Saturday, April 7


Thursday, June 23

Between love and a mosquito.

Bankabihari needed sleep.He dismissed the idea of keeping his eyes open. The sudden increased brightness of the tubelight was hectoring him,were his eyes finally giving up ? Even the respiratory apparatus emanating from his nose was egging him to depart,his health had already failed.No one liked a dying person,fewer wanted to be near one.
His sons and grandsons and grandaughters and their children were all waiting outside. The "visiting time" hadnt started.
His thoughts moved around,lamenting that incorrigible habit of snuff which led to his demise,to the half drunk glass of
supplementary drink on the table, to that fly or mosquito which was flying around the glass. If it was a fly, he wouldn’t drink it. Maybe he did not have to. He tried to jerk off these thoughts.
He had heard that death ends life, but gifts in his eyes, a minute or two theatrical view into a man`s mundane life. All the memories worth going through, for the last time. He didn’t want to re-visit his life. His last wish was Kanchana, a glimpse of her. He hadn’t seen her face for one full week now. Some lost soul was playing a trick, denying this dying man his last wish he thought. A sudden thought perched in his mind. Kanchana had been with him for more than 30 years now. More than Sridarshini,his dead wife. Each and every night after he closed his eyes they met near the Doba-pukur, in raas-mela, in haat-bazaar and all the places of Srirampur. The daal-muug, the singaras and the ledikini that they ate together, and the shy smile of her as he washed his hands and brushed his face against a corner of her saree using it like a gamccha. He never dreamt those earlier days when she was ten and played kit-kit with him ,before she had left Srirampur, to be an actress.

Bankabihari had slept an average of eight hours a day, dreaming about her, for the last 84 years of his life,so he presumed ,his infidelity, which was an unforgivable felony in the court of god, would deprive him of a berth in heaven. He had never uttered her name ,let alone reveal his love to Sridarshini, lest his wife would leave him. They had a happy married life , but not a long one. Sridarshini died giving birth to his seventh child. Tears rolled down the old man`s cheeks. Children, the living examples of how he had cheated his wife ,every single time, how the only image that had swallowed his mind , sometimes against his wish, was that of Kanchana`s smiling face.Traitor . Till her last breath she had not known of the girl that her husband loved.More than her. Not once had she doubted as they went to see “ Premer agnisakkhi” “ Koto Dhaane koto Chaal” “ subarnolata” all starring a particular Kanchana devi.

He had tried to meet her once. When he wasn’t married.While she was shooting for a hindi film. She was dancing in a park full of roses, with a charming personality of Bengal cinema. His slightly protruding pair of teeth ,along with his dark complexion, a result of working in the sun, wouldn’t help, he knew. He had returned with memories and a delineation of his love that he wanted to imprint on each of his dreams forever. This world had not given her to him. But in my dreams, she is mine, he consoled.

His heart skipped a beat. And then two. He knew the time had come. He heard voices.That of his family .” Baba, chole jacchen” .sobs. He didn’t want this austerity of not seeing her for the last time. He tried to figure out her face. He knew face of the true love was the last thing that a man saw. But alas as his lungs stuffed out the last puff of air, all he saw through the eyes of his imagination, was a blurry vision of a house-fly perched on a glass. Or was it a mosquito ?

