore.

He knows. And I know.


Anonymous said...

So beautiful. All of it. Thank you for sharing with us. I think someone just cut an onion, must check on that. Safe travels!! -Raina

Meghan LP said...

Beautiful entry, truly beautiful. Love you. Can't wait to see you!

JustJude said...

Very touching entry Kristen. Love you!

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