Leaves

Is it only autumn when the leaves brown?
Being broken bit by bit
Withering away ever so gently
By the time it’s winter.
A silent farewell midst a riot of
Oranges, yellows and browns.
Picture book pretty even as they die.
So delicate, so fragile
Crumbling at the slightest touch.
Do they never get bruised
In the lushness of spring?

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The entire city skyline is spread out, right beyond the small  22nd story balcony. A few cigarette butts stubbed out, lying carelessly on the cold marble floor. An abandoned glass of stale rum and coke. A flower pot perched precariously on the wrought iron grill, nursing a dead money plant. A snapshot of urban decay. In black and white. A sudden gust of wind brings in a wave of mild December chill into my clumsy living room, if it can be so called. The yellow lamp flickers. Once, twice. The quivering light drawing patterns on the books piled high on the study table.

I feel irritated. Getting up from my beige armchair, I reluctantly go out into the balcony, hugging my thin frame gingerly. “Some day you’ll be blown away by the wind…”, my sagacious mother would reflect, as she eyed me from behind the newspaper. Well, my mother is nowhere near me. She’s in a different place, a different room. A different life altogether. I should call her sometime, like I said I would. I miss her annoying displays of affection. The way she fought with our cats, telling them how she knows that their only agenda is getting more food. Calling them names. Complaining to me. I miss her hurried way of talking. Her completely random ideas and elaborate plans, always, always made with me. And I, never, never having time for any of them. And I don’t remember why or how the love between us got so stilted.

I miss having cats around. That strange, detached way of loving, marked by moments of sheer tenderness and uncompromising affection. Love without pretensions. I miss that.

A long, deliberate drag from my Goldflake Kings. Only 3 more left in the packet, and an entire blasted night ahead of me. Leaning against the railings, I lightly touch the shrivelled leaves of the plant. “It’ll always bring you good luck”, she had said. The small paan-shop downstairs is still open I see. The old man about to pack up. 11:30 pm. Not a good time to venture out I guess. The busy street below is dotted with flashes of moving lights. Cars, like insects, crawling with this sense of purpose. Making their way in parallel lines. Opposite directions. Like an orchestrated urban symphony. Someone’s been trying to call me incessantly on my Skype. The ringing continues from inside the room. Nagging, pleading me to pick up. I try hard to tune it out. The sounds of the street are infinitely more comforting in their indifference. In their absolute lack of correlation with me. The sound within, is not.

Time tends to pass excruciatingly slowly when you are alone. It tends to pass even slower when you are aware of your loneliness. A change in place, a change in the faces you are accustomed to seeing every day, does not always have the desired effect, as I am seeing. I look at the cardboard boxes lying beside the chair in one corner of that small splice of space, the excuse of a balcony. They are unpacked- a tangible testimony to my apparent lack of enthusiasm in settling in. Much like the almost empty cupboard of my studio apartment. My apartment. Which claims a unique identity despite the alarming lack of difference from the hundred other, similar, cramped little spaces that surround it. Concrete monstrosities up and down the streets. A thousand windows, some with the lights on. A voyeurs paradise.

Migratory instincts are intrinsic perhaps in all of us. Much like migratory birds, always in search of a better place. Nomads, vagabonds, pariahs. Always on the move, like the cars below on the concrete boulevard checkered with equidistant streetlights. Like the troop of homeless people who have always been there, always will be there, asserting their claim on the footpaths, just like the rest of us. In search of a home, just like the rest of us. Us and them. Step by step. Progressively marching towards that bizarre el dorado. Hypnotized, drawing closer like fireflies towards the bigcitylights.

In search of a home.

The clock strikes 12. There are fireworks in the sky. It’s 2014, and the start of a new year. A happy, new, year.

Went to campus after aeons. Actually, the visits started last weekend and shall continue for a while. Back in the not-so-long-ago (last year summer), a few of us in class had decided to stage a play for our Post-Colonial paper. Weaving together texts by Indian playwrights like Girish Karnad, Mohan Rakesh, Badal Sarkar and Manjula Padmanabhan, we had taken on an ambitious task- presenting the dilemma of language and the fragmentation of identity in the post-colonial subject. The subaltern had to speak. It was good fun. Frantic translations of existing texts from English to Bangla, from Hindi to English (which was undoubtedly tragi-comic), impromptu rehearsals, hours and hours put in to close loopholes and find a semblance of unity among drama stalwarts who have very distinctive styles of writing.

The final show had been quite a success. After much blood, sweat and tears and a whole night rehearsal at my place. Which is probably why our professor contacted us to stage the show one more time.

So our motley crew has congregated once again. One member has dropped out due to time constraints, a new one (a close friend of mine) has joined in. Anyhow, what I am most happy about is that it is giving me the chance to visit my beloved campus once again. 5 years is a long time in the life of a 23 year old. And those 5 years have been the best so far in my life. *wipes away nostalgic tear*

Honestly, Jadavpur University is not very far from my house but the precious weekends i get, indolence sets in and the time goes by in such a rushed blur that I never seem to get the time to visit campus. Now that I have some sense of purpose in making the visit, I am. And I am glad.