Wednesday, June 22

The confession

The church doors were about to shut out the last rays of sun for the day ,when i heard footsteps. Doing God`s work was exhausting . The colour of white had faded from my robe ,given way to the colour of mud , grease from a man`s daily ventures , taken into consideration that this day hadn’t been scripted synchronous to my daily routine. How men waste away, doing nothing ,and still get those stains on whatever the put on ? The sudden blackened stain of cigarette ash , that yellow mark of oyster soup spilled ,due to some annoying ,disturbing thoughts pondered upon. The small pellets of soil stuck on my robe due to that sudden rain which still hadn’t stopped .The small kids ,who came for a little crumb of bread hadn’t come today, i was unaware why they stayed away from their daily routine .They gave me, some sort of company ,on those forlorn evenings. I taught them how to live. God`s verses.
The man in the black coat had moved towards the confession room. His appearance was as shady as the co-existence of the red glow of sun and those drops of rain splashing on the window, both unaware of each other`s existence.
“Had you been late for a minute or two ,you would have returned , your prayers unanswered, and confessions unheard, i was about to close the door and retire for the night.” I was happy to have a visitor .
“Doesnt matter, i would have come anyways Father, i am leaving for New York tomorrow.i would have woken you up.”
“A desperate soul, in search of peace i perceive ,what is it that you want to share ?”
“Father, can i light a cigarette ?”
I had quit smoking seven years ago.But a part of my senses never got over it. The eagerness to inhale came back as unscathed as it was when i had deserted it. “Try not to.”But that aroma of burning tobacco had already reached this side, through that small slit created for the sound to pass from the other partition where the guilty sat. Maybe , i hated this procedure of not seeing faces. It was better to tell on his face that he shouldn’t light up, my not so erasable weakness.
“ Father ,What colour does love symbolise ?”
“red, is your confession taking off with love ?”
“ Why isn`t it blue ,or green ?”
“Because red symbolises desire ,and love is a creation of desire,in its most innocent form.”
“What I am trying to say is Love hasn’t inherited its colour. Someone conceived the idea that it could be red. ”
“you have something to confess, don’t you ?”
“Father what do you call this imagination of comparing or metamorphosing an object from its one form to other.”
“Personification, metaphor. I am too tired ,to answer your questions which puts my grasp of English in doubt.”
“Father my wife suffered from a rare form of mental transfiguration .
Have you heard of synesthesia ?”
‘yes, sort of where a person gets hallucinated “
“ absolutely not, hallucination is to conjure an object in completely another form. Synesthesia is quiet different . haven’t you heard of people who see colour in numbers ?”
“ ya, they see 1 in red, blue in 2, do these things even exist ?”
“Ya, the witness is standing right in front of you. Though you were a bit wrong in your explanation. The person knows the letter 1 is printed in black. But his conscious mind sees it to be red.”He passed a piece of paper through the slit. something was scratched on it with a pencil
“ Xày”
“ If x is the object that our mind percieves , y is the form that a synesthete thinks of when he sees , touches or smells x. Audio, Video , Lexico synesthesia are quiet common though psychiatrists believe that there are more than 60 types of it.”
“ even if this disease exists ,whats it got to do with your confession ? “
“Father, it isn’t a disease. Richard Feynman had it. So did Nikola Tesla, Syd Barrett and John Mayer. They were proud to proclaim to the world that they had a sixth sense which others couldn’t perceive. Seeing objects or coloured smoke while listening to music is the most common form of Synesthesia. Have you used Windows media player ,Father ?”
“Are you trying to say the man who invented the “Visualizer” plug-in in WMP is a syenesthete ?”
“So the god`s man uses his computer as well .” he smiled.A “prickly” laugh.
“ Father have you read Dan Brown ?”
“Which one ?”
“The lost symbol .“
“remember those lines ...
Centered over the table hung a carefully calibrated light source that cycled through a spectrum of preordained colors, completing its cycle every six hours...The hour of Yanor is blue. The hour of Nasnia is red. The hour of Salam is white.”
“The description of Mala`khs house i suppose. “
“ya , another typical syenesthete who has the timeàcolour syndrome.”
“ My wife, father had a very unique kind of syenesthesia .She associated an object to any special action or quality of a human being . She never ate apple . She interwove apple with the feeling of guilt.”
“She involved her feelings to what she saw ?”
“ Ya ,what she saw through her mind-vision got connected with her feelings.
Remember “Shine on you Crazy diamond ” where Gilmour wrote “You cried for the moon ?”I could find only one human being on-record who had the same symptoms as my wife. Though Syd gathered it from extensive use of LSD. “
The rain had increased its pace.
“ It was raining one night , just like today . I returned from work to find my wife busy talking to someone. My first reaction was that she was through a phone call. But when i faced her, that small rug-doll on her arms , to whom she was whispering to , tore my world apart. “
“You don’t have a child ?”
“ We could never make one.She never endorsed adoption”
“she imagined the doll...”
His deep breath seemed to fit into my unfinished sentence.
“ I immediately took her to her doctor. I couldn’t let this seed grow more, though i knew it`s genesis.I knew this speck of disappointment would save her from drowning more and more into the whirlpool. She got admitted in a mental-sanctuary .”
“Did she get cured ?”
He stopped. Lit a second cigarette.
“ Then why are you here ?”
“ You seem to be in a hurry , Father.
Yes, she got rid of this projection of her synesthesia , but when it come to peace of mind, no stone was left unturned.The constant nagging fact that she could never be a mother , had never left her mind. She stopped communicating with the world, even i was not a part of her sordid but nevertheless important-to –me circle of life. “
“ What did you do ?”
“A little drug would have caused no harm. “
“You drugged her ?”
“ LSD, the only drug that can cause surreal synesthesia.
Father... she died of drug overdose yesterday.”
The white colour of thunder filled my part of the confession room. A lightning had struck somewhere near the church.

