Friday, February 15, 2008
Our own Kolkatas
In the miasma of darkness, cars moved along the tall building. Their high-beam lights shone on the glass façade for a moment and then moved away quickly. Men did not have that virtue. They would slither through silently, some of them on rickety bicycles, their bottoms turned sore by cushion-less seats.
From the third-floor window of a restaurant, he watched it all – the grand trapezium of light and darkness, muscle and bone. The cigarettes, one after another, weighed heavily on his chest, like a secret kept for long. The dark rum numbed the pain in his lower abdomen. But it would return, as it did every night, keeping him awake to nurse hopelessness.
By the time he was on the road back home, the city had been put to sleep. Towards his left, the Qutab Minar stood absolutely still, its reverie broken at times by honking drivers who probably were in a hurry to reach home or elsewhere. But nothing awaited him; he was in no hurry.
In few hours, the flower market adjacent to the monument would buzz to life. Florists would arrive and haggle for better rates. Afterwards, they would carry huge bunches of flowers on their scooters. Later in the day, people would buy them for sustaining love affairs, decorating marriage venues, brightening up small office cubicles and even for feeling good while shitting in bathrooms.
A little ahead, frail men, wearing bright, fluorescent helmets on their heads, worked in an almost geometric pattern, trying to build a metro rail system for the people of the city. Many of its users would consist of men from their own villages, from the eastern part of the country, who would have gone to Kolkata once upon a time but now chose Delhi to be able to send modest money orders.
Eiy sajni re, eiy sajni re, eiy sajni
Piya gayen Kalkatwa eiy sajni
Kaisen chalan rahetwa, eiy sajni
How would it work for young brides when their grooms went away, a few days after marriage, to far and distant lands, only to come back once a year, or once in five years, or never? When the rain arrived, would they let it needle their anaemic skin?
He stopped his car. A car whizzed past him. Then another. He counted them for a minute or so. His last count came to around eleven. Or may be it was twelve. He opened the back of his car and took out a half-finished bottle of rum.
No one he knew had gone to Kolkata. But Kolkata, sometimes, could also be a state of mind. And now, he needed to find his own needles.
(Pic courtesy: Preeti Paul Kannath)