A fluid road to life

Anumitra’s tailormade mode of transport that evolved after eight months of tinkering is a reflection of her own life and a certain ambiguity

Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar is in her early thirties and her approach to life is an open arm embrace. She leads a fairly radical life of nonconformity and believes in ‘live and let live’, though she isn’t an activist or militant about her views. A PhD in linguistics, she chose to become a professional chef. She’s cool as a cucumber, and nothing annoys her except badly cooked food, but that anger quickly transforms into a zest to rescue and make it palatable.

Fluidity, or lack of binaries in life, is her message to the world, that she lives every day, not out of the politics of it, but simply because, that’s the only reality she experiences, knows no other way. Usually seen in clothes that are associated with men, but she isn’t a crossdresser in the strict sense of the word, for her attire is not a discovery unto self, but an outcome of the fact that she’s arrived in life.

The best symbol of this fluidity is her one-of-its-kind mode of transport, which is neither a scooter nor a bike, yet both, and is very strong and tailor-made to the needs of Anumitra. It is powered by the engine of 125cc Honda Activa. It is a complex mix of a motorcycle, a scooter and a moped, Anumitra calls it Lilac Flamingo. It’s beyond the confines of an identity, very much like Anumitra. Lilac Flamingo is Anumitra’s baby — it took eight months to ‘conceive’ it, bit-by-bit.

Anumitra partnered with mechanic Raju who specialises in restoring old two-wheelers and has a shop in Khanna Market. Their intellectual courtship blossomed into the making of Lilac Flamingo. This partnership started a few years ago, when while roaming around with a friend in Khanna Market, Anumitra sighted a 1954 Lambretta scooter. It was love at first sight and Anumitra became obsessed with the thought of possessing it.

Anumitra approached Raju and made an offer. He couldn’t possibly sell that particular scooter but a dialogue started, which culminated into a project that led to the making of Lilac Flamingo. She gave Raju an initial amount of some Rs 40,000, but there was no hurry or looking back.

For the first month or so, they’d sit on a daily basis and pontificate. It was a sort of a romance of ideas over hundreds of cups of tea. It was only after hours of brainstorming that their vision started taking shape in their mind.

A Lambretta base was procured, but Anumitra was certain that her ‘retro’ inspired Lilac Flamingo will be powered by a modern engine. So, a second-hand Honda Activa, which was fairly new, was purchased. But there was a slight glitch here, Activa’s engine is mounted on the right side, whereas in Lambretta, it’s on the left. Some structural manipulations were performed to overcome this problem. The Lilac Flamingo frame is specially designed keeping Anumitra’s frame in mind.

Not just that, once the basic structure was in place, certain nitty-gritty were fixed keeping Anumitra’s liking and needs in mind. For instance, being a chef, she visits mandi or the wholesale market often to pick up meat, fish or vegetables in goodly amount. So Lilac Flamingo should be able to carry fair bit of goods and chattels. There is a metal box under the seat — that seems to be suspended in the air but rests on a pair of strong springs — but was unfit to carry eggs as they would invariably break during transportation. So, a cloth bag — a school bag to be precise — was hung in front to transport such ‘breakable’ items.

Anumitra doesn’t allow anyone to drive her progeny except Raju. But she made a special concession for her partner, she is a publisher, and the latter was allowed to ride Lilac Flamingo for a couple of minutes.

Lilac Flamingo is a tailor-made two-wheeler. It hasn’t been constructed but has evolved over eight months. This process of evolution has slowed down ever since Anumitra has started using it on a regular basis, but off and on, certain modifications are incorporated to meet changing needs. It still remains a project in operation.

“This project wouldn’t have possible without the financial support of my mother (who live in Kolkata),” Anumitra says. Her father expired recently after prolonged illness, she has a younger sister. They are a closely-knit family of three women.

A silent revolutionary who is leading a life of her choice without forcing others to subscribe to her choices or emulate her, Anumitra seems to reside in this altered state of consciousness and remains untouched by the vagaries of a demanding city like Delhi. Her halcyon disposition is contagious and her smile soothing. Apart from striving for culinary perfection, there is a special ingredient in her food — love — that makes cooking divine. Her food is an experience.

She’s aroused by the ‘feminine’ energy, that’s not peculiar to a certain gender. In fact, this reminds me of a sort of trend in Europe. Ever since gender parity has swept certain parts of the continent, men, especially the younger ones, increasingly exude feminine energy.

Anumitra’s open personality is like deep still water.

“I’m an artist,” she says. Lilac Flamingo’s choice of colour, its structure, look, style, and the certain ambiguity, are all a reflection of Anumitra’s own personality.

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