Calcutta, April 20, 8.55 pm
I don't mind the crowds here or even the dust that leaves a strange residue on my nose and between my toes. I don't mind the long standing traffic or the irregularities of life. I don't even mind the pungent body odour that doesn't remember its source.
I marvel at my insouciance – in another city I’d be intolerant, with a speech ready on how the world will never change, simply because of the sheer volume of ignorance towards urban development. Here, everything is forgiven. Here, time stands still. People still beg on the streets and labourers find a decent meal in ten rupees. Here, you are resigned to life. There can be no way out unless you are prepared to battle your way through various social layers that are often invisible but poisonous nevertheless. I have given up everything that I held true and moved to another part of the country looking for something that I have not yet found. Ironically, I have lost much. Words that I once took pride in. passages that were read under the light of a kerosene lamp and remembered – all through childhood and youth. And now, in the dark, without the lamp, I close my eyes, tightly shut, and try to remember a verse or even a line from an old book that still smells the same.
There is something about this city, he tells me. And I couldn’t agree more. As we both would walk down familiar lanes, in the heat or rain, thinking of those days that we never really wanted to move away from, we’d want to return to a place that we know more closely as the only home we’ve ever had.
My aunt says she finds it easy to breathe whenever she returns home after her travels - despite the pollution and the long stretch of stench that follows her into the shower.
And I smile, because I know that I will return and that stench will be mine too.