When spring came, the tulips bloomed. And so did our love. The jasmines danced aromatizing the earth. And I discovered your love for darkness when I found you admiring the starless nights.
You said the mirth will succumb to the scorching heat when summer bares it's crown. But that's the thing about darkness. It grows darker. It is permanent. And permanence nowadays, is something worth falling for.
And when autumn arrived... I found myself fretting over the emptiness creeping between us slowly. But you turned to the falling leaves, and told me that some falls happen to make the world more beautiful.
But now I halt. For you're gone and I'm scared. For it's close. For it's here. With a question that remains unuttered, Will I still be in love? Will I survive the winter?
I have seen hands Hard and freckled Scarred and coarse Hands that have hardened And calloused with Every penny's worth. Every penny that brings the porridge to the table In the home of 7. Or the hands that lull a kid of 4 To a dreamless sleep Warm and cozy On a freezing winter night. Hands that hear the clanging of cheap metal Only to hear the clink of a few coins Or the crisp rustle of dollar bills on pay day. Hands that stand beautiful Look beautiful Un-manicured Unkempt Glowing from the fruits and patience of labor Hands that work all day For others to sleep peacefully at night.
I have held hands Soft and delicate Mild and timid Hands that once helped Them stand up after the fall The very same hands Who gathered enough courage To tie a noose Hands that have needed other hands And shoulders And hearts And ears To cry and listen to Their screams And the stories of their cuts And scars Hands that have been through Only downs in life Hands that seen the edge And almost jumped off Only to have a rope to hold on to.
I have comforted hands That clutch onto pillows To muffle screams And anguish on a dark night. Hands that talk animatedly With louder laughter And missed eye contacts. Hands which have been wet Wiping tears Behind locked bathroom stalls In high school. Hands that have lit pyres At an age when they didn't yet comprehend candles Leave along a big yellow burning light Hands that are soft on the outside Thanks to the despair And the dejection That fills them
I have defied hands That have held mine With unnatural strength Hands that have wandered on my lands Landscaping every goosebump on my skin Goosebumps, alive Out of a strangeness And fear. Hands that have pulled on my hair Shut my lips tight And forced me down To a place where I so clearly did not wish to go. Hands that have hit me And hands that have been stopped midway On the next strike. Hands that have helped me up Out of pity on the playground Hands that have helped me up Only to push me down again Hands that have been Weaker than mine, physically But stronger and powerful Fuelled with evil And blinded with ignorance.
And, thus, my hands, Have received compassion And given compassion. They have clapped in joy And sobbed in sorrow. Have been mild when needed And authoritarian Dominant And submissive Capable And crumbling of failure. And they have been Long and bony And bitten And broken Dainty with a ring on them Bare, without one.
And, after all that My hands have been everything Except mere spectators of my fate Determined by the lines on them.
What does the phrase "packed like sardines " remind you of? To the average Mumbaikar it's the Mumbai local, to a Delhiite it's the hustle and bustle at Rajiv Chowk metro station and to a Calcuttan, a public bus. Home to over 4.5 million people, Calcutta is a city of old world charm, a city brimming with emotions and nostalgia. No matter how long you've been away, you'd always come back to familiar surroundings, to memories, a place you'd feel at home. Calcutta today is changing, evolving at its own lethargic pace. You may find glittery shopping complexes and malls popping up, flyovers flanked by trident street lights illuminated in the colors of the Mahadev, random sculptures strewn across the city in the name of beautification, but some things haven't and will probably never change, at least in the foreseeable future.
Public buses may have gotten a makeover and an upgrade from their infamous blue tinned ancestors, but they have succeeded in keeping their legacy alive. Plastic and vinyl may have replaced the wooden seats, some may even come with air conditioning and you may not as frequently feel you're in a vehicle out of "The Flinstones", but they still manage to uphold their heritage. Even today, if you're fortunate enough to get onto a relatively empty bus and get hold of a seat, you'll have to rely on your impeccable martial arts skills to make your way out of the crowd. If you aren't as lucky and you already see people spilling out of the bus like spaghetti out of a pasta machine, you get to play superhero for a day. Use all your grappling abilities, Spider-web shooter, Batline and whatever you can muster to hold on to dear life!
As adventurous as bus rides are, the passengers take people watching to a whole new level! From the snooty aunty who will use her perfectly grown kid as an excuse to hijack your seat or perhaps use you as one, to the unsuspecting creep who'd be staring at you without batting an eyelid throughout the journey, to the random pervert making the extra effort to half plunge himself out of the window and to use the telescope and periscope fitted in his retina to check out random girls in a passing bus, Calcutta bus rides have etched myriad memories and countless stories.
In all this chaos, the bus conductor deserves a special shoutout. He not only skillfully orchestrates and manages this utter confusion, he dons multiple feathers in his cap. Unknowingly so, the man is not just a ticket collector, he's the real Demi God. He's the accountant; the face reader (he knows exactly who'd pay and who is looking to hitch a ride); economist (judiciously allocating scarce resource, i.e. space, to allow maximum utility to consumers, while maximizing profit); physicist ( he even instructs passengers as to what angle they should stand to minimize impact from changing momentum); action hero (uses his profound kickboxing skills to literally kick out pickpockets from a running bus); loudspeaker (no matter where you're placed in the sardine tin, you'll know when it's time to make the attempt of jumping out); DJ (he's the one in control of the radio, need to dedicate a song to your beloved? He's your man); makeshift mechanic; PR professional (from daily commuters, to other drivers and colleagues, to local cunts and pickpockets, he knows them all); the list just goes on...
Today, I live in Washington DC and am far from the maddening crowd, the cacophony of traffic, the sweltering heat, the chaos and drama but every time I'm home, I relive my undergrad days, soak up the nostalgia, experience the city through its people, food and culture. I may still prefer to Uber around most of the time but my visit is always incomplete without that one bus journey, with the conductor screaming "aaste ladies, aaste ladies, kole baccha!" ( go slow, woman and child on board!), that riksha ride (they have motors for pedals these days), or the occasional trip on a disco auto ( the ones with the flashy decor and woofers for speakers, playing Bhaijaan's numbers or romantic tragedies), because Calcutta is an experience. A melange of emotions. With all its perfect imperfections, Calcutta is love. The city with a soul, Calcutta is home.