5/21/17

Prose | Neharika Gupta

Outskirts

Artwork by Fabrice Poussin

Pangs in the heart and nostalgia in the soul. A tingling of the skin and anticipation in the shoulders. An awareness of the face and consciousness of another's stare. That’s love for you. This is something entirely different. It begins with a tightness of the heart like squeezing a large pillow. And that's how it all ends. Or begins. With a whimper.  A great fear. Rising up looking the back of your head bent down and unable to control yourself. Like you're underwater but going up up up into space till you float though the floor above your head and you stretch out and try to grasp something, anything but you can't make a grip you just go through everything. You're rising but you can't turn and look up. You've been looking up your whole life but now you're just looking down till you're above where you live and you can see the roof of the place now – the place you've lived in for years looks so different from above, you fail to recognise it. You fail to recognise what's happening to you. And around you. It's eerie. No sound nothing to hear, nothing to do, suspended in space. How it this possible you wonder. You go high enough and the air will run out. Sure enough. That's why they need those big suits, the astronauts. No oxygen. The molecules are all distributed too widely enough. The houses before you are all merging into each other now and you can see the colours - brown blue green a sight you have never seen no human had ever seen before not even google earth can transmit these but the air is not running out in fact the realization hits you that you are made up of the same exactly the same elements around you. Inside outside so it probably makes more sense that you can breathe at this height – where you can faintly make out the veins of your city and the geography lessons of school come to mind – that the core of our existence seeps through the universe and is not really restricted to one humongous planet which stretches before you like the biggest canvas you've ever seen then it sort of hits you that this is the show of a lifetime of a living breathing work of art suspended in space just for your viewing pleasure. In its enormousity it is fantastical. You just gaze. It's the ride of a lifetime and you have the best seat. You are gripped by sheer amazement and and ecstasy. You don't move you can't. Till you see a line forming above, the definite end of a landscape you suddenly looking down and it hits you again, harder this time. You are floating you're a moon to your earth you crane your head to the left and right and sure enough you can see a semicircle taking shape but your feet still seem to be on earth. Before your eyes, the merging browns and blues, it is beckoning you to fall into the water, a glimpse, a reminder to swim back home and into your house and bed, but what if you’re in the water, just in the water and no one ever found you? No it’s better to be here, something seems to be happening, this is not normal, this is – You can feel it – something, a distancing merely, or could it be – possibly – a reduction of yourself from that entity, is it possible to be destroyed forever? Something was being lost in an awesome drop from that awesome drop in the sky. Was this your own personal doom or were you finally free free finally from the life cycle that had happened to happen upon planet no. 3 from star no. 258 – That fungal growth on this end of the spiral.  Maybe now free from the toxic paradise of things called people, you can flourish as your own entity. Maybe the world had exploded. Maybe they permanently did destroy it. To give them credit for creating things that could permanently damage that tiny little planet – which was huge but is not anymore: it is now the size of the body you had – isn’t that the ultimate fantasy of power to be able to destroy and to do so to vanquish everything around – a conceited masturbatory ideology? Was there nuclear warfare, then you wonder? Do you believe you can give the people that much importance to say that they were powerful enough to destroy the worlds of many many things? Or is that approach limited, a blinding point on the line of the horizon which you think you will fall off of? But are they really – toxic? You were them, once. You were selfish. You thought it was absolutely fine. They are trying very very hard to just be happy. Be. – It seems to be taking its time, where it is taking me. A reaction, a reduction was happening from the planet, but was it reduction or distance? Was that all you were to this world in the end, a subtraction? Were you going to be displaced, and if so, by who? Someone compassionate and energetic or a villain of the worst order? Did it matter? Nobody warned you, or informed you about this? Is the eyesight and foresight and hindsight of humans limited? Nobody ever saw or imagined this? Is this hell or heaven, was this your sentence? Were there other people, why weren’t there other people around? There’s nobody there, everybody’s there. There are stars you can feel them around but you ache to see them, you cannot. You know you can sustain by looking at them forever if you need to. The glowing mass before you is fading into a white hurting your eyes. You want to close them but you don’t. Squinting into your sun, you think of the sun, where is it, its impossible to see, its lost. You’re lost. The thought strikes you, are you