YOURS LOVINGLY.

I can’t usher you in the way Smriti Irani did in “kyuki sas bhi kabhi bahu thi” but without much shilly-shally I’ll sail you to the memories of my home.

Thoroughly fatigued I used to plod home after an entire day of hustle and bustle. My grandmother would be eagerly waiting for me outside the house just to unload the humungous school bag that crooked my back. There was and is always a relief while approaching home, knowing that I’m done for the day is overwhelmingly blissful. Handing over the bag to dida, I would open my shoes and put inside the wooden shoe closet near the front door lest my mother should keep tantalizing me for not doing such petty things by myself. And I would shout “ma, ami eshe gechi” and the walls would smile back at me the way ma did. My dida would tell me not to go around jumping and dancing rather settle down to at least drink some water. And I would make her sit down on the sofa instead and put on Vh1. “I came in like a wrecking ball..” and as I sang along  Miley Cyrus all my fatigue vanished. Yes I was home, my ma would shout that “yeah wrecking ball reduce the volume, please”.

The feeling of being home in unparallel. It is weird how an alien arbitrary space becomes home with our humane touch and love. When we buy a home, we are in effect stuffing a space devoid of meaning with an enormous amount of ourselves. But eventually a space becomes home only when we start living in it, when it becomes a natural niche in which our life curls up and sighs. Ours’ is a not so huge congenial ground-floor apartment with a small garden attached along with a huge bird’s house outside the left end of the apartment. According to me the very concept of home develops in our mind when we are asked at school where we come from and made to write essays on “Your Home”. Yet today once again I sate to compose an article on my home but not just a physically existing one rather the one which is vividly etched in my mind through the memories of time.

Those walls and closets have changed over time but what has remained are those reverberating memories of me and my sister playing around those hot summer afternoons and eating fruits cut by my dida in the veranda. I remember ruining the blue paint of the house as I would write A for apple and B for Ball and all other things that randomly made me creative. I was so keen was writing and drawing on the walls that my parents bought me a black board hung beside my rack of books. Sometimes those mosaic floors made me so inquisitive that I would ask my parents how did they make those abrupt black shapes on the yellow stone. My home has heard those loudest laughter and deafening cries of mine. From celebrating my birthdays with home flooded with guests till my experience of falling down from the revolving chair while driving it around the house. It is so difficult to pen down those thousands of memories acquired in almost two decades that I’ve lived there.

I know how my home had wept the day when we vacated it yet just for sometime but somewhere there is a vacancy in our hearts that echoes with the yearning to be there. It is not about those plaster, or cement and the bricks it’s about how the image of one’s home flashes in their mind when we think about it. We find refuge in those lifeless walls and furniture even when we are having a bad day.

“The home may no longer be the womb where we came from, but as a nest that we build for a reason, for a length of time, it still feels like home.”

 

 

EVANESCED YET IMMORTAL

Going home during vacations is the most awaited thing for any outstation student. I had a really busy time this vacation, from meeting up people whom I haven’t seen since class 10th boards to visiting those relatives who keep blabbering “koto boro hoyegchish” (you have grown up so much) since a decade. So there I was scurrying down from one lane to the other, from one door to the other. I could hardly stay at my home.

Day before my return I had some major plans with my old school friends and so I waged a war to clean my cupboard to find some clothes for the occasion. Throwing out clothes I haven’t even wore once and clothes which doesn’t go with the trend. While critically analyzing and filtering the need of my existing clothes I found one KC DAS (it doesn’t just sell roshogolla, it sells garments in WB too: just saying) packet with a shirt and a classmate notebook inside it. I drew out the shirt and it happened to be my school uniform filled with beautiful, faded writings of my old buddies all over it. All those laughing and smiling emoticons brimming with emotions teleported me to the last day of my 10th. My uniform is not just stitched out of simple thread rather embellished with the thread of memories and emotions of 12 years. I noticed how the blue colour had faded away along with the writings on it, but it had the power to take me back to my past and leave me with a heavy overdose of nostalgia. Maybe uniforms are major hatred of many students; for me it’s an asset. My blue and grey uniform coupled with a dark navy blue belt and tie. Yet a weird colour combination!! When we were in school we used to hate our uniforms being so weird but after passing out from school this colour combination is deeply buried in our hearts. It wasn’t even long when we would not polish our shoes to attend prayers and clean them up by rubbing it against our non-elastic socks. Often I would find few pals rolling up their socks with a rubber band to get away with the punishment given by the prefects. And those PT days wearing a white uniform colour co-ordinated with the colour of our house were so funny at times; apart from physical training we did everything else. Remember those days when whitening our ked shoes with calk was our patent life hack! The most awaited time of the year would be winter, putting on those elegant blazers made us look smarter and better.

