21 December, 2014

with a little help from my friends

I traveled to New York last year for Christmas. Spent it with some very old friends. And a schoolboy's cavalier little promise of meeting in the Big Apple came true was made to happen.

Shall be doing the same thing this year. In a country too new to grow roots in already, this seems wonderfully like the beginning of something that could grow into a tradition. And we need tradition to call it home.

But that trip is for next week. For the here and now:

Driving to Cape Cod to catch a sunrise in 4 hours with my roommates. Then a quick peek into Boston. Back home and a short stint at the lab, as planned.

That gives me Monday to get into the groove of things (neural networks are temperamental creatures) with work, do the last minute reshuffling of packed bags. And then the bus to NYC. Sinatra.


The first time I visited that place, it was all the movies and the music and the aura. And a meetup that was also a 5 year promise being kept..
 But this year, it would be the friends. Growing into a tradition swiftly, one hopes. And long, long talks over good food and good cheer. It's strangely reassuring to know that your friends are looking forward as well to this very day, with as much bated breath as you. Maybe I am not as much a Lone Ranger thingy as I project myself to be, on an overdose of Aragorn. After long hours, strange paths, bitter winters, bitter words and bitter endings, after the flotsam and jetsam of my diligently burned bridges leave behind only the sick smell of charred conversations, after the sour turns bitter... who better to cast aside all this and talk and talk till the stars fade and the eastern sky blushes like a desert bride with the ones you grew up with. After all, I do get by with a little help from my friends.


15 November, 2014

On routes, roots and bridges




Fall colours are essential.
 As are yellow leaves (fallen into the sere, haha!) drifting lazily down just outside the window.
 A carpet of gold outside the door, not yet trodden into a sodden mass of mulch.
 Hot coffee on cold nights, when you look up to see the icy fires of the stars pricking the firmament. And naturally Thus Spake Zarathrustra from Space Odyssey has to be playing on cue in the back of the head. Or the Star Trek theme. Somehow.

 A long hiatus from writing on the blog. One would like to say that the interregnum has been productive in tangible forms, thus the lack of need for blogging: for the usual semi-defined ephemerals and self-bolstering diatribes alluded to in here.

 One would be half-truthful of course, like most things in Writing and in Life. Let us merely say that it had its ups and downs, the moments of unmitigated douchieness and blurred boundaries - some bridges burned, others still a little rickety; and the notion - a reminder actually since the halcyon days of yore - that in life, as opposed to songs, the Summers always end.

Maybe I am still getting used to this unaccustomed earth, and instinctively prone to grasping like a drowning mariner at those rare straws - that remind me in another universe of lost rain-drenched Park Streets, the rows and rows of books at Oxford as a child, afternoons spent wandering about the streets of Macondo. And its a precious thing, this memory, and equally so are the handful of persons that can remind me of it amidst the coffee-fueled death marches to looming deadlines and trips to Walmart that doggedly define Real Life in all its (b)anal splendour.

It is so very easy to forget the roots. Why are we doing what we are doing? What made the decidedly arduous journey worth it for each of us - that which fueled us above and over the wicket-fences of safe homes and the reassuring bylanes of familiarity? What balances the columns if we were to total up all the things that we jettisoned - the glad, the sad and all those broken souvenirs kept over the years but now suddenly an addition to the airline baggage limit - over the side on this voyage?

On that note, with maple leaves drifting outside, distant birches murmuring in the morning sunshine, I shall end these words with neither a holler nor a sigh.

--

Postscript
There will come a time when the well will dry. When there would be an end to laboured sonnets recited to bygone evenings, when the pang of crossroads not taken fail to take hold on starry nights. Or stop my Bogartesque posturing at some lovely lady with that certain faraway wistfulness about her - like a echo of some childhood Macondo/Nishchindipur; the joy being purely at mouthing the film-noir lines, the thrill in only those cinematheque moments that give some meaning to existence, the final answer never ever mattering.When one stops yearning for the creative, the elusive and the ephemeral and accepts the world as it is.

There was a time, not too long ago, when this man would never have dreamed that day would come. It hasn't come yet. But it will. An end to the cinematic overtures, which is really a filler for things too difficult to speak out straight. To be spoken only when time, place and person converge in some heady moment of truth. It will happen.

