Sunday, October 16, 2005

মা

এক যুগ পেরিয়ে গেছে মৃণালিনীর মৃত্যুর পর. তার পুরনো জিনিস বাক্স বন্ধ হয়ে পড়ে আছে বাড়ির এক কোনে কোথাও, পুরু ধুলয়ে ঢাকা. মার্কর্সারা নিবীর ভাবে তাকে জড়িয়ে সংসার পেতেছে. কালচে হয়ে যাওয়া একখানি রুপোর ফ্রেম-এ তার হলদেটে ছবি রয়েছে. তাতে নোংরা জমাট বাঁধা সিঁদুরের টিপ.

আজ মৃণালিনীর মৃত্যুদিবস. নিলি মোমবাতি আর ফুল নিয়ে বসে মায়ের ছবির সামনে. মায়ের কোনো স্মৃতীই প্রায় নেই তার. আট বছর বয়েসে সে মা কে হারায়. শোনা গল্পের সাথে কল্পনা মিশিয়ে মাকে একরকম সে ভাববার চেষ্টা করে. কিন্তু মা তার ভিষণ অচেনা. বিয়ের দিন মায়ের গহনা গুলো সে পড়েছিল. মায়ের থেকে আর কি পেয়েছে নীলি? মাকে যে রোগ মৃত্যুর মুখে ঠেলেছিল, রক্তের মধ্যে সেই রোগের বীজ ? তিরিশের আসেপাশে পৌছনো অব্দি মৃত্যু ভয় উঁকিঝুকি দেয় নীলির মনে.

দুষ্টুমি করলে মা ওকে শাস্তি দিতেন একলা ঘরে বন্দী করে . নীলি বন্ধ ঘরে ঠোঁট ফুলিয়ে কাঁদত . অন্লার শাড়িগুলো টেনে মাটিতে ফেলে ওর মধ্যে লুটোপুটি করত . বাবার কাছে মায়ের বিরুধ্যে অনেক নালিশ করবার সংকল্প আঁটতো . বাবা নীলিকে ভিসন ভালবাসতেন . নীলির কোনো আবদার তার কাছে নিরাশ হয়নি কখনো . কান্নাকাটিতে ক্লান্ত হয়ে নীলি শেষে ঘুমিয়ে পড়ত . মা যখন এসে মেয়েকে শাড়ির জট থেকে উদ্ধার করে খাটে শুইয়ে দিতেন , তখন দুহাত দিয়ে মাকে জড়িয়ে ধরত নীলি ঘুমের মধ্যে . মেয়ের মাথায়ে হাত বুলিয়ে দিতে দিতে মৃনালিনী ওর ভবিষ্যতের কথা ভাবতেন . নিজে ডাক্তার ছিলেন . নীলির পড়াশোনা নিজে সম্পূর্ণ দেখতেন . ওকে সঞ্চয়িতা থেকে কবিতা শেখাতেন , সঙ্গীতের তালিম দিতেন . নীলির সব ব্যাপারে তার সতর্কতাপূর্ণ নজর থাকত . নীলিকে কত যত্ন করে মানুষ করবেন স্বপ্ন দেখতেন মৃনালিনী . মায়ের জীবনের দুর্ভাগ্যের কথা ভেবে হুহু করে ওঠে নীলির মন .

মৃনালিনী যাবার সময় গিরিশের জীবনের অর্ধেকটা সঙ্গে নিয়ে গেলেন . নীলির চোখে জল ভরে আসে ওর বাবার কথা ভেবে . নীলি তখন কতটুকুইবা বুঝত ! তবু বুঝত গিরিশ যেন নিজেকে বয়ে বেড়াচ্ছিলেন শুধুই তার মুখের দিকে চেয়ে . কাজে মন নেই , নিজের শরীরের দিকে মন নেই , সংসারে মন নেই . চারিপাশের বসন্ত বিষাক্ত তার কাছে . বাবার সাথে সাথে সব সময় থাকবার চেষ্টা করত নীলি . তাকে শাশন করত , অপটু হাতে তাকে সেবা করত সাধ্য মতন . তিন বছর বাদে বাবাও চলে গেলেন cerebral stroke এ .

