Jenna was curious as to what the Bengali people next door were up to this time. These people seemed to have so many festivals under a single calendar; every month they seemed to be celebrating something or the other. It’s been only about 10 months since they have moved to their apartment, and Jenna feels like its forever since she’s known them.
They were such warm and jovial people and Jenna loved spending time with them; except for their tendency to feed her too much of Bengali sweets (they were undoubtedly delectable, Jenna loved them, but they always fed her too much and poor Jenna at the age of 16 didn’t have a skinny waist and lanky legs as she desired; she, on the contrary was a chubby one and always felt a tad too discomfited at the prospect of too much sweet at once!).
She loved being a part of their heart warming celebrations, be it Durga Puja, or the Bengali New Year, or Diwali, or Holi and those lovely people also participated in Christmas and Thanksgiving with Jenna and her mother with inhibited zeal as though they fell under the category of their share of festivities. She loved the gatherings of their family, sometimes they used to flock together from all corners of the world; she would listen intently as they would all discuss heatedly over politics, literature and films! She found solace in midst of these foreign people much more than she ever found among her brethren, who would look at her in contempt, pass snide comments about her extra few flab, and always remind her of her runaway father. Nobody at school would speak to her due to her poor dressing sense and lack of good grades. But these Bengalis? They were indifferent to it all; they loved her for who she actually was inside. Jenna knew it in her heart that she couldn’t have hoped for better neighbors in all of Chicago.
She went and knocked their door, and plump Mrs Ray opened it after only a moment’s ado and greeted her with a most heartening smile. ‘Come in dear, we are just preparing for the coming occasion of Rabindra Jayanti. Come on in, and you can help!’
Jenna faltered. ‘What exactly is Rabindra Jayanti, Mrs. R?’
Mrs. R wheeled around. ‘Oh! You know Tagore?’
‘Of course I do! Only a moron would not know the greatest literary person to have walked this earth.’
Mrs R smiled and said, ‘It’s his birth anniversary. It’s a huge thing for us Bengalis, if not for the rest of the Indians.’
Jenna was elated. Another occasion to enjoy with these people! She spent the rest of the week helping her neighbors in every way she could. The real function surpassed all her expectations. A mini stage was set up in the airy drawing room of the Ray apartment, and a ‘shamiyana’ was set up above it. It was beyond words. Short stories and poems by Tagore were narrated. Mellifluous songs were sung that were sung and composed by Tagore himself. And the little children and some of the elders even dressed up in many hued types of attire and showcased some of his plays.
Jenna sat agape. She had difficulty in understanding the language but everyone present helped her so willingly. She could not believe a single man could be so full of talents. He had such aptitude at song writing, at poems, at short stories. His plays and novels, she felt, were unsurpassed.
She used to always be in a befuddled mess as to which career to pursue when she would be a grown woman. In fact, people used to ask her and she would only shrug; she was highly confused. But suddenly after that day she felt like she had a ray of hope; she had never felt the urge to do something as much as she did back then. Tagore as the myriad minded man had gripped her. She enrolled into a 6 months long course to thoroughly learn the language Bengali. It was strenuous and tiring, but her zeal kept her going and Mrs R’s relentless encouragements too!
Once she had potent grip over the language, she started reading Tagore’s original works. Jenna felt, words or eulogies are so very insufficient to describe the greatness of his works. So far, she had only heard of his writing, never had actually read them for herself, save a meager few translated versions. But once she started reading in depth of his works, she couldn’t get enough of him. By time, she knew many of his plays and novels by heart. Plays like ‘‘Dakghor’, ‘Post-master’, ‘Shomapti’, ‘Roktokorobi’; novels like ‘Shesher Kobita’ ‘Gora’, ‘Noshto-Neer’; dance dramas like ‘Shyama’, ‘Tasher Desh’ and so many more were her ultimate favorites; she never grew tired no matter however much she read them! And Mrs R was absolutely delighted! She was elated beyond words that someone as Jenna born of American blood could be so engrossed in Tagore and she used to call up all her friends and relatives and tell them about her endeavors. Jenna loved all of it.
Until, one day. The Ray family moved back to Calcutta the next year and Jenna was left all alone again. It was a rather tearful parting and Jenna misses them so very much, even today. They were the ones who introduced happiness and Tagore in her life; she wondered if she could ever really thank them enough./
That was years ago. Today, Jenna is a very successful woman. She is an expert on the life and works of Tagore; she has established the Tagore Institute of Literature in Chicago, which is devoted on making the world know about Tagore and his imposing works, and has also published a biography on Tagore, which is currently on the best selling list. She travels all across the world, attending seminars, delivering lectures on the life and works of Tagore and is very happy. And the Rays? She hasn’t met them since. She misses the plump and jovial Mrs. R, the fun loving and humorous Mr. Ray, their lovely, sweet children, their relatives, the gatherings, the occasions, everything! She wonders if they can see her now; that the Jenna today is all thanks to them, that they propelled her towards the right direction. Her heart yearns to meet her long lost beloved neighbors, at least just once. Would Fate be generous enough to allow that?