20 October, 2007

You Are the Butterfly and You Are Gone

by Anjali Wason

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
Jeet and Shakti made being in Delhi a little easier. I think they made this city more tolerable for a lot of us.

We first met them at the Habitat Centre two years ago, and discovered that we had all lived in New York recently and were new migrants to Delhi. Hirsh and I left for the summer soon after but upon our return we invited Jeet and Shakti over for a dinner party. The weather was nice by then so we sat on the terrace, smoking 50’s style slim cigarettes between courses and sharing stories.

I remember being impressed that Shakti made it a point to talk to every person at the party and ask them about themselves. You expected something else under that glamorous exterior. But she was warm and friendly, and curious about everything—the opposite of a snob.

Over the next few months, we saw a lot of one another—the evening might start off at a book launch but we would always end up at their house, where Shakti would heat up some of her mum’s undiou or her mother in law’s beef curry.

People flocked to Shakti. Tall, short, foreign, Indian, writer, call centre worker, Shakti was open to everybody—made it a point to talk to everybody in a way that made them feel comfortable, in their own language. She asked about my family, complimented my cooking, the way I’d decorated my flat. And I could always be myself in her company.

She wanted to take a trip to Himachal and I told her we would have to wait till I quit my job. I wish we had gone, just so I could have gotten to know her better. But its amazing how much love she inspired in people in the two years she was here. How much she touched people and influenced their lives.

Her life was short, but it was filled with so much friendship and generosity. You just have to look around the British Council tonight; read one of her stories; or listen to her friends speak about her to know she was a talented, creative and loving human being. And someone we will miss dearly.

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