Thursday, November 08, 2012


When I break my collar bone that sultry summer evening, the blinding pain, for a while, distracts me from the fact that I have come back from Benares, and that my life is going through that entire process of 'change! change! change!' again. I am playing some sort of a complicated game with Arka Mamu, who, though technically an uncle, is only three years older. In a superhuman maneuver, he picks me up and whirls me around, relying totally on his scrawny ten-year-old strength. I slip and bang my collarbone against the bed. The next day when the doctor confirms what my parents suspected immediately, I wonder why I didn't hear the 'crunch' when the bone broke.

Calcutta, after so many days of laid-back Benares, overwhelms me with its big-city-ness. This is surprising, because I lived there for five years before I went away.

I go back to my old school with my left arm in a huge white cast, and even though I am Bengali and I belong there, I don't have any friends, and cannot make any for a while. New girl with huge cast repels all.

Ushnish dada and Uly dada come visiting that summer, and we decorate a Rath together. I love how Uly dada cuts up the papers into intricate patterns, and then, when a big Rath comes trundling down the road, I perch on Ushnish dada's shoulders and we run after the procession, revelling in the festive fervour.

On the day I am supposed to get my cast removed, my mother buys me a Kwality cone. When I walk home from the doctor's chambers, my arms considerably light, my pain almost gone, I realize that freedom perhaps tastes like some rapidly melting chocolate ice cream.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I arrive in Benares with a trunk full of Bengali storybooks and an all-consuming sense of loneliness. The loneliness will never really go away during my one-year stay there. I’m six years old and we live in a tiny first floor flat at the end of a small street. The patchily paved road in front of my house gets flooded and muddy every time it rains. Sometimes, while coming back from the small experimental neighbourhood school, I try to jump over the muddy parts. Later, when I’ve made friends with Shilpi didi, our landlord’s daughter who lives downstairs and owns two bad-tempered dogs, we try to jump over the muddy parts together.

 Shilpi didi is two years older than me. She is a good soul.

 I’m friends with a lot of Bengali kids around my age—they are all sons and daughters of my father’s extended group of friends. But Hindi-speaking kids generally give me a cold shoulder. The reasons are many. I have a funny accent, I cannot speak their language fluently, and I don’t bring parathe and achaar for lunch. The queen bees in my small, second grade class are Rishika and Janani. During lunch break, they go around the schoolyard with their arms around each other, whispering mysteriously among themselves. Desperately lonely, I try to follow them at a distance, trying to hear what they’re saying. One day, Rishika doesn’t turn up and I’m asked by Janani to be her partner in going around the school yard. I’m thrilled, and I give her all of my lunch for this honour. Then, the next day, she demands that I do her homework for her, and that I give her all my lunch again. I refuse—partly because I’m hungry and partly because I’m not sure I can do two sets of homework in one evening. I’m promptly dropped from the school yard companionship the next day. I’m heartbroken, and spend the five rupees that my mother gives me sometimes, on drinking a bottle of Coke for lunch. Even that young, I instinctively turn to my taste buds when confronted with a broken heart.

There’s a big party for my seventh birthday. My pishemoshai cooks mutton for the seventy-odd people attending and I get tons of books as gifts. I run around the house in a pretty red dress, but almost all the attendees are Bengalis and I don’t invite anyone from school. I don’t have any friends there.

One afternoon, when I’m playing cricket with Shilpi didi, I try to say something like ‘I was thinking’—only it comes out as ‘main bhaab rahi thi…’ I’m mortified, but cannot remember the Hindi word for ‘think’. ‘You mean, tum soch rahi thi’, she says in a normal voice, and we go back to playing cricket again. I’m indebted to her for a long time for this small act of kindness.