নীলির ঘাঁড়ে মাথা গুঁজে অরুনাভ জিগ্গেস করল, "কি গো , খাবে না তুমি ?" দীর্ঘ নিশ্বাস ছেড়ে আসতে আসতে ফু দিয়ে মোমবাতি নিবিয়ে উঠে পড়ল নীলি মায়ের ছবির সামনে থেকে .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Late

Her train is late, way late. She lies languorously in waiting, for deliverence. The people she had known, what was her world, are all long gone. She stands alone in infinite desolation, a weary old woman. She does not not matter any more. She mattered in the context of what constituted her life. As that eroded away, she was dehumanized to a point of utter meaninglessness. Today you could insult her, humiliate her, it did not matter. She cried effortless tears without feeling too much. She made silly demands, spoke unheard words, sometimes stretched her fingers experimentally in rare fits of improved spirits. Mostly, she stared blankly, uncomprehendingly, at the faces of strangers in what used to be her home. Every sense of belonging has been snubbed out by repeated rebuffs and neglect. She cannot eat by herself, cannot walk by herself, cannot use the bathroom without assistance, cannot even turn on her own, on the dirty ricketty bed, which is where she lies by the shadowy daylight and the ghastly yellow light of the low power night bulb.

Sorit stared at his grandmother and wondered what she was thinking. His mother told him to go and at least touch her feet once after the pujas to seek her blessings. Grandmother would sometimes not even recognize who Sorit was. Sorit did not like to sit in this foul-smelling gloomy room. What was the point anyway.. Sorit would rather remember his grandmother from when he was younger, when his grandmother used to dote on him, always plying him with her home-made assortment of sweets and pickles. Everybody wanted to remember her from those days when she had light and soul and connection with their lives. Here she lay now, clearly no more than a stinking house guest. He shuddered to think how everyone was waiting for her to die.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

মন আমার

গভীর রাতে ঘুম ভেঙ্গে গেল স্মিতার . কটা বাজে কে জানে ! আলোর switchটা বেশ দুরে . ঘড়ির দিকে খুব নিবিষ্ট ভাবে তাকিয়ে থেকে সময়টা জানবার চেষ্টা করলো ও কিছুক্ষণ ... কিন্তু ঘুমের ঘোর তখনো সম্পূর্ণ কাটেনি . চোখটা কেমন জ্বালা করে ওঠে . সময় জানবার চেষ্টা ছেড়ে দেয় স্মিতা . উঠে এক গ্লাস জল খাবে নাকি ? থাক . পাশ ফিরে কোলবালিশটাকে আষ্টেপিষ্টে জড়িয়ে ধরে আবার ঘুমিয়ে পরার চেষ্টা করে .. কিন্তু ঘুম আসেনা .. খুট করে একটা শব্দ হল. কাঠের বাড়িতে সবসময়ই ওইরকম খুটখাট আওয়াজ হয় , দিনের বেলা টের পাওয়া যায়না . নিশুতি রাতে অন্ধকার ঘরে ওই আওয়াজগুলই স্মিতাকে গিলতে আসে . আলো জ্বেলে দিলে এতটা অসস্তি হবেনা , ও জানে . নিজের ওপর রাগ হচ্ছে স্মিতার . এসব ছেলেমানুষীর কোনো মানে হয় ! খুব জোর করে চোখ বুজে অন্য কিছু ভাববার চেষ্টা করে ও . বাইরের ঝলমলে জ্যোত্স্নার আলো ওর গায়ে এসে পরে ..

