12 September, 2014

Long shots and montages

 Ballygunge Place.

 "It was here, right? Wallrush. What was it, 3-4 years?"
 "Yes. They had those film screenings inside. And folks on the pavement, strumming guitars to Shelter from the Storm. 2009. Summer. You were wearing ... let me see ... that white tee with an American eagle in blue in front. If you had worn that today ..."

 "Hah! Haaah! Na, my sis took it with her. That would have been the complete package for you, wouldn't it? Another check, damn you!"
 "Yep. What is life without look-backs in nostalgia. And those checks have all bounced, ne'er fear."


Jamini Roy eyes

  Side-by-side on a worn staircase, bang on the pavement. Shared Goldflake and steaming chai in earthen cups. And faint glimmers of lost college heydays. Trying to relive as much as we could the magic of that first summer - kids just a year out of high school.

  What did we lose on the way, I wonder. Being hammered on the anvil of life for the next 5 years.

  "College life was shitty without you."

 Yes, it could have been otherwise. Amicable, amiable and whatnot. Stayed in touch. But lord, what a story this sundering and sudden kinship makes!

 "Yeah right."
 "Does he read poetry to you? Long distance wooing?"
 "Not really that sort. But that's the best part right -- the one you are with has to be different from ... this." Expressive arm wave, encompassing if it could the rickety wooden bench, the tea-stall, the bamboo-upheld awning. Passing beyond the heat, the shimmers of summers past, the sameness of it all even after all these years.

 "Yes. Absolutely! You get it, right? I would want to be this lone solitary ranger thingy for as long as I can. Keep the juvenalia alive. And maybe... well, you must have a family by then. Well of course, the sole purpose of your family would be to provide a suitably cinematic setting for my story, right?"

  Eye roll. Large, distended eyes. Like a Jamini Roy eye. shojolo-dholo ayoto aankhi. Hah!


Christmas, Bogart and Kill Bill


 "OK - moving on! So naturally I would visit you for Christmas."
 "This is after I have moved to New York. Yes, and you have taken me to meet your friends there."
 "Indeed. That's another one. The wedding next year. Very film noir right, if I am part of the party giving away the bride?"
  "Nah, that's the Hollywood movie part of your lost grails. Very proper old-school Hollywood. Not noir."
 "Unless ... unless I plan a Kill Bill-"
 "Oh shut up!"

 "Anyway! Where were we - me visiting you over Christmas. A sudden visit - a la Agontuk. Naturally, a favourite 'Uncle' to your children. Strange, expensive presents and capering about. Oh, but you shouldn't have. Eto kichu korar ki dorkar ... ki je korish na. Stories galore of distant lands. Aar nijer ki khobor? Oh, I'm the confirmed bachelor boy. A firm handshake and a nod to your man - both honourable men, of course. You get the point?"
 "Hah! Haaah! Go on then!"
 "And then it's time for me to leave. A flurry of goodbyes and handshakes all around. It' snowing outside. Light snowflakes. Christmas lights in the distance. The taxi is waiting at the end of the short walkway."
 "You must be in a longcoat. With the collar up. Make sure you have one."


Long shots and montages


 "Aye aye, sir. And then, Madame, then! - At the very moment you are shutting the door, you hesitate for a fraction of a moment. What if? A nameless, senseless wondering at what that mad life would have been like if you had chosen a different path -"

 "And that moment is the sole thing that gives your life meaning, that gives everything meaning!"

 "Yes! YES! Exactly! But then you look back at the warm yellow light spilling onto the driveway. A welcoming fire by the hearth. Your children (yes, multiple dammit! Go forth and multiply and all that), their father and the real, tangible warmth of humanity. And you know your choices were all the correct ones, that that welcoming fire by the hearth is what a person needs."

  "We then have a long shot, of you walking away.."

  "I turn back once, just as you shut the door to go back to your family. A sliver of gold bands across the face briefly, then is gone. You do not look back."


   Silence. You look up. I am suddenly aware of how much the same you look. And the hush of evening on sun-warmed stones.

   "Cut to the taxi moving away?"
   "No. Maybe the camera on a crane. Pulls away from the scene. The dark figure making its way slowly through the empty driveway."