a star now, like you were when you were young – that when you die this is what happens. Is it your job now to travel around giving people light? What light? What died to make you a star? Can a star see other stars or is it inundated by its own light? It is now a halo, the white is replaced by the dark but the light of the halo is so bright you can hardly see – its blinding, you are blinded by the place you’ve lived in your whole life you can’t see beyond its fiery-white border. Within it is now a black circle of sparks – why is it going dark – are you going blind now? What’s going to happen next? You can’t see your body below you anymore, all there is is the vision in front of you, you feel like your eyeballs are suspended in space and you can feel all your limbs and body parts you feel very alive very creative but is that all you can do – ponder the meaning of things, it’s a wondrous freedom to just be able to do that but you don’t feel hungry or sleepy or tired you are just there. You are. The ball of electricity in the middle is becoming smaller and smaller, it is the size of your head now, you imagine you can’t feel your own head and if this is what it feels like to be dead then its good and bad at the same time. Suddenly the massy sea of black is lit up with points of white all around. You must travelling quite fast you think, if you can see so many stars all at once now. Maybe this is what a lucid dream really feels like. It has to end at some point you can’t just keep travelling like this through time and space and back and forth like a strand of consciousness but what are those things all around? Colours – brilliant pink blue green flashes fly past you you reach out to touch them but of course you can’t, just as well, they may have been hot but they can also be other people lost in space you wonder what colour you would be, maybe orange or yellow or red you know you’re a colour you don’t wish you are but you would have liked to be purple, oh yes most definitely purple. What could happen next, your world is over and out and you can see hazes and astro clouds before you, you feel like you’re sitting in a simulator show or a documentary about the universe and just watching things as they pass by, you could sit here forever you decide. And gaze upon the universe and travel and explore the galaxies, go where no mind has ever gone before but do you need company? You could always make company for yourself like the green haze you make yourself believe is right next to your head (whatever that is), you can see it out of the corner of your eye but because you don’t have a head anymore you can’t turn and see it but you decide its going to be your new best friend. In its life it was a very inspired young man or woman – you don’t decide yet and this person accidentally overdosed on a lot of drugs, a side effect many great people of the planet of earth face regularly. It starts telling you about where it grew up, in this life it was in Japan, and before it recollects it was in Russia. Why can’t you think of your own past lives yet – we’ll they’ll come to you sooner or later, you figure. You start telling it about your life, all that you’ve said and done. You have been trying to be a good person really like everybody else but have failed like everybody else. You stop and ponder upon the faces of everybody you’ve ever passed on the bus on the street or the train in different countries, family doesn’t come that easily, family actually seems the worst to remember. And your friends. It hurts to remember how you hurt them and how they hurt you. Sometimes because of the all the hurt you carry, you wish you hadn’t been born. Just as no one should. To hurt is the worst thing and if one is born it makes sense to do happy things and be happy. Not be doomed to an existence on that planet. What was China like, you ask Green. Japan – Green replies. Though I was Chinese too once upon a time. How many nationalities have you been? I can’t remember, it said, so many and too many. You want to ask, will we go back, why are we here? What’s going on? But something stops you, you can’t. You force yourself to think back to your earliest childhood memory. You want to flash your whole life back quickly before your eyes as you are supposed to in order to pass on. Though you feel like you already have.  Playing on the swings, falling suddenly, seeing yourself on the floor and waiting for something to happen somebody to come when you feel the flash of pain through your bum, and start bawling as loud as you think possible and having a rush of people pick you up, dust you down, and put you back up on that swing. The first time you rode a bike, the time you fell off a horse, a chair, a table, a cliff into water. Why the many fallings, have you truly become a fallen star. What about relationships with people, asks Green. People haven’t been all too great for you and you reply that after reading about ‘phoney’ people you become all too conscious in their presence. You always want things to happen to you and you make a comfortable shell around yourself, not because you’re uncomfortable but because you are lazy. You like to see the sights and sounds of the world but not interact with people, you never learnt that people are people despite what all the music you listened to told you, and that everyone has a hard shell like yourself which you can crack. You can crack everybody, maybe be like you’re 15 again and