19 October, 2014

Hankering for Edgar Allan Poe


 A sudden desire to re-read Edgar Allan Poe.

 Specifically the Fall of the House of Usher. And another, I think it was called The Red Death.

 I had first read them as a young schoolboy, alone in the winter afternoons at home. The chill in the air contributed to the horror and grimness of the stories. It was a book from the library that my father had chosen for me, and it had those old style full-page illustrations. All very gothic and horrifying in full colour.

 Wanting to read that specific book. Or a print of that very edition. Those are so very rare to come across these days. Modern books look so cheap and are so godawfully expensive! Hah!

11 October, 2014

On summer and other waits


  I think long odds are meant to be beaten.

 That huge distances of separation can be made into magic, so that when meets do happen it is nothing less beautiful or terrible than poetry.

 That "tho much is tak'n much still remains" -- enough for a last attempt at living it the way it should be. That will have the bus-rides and plane tickets, house bills and bickering; but also the sound of Baez on a rainy Saturday morning at home over coffee. Oblique references to Abani at returning home.
  The movies, music and places that weave a different kind of poetry when two people are in that perfect symmetry. Its not the smell of new books, but the mildewed musty welcome from dog-eared yellowed tomes that are old comrades.

 That a wait is so much more when it is worth the wait.

 It is not all a dream. I have seen it in friends, albeit once.

 That if there ever was a time for taking a mad chance, for cauterizing old wounds and taking on glibly the chance of new bruises -- it is this.

  That I have never been more certain not to do again the usual litany of those late nights, sudden fevered touches over wine, Pink Floyd and darkness, messy one-shots and the inevitable knowledge that "this is not it." Which has littered most of my undergrad. It is worth the wait.

 That rhododendron is worth it. And that we both are waiting for summer and a chance.





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.

03 July, 2014

To look back a stranger

 It's bright and sunny, the poolside is awash with tanning beauties and I'm resisting the urge to sneak away for a quick puff. On a whim, I realize many of us as children often dreamed of having a day in our life like this. The Sunday's rest: blue skies, blue waters, deck-chairs, barbeque and sun-tan.



  Reminded of a snatch of conversation that draws me back about three years ago. Too tired and dulled by the sun to trace the thread that connects the present to that time.

 "You know - most of what you do is so that you can talk about it later." T's crazy-eyed gaze, always challenging, always alluring. I knew she was half-crazy, that's why I wanted her.

 Feigned chuckle. "Huh?"

"Yes. Years later, when you're a lonely lonely old man, you would sit like some ridiculous  feudal zamindar and tell the youngsters that whatever they did, you had done before. Writing, poetry, trekking, debate, drama, painting. A bit of everything, but nothing in reality. Ami ekkale shob korechi. Just so that you can do your 'been there, done that' shit. That's your real reason."

 T had a habit of painting pictures with her words. Probably a side-effect of her Murakami obsession and usual  daze.

 It was comforting to cut off that conversation with cheap chilled beer (a delicacy not to be scoffed at in a sweltering Calcutta summer). And blame her madness upon something that came disconcertingly close to the truth.

 

goodnight julia


 Cowboy Bebop is the best anime, and one of the best series, I had been luckily able to watch while growing up.

 The saxophone of Goodnight Julia always brings back a skinny kid watching Animax, dreaming of Orcs, lightsabers and a passage offworld from his personal Tatooine. And of course, the wonderfully bleak dystopia, the mock-western bravado, the Julias that often shape our lives, unwittingly.

21 June, 2014

travelogue

 For a person who has spent most of his life rooted to a single city, traveling anywhere is both wonderful and a bit of an adrenaline-rush.

  The travelogue now stands: Calcutta, Amherst, New York, Boston.

 Attending a conference where you have no publications is a curiously cringeworthy predicament. As a friend at the workplace sagely advises - the solution is simple: get published. The publish or perish credo of academia has never been more prominent.

 Anyhow, one more place to be added to the not-so-very-impressive list thanks to aforementioned conference - Columbus, Ohio. That checks off the mid-West. Phew!

 It's been a year of my PhD. I have counted stars, jogged on acorn-strewn trails, imitated whales (yes) and grumbled about long-distance relationships. Done zero research.

 Today, in 4 hours time, I shall be most pleased to do a Rick rendition. "Of all the gin joints ..."

