“Khoob Bhalo”, meaning very good in Bengali, this is a patented word which one could always hear from Mr.Asim Banerjee, a retired state government employee whenever he talks to you. Once I even mentioned to him that in five minutes he uses this word minimum fifteen times. The banerjee’s are a very interesting couple who stay our next door in the uptown north Kolkata suburbs. He and his wife Mrs.Maitrayee Banerjee had been living there for the past thirty-five years and share a good rapport with all their neighbours. For my wife and me the Banerjee’s are more of a parental figure and we always share fond memories of the “Misti” items (sweet) that Mrs.Banerjee used to gladly share with us whenever she used to prepare them. And she used to tell my wife, whenever she would deny accepting the sweets ”You are like my daughter”.
My interactions with Mr.Banerjee were largely related to topics of varied interest ranging from politics, religion, and philosophy. And of course Mr.Banerjee also used to ask me a lot of questions about health related topics as I was working in the health industry. Amidst everything one thing that the banerjees would never fail to mention is about their daughter, who used to live in abroad and was associated with some multi national company. They were extremely proud of their daughter and almost like a ritual they used to call her up everyday. In short their entire thoughts revolved around their daughter and if one could say their purpose of existence were her, it wouldn’t be an exagerration.
This Durga Puja the banerjees were pretty excited as they had got the news that their daughter was coming from USA to meet them. All along they used to tell us that this time my wife and me should join them for a dinner along with their daughter. They were pretty excited about the fact they would get an opportunity to get their daughter introduced to us.
Mrs.Banerjee was busy in her shopping and I could see my wife accompanying her to some of the places as well.Mr.Banerjee used to tell me that he had plans of getting his daughter settled in India after a few years once she gets married and also said that he nurtured a dream to set up a computer centre for economically weaker students with the help of his daughter.He also mentioned that one needs to give back to the society something ,in return for what we had got.I could understand his attachment to his roots and his passion to do something to the society.I once asked him whether he had spoken to his daughter about this,as because the priorities of individuals change once they are out of their roots and away in a distant land,where ones own career and life becomes more important than anything else.Mr.Banerjee just brushed aside my words and said that he need not ask his daughter and he was very confident of his daughter and her commitment.I once asked him as to how often does his daughter call him back,since I had seen only the banerjee’s making calls.I got back a stare from Mr.Banerjee and I just said,”I am sorry if I had offended you”.And the topic got over just there.
The days passed by and the Puja arrived and that day Mr.Banerjee was pretty excited and early in the morning he saw me in the walk and told me that his daughter had mentioned to him that, she is going to reveal something very important during her this visit to India.After saying that Mr.Banerjee gave a broad smile to me and I responded back positively with a smile.
The Puja was being celebrated all across Kolkata with great pomp and splendor. If there are two things that keep Kolkata alive amidst all its crowd and chaos, they are kali (The Goddess) and kobita (poetry). We were called for the dinner, and one should say it was a delightful dinner that night. There were exchange of pleasantries and there was a sense of joy around, but somewhere within my heart I could sense something missing in Mr.Banerjee.For the first time in these many years I could feel that Mr.Banerjee had not used the word “Khoob Bhalo” at all through out his talking during dinner.
The dinner got over and I looked at Mr.Banerjee straight in to his eyes, and I could clearly make out that he was avoiding my eye contact. While just thanking them for the nice dinner and coming out their house, suddenly that thing lying on their sofa caught my attention; it had the details of permanent immigration to abroad. Now I knew the reason for Mr.Banerjee not saying “Khoob Bhalo” expression. On the way to home my wife asked me,”How did you like the Dinner?”
I said,”Bhalo Na,” an expression meaning “Not Good”.