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"I have known music to be her timeless reverberation in a forlorn corner of my soul; just when life was closing down upon me with its pangs of haunting silence."
"Hope is the point the 'world within' comes to an equilibrium with the 'world around'."
"The cold that my body feels can be comforted by pullovers of our choices. It is the winter that comes back each year, inevitably; is how we are connected on the face of time. A sweet suffering of forever..."
"My poverty, I know, was glamorous because trading you, my love, for a better life is outright heinous."
"Love was the day when she drank and I felt quenched."
"Life, ever since, had been one gripping tale. Your happening gave it a genre."
"Want is the soul's desire. Need, the mind's crave. Love, thus, I believe, is a bit of both."
"Art is how you lie to the world without ever feeling sinned."
"Sorrow is true and beyond the powers of healing, when you can taste the oceans on your lips."

The Vagrant Trust

The Vagrant Trust
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Sunday, December 17, 2017 |

‘You’ve all my mother’s trust.’

I heard the words come off her mouth, as easily and instinctively, as pleasantries exchanged in a greeting: without any reflection or consideration, unrehearsed and spoken raw, the way it first originated in her mind. The way truth is spoken perhaps, as I believed – on the face and without a flinch.

We were seated at the promenade of a buzzing Calcutta theatre. The evening show had just ended and people boisterously poured out of the gates like jets of water shooting from the broken edge of gushing water pipe: chattering and hooting on top of their voices; their faces ecstatic. Children, quick to adapt the antics of the protagonist, had their flimsy glasses tucked to the back of their necks; women shied under their coquettish smile imagining the bare-chested, beefy, ageing hero setting the world alright on screen; while men, as they seemed with their lurid faces, discussed the heroine in explicit details.

For the initial few minutes as the mob ran amok within the premises, we stalled our conversation and sat with our gazes affixed on an abandoned fountain pool where our shadows brushed at the temples. I leaned slightly to my left to check if the shadows belied, and felt her hair brush my cheek. She withdrew, smiling; and I watched the shadows part on the dusty tiled bed. A colony of creepers unrestrained, thrived in the crevasses.

‘She was asking so many questions. Gawd!’ she declared, animatedly holding her head. ‘Where are you? When’ll you be home? It’s getting late. Blah Blah!’

She had just ended the call with her anxious mother, that a solemn smile, like a ripple growing on a lake as the stone of concern slowly sank, I watched, quickly conquer her face. 

‘I just told her I was with you.’

Until then we had no formal acquaintances of what could suffice for the necessary bit of information required to placate her worries concerning her daughter’s convenience on a day out with a boy she had known only as far as her eyes could make out from the second-floor balcony of their house: leaned over the sidewall with her eyes spread out in wait on the dim alley sweeping up to the entrance, as I walked her home a couple of times from our evening classes; or rode up early morning on my bicycle with a roll of notes from classes she missed (damn the migraine) and waited outside the porch, until she emerged through the door with sleep imbued eyes, and unkempt hair to collect them from me under her mother’s gaze, affixed on us from the balcony, spreading wet clothes on taut nylon ropes. To let her worries, rest with just one statement, that she was with me, and contently ending the call, given our limited exposure to each other’s lives was a little too much to believe, even while the idea of my love making inroads with her had my heart bursting into confetti. Or, had she picked the changed air of my body language, of me missing steps and fumbling with words while I was with her? Was the auburn glee in my eyes, as I waited at the porch with my head turned to the door, desperate to behold her daughter once in the garb of lending study notes, busted by a mother’s unfailing instincts? Was there finally someone in this world, except my own smitten heart, who knew how my bones became water and my head a raging sandstorm, abandoned of consciousness and thoughts trailing skyward, every time she lifted her smiling eyes to me?

We had bunked our classes to watch a Nolan rendition at Matrix, Calcutta, and it wasn’t until I arrived at the theatre teeming with cine-goers under its low domed roof, and the air abuzz with chants of ‘bhai’, with jostling bodies in long winding queues braving the humidity before dust-laden, gigantic pedestal fans as they made way to a shabby ticket counter, did I realize that we were at the wrong place, expecting a movie as foreign and distant to their knowledge as sense and artistic credibility to the movie being screened.

‘How could you even imagine they playing a sci-fi here?’ she confronted me at the desolate kerb of the cinema, where, disappointed, we were sitting down to while away the evening.

‘Sometimes they do.’ I shrugged. ‘Hindi dubs.’

‘You came in for Hindi dub?’ she asked with stretched eyes.

‘Nothing like DiCaprio mouthing Hindi lines in American accent.’

