Monday, 9 June 2008

Eternal sunset.

This is a poem I wrote when I was in Class X. It was after a bout of euphoria which was followed by a nasty sinking feeling in stomach, possibly the beginnings of the stones-in-gall-bladder, possibly the awful periodic depression we all face, now and then.


Eternal sunset, orange and red-
The colourless life, a colourful head.
So many sparkling rainbow-like dreams.

Exquisite gardens of blossoming flowers-
Grown over centuries, dead in an hour.
A flickering firefly gleams.

Twilight approaching, sunset shall go-
All of eternity in a singular flow,
The gloaming heralds a darker age.

Darkness forever in the fairyland-
Castles built in the pristine white sand,
Broken and shattered in a fit of rage.

Castles in sand, castles in air-
Illusion here yet delusion there!
How words do change....

Eternal sunshine, orange and red-
Beautiful flowers destined to be dead
Of what variety and range.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

All Along The Watchtower.

There's too much confusion, and there isn't much relief.

Reporters don't deserve their daily bread. They should become novelists, every one of them. I am going to open a publishing house for frustrated reporters. I'd call it Cock&Bull&Co. or how about Poppycock House? Boca & Choda is also an option we could explore.

The latest is that Dimma has a bank account at London, and Ma fixes up deals with art dealers. Sure, whynot? We go for vacations to Innsbruck and dine at the Savoy every weekend. Or was it Claridge's? We have three houses across three continents... I buy every book that my heart desires...I wear YSL and Christian Dior... I am sick...and tired.

The point is, with Bengali families stolidly middle class (income doesn't matter, it's the sensibility, the refusal to give up chaa and muri, or the inability to call biscuit anything but biskoot)... these things are earth-shattering. All we had was our dignity, Baba always insisted on being called Professor Panda, because that's what he always was, is. These allegations we laugh off now, one has sort of become desensitised. Thakurma was all for some jhyaata-petaano action and I wish my father had some of her bloodthirsty instincts. It skipped a generation but I... I am really angry. I want an axe or a sickle or a sword and I want it pronto. I wish I had been trained in a martial arts of the most vicious and lethal variety. I want to shout at them to leave us alone.

Well, all I can say is, before Baba and Ma came back, relocated, when they were pursuing academic careers in Europe, as doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars, the huge amount of scholarships received actually allowed them to eat out at a Savoy's. Afternoon tea, no less. They chose to come back, giving up on such fascinating affectations.
Not that they regret it, even now. No, John. I salute them for it. I asked Baba that day after dinner, when he was saying all sorts of sorry and silly things to clear the inevitable tension in the air, now a staple in the household...

Me: So, so why did you come back? And why Calcutta, and why this chumpy lumpy bumpy job?
He: Well. Your mind needed a home, didn't it? Even the true bohemians, you know, the globetrotters, the ones that are great... for greatness, the mind needs a home.

And for peace too. I don't need YSL, and what are libraries and quaint second-hand bookstores for? But the reporters, for the reporters, and the ones responsible for the mess today, the corrupt ones sitting pretty (not so pretty you'll be soon, ugly dishonest corrupt morons)...
Cafe Bocha is too polite, as Mike Teevee said, DIE!DIE!DIE!

The Joker and the Thief are conversing, and the Businessmen...
Outside in the cold distance
A wild cat did growl
Two riders were approachin
And the wind began to howl...

Let it. I can always howl better. So there. That's it, folks.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

To Baba, the black sheep.

Sometimes words slip out of the mouth like scars or platitudes that cannot heal. At times I wondered at those closest to me, sometimes distances grow like craters. And then dormant volcanoes erupt suddenly without meaning, without utility.
Where does integrity stand at the end of the day?
Square meals or salmon, the last paise spent on a delicious mango, I cry at a life that deserts me, I cry at the desserts they hand out, I cry out for the God who forsakes me.
I am not a philosopher, not even a quack philosopher; I am not a poet either for aspiring to be one can never be the same thing. Language abandons me time and again, images I love elude me for a reason unknown, and all the senses- the senses we take for granted or exalt beyond all measure- seem so often to be so vastly exaggerated.

It is nearing 4 am, and I am still awake. The storm raging within has translated itself into a tangible entity outside my window but all I can think of is how pathetic my fallacies have been. The sky isn’t crying for me, the sky is slipping away, away into a darkness that taught me that wistfulness is passé. The mango was eaten yesterday, and the pickle made last year has developed into what you may call Fungal Delights.

Why pickle in the first place? Why are the best things in life-like sake, wine, yogurt, and bread- fermented? Maybe bread isn’t, but don’t interrupt. Too long have we been interrupted, too long have we not realized that the snot is not a disease, it’s a symptom of a malaise that’s greener and murkier than one can envisage.

