28 December, 2013

Of old friends and new york and gobor

 It was a decade. In a 24 year existence, that is an eternity.

  This blog has borne testament to a lot of briny outpourings. Without any such overtures, let us say this: a perfect moment.

 What happened?

 Three old friends from the heady days of middle school had a reunion in the City that never sleeps. Of the perfect hosts, the crazy friend (and crazier 'sistren'), a caring touch and morning questions of "eijo, onek gobor kore ele?" Of mixing up the Bengali word for balls and grandmom ("tomar thammae emon lathhi marbo na"). Of a sumptuous Christmas dinner and Sinatra tracks. Oh yes, it was legendary. To be a part once more of their lives and loves, the comings and goings, the opening of eyes to a world so vast and so varied and yet people so heart-wrenchingly the same as in our childhood idyll . . .

 All that I hoped for came to pass in this my "quest" into the West.

 And the other thing? Of certain past allusions to a certain temple? Ah, yes.

 I do not know how to write anymore. How to convey the sense of completion. Of having finally laid certain ghosts to rest that have dogged my written word ever since I first laid eyes on that amazing grace. Maybe this was the final step in outgrowing the boy and becoming the man. Or rather, of writing of dreams and instead now living them.

 When you are in a distant land, to care and be cared for is something like a safe haven - that very knowledge is like a harbour to which you can return. A sense that you are not really alone. The life of a researcher, as anyone would say without an ounce of hyperbole, is to be married to that work. Honestly. It demands a certain splendid solitude, a certain detachment from the regular and an attachment to the cerebral.
 The reassurance of human contact, in my humble opinion, is part of the price for this bargain. That necessary condition of solitude is made unbelievably bearable knowing this: you are cared for. As friends, bordering on a family which I, a single child, never had.

26 October, 2013


Fragment from a conversation between people longing for that Never-neverland.

"It is not funny."

"no its not. we laugh to make it less so"

"Come back. Cha khabo."

"with half a shared fag"

"in a rain-drenched mud-splattered roadside
with ppl in lungis traipsing about in the rain
and the smell of mughlai in the air"

"Park Circus.

14 September, 2013

Unaccustomed earth, Siberian husky and others

 I petted a Siberian husky the other day. Named Lizzie. Glacial blue eyes and a coat that reminded me of Jack London's White Fang. I told her owner as much, leaning in through a car window to scratch Lizzie and a labrador (Beth) behind the ears.

 She responds with their names and that yes, Lizzie is really pretty. I walk on, trudging off home from the Computer Science building. Then it struck me: knew her dogs' names but not her's. Haha. Typical.

 There is a campus pond which I frequent. Especially on the weekend afternoons. The path that leads away from it slopes up to an old chapel, a flagstoned square and the imposing Du Bois library. At that time, when I make sure to walk up it, the "sun shines down like honey." Sometimes a friend would come along, when we would talk of Calcutta, life, the universe and everything in between.

 I am gradually liking this country, this home so far away from home. And at every other step, a small part of me finds everything poignant, somehow remarkable, something to be noted with more than a passing casual howdy.

 At times, on an overdose of nostalgia (generally due to others hailing from my state), I can be found reciting Tagore or Shokti into the eventide. At other times its Dylan Thomas sonorously disturbing the carpeted somnolence of my sometimes-empty apartment.

 This is where I wanted to be. This. Not the specific coordinates really, but in general. In the US of A. Getting a PhD that lends a stamp of legitimacy to the childhood habit of tinkering with technology. After close to half a decade of working towards it.

  The motives? Quite a motley bunch, I dare say. A remnant of a cavalier promise made to old, old friends in the heady days of high school - those days when the world really is your oyster (or so you think). Some part a desire maybe to seek, to strive and not to yield. 
   Later on, much later, the reasons that should have been - work, academia, the vast scope of research, the places where the frontiers of computer science are being constantly expanded. But doesn't that sound so trite, so grown-up, so ... so out-of-place? Here in this mausoleum of mad mumbles and muttered musings. So perhaps I came here simply because I could.

 Amherst has a Robert Frost trail and an Emily Dickinson House. The local bar has a poster of Brando as Vito Corleone (and a delectable barmaid - boots, cowboy hat, blonde tresses, the package!). Amherst Cinema was having a Scorcese festival. Yes, this is a place I could be. Once one can get over the sheer emptiness of it, after hailing from a city of teeming 5 millions.

 I take long rambling walks, wrapped up in either thoughts of research or of songs. Two others from Bengal and I do get together at times and talk. Then there are parties, at times, where I try curious mixes and forget for a while those that don't walk beside me as I head home. Mostly at a steady pace.

16 July, 2013

"Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue"

- Bob Dylan

25 June, 2013

Eto chaap kisher?


 Why are the things that don't really matter - whether they stay or leave or simply fade away - the easiest to be had?

 And the stuff that really matters, the ones you would like to put into long walks through lamplit streets, musings at art galleries after movies that make you think, or even the frenzied rhyme-less stanzas that bear witness to the ill-fated literary urges. These are the ones destined to be out of reach.

 Lost causes. Always. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. ar parchi na guru!

27 May, 2013

of daybreak and other lies

Let us chase the false dawn then
Until we stumble upon the true
Of daybreak and other lies
Until the darkness claims its due.

Like a bespectacled Bohemian Rhapsody
Shop-soiled snatches at a half-paid commodity
Or those deflowered Queen Janes, approximately
My dusk-time devotions in ceaseless parody.

Daubing those evenings in stolen paint
And borrowed lines from long ago
Fleeting glimpses on swift dezires
And hurried chai-breaks on the go.

