How much we forget! When we type stories on laptops and iPads, we forget that there was a time when we wrote in lined diaries; when we watch films on Netflix, we forget there was a time when we watched films on Doordarshan every Sunday without fail; when we catch a two-hour flight to a destination, we forget that there was a time when we would be making a two-night train journey to reach the same place.
As I read Supriya’s softly-glowing autumn-hued memories of an era now lost, I was suffused with longing for those simple times. Writing in pellucid prose, Supriya evokes a time when ‘load-shedding’ was a daily routine; when ‘trunk calls’ got-through or received were occurrences; when catching a train, and the train journey itself, was a lesson in the journey being as important as the destination itself; when magazines like Champak and Reader’s Digest were our windows to the big wide world outside the ken of our experience.
Supriya writes about her time growing in North Calcutta in a business Marwari family, with all its quiddities and typical cadences, but her experience is so universal that one can recognize the phenomenon as one’s own. With a fine eye for nuance, Supriya immaculately catches the rhythms of daily routine and colloquial language, with the politics of the time very subtly finding its way in like a whiff of perfume which enters and exits almost as if it wasn’t there.
I for one completely fell in love with her descriptions of going to the movies in those days, of shopping in New Market in its labyrinthine lanes, and the description of a train journey, complete with its homemade food, achar, aloo sabzi and the easygoing camaraderie with strangers.
Those were such trusting and simpler times, when lines of familial command was simply drawn and followed and the ‘bad’ of each occasion of societal norm hadn’t taken away the ‘good’ embedded in its fabric.
It’s amazing how so much richness has emerged in such simple tones and shades. Suffused with nostalgia and love, this small book is, indeed, a pleasure of multiple hues.