Why not religion? Why that half-baked attempt at a secular ethic that means even less than… I don’t know. Why does thakurma still sweat it out in the tiny pujor ghar chanting shlokas in a singsong monotone? I don’t know. I lurk about for the banana and nakuldana. I like to listen to her, listen to her sing honestly, as honest as you, perhaps even less so…but you don’t believe in religion.

Maybe we could have sat and discussed Raymond Williams, but you wouldn’t, I wanted to tell you about faking to have read Lyotard, but you never had the time to listen, never had time to talk, only indulge me with chocolate and more chocolate. Where do we stand today? What must we understand today… where did the craters lie? How did the magma die?

Today as we stand at a helpless crossroad, less helpless than the crossroad, as we look back at a life spent in deprivation and honesty, with occasional treats and unbelievable loneliness, I admire you. I dislike you too. But mostly, I love you.

In a society which has lost it’s human element, I am proud to be your daughter and at what better time can this affirmation come? The horror, the horror? That too shall pass as we transcend. Remember one of your favourite poems- Larkin's The Arundel Tomb? That collection of poems you got for me, like every other book that adorns my bookshelf, thank you for being the Best Baba in the world, The Chitta Baba who used to say that my potty looked like the best Dutch Cheese in the market. Thank you for filling my childhood with inanities that nobody understood, thank you for making me the person I am, warts and all. Well, maybe you're not the Best Baba in the world, but for me, you are the Only Baba in the world. Other than Meher Baba, i.e.

Anyway. I shall end with this-

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into Untruth.
The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

It's been a good rollercoaster ride, thank Gawd we didn't go to Disneyworld, and I loved it all, including the randomness in front of friends. Thank you for ignoring it when I raided the Vat 69, and you'd be glad to know that I seem to be drinking only orange squash and tea these days. And no smoking.( But the 'exclusive' tea that you think nobody's drinking, the special one you hid from ma, that's the one I'm addicted to.)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A Dialogue On Plato and a Few Other Things.

She: The name Plato is unbelievably pretentious. My friend had a baby the other day. We call him Hnaariram.
Me: But...
She: Plato. But why?
Me: (fumbles) He is wide-browed.
She: Hoom.
Me: Well, I couldn't allow him to be called Bhombol all his life without a mew of protest, could I?
She: Why couldn't you?
Me: I like Europiyo names.
She: It is intolerably pretentious.
Me: It's because they think I am a scholar (and indeed now you shall protest) but that is how they regard me ever since they caught me reading Horace's Odes at the little pre-wedding party that they had. Of course it was a Penguin Classic, the full scholarly value of which impressed upon the mind.
She: Mind?
Be good. And do all your work.
Me: I read pulp fiction.
She: Well.
Me: OK. I am off.

Righto, that was the dialogue. Now let us dwell on other things. When will the rains come? My heart cries out for some healthy hilsa. Oh, before I forget. My readership consists of some non-Bengali speaking people, chief among whom is the good Elendil, who is improving much in recent time, but for his benefit I translate Hnaariram. It means, in a literal sense, Ram of the Pot/ Cooking Vessel of Quirky Shape. Anyway...I am sure the good Elendil will not take offence. And if he does, then I must remind him of the time when he identified khoi as a sort of muri, which is actually not as wrong as it sounds, except of course, that it is wrong and appalling too.
However, I forgive him because he is in Bombay and is engaged in all sorts of fascinating exercises like IPL final-watching and Naseeruddin Shah-in-Antigone-viewing. That apart, Colaba has some exciting trinkets that he will, no doubt, pick up for the beautiful N. which will put her in a lovely mood and she will immediately bake me the nicest cake in Calcuttadom. Or take me out for ham sandwiches sans kasundi.

Yesterday we went for monthly shopping to Spencers' where I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the preserved olives and gherkins. And the fancy cheese. I remember the childhood outings with ma to Gariahat maashkaabari dokaan. Those days! The fish market was just next to the grocery store. Then came Food Bazaar. Gosh! And now we even have Marks and Spencers'. The thrill has gone from the sudden smoked salmon and cold cuts that visiting relatives/parents get from foreign first world climes. Even though my mother steadfastly refuses to buy them here because of the pricing. So we settle for Meatzza (she doesn't even let me buy piggy) chicken sausages, the most inedible sausages of chicken or any other meat that you may ever come across.

Anyway, the next time any of you have roast suckling with a well placed apple in the mouth of the Baby Piggy, call me over. I shall warble in my best Bard-like tones, deliver a discourse on the beauty of memory and the art of the ancients, slice modernity into two and fart on the larger slice, and blow my nose and bid you a teary farewell.
Thank you for a good time.