During my school days my father would never get the names of my friends right. And this was especially so whenever Sriparna and Suparna were mentioned in conversations. “Kaun? woh gori wali?” (Who that fair one?) he would ask trying to distinguish one from the other based on their skin tones. In reply, I would always roll my eyes in exasperation.
I lost my father years ago but thinking of Suparna today this particular incident made me smile. Remembering him comes with a lot less pain now. Time does heal I guess. But what do I do with my memory of Suparna? I lost her yesterday to cancer.
She did not give us enough time. It was all over within a matter of six months. We were planning a celebration for her in December by which time we were sure she would have conquered the dreaded monster.
From the day she was diagnosed with cancer she was ready for battle. She was not going down without a good fight. Even as she updated us over the phone about her painful chemo sessions there was never a doubt that her spirit would not see her through. Not once did we hear her lament, “Why me?”
She has left behind two other warriors, her 14-year-old son and her husband, who have braved these past traumatic days with the same courage.
Supi, as we called her, was not hero material or so we thought back then. She was the quintessential sweet girl, who would never refuse anyone help. She was fair yes, with thick long black hair, which the cruel disease made sure to take away with it much before it claimed her. I remember she never once succumbed to peer pressure in school when we would show off our new hairstyles.
She did, however, show glimpses of her stubborn side when she was directing us for a dance performance. And we had many of those. The fact that she could make Arpita (with two left feet) dance should tell us something about her leadership qualities!
Dance was her life. I don’t think there is a single issue of ‘Lotus Buds’ (our school magazine) that does not have a picture of her performance. Supi guided us to many class victories solely on the basis of her choreography and performance. “Aye, jaa taa bolchish. Preetha chilo, Sriparna chilo. Ame ki ekai naki?” I can picture her cutting me short in Bengali saying I am talking nonsense and there were others who helped in choreographing and that she was never alone.
As we sit alone ourselves in different parts of the world putting our own memory album together, I can hear her softly play the keys of her beloved old piano... I am in her Delhi home that winter evening of 2010 and I am about to tell her how she should come to Bangalore with her family soon.
(The picture below was taken at Suparna's wedding in Calcutta. You can see her dressed as the bride in red.)