The trip to Kokata takes the better part of a week. First, we take a private jet to Milan. The flight from Milan to Dubai is rough. To my amazement, I get bumped to economy by some Saudi Princes, but travel the last leg of my journey in first-class. I arrive at Kolkata airport tired, cranky and burdened with duty-free goods.
Immediately upon exiting customs I am met by the love of my life, Sir Dudley Gavin Dudley, who is stylishly decked out in a collarless silk shirt and perfectly tailored, tapered black pants. His shoes are hand made. The outfit is entirely new, which cheers me up considerably. “He must have bought these clothes here”, I conclude hopefully. Behind Gavin stand two men in light cotton outfits and mustaches. They both vaguely look like Omar Sharif. Gavin introduces them as Mr. Chatterjee’s men.
As we proceed to our car, a beautiful hunter green jaguar, I look back and see the words DUM DUM AIRPORT flashing in bright blue-white neon. I smile. Gavin notices and pulls me into his muscular arms. “It’s nice to see you happy, dear heart.”
“I was just laughing at the sign. Was the airport named after Sir Dum Dum the youngest son of the Earl of Stupid, perhaps?”
“Don’t mock my relatives”, Gavin replies sternly.
For a moment I’m taken aback. “Have I offended my fiancé?”, I think. “It certainly is common for aristocrats to have silly names, after all. And Gavin does have a number of nitwit cousins.” Gavin notices my consternation and bursts out laughing. “Its just a name, though a sinister one. A dum-dum is a particularly vicious – and now illegal – type of bullet. This district used to be the British arsenal where the bullets were made. There was a rough side to the British Raj.”
I reply, speaking almost to myself, “What a way to go, torn apart by a dum-dum bullet.” My words don’t make me laugh as I look out my window and see prematurely aged men pulling rickshaws against the faded backdrop of what once must have been glorious townhouses. The interior of the car seems even more plush when set against this foil of poverty and decay.
After a splendid dinner held in the courtyard of Mr. Chatterjee’s home, which is actually one half of a palace (the other half is an exclusive hotel). Tables are cleared and the courtyard is transformed into a market. Along one wall artisans carefully lay out their wares on colourful rugs. In the centre, a group of Rajastani puppeteers and musicians put on a performance.
Though the puppet show is charming, my mind, gaze and eventually body wanders over to the artisans’ stalls to browse and inevitably buy. The selection is astonishingly good. It takes me but a moment to decide to purchase most of the earrings and silver bangles from the first two artisans. It is not until I reach the third artisan’s table, which contains pieces that are more like fine art than jewelry, that I settle into the shopping groove. One piece in particular catches my eye, a silver bracelet embossed with an array of semi-precious stones.
“How much is this?” I ask.
“For you, 400 rupees” he replies.
“It costs a few pence more than 4 quid”, I think with amazement. This doesn’t seem possible: the bracelet is made of two different rare metals and garnished with 6 expertly cut tiny emeralds. All for the amount of money that I make in five minutes hosting my television show.
I overpay the jeweler, secretly hoping that he will use the money to replace his tattered clothing, and place the brooch around my neck. As I do so, Mr. Chatterjee sidles up beside me. He is accompanied by a handsome young man who looks exactly like Omar Sharif.
”Rebecca, I would like to introduce you to my son, Rajit”
Giving how dashing he is, I expect Rajit to kiss me, but instead he modestly shakes my hand. “That is a beautiful brooch you are wearing. Did you just buy it?” he asks.
He then notices the bags that are lying in a heap at my feet and the empty tables behind me. “I see that you bought more than just the brooch.”
I flash him a guilty smile as I reply, “It is all so beautiful, and so cheap … I mean inexpensive.”
Mr. Chatterjee notices my awkwardness and smoothly interjects, “Rebecca, I have an idea. Tomorrow, while Sir Gavin and I iron out the details of my IPO, why doesn’t Rajit take you shopping?”
I look towards Rajit to see what he thinks of this excellent idea. “I would love to” he replies, “provided Rebecca doesn’t mind.”
“Of course not!”
To my astonishment Mr. Chatterjee then hands his son a wallet that is thick with money. To his son he somberly says, “Take care of her tomorrow. Buy her whatever she wants.” Raqjit takes the wallet and places it in his pocket. The transaction is conducted as if the wallet did not even exist: both Chatterjee and his son are both looking at me.
I am beaming, of course.