Kolkata! The land of Tagore, Trade Unions and Adda. Home of the Ambassador Car, the original ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and Bandh. Calcatians are singular creatures; laid back, yet indignant. Everyone is an artiste. I’m not being glib, it’s true! Creativity is nourished here and it’s amazing to see the amount talent there is all around. It’s infectious! Look at me! Who knew?
I arrived in Kolkata at the end of January. My husband had already arrived the previous week and I was to join him later, once the temporary flat was sorted. I was to travel alone with my 6 year old and my 19 month old. Luckily it was a short flight from Hyderabad, where we were staying in luxury with my in-laws. But I was uncharacteristally nervous. I alone, would have to be responsible for the well being of my precious carry-ons and I alone would be responsible for handling our passports and tickets and cash!
At the airport, I got my first shopping lesson. Now, that I think back, it’s unbelievable that I’d never been shopping before, on my own in India, not since the Mumbai bombings. Once I had checked in our bags (my life in 50kgs!) I made my way to the departure lounge. I decided we needed some snacks and a bottle of water. So, with my son toddling at his own sweet pace, holding onto my forefinger and my daughter, carrying her bright red Hello Kitty rucksack, we made our way to the duty free airport shop. I made my purchases, sat around for a bit and waited for our announcement to board the flight. Finally it was our turn to board. I waited in line patiently, confidently reprimanding the young man who was trying to cut in, in front of me in the cue. At one point I even managed to tell my daughter how proud I was of her and that we’d be with Daddy really soon! Slowly we edged our way to the front. We reached the gate and I showed them my boarding pass with confidence. “Bill Kaha Hai?” The security guard smashed through my calm and shattered it into a million tiny pieces. “Where’s your receipt?” he had asked, pointing to my carrier bag containing my potato chips and water bottle. I explained it must have fallen out. Was it really that important? “Stand there,” he commanded, totally straight faced. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea it was such a big deal. I ranted and I raved! “Do I look like a terrorist? Use some common sense, have some compassion!” All to no avail. I had to walk all the way back to the shop where I had made my purchases and get another receipt. Thankfully we got a buggy ride back, but I was broken. Fate had won and made me see, what I was avoiding all this time; I was on my way. This wasn’t just a holiday, this was a whole new life.