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Tag Archives: Love

Once upon a time in 1003, Hatat House

This is 1003, Hatat House, which was home to the family Ghosh, between 2003 and 2008, in a quaint little desert city, in the Middle East. I have lived five wonderful years of my life here and have loved this house for its high ceilings, large French windows, the sunrise every morning, the eastern sun streaming in through the windows and the fact that the Bee and I had painted this empty canvas in the colours we loved the most. Here is a tour of our home in the desert city with PreeOccupied , one of my favourite blogs by a wonderful friend called Pree.

Pree believes in sharing all that she sees as beautiful. An amazing photographer , a believer in anything and everything that is beautiful and colourful, she loves creating, be it  creating  a warm home or rustling up a storm at the dining table with her culinary skills.

Here are some more snapshots from 1003, Hatat House, for more go and visit Pree.


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Lumos

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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Strange love : On the Agastya trail…

Agastya’s envy had then blurted out, he wished he had been Anglo-Indian, that he had Keith or Alan for a name, that he spoke English with their accent. – English August, Upamanyu Chatterjee.

In my first year of college, on a wintry evening I fell in love with  Agastya August Sen, a snob and a dopey stuck among the primitives of  Madna. August, who “spoke, thought and respired”  in English.  August who had to survive, no matter what. August, a lover of jazz and who read Marcus Aurelius. And ever since that day, ever since I was 17, I  kept looking for him in crowded buses, in metro stations, in Nandan, in Rabindra Sadan, at Rotaract meets, at the university campus – in a Kolkata bustling with people but none like August.

No, I was not obsessed, I walked into it with my eyes open. I knew he was a storybook character. But he was the closest I had come to a suitable boy who believed in being unapologetic about his love for the Queen’s language and being uncompromising  for what he loved. That was where  my love story started and ended. With my ‘perfectionist’ core , I too wanted to sound like a native of the tongue I acquired, just like August. And my Bong crux yearned the glory of a well spoken, well read,  well bred and all the other kinds of “well” ness (of  Bangla) that a well brought up Bengali should be. Besides that, I too, in many  ways, had started to feel  trapped, living life among a well fed, ‘fair of skin’, pedigreed tribe – who flourished by weighing and selling  gold and silver by the gms. This was my Madna,  in the heart of a city caught in yore, among a confluence of  baniyas, mostly from the western part of the country, converged along the central artery of the city over the last century, lost in  a milieu who refused to   perfect the art of their mother tongue, leave alone the Queen’s tongue.

You see  my parents’  foresight had put us, my sister and me, through the rigours of “English medium convent education”. And I suppose it must have been there where the arranged marriage happened, between the love for the languages and me.  The prolonged presence of the  two languages, English and Bengali, made them a crucial part of my life. Hours of Wren and Martin, verse after verse penned by Shelley, Keats, Byron,   pages of Shakespeare, Shaw, Maugham; and then attending Ms Gomes’ classes on the nuances of Bangla byakaran, bisheshwa, bisheshan, kriya, sarbanaam, sandhi, samas, krit pratyay, taddhit pratyay, reading  and appreciating Bonophool, Moumachhi, Satyendranath, Rabindranath, Saratchandra, Bankimchandra – phew! So by the end of it all,  the lack of  linguistic perfection in a person left something incomplete for me. And at times it even denied me the simpler pleasures of teenage and youth.

At 15 ,  I received my first love letter, from a ‘eligible in all respect’ boy from the English medium missionary school down the road from mine. But even with stars in my eyes I halted my reverie midway – three grammatical errors and five spelling mistakes! I know, I will sound like my fifth grade English teacher here, but can’t help it!  Mrs. Mandel would always say, “the search of perfection begins with detecting imperfection” and I may have had taken it too seriously. Ahem, you think so too?

All through college and university Agastya had the last laugh. A crush coupled with a few skipped heartbeats would inevitably be followed by a not so pleasant dawning of realisation that I was very much rooted in Madna. Love would quickly be replaced by the axiom  that my search for linguistic perfection was actually a wild goose chase as none would pass my “litmus” test in speaking,  writing or even thinking in  proper, grammatically correct forms of the languages they inherited or acquired.

The news syndication, was where my lofty pride of “walking, talking and breathing” English met the first reality check. I realized even I made grammatical errors, misspelt words and to quote my erstwhile editor, I was at times “a disaster”. In other words, lofty me was humbled. My Editor-in-chief  ran every piece of edit through her washer and dryer before it could be put to bed. Reducing beautifully crafted articles into shreds, at times with a pair of shears, was her forte and my nemesis. But the company of the enlightened veteran also ratified my belief that I was not paranoid, that  my Madna was real and Agastya was right.