আবলতাবল ভাবতে ভাবতে ও কি আবার ঘুমিয়ে পড়েছিল ? একসময় ও দেখে মিহির যেন বসে রয়েছে ওই . মিহিরকে স্মিতার খুব ভালোলাগে . ভেবেছিল ... পাশাপাশি চলতে চলতে পিছিয়ে পড়ল স্মিতাই . দুরন্ত হৃদয়াবেগের সাথে বয়ে যেতে পারল না ও . পুরনো অভ্যেসগুলোর পিছটান এড়াতে পারলনা . মিহিরের প্রেম বাঁধা পেয়ে মোড় বেঁকে গেল অন্য পথে , অন্য সাথির খোঁজে .. আরতির কথা প্রথম যেদিন মিহির গল্প করে স্মিতাকে , মুখে হাসি টেনে এনে স্মিতা বন্ধুকে অভিনন্দন জানায় . নিজের মনকে শাশন করে .. মিহির এখানে কি করে ! তবে কি সব আগের মতন আছে ? তবে কি .. মিহির নয় ও . কে ও ? এ তো সম্রাট ! ওর collegeএর বন্ধু সম্রাট ! বন্ধুত্তার থেকেও ঘনিষ্ট হয়েছিল ওদের সম্পর্ক . Dear old Sammy কে ওর মনে পরে মাঝে মাঝে .. কিন্তু .. সম্রাট কে ও ঠকাতে চায়নি . শুধু এত ভালমানুষি স্মিতার সঝ্য হলনা ! অত ভালবাসার দাবিতে ওর কেমন দম আটকে আসত.. আরে , কার সঙ্গে কাকে গুলিয়ে ফেলছে ও ! এ তো মিতালি . ওর schoolএর বন্ধু মিতালি . সময় , অসময় , সবসময় একসাথে দেখা যেত স্মিতা আর মিতালিকে .. গপ্পে গপ্পে কত সময় কেটে গাছে , হিসেব নেই . কি এত কথা ছিল কে জানে . এখন সব মনেও পরেনা . মিতালির বিয়ে হয়ে গাছে .. ওর বর সুধীন ভালো ছেলে .

স্মিতার চোখে জল আসছে কান ! শরীর মন কেমন অবসন্ন হয়ে রয়েছে .. অপলক চোখে ও চেয়ে আছে কার পানে ? কিছুতেই নিজেকে বাঁধতে পারছে না o. কত সময় গড়িয়ে যাচ্ছে ও জানেনা .. অপরিসীম গ্লানি মনের মধ্যে .. গলার মধ্যে অসাঝ্য বেদনা . হঠাত কিসে ঘুমের আমেজ টা আবার চটকে গেল .. ধুত !! কিই আবলতাবল ভাবছে ও !!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Potluck

Atithi satkarer sabek rewaj gulo morche pore jachhe. Ma kakimader dekhechi swa-haste panchobyanjon ranna kore sajiye diten pate: teto, nonta, jhal, tak, misti.. ranna gulo hoito sobi chena, sobi purono, steeler sadharon bashone khawa.. tobu swade, gondhe, poribeshoner noipunye amon akta poripurnota thakto jetar antorikata monke sporsho kore jeto. khawar somoy pashe boshe bhalobasa mistrito najordari..

Bartoman projonmer modhye sudokhho grihiniponata sekele. "ami osob pari na". ei na parataye lojja nei barong gorbo royeche. Shikhhita swadhibjibi narira barabari gharoa charitre nijeder maniye nite parchen na. amra "get together" ei beshi obhyosto. je jerakom paro kichu akta rendhe niye chole esho amar bari. kineo ante paro, kintu tate kharoch ta beshi. akta kichu "namiye" dewa. internet ghete akta bohu jotil recipe uddhar kore chamokprodo bahari ranna. grihoswamir saprosongsho chahoni.. sare bottirish bhajar juge bangalir atithibatsalyer abhibekti!

Friday, September 23, 2005

bottleneck

Raka had planned to beat rush hour traffic but luck was definitely out. Everything now moved at a crawling pace. Alternately she sped up and then swung her foot back hard on the brakes. It was no use, this restlessness. The driver ahead flashed his break lights twice to show his irritation. Yeah, she knew he couldn't go any faster... The new pumps pinched her feet and it did not help to improve her mood. She felt rather warm too. Her car airconditioning wasn't working. Now that autumn was here, Raka had decided to ignore the AC problem until next spring. AC s were always cranky at the end of winter...

Her mind wandered a few moments backward. Today she had had a flat while driving on the interstate! It had been a first and it had been very enervating. When the peculiar dragging sort of noise just begun, she had instinctively looked around to see whoes car was it.. surely not hers! Then she watched dismayed as her car started losing speed. At the last minute, she swerved onto the curb on the left cutting accross the HOV lane. A serious accident could have happened in those seconds. Her heart was pounding with excesses of adrenalin. The right rear tyre had burst she discovered, after getting out of the car. Just her luck.. Calm down, Raka admonished herself.

