Train to Calcutta

DSC02425Finally got down to writing this post, and hope we’ll reach Calcutta today without stopping en route  😀  😀

When I was around six years old, one day my mother came up to me and told me that we’ll be departing for Calcutta soon, and that she’ll be leaving my brother and me with Raghuvir uncle and Savitri aunty who lived there, for two years. This was shocking and out of the blue! I’d never heard of Calcutta or this uncle and aunty before.

She next explained that the situation was bad at home, and that it was absolutely necessary for her to go to a hostel and study, therefore we had to adjust and stay for two years till she got her degree. After that, we’d all be back to Bangalore and things would be much better than they ever were – we’ll have a bigger house, more money and fewer problems. By then, I was already aware that strange things happened in our family and was getting used to adjusting to them, so I agreed to this also reluctantly.

Next, tickets were booked via Madras on the superfast Coramandel Express. My father would certainly never approve of this plan, so it was to be kept a secret from him till the last minute. When he got to know about it he was very angry, but couldn’t stop us. However, a major obstacle cropped up in our plans thanks to one of my foolish antics (I’ll write about it in another post), we ended up missing Coramandel Express and had to travel instead in an unreserved compartment on the slow East Coast Express.

This long journey in an unreserved compartment was my first experience of utter misery – both physical and mental. I think we spent around two days on the floor of the train, in a coach that was jam-packed with stinking people and that got dirtier and dirtier with time. It was also the first time I experienced insomnia due to worry and anxiety. Somewhere middle of this journey I began to feel that going to Calcutta was not such a great idea after all  🙁  🙁

I did not want to go to there anymore – I liked my friends, my school, my teachers, my classmates back in Bangalore. Why were we leaving it all for this strange and far-off city called Calcutta? Maybe we should go back to Bangalore before things got worse and worse and I decided to speak up my mind. But again for the first time in my life, words came up to my throat, got stuck there and refused to reach my lips.

We finally reached Calcutta. My uncle came to receive us and take us home in a cab. He was tall and thin, much older than my father and looked quite strict. But he gave all of us warm hugs at the station and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. On the way to his place in Salt Lake City, he told us about the terrible Calcutta traffic and how it was necessary to depart from home hours in advance to avoid missing trains. We then reached his house and I was visibly impressed with it. It was such a beautiful, big and independent house with a small garden in front, much larger than ours in Bangalore.

My aunt came to receive us and she looked like a very simple and traditional woman and I was quite pleased to see her. She had prepared a very tasty lunch for us which we had after freshening up. So it didn’t turn out to be so bad after all. Maybe I could spend two years here without much worry. My uncle and aunt seemed nice enough.

However, I was very, very wrong because I hadn’t yet met the third member in the family – Rukmini ammamma (grandmother in Telugu). She turned out to be one of the few villains in my life and subjected me to the worst forms of verbal and mental abuse for those two years.

She was very unhappy that her son had agreed to take up the responsibility of two small kids who were distant relatives, and she made her displeasure clear whenever possible. She constantly reminded me that I was unwelcome and unwanted in their house. Neither my uncle nor my aunt could openly stand up to her. In fact she had been tormenting my docile aunt (who was her daughter-in-law) since a long time, and I was added to the list of her victims.

Many times I wondered (and still wonder), why people like her are created. They only seem to exist to bring unhappiness and despair into other people’s lives. But till now I’ve not been able to find an answer except that “it’s their nature”.

When I left Bangalore, I was a very confident, boisterous and bossy kind of kid. But after two years with Rukmini ammamma in Calcutta, I ended up very confused – filled with self-doubt and very low self-esteem. Once I returned to Bangalore, I never ever wanted to go back to Calcutta ever and I still never have. But hopefully someday, I’ll muster enough courage to visit the city and spend a few joyous moments there that might help erase some painful memories.

Nevertheless, like it always happens in life, even in those two harrowing years there were some light and joyful moments that I’ll talk about sometime.

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