Monday, June 20

Letter from a Filmy Film-Goer

Dear readers,

I hero-worship Bollywood stars( You may read Salman Khan). This adulation goes back to the time when every Friday night, my inveteracy of sticking near the television screen for 4 hours ( an hour of advertisements),watching the only new movie that Doordarshan aired every week,would infuriate my parents. You are becoming “filmy” day by day , my mother once complained . Had I not been an Indian , I would have looked up in the dictionary and wondered what she meant. Filmy adj. thin and translucent, to be covered with a film .But we, the people know what this metaphor symbolizes. Slowly , the only adjective that clung on to me was Wow ! this boy confuses sin 30 and cos 60 ,but see his volubility in pointing out the name of the film in which Rishi kapoor and Shahrukh khan both married the same girl,and then Rishi Kapoor died blah blah blah… .

21 and progressing, I still have an avuncular attitude towards films ( bad or ugly). I am fascinated by them, keep brooding over all the physics-defying acts of the hero and whether I had the slightest chance of imitating them successfully.I have lived the great Indian-dream. The desire to have those greek like delineation along with a big car and a villa with a swimming-pool.And so have millions of others. And this is where the bright minds behind this industry have succeeded. Feed them a dream,let them live through it for 3 hours. Encash the effect. ( Udaan shudaan don’t fall in the ‘filmy’ category.I have never seen them. Someone told me he slept through the movie.)

I have never questioned why does the villain guffaw throughout every film , whimpering in the end. Why are most of the hated villains South-Indian , and necessarily bald. Why does every film of Rohit Shetty involve a car-stunt, and whats with Bhansali and the colour blue ? Someone told me he used it in Sawaariya because the characters were somewhat based on Krishna and radha and Krishna had a bluish complexion.Crap, I said, he likes it to be in conjunction with his films ,separated by a hyphen.I didn’t watch Sawaariya.I preferred Shanti om.

I don’t find any objection in seeing a copy of a film.If all films were made abstruse then where would Salman Khan go? No one loves an emaciated, grief-stricken actor who has nothing to do in life except pondering over his life in bed and pleading for euthanasia.After a days hard work in the call-center or factory, all I want is some quality time spent laughing, eating and watching dhissum-dhassum.Someone says people like me are an endangered species nowadays.I don’t think so.

This was until I found out a complete new genre which is sprouting. Copying bits and pieces from multiple films instead of using a script . Are you ‘ready’ ? as the film tagline shines out. Songs from South . Location from east ( Awarapan anyone ? ) .Mar-peet from north ( Dabbangg). Salman khan is a magician. He never loses a pound,never gains one,never marries and never speaks without contorting his face . I fear ,that if he remains a bachelor, his acting skills will die with him. The audience laughed ( there were instances that even though I didn’t they did,I really felt shattered, had my ability to comprehend decreased ?), cried ,ate munched their popcorn and went home. And so did i. Marvelling at the new genre that would set the screen on fire. Business at its best. Reduction of cost of a script-writer, and including all those best parts of various films that audiences applauded .Way back to the hostel I kept singing this song.Not Dhinka Chika morons. A better one.

Na script hain na story hain, na koi director.

Jaane kab kahaan se aa gaya hain financer.