My pishi lives in Benares too. She is part of a joint family and they all live in a crumbling house in Sonarpura, in the heart of the city. I’m fast friends with my cousins. Didibhai is three years older than me, and Roop bhai is three years younger. We spend countless Sunday afternoons lying on the red cement floors, watching the weekly Hindi movie on TV. On Dashami, my parents drop me there while they go for debi-boron to the neighbourhood pandal. We’re bored and want to go out and Chhoka (my pishemoshai’s younger brother) suggests that we go to the ghaats for bisorjon. We spend a long time walking down the narrow bylanes and backlanes of Benares, dodging cows and monkeys, trying to get to the ghaats. When I reach, the entire place is lit up and I sit on the steps with my cousins and watch Durga slowly making her way home. When the last of the ice cream has been finished, and my ears are ringing with ‘thakur thakbe kotokkhon, thakur jabe bisorjon’, I look up at the sky and I look down at the river and I look at all the excited people around me and decide that I like the city after all. 

Even if I am a little lonely.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Then practice losing farther, losing faster...

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
("The Art of Losing": Elizabeth Bishop) 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ajke didimonir jonmodin. Bodh hoy pochashi bochhorer. Othoba chhiyashi. Ke jane. Amar mone hoy na didimoni nijeo janey bole.

Deshbhager somoye jokhon Maymansingha theke ekta chhotto suitcase ey nijer jeebontake bhore, pnaach bon, ek bhai, ebong ma-baba shuddhu paliye elo epaare, tokhon ekta jonmosaal lekha chhoto chirkut KOTHAY hariye gachhe, ke jaane. Tar songe hariye gechhilo chhotobela theke protita classey first hoye pawa somosto prize. Emon ki matriculation ey meyeder modhye prothom howar certificate tao purono 'basa' y fele ashte hoyechhilo. Porar saree nebe, na porar boi - tar modhye saree ta khub sohojei jite gechhilo. Aha, bnachte hobe toh!

Tarpor toh gonga-padma diye koto jol goralo. Didimonir biye holo. Dui chhele-meye holo. Certificate chharai, ki ekta porikkhay bheeshon bhalo kore, Bengal audit apishe kaaj peye galo. Eka haate, rnedhe-berey, chhele-meye ke poriye, bor ke apishe pathiye, shashuri ke seba-jotno kore, thik aattar modhye apish chole jeto didimoni.  Retirement er poreo, amar tero-choddo bochhor boyesh obdhi, nijei sara barir ranna-banna korto. Eke ki grihokormonipuna bole? Khub-i inadequate tahole shobdota.

Jigyesh korle, muchki heshe bolto 'amar ekhon onek boyesh'. 'Bolto' bolchhi, karon goto bochhorey jeeboner tritiyo cerebral attack tar por theke kotha bola bondho hoye gachhe ekebare. Bhetorer kolkobjagulo bigrechhe, ar baireta ekebare shirnokay hoye gachhe. Pnajrar haargulo poshto bojha jay. Haat gulo pray amar buro anguler soman. Bheeshon gorom, othoba jobbor sheet, rannaghor othoba drawing room - sob somoy, sob jaygatei jaake saree pore, chul anchre, ekebare fitfat hoye thakte dekhechhi, sey ajkal ekta nightie pore, saradin bichhanar songe ekebare mishe giye shuye thake.

Eibhabe miliyeo jabe hoytoh ekdin. Fus montore.

Manusher mon boro bichitro. Khub kothin osukh holey kichhudin sobai 'aha, uhu' kore. Kintu tarpor nijer nijer jeebone phire jay sobai. Tai didimonir songe kotha bolar ar keu thake na bishesh.

 Tai didimoni shuye thake. Shuyei thake.

Ami jokhon Kolkatay jai, tokhon adda mari niyom kore. Kintu sey toh shudhu ami. Ar se toh chhaw mashey ekbaar.

Kolkatar barir karor ajke monei nei je jonmodin.

Tai ajkeo didimoni hoytoh shuyei thakbe. Shuyei thakbe.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Just thought that the internet should know that I have a new blog where I sometimes write about my favouritest thing in this world.

I didn't want to advertise it, because I generally hate people who post links to their blog at the slightest opportunity. (ME! ME! READ ME! ME FIRST! ME AWESOME! Argh.)

