|Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets|
|And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes|
|Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…|
|I should have been a pair of ragged claws|
|Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.|
I will be heading back in four days.
It is always either too long or too short, both for days and for words.
Predictably (and hopefully) I will write of the last couple of weeks in short bursts.
Like an exile in my own house, I look around. Almost like old men that stare just a bit longer than needed at the schools they attended, the streets they ran down, the cafes where they met and loved and lost.
I realize that I am searching more for a time that was Calcutta, than a place.
In the glaring embers of a smog-filled sunset, the soaring malls and their soaring prices, in the unchanging cups of roadside chai at Jadubabu's Bazaar.
I am also glad that I earn in dollars and not in rupees. Growing up middle-class in this city of suddenly-discovered consumerism would have been disgusting. I neither miss, nor glamourise, poverty. There is nothing noble -- at least not in the first person -- at having to save up for months to buy a first-hand book or a non-pirated DVD or make phony excuses to avoid watching movies in multiplexes with college buddies. Second hand ad infinitum ad nauseum sometimes kills little by little whatever in us was native and noble and nothing if not first grade.
There was a birth and a death, both of which I was lucky to see. Friends and family.
There was a meet with a young and melancholy muse (exquisite!), a grim-faced ex and some remnants of the old guard and the new.
There was also poetry, old time bloggers and the realization that poetry alone is not enough for a life, although it is more than enough for magic.
But the times I connected most with the city of my birth and growth was when I walked the forever-dusty streets alone. Away from the glaring shopfronts with their blaring patrons, the noveau rich and their hipster affectations. Away from the tea and biscuits with reconnected friends and family.
That is not how I had lived in this hateloved city.
I lived those years walking alone on the streets. From bookstore to tea stall to lab to campus to home. With my dreams and simmering rage for ragtag company: a grief for footsteps that were not there in tandem with mine, rage for roads not taken, rage and fire to drive away the grey, the smog, the slime and the grime.
And that is how I shall remember my city, whether I wish it or not.
The company of lost ships and lost souls and the audacity to dream in a grey-grim sidewalk without a name.
Sometimes, when the truth stares at me like the dregs from a drained mug, I cease to wonder why I walk away from things. I have spent so long without, it feels a chore to be with anyone or anything.