Wednesday, March 31, 2010


We all need wings to fly. But what happens when the wings become vestigial and our torpor makes us forget the sky and its infinite solace ?

It is then time we wake up and weigh ourselves and find what is wanting. Realise that just living for others has no reward, sometimes we need to live for our own dreams. For the others may leave you to lead their own lives but your self remains, always to inspire you to the noblest grain of your character or to intermittently sound that wary note of time flowing by and so much work yet to be done.

For life is so much more than just family and money and partying. There is so much ignorance and illness about us, so much sorrow and weariness of heart. We forget the greater world around us and get immersed in our own narcissistic misery once in a while. But nature is a good teacher : with enough time and peace of mind at our disposal, she enlightens us to the wisdom that centuries of quest have distilled for us. That we are here to serve interests much greater than our own. To heal all the wounds that selfishness has ever sown. That our lives are one of millions and no one is here to stay. That the road to salvation is calling us and we must surrender our selves and remorselessly, come away.

So be it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pilgrimage of the Soul


He did not harbour regrets :
A scapegoat would do the job.
Memories were just pretty leaflets
One could sweep indoors and turn the knob.

Departing for the sake of worth and value
All that stoked the fire in her soul,
She nursed the past with a halo...
Autumn leaves that echoed in her bowl.

He travelled in the heat of summer
To lands shrouded by the age of trees ;
Unseeing of the silent star who would glimmer,
Crafting light and summoning the breeze.

She would strive in secret splendour,
Living lives doomed never to be whole ;
He would drive on and on, beyond her,
Stopping only to pay some obscure toll.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wonder to Wisdom


Sometimes, love just isn't enough.

When windows light up the city sky
But darkness dawns on my eyes,
It's time to draw the curtains
To mourn the need to arise.

For he lies drunk in slumber
Having done his good deed of the day ;
But I must stand, silent and sombre,
Sober mistakes rankling bloody and grey.

We travelled a morning misty but magical
Flowers smiling our way to a home...
Now their corpses rot out of rainbows
Bitter yesterdays serenade their tome.

Doom descends on the departing horizon
As I stare truth into these dead hands :
He crushed the blossom and tore out their scent
While I wept witness to the war in our lands.

------------- GARGI MANDAL

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From 'Shirley', Part I, Chapter 7

"A lover masculine so disappointed can speak and urge explanation, a lover feminine can say nothing; if she did, the result would be shame and anguish, inward remorse for self-treachery. Nature would brand such demonstration as a rebellion against her instincts, and would vindictively repay it afterwards by the thunderbolt of self-contempt smiting suddenly in secret. Take the matter as you find it ask no questions, utter no remonstrances; it is your best wisdom. You expected bread and you have got a stone: break your teeth on it, and don't shriek because the nerves are martyrised; do not doubt that your mental stomach - if you have such a thing - is strong as an ostrich's; the stone will digest. You held out your hand for an egg, and fate put into it a scorpion. Show no consternation; close your fingers firmly upon the gift; let it sting through your palm. Never mind; in time, after your hand and arm have swelled and quivered long with torture, the squeezed scorpion will die, and you will have learned the great lesson how to endure without a sob. For the whole remnant of your life, if you survive the test - some, it is said, die under it - you will be stronger, wiser, less sensitive. This you are not aware of, perhaps, at the time, and so cannot borrow courage of that hope. Nature, however, as has been intimated, is an excellent friend in such cases, sealing the lips, interdicting utterance, commanding a placid dissimulation - a dissimulation often wearing an easy and gay mien at first, settling down to sorrow and paleness in time, then passing away, and leaving a convenient stoicism, not the less fortifying because it is half-bitter.

Half-bitter! Is that wrong? No; it should be bitter: bitterness is strength - it is a tonic. Sweet, mild force following acute suffering you find nowhere; to talk of it is delusion. There may be apathetic exhaustion after the rack. If energy remains, it will be rather a dangerous energy - deadly when confronted with injustice."


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Death in the Family

Dimma (my maternal grandma) died around 5.10 pm on Sunday morning. Ma called me up early in the morning. Having received news that Dimma had lapsed into a coma, she said she'd be leaving within a couple of hours for Panagarh (of the military base fame) where Dimma had been staying with my mejomashi (my middle aunt) for the last few years. Because of my back problem , I needn't go over and stay at Salt Lake. My parents-in-law were away in North Bengal, so I couldn't have shirked my responsibilities here in any case. All I needed to do was check from time to time whether everything was ok with Mitu (my sibling) since Ma doesn't have much faith in my father's sense of responsibility when it comes to family (he's a doctor, so you get the drift). She said she didn't expect Dimma to live beyond that day or at the most, the day after. I called her again around 2 pm, and she said that she'd just reached mashi's place. Dimma, too weak and physically incapacitated, couldn't possibly be removed to a hospital, so a doctor had been called over. Other relatives had come over and there was a tangible sense of impending gloom. I said I'd check on her again later, in that case.