07 May, 2014

when we counted time in days

 Never realized when we started counting time in years rather than in days. When we counted on weekends to meet, rather than any given day.

 A part of me is apprehensive of returning home. Home, you see, is both somewhere and some-"when." 

19 April, 2014

balance as an aesthete


 There's crisp April sunshine, the happy tiredness after a morning run (get back in shape, you ain't the age to be geriatric!) and calls home to family. It's weird the way it's dark back home now.

 Work: coursework, projects, paperwork, upcoming internship and a research position from next sem. Busy, a bit intimidating, but pretty much exactly what I would like to be doing. A long weekend with Monday included (who said only Bengal has too many public holidays - they should come live in western MA) to power through the pending, and power down enough for  . . .

 Life: watching the sunrise while jogging along a rise, breathless, out of shape, but with the knowledge that I'll get there sometime. The dance of the squirrels in the trees. The first touch of springtime. Dreams of the village of Macondo, now that the last Buendia has left. More than the stories, Marquez reminded me of the time and age that I had first read them.
    And yes, tickets. Tickets for home.

 Trying out long distance just reinforced the fact to me: I can be as into something as the next guy, but only in short intervals. A disproportionate amount of waking hours is "me" time. Which might mean a long hike, a longer book or simply discussing Asimov or Sholokhov with someone over coffee.

12 April, 2014

late night derivations

  I have known so many interesting people,  but in the most fleeting and ephemeral way possible. This never fails to irritate me.

 I dislike the way our phone calls go nowadays, international rates and all. The litany of how are you, i am fine, wish you were here (as an afterthought). And the bitter aftertaste of all the things we do not say.And the guilt we silently pin on the other.
 Walking out through Gate 4, SG and I had finished Eliot's lines for each other. It was evening, the time for reminisces and two-timings and Michelangelo. You heard it all silently, an outsider. And a week later you quote those same lines to me, as if by chance, learned by rote. To try and measure up to her maybe. The earnestness sickened me, but all men need comfort besides the aesthetic. I had tried to imagine that depth in you, in your darkling eyes and midnight tresses strewn over us in the sticky closeness of a tropical July afternoon.

 Three days before I leave. SG, AT and I on a final jaunt in torrential rain. Classics and chai. The timeless friendship that comes from who-knows-where. Bogart quotes, impromptu serenades and all. Everything that adds to the relish of being drenched to the skin and a delirious high on a cocktail of joy, nostalgia and fond partings.
 AT called just as I reach home. "Boss, SG'tar opor chaap holo. Kissu korar nei." And I think suddenly of the time we had graduated high school. AT's shirt had a hammer and sickle drawn on it in red, and the words "byartho prem jindabaad", which translates as "lost causes forever!" How fitting. Now and then. We share a chuckle and half-a-childhood. Of mud-splattered soccer interleaved with random intellectual nonsense in narrow North Calcutta lanes to Bolpur fields. Last of the Bogarts.

--

 Maybe I say these and more (or not at all) standing next to an Upper East Side dumpster, Your menthol and my Marlborough merging.  And then I say the truth, blurting it out like a dollop of phlegm. Words to jar You. Anything to keep Your voice quavering, or Your throat constricting as it swallows, or looking away as Your eyes swim. If You are not happy, then what hope is there for the rest of us?


 I finish writing a series summation using marker on our french windows. It feels good. Teaching machines to dream of electric sheep maybe. Haha. I love it here, despite the sudden ghosts of the past that refuse to be exorcised. Learned like most others to live with that - not much of an effort usually. It could not be better - a heady mix of glad and sad. That's life to the lees. Hooyah!

08 April, 2014

Soma Dreams - Part 2

 Following on from Soma Dreams:Part 1
  A cyber-punk take on a not-too-distant future Calcutta. Thanks to Kazarelth for starting this. After 8 years of various abandoned projects - including games, cut-scene Warcraft style movies, short films etc - we finally managed to finish something!


On fleet wings of terror, K and Dithi cannonball their way through the fleshpots of Charu Market. The flashing images suddenly gaining paramount importance in their headlong flight through vats advertizing a faultless liver or an unbroken heart. Monochrome etchings in burning retinas, limned in the high-contrast gleam of a thunderous high. Charu Market - literally the “flesh pot” - a potpourri of surrogate kidneys, ultra-modded cyberslaves and 12-inch schlongs for those not living in the rarified comfort of Highland Park and its on-demand vat-grown bio-replacements.


