Returns the Baul


The proverbial Bengali is known by certain unmistakable racial characteristics such as living on a diet of fish-curry, rice and sweets, travelling incessantly, passionately following football matches and cricket tournaments, loving the arts, being lazy, making a lot of plans and never acting on them …the list goes on. One of these is the indefatigable love for ‘Bangalee Adda’ a term roughly translating to community chat sessions and including discussion and debate and brain-storming, all rolled into one. The quintessential Bengali can even forego his favorite meal and virtually survive for hours, on cups of tea or coffee punctuating that what he loves most of all – talking on anything and everything under the sun.

My Baul in Denims being a true blood Bangalee can't be an exception! There were nights after nights that we engaged ourselves in some nonsense "Nirihoaddabaji even if it is on-line. With red eye I used to head straight to work while the adda continued even when we are working. The little red webcam that glows right next to his name, lures this aged witch to see him again, just once if not ever again!

Aguntuk: Kabir Suman geyechilen "Khata dekhe gaan geyona,ulte paata jeteo pare!"

Me: Suman Shaeb eita janten na je "shesh bhalo jaar shob bhalo" hoy. Naamei paka, ekhono kochi kochi bhul korey bosho majhe majhe...

...and the dwellers of two different planets started to live on something called electronic media. It was a fairly unusual night that year of the Salamander. For years from that night, Astronomers and Shutterbugs would swear that never before was such a spectacular marvel that had ever adorned a night sky! Pretty much every pair of lenses and eyes in Never Land peered curiously at the sky to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. And there it was, for ten whole peahens, against the backdrop of a cloudless blue-black sky, a white incandescent doughnut shaped moonette!! His endless love for the south-Indian grub and my pouting unseen face seemed to evaporate with time, place and of course IMAGINATION.

(suddenly a strange image of such dish pops up on my screen)

Me: ewww...what is THAT, something in between jhol bhaat and kichuri?!

Aguntuk: Na na, eita ek rokomer khichuri opore badam aar seuvaja deowa thake-y. Bhari moja-r!
Me: looking at it...can certainly understand that!!
(long pause with Mohiner Ghoraguli as background score)

Aguntuk: But, surprisingly I dont get bored with it. Apart from women I dont get bored easily...

I take a deep breath with my fire stick in hand and blow a smoke staring at the screen like a little lunatic. Is 'My Baul' going Urban, does he now learnt the trick of amorousness, does he.... Suddenly I feel my blood rush into my veins as if I’m fueled by an ever- ready battery. And off I am, to live like Jason Bourne, a life that is a gigantose covert operation in itself, shielding myself from the forces of, well, nature, and aware of everyone and everything around me. Such are the trained instincts of a soldier in peril. A soldier, fighting to evade the deathly embrace and ramifications of Project Red-Stone.

Me: how many women you've dated so far?

Aguntuk: Erm...never bothered to keep a count!

Me: One should always keep the count of their enemies, specially if they are of the opposite sex, they say!

Aguntuk: They have never been my enemies. They called my name - with different voices, tones, expressions and at different junctions of the city of my Love, Kolkata! Stoic silence was my only weapon to combat such emotions.

I waited for him to say something just more, but my mobile signalled the Dreamer's name and I couln't resist to pick up that call.

"Kauke chenona tumi,Tomake chene na keu,Shei toh bhalo..." 


It’s amazing what ample amounts of free time can do to a person. All of a sudden, 24 hours actually seem like 24 hours, Leona Lewis sounds closer to a beautiful voice weeping, crisp omelettes, washed down with orange juice becomes the revelation to what they meant when they coined ‘sense and simplicity’, and sitting in the balcony listening to the wind whistle over a cup of piping hot tea turns out to be the ultimate amphetamine to the mind wandering like a feather on a windy day.

So where does the mind wander, you ask. Well, the minute you let it go, it leaps like a delinquent far into the horizon, across the sun kissed meadows and then it digs its heels to a screeching halt to look for familiar territories. Such are the limitations of a soul in silo.

Aguntuk: Kaal shondhyebela, raat-e ki plan?

Me: Kaal? Jani na.
Aguntuk: Dekha hot-ey paare-y?

My heart which always procrastinates jumps a bit and then reminas still. No, this can't be true. I just spoke the Stranger few nights back and he never said he will come! I’ve always maintained that life is full of overrated moments. And the flavour of the season that never changes is incredible stupor.

Me: Ki odbhut!Dekha hobe ki kore?

Aguntuk: Jebhabe dekha hoy, thik sheibhabe!

I raise a bit from my couch and read that again. The Stranger, MY Baul in Denims is IN the city! And 'It' all started with a phone call!

Finally amidst the glamour and gliteratti and fashion and shopaholics we meet. The baul in denims with wollen scarf and yours truly in activewear. Yeah, it all started with a silly phone call and random texts! The guy from Nilgiris has stars in his bespectacled eyes.When one writes, there is no knowing exactly where it might lead. And so it is with this blog. I am at a loss as to what, if anything, it has achieved so far.

