A Journey to The Inner Space

When words failed and missed opportunities piled,

Myriad moments of  silence were born out of moments of memories.

Memories that were bright and grey, happy and sad

that kept me buoyant.

An ever-encompassing feeling grips me

And wants me to be part of the eternity.

And then an atomic explosion disintegrates my entire personality.

I float on the bubble of time and infinite;

Wanting to meet the two – time and infinite.

I think of the travel to my inner space- on the capsules of my memory;

However, I find trapped in the cobwebs of my complexities.

It’s not an easy journey to the inner space.

When I see myself through the crevice of a cracked mirror -

like the patterns in a kaleidoscope

Yet I keep travelling on – a million times,

With a hope to see no more kaleidoscopes and complexities

- to merge with the infinite.

 

Immersion

The maddeningg orgy was long over. The banks of the Ganga wore a deserted look. In the distance, the shimmering dark water stood still, quite contrary to the picture even an hour back. The bank- teeming with people, goddesses to-be immersed and drummers beating the ‘dhak’ in a mad frenzy, was a scene of disorderliness. But now only torn pieces of streamers, torn petals of flowers, disfigured framework of goddesses from which the clay had sedimented floated on the calm surface of the water – the only signs left of the numerous immersions that had taken place from early evening till the wee hours of midnight.

Squatted on one of the dilapidated steps of the Ghat, twelve year-old Raghu stared intently at those petals forming intricate geometric patterns as they floated on the water. He sat there lost in thought. It was time for him to salvage the coins from the river bed – coins which pious devotees offered in the name of ‘Maa Durga’ and coins which also earned his and many others’ daily bread.

Fumbling for the coins near the banks of the river where the water was shallow, Raghu was often bruised. But there was no respite for the teenager. He had his ailing mother as well as himself to fend for. However, the river – ‘Ganga Maaiya’ as he called, never let him return empty-handed. Opulent ‘seths’ and their obese wives were ceremoniously generous in their offerings. With the pelf collected, he brought medicines for his mother and on special occasions he pampered himself with ‘gulabjamoons’ from the local ‘mithaiwallah’.

But their ‘peak season’ was during the Durga Puja festival. Also, it brought in fresh lease of happiness in his otherwise uneventful existence. This year he had managed to even buy a brand new saree for his mother and then also had money left to feast with his friends.  When these four days came to an end like a whirlwind, another new excitement awaited him. After the goddesses were immersed with great pomp and gaiety, he retrieved the framework of the goddesses which were sold at a high price to the artisans for use in the following years. This strange trade also brought some crisp notes.

Somewhere in the distance, a stray dog barked. Raghu woke from his reverie. He had so much to do and yet he could not shake off his sluggishness. Instead, a choking feeling engulfed him. For the first time in his twelve years of life, he felt that he was deprived and underprivileged. At a time when children his age snuggled cozily in bed, he shivered in the cold, alone in the ‘Ghat’, anticipating danger in every move. Divine injustice! he thought. Suddenly, he stood up. Groping in the darkness, he waded through the water until it was waist-deep. He stood there in the ice-cold October water with hands folded, looking up into the sky. Eyes brimming with tears, he silently prayed for a proper place to live and perhaps, an opportunity to mould his life for a better living.

“Hey Raghu! What are you doing there, you fool?”, someone yelled from the banks, “Fetch the torso if you’ve found it. Quick. You know that was the deal.” Wiping his tears fiercely, Raghu dived into the waters. “I’m coming”, Raghu shouted back.

The Resurrection

‘Ma’, Samta called, ‘Today I’m going to tidy the attic.’ Samta’s mother, Mrs. Tandon beamed with happiness. After all, she didn’t hear many such eager offers from her daughter. But then, it’s not her fault. She quietly admonished the present education system. It has really taken its toll on Samta. The garrulous Samta has now turned to a sedate young lady, full of unusual gloom, inadvertent. But she is only twenty-five!

The sound of the opening of the lock brought Mrs. Tandon to reality. It was Samta in the attic. This once-buxom girl had entered into the attic, leaving behind the present outside the threshold. There she sat rummaging through the piles of papers, drawers, flinging out worn-out documents. In a few minutes, she was drowned in the dust and dirt. She did not care. Being an workaholic, she was soon engrossed in her job.