Finally, a serendipitous  meeting and a couple of paeans of love later, I married a Brit  by birth Bee who also happened to be a pedigreed Bangali, but by accident.  He had been the only beacon of hope after my unrealistic love story with Agastya. The Bee was flesh and blood, had a commendable command over English and the same unapologetic fervour for the tongue (excuse me, his mother tongue, being born there and all that) so I lost no time in saying ‘yes’ to him. His Bengali was nothing to write home about, and here I made an exception, lest I thought I’d die a cantankerous spinster and also because I was sure it would correct itself under my supervision.

But …

To be continued …..

 

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Gali ke mod pe suna sa koi darwaza…

There was a gentle rain falling outside. The incessant caress of the water had washed away every speck of dirt from each leaf, each blade, every flower. The roads, once covered in the dry summer dust, had soaked in the rain and was now wet. The old houses wore a drenched look, gathering moss on the eroded walls, ferns bursting out of the cracks and crevices.

Inside it was damp, dark and dusty from unuse. The closed cupboards reeked of mothballs, the rotting wood peeled out of its polished surface, the walls bulged and bloated in places thanks to the humidity in the air.  The restive soul wanted a breath of the fresh, wet air, heavy with an unknown fragrance from an unknown white flower blooming in the wet bush outside the door. He did not belong to this city anymore. But it rained the same way from where he came.  And that was why he wanted to be outside, under the drizzle, letting it’s cool touch remind him of home. He was not particularly homesick, but the rains made him nostalgic.

But he was also not new to this city. He had once lived in this alley with the decaying houses, from his first day till when he became a successful engineer.  The doors in the alleyway reminded him of the many faces behind them. There was a man who listened to the radio very late into the night at no. 3A, the lady in 4/1/B was a widow with four children, the house with the unusually purple Bougainvillia creeping up it’s walls used to be the home of one of his best friends who had since moved to the Middle East. He wondered how many of those faces were still a part of the decaying houses behind those doors of the alley that ended at his door.

cobbled alley

It was only yesterday, when he stood in front of this door, he had felt a happy lost feeling. Lost in the alleys of his childhood, his house tucked away in the older part of the city with the chaos of life around him. And then his gaze had turned to the green door next to his door, a special door from his boyhood. The fragrance of heena from the freshly washed hair, the clinking of thin, gold bangles, an array of colourful chunnis, the dark kohl lined, almond eyes darting coy looks and then quickly looking away if he happened to look.  He remembered  a  bashful encounter on a Holi morning – the only time when he happened to caress the blushing, warm, softness of the cheek , with her sporting a disobedient plait playfully pushed back where it belonged – an image from his eager boyhood.

But the man had not come back to reclaim unrequitted love. They never had a love story. He had found love in another city, in another girl. She had been married to a banker in a relatively newer part of the city.  He had another purpose today to have returned here thus.

He walked out into the small opening outside his door where the unknown bush grew the unknown white flowers with a heavy, sweet scent. Turning around, he looked up at the facade that was a pale shade of yellow many monsoons ago with broad parapets and arched windows. The window on the second floor was his, with his table and chair by it and his world of books, music, kites and football. The table and chair are now housed in his home with some other memories, the rest gathered dust and grew mouldy behind the closed door of this house.

Then with a shrug he turned the brass key in the latch. This would be the last time he would step into this house again.

But at a later date, the house will don a fresh coat of paint, the windows will be thrown open to the southern wind, there would be new curtains in the old fashioned windows, there would be new footsteps on the stairs climbing up and down. A  new love story would perhaps bloom with another girl next door. With that promise to his past he handed over the keys to the man who stood outside under a black umbrella holding a cheque to his name.

 He climbed into the waiting car at the end of the alley, rolled up the glass and took one last look at the house  before it went out of sight forever.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2009 in city, Life, Love, Memories, Romance

 

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the floor was coloured red

The other day I happened to walk into a conversation among strangers about something I must have  loved for a long time. I didn’t realize it till the mention of it brought back memories in rushes.

I remember spending countless days rolling on that red floor of  yore, my lazy summer afternoons with Satyjit, Sharadindu, Sunil, Shirshendu. On afternoons, when it would be dark and cloudy or even rainy, I’d curl up on the dark  mahogany four poster bed and watch the rain find it’s way through the chinks of the shutters on the window, roll down the ledge and make watery designs on the red floor. Or on a fast disappearing winter afternoon, the coloured glass pattern in the arch above the window would cast longer shadows on the floor and I would sit mesmerized by the changing hues of the red.

