In the early summer of 1990, my brother met Chattopadhyay babu at Nalanda University. My brother, then a student of history traveled across the country, hoping to get a grip on his subject. His curiosity brought him to Gaya. Chattopadhyay babu, on the other hand, studied Sanskrit at Nalanda. Over cups of tea they discussed shlokas from Gita, significance of various rituals for pind-daan and what not. Over the last twenty-five years, my brother has visited Gaya thrice. Every time Chattopadhyay babu insisted on hosting him in his ancestral home. This time round when his wife is no more and his kids are away in a far-flung land, he was no less of that generous warm-hearted person he has always been. He talked to baba (father) and dada (elder brother) in a joyous tone about the changing times. Sitting cross-legged on a wooden cot with a haath-pakha in hand he spoke of how letting go of his children was not difficult at all. I chose to listen to him and soak up as much of his wisdom as I could. I was particularly fond of his saffron attire and that genuine smile. We had a small conversation near the tube well on a morning while I brushed my teeth and he washed the flowers he plucked from the garden for puja. I was trying to take his pictures since I reached there. I did not know how to ask him to pose but managed a little something somehow. While I was about to leave, I touched his feet and he hugged me instead saying, “Amar je chhobi ta bhalo utheche, amay nishchoi pathiyo kintu!” (Send me a copy of the picture that came out well.) I could not help but smile. Kind gestures from people you hardly know are the best kind. They teach you that humanity is not dead.
Sudeshna Thakurta: Wanderluster, geek, forever in love with pictures…Stays awake on humid summer nights to read and write…Sleeps in winters for the comfort of a cozy warm bed is too difficult to give up.