rejoice in, revel in all that people are meant to be – those are the creators of art and music and structures and everything wonderful or useful you have ever come across, realize the potency of the human condition and be sensitive, needless of what is said to you. Your biggest fear and disbalancing act was people vs. future. You can’t chose with either, said Green butting in. You can’t win no matter what choices you have. So, Don’t. Even. Try. Listening to the Elders and doing what you can is your best option. How old are you, you ask Green, finally grappling clumsily with what was going on. Why, as old as the universe of course replied Green. And there it is, the centre of your universe in front of you, said Green, stopping my spacedrift. You can’t see it. That doesn’t matter. You’ll be born again in a different time, in a different world, on a different planet and you will live again. Remember this. Try to remember what you’ve learnt and take it with you. How you ask, how will you remember, it seems like this conversation has happened before. You improve slowly, said Green. Why not in a flash you want to know. Because to suffer you need time. Time to learn. All the learning that has ever been done is stored here in little spaces, you can’t see them because you don’t know how. When the learning is complete, then you will know. And you will stop taking birth again and again. This is a repository of the consciousness of every being ever lived. Once you learn to tap into it, you will know what the world is all about. You feel pathetic, you say how, that would take a long time looking at the state of the world but Green says that’s not your concern. And adds gently, how sometimes the most learning happens from the worst things. What a preachy consciousness you think. I hope I never get that job. What decides where we’re born. Are you God? When will this end. How long till you’re stuck here you ask. It’s gone. Its just you against the world now. You wonder what’s going to happen next. You know. But you don’t know when. Do you have to torture yourself, think of all the terrible things you’ve done and the few great ones? Will this limbo end then? Or is it a dream? Did somebody give you some drugs? You try hard to remember how is it that you died. But nothing comes to mind. You remember your whole life up till then, but come to think of it, it’s becoming hazy, your latest years and you’re going back back to your young enlightened days before you became cynical and a momentary spasm of terror seizes you as you wonder if you have to live the same life again and again till you get it right? Maybe Green was trying to ease your passing into the heaven or hell whichever is going to follow next. Well, you won’t remember that this happened, so its fine, you convince yourself, but if a part of you is expected to remember that ‘lecture’ then there sure as hell will be a part of you that remembers all the lives you’ve lived, especially the same one. Maybe this is why civilizations and cultures suddenly disappear. Somehow somebody gets it right, and they vanish. Maybe it happens together to a bunch of people if they’re lucky. How long, how many years, you wonder, would it take for you to get it right. You should have asked Green for an average. It’s very possible you’re in the hospital because of an accident and this is an elaborate opium-induced dream you’re having. This is not how you imagined things to end. You do not want to be stuck in a loop. Some part of you will go mad, is going mad, has already gone mad. It doesn’t make sense. Why people why earth why birth why what was the purpose why did you have to go back again, you really needed a rest from all this regeneration and living. It seems like an infinite possibility asking of humanity to become better at being human. You feel like, for some selfish unreasonable reason, the responsibility is on you. Why did you have to get it right? Fuck what Green said, there are so many other people on that stupid planet or wherever I am whisked off to in this science fictionverse. But there aren’t, a voice said. You are the source the power of everything, your each action is the mechanic of your world you have to be mindful of things that you go and do and that’s what will turn the world around. There are no other people, it’s your world, you are the centre and you have to create or miscreate it till you get it right. That is your prerogative. By this time you are completely blind but you can feel things were swirling around you and you wonder if that colour you were talking to was back but you can’t remember its name, how to address it, this feels so unreal why was this happening, you just want to close your eyes and go back to your bed at home. Even dying was better than this madness. Maybe this is what happened, you went mad, but instead of becoming an intensely creative intellectual who lived a little off-track, you were thrown into a padded room and strait-jacketed forever and this is what being stuck in your own head felt like. In that case, you wish you at least had the power to change things around and create your own hallucinations –there must be a drug for that– but you couldn’t control anything, you were falling into the swirling mass around you, a vortex, sure a black hole, what else would there be out here, and you can hear -see nothing anymore, just adrenalin and that you’re falling into your madness, rabbit hole, recreation.