We were supposed to go over that evening to Salt Lake to my parents' place. Baba was attending a seminar at the Hyatt and there was a cocktail dinner at the Rowing Club to round it off that night. Mitu would probably not feel like attending the event if we guys weren't around, so I persuaded K, explaining the logic . (We had had Rashi and Saugata sleeping over the previous night and had had a whole lot of rich food in this sultry weather, so he didn't really feel like partaking of some more of the former at the invitation in question.) We had just taken a nap and I was sitting on the bed, contemplating whether to make tea first or decide what to wear when Ma called.

Some intuition told me that Ma's calling at that particular point of time did not augur good news. I remember K's puzzled look when I kept on staring at the mobile screen and then turning to him and telling him in a lame, lost way that it was Ma calling. Eventually, I must have answered the call for I could distinctly hear Ma's voice sounding strangely and unnaturally clear, telling me that Dimma had 'just' passed away. Her matter-of-fact voice injected stupor into me, for I can't remember anything of what she told me after that. There was already wetness on my cheeks and along the sides of my nose and somehow, in between all of this, I was lying down, turning my face away from K because I was conscious of this being a moment of personal loss, something he could not possibly understand, empathise or sympathise with. It was something that was intensely personal, a bereavement that would mean different things to different people but somehow, none of our emotions would be the same. There would always be a difference, because I was mourning at the shrine of my own personal existence, grieving for one whose birth had inevitably predestined mine. I was reliving family, blood ties, shared memories. Somehow, in those few moments, I felt like Ma was no longer just a mother, I was no longer just her daughter. We had been promoted by an entire generation.

But we could have done without it.

Dimma, I'll miss not having you around. Memories are not a very good substitute for the physical presence of a person, are they ?

Friday, March 12, 2010


I was reading an interview of Nandita Das a couple of days ago in 'The Telegraph'. It ended with an interesting rhetorical. I can't recall her exact words, but summed up, they more or less ran as follows :

Why on earth would we do something in life unless it was something we really really wanted to do ?

She has a point. Why indeed ?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Mother or Not to Mother

Several of my friends have become new mothers recently. At most get-togethers where we nowadays come across them, I feel like an outsider. The conversation mostly centres around the needs, eccentricities, trials & tribulations and the daily routine of the mother-and-child. The conversations are by themselves rather interesting and often give unexpected angles into the way a woman's life is transformed overnight when she becomes a mother. After sexual initiation, this is probably the second stage of life when you feel physically fulfilled as a woman. But me not being a mother, how do these conversations make me feel ?

To be honest, isolated would be the first emotion that comes to mind. I get the feeling that this is one of those Phi Beta kind of sororities where even the conversation is coded and elite. Well, of course it's not half as dramatic. But I do get that feeling and it's odd.

The next would be fear. The routine of a new mother sounds terribly intimidating. It makes me feel that I wouldn't be a good mother myself because I seem to lack the patience, the will to put up with n number of sleepless nights, the courage to brave the agony of being unable to pacify a bawling infant owing to not having been able to figure out what the current 'lack/need' is, the indefinite period of sacrifice of other pursuits that are dreadfully dear to my heart in general, the ability to overlook my own indispositions to focus on a being whose needs are more instinctive and sensitive than mine...the list is long and what's more, scary.

Then comes the terrible sense of a personal loss of freedom. The freedom to go anywhere, do anything at anytime, any which way I'd ike to. Marriage does bring its own natural restraints, but that seems nothing compared to what motherhood would demand. The thought of my wanting to just be by myself for a whole day without anyone tugging at my heart-strings and demanding constant care would just be a wistful lotus-eaters' dream once I plunged wholeheartedly into the cactus path to motherhood. I'm a loner by nature and the notion of not allowed to be one seems to endanger my sanity the very moment I start thinking about it.

Then there's the weight gain. Ever since my MA days, I've been struggling to keep my weight under strict surveillance, since my hypothyroidism problem demands that of me in order that I stay fit and fine. I'm not a celebrity like Malaika Arora who can work out with a trainer immediately after delivery and get back into shape at the snap of a finger. My gynaecologist has categorically advised me to lose weight for certain specific reasons. The sense of having to lose weight, gain it again in pregnancy and then begin the struggle to fight the flab all over again exhausts me mentally right now.