After some "Arreey...hain..maaney...accha..oh!...baah...besh..."  we head towards the cha-er dokan with cheap cigarette and cheaper mouth-freshner. The 30 minute time made me to remember the baul for a lifetime. It feels like eternity since words exploded across my screen like birds breaking out into the evening sky, scattered, numerous and with unassumed violence... It feels like a lifetime since I could feel and give life to the feeling... since I could showcase them into words...

We shook hands and with an uncanny smile said "good-bye". Then, it happened. All of a sudden, I heard nothing. The world was playing in mute. Faces moved, vehicles moved, people waved. But not a single sound. My euphoria cannot be compared. Shakespeare was cooing into my epiphany. The world was a stage, people were actors of a mime, in mute. White noise. Pure Bliss.


That Baul in Denims

"Amay khub jante icche kore, na?" - the question which took me back to some long unforgotten years! Little did I know that the guy from the Dreamer's Sylvan Retreat, The Aguntuk shall delineate the Punk Bangalee in me.

His love for  Kolkata or Calcutta — the media-distorted British-raped “City of Joy" and my utter dissaproval for the same, his proud confession like " “Food, music, film, dance, fun, literature, politics, science, arts and what not…in spite of all the problems and stupid politicians and promoters today, it’s just incredible. And I’m not even talking about her GLORIOUS history.” And my silent disapproval always criss-crossed each other!

Meet the guy from the Nilgiris where the weather is much cooler than the post summer evenings in the city, the guy who can sell his soul to the Devil to return to the land of Robi Thakur and Bangla gaan - MY  'Baul in Denims'. With his bright, big eyes, he wants to capture all the detailed varieties of life. While am a proper Dilli-wali whose mind always wanders among the crowded bylanes of the capital. There are old stones everywhere with hints of blue glazed tile and flocks of bright green parrots, and you keep passing monuments that have stood witness to centuries.  I always imagined that if I start digging in these places, archaeological treasures will start poking out of the ground.  Layers of civilization will peel away to reveal even deeper secrets. 

Me: Aami dumb-i bhalo achi. Tomra amar theke onek beshi buddhi rakho! 

Aguntuk: Eta ekta rog ... nijeke Gobet bhabte bhalobasha !

Me: Tomar-o toh rog ache, nijeke na bhalobashar!

Aguntuk: Hain ache toh!

Yes, it started with little exchange of stale secrets, the boredom of being lonely and the spark for the city of love or Kolkata! What happens when a Mohiner Ghoraguli Bangalee meets The North-Indian rustic Bangalee? - A total disaster!

Aguntuk: HaNslam keno bolotoh?

Me: kyano?

Aguntuk: Jodi boli je tomar sab hotspot e jatayat nei?

Me: Aamar hot spot toh Aarshi Nagar !
Aguntuk: Konodin decker's lane Chandni Bar-e gecho? jaoni....

Me: hhmmphh...

His longing for the city made me to come closer with it too. Not that I wanted to! But I did, may be the Aguntuk was too fasinated to see the love of his life through the eyes of an apathetic dweller! His day dreaming with a flavor of "jukti-tokko-golpo", his love for the South Indian dishes, his madness for the maddening crowd and his "joghonnyo" - always took out a little bit of Bangalee in me!  How strange does the stranger become when he suddenly professes his hidden inner ailments by saying, " Shono, ami "bhalobashi"...anek kichui bhalobashi, abar kichu kharap bashi, shob miliye ami ebong amar beNche thaka!"

Five years is a long time. To be up-rooted from the city where I grew up and descending to a place which was never mine,long enough to make one homesick (sic.). Long enough for the mind to wander. And wonder. I have witnessed a lot of changes in Calcutta. For the better.
And I wonder how much things could have changed.
I wonder.

And in turn, I question if they are going to change my childhood. My growing years. My memories.
I wonder.

The Aguntuk keeps on taking me back and forth the timeline which even Facebook can't really do! I mean at least there, you have an option to scroll while here,you jog your memories till they are scrambled enough! His continuous enquiry like if we still have the sudden clap of thunder and the ominous darkening of the sky with the mad frenzy of a rain shower bringing respite on a sweltering Summer afternoon. Kalbaisakhi as he calls it. And ek poshla brishti.

And in return it gives me the detailed picture of Kaki closing the shutters on the window to keep out the scorching sun. And turning on the radio and listening to the Bangla natok as she prepares for her siesta in the afternoon. Ghori Rahashyo. I still remember the name of the natok!

The stranger, my Dreamer's "Ek class-er dost" and I get entwined in an elusive journey, where we bump against the "phele asha purono din-er gaan". His college days, mess, "chaNda tuley mocchob" to his translations of several Bangla words for me - everything made me to learn a bit more of the sweetest language, Bengali! He still brings out that Bangalee in me!

Me: Aaii tomar case ta ki bolotoh

Aguntuk: kiser case?
Me: Dwosh (10) baar kore dakadaki korte hoy kyano?!amar na bhalo lage !
Aguntuk: Shohoje dhora dile aar ki moja!!