5/3/17

Poems | Pushpanjana Karmakar

Photo : Leela

The House

You are the unformed house
within me
I lay the bricks, dab cement
Sprinkle water, sun-dry
Strap each pillar with tarpaulin sheet
Heaving with your breath.

The lines, creases
of dried cement
Descend from my veins.

There are no doors or windows
They will grow rust or break and crumble
In earthquakes of untouched despair.

There are no walls
They will chip and grate
Into dust of weariness.

There are no bentwood chairs and gilded mirrors
They will sit heavy on me with your impression
They will glare at me like a fasting stomach

There are no cupboards
They will break open
Into a gust of our love-making.

There are no beds or pillows
They will question the unlawful passing
of night into day.

There is a marsh-filled backyard
Brown-hazed winter bed of dry leaves
A dry red periwinkle (bearing no fragrance of you)
A monsoon cloud in a dog’s eye
An open book with pages fluttering
Like my quivering fingers
Waiting to touch you
And an open leaking water tap
Pounding on corrugated roof of memories
Folded one by one by me
Reeling under your disappearance.


The Tea Leaves from Yesterday’s Cup

How many times I see the tarmac
It slips into my sleeping eye
Like a dead body into an electric pyre
Storing ashes of a disputed memory.

The bread-loaf friendliness
of strange things surrounding me-
The two-storeyed white houses plunged in darkness in Ghazipur selling papers
The frail Sikh vendor of a weighing machine at Dwarka Mor
The lover decking up on Lohri
The child dreaming like a fish.

How many times I see the eucalyptus tree at Kaifi Azmi Marg
and imagine it as the coconut tree of my hometown.
I surmise incumbent death
From its skinned white
Husk at throat
made from hairfall
of my ancestors
Fronds swaying
-a lover's distant nod in a crowded place

The dead writes obituaries for trees
Shows us hair-roots
where guilt is sewage-heavy

My fingers embrace tree rings
My crooked body hides your beauty
My leaves listen to your swingdoor confessions
You squirrel- climb branches of guilt

My branches spread apart
Loosening grip, an eternal threat
Of abandoning you

You grip my sleeplessness
Like a hungry cheetah

I look at you from vulture's vantage point
Filled with doom of a life I am tenderly shedding

How many times the onlooker streetlight in Delhi
filigrees shadows of
(Floating in the dark waters of Dakshineswar Ganga)
Of my escapism
Of my guilt-incarnate voice
of loving the lost twice.

Poems | Abhishek Jha

Photo : Tilak


A Letter From Nowhatta

In the courtyard where I am grubbing for a ruin,
your silence and the static of the radio
are cadences that entwine each minaret
hushing all vowels and leaves.
The one that stands and gives a view,
look, the one we scaled
to take a panorama shot
of its revolution, I think, it got
plucked from the packet of cigarettes you left.
In the courtyard, I am spattering
some smokealone ink for the consumption
of birds, and in case you thumb
through you might choke on it and die.
That's useful, I thought, for raising
a ruin or coughing a glottal stop.
The ash is not anyone's,
so don't go around and stain the paper
ballot. There will be a man
soon coming with a mallet to nail
a woman on the walls of the minaret.
Now that I am here and scrubbing my feet
my arms and the back of my ears
lend a hand- will you?- to me
and clean my tongue of acids.
That's how it's done, you know, here
at the washing tank in the yard,
that's how we speak to the silence that entwines
and slowly smokes the cigarettes.
Later some people are able to learn
about the muezzin who was late
and had left the radio with a wire through its heart
to inform of his "death by stabbing".
When this work I do is done for the day
I'll leave with the children of the tehreek.
The movement, they say, is also a prayer.
Our prayers, I know, are circular.


