When I was growing up as a kid in Ranchi, we used to live in a very close knit neighborhood.
Our nursery school was just round the corner from our house and just across the street was the huge villa of our dance teacher, Mrs. Bhattacharya
She was a teacher at our school and she also was the dance teacher for me and my sisters.
I remember I was always so mesmerized by her house.
A typical Bengali house, with a huge garden with so many flowers, her own garden facing the road had a huge fence and it was all covered in little purple flowers..
An elderly cook, with white dhoti and kurta, one maali whom I always saw watering the plants, in the garden as well as tons of money plants inside the house.
The smell of fish and rice always lingering in the house.
Mrs Bhattacharya’s mom, an elderly lady, always clad in white, busy doing puja and always had a white teeka smeared on her forehead.
In her room, which we crossed while going to the practice room, that fragrance of mogra and raat ki rani flowers, plucked from their garden
And decorated in the room, big picture of Ma Kaali with fresh flower offerings in front of her
Huge painting of Rabindranath Tagore hung over her bed,
Her bed, made to perfection and surrounded by the mosquito net hanging on all 4 sides.
So many musical instruments in her room: you name it: table, harmonium, sitar
And then her little almirah with glass doors, where she had hundreds of figurines decorated.
Little dolls, animals, various gods, even a mini doll house with each room clearly visible with the miniscule beds, sofa and rocking chairs.
And Mrs Bhattacharya herself, always clad in a crisp cotton saree, black rimmed glasses on her nose and always welcomes us sisters by saying:
“Tum log aa gaya, jol khabee ke?”
The 3 shy sisters would just nod the head and follow her to the practice room, all the while whispering to each other and giggling.
We would put the ghungroos on our feet and start the practice with the beats “1-2-3-4; 4-2-3-1; 1-4;1-4”
And then would come the performance night in our colony.
More than the dance performance, the dressing up part was the fun.
Several days before the event, we would make the paper jewelry using craft paper.
We would cut stripes of colorful craft paper, and then needle through it and twist it to give it a flowery look.
She would dress all 3 of us in white sarees with red border in traditional Bengali style.
Put a side bun on the hair and then put all those paper jewelry.
And then she put the red alta on our hands and feet.
During the performance, she’d sit in the front row, lip syncing the song, doing actions with her hand and escorting us out when it was all over.
All of this is from about 30-34 years back. And as I started writing it, it all came back like a flash movie in front of my eyes.
It has been so long that we left Ranchi.
I don’t even know what happened to her or where she is.
Wherever she is, I hope she realizes that she made a great impact on 3 little girls.