At some point of time in your life, you do end up asking yourself, "What is this for? For whom am I doing this?" Then you go read up on the six wives of Henry the VIIIth, chase a bee around your ten feet by ten feet room, and in a moment of epiphany, you give up.
Which is pretty much what happened with blogging and I.
Few months later, you are removing paint from your face, wondering how in the world you would cope with everything April would be bringing you, and the fine lines, sort of a harbinger of the wrinkles yet to come, talk to you. "Remember, how you did it all those years ago? When you had terrifying examinations and you would just rant about yogurt and cats and shoes and how much you loved purple and people would not tell you that you needed a life. Do you think you can go back to that?"
I think I must begin again. Even if the love for purple has mellowed down to love for absolutely nothing in particular. Even if cats are now avoided due to bitter memories. Even if Johnny Depp lies forgotten for a new-found love for Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch... If only one could project requited emotions on actors who lived thousands of miles away...
One digresses. One must commit, even if it is to writing about how hard it is to go cross-eyed. If life gives you steady, normal days with absolutely no insanity in them, one must incentivize it. If you know you have to blog about it later on, you will hunt it down. And kick butt at it.
What urges me to write after so long? Perhaps it is the presentation I have in 3 hours. I prepared it about two weeks back and happily stored it away to the random junk folder in the computer. Now I open it and am mystified by the bullet points. I am certain I had nothing to do with those.
Perhaps it is a random comment on somebody's Facebook account. (Hatturi Honzo, take a bow). Apparently, if the comments on his status update are to be believed, College Street is getting a new mall. In my three years there, the new mall had always been an inevitability, but not much believed. It was not supposed to appear in the human time frame. Not unlike World War Three.
Perhaps I would like to talk about changes. Not that I have seen many. With my usual habit of closing doors on what is left behind, emotions would not touch me too deeply. Perhaps a wry smile at the though of never seeing the people who made walking to college such a delight. My friends were certain they were all in love with me. I was certain I possibly brought an economic revolution in the booksellers' lives. By the time I do go back, they would be gone, I would be someone else and College Street would be a part of the history of Kolkata. Something I would tell me kids about during a rainy evening.
When I look back, at a time which is actually not as far away as I would like to believe, College Street was dying . We were supposed to live up to its name and traditions, but we ourselves were a dying race, faking rebellion and angst. We had none. College Street was the place where people bought secondhand GRE books and Coffee House was the place where you went for a date because you were tired of the menu at Food Station. The coffee was tasteless, the Kobiraji was oily and the waiters disinterested.
And Presidency? It probably died a few deaths just looking at our lack of intellectual banter. Our discussions would range from gossips read in the last page of Calcutta Times to wondering which band would play in the fest. We have absolutely never discussed politics. I doubt whether those who did even really understood what was going on. We were all on stage, playing roles, donning the personalities of those who have passed by, because that is what we were supposed to do.
Apparently it is still going on there. It is hard to believe sometimes that those little babies, wide eyed and eager to take it all in are now throwing eggs at people. But they are. Keeping Presidency in the news, upholding the name and tradition. And the ex-Presidencians?
Last week I attended a reunion. The Mumbai chapter. I was not only the youngest member there, but the oldest member had graduated before I had been even born. Yet, I realized, I would grow up to be one of them. Businessmen, professors, housewives, bankers. This was my future. Inner rebellions had died and brought forth the motley group surrounding me.
I have never rebelled. I never needed to rebel. I had nothing to prove to myself or the rest of the world and was quietly content with my lot. But College Street is getting a new mall and I am making presentations on the value of land rent and I know something has gone very wrong somewhere. Do I wish I was a part of a rally now, one of the protesters, carrying a red flag in one hand and holding an egg in another? I wonder if I had done that once, if I had not been the mellow, uninterested person I have always been, where would I be today. The mall would probably still be standing though. If my children do hear about the College Street I knew and go back there, they probably would not find it. I never found my mother's childhood, even though I had roamed and roamed around Prince Anwar Shah Road.
There is a part of me which ceased to care a long time back. The world has kept on changing and clinging on to memories cause unrealized frustrations.
But I know I would not go back. Let College Street be the dying old road I knew and loved. Let my old home remain just what it is. Let it remain so in my thoughts. Make changes if you will, do not take away me from them.