I peeped inside the plastic bag if something more was there, and I caught hold of my tie with my three badges on it – house captain, prefect, school badge; almost rusty as a bare construction rod. But the engraved designations still felt the same way when I had received them. In order to keep pace with time we leave out these littlest things – trivial yet of immense importance. The dye of my uniform maybe mundane but the fervour and emotions attached to it are unprecedented. “And there was a day after which we never wore our uniforms again” but the ardent feeling of being the student of my alma mater lingers on my mind and through this piece I’ve immortalized the same.

THE CITY OF IMMORTAL EXUBERENCE – K O L K A T A

In the constant battle between the cosmopolitan cities to prove who is more elite and advanced, the meaning of living is shredded into survival. While it is the survival of the fittest in most of the modernized cities, Kolkata is the most leisurely and slowed paced city. Time passes in the city with the cadence of tranquilizing Bengali songs, debates over a cup of gorom cha (hot tea), most of the college days are spent sitting by the river ghats indulging in those ceaseless adda. In order to know Kolkata, you have to understand a Bengali and their insurmountable sentiments and pride of being who they are. It is the city which has retained the courage to breathe and live free, where we step up to enjoy every trifle moment by sharing mishti(sweets) and celebrate all kind of festivals that comes on our way. Baro mashe tero parbon- For bongs in 12 months we have more than 13 festivals to celebrate. . Kolkata is a daily celebration of human existence. If Bangalore can be called as the New york of India then Kolkata is undoubtedly London. A tour to Kolkata is an easy entry to past. Modernity and antiquity goes hand in hand in this beautiful city of joy.

A city full of life; where anyone is barely in a hurry, where time doesn’t interfere with the daily chores. Who doesn’t remember about the golden era?! Kolkata resembles some of it. People resort to composing music or humming songs, matching steps to the music, wielding a pen to display the skill of poetry, cheering mohon bagan (football team),  eating endlessly without giving a damn to their bill. It is the only place where it is completely okay to stop a stranger to hatch a conversation. Kolkata is not a city it is a family that just doesn’t unite Bengalis, it bonds with whoever walks into this place. Being away from home makes me realize how much that place means to me. If I close my eyes I would find myself sitting near the widow seat of a tram and looking out at the streets and the shops that passes by. From depot no.1 how this electric giant slowly travels through the heart of the city connecting all the busy destinations. I remember those last days of school when we would run behind a tram and catch it hastily without seeing its’ number and ask the conductor “kaku panch nombor toh?”(its’ number 5 right?). The essence of my city never fades in my mind. All those by-lanes which nobody succeeds to remember, those boulevard, tea stalls and shabby snacks shops whose aloo r chop would be etched in your heart and stick to your taste buds forever. There’s a subtle difference in partying and celebrating. While the rest of the world parties, we celebrate our joy. We need reasons to celebrate be it durga pujo or IPL or a mere communal elections. Kolkata is such a city that grows on you. It has countless stories hidden in its darkness, stories that nobody wants to admit they believe but which nevertheless survive in the memory of generations as the only chronicle of the past. A city which has a lot to explore, so much to unveil. Even after the years of poriborton(change) the city is just the way it was 40 years back with the enthralling essence and euphoria. “Kolkata is like an ex-girl-friend who you know is bad for you, but about whom you can’t stop thinking. But then just as you think you are finally over her, she does something so utterly alluring, so impossibly irresistible that you find yourself falling in love again.”