K sees Mandelbrot sets in the pattern of neon reflectance on rippled rain-puddles. Tinged with ultramarine streamers and other artifacts spilling over from his personal soma-induced universe into this one.


Dithi ducks into one of the more sinister biomod stalls, directed by some distant intractable clarion call in Dithi-verse. K notices  an intricate pattern of betel-leaf stains standing sentinel by the doorway, slip-sliding in some private significance. Drowned by the terror of the police chase.


Inside, they rest panting against a malformed Durga cyber (the traditional builders at Kumartuli drew the line at making a fleshly likeness of the goddess for the far-ranging tastes of certain residents of South Calcutta highrises). Dithi pukes. K ravenously laps some of it from her quivering lips as a realworld substitute for the soma juice dripping from buxom bosoms in his now-flickering somaverse. Almost time for the next dose. A dose that was not coming.


--


When K had opened the doors with the majesty of a Pharaoh, first thing he noticed were a few ants milling about near his feet. Ants that might have worn the ludicrously crinkled uniform of the local thana. He swept his hand in an imperious gesture of “begone, insignificant wretches!”
 A vicious thrust in his solar plexus with a battle-scarred lathi made him double up in surprise. These ants could bite! And incidentally, also saved him from a spinal fracture and possible lower-body paralysis (unless he did another legal job for the Kudghat hackers and saved up enough for a bodymod).


When K opened the door, A was listening to the Ride of the Valkyries while swinging a broadsword in some berserker Viking battle. Rising with the wrath of a Norse god of old, he and Dithi (no one knew why Dithi joined in as second fiddle) imperiously chucked the refrigerator at the shimmering shapes of the intruders clustered like Gaussian modes near the doorway.


It sailed across the unapologetic dinginess of the middle-class flat, over the huddled shape of K groaning as some vestige of the pain seeped through his soma haze and right into the face of the police raid.


In the searing clarity of heightened reflexes (or the slowing of time, did it matter honestly?) K dived for Dithi and plummeted out of the window (and into the local shitpile) as A thundered some terrible clauses from the Cyberterrorism Act in full judiciary mode at the livid policemen.
--


K realized that for some time he had been chewing on Dithi’s earlobe. Outside, the rain had ceased and he could hear the clamour of the usual metropolis life. They both strained to hear some dissonance, some mild inflection in the soundspace to signal their would-be captors drawing close.
Another day.







07 April, 2014

Conversations

A friend mentioned today that for most conversations we look back at, we think of what else we might have said. How differently or better we might have made it to be.

 And then there are those effortless exchanges, where half-a-word is worth a day-long smile. Conversations where I would not change a single comma.

 Most of life should be a series of such exchanges, in an ideal world. This is a thought of magic unrealism that I shall strive to keep alive.


 Monday morning tomorrow. Au revoir!

31 March, 2014

somewhen

You remind me at times of myself
The crossroads left unexplored
Or the fluttering of kites, slightly damp
Which we soared from a rain-drenched rooftop.

That day I would not worry as I write
To close a bracket or dot an 'i':
You were the gaps between my lines
Each silent toast with those cheapest wines,
The nameless harbour for my questing ship
Twixt grimy nights of tart-filled sleep.

Counting the trails of childhood stars
I sit at times and then realize
It was a time that passed me by
With neither cheer nor a sigh.

20 March, 2014

checklist - spring 2014

Things I have done this spring trip to NYC:

  • Been to an Irish pub on St. Paddy's Day
  • Got lost in Central Park until Google Maps came to my rescue
  • Danced with crazy friends in pjs early in the morning, before even brushing our teeth.
  • The famous New York brunch
  • Visited the MOMA, the Met (again)
  • Posed next to mammoths and tyrannosauri fossils  at the Museum
  • Watched Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on Broadway in Waiting for Godot.
  • Went along as my friend started a queer book club in the city. Something I hope to stay in touch with and drop in as possible.
  • Discussed life, the universe and everything with the old friend
  • Discussed life, the universe (but not poetry, alas) with the Sistren to aforementioned friend
  • Watched old friends get along awesomely with the new one (and shamefully felt a slight pang of jealousy: how easy and quick it is for people to open up and step right into the lives of others!)
  • Survived my friend's intense chemical warfare.
  • Came home drunk as a lord, and then some more



to a windy pavement walk


 You had always been perfect.