Mucous 

My nose is convinced that a wire extraordinarily straight is an instrument of precision for measuring sleep. A gram is after all only a teenage experiment condemning your brain to sibylline wispiness. We need concrete measures. A metre. Can the discovery of gravitational waves ever flatten our nose-time?

To find: The other end of the wire as a result beyond black holes.

Therefore, we move.

Assume that the morning headlines are running on parallel tracks to the finish line of a railway junction, of nonsense and N2O. Yet there is enough cigarette smoke above an empty stall to kill all war-men who forgot that standard operating procedure does not allow pissing. We are ready despite moving. We want to bleat our semibreve whole.

Now Uncle Sam is an A-hole. Sam has an O-pinion. Sam has always been of the opinion that he is what God made him. Sam has been yelling that he'll beshit himself with Valium to liftshoot all trees that grow limbs at night- a fact hereunto hidden under a well-known gas. Sam will not stop until we bleat our semibreve whole. Sam wants a forest fire. Sam gets a renal failure.

In the event of renal failure, appoint a surgeon trained especially for such occasions to culture a very persistent species of bacteria. Step 2 is always a merry-go-round or an ice-candy or a confetti-shower. Repeat until the next dot of time. The method is distraction- pure in procedure, clinical in cleanliness, absurd with ablution norms.

Vulture V and Scarecrow S, at time Now and date Today, are banging a cathode ray tube after a long period of convalescence that was supposed to contain their celebration of diarrhoea as a noble pursuit. My nose is not convinced.

CLICK a truly business-minded lover CLICK a truly business-minded lover wants a wire drawn through every blandishment CLICK what is it like to be mind-fucked by a city, bro CLICK boy it is like a tape recorder turned on CLICK a lover is condemned to be an itinerant in truth CLICK and do you pause at every stop CLICK  a true business is the same feat in each line CLICK and do I pause at every stop CLICK a rulebook is a faint breath of suicide CLICK don't be ridiculous CLICK a truly business-minded lover is a tape recorder CLICK see you soon CLICK

subject already dead before the end of experiment CLICK

4/15/17

Prose | Bishweshwar Das

In Memorium
(A eulogy to a mentor extraordinaire)
Bangalore, January 2014

Bay of Bengal, Puri, Odisha

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you've felt that way.”

― Charles Bukowski

“That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

― Charles Bukowski, Women

'I mean, whatever kills you kills you, and your death is authentic no matter how you die.'

― Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)

Sometime in April last year, when I called him (My weekly, maybe, fortnightly calls) the voice on the other end was not the usual “Hello! My good boy…” It was an elderly sounding gentleman, talking  feebly.

Confused, I enquired: Dipankar Ache?  (Is Dipankar there?)

Raja* Haspatal e, (Raja is in Hospital) the voice on the other end informed me.

It was his Octogenarian dad. Dipankar had a lung infection, he said and had to stay in the hospital till all the fluid was cleared. I was about to leave for Goa with my wife for the weekend. It was a long drive and the news did not make me feel any better. All through the journey, I was thinking of him. I kept imagining him, lying in a white clinical room with tubes and drips, as I drove up the ghats after Dharwad. But then I reasoned he was not in an ICU, so maybe it was not that serious. We all land up in a hospital once in a while. I had met him less than a month back on my way and while returning from Banaras. He seemed fine. I had checked-in at a guest house very close to his place and he had been dropping in at the drop of a hat. The fact that there was a liquor store just around the bend made matters even more conducive.  The Vodka kept flowing. But he also cursed me for not having brought any grass from Banaras. 'Fuck You, asshole. You are coming from Banaras with not an ounce of weed. Che Che Che.' ‘Well....you know...we didn't get any,’ I quipped. We were smoking chillums mostly with the Babas there and they have strict a rule -Aao, Piyo aur Jao. Chai, chillum, chappati is the rhythm of Banaras as a friend  had observed. I saw the pressing of the lips and then he  laughed.  The next day, there was knock on the door really early. I put on my knickers and opened the door ajar  to see him with his jhola and a newspaper in hand. He was coming straight from the station after having seen his son off to Hyderabad. He walked in saying, ‘Sorry, hope you were not disturbed.’ Well, well, well… mornings are the best time to make love but my wife and I  got dressed. Let’s pour a drink for three! Cheers ! It was the ides of March.

