Posted by Amrita Dasgupta, New Delhi
Once in a while, sound of the elevator opening, footsteps or a far cry was heard in the almost deserted corridor. One mobile or the other kept ringing. The once brimming with people waiting room had a handful of us, masked, teary eyed with lumps in our throat. The doctor from the ICU had told us they were trying their best. We all waited with halting breath and precisely at 6.41 pm our world fell apart.
It has been six months since then. The season has changed from autumn to winter to spring and now summer beckons. Still, it is hard to believe, she is not with us. Her shoulder length straightened hair, dusky complexion, chiseled features, sparkling kohl eyes and charming smile on her red painted lips have never left me or anyone who came in touch with her. Tina’s teeming spirit was the centre of many a lives in the little Bong community of Chittaranjan Park, Delhi.
My first recollection goes back to her clad in a yellow salwar kameez, dancing in my would-be sister-in-law’s sangeet. I watched her spellbound as an epitome of spontaneity, grace and poise. She reminded me of erstwhile actors of black and white Bangla film era. When suddenly, she came up to me and spoke in her easy, amicable way, the spell broke. Then, I remember her familiar lilting voice calling me all the way from Dubai asking me what she should get for my wedding. Next, she was at my wedding looking her best, taking care of guests, once in a while ragging me. Before we could strike a deeper chord, she flew back to Dubai.
Eventually, when Tina and her family moved from Dubai to Delhi, our familial relationship blossomed into an unspoken mutual love, friendship and admiration. We were just a year apart but in relation, a generation. Tina was my mother-in-law’s cousin, but she preferred to hang out with her nephews and their wives.
For me, Tina was the spring and sunshine in all gatherings- be it weddings, ceremonies or parties. Always throbbing with love and life. Later, I got to know about her thalassemia and her determination to not let the condition hold her back. I learnt from Tina to treasure and celebrate all moments in life. We lovingly called her “selfie queen” as she captured and froze those happy moments in photographs.
Tina’s social circle moved beyond family with Slice of Bengal, a dream store to promote handloom, handicraft and culture of Bengal in the heart of the capital. Here, too, her affable nature won hearts of customers and well-wishers who in turn loved her dearly.
This time, last year, with COVID-19, life changed for Tina and me as much as for the entire world. Suddenly, our meetings, outings and happy times came to an abrupt end. We seldom met each other but would have long chats and video calls. It was tough for Tina’s free spirit to be confined at home.
Post lockdown, she was one of the first few of my acquaintances to step out to be at her store. She worked very hard, shooting and editing videos of store products to make them available online. One of her outstanding contributions during lockdown was to organise an online Bengali cultural event with talents from across the country and abroad. She also penned her experiences for Lockdown Voices (read here).
Tina would often call and ask me to step out and spend time with her as she thought I was missing the world outside. But the COVID scare had taken deep roots within me. I was worried for her too, given her co-morbidities. Whenever, I expressed my fear, she would laugh it away and say the virus would never harm her. She had this unfaltering faith.
On 9th October evening, after many months, we went to her place. She was glad, we had stepped out. Tina being Tina, she made us pose, smile and click photographs. As usual, it was an evening of fun and laughter like old times.
Next day, everything changed. She was rushed to the hospital. All night, she had severe pain in her hand. With the pandemic, there were few senior doctors to attend, diagnose and give her relief. In spite of her pain, she voice messaged me that she was COVID negative. The following morning, she was taken for an emergency surgery. The doctors were very worried. We were sure she would spring back as she had done many a times in the past.
On 11th evening, we had gathered, praying and hoping for a miracle. She had dragged me out of the comforts of my home straight to the hospital. Suddenly, COVID-19 seemed trivial. I no longer dreaded the virus. All I wished was to see Tina’s smiling face. When the phone rang at 6:41, our hearts stopped for a moment – only to realise the frailty of our lives.
Life has never been the same since. Over the past months, we all have struggled to come to terms with her loss. We have united in her love. Together, we cherish the treasure trove of memories that remain in the photographs she clicked.
Every occasion, every celebration- everything reminds me of Tina. With the pandemic worsening, the situation is becoming grim by the day. But thanks to her, I have learnt to find joy in everyday things. With a twinkle in her eye, she must be smiling and nodding from happier spaces.
Cover image: Faith Radio
Story images: Tina Basuray
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