(To the Bengalis Didi is a respectful form of address to any older woman and particularly elder sisters.Fultudi means Fultu didi. Jalpaiguri is a northern district town of west Bengal.)
My childhood days in Race course para, Jalpaiguri town were filled with fun and laughter. We used to live in a palatial house and there were adjacent play grounds galore where we could play and enjoy much to our fill. Whenever we felt run down we would be given glasses of water by a young lady. There was not even an iota of disapproval on her face as she would extend helping hand to all and sundry come rain or shine.She was Fultudi. Our didi was a great singer. Her melodious voice would fill our hearts with bliss and we always looked forward to visiting her house when she would offer us our choicest dishes of sweets and snacks while practising different songs. She in turn would love to come to our house and spend time with us on our large terrace. As she became famous she would receive offers regularly from many clubs and societies to sing in different cultural functions and we would invariably accompany her there. The sponsors knew our closeness and they never had any hesitation to accommodate us in her team.
As the happy days passed and we began to grow older didi was married to an engineer and the couple left for a different district. Didi would visit her parents' house periodically but later as she was entangled in marital obligations and liabilities her visit gradually began to cease almost. The separation was inevitable but the pleasure and pain associated with her wedded life revolved round our young minds for a long time and the sweet memories of our bond began to pale slowly as we had to focus more on studies. We, however, realised that our friendship would remain even if we lived apart and whenever we would reconnect we would remember everything as occurences of only yesterday's. Distance, we knew, would not be able to rub out our childhood fond reminiscences which were etched on our minds.
Gradually I completed my studies and got a job. I had not received any news about Fultudi for long years as I was also busy with my responsibilities which entailed, among others, periodic transfers to distant places. Decades passed and occasionally we would see her name in print when she performed in Rabindra sadan or such other famous halls. Imagining that our didi had also grown much older I had a lurking fear that she might not recognise me easily. I got the opportunity to contact her when my brother could come to know her partial address in a posh South Kolkata area. I decided to call on her immediately and accompanied him to our much cherished destination.
Much had changed over the yawning gap of many decades and we still longed for her golden voice which could help us reach our journey's end we looked forward to. Nothing emanated from the vast row of flats in the large estate. We enquired at every society office but to no avail. We knew that in such posh localities no one cared to keep information about others. People are now used to living in the fast-paced life and the digital world. Not familiar with their neighbours they become indifferent to each other. These thoughts, however, could not hold back our endeavour to trace our didi by any means. Exasperated, we tried to contact the singers who might give us clues. At long last one lady addicted to songs came to our rescue. " You may enquire in that flat. There is a woman who sings extremely well but keeps a very low profile". Her suggestion was enough and as we approached the building we seemed to listen to a voice heard almost half a century ago. Smiling at the door was not Fultudi but her doppelganger. " My mother has long passed away and I am trying to sing like her" pointing to a well decorated portrait the lady clarified much to our sorrow. Her voice and hospitality were redolent of our childhood day memories. Without knowing the finer nuances we could not understand the difference in the voice inherited by the daughter of the non pareil singer of our Jalpaiguri town.
© 2022 ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE