Friday, September 8, 2017

Tiffany and Mario in Delhi
Turn left at Mother Dairy
by Mario Vickram Sen — Nov 9 2014

Oct 29 2014

My cousin Laurence had been checking around for the address, and e-mailing us daily as we travelled from Bengaluru to the Golden Triangle. Jaipur… Agra… Taj Mahal and the Red Fort came and went before he even got a bite, and we were starting to give up hope that we would find Surajit on this trip. Finally Laurence sent this address in Asiad Village which he'd found in an old telephone directory somewhere. We figured it might be worth a looky-loo… although we fully expected that someone else might be living there by now and know nothing of it's previous celebrity resident. (Most of the younger people in Delhi we had spoken to had never heard of Surajit Sen, or even listened to A.I.R. for that matter). We took the Yellow Metro train down first thing in the morning, it was a straight ride down from The Shangri La on Janpath, where we were staying, figuring it would be another straight ride back to Connaught Place up the same line when we were done, for some nice lunch at Kwality.

Of course (and as usual) as soon as we left the heavily secured hotel compound, we were barraged by tuk-tuk drivers who wanted to take us wherever we were going.
As usual we told them, "Walking… like Ghandi!"
As usual they answered "Walking very healthy for you sir… but tuk-tuk get you there fast."
Then we spent another ten minutes trying to shake off some guy with a really complex scam that we couldn't figure out. He had a badge and claimed to be working for the Tourist Office of India, and was going to protect us from the cab drivers whom he said were trying to rip us off. But when he started lying about where the subway stop was, we told him to piss off.
Finally we got to the station, where we were (as usual) frisked and had to go through separate male and female metal detectors, into what was a surprisingly clean and efficiently run subway system. The first such thing we had encountered since arriving in India. It got us quickly down to the Green Park Metro station where we grabbed a tuk-tuk to Asiad Village.

Needless to say the driver left us in the wrong place. So we wandered around, back and forth for about 45 minutes getting incorrect directions from everyone we met, until we finally saw a gate with a big sign above it that read "Asiad Village Complex" guarded by two soldiers.

When we asked them where we could find Block K, they seemed completely confused, but once I gave them the number, 364 they figured out where we needed to go.
"Oh, yes Sahib, if you wouldn't mind Sahib, walk down this way, make right at T and then turn left at Mother Dairy Sahib. Very good!" And finished off with a little head nod as we Indians are wont to do.

This map was posted on the "village" grounds
We walked down to the T junction and found a map of the Asiad Village which showed all the numbers. 364 was in K.P. Thakker block, which explained the guards confusion. On the map it looked fairly close to where we were, and walking all the way to Mother Dairy and making a left seemed the long way round. However we followed their directions, discovering on the way that "Mother Dairy" was a local ice-cream-cum-grocery store and, after questioning some rather seedy looking neighbors, soon found the house we were looking for.

There, in the courtyard, was the first cat we had seen in India, and the last… despite the thousand and one stray dogs we had come across walking freely everywhere (not to mention the cows, elephants, goats, donkeys, horses, cobras, monkeys, peacocks, crows, parrots, camels, squirrels and a rather friendly mongoose). A huge furry white beast that cat were, sitting on the wall like a mythical Cheshire, smiling … or perhaps yawning at us, as if to say, "There's nothing here for you."

I knocked, and a very young fellow came to the door, keeping the screen door secured between him and us. My hopes sank, but yet I asked if he knew of a Surajit Sen. Once again I received the Indian head nod. Now I didn't know if he was saying yes… or no. He didn't seem pleased to see us. A lady came up behind him and asked who we were and why we wanted to see Mr. Sen.

"So then, he is here?" I asked. Another head nod.
"I am his nephew… from America. The son of his brother Ajit"
As soon as I said Ajit, I saw that they were starting to believe me, and fairly soon they were ushering me and Tiffany inside the small front room.

Surajit and Mario
There, sitting in his wheel chair, with his back to us, was Surajit himself.
I walked around to face him and felt such a huge surge of emotion in this discovery that I was not sure what to say to him. It was a strange experience, nonetheless, as his hearing is almost non-existent, and his memory about the same. Still, he did finally understand that we were related in some way, and he kept repeating certain questions.

"You live in America?"
"Are you going back?"
"Do you have your tickets."
"Are we related?"

Even though we were not there for more than a half hour, it did seem to cheer him up and bring a little excitement to his day. Even the very young man, whose name turned out to be Jeevanti, got quite a lump in his throat from the joy of this meeting.

Tiffany and I were both on the verge of tears as we left the house. She said to me, "I want to stroke that cat before we leave." But the cat… was gone, as if it had been nothing more than a wraithlike illusion, or a signpost to the beyond.

As we turned to go back the way we had come, the young woman, whose name we discovered to be Subal, looked confused. Pointing the opposite way, she informed us, "That is the way out." It was a much shorter cut back to the front gates, and we really hadn't needed to turn left at Mother Dairy after all.

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