I was perhaps 14 then. The afternoons in my grand-uncle's library during my summer vacations acquainted me with Turgenev, Anatole France, Flaubert and Varahamihira.
For the rest of the year, I was in Calcutta with my parents. Translations of Tagore, Sarat Babu and Bankim had entranced me by their moody essence.
My grand-uncle once said: "You're fortunate to be nourished by three distinctly dissimilar cultures, Malabari, Bengali, and English..." A revered poet and philosopher, he didn't dissuade me from reading Havelock Ellis or Bhasa. Even Dandin's erotic plays weren't banned.
Varaha-Samhita to Tagore wasn't a great leap.
Manon Lescaut let me into the magical secrets of love. For months I walked in a daze searching for my lover. Did that book wound my life? Did it take me far away from reality? I don't know for certain, I was unmoulded and reshaped by Provost—
Wipe out the paints
unmould the clay
Let nothing remain
of that yesterday.
(Kamala Das is a writer.)