For a few brief moments, helplessly, wistfully, she looked at the cars rushing by. No one stopped ofcourse. She tried telling herself, you can handle this. But did she have a spare at all? She checked in the trunk and couldn't find it. The towing company will charge a forty bucks minimum, she groaned inward. In a moment of inspiration, she looked under the mat in the trunk and located the spare. Some what boosted, she pulled the parts out on the road. Uncomprehendingly she turned the wheel brace and the jack in her hands. She had no idea what she was supposed to do with these things! Then she remembered the car manual and went to get it from the glove compartment. The manuals were so tersely written! She never had much patience with instruction manuals. As she crouched on the curb wrestling with the bolts on the hubcap, she was intensely afraid of the cars inches away going at 70+ miles per hour. She was ready to cry out in frustration. Thank God, the safety patrol guy got there when he did! Or she would be still there on her hands and knees. All in all, she was delayed 45 minutes and now stuck in peak time traffic. A dust mark from the roads on her black skirt proved impossible to brush off. She rubbed it with a bit of spit for the umpteenth time...

She was itching for a cigarrette she did not have. From an ocassional smoker she was now fighting a losing battle with the habit everyday. She longed for a release from this feeling of being cornered, but it was inescapable. It does not matter, she tried to tell herself. You will get there when you will get there. She pulled her windows down to let the breeze in and cool her down. A child was crying out loud. Raka looked at the car in the next lane from where the voice came. A distraught mother was looking at her crying baby in the car seat behind but did not know what to do. Why doesn't she pull over?, thought Raka. Some loud music was coming from the car ahead of her two lanes away. Some teenager probably - they listened to those songs at all hours of the day! A toyota camry rolled to a stop by her side. Oh, its the same one, she realized. She had been watching this woman put her makeup on for quiet a distance now. Imagine doing that on the highway! God, she'd get there faster from the city roads! What exit was it anyway? Only 32. Hers was 47. She wondered if she should sneak in to the HOV. No, she'd probably get caught. There were cops around this road all the time. Wasn't worth the trouble, she reckoned. Anyway she wasn't supposed to speed on the spare tyre. She wondered about how much it will cost to buy new tyres.. so much for putting the AC work away. But it couldn't be helped. You can only do so much to protect yourself.

Her exit came at last, not a moment too soon. She let out a slow breath of relief. Her mood began to improve as the car picked up speed and she rest her foot uninterrupted on the accelerator.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

green

Mala and her husband rent one of those cheap, characterless apartments that crowd the suburbs of big cities... but to them, that is home and Mala strives her best to spread a bit of soul around. Her sage green panels have softened the harsh lines of the white blinds; the morning light streams through the sheer fabric of it creating a lovely effect. There is a hapless paisley sofa next to the window; piles of bright cushions give it a cheerful air. She and Dev often snuggle there together and look up at the sky while sipping their morning tea.. life does not seem so hopeless then! A painting here and a painting there breaks the monotony of the bland walls. A mosaiced tapestry reiterates the mix-n-match flavor of their lives. A stray mattress adopted by them sits wrapped in tripple sheets topped by a warm pastel bed spread. It invites Mala to roll and stretch on its yielding softness. But its a Saturday morning and a host of household duties await her attention and such indulgences will extract a heavy price every day of the following week. So Mala moves on.. She pauses a moment to sniff the pair of sandalwood elephants she bought from Calcutta on her last visit to India.

"The bills just have to paid this Monday first thing", Mala muses as she lines the washer with liquid soap and dumps the laundry quickly checking the pockets for stray coins or bills. Why cant Dev make sure his clothes are really soiled before putting them in the basket? This one surely has a couple of more wears left! Mala has put the dahl to boil on the stove before she left for this quick trip to the laundry room. That cooker might blow up if she doesn't hurry now. And then she has to resume the hunt for quarters for the drier. She is only one short and surely that'll turn up some place if she really looked.. but she's already looked almost everywhere and this bothers her a bit. Mala flops back to the apartment in Dev's slippers. The skimpy shorts and shirt she had carelessly donned compliment her smallish frame and beautiful skin. A mexican smiles an extra friendly smile as she passes by. What the hell!

Mala's favourite spot in the house is the little garden on her sun warmed kitchen window-sill. Lovingly tended, the thick foliage overflows the little earthen pots. The bright light green of sweet basil contrast with the more greyish and rough sheen of the greek oregano. The chives stand tall and thin with weedy little blooms. A mixed tangy-punjent aroma fill the air as Mala picks off the dried leaves and a few fresh ones for her cooking this saturday. Two cacti with red and yellow flowers and a pink graft stands stoically on the sides to balance the levity of its neighbors.