Meet the brutal "Twins" who make you to wait though he says like a saddist he loves the joy while inflicting the pain!

Aguntuk: Aami unpredictable ...unpredictability theke sabdhan!
Me: Amar toh mone hoy tomar baire lekha ache, Handle with care, Fragile inside !

                                                                                                                                                ... continued

Keeping Eyes

To start all over is how you open your eyes once more to mirrors which have made you into what you are now, these mirrors playing semblances along, rendering the most peculiar feelings. But it is not entirely how you look through them, sometimes it's how they eat on you in some light, how they leave you to figure the blur, these questions so hard to lose or lift off your rational days.

One day a stranger asked in the voice of a man who first broke your heart, aware now how far you've traveled from such times. "Have you gone, grown mindless of your past." It was as if all mirrors then moved towards you, cornering, like claws to a once elusive prey, so close to rob you with its old searing light when all you could rattle by was a stare-- the safest, you guess, of all human responses.

"I've been looking all my life," he drawled as his fingers on your body now, searching for that part where your  answers dwell. He was trying to tell you something-- each of his wordless sound, your inconvenience.

"I choose not to remember," you said.

As he arched his back, your fingers pulled him down, his face now on yours—  as if to make sure you'd own or steal his wander for a minute —  with hope after, he'd understand, from a little distance, your tearful eyes.

No more invitations, telegrams and calls for those who never arrived!

Imagined Interiors

Tonight we spoke like a frequency graph,
Like a landscape without edges,
Extruded strokes of light to my lips like fingers
stretching through the architecture of your words.
To cocoon the sounds in my ear longer

I scavenge images to furnish this room
that holds you in sprawling pieces
with feathered edges that overlap and repel.
I smear the walls with my tender vision.

This passage doesn’t permit complexity.
A blocked aperture half-closed
the debris left by a fragment fallen
from the frozen eye of the storm.
It obstructs my view of your dislocation.

Someone coughs in the background.
Your voice lowers to a soft tendril,
I hear your body turn in your sheets
As you describe the darkness
that stares back at you.

In these implicit movements I accrue
the inescapable graduation of weightless light
that reaches from me to you under a heavy winter.

Colour will slide in the morning
over the outline of your refuge.
(like an unfinished house)
Like music climbs through those sounds.


In life or love pain must be felt. There is no other alternative. But that pain is accompainied by something else… hope.

“You have no idea how much you mean to me.  Maybe you choose not to see it.  Maybe you look past it because it scares you, but I’ve always been in love with you. We’ve seen the best and worst of each other.  You were a part of the reason I hit rock bottom, but you also influenced who I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.  It scares me being with you.  It scares me how much I’m going to miss you.  I’ll always be hopeful.  I can’t help it.”

You gradually get over the pain. It doesn’t go away, not for a long time, but it becomes easier to live with. One morning you wake up and he’s not the first thing on your mind. And then a few months down the line you realize you’ve made it through half the day without thinking of him. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes, years, but eventually you reach a point when you only think about them occassionally. You manage to do this because you don’t see them, you don’t hear about them, you try not to think about them. And then you bump into them walking down the street, or someone unexpected mentions their name . . . and the memories come flooding back. But memories also become less painful in time, and I can talk about them now without really feeling anything. But I’d rather now. If you know what I mean. Was I ever truly over him? At one time I was sure that the answer was yes. But if seeing him again- and merely touching his hand- could peel back so many layers of my heart, then did I ever stop loving him the way you’re supposed to stop loving everyone but the one you’re with?

It’s the tragedy of loving, you can’t love anything more than something you miss. I sat down with a couple of people recently and as I looked around the table, I thought wow, we are all broken people. Of course, we all understand this in theory, but the practice of understanding and welcoming the brokenness of others, especially people who we look to as leaders is an almost impossible task. But still we try to maintain for what we are NOT, after all we have to lead them in any case.

I lead people, have led people and sometimes, I do a crappy job and have done it pretty badly with my brokenness spilling out in all my sloppy need and sin. I need grace, I desperately want to make right my offenses, I want to be forgiven. I want to lead people well but sometimes, I fail.

I am guilty. Guilty of forgetting that people who have led me, people who have walked with me are broken, imperfect and perfectly fallible. Being surrounded by brokenness, even creation groans and writhes in destructiveness, I am looking for something better, something less broken, more perfect. So guilty, I confess that I have put people who are leaders in the position of being that something better, that something less broken. In fact, they are not less broken, maybe they just have more responsibility and maybe sometimes they handle that badly. Yet, I struggle to forgive the debts of those who basically broken like me but hold positions of power, I simply can not get over that they are not more perfect than I am. I have made them demi-gods. Given them power in my life and expected that they would use it well and i fiercely hoped that they would not fail me. They did fail me. They have failed me. People who lead are broken, they are me, human, frail, fallible and destructive at times. Hopefully, they are also vulnerable and transparent, if in fact we will let them be...