 In all those stanzas of dusk and death. And life and laughter, untarnished. In beautiful names and beautiful eyes. In the shrines that I had erected at every crossroads over the years, as a compulsion, a pilgrimage and then finally as a passing nod to crazy old times.

 You had always been perfect.

 you should be happy and happy and smiling and laughing. Always. Set on a pedestal and never touch the ground. Of  strolls around central park with your doting in-laws and family and all smiles and embraces and limousines like they showed in the endings of Hollywood movies from a bygone era.

 Not this.

 You, first shrine of mine, have no right to not be happy. And carefree. And everything that makes the sunshine bring a smile on our faces. No, no right to have moisture glisten on the corner of your eyes, pearly drops welling and weltering. No right to be anything but perpetually glad and caring and living the dream. No right to sneak menthols on the pretext of keeping me company downstairs next to graffitied walls and an impersonal dumpster. No right to look so perfect as you sip at your drink, only it's the fifth for that night. Absolutely no right to break off mid-sentence as the lump intensifies in your throat and I think of stricken swans falling like snowflakes into the russet meres.

27 February, 2014

On translations, again

That day the summer sun scorched like never before
Molten tarmac and asphalt roads
And the faintest sigh of the promise of rain
That's all there is for you.

What else may pass from me to you -
Derelict parades and derailed trams,
Balloon cars, abandoned sidewalks
And the tongue-tied red-and-white
Thronging this hateloved cityscape of mine

Not the smell of mud-flats and paddy fields,
Nor the rustle of rushes on a river bank;
All that elusive grace we lost
In the half-light of a silent dawn,
Seeking still the forgotten rhymes
In diesel-fueled lives and times
The comfort of cloying smog.
In every word by a poet's pen
In every drop of a painter's pain
Every bit of that is there for you!


 The above is a woefully inadequate attempt to translate an iconic song in my mother tongue, often losing its way in words. Tomaae dilam. 'I give to you'.
 
Addendum (much thanks to Little Boxes where my words fell short at the missing stanza):

What else do I have to give,
 But the night sky littered with neons in their tungsten glory, 
 The blinding lights of unnamed eateries 
 And the tallest speck in the highest storey; 
 That's all I give to you.
    

24 February, 2014

slip sliding

 At times it bothers me that most of life seems to have slipped past me while I was too busy trying to hack a trail through some neck of the woods. Who knows where those days whizzed past, when all they seemed were lazy afternoons on the broad sun-baked steps at the corner of Middleton Row and green benches and ATS - hearty welcomes from another adopted home. Street corners and random rehearsals and every other day some production (by some friend or the other) at Gyan Manch (hah, that place).

 Ages back, in 2010, I had written something. That percolated up through another Sunday musing. Written by a kid who had seen his first sunset. Really seen it, not just looked and never looked back. It was that crazy/beautiful time when dreams get broken and paths get made. Realizing that Summers don't last. Taking the dive-bomb after a suspiciously colonial high schooling. Hanging around his old haunts, just crossed the field from the school to the college (not his own, but adopted/adapted like most things).  Tentative ventures to 8B and certain otherwordly views beyond. Mutual friends galore and magic wallrushes.

 And paths look rather uphill at the beginning.



Sipping from a coffee mug at the end of the day,
Thinking of that oft' trodden way to say
That nothing much matters in this clamor and clatter,
And nothing great is handed to you on a platter.

The steps are too many for these fumbling feet -
I'd rather stumble to this my age-worn seat
And as my day wanes with the swiftest sigh
I'll sit and watch the burning ones pass me by.


 It's funny to note now that those steps were all climbed years later. Like most things, it meant carrying some things and casting others over the side. No boat is large enough to take the entire harvest of our flimsy attachments.

 I see younger people uploading pictures on social media (that palantir of our times) -standing on that stage at St. Xavier's auditorium, or the big field. The benches. Later on the jaunts and haunts in and around Park Street. Or JU, that oldtime sanctuary to restless roamers. And I 'like', or pass some wise-ass comment or just smile in the way that men smile when they walk past the school buildings where they grew, the fields where they played, the mud where they slid and fell, the cafes and rooftops where they loved.

