My strands of American Childhood

I was born and brought up in central Calcutta, schooled in central Calcutta, but then grew up to become the core Bengali who had an American childhood!

Quotidian Tales


Originally published at on October 1, 2022.

We Bengalis know the characteristics etched in someone from central Calcutta. Her strings are pulled from both ends. She owns the traits of the more settled in old North Calcutta while desirous for the contemporary South Kolkata (Eastern Kolkata wasn’t so prominent then.)

We still lived in our hundred-year-old rented homes with 20-inch deep walls and cut-glass floors. But, we went to the top schools in the city. We religiously fed the street dogs, cats, and cows but reluctantly swapped our indoor plants for lack of water.

Though I have been a Central Calcuttan all my childhood, I was never pulled by either of these strings. I held on to an American fiber that tugged me on and off! My mom’s best neighborhood pal was an American lady! Well, I know you could expect someone of British descent at that location and era, but an American was bizarre. Further sumptuous was that she made my mom her best friend. An ordinary Hindu woman now had an American bestie!

Whatever is going on in your mind now, I can vouch that she is not a story. She was real, and she was our firm backrest! When my grandfather was ill, or when my brother had a nasty head wound, or even at times when we had big tenant quarrels, she hurried to our home and stood steady by my mom’s side. Speaking for my mom as needful and invariably allowing her to flop whenever she must!

I anointed her aunty. She didn’t live alone but was part of the Gupta family. The head of the house was native to Uttar Pradesh, and he married my aunty. They had a son of Indian nationality, with American virtues — rosy lips and dimpled chin, curly hair, and very fair! And it was always a sight to watch the three of them ride their motorbike with an eloquent sidecar.

The Gupta family lived at Creek Lane, Central Calcutta. Husband and wife, their son, my aunty’s mom-in-law, and their two cats! Nothing outstanding, but aunty being American made them stand out in the…