There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Cacophony that quietens me...

By Pritha Lal,
Springville, Utah, USA
Yes, that is the best way to describe my City of Joy – Kolkata. I have never been able to find a definition of what this city means, or has meant to me over the years. I was born here, spent the most beautiful moments of my infancy and childhood here. However I have never lived here for too long and currently this bustling metropolis, where several centuries coexist, remains more of a holiday destination where I come home to my parents every few years.

I welcomed 2013 in this city but was unable to find the right words for a status update for my FaceBook Timeline that could capture what I felt on January 1st 2013. The new year unfolded in my home town, where I was in the most beautiful company of the most important people in my life, my parents, my child, and my husband. I was slightly jet lagged and out like a light on 31st night by 8 pm and spent a good part of 1st at a place very dear to my heart, the Cossipore center of Ramakrishna Mission.
We had rolls from Zeeshan the previous evening and I had the funnest time confusing the kid making the rolls as I could barely contain my excitement while choosing between the “double egg mutton” or the “double egg chicken” and then finally settling for the “double mutton kathi kabab” or some such DECADENT blissful bit of heaven wrapped with extra “lonka and pyanj” ( chillies and onions ) in the ever familiar white paper that gets soggy with the oil but never gets stuck to the roll !!!
I digress, but I always do when I think about this city. Every road our car traverses, every little by lane I walk with mom when we go to the vegetable market, every cross walk, every sidewalk, every traffic light we stop at, every sight that greets me fills with a strange kind of calm even though at times the cacophony can be deafening. It is strange that I never seem to hear the honking or the car behind us or the auto rickshaws rushing past the buses that swerve through the streets to pick up the passengers at the bus stop before the next bus gets there. Instead my mind and my heart get lost in what my eyes see or rather, don’t see.
The slightly misty glass jars with blue tin covers that have “naan khatai” biscuits find their familiar spot on the road side tea stalls where the tea seller, is bundled up to keep himself warm in the slightly chilly Kolkata winter, in a coarse large checked woolen shawl. He has a big aluminum pot ready on the wood fire or a small burner. The Pakka chai (much boiled and spiced tea) is ready to be served in little earthen pots.
The car turns and one sees the colorful saris hanging on lines in balconies. You see a young couple walking with their fingers barely touching and you know they are stealing a few minutes off work, or college to catch a movie or just visit the food court at South City.
It is the faces of people that pass by outside the window of my car that fascinate me even more than the various artifacts. These are the faces I see when I am at an Emporium in Dakshinapan or dining at a mall. These are the faces at the bus stops and auto stands. These are the faces at Belur, Dakshineshwar and Kalighat. These are the faces of my city. A woman in her mid twenties or early thirties, without the familiar vermillion on her forehead or the “loha” in her left wrist. You know she is unmarried, probably taking care of various familial responsibilities and finding her moments of joy in being there for others rather than living a life she may have dreamed of. There is a peace in her face, a silent calm in her quiet demeanor, a steadiness in her gait that has come with time, maturity and the ability to hold her own through it all.
A middle aged man I noticed tried to get on to a moving bus but was unable to, as the bus moved way, I saw he had a cane. The pace was a bit much for him I guess. I was fascinated by the expression on his face as he patiently waited for the next bus, his tenacity intact, his brow furrowed with thoughts much deeper than his cane or his inability to make the last bus. He has a family to go home to it seemed like. He held a small plastic bag with the familiar cardboard packet of mishti, probably something he is taking home to his kids for an evening jol khabar.
No, my city is not about squalor or poverty, it is about life. It is about finding life and living it no matter where you are. The SUVs with the Rayban wearing owners stand side by side at the traffic lights with a couple on a bicycle. The bright orange shidur clearly indicating the newly married duo are residents of some district in Bihar. While the Rayban wearing and Coach handbag carrying couples speed off in their Fortuna, the biker babe and her beau meander into the smaller lanes, her bits of tinsel on her bright red dupatta resplendent in the evening sun.
There are too many images. There are too many memories. Every lane we drive through tells a story of the residents who live in that “para” or neighborhood. Every line on the face of an older man or woman, every giggle coming out of the school “van” rickshaws assure me that the stories of this city will live forever. Each time I come back to it, I will partake of this joy by being a mere spectator, or a listener or maybe sometimes I will have something to say. There is a cacophony of sounds around me, as the new Londonesque ” Trifala” street lights installed at “Didi’s” orders brighten up the streets. Yet in the midst of it all, there is music. These are not just the strains of Rabindrasangeets or Adhuniks at every large crossing or intersection. It is the music of joy in your own heart, the kind that only this city can offer in its own unique, inimitable way.
So do I have a new year update of resolutions for my timeline. No really, I donot. Kolkata and every nuance of this city teach me each and every time to live and make each moment count.
The “naan khatais” are not going up taste any different on the 1st of Jan. Nor will the lives of the maids who take the 5 am train from Canning to come make our homes spotless. The door man at the Taj will open the gates to you just the same and at the end of his shift will take the majestic uniform off, don his clothes and take the bus back home. No, nothing new and earth shattering will happen on the first of the year simply because the city renews every day. If you can feel your spirit do the same, there is your moment of quiet solitude amidst all the noise.

Monday, March 11, 2013


By Ankita Chatterjee

Starry nights, fairy nights,
Trivial to rationale, to the maverick it is divine nights,
Beads of experience adorn eyes in a flush,
Often transform in smiles these flowery nights.

An oft-heard lullaby formed crevasses of delight and dreams in a room that opened to towering condominium buildings, half obstructing the calm, moonlit waves of the China Sea. Aaliya lay on her side, patting her two year old son to sleep. She could hear boisterous laughter across the three barbeque pits downstairs. In her apartment ten levels above that she struggled to see the entire galaxy of stars, bumping into sights of concrete and granite and withholding the narrow getaway between buildings that spanked the jewels of nature.

