There’s a lot of talk these days about living life to the fullest, not having any regrets etc. This comes with a certain level of affluence, without which one is too occupied making ends meet so that life may be lived somehow. Or in some instances, even when one can afford a certain quality of life, you get dealt with a hand that gives you no option to stay in the game of celebratory living.
My sisters and I recently went to Kolkata, the city we grew up in, to attend a wedding. We used the opportunity to extend our trip by a few extra days so we could catch up with family and friends that we’ve known our entire lives, as well as eating our favorite foods. And while I list ‘eating our favorite foods’ at the end, there is a part of me that thinks that it may have been the primary reason for us to have spent that extra time in the city. A post of all the things that we enjoyed eating during those 10 days would run into pages so I should save it for my food blog loveequalsfood.com.
The Chugani’s were one of the families that was on our list of people to meet. They live in the neighborhood that we grew up in and we had gotten close towards the last few years of our lives in Kolkata. Their family was made up of the parents and their two daughters, who were probably 9 and 13 when I left the city. The mother was a vibrant and ‘bubbly’ lady, a go-getter with a perpetually smiling face. One of those people you don’t forget very easily.
I hadn’t met the Chugani’s in many years and even though I had wanted to the past couple of times I was in Kolkata, I didn’t make enough of an effort to do so. This time though, when my sister, Rajni, mentioned that she had been to see them, Sujata, my other sister and I expressed our desire to visit them too.
Honestly, while on the one hand I was looking forward to seeing them, I was also a little nervous. The older daughter, now a young woman, had been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis since several years. My last memory of her running around the house had now changed to a reality of her being confined to a wheelchair.
When Alka, who has a young daughter of her own now, was wheeled into the living room, the first thing that struck me was how pretty she looked and how bright her eyes were. A little shy to begin with and not remembering who I was, she started opening up slowly. And of course when the conversation quickly moved to our favorite topic - food, she was salivating just like the rest of us, talking about where her favorite samosa’s were from and other delicacies that she enjoyed eating. While her voice was animated and excited, she couldn’t express those emotions with any sort of body movement.
Although at no point of time was I unaware of her disability, the person inside that body, during the course of our visit, overcame her limitations and made us look beyond them. That, my dear reader, we all have to admit, is no mean feat.
When we got up to leave, she expressed a desire for a photograph with Rajni, who she’s always known as the aunt with the long black hair. Of course I had everyone else get into the picture too and took a couple of shots, until she was happy with how she looked. Having gone through a few months of disability myself caused by an accident last year and being miserable the entire time, I was overwhelmed by her normalcy and her attitude. It was almost as if life had put me in front of someone saying ‘here’s a lesson for you to learn’.
Shortly before we left she looked at me and said, “I remember you now - you used to live in 'O' Block, right?”. It made me happy, I guess because nobody likes to be forgotten. I also made a mental note to myself that whenever I was in Kolkata again, I would make it a point to spend more time with her. I hoped that her cognitive skills would always remain as sharp and we could create new and fun memories together.
Life and living it bravely. A lesson for each and every one of us.