And with that finally comes the enormous burden of duty, responsibility and culpability. These are all spontaneous and I suppose would someday come to me as naturally as they have to generations of mothers. I'm secretly proud that I've always been wo(man) enough to stand up bravely and be answerable for my own flaws, lacks, offences or misdeeds in life. But what about taking the blame for mistakes my child might make, often knowing that I was involved all along in the very process of making them ? It menaces me, looms over me like a nightmare that is destined to be fulfilled.

There is one good thing that however stands out star-bright, in this senseless saga of formless fears. I finally realise what it means to be a mother. Maybe that itself heralds a positive, more meaningful, futuristic note. My frequent disagreements with my mother might lessen as life strives to school me in the language of motherhood, a legacy that must be passed on. A dream that must be realised, even if it must go through the painful metamorphosis of the glorious vision into a checkered reality.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's Night Out ?!

I just read this article. The link was provided by my JU classmate Romila on Facebook. Read it for yourself, blogolleagues. I'd be interested in what you guys have to say about this.

Btw, this was my friend's reaction, in case you are interested :

"small moan" from yourself indeed ! let her also register her objection with a small blow with the nearest hairbrush...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Green Nooks

There's not too much of nature to go ga ga over here in our neighbourhood, which is one of the relatively new localities along the E.M.Bypass. In fact, it's still in a state of considerable concretisation, which recently made me succumb to an allergy attack that came and went like a child's smile, only not half as welcome. Now what does one do when one is as used to greenery as I have been since my early childhood, be it in Wales or Salt Lake ? One creates one's own little green patch, of course !

Now let me warn you in advance (in case you begin to harbour great expectations of my ecological entrepreneurship) that my gardening genes are by no means original. I embarked on the process of green-ing my home, inspired by two worthy predecessors, Ma in Salt Lake and Mamoni, here. Ma, as a matter of fact, doesn't know too much about gardening and her excessive enthusiasm once proved to be quite uncongenial for the chrysanthemums concerned when, advised to add a manure of shorsher khol to the budding plants, she overdid the amount of khol in the mixture, rendering the manure too strong for horticultural purposes. Her remorse was genuine and acute, but it didn't help to resurrect the plants. That, however, happened to be an isolated occasion. Ma does have a real passion for gardening and the numerous delicious papayas, guavas and lemons in our back garden are the fruit of hours of planning, judicious care and earnest instructions to often well-meaning but rather ignorant gardening personnel. The latter category included our former driver, Hori Da, whose sporadic sorties into Ma's beloved garden depended mostly on his benevolent moods and eccentric labour. However, that never deterred Ma from buying numerous potted plants, flowering or leafy, arranging them along the ledges of our spacious verandahs and taking care of them more than her own children (yes, Mitu did often level such a complaint against her desensitised person).

The result was that I grew up, with considerable botanical ardor, often having fallen asleep in the afternoon ensconced in my reading chair amidst a curtain of greens, creating a perfect Elysium in my own house. My interest in plants seeped into my journalistic assignments, where I did the rounds of a few front, rooftop and terraced gardens in Salt Lake, finding particular delight in hearing experienced gardeners air their views and proudly display their gardens to the public. (It was a totally unexpected matter that I even landed what sounded like a marriage proposal on one such assignment). Recently, I even did a couple of articles for The Telegraph on the East Kolkata wetlands, the latter endangered by illegal urban encroachment and pollution.

The point is that my love for greenery remains, although a trifle subdued by the air of Kalikapur, which seems to be heavy with dust, dirt and pollen most of the time, rendered even more intolerable by the pungent carbon monoxide that the tea-stall just below our apartment insists on belching into the clean morning air each day. In fact, I requested K to take me out yesterday (our anniversary having been on 28th Feb) to some spot where there would be nothing except greenery all around me for a couple of hours. This would explain the august presence of two silly young adults on the sun-baked, winding pathways of the Botanical Gardens at Shibpur, yesterday at about noon. To be fair to ourselves, there were several other silly young adults all around us. The only difference being, of course, that they were heading for the nearest source of shade they could find/ were evidently blindly in love and therefore not behaving rationally/ they were armed with umbrellas, full sleeved attire and a proper lunch inside them. None of which applied to us. Although we sported nonchalant expressions and took some wonderful photos at the place, half-an-hour of March sun making its best efforts to bore into your skull and suck your grey matter dry isn't really conducive to any sort of comfort, however ardent about flora you might be. All the arrows leading to the garden cafetaria seemed to be as misleading as a mirage. We didn't manage to trace the building and assuage the pangs of hunger assailing us at that point. Exhausted and ravenous, we took a quick route back to Park Street, where cheilo kebab, pineapple blossom and beer worked wonders to improve our temper and reconcile us to the vagaries of our recent experience.

I realised one thing at the end of the day : like art, the appreciation of nature too is conditioned by the state of one's mind.


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