She plunged her elbow to the side of my stomach in response to my mirthless retaliation, as we sat down on concrete steps flanking an ornamental fountain that had long lost its use. A mesh of rusted water pipes ran around a tubular sprinkler with a dead motor at its centre. In its nooks were nests of stray birds with reeds of fodder jutting out of the weave and unguarded eggs clustered in the hollow. Its dusty blue floor of broken tiles was carpeted with decaying sheets of leaves that ruffled and sung with the afternoon breeze. With the city at work on a weekday, the road outside was relatively empty as the market strip idled and napped under the mild August sun. The distant rumble of tram carriages occasionally floated in, and vanished before it grew in prominence. A groaning ambassador flew past the gates tilting the balance of quiet, that she pulled me by the shoulder and planted her lips on mine. There on the steps of a scraped fountain, and in broad daylight, with a room full of people at our back in their matinee, we led ourselves across boundaries our minds built and bodies broke. Till she pulled me by my shoulder, till I saw her luscious mouth close over mine, till my arms very reluctantly crossed on her back and our breaths mated; we were only friends. A friend who could seize my senses with a look, whose mother trusted her safety with me, and whom whenever I looked at, even thought of, regardless of the circumstances, life felt like a delightful, more purposeful voyage. We must have sat there long, and not until did we hear the scurry of footsteps land back on the kerb, and the clouds darkened between astride electric wires running high on the poles, did we care to sit apart. She checked her phone and it revealed a dozen missed calls from her mother. She called back and was subjected to a flurry of questions. That was when she said she was with me and startlingly, no other question followed. She slid the phone back into her sling and smiling, stood up to dust the back of her denim. I followed her down the steps, wading through littered butts of tickets towards the exit.

We took a bus home standing by the barred window beside her, our hands inches apart on the same iron grille, as evening flashed past us outside in frames of dust and smoke. I watched her in silence: breathing sedately down her chin, locks of her hair rippling in the wind by her face, and her eyes averted from mine, rested lonely on the smoggy horizon. I wanted to talk about it: put out my feelings dressed in choicest of words, talk about how I lose my step and fail my words every time she looks at me; how all this had been raging inside me but could never muster enough audacity to pursue them; how she was everything that looked and felt like love in the dreams I had so far been weaving in her longing. But nothing came out. Just a smile that tasted like her breath, as the bus lurched to a halt at our destination.

It was close to 9 in the evening when we got off and was walking her down the familiar lanes towards her house. She was instructed to be home by 7, no matter what, but we had flouted that ultimatum by a good two hours. I expected her to be animated, panic, be afraid for what would be awaiting back home, absolutely anything to break the silence that hung on us throng the entire course of our journey. But there was nothing, and that in turn cemented my faith about her parents being okay about her being out with me, about us, about my love that I was certain she would confess any moment soon.

She walked a few paces ahead of me: through shadows of buildings leaning into each other, crossing arcs of saffron light from street lamps that lay washed in mud suggesting a passed spell of rain, past the municipal trucks parked to the side and taking right from a square past a pack of stray dogs maddened and howling, gnawing at the litters, headed straight to her house. I lifted my eyes from her back to the second-floor balcony where her mother stood: bent over the balustrade under a diminutive lamp, chin in her palm and waiting for her daughter to be home. I waited as she ambled up the stairs, and looked up to her mother. She returned me my prized smile of acknowledgement, and at that moment, it sufficed for every word of love and promise I couldn’t say or hear from her daughter. A heart won with trust, I believed, was a big achievement to start with, as I walked home with ambrosial dreams of an accomplished love.

It’d been six years since that day of walking her home late in the night, that I caught sight of her at a grand Durga Puja pandal in central Calcutta this year. Resplendent in a crimson saree with her undulating curls left open on the back and doubling over in an impressive laughter. I glanced at my watch; it was well past 2. She should have been home by 7, I told myself, and almost impulsively started striding towards her. Until soon I watched a man step in from the dark and hold her by the waist, joining in her laughter. She then flipped out her phone and cheerfully, started talking. I watched her lips move in a familiar murmur. I remembered her words, ‘You’ve all my mother’s trust.’

From a distance, I watched them walk away, with old trust retiring to bed in new hearts.

   


A Quiet World, A Better World

A Quiet World, A Better World
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Saturday, November 25, 2017 | |
Imagine all the people you ever came across staying back, never leaving your side, a world without goodbyes or heartbreaks, of all friendships and acquaintances retained, of never being through abandonment, of no one ever forgetting anyone or letting go; our lives would've been a bloody chaos. An incorrigible disarray of lives breathing down our neck about their dreams, desires, and apathy. Much like the city's Sunday market strip: an alley thronging with people desperate about their needs, all of them wanting to be heard, to be prioritized; everyone going out of their way to opine, to lend their voices to a political debacle around the corner that had started to amass impetus; everyone in a frenzy, rushing to be elsewhere; an entourage of bodies pushing against one another, hollering, haranguing, never ever having enough of it.
What a pitiable situation it would be, to be living lives without silences in them, without a corner of quiet to pray, to play soft music, to write letters to loved ones or pen verses in longing. If not for anything, let this soothing environment of calm be the justification for everyone who left with or without notice, to everything you held dear but eventually lost in wanting and all the pieces that fell off leaving you hollow. It's alright, friend. That is how it is supposed to be. Only when the contours of a boulder are chipped away that it gives way to a sculpture. And you're on your to being one. Relax. That last failed relation you're grieving about was destiny sculpting a handsome set of eyes onto your soul. Now the light shall reach your blood and you'll know that you had done no wrong. It's all fair. To be left out, forgotten. Every receding wave leaves more than just muddy sand; a lasting silence to sing yourself a song. Embrace it: this fall, the quiet. You’re an art in making. Don’t ever worry. Nothing is ever so precious to be substituting your inner quiet. No love so valuable to be losing your music.