Infinite was your potential when you set foot on earth,
Infinite is the ocean from its birth,
Infinite the journey of the cargo ships whose start and finish is invisible in that narrow crevice,
Infinite your dreams, without demise.

 Aaliya’s eyes kept closing in a stupor, then barged open.
“Are you awake? May I sit with you? I know you are displeased. I know I am regretting. But my hand and chest pain badly. I think it’s still bleeding,” the man at the door spoke in whispers. Aaliya sprang up. “Is it? Arpan slept off a while back. Why don’t you sit here? I might try doing a first aid while we register at the hospital.”

With a wry smile, he glared at her. “Do you think it is needed? Do you think that will help?”

“Why will it not help, Shubhra da?  At least the bleeding will stop. Oh my God! Look at your shirt!”

Aaliya jolted up to fetch the medical box…and stopped. A stream transpired from her eyes in form of that divine gush that purifies the heinous sin… and she broke onto her knees. She embraced him, sobbing perennially as her grasp of him became tighter.

“I’m sorry, Shubhra da. I’m sorry that I let the distance between you and me, exist. I know it was you, my eldest and closest sibling, who built the wall. But I could have broken it. So, what if you pained your parents and married out of choice. So, what if you spilled me out of your circle of confidantes like a speck! So, what if I longed to talk to you on phone, a call that never came. So, what if the colour of our blood suddenly changed!

Aaliya’s nose snuggled in the crease of Shubhra’s shirt and fresh, greasy blood smudged onto it. Shubhra shrugged a part of his hand that looked dismantled and continued, “Pain is a small word, Aaliya, the one you are talking about. Weren’t you my closest always? How could I beseech you! The parents you debate for are my God. How did you believe I would desert them! Yes, the day I married my wife, I cornered myself. I left you, my pride. I shut the world to me.”

Aaliya stared at his eyes. They were small as ever; a notch not more expressive than they always were. The mole on his left cheek was blatantly black and scary.

Fear deceives prudence
Fear of loss and acceptance.
Fear drills a pit of pain,
Fear struggles to hide in vain.
If pain is what you thought I gave you,
Look deep in me how I hid you,
Touch my breath and feel how I heave you.

Vague expressions met Aaliya yet another time. She wouldn’t dismiss their meeting this time. She carefully lifted Shubhra’s hands and placed them on hers. Slowly as she wiped some blood stains from upon his trouser, Shubhra stiffened.

“Couldn’t you ever call me, Aaliya? Didn’t you ever want to know why and how I back stepped in my life? Weren’t you surprised this couldn’t be me? I waited for long. I waited for your phone call. I was scared you might never forgive me. I told my wife every night how precious you were; my tiny sibling, my compassionate compatriot of crime, my once only dream. Why didn’t you reach me? I didn’t betray your friend to marry my wife. She perhaps didn’t want me anymore. I held so much in me, secured and untold in my heart. But Aaliya, now I can’t. My ribs are broken. A couple of them split my heart open. I’m bleeding. I cried for help, but see it’s bleeding still. Everything is rolling out. My heart cannot hold anything. It is empty.”

Aaliya snatched his dismantled fist, pulled out a pillow case and pushed it against Shubhra’s chest. “The blood will stop. Does it hurt?” She lisped and fumbled, pushing in an entire pillow to his chest.

“Let it go, Aaliya. Let it go. It hurts me no more. My grudge I held for so long streamed out a while back. I love you. Always have. Like that every drop you shed from your eyes, these droplets of blood take me closer to infinity. I shall soon enter that narrow getaway between buildings. I shall soon be the immortal cascade in your mortal world.”

A concoction of moments
Question your integrity.
How complex your perceptions were.
I swept a corner in my heart,
It is all in simplification.

Aaliya opened her eyes slowly. She felt her eyelids heavy and her heart light. The narrow getaway shone under the light of a huge cargo shipment. The splitters of the sea made a reclining noise. Her son tossed on the bed and the alarm clock was yet to beep. Aaliya would begin another banker day of hers and her husband shall soon join them after his business trip. Aaliya watched the cargo ship pass, not knowing where it embarked from, sailing into infinity.

Two years after her eldest brother met with a road accident and all her dreams crashed, she was finally begotten of the haunt. Sudden answers transpired in an abrupt introspection that subconsciously began that fatal day when after a lapse of three years of miscommunication and distance, a cruel reality dawned on her.

Aaliya smiled in her pain. She knew now that time was lost; that introspection could fetch the clarity that was so oblivious earlier; how a part of her shall always remain indebted to this night and how she would never stop missing Shubhra.

Times when droplets of water roll into a steady rush,
Drenching into a synthesis,
How impregnate Earth is with a bounty of untouched thoughts,
Ones that etch divine experiences.
In this ethereal cascade I often immerse to be enlightened.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

That Year

By Kunal Sen
Goa, India

There was a night when we lied besides each other
And our lives changed
But before that
In a colony of refugees
Our love was just another thing we had in common
Like a shared clothesline

You had nothing but your blessed good looks
Your boxer's nose and your Mousumi Chatterjee teeth
Even your shadows were beautiful
Your lashes gave you away
We owned a song
We tainted a room, and a town

You had tried to put me together
Piece by piece by piece
And I was flattered and scared at the same time
Not because you were a stranger
But because by then
You were not

You had given names to my fingers
"This one is Benimadhav
The little fellow is called Eravath
Then this here is Tommy-Tit-Tot ..." you used to say
Kissing the tips
As though baptizing all the children we never had.