This post was originally written on May 2019 when I was visiting Darjeeling.
When I visited the beautiful city of Darjeeling in 1999, I was just a little girl with wonder and amazement in my eyes. We had come with my Dadu, Dida, Mama, Mami and my infant cousin brother Shubho. Though the 10-year-old me was mesmerised by the Kanchenjungha, it was not a very pleasant vacation overall, my mother constantly kept snapping at me and reminded me to be quiet and obedient. “We should be grateful to your grandfather and uncle for generously offering to bring us on their holiday. Otherwise we could never afford it.”, she used to say three times a day. It was annoying, but not unexpected.
I had figured out soon after my dad’s death in 1997, that we were officially dependent and that I should NEVER ask for anything unless I can buy it with my money. Well, I was 8 years old, so there was nothing like” my” money. Whatever cash my aunts would give me for special occasions, I would gently pass on to my mother because I could see her struggling with limited finances every day. Being dependent came with the added clause of being explicitly grateful for everything others gave us as well. It used to bother and confuse me as a child when my cousin brother Tito (almost as old as me) could throw a tantrum for any toy and I would have to refuse those toys even when someone offered them to me and politely say fake, tacky things like, “No, no, I can’t accept this. You already do so much for us.”
So, on a temperate summer afternoon in Darjeeling during April 1999, when I saw a young college going girl eating ice cream in a cone, the 10-year-old me didn’t know how to react. On one hand, my little mouth was salivating with lust and desire and on the other, I knew those who have no money should never ask for what they want. But finally, temptation won. I quietly went to my mom and whispered, “Ma, can I get an ice cream cone? The smallest, cheapest one?”
My mother glared at me. “What did I tell you?” she fiercely whispered back to me, “You should never ask for things. Instead, you should be grateful that Mama and Dadu have brought us so far despite knowing I probably can never pay them back the entire sum of money they’re spending for us. Moreover, you can catch a cold, this is no place for eating ice cream.” she added quickly towards the end, probably to make me feel better. Well, it didn’t work. I was 10, not stupid.
So, when my partner and I went to Darjeeling this time, I made sure that I buy a cone of ice cream and enjoy it like it was an unusually exotic piece of dessert. It was quite cold and rainy that afternoon and given any other circumstances, I would have definitely ordered for a latte or a hot chocolate instead. But no, some memories need closure and some desires, especially those of a 10-year-old girl with wonder, amazement and craving in her eyes, need fulfillment. And I made damn sure that’s exactly how it went. When I look back at the memory from now on, I would always remember that the little girl may have been 20 years too late, but in the end, she got her cone of ice cream.
When I sent my mother these pictures and reminded her of this incident from 20 years ago, she got emotional. “I can’t believe you wanted that ice cream so much,” she said, her voice breaking down into sobs. I asked her to stop crying and rejoice instead. “Your little girl can buy her own ice cream now, Ma. Isn’t it worth something?”