It starts with a beloved toy or a doll. Before you know it, rooms are filled, surfaces covered, and it takes semi-trucks to move or haul your stuff away once you no longer care. We experienced a bit of that getting ready for a 4-month stay in India, where we had to empty closets whose backs I’m sure I’ve never seen and empty drawers of hidden treasures. I found a present I had bought for Jerri 10 years ago and hidden (evidently successfully.) I also found my secret decoder ring. Thought I had lost that.
But the flip side of acquisitiveness is that we do find treasures and we do appreciate them, even if it takes a while. It is now more than 25 years since we found that old box of negatives and prints from India. Now, finally, we have the opportunity to let those remarkable images take us around the world.
The journey started in Evanston with an Indian cab driver (of course) taking us to O’Hare airport. He told us that if we ate these tiny little fish, available only in Kolkata, and did it for a month, we’d never need to wear glasses again. Proof—he wasn’t wearing any himself. We’re going to look for those fish. With our glasses on. For now.
The initial leg of the journey was a 14 hour flight to Delhi, then a transfer to Kolkata, about 24 straight hours of travel, on top of virtually no sleep the night before. It is, after all, 1/2 way around the world. But it’s definitely a small world. We met Salim Mohammed, from Lake Bluff, waiting to go through customs.
The Fulbright folks had a driver meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel, a good thing since we could barely stand upright.
The next morning, at 11am (no chance to sleep in) we were met by Sumanta, who walked us over to the American Center, part of the Consulate, where we met Shevanti and other Fulbright officials. I had been emailing with these folks for months; now they, and this entire project, are becoming real. We talked about Following the Box, about ways to advance our work, about life in India…about life.
One of the wonderful things the Fulbright does is to hire a local facilitator to assist in the transition. Hurshita Das is a 21 year old marvel. She showed us how to navigate the Metro train system; helped us get telephone and internet service (far less expensive than we thought possible); took us to see an available apartment. Jerri and I have not lived in a new place for over 20 years. Travel is one thing. We are actually going to be living here.
The next day was spent apartment hunting. We rejected two places in hi-rise buildings quite far from the center of town (live in a hi-rise? In Kolkata?) But our son Max had a contact who managed to find us an excellent 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment a block from her own home in the Lake Market district. It’s a great location, right by one of Kolkata’s best markets, exactly what we hoped to find. Julie Cauvlin, a French native married to “Babui” Sougata Chowdury, a well-known sarod player, is now our neighbor and friend. Her husband is the son of S. Roy Chowdury, one of India’s most famous sculptors, a man who knew (and photographed) Giacometti and countless others. Babui is currently digitizing his father’s impressive photo archive. We enthusiastically offered to help.
We ate lunch at the Banana Leaf, a South Indian restaurant down the block, a place that surely will become one of our mainstays.
We’ve moved to Kolkata.