Later in the day, he took us to his adda. The coffee house in Jadavpur. There he introduced us to this motley crowd of Bhadraloks who say Dutch over the endless cups of coffee they order. The place was chaotic but we liked it. It was small, rather intimate sans the architectural glory of the college street coffee house. We had our cup of black coffee, ordered something to be parceled, and then took the lane opposite  Aroop's, his friend’s house. In between, we stood for some moments at a Saw Mill while Aroop fetched some booze. Luck was on our side as some grass also arrived and we rolled a few reefers. Later, we lunched and then he had his customary forty winks, breathing heavily.

I had not seen this side of Dipankar. I had never quite known him as a Bengali Bhadralok. His interests always had been inclined towards  the 'lowlife', a Charles Bukowskian world. In Bhubaneswar, in the early years of the new millennium, 2003-2004 to be exact, I had noticed he was always more at ease with the drifters, floaters, the hustlers and the vagrant ones. One such February evening in my own drifting phase, I had landed up in Puri with a friend for an experimental film festival – Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF). Sitting under a makeshift gazebo, between whisky refills in the plastic cup, my ears caught a voice. A voice that was moving effortlessly between Shudh Bengali and somewhat accented Oriya. I was probably on my 3rd drink for the evening and it took me a while to realize who this gentleman was. He looked rather unfriendly and maybe a bit scary even with the big spectacles, a thin mustache and  intense eyes. Aaah! this is some uncle-type I thought, maybe he will have a hot wife or a daughter so I will get an introduction and can concentrate on them rather than him.

I don't remember who made the first move but at a certain point the ice was broken. I remember the big round wooden table. There was me, Amit, my friend and the gang we didn't know. The moustache's name  happened to be Dipankar (aaah! so fucking bong I thought), there was another moustache called  Amlan, but he looked rather scholarly. His wife Snigdha and another lady Rupashree who screened her film completed the group. Amit, my friend wanted to hook up with someone for the 3 days we were there. I had a girl in a nearby town and she had promised to drop by for a day and stay over. Sun, sea & sex was what we had in our mind. Screw films. But as the evening rolled into the night, we were unable to move away  from that circular table occasionally making trips to the bar to refill our glasses. We were realizing our man Dipankar was quite a shark with words. And where did he say he worked? NABARD, fuck what's that, is it Hindi or English? Some agriculture-related stuff, Amit told me. Shit, we can fucking score some good weed man in kgs...I thought. 'Asshole! they are not growers man, they are lenders and it’s a bank,' Amit snarled.  It’s difficult to remember how much we drank that night. But for the next few days, we hung out in the same circle quite a bit.