Then came the time when I was walking, running, lounging  on the mosaic of colours bordered with green in our new house. The house had window seats in  green mosaic and I would spend long afternoons pondering over Maugham or just stare out at the sky with  Joan Baez  and  ‘Hey Jesse, it’s lonely ….. come home’ or have the floor strewn with paper, paint, brushes while I  took flights of fantasy.

And one day  in my red Benarasi, I crossed over a threshold, on to a pristine white alabaster floor leaving behind a trail of footprints in red alta .  A new ‘I’ came into being, a new relationship dawned, relating me to many more and   breathed  life into a sprite.

Life moved on to  different cities, different mosaics and terrazzos, on to various shades of alabaster and granite, in barsatis, in shiggat (Arabic for ‘apartment’), in penthouses. But never again did I come across the red of that floor of yore. Not that I yearned for it, but somehow all my memories of my girlhood would have that touch of red.

Now in the eve of my life,  I  tread on my mosaic, a red mosaic , a red from my childhood, a seamless wonder that the adult seems to have clung on to all  this while.

mosaic Picture courtesy: mosaicartsource.wordpress.com

 

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Chimera

The rain remained illusive for another day. It was sultry and late in the afternoon,  the dry cleaner was almost lowering the shutters when I rushed in to pick up my clothes.

I could barely wait to tear through the brown paper wrapping and the thread  holding it together. What lay within was a memory from a faded photograph. And when I had removed all the distractions that  came between me and the contents, there lay in my arms the soft touch of silk in silvery ivory, embellished with real zardozi and meenakari that merged into a gold and crimson border.

The picture was from a long time ago, in a distant land, a snapshot of happier times, of times when laughter was carefree, when days were careless. It had a  smiling father, young and confident of  his brood, two ruddy brats in their  boyhood and the mother, resplendent in her ivory silk saree with the gold and crimson border.

This was how he remembered  his mother, in her Durga Pujo best, her  ivory “Gorod” with the intricate needlework in zari and hints of meenakari,  her hair freshly washed and fragrant with a touch of crimson sindoor where it parted over the forehead, the flawless crimson  sindoor bindi between the arches of her brow, the younger son had shared with me. On our  first asthami morning, when he played with my washed, moist hair and chose a cream  Dhakai with scarlet and gold leaf motifs for my morning, he told me about her, her youth, her laughter and how he held only that one picture of her to his heart, of  that particular morning, from among  his many asthami mornings with her.

The last time we met,  she was sitting by her window, in a darkening room on an autumn evening. She had promised to give me a surprise and today she already had something wrapped in brown paper waiting for me when we arrived. It was her son’s favourite and she wanted me to take care of it for her, after her.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2009 in family, Kids, Life, Memories

 

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Being Soma…

“And that would be, which Soma?”

“Soma Sen, IX A”

“Which Soma Sen from IX A?”

The irate cashier looked up from his cash register. I knew this was coming.

“Soma Sen II !”

“Spell your surname for me, please” …. (‘People and surnames’, I almost heard him thinking aloud)

“Its S-E-N and a Roman II “

Then I pardoned him for not knowing. He was the school’s new cashier. The other old man had kicked the bucket a couple of months ago and being in a Catholic convent school, we dutifully had to attend a prayer meeting with a rare picture of him smiling back at us. It’s elementary. I was Soma number 5 in the motley population of that year’s ninth standard. And Soma Sen II in IX A.

Things seemed to be a little better in College, when I found to my respite that the whole English department belonged to me. No surplus ‘Somas’.

Loved it, till a batch mate smiled sweetly at me at the freshers’ party, “Hi I’m Soma, from Geography. Didn’t quite get your name?”

“Soma, what else!”, I grinned….. what did she expect? A Bonolata Sen or better still Monomohini Sen?  But that day, I could have traded my name for anything as inane….

Cut to a later date. A couple of days into a whirlwind courtship, Adonis announced, “Would you mind if I called you something else? Something but Soma?”

I almost melted. Story book romances are supposed to be made of stuff like this. I swooned. My heart skipped a beat.

Finally, my knight in shining armour was going to rid me of my curse.

“Choose a name you like”, he said.

What? Wait! Wasn’t he supposed to do that? As in already have a name ready? Being so enamoured and all that?

And then, very matter of factly he dropped the clanger, “You see, I didn’t exactly plan to meet, fall in love and marry a girl who shares her name with my brother’s wife.”

The ceaseless exercise of acceding to nomenclature and being one Soma among a multitude gives rise to a frantic desire….   not to be Soma.  Be anything, but Soma.

Yet I continue to be Soma…

 
 

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