That urge still to make shrines of bygones,
Straining for the echoes of voices now still;
The tasteless dregs of scattered letters
And pencil stubs on a littered window-sill.

20 April, 2013

revisited evenings and the balmy summers of my land

 Re-reading and re-tracing my steps.

 If someone were to ask, which country do I come from, I'd prefer rather to answer the query in spirit. Morphing it to the more archaic (hence much loved) "which land do I hail from"?

 And the answer would be Bengal.

 Not just the cityscapes and tenements where I've grown. Not entirely.

 Not always mentioned in this place, because 'city-slicker' has pervaded every pore of my being with the cloying clinginess of diesel fumes and burger joints. No, the childhood retreats to the heartland of my land - my state. I never really visited too many places long enough to bond with the rest of my country honestly. My Hindi remains of Lal Mohan babu standard.

 Chasing wild goats (ahem, yes!) around shantiniketan, the shady copses and invariant power-failures at evening fall. Always accompanied by the older members taking up the chorus of "ei amader shantiniketan" until the generator sputtered to life, and then coughed and died. The usual. Fishing attempts at the lal baand. and visits to gravel-surrounded houses that later always reminded me of Rivendell more that anything. The Last or the First Homely House.

 Other places still, in those years when the only thing red about the land was the soil. And the thorns and the tall sal gaach. Playing around with the caretaker's kids. The fascination at people mixing chuun (dried whitewash) with the water in the well. My first attempts at plotting routes as a 10-year-old. Armed with magnetic compass, hand-drawn maps (labeled in block) and a wide-brimmed toupee (The quintessential bangali 'sholar toupee' haha!) in the scorching heat of a summer noon. When the shadow pools around your feet like a prostrate supplicant.

 Train rides in and around graam bangla, the pastoral life of my people. The wide swathes of green fields and the rich black clay that sticks to everything. Bamboo groves which necessarily must be populated by the King of Ghosts. Reddish eutrophication on ponds. The old folk gathered below the banyan tree, sagely chewing the cud on the Wisdom of Ages. And cattle-dung fires, reedy voices of the Bauls raised in their songs of the earth and soul, the stacks and stacks of golden paddy that always make me recite Tagore's Shonar tori in my head.

 On other years, at other vacations it would be the mountains. Very seldom the usual colonial hill-stations and resorts. Oh no, it would be clambering over rocks and by narrow gurgling ice-fed streams, with the rhododendron (whose plural, we were told, straightfacedly, is "rhodendrodon-drodon") and sentinel pines casting aloft their mighty crowns in challenge to the ever-mightier snow-caps. The almost invisible tracks that the seasoned greybeards would point out condescendingly to us greenhorns. And I would think of Jack London and the gold-diggers in the Yukon and yelling 'Mush' to a pack of sled-dogs while hunkering down gratefully into an old sleeping bag in those nights.

   The fleeting terrors of a bucket of ice in the loo, when the traditional bangali babu is expecting to get a mug-full of water. The solemn joys of looking up at a nighttime sky in the mountains. At first its all black. Then slowly the icy fires of the stars start pricking that inky blackness, until the heavens are awash with sparks. The Star Trek theme, or Thus Spake Zarathrustra (Also Spracht....) had necessarily got to be playing somewhere, somehow.

 Then of course the city. The hateloved city.

18 April, 2013

pass 'em by

 What if I told you, all I ever wanted to do was retire?


09 March, 2013

left in peace. with the remnants of my hair and sanity. uff. jotoshhob!

01 March, 2013


 It was supposed to be the last "hooyah" for the two of us, old school buddies. The last time we share the stage. A welcome addition was the Li'l Kid as moderator. Old times, old smiles, older jibes.

 We won. met those never-changing chaps in that campus that was not really ours, but pretty much a second home during a certain time of our lives.

 The younglings. Those friends we meet all of a sudden but always joyfully. All glee and high spirit. Then the finish, switching off the lights, the folks drifting in threes and fours to 8B. The walk back to the food! With ghosts from years past walking side by side. From high school madness to the sudden fancies that overtake you when you near the end of the collegiate "old chap" thingy. the way old men look at the places they lived, the schools where they studied, the benches they sat upon. The stones they left unturned. The words they left unsaid.

 It was well worth it. This our last foray into that old, old adopted Neverland of ours.

 On other notes, there is a sense of solemn satisfaction. Not the gleeful ecstasy that I might have expected. A funded university admit was something I had spent the better part of the last 4 years working towards. Oh yes, I did wish for it with every other waking breath.

Wishes are like dishes. They need doing.

 A few days ago that came to pass. The paperwork, the overly-polite la di dahs all remain, but the crux of it is this - every evening spent in a lab alone while friends made merry on Park Street, every line of code and reports hammered out in exchange for a so-called 'having a life', every sardine-packed bus-ride across the heart of my thrice beloved city chasing a dream too distant to even mutter out loud; every stone left unturned, every cross-roads never explored  . . . all of it added up to something. somewhere. at long last.

 Yeah, its not a victory march. I am not jumping for joy. Those spontaneous things seem befitting, but something, some vitality, is lost. Maybe that is the price one pays for getting wishes. You get them, and there is no joy. There is however a sense of achievement, however small and personal. And a sense of duty.

 That is enough.


25 January, 2013


let us talk then of things.

 for people touch us too close, and ideas are for the godlike.

  Waiting for mundane things like university admits and other demon gods that shape our lives. pretty much the usual.

 I hope the 27th releases me from a lot of things.

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