Chapter 1: An Unexpected Trip

Remember the Chatterjee and Matheson account? They’re ready to list …”

“That’s great news, honey.” As I listen to my fiancé Sir Gavin prattle on about his work, my thoughts drift to the shops along Oxford St. I can picture each one distinctly in my mind, like a thumbnail Instagram slideshow. Stores like Harrods, Armani Exchange, Tiffany’s, the Body Shop and that most exclusive Shop of all, the 60s-themed store Bouffe. The name sticks to my brain like glitter mascara.


The store had the cutest outfit on display in its window today: white go-go boots, a tiny mini-skirt the color of cream, a short suit jacket with big, powder blue buttons, topped by a bouffant wig and pillbox hat and veil. The look – slutty Jackie O’ – is one that I love. In fact, I am beginning to think that it should become my signature style.

“… so you don’t mind that it’s in Kolkata?”

I am about to say yes, when I realize that I don’t know what Gavin is talking about. That is nothing new, I am a dreamer and he can be so dreadfully dull. Fortunately, my fiancé is a very expressive speaker so most times I need only to listen to his tone of voice, not its content. I hesitate now because Gavin is hesitant. This is the reddest of flags! If I am going to answer his question I’d better first determine what the “it” is that is happening in Kolkata. It only takes a moment of reflection to realize that it is a meeting – all Gavin ever does is work.

I hazard a question, “Sweetheart, on what day is that meeting?”

Gavin’s voice sounds incredulous as he answers, “May 14”.

Then I understand. “You’re suggesting we spend our anniversary in India? In one of the least glamorous cities in the world …”

As I speak my voice rises in intensity and shrillness. Gavin interrupts me before I explode. “Bexx, discard your stereotypes! We won’t be sleeping with limbless beggars. We’ll be staying with my client Ravi Chatterjee. I understand that he has a very nice house, and that the best parts of Kolkata are quite charming.”

Gavin’s tone of voice suggests intense frustration. Even though I am cross-eyed with anger, I desperately want to placate him. It would be so much easier if I could find out what shopping is like in Kolkata. I have to be circuitous, however, because my fiancé sometimes takes issue with my pathological consumerism. “Dear, what kinds of things are in Kolkata? Is there a type of pottery or fashion that the city is famous for?”, I ask coyly.

“It was the capital of the British Raj for a while. And it’s very famous for jute.”

My face is apoplectically quizzical, so Gavin answers the question that’s on my mind immediately, rather than evading or fawning, which would be his normal response to our current situation. “Jute is a type of coarse cloth. It’s used for rugged things like sandbags and potato sacks. There’s more than that, of course. Its a trading city. There’s everything.”

Gavin has anticipated that I would view this trip through the lens of consumption. He says, “Bexx, we’ll be flying through Milan and Dubai so you will have plenty of opportunity to shop en route. In fact, you only need to stay in Kolkata for few days. Or you could stay at home and we could celebrate our anniversary afterwards … ”

I can’t believe Gavin is suggesting that we celebrate the anniversary of our first date apart. “I’m going. I’m only staying for the weekend. But I’ll go.”

Gavin sighs with relief and holds me tightly in his muscular arms. “This trip won’t be so bad”, I think. “I’ll pick up something by Armani in Milan, a case of perfume in Dubai, we’ll have a beautiful dinner together in a Bengali palace and then maybe I’ll drop by Paris on the way home.”