I have been away for a year from this space now. Long enough that it feels strange to spill my thoughts into a post. It being a grey morning, a procession of soggy days having preceded it, I can think of no better thing than letting my thoughts run wild as I make my way back (albeit, gingerly) to the blog. In between writing, when I do take a break and step onto our back porch to re-invigorate the senses with the earthy scent of the outdoors, am sent back in with the indignant chittering of the robin who has laid a couple of blue eggs in the nest that has been home to two sets of fledglings last spring. Could it be the same robin? I have no clue. But it knew about the nest skulking under the rafters of the porch. Back at my desk, I ponder. Where do I even begin. You know we live to travel — and well, we have been doing so in the last year, making our across the likes of Sardinia, Tuscany, Portugal, and lately, India. Culling experiences, memories. Alongside, acquiring a new best mate, Covid, as we hop on and off planes.
If I am to write of it in reverse, I should probably start with India. After three long years, we were back in the subcontinent and the senses were overwhelmed. Oh, the food. Oh, the heat. Yet, April was not the cruellest month, for the heat gathers steam as the months pass. I spent a few days in Delhi with my in-laws and caught up with a handful of close friends. It was pleasant – though the pollution was palpable. The bulk of my holidays were spent in Calcutta, tucked in with my parents at home, devouring my mother’s healthy meals and doing yoga. When Adi joined us for a couple of days, he had a treat in reserve for us. He whisked us off for a night to a penthouse in the heart of the city, an experience curated by a tea estate of repute in the Himalayas. We did a double take when we landed up outside a tall building sheathed in blue glass, stationed as it is on a bustling street of Calcutta, home to many an auction house, bishop’s palace and old Chinese dry cleaners. But the lift that opened up into the lobby of the penthouse was a portkey. We had walked into old-world Bengal. Antique colonial furniture decorated every suite, from the four-poster beds and wooden shutters to the chaise lounges and armchairs, their elegance accentuated by upholstery that came in hues of muted green, yellows and whites, kantha stitched cushions, soft cotton quilts with botanical prints. The bathrooms were gigantic. I felt like a queen swishing through them, appreciating the effect of the chequered marble floors, the shutters to screen out the hot sun, the sizeable bathtub and the walk-in shower.
A long-drawn lunch in one of our favourite old Chinese restaurants in the city, and we were back at the penthouse, ready for afternoon tea on the terrace, framed picturesquely by tall potted plants. Hot as it was, a gentle breeze nonetheless dissipated the mugginess of the early evening as we were sat sipping on first and second flush teas, looking up from time to time to savour the sunset. It was that moment of gloaming when the buttery haze of the evening settled upon the white marbled largesse of the Victorian Memorial, the magnificent of any memorial to a monarch anywhere in the world, and of which I could not help but share a couple of shots. The silhouettes of clumps of trees, the sinking of the sun in slow motion as it bathed the cityscape in its crimson-lavender glow, why, it was a moment of great tranquillity, a moment when you paused willy nilly to take it all in. Over evening drinks later, we chatted at length with the owner of the tea estate, who I had interviewed years ago for a story on coffee and tea plantations. It felt good to put a face to the name and hear about her vision for the penthouse, for it is a remarkable experience in the heart of Calcutta, quite the highlight of my trip. A foray into a world where the contrast between the outside and what lay inside swept me off my feet.