We had never imagined that Puri could become a week-long party venue and that too, the Pink House at  C T Road, a place where I had spent many quaint hours in my earlier lonesome visits. Numbers, e-mail IDs were exchanged as the festival drew to a close. Back in Bhubaneswar, as my management programme  drew to a close, Amit and I one day decided to give Dipankar a call. And to our surprise that very evening, we were invited to his place in Jagamara on the other side of the airfield, not too far from my temporary accommodation. Dipankar lived with his friend and comrade of many battles, Shyamal. Together they made a happy working couple. That evening, we sat around the dining table, joined by Amlan and chatted about various things. I remember, however, that Dipankar was holding court. He had his fixed chair, one of the dining-set chairs just outside his room which for some reason was always closed. I have forgotten how many evenings after that first night  I have been one of the occupants of the dining chairs, listening, arguing, breaking in laughter riots, or on the verge of breaking down as I got grilled. Every 3rd  day, I was there. The routine simple: Laze, smoke up, fuck around the whole day and by late afternoon land up at the NABARD office. From there, Dipankar and I headed off to a small chai shop opposite the Survey of India office. There Nigam, baba as we called him because of his salt and pepper hair and beard would gather all the freaks from his office and we blew chillum after chillums. On many days, Nigam accompanied us and the drinking and feasting would go late into the night. Here I was whiling away my time drifting when I was supposed to take up a job, get all suited up, find a smart ass pretty thing  and continue the family tree. A year or two passed, two more editions of BYOFF happened. I lost track of Amit.  My parents started slowly giving up hope in me. I didn't mind this life though. Somewhere I had started questioning things than always looking for solutions or answers, something a technical and management education generally teaches you. Dipankar, in a big way, un-conditioned me. Through his world, I met fascinating people, read stuff that grasped me by the balls and drove a screw driver into my head, and I had this assured feeling of knowing someone in whom I could confide anything. From Kamasutra to Kashmir, he could hold court on probably anything except technology. He was not a materialistic person and had very few earthly processions. A rickety single bed with a permanent mosquito net, shelves full of books, and medicines were what his inner sanctum consisted of. I was privy to his book-shelf, though not to his loo. He scribbled his thoughts in a small note-book. The influence of a nerd like me later saw him acquire a laptop and over the years, he had somewhat started going digital from analogue. He had one lone singular female friend whose house he could land up at anytime. One evening, he invited me to come over. And then that place became a hangout too. There were many more hangouts in Bhubaneswar which was still in a transition stage, on its way to becoming a big urban centre.

There was a languid air all around. By then, my Dad had retired and a year-and-half had elapsed. I was feeling a  bit stifled with my parents at home and  was broke if not for their kindness. The initiation of the search to find myself had begun; I could not remain anchored in one place anymore. Sometime in the autumn of 2005, I went for a brief stint to Bombay trying my luck out as a lensman, shooting stills on movie sets. In a few months, I was back to square one. Back  home, with my parents or  chilling and arguing at Dipankar's place.

I had one more tryst with BYOFF in 2006. This time, Dipankar and I drove along with a friend of his from Calcutta. There we were joined by another friend, and I remember that suite in Saphire Hotel overlooking Pink House became our happy hunting grounds for the next few days.

Circa 2006. I took off to Bangalore post BYOFF. I had to find something quick for me and the next few years were a bit of a struggle. The early hardships brought fruit. I became a  steady copy hand in some mid-size advertising agencies. I did go back home once in a while but these were short visits. And whenever on the east coast, I used to pay my customary visit to the house behind the airfield. I had new things to talk to him now. My new world in a new city, which had rather become my universe. I made new friends and enemies. New loves and betrayals. All through Dipankar was privy to every bit of my life. At some point even my girlfriends had his number and bitched about me to him and took advice on how to improve their love life with me. Some thought it better to leave me, but still kept in touch with him. His insights were universal and balanced without any rancor or prejudice.

Sometime later, I heard he had to leave his earlier house and move to the one opposite. Here, too, he had a constant stream of people coming in. I think it was sometime in 2008 when I once waited  with a friend to meet him, 500 yards away from his new house, not knowing the exact location. He refused to pick my calls or answer my SMSes. My mistake – I was in Orissa for a week but came to meet him towards the end of my stay. We didn't meet that time. As the flight was about to take off  next day, we were exchanging nasty SMSes, calling each other names.