Diwali: A Realization

Diwali: A Realization
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Saturday, November 25, 2017 | | |
It's much more than just lighting the lamp.

In fact, it's the easiest of all - to strike a match and lend the flame, guarded in the cave of your palms, to an oil-slicked wick curled in the hollow of the earthenware. That's it. The lamp comes to life, its muffled-yellow sheen encroaching upon the dark, like weary ocean waves closing around rocks, catching our appreciation altogether, our love.
But that's not all - the oil, meanwhile, would be quickly depleting in the lamp; the wick, burnt to its half and the flame a disfigured leaf of orange walloping perilously against the wind. It would die any moment and, so here's the larger consideration, the better understanding to courtship that is to be espoused: one of us has to keep checking on the lamp, responsibly, from time to time, with a fresh wad of wicks and a cup of oil, to keep it glowing; to keep us going. It's not as easy. And unless we are truly committed to keeping vigil - our sincerity consolidated, our loyalty upheld, our faith unwavering; until we learn to hold onto things past their initial epiphany without losing zeal; let's not light one.

Oh! Poor Man

Oh! Poor Man
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Saturday, November 25, 2017 | | | | |
What's hugely distressing, sardonic and unpardonably hypocritical, and in all probability is leading our society down helpless despair and imparity is, where a happy looking man in neat, ironed clothes at work, carrying lunch boxes packed with delectable, sumptuous food is attributed to being blessed with wonderful and loving wife; is, on the contrary, audaciously endorsed as a disciplinarian with so-called high morals, when she starts panicking of being late with a meeting extending beyond 8, afraid of being rebuked; when she never makes it to team dinners at swanky hotels, skipping glittery evenings of lavish cuisines and flowing alcohol, lying of ill health or responsibilities at home, reprimanded by 'the man' and in-laws; when on a shopping spree she unwillingly racks away that exquisite one piece that held her just right at the waist, with plunging shoulders giving her butterflies as she turned to the trial room mirror, feeling 21 all over again, complaining of coarse texture in a rather fine material, half imagining the scalding parallels that would be drawn at home afterwards.
Well, why do you think we even need feminism? The fact that one needs to be handed out pre-set rules about how they must interact and go about human beings of a particular gender, speaks galore of our incompetency as a community. The fact that one has to probed in the eye with demands of equality only goes to reveal our lopsided idea about a perfectly balanced society. In other words, feminism, like a bottle of disinfectant, is more for us, men to wash clean their vision, redevelop and align their deranged ideals along the common line of humanity; shifting their fulcrum of prejudices to the centre of this see-saw, of what could be an egalitarian world. More so for the poor man to know that freedom was never so little, so tameable as to be crushed in his fist. It had always been a milling two way street and the only way forward is to stop and make way for others. For everyone. To live.

Fools, Flowers and Falls

Fools, Flowers and Falls
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Saturday, November 25, 2017 |

I remember keeping your rose in an empty beer bottle on the bedside stool, as I got home that night. Passing the stem through its mouth and withdrawing my fingers, letting it drop. Its petalled bulb coming to rest against the rim in a soundless thud.
I do not know why I did that. On other days there would have been no bottle at the first place. Having never realized sense in the idea of a person dutifully showing up at my door and asking for a bagful of garbage, I personally took the trash out first thing in the morning, without anyone's asking, to a designated bin in the lobby for it to be picked from there. And likewise, with that habit, went the bottles too, emptied overnight in desperation. But that morning I was getting late, and so it all stayed in.
Though I fell in line with my habits soon, that bottle with your rose in it never quite left its place. Not that I didn't want to, but I never remembered it was there. Until all the petals had fallen dried, their hue drained, their fragrance faded, their purpose lost; and that once green stock, reduced to a mere wilted line of black against the thick glass.
May be there always is a thing called conscience that we choose to not pay heed. May be we all do know what awaits us before it really unfolds. Perhaps not the whole picture but that slightest of inkling, that undeniable tremor of vibes at our throat is always there, unlying, through everything. But the hazard in love is that it wants to get to the bottom of everything even when it’s a bottomless pit, and the imminent fall, its doom – seeking clear answers out of grave silences and be broken as ever; awaiting warm goodbyes from the unwelcoming who departed without a trace; and for everything there was to wither and lose fragrance before giving it all up. Love, in its quest for truth, wants as bad to be wounded as it wishes to triumph.
May be it wasn’t sheer nonchalance after all that I left the rose there that day. May be we were destined to not happen: like the beer I solemnly chugged, knowing well it won’t get me drunk.
© Sobhan
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