Samta remembered, as she assiduously sorted out the new from the old, the days when she had spent hours in the attic. Those days when she could quarrel with her favorite friend, Shweta over a bite of Cornetto, or slip away from school to watch Bazigarh  and fool around with boys. Gosh! that time is gone! ‘Time is a dictator,’ she reflected, it always reigns over you. I’ve changed and metamorphosed. Everybody manages to change, even the most adamant amongst us has to.’

From the ocean of papers and books, suddenly her diary came into her hands. It was the same velvetty diary where she used write every minutest details of her life. Turning the pages, she came across a yellowing photograph. The face dazed her and gave her an electrifying shock. It was Sourya’s. As she sat caressing the picture, holding it up to her chin at times. She remembered the debonair, charming, baritone-voiced Sourya. Yes, she could now frame him clearly. It certainly takes time to wipe away the haze collected over one’s memory. That face which had laid so peacefully in the depths of her memory, stirred her apparent equanimity.

Sourya was the cynosure among her friends and she the pet. Naturally, they came closer. Curiosity led to friendship and friendship led to deep, deep love. Love indeed! Even their friends had to admit – they were made for each other. Those were her rainbow days! During holidays, she sneaked into the attic and poured her heart’s content into the diary. On long afternoons, she would look up into the sky as if to thank God. Yes, she would thank God profusely. Her eyes were crystal clear, bright with the prospects of tomorrow. She used to read Sourya’s letters covertly in the attic, safe from the prying eyes of her mother. Her replies were also framed there, which were full of youthful romanticism.

It was after two years of steady relationship that they drifted apart. Sourya was going to the United States. Hoards of cards, well wishes were showered on them both. Samta was too bewildered to react. Things happened so quickly that she could not grasp. In an intimate moment, Sourya vowed, ‘I’ll never forget you’. Samta also reconvinced her faith, her staunch belief on Sourya.

Faith – the treacherous thing! Damn you, God of Faith, she cursed. The babe of the bevy suddenly became too adult-like. Her attic was the only place she poured her heart out! Time flew. Letters from Sourya became fewer and fewer and finally it stopped. Her zest for life also vanished. Mrs. Tandon was happy that her idiosyncratic daughter was less frivolous and had started taking life seriously.

And from then on, there was no looking back. Ruthlessly murdering her dreams, she got engrossed in the mundane lifestyle – studies and exams. Only – she never went to the attic. First, it was a searing pain, then it was lesser, and after sometime she did not feel it at all. It remained safe and secured in the lap of time like her Sourya. Reminiscing over, Samta sat with Sourya’s picture clasped to her bosom. Somewhere deep within a choking feeling engulfed her.

Back from the long hibernation, her love for Sourya suddenly surged forth. Samta made up her mind to meet him in the United States, now that she had won the scholarship. One goal accomplished, the others will only be a matter of time. There was no fumbling in her and with a dreamy determination, Samta walked out of the attic, clutching Sourya’s picture close to her heart.

The soft light of the morning sun danced in her starry eyes.

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Deepabali Memories

Suddenly I’m filled with this tremendous hope that someday maybe not tomorrow, I will again see the lights playing in the horizon – filling it up with colors. I will be surrounded by loving faces. I will rejoice as a little girl lighting the candles, bursting the crackers – the safer and benign ones first and then mustering up the courage for the more challenging ones. Just as I had done years back as an infant.
Memories come flooding. .Having ‘choddoshaak’ ( a bengali custom where 14 different produce were cooked) the day before Diwali, Baba getting boxes of candles and fire crackers..The childhood fun when the first boxes of crackers were bought, the best dress selected and helping Maa with lighting the candles and the ‘diyas’ in every nook and cranny of our home..stacking sweets for guests in the freezer.
Getting up from bed at midnight, braving the chill, and watching in awe the rituals of Kali Puja being performed..these pieces and many more remain etched in my mind.
In a faraway land, I cannot recreate the magic – not without you Maa and Baba but I do have a piece of your soul intact in me and somehow sitting here in my desk, I ‘feel’ very festive from within.
I know Maa and Baba- you still decorate the house with neons and candles.

It’s not often that I appreciate the traditional daughter in me but now is the time.

Shubho Deepabali Maa and Baba.