For an outsider Kolkata is a place of incessant riots, contempt of commerce, fiery response of the smallest provocation, over-population, cheerful chaos. Competing with a city like Kolkata is difficult be it population or culture. It is an archaic city. A city that has the country’s busiest railway station, the only cantilever bridge, largest public library, oldest polo club in the world, the third largest cricket stadium in the world, the second oldest cricket club, world’s second largest hand book market, second largest planetarium in the world, Kolkata book fair is considered as the world’s largest conglomeration of books. Kolkata doesn’t houses monuments and places but it has given birth to brilliant scholars and laureates. Yes I’m proud to be a kolkatan because Kolkata isn’t a place for everyone. “You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal, go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta.” When I miss home I don’t miss Victoria memorial or the national library, I miss my people, my language because a city is beyond cement and mortars, street lights, tarred roads and infinity buildings. It’s been more than a year in Bengaluru, while travelling in bus I often tend to forget where I’m, in the crowd of people my ears want to hear “dekhi ticket dekhi” or  for someone who might be from Kolkata just like me, miles away from home. While trying to find a kolkatan I have found a reflection of kolkata in this city. At the end of the day it’s BENGAL-URU and I’ve got the best of both worlds.

“Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.” – Mother Teresa

 

 

PAPER BOAT

As a child I made a  paper boat,

And set its’ sail into the waterlogged streets

Few hurdles crossed and got stuck in few

And for every time it stopped sailing,

My impatient eyes looked for passersby to rescue my boat

To set its’ sail all over again.

And there I sprawled down on the floor tearing away pages from my Di’s text books. With tiny hands I was struggling hard to duplicate a paper boat as the one made by my Di. Horribly failing every time but no I don’t give up. Tattered sail and a battered base didn’t quite give those papers a look of a paper boat.

It was raining since 2 days then, the huge playground perfectly transformed into a pond looked beautiful when the wind brushed against the water. There was nothing that could separate the field from the streets that connected our houses. But every time it poured more than before my enthusiasm to build a boat grew stronger. Twisting and turning the edges right how it should be…….. finally a break through. After crafting it I went up to ma with a glee. While showing  her my masterpiece I asked her “now I know why it takes them years to construct real ships”. She smiled at me and wrote my name on it with a beautiful font – ‘DEBLINA’. Handing it over to me she said “go my little captain, set your boat to sail before it starts raining all over again”. I kept looking at it colliding with other boats made by my neighboring kids and I would shout to the other kid from my verandah “tell your boat to get out of my boat’s way”. And soon it went out of sight, I didn’t realize then that it would just be destroyed soon once it headed towards the main streets of Kolkata. Ma would understand my feelings and console me by telling “don’t worry we’ll ask our neighbor uncle to find out whether it was still sailing or not when he goes to get the grocery”. With a huge smile I would finally sit back to learn how to add and substract. How happy I was that day, excited to call up baba at his workplace and tell him about my creation.

A decade and more has flown by. And today I was sitting by the window gazing at the rain-washed sky being invaded by the dark clouds again. A cup of hot coffee and a notebook on my lap, reminding me of my first masterpiece. Hearing my ma humming “abar eseche ashar akash che, ashe brishti r o subash batash…”  I asked her “ma akbar ashbe?” She came into my room with the sugar container and a spoon guessing my coffee lacked it. In a lowly tone I asked her ma “is my paper boat still sailing?”

“Yes it is, in the streams of your memory” said ma.

I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.

Arthur Ashe
 

 

She.

I was the noisiest baby in the whole nursing home. Nothing was so impressive about me. I was a perfect example of an under nutrition baby with bushy black hair making me look like a weirdo.

Vision unclear, people flocking in and out the house most of the time, feeding me even when I didn’t feel like (bengali parents and relatives I tell you). The best way to express that I was annoyed with them was to poop or pee on them. Apart from my mom and dad, the best way someone could handle me was my granny.  She was the happiest person on receiving me. While growing up I came to know how my granny was before my birth. She was one of those people who believed that a girl child was a bane to the family and a boy child was supposedly the boon. They say there was something in me that had changed her.