Ek hero hain ek heroine aur ek producer.

No problem yaar,ban jayegi picture.

Yours faithfully,

The filmy filmgoer

Recollection of earlier fragrances

A flower, which blooms only before the month of October, or is it, irrespective of the month, a harbinger of Pujo ? The occasional maths exam that religiously commenced on the week before Mahalaya had deprived me of their smell. That preserved
smell of “A.C r hawa” wrapped in plastic bags which had new clothes inside, from the
only air-conditioned shops with clothes kept in them. The smell of shoe-polish, everyday trying to shine the toe-end of the pair, occasionally drawing night sky in the hands and the next moment`s antiseptic smell of soap lingers in still-not-spilled jars of memories.
I could never differentiate a rotten apple from a fresh apple. I seldom ate one. But I could make out a new book from an old one. Like a lover kissing those hidden letters kept between its pages,I took in their fragrance.The only time , I cuddled my big-fat mathematics book which lost interest in me as it grew old. The smell of “abir” has dragged me to play with them ,to let people paint my face with them. That tinge ofjealousy coming from the neighbour`s kitchen which stuffed my nose with smells of kababs and kormas which changed to the unwelcoming smell of dried fish when the neighbours changed.That faint memory of the story of a man who satisfied his apetite taking in the smell of all the sweet-meats in a sweet-shop sniggers and pokes me all the time that every tiny fraction of the fragrance of a rasgolla,or icecream that I stole from “Arun Sweets”,when i had been offered just one, was for free. Standing on the chair to steal that after-shave lotion, just to enjoy its fragrance, that impulsive spraying of the after-shave lotion on my face,to cry out in pain and that threat from ma of a juvenile bearded face has abandoned me. Now the smell seems commonplace.
The orange coloured smell has always been tied to the story of a tree that sprouts through the head with its roots in my tummy,if i swallowed the seeds.The hope and despair of a wish for a chewing-gum tree which never
came out from the so-many gums that I had swallowed. Minty sadness.Or was it the taste ?

Good things happen to good people. That then-so hard puzzle why our house-maid after
washing all our clothes and cleaning our rooms smelled bad has stopped bothering me.Is it the smell or the taste of a toothpaste which feels so comforting ,that occasional sniffing of nose while brushing my teeth has atrophied long ago. Maybe the smell of hot jalebis still hasn`t left me.I always dreamt of being that small boy who ran away from home,angry that no-one listens to him,only to be taken back by Ramu Kaka and greeted with a plate of Jalebis bringing a twinkle in his face.I never dared to do that.I never understood the difference between smell/fragrance/scent. Could a fragrance never be bad ? That comb with the smell of vermilion ingrained in it which had a three-in-one purpose, to comb my hair, to keep the vermilion intact in my mother`s forehead and to give me scars whenever I made a ”silly” mistake in my maths exercise book.

The pungent ,acrid smell of a bus-stand,and that cocunut oil flavoured fragrance on those numerous heads in a village-bus will always bother me .The smell of the first rain hasnt left me. That smell of the hot earth getting soaked by the first few drops still drags me out into the open air.The smell of that soaked stretched out hands and closed eyes with the diluted fragrance of that certain brand of perfume will romanticize me forever. A view from a distance. Not close enough to rake up that memory, but not far enough to forget it.That forbidden smell of one`s sweat (order from the high-court,causes sickness), which is the only thing that remains after every layer of borrowed ones have been peeled off is the only fragrance that we are born with.I refuse to believe that they come from the decomposition done by bacterias.

I want to smell music before I die .Or the words that come out from a pen, sometimes demanding, sometimes reassuring.

Tuesday, September 14

The un-biased coin.

The unbiased coin.

20th August , 2008. 5: 30 Pm.

