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  

4/11/17

TSC Interviews| Anusheh Anadil

Like many, the Beats, especially Allen Ginsberg#, and the Hungry Generation poets too were inspired by the wandering minstrels of Bengal, the Bauls. Goirick Brahmachari had a chance to digitally converse with Anusheh Anadil, one of the foremost Bangladeshi folk singers, on Baul music and lyrics recently. Here is an excerpt from the interview*.

Anusheh Anadil


TSC: Why and how did you choose to become a Baul singer?

Anusheh Anadil: I don’t think of myself as a Baul singer. I am a singer who likes to sing songs that embody the present.


TSC: What is Baul? What significance does the word hold for you? What does a lost Baul bard seek?

AA: That is a question you must ask someone who calls her/himself a Baul.  I personally don’t think that every single Baul bard is seeking the same thing. But I feel that while the rest of the world desperately seeks for a sense of identity, in my mind, a Baul is supposed to be the one who tries to shed her/his sense of self `.


TSC: Do all Bauls write their own songs?

AA: Once again you are asking a question that I can’t answer. My friends who call themselves Bauls don’t necessarily write their own songs. Many are followers of Lalon Shai or other great mystics and choose to sing songs passed down to them by their gurus. While others, mostly those who call themselves Boyatis, write and compose their own songs.


TSC: What is the role of women in a Baul commune?

AA: Patriarchy has spread everywhere. Even in the Baul commune, where bearded dread locked ‘men’ fail to see the women in themselves. The role of a woman cannot be defined, just as the role of a man. All of us incorporate both these energies and any commune that tries to separate the roles according to gender are only perpetuating patriarchy and not on the ‘shohoj’path.


TSC: How important is the travel narrative in the Baul lyrics. Do they refer to spatial travels, time travels/ reincarnation?
     
AA: The ‘Baul’ you seek, is too blissfully drunk on the ‘present moment’ to care much about anything else.


TSC: Help us understand Baul, the religion better? What are its basic differences with Sufism, which too gained prominence during the Bhakti movement in Medieval India/ subcontinent?

AA: A religion is a doctrine. A code of conduct. Some Bauls follow strict rituals just like those of other religions. But those are not the ‘Bauls’ who inspire me.


TSC: Most of your work surrounds around Lalon# Fakir’s lyrics. What do you think makes Lalon significant in these times of acute caste oppression`, extreme intolerance towards a different views/cultures and religious fundamentalism.

AA: Some Lalon practitioners say that secularists have hijacked Lalon for their own propaganda. I will not disagree because I am one of those secularists. The world has always had extremes. It may seem like right wing politics is on the rise, but think of women not so long ago being burnt with their deceased husbands. Or the black men and women of America used as slaves to build a nation for the white man. Or a colonized India, where Indians weren’t allowed into Calcutta Club. The world is always changing. And change makes people who are unwilling to change very, very uncomfortable. Lalon’s lyrics still resonate with us, not because Lalon was willing to change, but because he was part of that Change itself.


TSC: I have been a keen follower of the band Bangla and I must share that I have heard and loved most of the albums and singles that you and other members have recorded since. How was it like to work with Arnob, Sahana, Buno, and others? How hard was it to compose a contemporary sound for a traditional style and lyrics that a Baul song embodies?
             
AA : They are my friends. It was never hard. It was always fun. Friends fight. So do we.


TSC: Anything else you would like to add?

AA : In this extremely complicated and twisted world, the songs of the ‘Bauls’ stand out as a breath of fresh air. You know why? Because they are simple. Shohoj. They are rooted in the present. While our lives are all about preparing for the future and learning from the past. The ‘Baul’ is grounded in the present. Dancing to the tune of the wind, bathing in the colors of the moon. She sees herself as the reflection of life itself. In this globalized, capitalistic world, where indigenous cultures struggle to thrive,  the ‘Baul’ you seek, stands out. No matter what you call them.  Not because they are seeking, but because they ARE.

_________________________

# After Lalon Shah, Allen Ginsberg :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7nNpl-vejE

`Emon Manob Shomaj, Lalon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=683KXX3rxa4
Ami Opar Hoye Boshe Achi, Lalon : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtKUfpC43Z8
Jaat Gelo Jaat Gelo Bole/ Pagol Chara Duniya Chole Na, Lalon :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1ZqA0-5rYA

^Shohoj Manush, Lalon : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkVPe54wLlY

*With inputs from TSC editor Sophia Naz

3/27/17

Poems | Rebecca Vedavathy

Sitaphalmandi Railway Station, MMTS
Source : http://indiarailinfo.com/station/map/sitafalmandi-stpd/2325


Sitaphalmandi, Hyderabad

II

The city rolled out
like a warm aloo paratha
over a hunch-
backed flyover's
rolling pin traffic
cassava no electricity
while the rain drawn
pavement stood
an impressionist
Monet: Love's
gluten-fed dishevelled
hair, a squall-borne
thoroughfare of rolled
down shutters spoken
in jeera tongue and
forgotten letters.

I

Sari, moon and lamppost
soften the sun-dried
edge of a sleepy
flyover. Clouds memorize
the scene. Night, the artist
with an eraser in
hand shimmies with
the wind. You are the navel
of every metaphor, my body
creates. Under the flyover
the fireflies perched on an
ice cream stick sing for rain.