 Just a way of shouting out "I was there too, sonny! You all kids probably do not remember, except as a footnote in some past school diary, or in the passing reference to a chap from another college in the conversation of seniors. But I was there! Yes, there! And there! That bend in the path, the break in the fence, the roads paved with your mischief was just so in our day. The places where you grow, you fight, you love and lose and pick up the paltry savings to join in the crazy rigmarole again. They were the same places we dripped our soulblood too."


A last voyage to childhood quests. And forgotten paths West of the Sun, East of the Moon.

20 February, 2014

Snatches of realtime


Gradually feeling drawn more towards concurrent systems as I go about designing one in a course this semester.

Maybe at heart I always was an engineer. All this machine learning and vision was just "mathematical masturbation." And too much of Asimov and Neuromancer while growing up.

 Maybe I became an engineer because as a kid I thought most women would be like that chick Ayn Rand. Misleading witch! :P

 In other news, a friend of mine got bitten by a bat while coding. Promptly updates his cover picture with the Bat-signal.  Who says there's only one way to skin a cat ...erm...bat? Current theories at Ithaca, NY vary between being a vampire (which entitles him to three ravishing undead wives) and Batman (which entitles him to an English butler). The balance is tilted slightly in favour of the latter currently.

 I hate slush, but enjoyed paintball at -18 Celsius more that any self-respecting PhD student should.

 Also two hours of trying to skate on ice. Trying to. Let us leave it at that. During which time my charming undergrad students from last semester made it a point for courtesy calls.

 In the hindsight of just over six months, I could not be gladder that I moved to Amherst. Having spent an entire lifetime behind the wicket-fences of safe homes, the first glimpse of the great outdoors needed to happen - sooner the better. The parallels to leaving behind the Hobbit-hole in the Shire is not lost on me and never fails to cause a smile.

 This is a place where breakfast is made, doesn't materialize. Garbage needs to be thrown out, food bought and requires pointed discussions regarding who is doing the dishes. A Google calendar is a necessity to keep track of research group meetings, TA hours, discussions blah blah.

 This is also the place where one does as one pleases, with the true freedom of reaping consequences - the glad and the sad. Where one stops writing of dreams but starts living most of them.

 There is some amount of homesickness, yes, but far lesser than what one might have expected from me - a person who had never even lived on campus during college, who had lived and loved in one city throughout his life.

 Then again, did I ever belong in either place? Always seem to recall a constant seeking, a search for some undefined significance. That was always a grey area. A friend once mentioned in jest, the only place I might truly be peaceful would be early 20th century Britain with a house in the country, when Test cricket was the only cricket, a spot of high tea, walking the dog in the morning, and a wee bit of roistering over the weekends, there's a good chap! 

 It was possibly the passing reference to Ithaca that made me re-read Cavafy's poem Ithaka. As ever, it finds resonance in most people who make a journey - either from country to country, or door to door, or hearth to heart. Or that most important journey of all: there and back again.

    "Do not hurry the journey at all . . ." 

16 February, 2014

hindsight

And that's why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

-Pablo Neruda, End of the World (Wind)

 In hindsight, maybe my true musings began from 2007. Before that the attempts were acutely embarrassing. They are still embarrassing now, but the acuity is thankfully lost. Mostly in an obtuse way. 

 There was a time, oh years ago, when every other post was to some Muse. And what Muses they were! Fish-eyes, blue-eyes and other beautiful names. Most of them faded away with the jaded flotsam of yesteryears. 

 A faint chance of a new muse. I wonder . . . 


 On a different note, reading Sunil Ganguly's poetry after a while. Some subliminal trigger no doubt. 

09 February, 2014

lost causes and Sundays


 Listening to old IPTA song's sung by Debabrata Biswas. Songs I grew up listening to, songs my mother grew up listening to as well. Songs of that bygone era before my birth - the Calcutta of black and white films, people's movements, distinctly Red theatre, curfew, communes, brigade rallies and all that jazz. Giving in to wannabe-leftist fancies fueled by music, literature and Ritwick Ghatak films. The old words on schoolboy lips - mouthed without meaning.

 With the faint whine of the 78 rpm, later the squeaky wavering of spooled tape and cassettes. It would usually be the Sunday mornings. Or if it was a day off. Or the omnipresent lockouts in the 90s. There would be something fancy coming out of the kitchen those times. And reminisces.

