One afternoon last monsoon, I strolled into Vagator Aunty’s place for fish thali, smiling at Aunty Acid who was already seated there. Her friend caught my eye. You know when you look at someone & know you know them, but are unsure how. Well, even though I feel that way all the time, I knew there was a story somewhere, when I recognized this girl. Palm fronds speckled with fire flies on a moonless night flashed like a photo. A large frog beside the commode. Goa? Shantiniketan. That small village type resort thing.
“I know you from somewhere”.
“Are you from Calcutta?”
“Yes…but that’s not where we met…ohhh….the safety pin!!”
As a child, we’d once gone on a weekend trip to a typical Shantiniketan style eco-resort. I forget the name, but it was, at that time, very quaint, with a rustic, back to the old world village feel to it. Unless I’m confusing it with another place, it had a large pond in which another family staying there was swimming in one morning. Too shy to join them, I remember my brother & I sat at a distance, listening to them splash about. I think we did venture in a few days later after they’d left, and something smooth underfoot (my ever-loving optimistic Papa of course said it must have been the skull of a buffalo who went swimming & then drowned because it didn't know how to swim) sent me howling back to the room with a life-long distaste for getting into water where ‘I can’t see the bottom’. There was a bamboo enclosure with mud walls & I would sit & read in the afternoons. They didn't have TV. The girl was reading there one day. She wore a safety-pin. In her ear. And here she was, at least 15 years later, sitting opposite me in the gray skies & electric greens of Goa monsoon. We had a laugh over it through lunch, amazed at the ridiculous things my brain remembers (never work shit. NEVER)& ‘the world’s so small na’. I knew her partner’s mum & cousin too, in random different ways.
We met again, somewhere else, a few days later, and she brought with her some safety pins. I chose the purple. & stuck it in my wallet. Most convenient to roast stuff over candle flames.
My roomie was leaving in a few days, so we moved from place to place, meeting people, and finally doddered home around 2:30 am, exhausted & sleepy…sometime on the way home we even got into the usual license argument with the cops, and finally reaching home we find my bedroom door had slammed shut. I was locked out. Brief moments of panic & my roomie twisted his face into doubtful enquiry, “do you have a bobby pin or whatever pointy stuff girls put in their hair?” *both collapse laughing till gravity of being locked out when sleepy situation strikes again* Laughter subsided with a few more moments of panic till I remembered the safety pin.
As he strode purposefully to the door, armed with the purple safety pin, he prepared for possible failure..."I donno, never done this before…let’s see." A few squiggles of the pin, and… I slept in my own bed that night!
My mum had mentioned we meet people when we’re meant to, & they fade away, as life dictates. Whenever possible, be nice, you never know, you might meet them again. And maybe even get your purple safety pin.