Mala has made palak paneer and sambar dahl and spiced it with home grown curry leaves - it emanates a delicious flavor as it is laid out on the table and she waits for Dev to get out of the shower. The air in the kitchen is a bit stuffy.. Dev has a wonderful voice and Mala can hear him singing some of her favorite songs. She hums along and pounds on the bathroom door. Mala is hungry and the food is getting cold. Dev's wet head emerges to placate Mala.... Feeling a bit wet but happy Mala goes to stand near the window.

On an impulse, Mala turns off the air conditioner and opens the dust clogged windows that remains tightly shut most of the week. Outside, a strong autumn wind is blowing and the nearby sprawling maple tree dances riotously to its rhythm. The spirit of it is touches Mala too. Suddenly she percieves a festive sparkle to everything in the room. The slight chill from the winds bring with it the long forgotten heady smell of Siuli flowers from another time and place - the white and the bright orange of it reminiscent of the red bordered white garod saris of durga puja celebrated at this time of the year. The azure blue skies and the huge flock of black birds specking it high above, beckon her to fly away with them and fill her lungs with a deep breath full of fresh air.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

pujo manei...

dujoner kothopokakhon:
ishh.. aj kancha rod ta ki sundor utheche, nah?
hmm..
ar akta misti thandao poreche..
akash tao khub neel.. sarot kal sarot kal mone hochhe...
akdom pujor weather!
sotyi! barite phone kore ki je mon kamon korchilo! panch bachor hoye galo deshe pujo dekhi na. attdine pandel bandha shuru hoye jeto paray.
hotoi to... amar ei prothom pujo kolkatar baire. tao atodur je pujor anch porjyonto pachhi na..
sostir ratei truck bhara kore amra thakur dekhte berotam proti bachor. sara rat hete hete pa fule jeto. takhon jhere notun juto ke galagal.
Hah! Ei je pa diyechish e deshe, bhor rater mohaloya theke bijoyar khirerchop-jibegoja – sob bhule jao. pujor egg-roll-chop-cutlet, notun jama, mike er gan, osob ekhane pabe na. er por deshe pujor somoy firleo dekhbi, swad tai bodle gache...
ekhane to bhaloi pujo hoy shunechi. calcutta web jure probasi bangalir pujo prostutir khabor.
Hah!!
bangali association er pujote jash na tui ?
jai.. ami ar mousumi protibari jai. tuio chal amader sathe ebar. dekhbi kamon pujo probasi bangalir.
ekhankar mondop sojja kamon ?
dhur dhur osob koi! fencrick road er pashe baro hall ta bhara nay, okhanei pujo kore. pray sat atsho lok hoy. guti katoker barojor mukh chini amra.
jah! pujor lighting ar pandel na hole pujo pujo mone hoy kakhono!! aha, ar dhaker awaj? dhunochi nach?
Ta ar ki korbi.. ekhane cassette e dhak bajay.
ami tahole toder sathei jobo pujote, bujhli ? kauke akta khujchilam. Aka aka jete kamon bandho bandho lagchilo..(kichuta theme) oder to bipul ayojon. internet e dekhchilam. dudin dhore pujo. soni bar ta asol saptamir sathe coincide o koreche.. akkebare desher moton hobe bole.. emnite $50.00 kintu studentder $25.00 chanda, ID dakhate hobe.
ta dokhhina to ditei hobe baba...

pujota khub jak kore hoy thiki. ak bangali daktar pujo koren. english e translation kore kore montrer sob mane bole dan. tobe precise translation noy, nijeder interpretation of god, durga puja, ja ichhe jure day.
babbah, englishe durga pujor montro !!
ha, asole second generation er bachhader pujote jate interest develop kore - se jonye.
Ora sone ? amra to choto balay montro gor gor kore bolte hobe, ei jani. or je abar mane fane hoy jomme bhebe dekhini!!
(hashi) ekhankar bachha gulo sobi bujhe bujhe korte shekhe kina! etai ekhankar culture.
inrigi montrer bole probasi projonmer modhye "pagan gods" e biswash jagorito hoyeche ?
(hashi) bolte pari na. bap mayer ja chiri! sebar akjon mohila ke bolte shunlam akebare microphone e "bhalo kore make dako.. e bachor ma jano anek taka kore dan.."!!
(bhuru kuchke) ishh.. e abar ki!
erai hochhe puja committee members.. kothabartar oi chiri, kono editing nei..