However, my shiny new blog was feeling rather desolate because no one was reading or commenting. (Primarily because no one knew about its existence. But still.).

And I did write stuff and put it out on the internet because I wanted people to read it. 

So. Here it is.

p.s. And this is the last time I shall write about it/ post a link to it anywhere, because now I know that people are aware of its existence.

The end.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I don't get it. I don't get this sense of open, exhilarating elation at the news that a brainwashed 20 something murderer who was promised 20,000 virgins in his afterlife has been sentenced to death.

I don't get the joy. I really don't.

A speedy trial sometimes does go against a fair trial. I'm just glad that, like any other civilized, democratic country in the world, we gave him a chance to defend himself, and didn't shoot him at sight. This entire episode is a tragedy of epic proportions, and I'm looking at Kasab's execution as an unpleasant thing that must be done.

The happiness at someone's death, though, eludes me.

I mention Kasab's age and his brainwashing in order to make people understand the psychology behind what he did. In order to make people understand that celebration of his execution somehow, uncomfortably, makes us more like him and more of his ilk—people who rejoice at lives being taken, people who cannot differentiate between barbarism and justice.

Inherent hatred of any Pakistani common man and all that our neighbouring country stands for is why certain celebrated bloggers make me uncomfortable. When articulate, intelligent, well-off people with a doctorate degree spew venom, we can hardly expect the common man to keep a cool head. 

Shepherds lead; the sheep, they just follow unquestioningly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

For Old Times' Sake

Because a part of me is still in that old house I grew up in. A part of me is always going to be.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

When I was very young, younger than the youngest me you can imagine, I used to live in a tumble-down old house at the heart of a humid and incredible city in Eastern India. My para, as localities are endearingly called in Bengali, used to be, and still is, my favouritest place in the whole city. From the little blue gate, I used to stare at life as it rushed past my house. My school was a stone's throw away. Many of my closest friends lived nearby. And to top it all, Bhagyolokkhi Mishtanno Bhandar around the corner made the BEST kochuri and jilipi in miles. It was, in all respects, the tiniest, most perfect bit of the world that I could call my very own. Even now, when I go home for a few brief days, weighed down with a hundred things to do, I try to take a walk down the familiar streets. Straight past Patha Bhavan, down the wide, tree-lined road past the Telephone office and the the Montessori school, past Tasty Corner and South Point, past P's house, past Cakes with its incredible chocolate ganache pastry, and then back again via the main road, walking past the CESC office, maybe stopping for some phuchka on my way home. Oh my insulated, little bit of South Calcutta. How I love it.

It took me twenty four years to learn this, but today, at long last, I understood that maybe my idea of an ideal isn't everyone's idea of an ideal after all. Because today, in the course of a conversation, someone casually mentioned that that place? That place I call home? That place which is considered one of the better places to stay in my poor city with a hundred, garbage-laden streets? That place might be too dirty for someone from another state. Not too dirty for, say, an American - used to his corn fields and clean highways. Not too dirty for, say, a German - used to his impeccably ordered cities. No. Too filthy for someone from this country. In fact, so dirty, so filthy, so completely devoid of any other attribute is my home, that people from the western part of the country might faint at the filth. Faint. Someone, born and brought up in this blighted third-world country, might faint at the garbage heap that I call home.

It might just be time I went back to my city. My filth calls me, I think. And I guess I can manage without fainting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Too young. Too young.

Most of the days, this is how I feel about my department. I am glad that I am still part of something big: that I live with friends who carry with them a large part my college-going-days. I am still part of a (somewhat) close-knit community of publishing in Delhi, where everyone knows everyone else. But it's not the same. It's never the same, is it?

I am twenty four. I graduated college less than two years ago. If I think about it, it is ridiculous to give up on life so soon. To be stuck in a rut. To think, really think, that this is all I will be able to achieve.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mone porchhe bole.