Most of my childhood has been spent with my granny rather than my parents. While they were busy building their career and a better future for us, I spent my days in playing around with my granny. She and my mother are the most beautiful woman my eyes have ever laid upon. I might fail to portray a distinct picture of her. With a height of 5’2-5’3, always draped in white saree with a thin border with intricate designs perfectly wore as the ath-poure sari, short silky white hair, always carrying an air of superiority and authority, abnormally dynamic than any other  person of an age of 79, an up-to-date lady of the 21st century. As time passed she became my tiny world. I can still feel her soft fair and wrinkly hands caressing me. Being the smallest member of the family, her most attention was always drawn towards me. Being physically very weak I was taken extra care of, fed all sorts of ghee and butter to give me “mass”. She is the only one person because of whom my tantrums and demands have always been put up with. None of my demands were ever turned down since i was her favorite.

I remember how she used to unwind the tangles of my hair and oil it with an incredible hair massage that no parlor can offer. Eating was the toughest and the most hateful thing for me. She would make me go around the house and make me sit on the higher windows from where i could see the crows perching on the mango trees. She would make balls of rice and tell me the exact numbers i had to eat or else the crow would have it. I used to tell her “ dida, why don’t you feed them instead….poor little things”. She found weird ways to convince me to eat. To my amazement i used to land up wasting just as little as was possible.  I was a really pain in ass child. Too hard to be punished for my mischief.  For all the time dad or mom would be furious and I could just sense it, I would cleverly turn my direction towards dida’s room and budge inside it and run to her and hid myself behind her. Yes obviously I won every time but I would always end up sobbing and she would gently sit down, lift my face and with the edge of her soft saree she would wipe away my tears and fill my hands with toffees. Those old days when i used to play with her cho a chu e, cards, puzzles, hide and seek, kana machi. We would also play teacher teacher, she would be the best student of mine among all my other relatives. She would excel in all the sums of addition and substraction.

During summer , frequent power cuts  in Kolkata annoyed everyone. My granny would stay up and fan me with hand fans as long the lights didn’t come back. She would give me everything that she so profoundly loved.  And all those winter time she would make delicious achar & aam shotto. The taste still lingers in my mouth. Her special spicy pata chingri was everyone’s favorite. Sometimes when I go back home I can still smell the fragrance of the powder and soap she used to apply. She used to sing subho jonmodin- happy birthday on all my birthdays as soon as I woke up. I would find her  standing at the head of the bed with a bowl full of payesh(payasam) and pack some for my friends too.

When i close my eyes i can re-live every single moment spent with her, starting from how to light a matchstick to how to write Bengali spellings.

Yet she left me. I know it is cynical to think that we are immortal but it’s been 3 years now but her death is and will always be the unaccepted thing for me. I still remember her cold body and stiff hands. I cried, I shouted, I accused her, I blamed her to be the reason behind my pain..but she didn’t even give me one hami (kiss) and tell me shonamoni ai toh ami. No one could calm me down, I ran down the stairs and blamed myself for not being able to speak to her for the last time when she had called me from my uncle’s house. I die every day to speak to her for the last time, to see her ever-smiling face, to feel the warmth of her hands, to sleep by her side.

The hues of light drape the moon gorgeous,

The acquainted faces touch the known hand,

The lingering slumber surrounds me with its songs –

Those few nights, call me, call me back!!

 

Still it is concealed

The escaping mind –

When has it rung

That telephone?

 

A pain to lose someone so important and precious to us causes us more harm than what physical pain can actually cause. Invisible wounds cut so deep that even time fails to heal them. I wish i could say her how much i love her and how much i need her even today when i have learned to eat by myself , tie shoelace by myself. She taught me everything but she failed to teach me how to live without her. After her death; death and separation has always been the biggest fear that consumes me. Five most important people in my life- dida, mom, dad, di and him. They mean the world to me and I will never  let them go because they love me with my dark side, with my demons.

 

I know what it is like to be brought up with unconditional love. In my life that came from my grandmother –  Andre Leon Talley