Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Indexed Stories - 6

The hospital in Basel was huge and stood surrounded by square miles of greenery and every morning a nurse would come with a menu from which Eugene chose the day's meals. Absolute bliss! The day he was released from hospital, he was “seriously depressed” he confided to me later. This was when the Binoyee Bangali Bhadralok in Eugene took over; he thanked the staff profusely and also sent emails to each individual throughout the entire period of his treatment.

Something must have occurred around that time – that life changing incident that I had mentioned in my last post. But, how did it all unfold? That is where I come up against a stone wall. Eugene is not too forthcoming except responding to all my questions with a sly smile. A smile that said, “Ha-ha baba…dekhley hobey? Khorcha achhey!”

My quandary is similar to a song by Harry Belafonte that I remember:

“When I was a lad of three-foot-three
Certain questions occurred to me,
So I asked me father quite seriously
To tell me the story 'bout the bird and bee.
He stammered and he stuttered pathetically
And this is what he said to me.

He said, "The woman piaba and the man piaba
and the Ton Ton call baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root uhmm,
And the famous grandy scratch scratch.

It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go 'round.
I went and ask a good friend of mine,
Known to the world as Albert Einstein.
He said "Son, from the beginning of time and creativity
There existed the force of relativity
Pi r square and minus ten means a routine only when
The solar system in one light year
Make the Hayden planetarium disappear
So if Mt Everest doesn't move
I am positive that it will prove

That the woman piaba and the man piaba
And the Ton Ton call baka lemon grass,
The lily root, gully root, belly root uhmm,
And the famous grandy scratch scratch.

Etc, etc…”

So, I went and asked a good friend of mine, known to the world as Kunal Basu, “How do I write this story?”

Trapeze Artist, 1926, William Johnson 
“Simple! Write that the woman piaba and the man piaba…”

No, I am joking. He actually didn’t say that. Kunal said, “Simple! Write that Eugene is forlorn and a little disoriented. With his arm in a sling and unable to write he thinks the world is coming to an end. That is when some of his friends wanting to cheer him up, take him to the circus one evening. That is where things happen. There he sees this “heavenly body” in a spangled leotard negotiating the trapeze with flawless precision and oodles of oomph. Every tiny movement, every bold leap, every somersault seemed to hold a special meaning for Eugene. He sits there mesmerized. While he gapes at her with his jaw open, she swings her way into his heart…and after a tumultuous and scandalous affair they finally marry and live happily ever after.”

But, that is Kunal’s penchant for fiction on overdrive! I can only attempt to concoct possible scenarios.

Scenario 1:

After that stumble down the stairs that broke his right wrist and friends taking him to hospital, Eugene realized that his pair of Metro Galli shoes – the culprit of the piece had gone missing. So, after being released from hospital his first priority was to find himself another wear- them-with-everything kind of pair, that too within a budget. Being new to the city, he had no clue about where to begin his search and to make matters worse; there is no Metro Galli in Basel.

He started looking in the market places that he had often walked by. He had not noticed earlier that the Market Place (Marktplatz) with its’ colourful Rathaus (Town Hall) only sold groceries and vegetables. The Flohmarkt in Petersplatz had a few stores selling branded shoes. They were either too expensive or not the kind he wanted. His search was getting him nowhere and the added discomfort of walking in borrowed shoes made his task that much more onerous.

One day he finally spotted a pair of shoes that he liked. It had some kind of a fur lining. Though he was not too keen on fur, the prospect of wearing ordinary shoes in the icy winter ahead banished his initial resistance. He walked into the store and asked the salesman to show him the pair. The salesman went away to find the right size and Eugene surveyed the shop. In one corner a young girl was trying on some knee-length boots. She wore blue cycling tights and a white tee. She was obviously riding a bicycle as was evident from the lock chain around her middle (the kind encased in plastic) – it was blue and accentuated her slim waist. Fraulien Blauen Gürtel (Blue Girdle) Eugene thought to himself. The salesman arrived with the pair and helped Eugene put them on. He walked a few steps gingerly, examined it closely and remarked that the fur was too stiff and bristly. “No thank you, this will not do” he told the man and left.

Exiting the store he hung around for a while thinking about where to go next and was surprised when Fraulien Blauen Gürtel suddenly appeared by his side and told him, “Take the pair. It’s a real steal.”

Before Eugene could repeat what he had said to the salesman about the bristly fur, she said, “I know a cobbler who could fix the lining.”

“But, where do I find him?”

“His shop is on my street, I can take you there, but not today. Meet me at four on Saturday at the corner café at Munsterplatz,” she said mounting her bicycle.


“I am Eva,” she shot back pedaling away.

Eva Blauen Gürtel! Sounds like a good enough name Eugene chuckled to himself. He went back inside and bought the pair of shoes and waited it out till Saturday.

Eugene was five minutes late to the designated rendezvous, Eva was not. She looked at him disapprovingly and without further ado, beckoned him to follow. She wore the same kind of clothes as last time and the Blue Girdle was still on her. She walked in long strides with her bicycle beside her and Eugene fell behind a couple of times, not because he could not keep pace, but, because he was quite taken with her swaying, cat-walking hips! She was sensuous. The Blue Girdle however was puzzling. It was always around her waist and never seen being used as the designer had intended it to be.

He noticed that they were walking along the south bank of the Rhine and in about fifteen minutes were in the locality of Breite. “Here we are” she said breaking the silence.

Cobbler's shop, Basel
Eugene had never been to this part of the city before. It had a mix of the new and the old and along the main street were small shops – florists, hairdressers, a second-hand store and a scooter shop, a few cafes, a bar and tucked away between all of these was the cobbler’s shop. Not exactly Metro Galli, but, a multi-racial neighborhood that made Eugene feel comfortable in. It did not take long to transact business with the genial elderly man who ran the shop. “Delivery next Saturday, same time”, he said.

Eva and Eugene walked out of the shop and she made it clear that the deal was done and mounted her bicycle. A befuddled Eugene stood there not knowing how to react. “Coffee?” she asked suddenly.

“Umm, yes good idea! I am parched.”

“Follow me”, she commanded.

She pedalled slow speed, zigzagged the street to accommodate his walking speed. She turned in on the third left turn and when he got to that point too, Eugene realized that the street ended on the river front. It was a short street that ended with a low wall with a pathway to the right that led to a flight of stairs to the top floor of what looked like a four storied tenanted house. Eva leant her bicycle against the wall and climbed up the narrow staircase. Eugene followed. She lived on the uppermost floor. She unlocked the door and invited him in.

To be continued…

Listen to Harry Belafonte sing “The woman piaba and the man piaba…”

1 comment:

  1. Missed reading the last couple of posts..so was a bit confused as to the identity of Eugene. Went back to find out about him..
    ..waiting for this story to unfurl..
    btw, why don't u leave a link in my Scribbler's Den on FB?
    Sharing with friends..