(Sometime around early 2000 s, Salt lake Kolkata)
I was going through a phase where, I was doing some serious reading on the Bauls and Bishnu Prasad Rabha, wondering why songs as simple had no effect on the populace, especially when it came to understanding issues related to women and rejecting of caste. the songs of Bishnu Prasad Rabha had always spoken of caste reforms, uplift-ment of women, while the Bauls spoke of free spirited-ness, love towards all, amidst other such things.
We had a new house maid, in those days. A rather elderly lady, with whom I barely had any interaction, apart from the rather cryptic day to day instructions on what needed to be done. 'China mashi' as she was called, was a cheerful matronly figure, who would bug me into cooking and becoming more 'songshari'.
Though, I had been a bit startled at hearing her name, it never occurred to me why someone was called after a country and like most others I had assumed that her parents were folks deeply deprived of imagination, especially when it came to names.
For most abstract people, the light of dawn is not only sudden but that which often results in a whole set of new discoveries. It was perhaps the terrific heat of an afternoon and idle speculation that led me to ask her one day why her parents had named her 'China', did her ancestors have any connections with the country?
I still remember her face, bent while cutting the vegetables as she replied, 'amar jonmer shomoy Baba Ma bolechilo, arekta meye chai na. Tar thekei amar nam Chaina hoye geche' ( When I was born, my parents said they did not want another girl, thus I was named 'Chai-na', which in Bangla loosely means, don't want or not wanted).
All my reading had not prepared me for that face. Stoic. Resilient. Woman