The sky above the port was the colour of television ,tuned to a dead channel. I hadn’t finished my cup of tea and it had already gone cold. My daughter had returned , victorious over death, clinging to that last piece of rock undisplaced , when everyone inside the bus had died in that cliff . 2 long years later, she had come back to me, when the world presumed Dr. Sen was lost, or dead. She had found me ,in this other part of the world ,on this long deserted island , just when my experiment was in a state of completion. I had so much to disclose to her.
“ Titli, have you heard about the second law of thermodynamics ? that entropy cant be reversed ?”
“ya,when I was young ,you often quoted that universe is the single most accomplished conspirator.”
“Exactly, it always tries to keep things in symmetry ,in a stable state.Nature hates Chaos . Now what if the theory of Probability is nothing but nature`s craft to eliminate chaos ?”
“ Biased coin ?”
“No, what if a heads falls because a tails would tamper with entropy of the system, the universe ?”
“let`s take an example ,I flip the coin ,heads, I send this email containing my life`s work to the world,and tails I go for a walk with you .”
“You better send that email,dad,why wait ?”
I flipped the coin. TAILS. “Hmm…lets go for a walk.”

7: 30 Pm.

Twilight in this island was dangerous. I should have waited for the moon,but what I cared about was some time with my daughter.
“Do you believe in spirits Dad ?”
“ Scientists have discovered that when a person dies, his weight is decreased by a weight of the order 10 ^(-6)gms. Applying E=mc^2 , that pure energy from a soul would be humongous.Now imagine so many deaths could trigger so much energy in the universe. Chaos.Unstability.”
“Then what happens to that soul ?”
“ I believe that it conjures itself to some form of dark energy or precisely negative energy which conspires against the symmetry, the stability.”
“Destructive ?”
“exactly, evil ,as the name goes,tries to disrupt the balance… .So where are we going now ,back to the camp ,or to the waterfall?Hmm.. let fate decide. Heads,we go to the waterfall.”
I flipped the coin.

7:50 pm.

We were walking beside the waterfall.
“ Dad, how can you exert that the universe selects which side of the coin is going to fall without biasing it ?”
“Symmetry. Let me illustrate to you. In your probability classes you symbolized heads as H and tails as T. If A corresponds to 1 ,B to 2 then H=08 and T=20.”
“Then why isn’t heads preferred ? for T has a higher value, thus greater entropy or chaos ?”
“not always,What does 20:00 oclock signify ?”
“8:00, indeed! This will change the course of the world. Maybe someday, someone would delve into your logic and find out a way to change the future.”
“That’s what I fear Titli. Am I interrupting nature`s course of stability? When I needed your opinion the most,here you are with me.”
“Go ahead with your work”.
“ Lets see the choice of the coin. Heads , I send that email”
I flipped the coin.
“ You rely on your coin too much. Send that email dad.”

8:08 Pm

“Lets get back to my camp.we ll go via the other way crossing the bridge across the falls. Maybe I should listen to what you say.”
“Dad, what bridge ? there`s nothing in front of us except the cliff giving away to the falls , are you hallucinating?”
I could see the bridge whose lime bricks were shining in the moonlight. I took a step forward .
“Dad, please, lets go back the way we came here.”
Wasn’t she seeing what I was ? A fear originated in my heart.
“I haven’t asked you Titli ,how did you know I was in this island ?I was cut-off from the world ?”
“Lets go back and I will tell you everything”
“ Heads, that rock to which you were clinged on, gave away two years ago”
I flipped the coin.
But with a quick glance at the watch , i knew which side of the coin I would see.
4 times, I had flipped the coin today. T-H-T-H. 20/08/20-08 , 20:08 o`clock. I looked at her face. She knew that I had solved the riddle. The puzzle that this universe had conspired for me. I knew it ended with the end of my life.
“I came back to save you Dad, so that you would be famous someday,theres no bridge across the falls”
I smiled. “No one intervenes nature`s course Titli. Lets leave it to someone else to prove me right”
I reached for her hands. And I took a step…forward.

Sunday, September 5

Atanu and me

Atanu and me.

That night seems to linger in my memory like a rain-stained window pane. Abstruse in interpreting what are the absolute delineations on the other side , but clear enough to form a hazed impression on a juvenile mind. All I reconstruct are just slivers, those effigies of Ma Kali and Loknath baba being packed along with those newspaper-folded boxes of spices. That large green box where mother had packed all bed-sheets and pillows together, doing the cumbrous task alone with a little bit of help from me. It was a dry night of 1995 , and my five year short life-span had never encountered a night long insomnia and a journey at the back of a truck. Almost all other trifles of that night has passed in evanescence. The night when my grandfather ,after a month of contemplation, made a self-gratifying decision of moving back to Siuri, the place he had fallen in love with when he was handsome.

