October 06, 2009

A Whiff of Pain

It hit me when I was standing on my terrace tonight. The faint smell of the flowers rushed past me. Calcutta was heaving a sigh of relief. The Pujo festivities were finally over. The taxi was waiting downstairs to take me away to Mumbai. And I could sense the accusation in that smell. This was the time of the year when the tree in front of my house blossomed every year. I had seen it grow up. In one of their many and highly unsuccessful tree planting ceremonies, the Municipal corporation had lined our road with trees. All had died within a month but my granddad raised this tree just like his own son. Sometimes I felt he loved this one more than the other trees in our small excuse of a garden.

The smell brought back memories and it was difficult to tear myself away from them. And it asked me questions. For which I had no answer, as usual.

I looked around in the faint glow of the sole light on our terrace. Everything around seemed different. The old houses with their old faces were gone or on the verge of extinction. Views on either side were slowly getting blocked by grotesque apartments so very reminiscent of Gurgaon and Mumbai.

The smell was of my childhood. Of old promises and dreams. Surprisingly all those dreams had Calcutta as an important part of it. Dreams of taking someone important to my Para Pujo’s Anjali, the classic North Calcuttan Belongingness Ritual, dreams of coming back home from work and calling up my best friend to rub in a pinch of salt when East Bengal lost the Calcutta Derby, dreams that a school going kid dreamt in his adolescent years.

The smell grew stronger and pain seared through the heart. And I do not want to publish all that I had written, sensed or photographed during the Pujos. For they are happy memories of a Non Resident Calcuttan who came back after 9 years to a city he thought he owned, not because he was the richest guy around but he loved the city and he knew the city loved him back. And clich├ęd as it may sound, there’s seldom anything that can make you feel richer than love.

He went to places where he was forbidden to go when he was a school going kid. He finally dined with the live music playing at Trincas, danced at the immersion of the idol in busy Calcutta streets that had the traffic to a standstill and went to Maddox square with his friends, 4 years too late perhaps, but he did it.

And yet, I was a tourist, nothing more. The roots were still strong but every visit struck at them mercilessly. I blend ceaselessly into every city I live in, with the people there and yet retain what friends call my “inherent bongness”

Only when I come back I realize the charade that I live. My connection with latest Bengali Literature has virtually stopped in the last one year, the music today sounds strange, ethically I no longer have a say on the politics of the state.

The question kept nagging - Where did I belong?


Anonymous said...

...rootless...i've been feeling the same, all the time..like not knowing what to call home..the apartment that i come bk everyday to? or the new place my parents moved to? or the old house i grew up in - which is no longer ours?... is it because i cant hold on ...or is it because i cant move on...

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

Dear Anon the exact feeling came over me as you write in the last line.