The recovery took sometime. I guess he called truce maybe realizing he acted like an ass.  Things were back to normal. We were calling, mailing, and texting. I moved from one agency to another, one girlfriend to another. However, Dipankar and me stuck to each-other like glue to paper. He was my foster Dad, and I his eldest son, he used to joke. Then he got transferred back to Calcutta. A part of my world back home was no longer the same.  In 2010, he came with his son to spend some days with me. By then, he was posted in Shantiniketan. Those were turbulent times for me and I was caught in a maze of decisions and revisions which were taking me nowhere. His presence - and coincidentally my dad had also come over -  was kind of soothing for me. I turned 35 that year and oh boy! What a party we had. Sadly, I got too drunk to remember much of it.

Sometime in 2011, I had this sudden urge to visit him at Shantiniketan. I landed in Calcutta on a July morning and took a Shantiniketan-bound train. There was a certain excitement, as I would be seeing him in his new adda after Bhubaneswar. We were back to our old tricks once the pleasantries were through. By then, he had quit smoking as his lungs could no longer take the smoke in the COPD condition he had. Just like Bhubaneswar, at Shantiniketan also he had found his circle of low-life. The office boy, the mess manager, the security fellow, they all loved him. And once office hours were over, one of the smaller rooms would become a make-shift bar and the booze or the conversations never ceased. He showed me some places, others I saw on my own. The morning I left Shantiniketan, he came with me to the station to see me off. As the train pulled out of the station, we hugged as always.  ‘Have a safe trip,’ he said and then, 'fuck well'.

For some reason, he couldn't make it to my marriage or reception in 2012. People go to fancy locations for their honeymoon but I went back to my childhood and growing up years, showing my wife the dusty mining towns I used to live in. On the final leg of the journey, I stayed in Calcutta for three days. We were invited to his house for lunch. There were two firsts. He was meeting my wife for the first time and I was going to his Calcutta house for the first time. In no time, Calcutta became one of the favourite destinations for my wife who was visiting the place for the first time. The day we were leaving, he came to Mocambo and after a sumptuous lunch, he saw us off till we got a tram to our hotel in Wellington. The 2nd visit to Calcutta was  last year on my way to Banaras.

Dipankar Sen Roy 
November 2013. Pablo^ was to join his first job and the dutiful father was accompanying him. I was anticipating this visit for some time. I was a family man now and lived a much more civilized life. A day before he took the train from Calcutta, I got a call from Sanjukta, his wife. Dipankar's health was fragile and she asked me to keep a watch on him. I assured her he was in safe hands and if any need arose, I had my father-in-law, a doctor, just a call away.  He also had a cousin's wedding to attend but chose to move into my place. The hotel he was staying at had just tissue paper and not even a faucet or a mug, he complained – a little too international for his taste, he joked.  We didn't go out anywhere as he had a heavy congestion of chest and we didn't take the chance of another infection. Over that week, the discussion veered from job opportunities for engineers to death-fear. I remember over one of our drinking sessions, he had mentioned 'All that jazz' and the last hospital scene.  I asked him when he was admitted in April for 17 days, why he didn't tell his friends? No one likes to hear the news of a dying friend, he replied. To my wife, he had told that when he would be gone, his family would still be financially secure. Then he told me that for the first time, his dad and mom were seeing him as a solid family man. As I dropped him at the station, hugged and wished him goodbye, I looked forward to April 2014 when he promised to be back for a full week. Maybe we could take off to some place – Hampi, Ooty, Pondicherry or the many weekend destinations near Bangalore, I thought.
The phone rang post 5 pm on 14th December. It was Sanjukta on the other end. She broke down and mumbled something about informing Pablo. Then, Dipankar's mom took the phone. Ki holo...Dipankar ki  abar Haspatale (Is Dipankar again in hospital), I asked?  Se aar nei, (He is no more) is all I heard from the other end.

(The writer knew Dipankar for almost a decade, from 2004 to 2013. He succumbed to a massive heart attack on 14th December 2013 in his Dhakuria home around noon while watching a test match on TV.  He had finished his customary adda at the Jadavpur Coffee House earlier that morning. )


*‘Raja - Dipankar’s nickname 

^Pablo (Ajan Sen Roy)  – Dipankar’s Son