Savitri hummed the ancient Bengali lullaby – “Khoka ghumalo, para juralo, Bargi elo deshe. Bulbulite dhan kheyechhe, khazna debo kishe?(My boy has fallen asleep, silence has set in the locality, the Bargis have come to our state. Passerine songbirds have eaten the rice grains, how shall I pay my taxes?)
She was trying to make her two-year-old son fall asleep at the backseat of their 1950 Ambassador Landmaster, a family heirloom of a car that her husband Umesh would not ditch for anything in the world.
From the mid-1700s, nearly every Bengali mother has sung this cradlesong to make her child asleep, and Savitri had a habit of doing the same wherever it may be, at home, in a hotel, or even in the back seat of the family car.
It was 3:00 AM on a cold winter December night in 1990, a few days before Christmas. A…
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