February 17 Kolkata
My Dear Nur,
Today, I was thinking about our exceptional relationship. Thank you for being such a loyal friend for so many years. Just yesterday afternoon, while resting out in the sun, I was remembering our long friendship and then was so happy to receive your mail in the afternoon. You always did write so well, and just thinking that we will get out for a visit at the Great Eastern touches my heart. I hope they won’t have changed it to much. Your Jack just loved it there, because it came up in so many conversations like so many subjects of the good old days.
Your Tiger lily
February 22 Kanyakumari
It’s a gorgeous day here, already getting warmer and warmer, so it will be time to turn on the punkahs soon to push the air around. I got such a kick out of memories of when we had that elongated stay in the States. Who knew at the time that we ‘d be there for half a year! And, yes, we have both been blessed with a truly wonderful friendship. The first time we met at the Governor’s birthday party decades ago–in those days when Brits only associated with Brits and Indians only with Indians, we were both very uneasy, but after a short time that all went away and we all just sort of became ‘family’. So glad those stiff protocol days are long gone now. Nowadays, no one cares about all that. You and I having the same birthday was certainly a surprise, which we found out our husbands had revealed to each other when going birthday shopping for us. I suppose that being knighted by The Crown back then placed you and I in an unusual set of circumstances and I’m so glad it did.
That night at the movie premier for City of Joy, Jack almost jumped out of his seat! The minute he saw the Howrah Bridge he yelled out “God, I love India” and “God, I love the Howrah Bridge”. Everyone turned to look at him, but being the diplomat that he was, he just smiled and said “Excuse me All”. And, that was that. I remember that you were taken as a look alike for Merle Oberon, the actress, which made your husband blush, and it didn’t help any when Jack said that one day, the two of them would be carrying our luggage, as if WE were going to be celebrities. We laughed for quite some time about that.
I’m so glad that the Great Eastern is open. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see you too. You are, after all, my dearest friend for all time. Do you think while we are in Cal, we can get over to St. John’s Cemetery. I really should visit and place some flowers there for Jack and the rest of the family. That’s all for today, dear Lily.
PS: I remembered something else from that time when we were in the States. A dark time. One that we haven’t spoken about for many years; The death of M. Gupta Bhopal.
Click HERE to read previous episode of Over Cups of Tea.
Authors Khadi Madama and Bela Banerjee introduce you to two octogenarians who remember their lives in India from the days of the Raj until their gleaming golden ages in this light hearted and sometimes bittersweet letter exchange.