Later he studied Economics in Wharton, taught in the Georgetown University and settled down in the Washington area. For the last twelve years he has been my neighbor and friend. I enjoy parties at his home, for he never lost touch with South Asia and I always encounter interesting people from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at those events.
Last month, I was hovering near the bar when Jeremy asked what I thought of the new leadership in Bengal, the part of India I know best. I briefly recounted my recent visit to Kolkata. A minute later a tall woman turned to me and asked, “Did I hear you talking about Kolkata?”
“Really? Where in Kolkata?” I asked.
“I lived on Amherst Street,” she replied. It was a narrow north-south street in central Kolkata, named after William Pitt Amherst, First Earl, Governor General of India who followed the notorious Lord Hastings.
“That street has now been renamed Rammohan Roy Sarani,” I said. “But, tell me, could you have been living at 33/1 Amherst Street?”
Her mouth fell open. “Good Heavens! How did you guess that?”
“Amazing coincidence!” she commented, then went on to add that she had recently moved from Boston after her widowhood.
I asked what her last name was before she married.
“Bridgewell,” she said.
I took a good look at her and then said, “Well, I am sorry that you did not recognize me, Jennifer.”
It was indeed an astonishing coincidence. Fortyfive years earlier, when I was nine and Jennifer was seven, we were thrown together quite a lot as our parents partied and we had to devise our own games to amuse ourselves. Jennifer was a shy girl with curly hair, who had to be cajoled to join any game I suggested.
Jennifer was speechless for a while.
Then we reminisced and talked about the people we had both known. I poured some wine for us both and we talked for a long while.
My father was very friendly with a missionary couple, John and Bridget Wells. John was a chemistry professor, and Bridget was an accomplished pianist. Father had instructed me to call them Uncle John and Aunt Bridget. What he didn’t know was that I was madly in love with Bridget. Her short red hair and tilted nose simply took my breath away. Of course, I gave no hint of my passion to anybody, certainly not to Bridget, though my little heart melted any time she cast me a glance.
You can imagine my disgust when Jennifer’s dad, Sam Bridgewell, started smiling like a hyena while he danced close with Bridget in a birthday party. Then I saw him – my diminutive height gave me an advantageous point of view – lower a hand and surreptitiously pinch Bridget’s bottom. That did it! I could not imagine anybody daring to do something so despicable to somebody I believed to be an angel. Sam Bridgewell instantly became my lifelong adversary and the worst cad on earth.
No, I could not possibly tell Jennifer how loathsome I thought her dad was, but I certainly could never forgive Sam Bridgewell or forget his hateful name.