I have spent the weekend at Shamlu’s home, going from one party to another, it’s a whirlwind of socializing and networking. I admit it is fun dressing up in Shamlu’s gorgeous saris. I shop the next day for supplies and a few new kameez. Returning “home”, we then meet with the Consulate General from the United States to discuss the possibility of funding the exhibition. Then I am off to another party – people I have met the night before, and on Sunday, a brunch meeting with a new friend and then, the grand finale of the weekend, an intimate meeting with HH the Dali Lama. I am brave enough to ask a question which he immediately answers. I am in Heaven! It is finally time to get ready for my return to Udayan. Where has the time gone?
I arrive at Udayan after a full day of errands in Kolkata. First and most important is to register with the Deputy chief of Kolkata police. Thank goodness Shamlu is with me and she and the Deputy are old friends. We have tea and biscuits and then sit down to yet more paperwork. Then we’re off to search for an open photo studio – I must present 4 more passport photos of myself. (I hate this, they are never flattering.)
After this, we are over to the Palladian Lounge for a meeting about the exhibition, The Lounge is our venue. It is large and very beautiful. Invitations, publicity, framing, hanging and timing are discussed and arranged. There will be a press conference at the school, photographers will shoot and film the work in progress. This is a big job! I thought I would peacefully paint and teach the children but there is so much interest and so much need for funding – it has to be a spectacular event. Then, I am whisked off to collect more painting supplies as the children’s enthusiasm had depleted my stash of paints and paper. We are getting creative, using plastic plates as palettes, plastic bowls (25 rupees each) for water.
Loading the car with the supplies, my clothes and chocolates for the children (400 pieces) I am on my way to Udayan. This taxi driver is OK, but it is still an insane drive. I cannot watch any longer or I will commandeer the car and drive myself. Swerving on a 10 foot wide 2 way road, trying to avoid the trucks, buses, people, bikes, motorcycles (these guys are nuts) taxis, private cars, rickshaws, cows and occasional dog, I decide to take out the computer and write. At least I’ll have some productive time before we crash.
As the taxi drives through the gates, the children are waiting, shouting Auntie, auntie, good evening Auntie. I am home. The boys take all the packages from me, and I unload while chatting with my very good friend, Taneil. We are compatriots, holding down the fort for the girls. We are interrupted by the girls who have major English exams tomorrow – they want us to tutor them. They speak Hindi and Bengali. I shrug and try to explain, action verbs, “being” verbs as they call it, present and past tense of each of the above. All while miming and pointing to the Hindi and Bengali translation of the English I am teaching. Taneil and I are wiped out after they leave. We settle down, looking through all the new salwar kameez outfits I have bought to work in and then watch 30 rock. Fun!
I crash and awakened to silence instead of the usual chaos of the morning. I have overslept, having somehow turned off the alarm in the middle of the night!