This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Episode – 3
I am very happy knowing that you will visit me in Calcutta within a few months and have start dreaming about how we will spend our golden time together. Even Niha and Rohit, my long time cook and driver both of whom I know you remember, are so thrilled that you are coming to Cal that they have started making preparations. Niha treats me with such care, she’s more like Ayah, than cook! However, both have shown a great concern over our visit to St. Johns because we were so emotional the last time, and now we are ever so much older.
Over the years you have taught me how to dream big and be positive whatever life brings for me and I am still following your friendly advise in my old age. You used to joke that since you were born a few hours ahead of me, that you were the older and wiser one! But, Niha and Rohit are right to worry. Are you sure you want to visit St. Johns? So many sad memories, along with dear ones, are buried there. I know you want to visit Jack’s grave and so do I. It just brings back all those memories from the riots during Partition; that time in the lift trying to get medicine for the children at the orphanage. If you think we can handle it, then Rohit will bring us, if we promise to be taken right to the Great Eastern for our vacation in order to recover. I’ll let you decide.
Whatever made you think about that other dark time, the one that we haven’t spoken of for many years; the mysterious death of M. Gupta Bhopal. We never really knew who was responsible for ending his life. Sunny always liked him, as did your Jack. Mr. Gupta was a good humored and an elegant man. Even though he faced many challenges in his life to fulfill his duty as an Adviser to the Indian government working for better foreign policy. You and I always believed that it was not an accident, especially since his son-in-law was his doctor. Some one was guilty. But what could two wives, back in those days, do with our suspicions? We were helpless, and thinking of it made me feel quite ill.The tea Niha brought me is finished as I complete this letter and so, I’ll end here. Take care of yourself dear friend and good night.
My love always,
PS. We’re going to have a pukkha time, even if we do visit St. Johns.
I’m so sorry that I got a bit maudlin in my last letter. Somehow, these thoughts have crept into my mind. It reminds me of how the Maali digs up the flower bed each year and then covers it with plastic so that old buried weed seeds can sprout and be destroyed forever in the light of the sun. Maybe that’s what my mind is trying to do. Let all of these old dark thoughts emerge to be once and for all cleaned and cleared out. You and I have lived a long time and lived through much. We’ve witnessed things most people will never experience in their entire lifetimes. Some of them, I guess, are surfacing now to be released and set free once and for all.
I promise to be all right at St. Johns. And getting to the Great Eastern directly we are finished is a perfect idea. After St. Johns, I’ll be very happy to let Rohit drive us anywhere where it’s fun. As long as we are together. I’m looking at a great snap of all of us right here on my desk that was taken back in 1938. Were we ever that young? That horrible day in the Lift when I had to go to Cal to get medicine for the children with Sister Angelica. The lift Wallah who took us up was horribly murdered while we were inside the offices, and we found him in that horrible state when we reopened the Lift to go back down. He’s buried in St. Johns. I don’t know that I will ever visit there again, but I feel the need to visit each grave site, leave flowers, and leave there for the last time, leaving my sorrow and love there with them. I hope to be able to leave the awful memories and bring out only the love I feel for each of them. Then the two of us will be off to the hotel and we’ll promise to not speak of it.
M. Gupta Bhopal, I believe, was murdered by his son-in- law. As I sip my breakfast tea this morning, I remember the last time Jack and I had tea with him on his veranda. He was worried about his declining health and that he felt that family members wanted him out of the way. After all, they stood to gain a fortune and did so, after he died. I always felt it was strange that he should die directly his wife was away visiting family in South Africa. Some say it was, perhaps, a political assassination but I feel it was a family oriented conspiracy. Sending you sunlight and warmth and hoping that Niha will make her wonderful sweets while I’m there.
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.