13 February 2008

"On my way to Parsi Baug from Charni Road station, I offered her a lift"

From Hindustan Times, "1947: A love story that doesn’t have an ending," by Purva Mehra. "From the catalogue of his misty memory, Jimmy Ghotla can clearly pick out the rains of 1947. That was when he met his Polish ladylove, Wanda Orzechowska. That is also the year he last met her. “She was waiting for a bus in the rain without an umbrella. On my way to Parsi Baug from Charni Road station, I offered her a lift. She was a visiting nurse at the Polish hospital near the Baug,” recalls the 84-year-old. Indebted to the 23-year-old for his kindness, Orzechowska invited him for a cup of tea, and the conversation rolled on for the next six months. “I’d meet her at Eros for movies, for snacks at the Asiatic restaurant, or we’d take long strolls on Marine Drive. I would always take gifts for her. Chocolates, dress suits and costume jewellery,” says the accounts manager at a bakery in Gholvad, 130 km west of Mumbai. When she was leaving, Ghotla got on her ship stealthily, until the captain threatened to throw him in the locker. “We wept unendingly. We promised to stay in touch,” Ghotla recalls. Thus began the letters. Sixty-one years later, they still write to each other. "Back in Poland, she started writing asking when I'd visit her. Only my father knew about her then and didn't approve. He dissuaded me from taking the journey," he says. Even while Ghotla insisted that she should get married, Orzechowska waited 10 years for him. "She took ill before she married Robert. The doctor prescribed B-12 complex injections, which I shipped from here until she recovered." Reassured that Robert had no qualms about their correspondence, Ghotla continued to write to the now married Orzechowska. Robert joked with Ghotla saying that if he wanted Wanda back he would have to gift him a Mercedes. "Robert is open-minded. But it would be wrong for me to continue professing love for her," said Ghotla, admitting that she was the love of his life. Ghotla's most valuable possession is the bundle of 500 letters he has saved. "I haven't heard from her in three months, but will continue writing," he said."