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21 From the Outside In: Recollections of the Jewish Community of Calcutta

Deep Friendships

My father’s best friend, Uncle David, was a Jew. I thought David was my father’s brother when I was small…I probably opened my eyes and first saw Uncle Dave. I really thought Uncle Dave was my relative...They were part of my family. When my sister did so well in her M. Phil exams he would send a fish to our house as the number of eggs would mean that number of blessings she would enjoy. We just wished it was cake, not fish! If our exam results were good the next Sunday’s catch (he also loved to fish) would come to the house. He really treated us like his own. Since I was the youngest, I was more like a grand-daughter. —Abeda (Muslim, 1976)

Yes, Flower Abraham was a close friend. I was thirteen years old and we met on Howrah station when we were being evacuated to Nagpur. She was the first Jewish girl I met. She was one year with me in school. We used to walk in line and she was fat and I thin so we were called Laurel and Hardy. We became best friends. –Marcelle (Anglo Indian, 1929)

We moved around in gangs of children and played and ate in each other’s homes…We continued our friendships when we went overseas and with internet we renewed so many connections. –Naresh (Sindhi, Hindu, 1945)

I met a Jewish person for the first time when I was 11 years old, in Missourie, where I used to spend time with my grandparents. Ann was a Calcutta Jewish person. We clicked. On her account when my Prep School finished I went to her school in Missourie. She was my best friend forever. Once school was over she came back to Calcutta but I was not here as I had moved to live in South India.. Only when I came back to Calcutta we picked up again. I knew her parents extremely well – and her uncle too. They were good friends so we kept in touch...They were really good friends and you don’t make that kind of friends when you grow older and it continued. We stayed in London in their homes and they in ours. Jacobs also had beautiful families. I never stayed in a hotel. When you stay with one family all the others entertain you.Roma (Punjabi Hindu, 1931)

I remember a person, Silas Ezra, as a part of my childhood, as someone who was always there. He was part of my family. He had his own business. He had polio as a child and would drive a car adapted for him. He was also very close to my dad and he had always less gas in his car, (though in those days having a car was a big deal – we never had one) and he always said not to waste food. This was our Uncle Silas. —Dolores (Anglo Indian, 1955)

We are closely in touch. I speak to them regularly. They have collected money for my charities. We visit with one another. I go to Great Neck where many now live. I even took part in Indian jewish festivals in Jerusalem. I have been there many times. I was so fascinated that I took my children with me and my daughter-in law – all 11 of us – we got an 11 seater car and we had a guide who was a triple post grad and he took us around. I saw the kibbutz and the common eating inspired me and I have done the same thing in Antara (a home for mentally challenged) which I run. -John (Syrian Christian, 1927)