Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When night falls

When people say they are scared of the dark, dark nights
Frankly I am a little surprised!
Shouldn't it be the days that scare us?
Days during which you pretend to be someone else
Smiling through pain, carrying on polite conversations
When all you really want to do is scream.

How are you, he asks.
I am fine , you say.
How's the job going, she queries.
Simply great, you grin.
How are you feeling today, they want to know.
Just as happy as I was yesterday, you have the answer ready.

The day demands you conform to rules
Society has set them
Follow them if you want to be a part of the circus
Defy if you dare and be an outcast

If grief tears at your heart
If you feel your insides sliced by razors
'There, stop crying' they will say
If anger threatens to take over your senses
Breathe easy and count upto 10 or maybe 1000
If you are happy, remember your manners and don't laugh too loud

On days that you feel its not worth climbing out of bed
Get ready and face the world for it is expected of you
On days that you feel too happy to be trapped
Concentrate and ensure you complete that task in hand
Oh yes, its the days that I am scared of!

When night falls
You can take off that mask
Stay in bed if you want to
Or roam at the risk of being called weird
Stare at the ceiling for all its worth
Or observe the empty roads while the world sleeps
The sudden noise of a lone car might shatter your illusion that you are alone
But once the noise subsides, you can go back to your imagination
And finally be at peace
Till sleep claims you
And drags you into the world of nightmares or dreams
Depending on where your mind chooses to wander, free at last!

It is no wonder that I chose to write this at 2:15 am
Headphones in place, camouflaging a make believe world with music
But tomorrow is another day
Maybe good maybe not so good, who knows?
But I am prepared
I have a secret hiding place
If it gets too much to bear, I will run away and hide
Crouch and lie low till the day passes
And night falls
Releasing me from the clutches of the real world

Then I will step out gingerly
Stretch and spread my wings
Happy to be free

Someday I hope my senses will wake up before my intellect does
And allow me to see the world without pretensions
But till that day, on most days I will hide
In that secret place inside my mind
And wait for the night!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ohhh Calcutta

It's official - I am calcuttan once again or should it be a Kolkata-ite? Needless to say the transition from being a Delhiite to a Calcuttan (I'll go with this for now) isn't an easy task, but then who says life is easy? It took me two weeks to realise that I now stay in Kolkata. For those two weeks I was living out of my suitcase - mentally still stuck in the holiday mode. Then Ma-in-law pointed out, "ebar kapor gulo almarih tey rakh.....ekhon toh kolkatatei thakbi" (put your clothes in the cupboard now that you will stay in kolkata).

It's been a month. But each night I go to bed wondering why do I feel like an outsider in my own city? I mean , I was born and brought up in this city for godsake! Attended school and college here. And then I left.

Now after a decade I have returned home ...armed with a bagful of memories. But reality has changed. I do not recognise this city or her people anymore. I look at her with the awe reserved only for outsiders. I see, I observe and I register...renewing acquaintance with my birthplace.

I have always been fascinated by people. One of my favourite pass time is to observe people and make intuitive guesses about them - what kind of a person is he/she, what kind of work do they do, how is their life, how are they feeling at that exact moment, what is their relationship with the person with whom they are chatting over a cup of coffee, etc etc etc. Until now this had been just a hobby. But ever since I have relocated to Calcutta, this has become a survival tool. I feel I have to understand the psyche of the city by getting to know her people. It's a desperate need to blend in, to belong once again. And for that I have to get a feel of the place by observing, talking and mingling with the faithful - those who never left.

But I have a confession to make. The separation of a decade has converted me - slowly but surely. Delhi has seeped into my cells and made a home in my heart. Delhi, with all its rudeness, its aggression, political highbrowness, indecent flaunting of exhorbitant wealth, is home. Delhi, with its maginificent wide roads, its historic monuments, its metropolitan culture and 'I-care-a -damn' attitude, is home. I now look at Calcutta with the eyes of a Delhiite and thus feel out of place. Some friends here comment that I am now a 'Dilliwali' - and though I would die before I admit it in front of them - I think that maybe the conversion has indeed happened. Like an authentic, spoiled 'NRB' (Non Resident Bengali equally snobbish and pseudo as the NRI) - I complain "Ufff the heat here is unbearable (conveniently forgetting the soaring temperature of a Delhi summer). People here sweat so much and they stink (As if north Indians have an in built fragrance generator to help them combat body odour). OMG what are these people wearing - didnt that go out of style like about 7 years back? (ya right - the Punjabi aunties in Delhi are the fashion icons of India). Everybody uses public transport here - and am I seriously expected to travel by a public bus - you must be outta your mind! In saddi Dilli everybody goes to the local market to buy vegetables in their spare family car (pollution, global warming, what?)" - Yes people - I am a Delhiite and proud to be one!

Now having said all of the above, I must also accept that I am not immune to Kolkata's charms. Waking up to the scents and sounds of the city is sheer bliss! Only here my mornings start with the rickshaw horn going 'pyan pyun' (cant spell it right), the sizzle of fish being released into hot oil in kadai (every bengali household has this utensil in various sizes) and yes, a baul or a minstrel (Mihir Pal - just had an early morning chat with him) singing devotional songs right under my bedroom window. Please note: for the princely sum of twenty rupees Mihir Pal obliged and sang requests too :-)

Among other things, Kolkata is also one of the cheapest metros in the country and you can easily stuff your face in any decent joint in the city and pay atleast half of what you would in Delhi. A foodaholic's paradise - the variety and flavours on offer here are simply unparalleled. You know you are a true Bong from Kolkata if you are intimately acquainted with these terms and it doesnt seem like I am talking gibberish: 'Chittoda's eshtew', 'Gol barir kosha mangsho', 'Paramount er shorbot', 'Anadi r moghlai', 'Ralli's er mixed chaat and kulfi', 'Oly pub er beef steak and world -famous- in- kolkata kashundi' etc etc etc. And words like Aliya,Rahmania, Shiraz, Arsalan are household names for you. I am sure any Bengali worth his fish can add atleast 50 more names to the list but I am restricted in my knowledge due to the handicap of a NRB status!

My vocabulary has also increased by leaps and bounds since my return to the city. Some words and expressions which I recently learned and re-learned include:

1. Enti r bari = Entire house/independent house (courtesy: brokers helping with our house hunt)
2. Bombay cutting er bari = House with a contemporary style, usually white in colour with border of a contrasting colour (courtesy: same as above)
3. Hostell = Horsetail aka Ponytail (courtesy: neighbourhood kakima/aunty)4. No poblem = No problem (this one was easy to comprehend wasnt it?)
5. Chanp achey = 'There's pressure' or 'this may be tough'
6. Mata (T pronounced as in tomato) = An idiot
7. Mairi bolchi = I swear I am telling the truth
8. Dhhop = A lie
9. Adda = Chatting with anybody about anything at any time of the day (also a national pass time for the average Bong)
10. Jol khabar = Snacks (supposedly light morning/evening snacks which may consist of puri & sabzi, kachauris, samosas/shingara etc.)

Please feel free to add to the list :-)

And last but not the least, Kolkata has ensured that I get reacquainted with Bangali kalture (culture) through the most common medium - Rabindra sangeet! So every Wednesday between 8:30 - 9:30 pm my hapless neighbours stuff cotton into their ears as I exercise my vocal chords under the guidance of my 'teacher' - a dear kakima (aunty) with the voice of an angel.

So far so good. But will I be able to live and work here and start my life afresh? I don't know. Will let you know as soon as I find out.

signing off for now. Goodnight.