mukhe jatoi i love my india gao.. hindi cinemar gan geye ki ar sanskritik sachetanota toiri hoy !! obosso, amra amader chelemeyeder katodur sachetan kore tulte parbo ke jane!
ichhe thakle ki hoy na!
na re, ekhane thakte thakte sob byapartatei kamon morche pore jay. saroter sei amej koi je durga pujor mormo bojhate para jabe!!
hmm.. achha, sari porbo to ?
Hya hyan sari porbo.. ki saj goj je loke kore ashe pujor okhane bhabtei parbi na! je kono biye bari ke har maniye debe. ak gada sonar goina ar rongchonge benarosi sarir bhire thakurer theke beshi jholmol korbe tor char pash ta.
advance katle $5.00 kom per ticket. kete rakhbi naki?
kete rakhle hoy.. tobe oder organizational abilities er opor amar khub bhorsha nei. tarpor hoito receipt tai accept korlo na ba credit card e kono golmal hoye holo... tar theke baba sorasorii dish, laguk $5.00 extra.. at least reliable..
sei bhalo.. $25.00 e ki khawabe re?
eta khubi dicey byapar.. majhe majhe darun khawa hoy.. abar gato bar jamon churanto abyabostha... ake to khete dite prochur deri korlo, tarpor ak hata kore khichuri ar ak chimte tarkari dhoriye khalash. sobai khubi chote gechilo.. kono hashi nei mukhe, khichurir harir samne aro baro harir moton mukh kore dariye thakbe sob..
eta khubi baje.. swajatir sathe misti byabohar korte pare na ektu!
Aro shon, ak jaygay mistir line. achha, tui bal, limited quantity akta ki duto neben. bole dilei mite jay.. sesob bola nei.. bangali atithyeotate bandche.. jato ichhe nin.. nilei kintu tatkhanat bhrukuti bhoyal mukhe edik odik asosthikar chaonir prosad peye jabe mistir songe!

ema... amader parayo to pongti bhoj hoto.. parar chelerai sob jogar korto.. kakimara poribeshon korten.. kuchutemi je chilo na ta noy... tobu kato antorikata, hashi, thatta..
are ghabrale cholbe ? nijer desher lok tor.. jato din jabe, dekhbi dekhlei ga jwole jabe..

tor kotha gulo khub kata kata shonachhe... ato dislike korish to jawa kano ?
ki korbo bal!! mayer samne anjaali dite ichheta to kore... siuli fuler gondhota apna thekei tan day mondirer dike.. khichuri bhog ar begun bhajatao bachore ei akbarti khete baro poritripti lage!! Internete pujo porikroma dekhte dekhte bhison bicholito hoye pori..
tahole ar mon kharap kora kano…
bikeler function e thakchish ki ?
hu hu .. $25.00 e function hobe na.. function er alada dokhhina.. ajoy bhaduri ashche gan gaite bikeler bichitranusthane...
ebarkar moton barong pujotai dekhe ashi..
yep.. thikache, tobe oi kotha roilo.. pore jawar details ta thik kore nebo..
tata...
tata...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

till death do us part

There's more to love stories than passionate romances and the elusive promise of forever - I was forewarned of course. But like many others I have taken the plunge throwing caution to the winds. I was drunk on the fragrance of newfound love, all wobbly kneed, almost no serious decision-making was involved.. The tiny voice of whats ifs were successfully drowned in the fierce conviction I felt in my heart that I belonged by his side.. It has been 3 years since. In these 3 years the wobble in my knee has steadied and the flutter in my heart has disappeared as per predictions. I have learnt that just sharing the vision together simply isn't enough; we have diametrically different views on how to realize that vision. We never realized how differently we wanted to live our lives until we got our feet wet and tried the marriage soup. In the beginning it was soft remonstrances, followed by brows creased in disapproval, graduating to nagging and then screams of frustration.. all to get across the message of exactly what we wanted the other to be. But we remained who we were, are. Inevitably, these setting-each-other-straight would escalate a domestic Armageddon, but the storms pass by and all differences are deftly shoved under the carpet. We kiss and make up and go on.

