Kaiser’s first love

An extract from “He who summoned the Magpie Robin” by Nirjhor Barua
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Then after two years another telegram had come were his father had expressed his wish for Kaiser to study in London. His mother wrote back saying: ‘Kaiser will go to England to study. But, he is not staying with you; not with you… I repeat… Not with you. He will go to a boarding school of my choice. I don’t want him to live with you and anywhere near your wife’. Thus, he went back to England and completed his A-Levels from Wellington College, Berkshire, in the year 1968, the year of the emergence of the great Led Zeppelin and the premier of 2001: The space odyssey. His time after that was spent in shuffling between home-made wine, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and a young girl of twenty-four–older than him– his first love. The girl, although spoilt with money, was educated and classy, and acted more mature than her age, some years or more, a girl with some trans-Atlantic American accent, an East coast one, not that it mattered. As lot of Americans did, she also went on the Europe trek, and ended up in Kings cross, to start from England. Where she posted an advertisement on the newsstand for a tour guide to take her places- All expenses paid.

With Kaiser stumbling upon the advertisement, having nothing to do, he applied; only a formal interview was taken in a Hotel-room in Camden town. With the girl, sitting primped-up and proper, business suit and skirt set, with reading glasses eyeing him and his resume in her hand. She put down the piece of paper and told him she would call and let him know, and called out ‘Next!’ as he was on his way out; there was no queue outside, he was the only applicant. He had waited by the phone the whole night, and she called, ‘Congrawhatevertulations kiddo, you got it.’ letting him know about his win amongst fierce competition. On enquiry or assurance about the payment and the method, she laughed and replied, ‘At the end of the month man, Cash. I keep my word you know. Daddy has the big bucks; I can do whatever I want.’ He could not say no to her, even if he wanted to. He did not need the money. He would have done it for free.

The girl had the pinkest of lips with the darkest of hairs and wore the jazziest of clothes, American style, flashy printed mini, large collared shirts tucked in with the collars unfolded, covering the bottom half of her ears. Her nose rings were similar to that of the Rajasthani water bearer or one of those East African tribes with a nose ring that dangled in front of the mouth. Her attire was loud, nothing close to a freak show, but it still was loud; it screamed for attention and got it as such. She looked like a new-age wizard, all gay and colourful. She on occasions could pass for a show-gypsy medicine woman that read palms and sold pregnancy charms on the streets of Soho. The girl, along with her tour guide went places, from Buckingham to the spooky columns of Stonehenge, she drank in it, drank in the bizarre that was England trying to put its prudish past behind, each swig quenching her thirst, wanting a little more. From spending copious amount of time together, the ‘professional’ relation had drifted towards intimacy. On one fateful train journey with her hands nonchalantly resting on his sleeping buttocks, as they slept in a compartment spooning each other, led to them having a session on the art of ‘making out’. Over the course of time, they would be in endless sessions of poem recitation, each poem ended with a kiss, then a wet smooch on each other’s neck. Shelley, Keats, Arnold and so on dribbled from their lips. After roaming around England, they took their duo-entourage down to France, France, l’exquise, France, the exquisite, France, the rainbow nation of the west. From Southampton to Normandy, they crossed the English Channel into France. They wanted to re-enact the Normandy invasion that had taken place some twenty-two odd years ago. This time they had no numbers, but only two of them. They did not land on a beach, but a port and had no guns, but love in their heart. It was no allied forces this time, but a duo for a fictive country called The ‘United Kingdom of Bengali America’, UKBA for short.

From Normandy to Rouen and finally they ended up in Paris, the cultural Capital of the world, the city for bohemian love. Paris soon became a slight disappointment. The city was overhyped, hyped to such a level that the beautiful city with its dirty right-side-driving roads, rude-cheese-eating inhabitants, cramped alleys of the immigrant-ghettos, boisterous cafes and the colourless Eiffel Tower could not save it from the disappointment it became. The city was expected more of. There was something less of in Paris, they did not know what of was it for sure, je ne sais quoi, he said,there was ‘something’ missing. By July the protests against the Gaulle had dimmed down and the city had come back to normal. They blamed their luck to be a little late for the ‘party’; it was not every day one experienced revolution and civil disobedience at hand. The hand-holding walks on the posh street of Champs-Elysees— just like the French resistance army marching after the liberation of Paris, they marched hand in hand, no Parisians to welcome them—, ‘French-kissing’ by the bank of Seine river, starting an argument with nearly getting stabbed on the city metro, were some of the things she crossed of first from her list one by one as they went along. On one fine evening the young male with his slightly older female lover sat on a hotel balcony with a bed sheet wrapped around them, looking up to the full-moon blurred amongst the clouds and city-smog, began telling each other stories of sexual escapades; she wanted to try new things, new ways to tickle the libido, telling stories was one way. He hadn’t had many tales to tell, he was a younger man and a virgin not long ago. She on the other hand told him of the ways she courted the many boys she had been with. With some she was the gentlest of all, like caressing a flower, with others, she had yanked at them, tearing them from the branches with no mercy. With him though, she was different, she felt a connection, a connection on the intellectual level. He was not some thick headed good-for-nothing; he had a level of intellect her past lovers lacked, and most importantly he was exotic, caramel from the East. She wanted to be cruel to him though, so desperately wanted to leave him writhing in a hotel-room by leaving without saying a word. Attachment was a luxury a rich tourist like her could not afford. But for now, to hell with it, she said, Amour, l’amour au clair de lune de Paris—- Love, love in the moonlight of Paris. French-language had rubbed-off on to them. Paris did that to people. Only maybe the gondolas on the mucky Venetian waters could top the romance of this place.

Life of poetic English summers, French cafe existentialist intellectualism, and pebbled Brighton beaches with mixed-race lovemaking soon ended. Her plan to bathe in the river Danube never materialised. In an act of defiance and young angst, the American girl had mailed her father some pictures, pictures of her, bikini-clad in the beach, with a topless Mowgli, out of the Jungle Book, in her arms. America was still in a state of hangover, still trying to hold on to its drunken times of mad racism; Martin Luther king’s untimely death had not been very long ago. Her father was far from happy, even if his daughter had the ‘Godlike-Groovy-Ghandi’ in her arms, he said, it was not for his baby girl, brown as a colour was still too dark. As a result the father froze his daughter’s cash flow by not sending her money anymore, forcing her to return. No money, no Europe, no ‘Aladdin’ in her arms. It was a summer fling, after which she was gone, back to the US of A.

As for Kaiser, it was not for him either; his love life amongst the fading beat generation had drained him off the English experience. For him, it was Bengal calling. Like the romantic poet Jibanananda Das had said, he would say to his mother on the eve of his return.

                               I have seen the face of Bengal, so I refrained from searching the beauty of the world. 

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