Caramel Chews and Kolkata, Painted Gold

by Megha Majumder (United States of America)

Making a local connection India


I live for these moments. These simple, candid moments that soften the rougher edges of life, like when the sun is peering through the glass of Kolkata Station and it's painting me gold. The morning rituals feel like fading memories, now. My throat is parched, so I stroll into a shop adjacent to the station to purchase a water bottle and samosas. I owe the shopkeeper 35 rupees in total, and I proffer one-hundred. "You no need change?" he queries, smiling coyly. "It's alright. Keep it," I reply. He presents me with two worn fifty-rupee and ten-rupee notes, and five Werther's Original caramel chews. Around here, small change poses a huge problem. So, such an exchange is an element of daily life. As the tram to East Kolkata arrives, I secure the caramel chews in my knapsack. I locate a seat and unwind while waiting for the ticket inspector to gather the toll. "Five rupees. Exact only," he demands. Bear in mind, I hold no five-rupee notes due to the aforementioned exchange. I meekly present a fifty note, head bowed apologetically. A boy standing beside me hands the conductor two five-rupee notes, compensating for both our fares. He chuckles and whispers, "Tram's awfully pricey, I'll say." It only takes me a second to recall the caramel chews. I fish them out of my knapsack, and hand two to the boy and his comrade in gratitude. It just so happens that the boy has three more companions. They eagerly ask, "Any left, Didi?" And thanks to a slight change predicament, I do. Laughter bubbles up from somewhere inside me as I reflect on this delightful little sequence. I've experienced a million moments like this one, the kinds that made the heart swell. Yet, when people ask why India means so much to me or request recommendations, it's not as though I might suggest, "Try forgetting all your change one day and meet a shopkeeper with a fancy for caramel chews..." Even so, it is why, and they certainly ought to, because the warm, fuzzy, little things are what make India so special. From my experience, a fondness for any place doesn't lie in a single metropolis or a single incident. It isn't for the Great Taj that I'm in love with India, and it isn't for the grand affairs that I'm in love with this life. It's for the tiny happenings amid the major milestones; the slew of moments that pile atop one other and fit together like Jenga blocks; the inbetween incidents that shan't befall any soul in any place in precisely the same way they fall upon me.