 Long shots and montages. That's how life should be played back.
  
 

07 August, 2014

Juvenalia or bust

 So we all wanted to live our lives out like in the movies. Or books. Or like one of those existential-crisis kind of plays. With a therapist in the plot. You get the point.

  There's supposed to be high drama, unrequited non-endings, laconic one-liners etc.
   And I'll be damned if I ever grow out of it!


  Somewhere in the middle of trying to live one's life like a book, it is possible that one's life itself becomes a minor detail. It's an endless game of trying to make "Real Life" emulate the final chapter of some book, or a stanza from some poem, or making events such that a movie quote becomes eminently apt. The human factor is mostly incidental.

  And then all that you are left with is really just a bunch of quotes and pop-culture references and snatches of lost sunshine. There's no orchestra giving the OST as a camera pans out. The once-faithful audience has long since moved on to 2BHKs, housewarmings, engagements and other such non-essentials.


 So what do you do? "Grow up"? Try to pick up the threads of a monochrome life. Swallow the regurgitated mire of Everyday. And tell yourself, alright, I can teach myself to live like this. Like everyone else. The dulling opiate of domestication. The lulling comfort of soft arms, soft words and small thoughts. Yes, there is comfort in that for every trudging traveler. The little streams and fields, far from the thunder of the seas.

  Then one day it dawns - this is a lie. This life of pretense-normalcy. There are no strident chords here, no thundering stanzas soulbled into a starry night. Just the comfort of everyday - warmth, smiles and softness. And you shudder to think that one day you might even forget the yearning - the nameless yearning for something just beyond reach. Is this soft happiness worth trading the senseless maddening quest for lost grails and grim voyages?

 Left behind as always are the casualties. Guilt-trips for when you were weak, when resolve relented enough to let the tempting solace of mortals seep into you. Scattered in the wake like one half of a pair of shoes - nothing more senseless. And what reason do I give you then - because your words "forked no lightning"? Because you were quiet, and agreed and smiled and nodded, and offered yourself  with good heart and clear soul? Because the cooing of doves can never for long lull the wanderlust of one who has seen the swoop of hawks. And so they pay the price of my singular madness.

  The voyage for its sake alone! To think young and be naive and drink deep of the wells of those darkling eyes!

26 July, 2014

Homewards


  •  Simon and Garfunkel tracks on. Check.
  • Buying Bengali sweets from the Indian store. Check.
  • Ghore ferar gaan on loop. Check.

   17 days. Internship ends. NYC. Delhi. Calcutta.

   Home.

   It will not be the August of 2014 that I return to. It's the baked pavements of a 2009 summer, blues riffs on guitars by the gutter in the backdrop. Green benches and back-gates. Or late nights near 8B, 2010 maybe. Football in a village field, muddy rules and clear souls. Whiff of "bep"-rolls and the trundle of trams. "Meet me in front of Music World." Before the place got shut down. After-parties and their aftermaths on sun-warmed terraces. Snatches of technicolour in a monochrome past

  Home. To listen for the echoes of voices long gone elsewhere. To try and replay those rained off Test matches once more.

  Home. Of cooked food. And breakfast in bed. Tea, just right. La familia. Old friends and new tales. And of course, "ekta dishi phone hobe?"

  Even though I am visiting somewhere called Home, it's the somewhen that will always tear my eyes into the final gloaming of a westering sun, over the tangle of antennae and jumble of rooftops.

18 July, 2014

On translation

Two decades

A chance meet after a score of years,
Once again, after a decade or two --
By the rustle of rice stalks
In an Autumn wind --
When evening brings the nesting rooks
 In the midst of river reeds and waving grass

 In the hunt for dewdrops by soaring kites
 Swooping gently like the droop of sleeping eyes
 By the windows of the gnarled trees
 Shadows pooling in the eventide
 Crawling in the bracken as in our childhoods lost
 With the mist of two decades entwined
 If, timeless, we were to meet again!


 -- Inexact translation from "Abar bochhor kuri pore", Jibanananda Das.





Snowbird, blue skies

Snow bird in a blue sky
Soon to melt without a trace
Too harsh the honest glare of day
And Summer's fields of parched, cracked clay.

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