Eons ago, as a six year old, I had walked into my mother's room to find her watching a Bengali film. A product of my north Indian environment, I was understandably disappointed, but snuggled into the bed to watch the movie anyway. I remember watching the entire film, but the film was lost in the recesses of memories. What did remain indelibly etched was the memory of a man singing ‘Akash bhora, surjo tara’, prancing along a road. I always understood that scene to represent incredible happiness.
As a six year old, I had watched 'Komol Gandhar', and remembered only what had impressed me the most, a man singing about the joy of his existence.
The previous paragraph has nothing to do with the book. Why do I even try to talk about a book which has been universally acclaimed? It is my six year old mind, which takes its own impressions, even if entails ignoring salient points, which wants to write about a book it has identified with after a long time.
English, August was read during journeys. It was read while I waited in airports, rode buses and tried to ignore the trembles of a tiny plane in bad weather. It was read while lines demarcating homes blurred.
The book speaks of Agastya, an incomplete Bengali, uprooted from the world he knows, to a village, where he is filled with self doubt. “The mind is restless, Krishna”, he whispers to himself, while murdering sacred cows in his own mind. He does not identify with the world he has been exiled to in the guise of an Indian Administrative officer, and wonders at his own choices and desires. He vacillates, is mostly confused and uses a bitter, cynical sense of humour to stay afloat.
As I move from city to city, living out of a suitcase and calling three places current address, uprooted from my known world to strange lands, where I make temporary homes with strangers, swap stories with people I would know only for a few days, make friends with travelers and try to take charge of my own existence, the book speaks of me. Agastya, in his own Madna, goes through trials and travails I go through in an urban setting. I have my own doubts, my own restlessness. As do perhaps thousands of uprooted men and women, far away from what was once home and now is a vacation.
The definition of home is a vague theory now. My Madna is not where I want a life, but alternatives do not appeal either. What I have chosen for a career gives rise to self doubts. Of my own suitability and its significance. There are half hearted attempts to make changes and a cowardly return to safety. Agastya travels, takes refuge in masturbation and marijuana, and tries to forget destinations during journeys. A journey is an escape from the responsibilities of the destinations. It remains the most insightful idea in the book.
English, August became my story. It spoke of a Bengali man, not conforming to the idea of a traditional Bengali, yet, unwilling to let go of the few strands which identify him as such. It spoke of a lack of ambitions, a confused idea of an ideal life and restless minds. Others have identified with it and more will. This remains the tale of my journey with it.
I have given Bangalore a chance. It does not disappoint. It is pretty in phases. The wind always blows here, giving the impression of existing in Hindi movie frames- the umbrella would fly out of your hands and Prince Charming will come rescue you. Yet, it is hard to feel romantic, the setting is inappropriate. It is the city of drones. The queen bee retired, bought a Mercedes and drove away to Goa.
The malls back in Mumbai, sighs V, are shinier.
Is that why we miss Mumbai, so much, I muse.
English, August speaks a lot about dislocation. Stolen moments spent with the book heighten my own fish-out-of-water feelings. This is not home. I wish I was home, I wish and then I wonder. Which home. There is a home far away, which has lost all of its charms. I have lost all my longings. It rains in my adopted city and I wish I was there. Among the torrential rainfalls and maddening traffic and a swirling seas.
Lemony Snicket says, "One's home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening—the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life—and can never find again."
Where do I go back now?
It meanwhile rains and shines in Bangalore. We have bread jam from roadside stalls and wonder at the sheer number of fruit juice shops.
It has been a while and I am slightly rusty. Self doubts abound - do I have enough thoughts? Do I have any thoughts? I do not have enough thoughts to twitter. Would I have enough thoughts to blog?
The old blog has become exactly what it is, an old blog. It charts the growth process of an undergraduate economics student who is anything but an undergraduate economics student. Having now grown up to become an unwilling post graduate economics student (surprise, surprise), a new blog seemed like a good idea. A whole new platform to convince people that economists are, essentially, kooky people. Also, the old blog had finished a 100 posts and it seemed like a good time as any for it to retire.
Will I blog more faithfully now? Only time will tell. Will I have any readers? Ditto. Do I have enough thoughts? Apparently it is not the lack of quantity I suffer from but of quality. Having read seventeen Archie double digests for a whole week and nothing else, the mind is incapable of producing anything more deeper than "Sigh!"