I am afraid there are not sentences special enough to describe one small yellow building in Calcutta—my very own, personal, yellow brick road. I want to write down a few (wholly unsatisfactory) lines primarily so that I don’t forget; so that when I am eighty, I can still remember and dance a little arthritic jig, scoffing at the poor souls who never got to experience the magic that is my school.
      I remember the first day of high school. I remember the frayed nerves, the sleepy assembly line. I remember singing ‘Sotyomongolo premomoyo tumi…’ with gutso and I remember being inordinately proud of my blue checked uniform, tugging the collar into place every two minutes, brushing imaginary dust off the sleeves. I remember the last day of high school. I remember the photo ops, the flooding of our classroom with water from our water bottles, the scolding we got from our class teacher because of that. I remember the deep breath I took when I stepped out of the premises that day. I remember the last time I turned back to look at the yellow building and the sudden difficulty in breathing—the heroic brushing away of nyaka tears. (I was from Patha Bhavan. I was very particular about not being perceived as nyaka.)
     School was scraped knees and broken hearts and mended hearts and incredible classes and being turned out of the classroom for talking too much. School was brilliant class teachers and the beginning of my love for English literature. School was forgotten homework and sahityo sabha and annual exams. School was the smell of chelpark ink. School was tanker ghor and tero nombor ghor and fights about who would be the school monitor. School was the safe refuge. School was the strict taskmaster. School was Bosonto Utsab and Brikkho Ropon Utsab and Satyajit Mela. School was Nalanda. (Not Bikramshila. Never Bikramshila). School was sports practice at Vivekananda Park and orange ice candies during breaks. School was annual exams and innumerable class tests and sweaty teentolar classroom. School was bus line and home line. School was Motichand da and Notobor da. School was kochuri from Shaila Sweets and phuchka from the Ballygunge Pharry crossing. School was Malory Towers and Nishchindipur and Wonderland and Aamtoli and Jaamtoli and Tetultoli and Hogwarts and bhoot potrir desh all rolled into one.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Pronunciation: /peɪn/
[mass noun]

1highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury: she’s in great pain [count noun]: chest pains
(also pain in the neck or vulgar slang arse) informal an annoying or tedious person or thing: she’s a pain

2mental suffering or distress: the pain of loss

3 (pains) great care or trouble: she took pains to see that everyone ate well


[with object]

cause mental or physical pain to: it pains me to say this her legs had been paining her

Friday, March 16, 2012

Things I learnt last month:

1. How to twist your leg so violently during a late night bout of dancing that you end up fracturing a bone.

2. How to hop one-legged down the entire length of the runway at Kathmandu airport.

3. How to go to office, travel alone, and attend a wedding with one leg in bright blue plaster.

4. How to be extremely grateful for your crazy-ass, awesome bunch of friends who come over after midnight and surprise you with a full-fledged birthday party because it's your birthday and you are stuck at home with your bright blue plaster and an impending deadline for company.

4. How to let people help you with the simplest of tasks (putting on your shoes, climbing a couple of stairs, standing in the kitchen and making yourself some breakfast) and not feel helpless, annoyed, and guilty about it.

5. How to stop whining about your pain and your plaster and your virtual house arrest. How to smile and put on a brave face and joke around, even when it's the second painkiller you've had that day. Because no one likes whiners, and pain is a very personal thing.

All in all, not a bad set of pithy wisdom for a twenty four year old. Heehaw.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Magic and words and Prasoon Joshi

During a poetry reading session with Gulzar at the Jaipur literary jingbang, he suddenly stood up and sang this to an audience of around a thousand. And as everyone around me burst into applause at the last line of the song, I was standing quietly, getting goosebumps and resisting the urge to rush up the steps and throw my arms around this man.

Jiya mora ghabraye, babul,
Bin bole raha na jaye.

Babul mori itni araj sun li jo,
Mohe sunar ke ghar na deejiyo,
Mohe jewar kabhi na bhaye.

Babul mori itni araj sun li jo,
Mohe raja ghar na deejiyo,
Mohe raaj karna na aye.

Babul mori itni araj sun li jo
Mohe lohar ke ghar de deejiyo
Jo mori janjeerey pighlaye...