A pattern has emerged of these earth-shattering occasions of marital strife.. Its always the same issues. Issues argued over and over, rationally, irrationally, interminably, with no hope of winning the rounds; we know exactly which inches belong to whom. But our livid tempers have their cyclic peaks and troughs. At the peaks nothing short of the loud clunks of breaking china or the satisfying noise of ripping fabric will suffice to calm our nerves. But one cant be too careless. The food finds its way into the sink or at least hardwood or tiled areas and never the carpet. The fabrics attempted are ones that will easily give way. Important papers are scattered, never torn to ensure full recovery later. I shed my silent tears and contemplate somber issues of the general meaning of life and cool off. He steams, stomps, wants to drive off with the car, whose keys I promptly confiscate.. we sometimes even engage in scuffling with each other on our hands and knees.. then, whoever regains a little sense the sooner stages an elaborate retreat by freezing off, establishing a sense of "you have made my life hell".. this impasse lasts for about a day, while we continue our daily chores, cooking, eating, driving to work together... Cracks emerge in our frosty demeanors, a smile here or there quickly hidden behind an expression reminiscent of previous hostility, but more token than genuine irritation.. this extreme politeness is the last of the wintry weather. My husband starts a hopeless and token effort at re-organization and his utterly hopeless efforts irks me to do my thing now without further ado before things get really out of hand in that I am left with no clue of what is where.. As I pick the pieces back together, I try to recall which way he'd aimed the stack of papers from this corner or that in earnest consternation!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Indian Student Abroad

I had crossed the threshold of my home on a fateful day in July, 5 years ago, with a head full of dreams and a heart full of hope.. My soul had soared and my feet had danced with excitement.. I came to the Americas in pursuit of my destiny.. I was dazzled by the pristine cleanliness and efficiency of everywhere I looked.. Here were airconditioned rooms, microwave ovens, swimming pools and huge department stores. Here were the scones and doughnuts from my english story books.. Even the greenery was so vibrant and untouched by dust and soot.. Here was freedom at last and an infinite scope to achieve, all the good things.. As the days rolled by, the glamour faded away. I can hardly remember now, how I spent the five past years in the US...

Here, amongst strangers who have grown to be my surrogate family I have learnt to huddle together, often not through choice.. I learnt to trust and mistrust.. made some friends and then got thrown apart from them by the slightest change in circumstances.. guess we are too old to make new friends anymore.. it is now my wont to be a passive onlooker while sojourner buddies metamorphosed into someone-i-used-to-know. How many passed me by! Just keep busy went the common wisdom and I followed it to the letter. Separated by an insurmountable barrier from mainstream society, I feel abandoned by friends and family I knew back home. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, promotions and then occasional lonely musings of what the hell went wrong with me and the nasty little voice of what did he or she do right.. not knowing whether I have funding tomorrow, not knowing whether I will have a job when I am done with this, not knowing if my old parents will survive to see me fulfill our dreams...

Of course you cant tell at all from looking at my confident ways.. thanks to a deep rooted sense of self preservation, there are no breaks in the front I present to the world!

We are intimate bed fellows here who dont intrude upon each other's private hells - a strange cocktail of the east and the west. We call before we visit a friend, have turkey at thanksgiving and party at Halloween. We smirk at health consciousness and hold close the Indian tradition of oil and spice. We champion the ability to abuse a priviledge, returning used items after months of purchase.. Our chilvary dries up when we meet a fellow Indian, the newly learnt custom to greet 'Hi' is hardly ever performed for one of our own with as much zest.. seldom look at each other in the eye.. never park your car near other Indian cars fearing a 'dungdang'.. If an Indian student produces extraordinary work we are quick to suspect plagiarism! Same faces, same jokes, same food, same bitchings, same insecurities.. united we stand in our sameness.. but thoroughly divided we are in our hearts.. But just ask an Indian if he is proud of being an Indian.. but of course!!! what was I thinking ! We are always bursting with patriotic pride. We frown upon westeners when we congregate and lecture on Indian values espousing all that we
were taught to value in the orient.. And yet in our body language there is this strange hankering to be accepted by the Americans.. a shameless hankering for which we value their opinions more than our own...

