Robin could not sit back in the taxi with all that gooey wetness on his back, so he had to travel all the way from the Airport to Jadabpur, sitting forward, his chin resting almost on the dashboard. One advantage was he had a clear view of the chaos on the road of Kolkata. He marvelled at the dexterity with which the young taxi driver weaved his way in between numerous cars,buses,cattle, people and a wonder cart which looked like a chair with two large wheels! Of course he had heard of rickshaws, but to see one for the first time, where two fat ladies were being pulled by a skeleton of a man, well it was too much of a shock to him! Forgetting his wet back he sat back to address his Mother, ” Mother, look at that poor man, how can he pull those ladies? Why don’t they take a taxi?” Katty had donned on her dark glasses, even though it was too early for the sun to show its face in Kolkata. She just tossed her head in disgust and turned to her husband castigating him for bringing them in this farcical reunion of relatives.
” I don’t see any reason why you had to drag me and Robin for this meeting. You could very well have come alone and settled the matter” She hissed, like a snake in anger. Prof.Addy, who was busy trying to identify the road to his house, waved a fat, podgy hand at her. Katty who had been fuming since they left London would not take his ignoring lying down,as one would say. ” what can that old rotten house in the village give you, how much, that you should drag us here I’d like to know?” she remarked haughtily. Prof.Addy abandoned his search of the road and turned round to face his wife. “My dear Katty, first of all it is NOT a rotten house, and secondly why should we give our rightful share away to others. Mother may have changed her mind, old and foggy that she is, if we did not follow her strict instruction that I should be here with the family for the sharing. Besides you forget she has not seen Robin even once ” Katty could not reply a suitable answer because she had to hastily put her handkerchief on her nose – the taxi was passing through the early morning fish market ! The smell and the deafening noise of the hawkers and buyers made a full stop to their amiable conversation.
The taxi finally pulled up in front of an yellow coloured double storied building. Robin had heard from his father that he would meet his cousins here, his Aunt and his uncle and their respective spouses, but beyond that he knew little about his extended family, but as soon as the taxi screeched to a halt, he heard a babbling of voices, that too, on the loudest note possible, ” They have come!” which was followed by a loud conch shell blowing. Two or three middle aged ladies arrived at the doorstep with plates full of various articles, like flowers, rice,a burning diya and a small silver pot of holy Ganges water! The water was sprinkled on them profusely, flowers were thrown over their heads along with a handful of raw rice. They smiled broadly, “welcome home sister-in-law, brother-in-law. O what a handsome son! Come in all of you” they said in unison. Robin heard a whole lot of giggling from the dark corridor where no sunlight ever fell and a musty oily smell hung all around. They walked in to a middle of a courtyard, where two men came over to touch his father’s feet, his mother’s would have been touched also had she not jumped aside. They were his uncle and cousin uncle! The lady who was introduced as his father’s sister, ordered her eldest son Sujoy to take the luggage upstairs, and her youngest son Ronjoy who was about twenty to take Robin to his room so he could rest a little. ” Bhavi, Ravi, you go to your room, upstairs, I will bring the tea there. I’m sure you need to freshen up before you meet Ma” She said in a authoritative manner ‘ Although she was a small woman, one could see that she ruled the house ! Once in their room, Katty burst out , ” Bhavi, Ravi go to your room!” she mimicked her sister in law Bani. ” Who does she think she is talking to ,pray?” she asked her husband, throwing her handbag on the large old, four- poster bed . Prof.Addy decided to lie down on the inviting bed as an answer to his wife’s silly question. Robin who was taken up to his cousin’s room did not find himself alone, a whole horde of young boys and girls were already at the door, pushing and nudging each other. The first to speak was not Ronjoy but a young girl with large khol-rimmed eyes. She pointed to Robin and said, ” Your shirt is all dirty, don’t sit on that chair. You’ll dirty the cushion !” The others started laughing, until Ronjoy shouted at them to shut up. ” O don’t mind them, please do sit down”, he told Robin, but Robin also realised the truth in the young girl’s taunt and requested if he could use the washroom to change. He looked around the room trying to locate the door of the bathroom but there was none. Ronjoy explained to him, that the boys upstairs shared a common bath which was at the end of the long corridor. More than ten pairs of eyes watched him unlock his suitcase and pull out a fresh T-shirt, and a towel. Their eyes followed him to the bath and back. Someone yelled from downstairs, ” Ehe Jhumki, take Robin’s breakfast upstairs. Tell Ronjoy to have his horlicks, and the rest of you come down for your food to the hall”, The girl who had spoken to Robin, bent down from the upstairs veranda, ” Alright Bua, I’m coming”, she yelled back, hustling the crowd of young cousins downstairs.
to be connti……