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?


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