 Songs in my mother tongue, songs embedded in the backbone of bricks and mortar of my now-distant city, in moldering LP records and cassettes displaced by iPods and glitzy malls.

 To watch an art film at Nandan 2.

 To go thereafter, rambling, to the Academy of Fine Arts next door.

 A cautious sip at scalding tea at the entrance. The throng of scruffy intellectuals, starving thespians, penniless painters, limbless beggars and their ilk. The smell of cigarettes and dialectics in the afternoon air that rolls unhurriedly towards a metropolitan dusk. Placards and bill-boards of plays with titles like "the People's voice", "Dispossessed", "Bhasha", "Shoshon" etc etc. Generally in red-and-white.

 These are folks for whom that 78 rpm is still playing. Somewhere. On a turntable of eternity.

 And then maybe, if you so wish, a walk inside the gallery. I take care not to mention to you that I was enrolled here as a child, that once a few forgotten things on that wall had borne my name; nah - too much posturing. An offer for a quick light up your smoke, yes? At your service.

 The movie was good you say, and I grin. Apparently I can stay silent during a film - a quality prized by you. Quietly ecstatic. Might it mean more such evenings?

 With a silent joy, almost brimming over, as we walk down the gallery. The paintings are the usual riot of form and color, death, decay, starvation and sensuality. The sudden things we both stop and stare at. The stark, the grey and the reds. We stop before the same motifs, unerringly. Or maybe it's just the fondness of my myopic hindsight.

 And then it's over. Just another day in the clutter of lost evenings, jumbled words and tumbled lights of cityscapes at eventide.

 This was the last of those evenings. A last salute at too many missed crossroads over the long years. Hoarded. For who knows what? For a bit of cold comfort mayhaps on snowy days, that that day for me was a gasp of fresh air. A respite maybe from the usual, the domesticated, the utterly (and thus horrifyingly) homely. For you just a day out with a persistent kid.

 For once, just once, a day that merged seamlessly with the endless rotation of that 78 rpm, somewhere. Still turning. But now voiceless.

10 January, 2014

The real Blues

... Ordinary. The kind of beautiful, dangerous ordinary that you just can't leave alone.
Jet Black: I see.
Faye Valentine: Like an angel from the underworld. Or a devil from Paradise.


  That's from one of the few anime series' I really got caught up with in younger days. Cowboy Bebop. Made in the 90s. There's a saxophone part there that makes a gulp and a swallow necessary. Always.


 There's posters of a Van Gogh "Starry night" and a Monet sunrise giving an impression of artsyness to my room. (See what I did there?). Along with Dali, Abbey Road, a pipe and other bric-a-brac that I cannot live without.





 Read Camus' The Outsider. Re-read Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Having recently made a trip to NYC, the last book read even better - being able to actually visualize the exact locations.

 One must talk then of matters most vague. That throng and thrive in shadows and dust. In strange mystic patterns left by the afterimages of a setting sun in the sudden fall of a New England dusk. In the lilting phrases of icy rivulets frozen in the winter chill. In the brittle reserve and delicate pauses before a crackling stomp-stomp through fresh snow.

 Also, in those moments of sudden nothingness. Peering into the yellow warmth of a coffee shop. Or the welcoming hearths of homesteads, undaunted by the cold, the damp and the lonesome snowscape of Amherst.

 Those sudden moments that threaten to tear off the topsails of the staid argosy of a settled life. To trim it down to a racing yatch maybe, getting rid of the what-ifs and the but-thens. Prows forever pointed to those uncharted waters of childhood yore - East of the Sun, West of the Moon.  The Never-Neverland where might-have-beens meet the hapless brunt of if-onlys.

 Patterns of regulated breathing given to sudden gasps. Of the tip-toe of fingers tracing the gentle curve of a collarbone, down to the depths of a sunless sea. Of darkling eyes and lights streaking down the EM Byepass. Patterns in the sand of sleep, and in the bark of trees later lost for widened highways and turnpike thoughts. Of sipping cautiously at tea in an earthen cup - on Southern Avenue? Or Park Street? Or Highland Park? Any of those shop-soiled Queen Janes. Approximately.

 



 Sehnsucht (n.) "the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what"; a yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one's home.

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