III

Sitaphal will come again
sitting on the hip of the bridge
Sitaphal will come again
sporting Monsoon's paperback ridge
Sitaphal will come again
riding the spine of translation
Sitaphal will come again
growing grass with no citation
the fruit coils its fly-swatting
bazaari tongue around
pan-vendors, shoe-menders,
silver-dealers, money-lenders
this italicized neck, sweet-laden
stations its heavy head, nuptial bed
inside creamy white custard apples that
come again and again, again.

3/18/17

Poems | Gayatri Majumdar

Aurangabad, 
February 2017 





Photos by  Gayatri Majumdar


1.

There’s a strange light throbbing
flashing –
beyond the neon light
of the hotel room
silhouetted by trees
the red light strobes
to the beat of my heart.

Bodhisattvas wait 
outside
their begging bowls 
gathering dust and rain water.

On the train ride
the costly Baggit peeps out
of the cheaper mirror-worked 
Kutchi sling bag.
I possess both; disown both.
The thing within will always pinch your soul.

Everything white
inside the hotel room
– the walls, sheets, split A/C,
coffee cups and cigarette.

How did you do it?
Guide me home –
from shore to shore
across subways filled with stench
up to the caves of Tiruvanamalai
down Churchgate B-Road right opposite Sydhenam?

Blowing smoke and censuring,
right on time every time
like when you waited to die
on a perfect basanta morning
lest I stumble or miss the bus?

Now following footsteps of Bodhisattvas
I arrive
in an accidental space.
To think I’ve looked for love
and some loose change
in a boundary-less universe.

As you lay wasted somewhere
on the debri
of an outer star and restless night,
a single sweat swelling  
your holy temple 
in an erotic kind of way.

Past endless lands 
of onions and cotton fields
Bodhisattvas walk
to bring color and succor 
to some forgotten hills
and moon-lit hoardings.

We come the longest way
to tomorrow;
carry the torch in our eyes
and a few cheap metaphors
in our pockets.

2.

Then we babble,
say they know nothin’
‘bout consciousness and other realms,
you know with their
constant chatter and suspect demeanour.

And the wavelets rise and fall
thoughts, desires and lives
dissolving then into an oceanspread.

3.

Am in love with a man
several centuries old;
and as I walk down these stony paths
those centuries flash past my eye
erasing my very existence.
It’ll take me a few centuries to get there,
but am willing to wait.

You took several of my breadths away
when you held my face
and gasping I looked up
at the divine ochres and blues of your face –

Bodhisattvas and apsaras in white
hidden in ancient caves
protectors of truth and light
from some very dark forces
in some very darker spaces.

Earlier our bus driver in khaki & Ray Ban
briefed us in his
unstitched English.
All through the ride
he turned reckless corners
at breakneck speed
to loud 90s Bollywood music,
to help us reach our destination sooner
and to make the ride, well, enjoyable naturally.

In Cave 16, or was it 10,
a Thai monk with elaborate tattoos,
flashed his laser light 
to study the floor 
for any telltale signs of miracles and satoris
where Bodhisattvas meditative sat
eating their meager meals
at the Lord’s feet –
So much beauty in 
so little, it hurts;
in next to nothingness
conquering the unlit
defying fear
brave soldiers of the believers.

Many more Bodhisattvas 
in long silver beards
sit on plastic chairs
waiting for their chai
outside shops piled with tyres
on long Sunday evenings
discussing flat tyres
and the price of onions.

I photograph large goddesses 
guarding themselves and the rear chamber
with weapons 
and their bejeweled nakedness.

Consciousness then comes easy
away from ravages of distorted beliefs
and loud traffic noise
as I count birds and flowers
and the change
I hand over to the man selling plastic souvenirs.

At the entrance to the same cave,
the goddesses’ breasts defaced.

The world fell with a thud,
but noiselessly
as I stumbled falling
in the dark
at the feet of the man
I love.

And the bored and tired
couple said, “how many
more steps? The caves
are all the bloody same.”
Just when I thought I finally arrived
I lost my head
when the guide snatched at my cell phone
accusing Me of wrongdoing!!

This life was never mine,
never will be again.
I should have left my self
eons ago
before the light caused heartburns.

4.

Time used to be
a random man
I waited for 
day after day
blood draining my face.

Time ran away with her,
I got the consolation prize
and several unborn babies.

I whirled with time
showed him a step or two.

Americans filmed the acoustics of 
one of the caves
to the chants of
“Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ. . .
Buddham Sharanam Gachchami . . .” 
reverberating across the cosmos.

And the yellow Buddha on the cushion cover
in utter silence gazed
at time drunk sprawled on the floor.

Shivaji, our guide and auto driver,
says he’s a Buddhist; 
he wears a large yellow tilak 
and insists we visit Aurangazeb’s grave.

5.

Meanwhile, elsewhere consciousness 
comes with a price
in a heartbroken city;
it’s never easy to remain balanced
on the debri of lost glories
on Park Street.

But balance we must;
dodging stars, mini buses and stranger planets,
cross flyovers across timezones
and try to not get killed
by a massive Supernova called Sophiya,
her fuchsia headlights and purple fairy-lights
playing a game of hopscotch 
in another dolphin’s dream.