I was staying at Hotel Kenilworth in Calcutta at the crossing of Theatre Road and Little Russell Street. Right next to the entry of the hotel was a small hole in the wall that sells kathi rolls (a popular street snack). It has remained the same since 1997, when I left the city.
Back then, before I abandoned the city, a family had provided me shelter at the Nagaland Guest House, just around the corner of the hotel I was staying at. I would walk past the inviting display of kathi kebabs every evening with tsunamis in my mouth, and not a single farthing in my pocket.
One day, that family gave me Rs. 500, along with an application to be deposited at the passport office. I went to the passport office to find a huge queue, and couldn’t manage to deposit the form. While coming back, I passed the kathi roll hole in the wall with its inviting display and aroma of kathi kebabs. I failed to stop myself, and ended up eating four kathi rolls with the money that I had to deposit. I failed as an individual.
The amount of embarrassment that I had faced due to my momentary lapse of reason and weakness is fathomless. My head hung in shame. No logic can justify my action. Although before the death of my father and upheavals in my family, I would shower the less fortunate with a piece of my own lifestyle. One of them had been the Nepali boy whose family had given me shelter. I left for Delhi soon after that incident.
Through Kenilworth Hotel’s glass pane, I spent a good deal of time looking at the Nagaland Guest House, recalling every moment of the situation that was probably the lowest point in my life, to which I still look back in shame.
The next evening, I walked out of my hotel and asked my driver to wait in front of the Nagaland Guest House while I bought myself a bunch of kathi rolls from the same hole in the wall. Why I paid Rs. 500/- extra to the kathi roll vendor, and shared two kathi rolls with the driver out of the four that I had bought, still remains unanswered for them.
-Anupam Sen Gupta via email9
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