I don’t think my grandfather could have figured out then, what a scrumptious but also dichotomous life he had conceived for me. Where Durgapur and the village called Parsimulia had entwined with each other to weave a world of reality vis-a-vis fantasy for me . A world where on one side existed those paunchy history and geography books , but on the other side was fire-flies, load-sheddings, rather mela, jilipis, khelna gaari and Atanu.

His real name is Manu. Atanu was the name gifted by my mother. He was born on the same year , I had seen Siuri for the first time ie 1995. My mother often enquires whether I remember Atanu sleeping peacefully in his grandmothers lap, that black koshti-pathor coloured infant. I politely say that I was just five, and when you are five , the only impressions that are immuted in your memories are of objects that are humungous , like a truck , a bridge or objects that are contrastingly out of place like a Romeo-juliet paperback in a stack of India-today magazines.A dark –tanned child is too dimunitive and commonplace . A platitude. I remember his face since he was five . The only efficacy in his silhouette type body was his eyes . The reason why I have loved reading “The kite runner”. I can never imagine how a person in the other quarter of the world had so perfectly described , the acquaintance I shared with Atanu. Or maybe a good book always stirs your imagination and sketches few things , that were just languid connections , so brightly that you are confounded by the astounding resemblance with the book.

The tree beside that pond where a thousand fireflies used to gather. Peeking through its branches those tiny lights of Tilpara barrage could be seen. That sand house made on the river bed of Mayurakshi, that mango tree which broke my leg while climbing, Atanu has been there in every incident . He was never a friend,this, my society had taught me. Cause there was so much sartorial, monetary and caste contrast. A Brahmin and a bairagi were never the same. This idea had been sown when I was born and had sprouted into a fully grown tree with its source too deep-routed to throw away. I remember once , mocking him for the way bairagis were cremated . In a standing-posture. I laughed aloud at the way he squatted on the paddy fields for clearing his bowels.
My day in siuri started with his satiric laugh beside my bedside. Mine started at 10 and he went to work in the paddy fields at 5 . He could never figure out the laziness and the munificence of my mother in letting me sleep. Hence the laugh. “Dodo kaka” when will you wake up ? We will have to enact the last day of Mahabharat today.

Religion had changed just one thing in the village. Oblivious of maths and science, the only thing that a village boy learns by heart is those two epics , whose authenticity is often questioned. Atanu had an edge over this strand of history, whenever a conscending situation came. He knew `who was who` in Ramayana more than anyone else. He never disagreed when it came to the endowment of roles. Hanuman , my best friend had the priority job of finding Sita , killing Ravana was a job to be thought of later. He had made me a bow and arrow, whose arrows were often hurled at him when I was angry , and he was satisfied with the gada . I still remembered the frequency of my unending laughter when I figured out that the smeared poster which his grandmother worshipped as Ram-Sita , was that of Arun Govil and his co-actress whose name I cant recall. Ignorance is bliss.

I still remember the day he first got a sip of Coca-cola. The way he punched his head to stop that fizziness in his stomache had been an item of humour in our family whenever we needed a light environment.
I last met Atanu 3 years ago , the day his sister died.She had been burnt-to-death by her husband. He had fled from the village.I still remember Manu`s misty eyes as he promised me ,he would grow up to be a policeman so that he could catch that scoundrel alive. A quicksilver conversation between two immature and impractical boys. But that small incident has silted all my thoughts revolving Manu with guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t just a toy of entertainment to him as he was to me , an escape from books ,from studies. I was his mentor ,that was what he thought. Maybe his brother.

I didn’t realize the trauma and helplessness that flowed under his statement for a long time. I have heard he is studying in class 11 and is flourishing in his studies. Maybe siuri in parallel with Atanu is the only reason that I have that slight knoll of literature and fantasizing in me amidst that unending plain land of Crap-studies.God help him.