Coming home of late, has been a regular experience given the work at the bookstore not to mention the holiday season. As the boss puts it – apart from putting bread on the table it also pays my university tuition. How I agree with her, in my mind all those sleepless nights before the final examinations come back once again – the race against time is on. The proverbial hourglass is running and there is nothing one can do to stop it.
This time it was Bombay and its plastic vision – bright lights and cars everywhere, its small cramped quarters and stories – oh the stories that city can give you. Going there is a story in itself.
Unlike Calcutta – in Calcutta you step out of the aircraft and smell the night sky. Thick, dense and a sense of mischief about it – very traditional, like a relic. It keeps you wondering – this was a place where something once happened. Bombay on the other hand is where it happens – the air is pleasant, more vibrant and wanting – but you still have to breathe it.
From Shivaji’s airport to Bose International. The history encompassing the two is written and debated firmly, and in the air of both cities you grasp more than a tinge of the two – Bombay and its tact, like Shivaji’s army – as Calcutta’s keenness for the intellect as was Bose.
With practiced perfection I hail a cab – all yellow taxis in Calcutta chain smoke. The driver threw the matchbox on my lap as he took off into the calm of the night sky. The smoke from our cigarettes carried out into the traffic in unison – like brothers on opposite sides of a civil war reunited once again. The lights were blurry every time he took off – the car clattered from all ends, it was an old Ambassador, the relic encompassing how the city felt – somehow enough to keep mind and body together.
The next morning I’m awoken not by my alarm clock in unison but by the sound of the traffic outside my window. The sound is very distinct – it is the sound of a fresh morning – like a warm croissant on a cold February morning. Children, parents, cars, two wheelers all clog the private lane leading into the musty bookstore I call home. It is the end of the week – the smell the atmosphere conjures is encouraging – eager at the prospect of the holidays to come.
Ahh Calcutta – for all your laziness you know how to enthral the mind. An afternoon away from the city can’t shake you off either – from beyond the boundary walls of a private retreat one can hear the azaan call, the Bollywood music usually associated with festivities and the occasional cry from the kabaariwala – the rich vein of sound and colour makes up the bedrock of civilisation here.
The bloodlines of Bengal, rooted firmly in the daily life of everyone taken together like an orchestra playing on a broadway show for decades to packed balconies and rapturous applause everytime. It tells you how this city’s base vibrates with stirring monotony, still alive – refusing to give up.
I let it ingulf in me its memories – good, bad and ugly. Once you hit every note you feel little pain and smile.
Finding my way back to Calcutta, lonely and blue – mistreated too. Sometimes I think of you girl, is it true that you think of me too?