Desmond Harris, 67, visiting Calcutta from the UK after eight years, dropped by with his family for breakfast at Haven Hotel opposite Jora Girja (St. James’ Church) on Friday.
“There was someone called Patsy at the next table, and we looked at each other curiously before it dawned on us that we had met as 10-year-olds, a long, long time ago. It has been nearly 50 years but we recognised each other and caught up like old pals,” smiles Harris.
Patsy and Desmond are among the hundreds of Anglo-Indians who have got back in touch with long-lost friends at the 9th International Anglo-Indian Reunion, in association with The Telegraph.
The week-long celebration (January 6-12), happening in the city for the first time in 27 years, was inaugurated with a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday.
“We have almost 1,500 registrations,” says convener Philomena Eaton, of which “more than 500” are by Anglo-Indians settled in Australia, Canada, the UK and other European countries.
The turnout has made a success of the theme for the reunion: “Come home to the land of your birth.”
On Saturday afternoon, the elderly convener had surprise visitors at her home in Wellesly. “My dear friend Rosalind came to visit me and we met after 40 years. The first thing I asked her was, ‘Where are your wringlets?’ because she had beautiful ones in school and then I realised that even I don’t look the same anymore,” laughs Philomena, reminiscing about her childhood.
“The other day I met a gentleman who told me that he went to Nahoum’s in New Market and half the shop was filled with visiting Anglo-Indians,” she adds.
“That is the beauty of the reunion,” says Julyana Van Steensel, part of the 26-member organising committee, who has at home “a 10-month-old to a 65-year-old” visiting the city for the celebrations. “I went to the chemist the other day and on Russell Street, someone shouted out to me — a friend from Australia. Everyone’s everywhere!” she says.
No wonder, because 40,000 of the 200,000 Anglo-Indians in India are from Bengal, making the local community the largest. With a full menu of fun drawn up — from dalpuris at the food fest to waltz and cha-cha-cha at the Grand Ball finale — it’s time to say let the celebrations begin.
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