Thursday, 12 January 2012

2.   The two Estonian-Bengali couples meet
       When my father in law and his (also!) Estonian wife came from New Jersey in the United States to settle down in Kolkata, India, they were told that there was another Bengali –Estonian couple, also by the same name who lived on  Kid Street. This was the year 1954. Of course the two families met and became fast friends.
 Prior to that, my grandfather (who retired as Major General A.N. Roy) was a Major with the  British Army Medical Corps.  He was posted to several places in India and during the 2nd world war, served with the British medical Army in Quetta, Pakistan, while grandmother lived with the missionaries in a quaint old home in Landaur, Mussoorie. Their two older children studied at Woodstock school, while the 3rd was a baby. My mother was not yet born! My grandmother had truly happy memories of her life during those pre-independence years in Mussoorie and made sure that, over the years to come, not only her children, but grandchildren too, visited her favourite haunts, Clock tower, Landaur Bazaar and Sister’s bazaar on top of the hill.
 It was so ironical that my grandfather, who retired as a Major General in the British-Indian Army Medical Corp and my grandmother had met in the early 1930’s at a youth hostel in England where my grandfather was studying medicine on a full scholarship at Bartholomews Medical College. My grandmother had been sent to England to learn English and get over a budding romance in Kasmu, Estonia, which her parents were not very happy about.. Her parents thought the change would do her good! Little did they know that another, much more permanent romance awaited her across the seas! 
 My dear grandmother sadly told me when I was much older, that when she went back to Estonia with my handsome and dashing grandfather, to tell her parents that she would be marrying the Indian gentleman who accompanied her, her mother (Nadezda Kaskni Kristenbrunn) was heartbroken because her precious, only daughter would be going so far away, to an almost unknown land. My great grandmother  died at the young age of 48 after a bad bout of pneumonia, and it is said till today that she died of sheer sadness at the thought of rarely seeing her daughter  again, as in those days travel across the seas was long and tedious and only by ship. After her mother's death, my grandmother and grandfather tied the knot and once they left London and returned to India, poor Grandmother truly did not ever have a chance to return to Estonia.
Similarly, my husband’s parents and my in laws met at Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., while my father-in-law was doing a doctorate in Chemical engineering from M.I.T. and my mother-in-law studying at Bennington College, Vermont. Both the Bengali gentlemen  married their Estonian wives against their parents’ and family’s wishes, yet both couples chose to come back to India and face the ‘not too pleasant’ music on their return! However, their friendship grew over the years while my father in law headed the Chemical Engineering department at Jadavpur University, Kolkata and then shifted to Delhi, while my grandparents moved from Kolkata to Dehradun. The couples made it a point to meet regularly and my mother as a nine year old remembers helping my mother in law at one of her little nursery schools! 
My Bengali father in law and Estonian Mother in law
 (Dr. Tuhin Kumar Roy and Silva Mardiste Roy) 

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