I miss my dream.. its now in tatters as I round one corner and the next. Visits to India form the high point of my life and even that is hollow as I grow more and more estranged from the India I used to know...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

daisies by the road

Sometimes it seems so pointless... an ugly belch and a whimper, a thorougly ignominous low... keeps coming back... Should we then give up now ? Just amble around in the background shadows, never the sanctimonious goat, never the rebellious voice of righteousness... Form no beliefs and thus not be dogmatic. Never love and thus insure the heart against hurt. All the little compromises needlessly executed with indifference.. It does get you around the corners... Yes, you could thwart thus, the inner battle.. but you will have lost the war.

Life is a journey. And every moment of that journey counts. You fight to get here and there, but you are neither here nor there too long, its what's between here and there thats the most of life. Happiness can truly be achieved only in the gracious acceptance of the pursuit and the struggle for survival, in the concious daily investment of energy and emotions to achieve your dreams... in cultivating an appreciation for the daisies on the road.. thats what makes the ocassional successes, the ones we count as milestones in our lives, truly memorable.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Odd Rememberances

If I close my eyes, I can still taste the fuchka; taste the semi-ripe guavas in strong rock salt and the cheap pop corn… I can still hear the busses and their conductors screeching by at evening rush hour on the other side of the road... still see the state busses that rushed through without giving you any chance to wave as much as a finger at them… and the public busses that raced each other dangerously in a bid to draw the maximum passengers… and the mini busses that you could waltz up to and still find waiting patiently for you to the immense irritation of all within its tiny confines. I can still feel the warm evening breeze on my sweat stricken brows… still smell the fetid smoke and dust and sweaty perfumes on the hot sweltering evening in downtown Calcutta. I used to stand at the westward entrance of the Rabindra Sadan Metro station, whispering longing last words to my boy friend after having spent hours with him lounging on the grounds of Nandan and the Victoria Memorial. The year was 2000. The bridge that now shuts off the sky wasn’t there then and you could gaze up from the square cemented tiles of the pavement next to the Calcutta club to catch a glimpse of the pigeons flying by.

Perhaps you have noticed the old man in dirty white kurta and dhoti who sold us the fuchkas then; sporting his dirty white mustache, always on that same spot from right at 4:00 in the evening, selling his wonderfully crisp fuchkas with its delicious potato filling and the divine tamarind juice. The image is etched indelibly in the memory of my youth. The endless nudging of his patrons gathered around him, holding the saal leaf folded like a cup, awaiting his or her turn as the man counted out the crisp balls overflowing with the juice. He would skip you on a round if you were too slow to gulp down your last serving… and he would keep an indubitable count!

Nandan and the Victoria Memorial always swam with people – of all ages, castes and creed... Victoria drew more of the fat middle-aged folks for their brisk evening walks by the lake and perhaps for the covert reason of looking furtively around corners at young couples making out. It was a strangely invigorating atmosphere, with the cool breeze and the beauty of the parks and the white marble palace to feast ones eyes on. But the dirty knowing glances flying around intruded upon one’s intimate moments and destroyed the wonderful feelings intent on appreciating the surroundings or your partner. Inevitably, there were also the hawkers preying upon the young lovers with exorbitantly priced teas, coffees, lozenges and nuts. And the street children smiling and angling the couples for a rupee or two.

Nandan had a slightly different flavor – a more intellectual appeal with the loose white kurta n jeans clad men and women smoking like chimneys. And there was the café Amontron to energize you when you needed it after hours of talk, talk and more talk. There were the artists and the revolutionaries, the film critics and the college goers' throngs, the theatre geeks and the music lovers all sandwiched there in a hapless bundle of endless chatter and more.

We were busy in that midst, a pair of dry leaves driven by a hunger we hardly understood raging in our souls. The physical hunger of youth, the emotional hunger of incognizance and the intellectual hunger fanned by the years at the Bengal Engineering College spent in frustrating emptiness.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Seven

Must we reason all the time ? Having reasoned thus, here's seven.... Its as many as colors of a rainbow and notes of all the music in the world - I find that intriguing. There are even 7 steps to take together in the ancient hindu marriage rites. Is it but a chance reflection of the more deep relation between colors and music and human emotions ? Why the 7 seas, why the 7 sins, why the 7 wonders ? And 7 days of the week !

Even Lord Voldermort caught on and has 7 horcruxes !!!

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