Winters in JU have always been magical. The hazy skies wrapped in a gray fog. The panic of impending semester exams, alleviated by endless cigarettes and bad coffee from Milan da’s canteen, usually on the Comparative Literature ledge. Lazy afternoons rolling into bustling evenings. I always, always liked being on my own in campus. Always enjoyed my solitude. Observing, taking meaningless little notes in my head. Unintentionally eavesdropping on conversations. Watching an energetic game of corridor cricket or badminton near the parking lot. Quietly plugging in my iPod but never really listening to it. Or maybe reading a book. Or preparing for some exam or the other. And then of course, the dogs. The dear, dear, dogs, with ever-wagging tails and smiles. Leaning in for a head-pat, demanding biscuits, demanding all your love. Life was good, very good. Where the only trials were exams, the only grievance was probably the lack of a good canteen in the Arts Faculty or the pathetic coffee at Milan da. It was nice.

Then of course, Greenzone (with an ungodly, murky water body with dodgy yellow-blue-green slime bang in the middle). Where hours flew by as Aveek and I sat. And plotted and planned and etched out the canvas of an imaginary future. Tea and cigarettes. Holding hands and stolen kisses. Yelling and making up.

So it feels good to make these visits back to campus. The same dusty entrance at Gate 4. UG Arts building and the jheelpar opposite it. The same parking lot. The erstwhile lobby. Shyamal da’s “rocking” tea stall outside the gate. I am sure he still plays Himesh Reshammiya full blast. Or maybe he has progressed to Honey Singh, Yo Yo. Ah. It still quite doesn’t feel like I am no longer a student here. As I ambled along the stretches that are so very familiar to me, I didn’t really feel like an apparition. Maybe because it has not been that long. It still felt very intimate, the way it has always been. Intimate in a passive way.
Places change, because the people you associate them with change, or disappear or get replaced. But JU will remain the same for me because of my impersonal way of being attached to it I guess. Maybe it’s not that bad then, being detached, I mean. Bhodu is still there. So are Jocasta and Bagha. It’s all good, very good.

Christmas

It’s Christmas eve and Mr and Mrs Chubby have decided to have a jolly good chubby time today. With pudding, cake, slow roasted edibles and other such niceties that induce warmth and subtle indigestion in your holiday-sensitive innards. Who are Mr and Mrs Chubby? Well, you’ll figure that out eventually, my curious and festive audience. 

Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s about giving and sharing, well cherished family bondings dotted with friendly banter with long lost cousins, meaninglessly lavish lunches, pleasantly wrapped gifts from aunts and uncles, inquisitive glances at your overpowering dark circles followed by concerned murmurings about your health and the general reckless abandon of today’s youth. Christmas is about embracing the festive spirit with good cheer, along with embracing all questions pertaining to your career, marriage plans, and growing pot belly/anorexic state of being. Christmas is about wine, or beer or vodka. About cursory glances back to your childhood and the excitement surrounding the favourite day of the year. For me, it would be a month long, well crafted brainwashing of my mother, with subtle and not so subtle hints about what I want from Santa Claus. There would be frequent trips to Wonderland and Landmark with earnest pointing and tugging. (no fancy malls back then, in the before times, in the long long ago) It would be about carol singing in school and lots of fruit cake. (How I hate fruit cake! I detest it. It is positively revolting. Creamy frosting and decadent layers of chocolate for me any day, thank you very much)

Today, 24th December, 2013, happens to be my convocation. A special day. I would have gotten my Master of Arts in English Literature from Jadavpur University degree today. If I were attending it. I am not. I am at work. It’s a Tuesday, a working day. And I suppose it’s alright. I have attended one convocation anyhow. Two years back, again,on a Christmas eve, and I remember it very clearly.

I am looking forward to having a jolly good chubby time today. Much like Mr and Mrs Chubby. I shall wine and dine and laugh and sing out of tune and be generally merry. I shall dance too, make no mistakes. Drunken dancing is the best kind of dancing. Almost like a ritualistic Dionysian ceremony with fellow revelers. My office being in Flury’s I might just drop in for some good old fashioned rum balls. No fruit cake. I also intend to stroll through the Christmas Carnival and see what it’s about. So far, for the last few days, all I have seen are throngs of red Santa hats wriggling all around me, scurrying to and fro, up and down Park street and nameless little faces pleading me to buy rather hideous looking balloons. So, that. What else? A bit of bitterness and disappointment at missing my convocation I guess. 2011-2013 gave me a lot of moments to treasure, thanks to my department. Long, lazy afternoons on the ledge, endless cups of tea from Shyamal da’s, right outside Gate 4, terrible food at Milan da’s. The friendly faces and tail waggings of Bagha, Jocasta, and my monster pup, Bhodu, basking about in the sun or sprawled across the department corridors. Hnorshie (known as Milo) near Worldview. And Handsome Hank, her forever changing boyfriend. Comforting faces. Friends. I really, really miss them so much. Spending time with Aveek, sitting in the grassy shade at Gate 3, long. long walks around the jheelpar. Coffee. Cigarettes. Many, many fights, a lot of making up. Plotting and planning endlessly, and one evening, long back, we kissed under fireworks. It was magic, frozen in time.

I guess Christmas is a lot about recollections and nostalgia. Despite attempts at stoicism. Have yourselves a merry Christmas, everyone! And have that damn fruit cake. It’s the only time of the worth it’s bearable anyhow.

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