Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It All happened One Night

This is one of a few (if I get time) posts that I wanted to write about my oncoming India trip. Living away from home for almost a decade now, the 2.5 years sinusoidal reappearance of homecoming is something I haven't exactly gotten used to. So every time, the frenzy builds up from almost a year ago when the nostalgia starts kicking in and the mild queries from friends and relatives turn to emphatic assertion that I have all but forgotten them. Then comes the mad search for the impossible ticket at the lowest price, with the least number of stops and at the most convenient hours - so that you could work in lab, leave in the evening for the flight to exclude the day of departure from your leave, and finally come back by the last flight on Sunday and get out of the terminal right before the airport shuts down for the night. Alas ! the best thing about going home is the anticipation, the expectation and the thoughts about being there. Time shrinks to a mathematical point between the times I land at and leave Kolkata and no matter how hard I try to do a careful accounting later on as to how and where I spent my vacation, I can never successfully do so. So here goes, in anticipation .........

I lay my cheeks on the square-inch of area at Gariahat Mor that none had touched since Job Charnok fell into the lures of three nondescript villages by the side of the Ganges. It was lying await for me all this while and today I impregnated her. The night was cold from the continuous drizzle that had kept the air heavy since mid-evening. The busy junction was almost quiet now, except the scarce last buses dashing by and lifting up the odd passengers, while in motion. Of course, the auto rickshaws were always there, hovering here and there around nooks and corners like flies around dead meat - waiting in wait lest a late-nocturnal showed up. It was a cold night by Kolkata standards and the wet pavement felt stone-cold against my cheeks. Surprisingly, I didn't smell anything particularly putrid. Instead, there was a choking smell of burnt diesel combined with that unmistakable smell of raindrops hanging in the dust of my beloved city. I looked up - my high-school and college skies were now molested by a purposeful, necessary construction of a monstrous over-bridge that seemed to eat up everything around it by its metallic, clustural structure - I have been on it several times in the past three weeks, and thanking for the relief from the horrible, dusty, smoky automobile jungle below. But now, all was quiet; its job being done for the day, the bridge slept tired like a half-dead coal-miner trying to get some respite after the day's work. At any other time of the day, I would have created a stir around me - in spite of being entropically one of the highest points in the metropolis, its not often that a well-fed guy in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers is seen lying flat on the pavements of Gariahat. But now it did not matter much. My raised hip-pocket did draw the attention of a not-so-innocent passer by who attempted closer inspections but on seeing that I was quite aware of my surroundings, fled. Some others must have thought that I was drunk to my lips and still some, a mere possibility of a lot of potential harassment, walked quickly by.

Tonight was the last night. Tomorrow, at exactly the same hour, I will be miles away, sitting inside a flight at Mumbai International Airport that would take me, in a moment, miles away from being actually physically connected to this piece of land that I was lying on now - I would no more be on the sovereign piece of land known as India but dangling in free space ! In spite of being a member of the generation X, or X' for that matter, it still betrays my perception, how we can disconnect ourselves from things so fast - or can we really ? The past three weeks had been exactly what I had imagined it would be like - my coming back to Calcutta (not Kolkata, mind you generation Y's !), thinking I would revive my last days before I left the city and realising that everyone and everything in the meantime had moved on - so that was not practically possible anymore - to the extent that even the room that I had lived in as a college student has been renovated and has gotten a new look since!

I raised my head a little bit - within a mile of radius around me were the houses of friends to whom I had bidden good-bye in the past one hour - I would not see them for years again even if I wanted to, even if I physically felt like being choked without seeing them, life would have to go on - functionally, physically, effectively and it would not matter much to anyone, not even to me after I would have been done with the journey looming large in front of my eyes. All of my college life, I had fantasized about being drunk and all alone in the middle of the streets right in front of Jadavpur P.S., controlling the streets all by myself. However,thanks to the supreme vigilance of my boRomamu, that never happened. And on every occasion I wanted to enact that in the past three weeks, I had failed. Friends who had once seemed very keen on the idea had families now and gave out wry smiles when I proposed the same to them. "Have you gone crazy ?" - is what they would say and dismiss my carefully constructed imageries in a second.

So here I was, all by myself, doing what I had fantasized all my life - lying flat on the pavements of Calcutta on a rainy night. I know that this piece of land was lying virgin all along. Of the billions of footsteps that had marched the faces of the city over the past two hundred years, not a single footstep had ever fallen on this little piece of land and now I was all upon her. But what would you do if you were in the embraces of your lover for the last time in your life ? It somehow felt like I would never come back again ! Would you make violent physical love to her ? Or would you just lie silently side by side trying to pick up the notes that you have failed to, all this while? Bengalees, being lifelong romantics, would probably do the latter and I was no exception. So I planted a kiss upon her wet cheeks - I could taste the salty mud on my tongue and the slimy love in my throat. At that moment, my cellphone rang ad I instantly knew that the old man was still awake with probably my wife by his side worrying about what had befell me . I quickly took a look at my watch - it was way beyond the old man's waking hours - I should have known better, he always had done this all my life I was living in Calcutta. I quickly shook my boozed emotions off - I had to move on, to more serious human emotions and to greener pastures after that - my clothes were all muddy and myself all dirty. I would have to do a good job of explaining myself to the old man and my young lady :-) As I got off, I took a last look at the square inch of land that I was making love to, around the closed shutters of the shops around me, around the rain-wet, brightly lit streets around Gariahat Mor and quickly boarded the next auto that was heading towards Deshapriya Park.