November 12, 2013
It was morning 2 o` clock at Dubai Airport. En route Cincinnati. I was darn exhausted and drained all my energies. Nevertheless; what kept me awake was the stupendous chain of fashion stores as I walked past each one of them with popeyed eyes.
Finally after sometime; I decided to relax for a while only to resume later. I reached the transit passenger resting place and spotted a reclining chair. I occupied it immediately and stretched my legs. My next chair neighbor, an American briefly smiled at me and we picked up a Hi-Hello tete a tete. Coincidentally we were boarding the same flight. The lady revealed that her name is Lauren and she came to Dubai to meet her son who is posted there currently. I just mentioned my first name and added that I am on my project related trip. The name Donna is so familiar in the Western Culture that she grasped it immediately. She peeked into my boarding pass and enquired about my second name. So I explained her that’s my family name which is “Banerjee”. Lauren almost broke her jaw to pronounce that.
So I just advised her to ignore it and keep it short by using only my first name. We kept chatting and she showed much interest in understanding the Indian Geography, culture, food habits etc. So while walking her through our Indian demographic aspects; I shared with her that I am a Hindu and belong to Bengali ethic group. Thereafter Lauren who happens to be quiet perky asked me to speak something in Bengali. Immediately what replayed in my mind was her attempt to pronounce “Banerjee”…so I just brushed it aside and told her it`s too complicated for her to understand. I just wanted to keep it simple and easy for both of us!
Now enters the hero of our story. A man in his early fifties dressed in white formals came and took the recliner on my right. He was boarded on a different flight. Lauren started talking to him as well while I almost retired from the discussion. I thought now I can relax and just be an audience. The man introduced himself as Al Shammat, an employee of GE and working in Dubai. He is a traditional Muslim with a wife, son and daughter in law. However he never sounded or even looked like one of those traditional native of Dubai. Lauren and Shammat started sharing their respective stories with each other. Al Shammat asked me my name and background. Lauren did it on behalf of me and even added that my surname is too difficult to pronounce. Shammat expressed his desire to take an attempt. Upon hearing “Banerjee” he busted into peel of excitement. And to my surprise; he pronounced my surname effortlessly. My first name was just a cakewalk for him. And that was an initial shock for me. He even helped Lauren to pronounce my name and she got it correctly indeed. That was a huge embarrassment for me.
He expressed a huge admire for Bengali Community. He went back to the Bengal renaissance age of Tagore, Nazrul Islam and so on so forth. My jaw dropped and I was lost in trance. I managed to pull myself together and asked him the secret of his knowledge of a total different community. He revealed that his daughter in law Naushin was once “Puja Sen”. He shares a vibrant bonding with his daughter in law and she is the one who enlightened him so well about Bengal culture. I was indeed feeling proud of being a Bong…
What are the chances of meeting a man of Muslim origin who is so well conversed about Bengali? What are the chances of a Bengali lady marrying someone of that origin? But that is what called as Destiny I guess…no matter what I had a total hang of that encounter. I didn’t even realize that it was time for me to board the flight…He concluded our discussion saying …” Bengalees are Mashallah”.
Me and Lauren moved started proceeding to the gate…The American attendant at gate asked me my name …I promptly replied “Donna…Donna Banerjee” !
Labels: Bengalis in Hyderabad