Suvojit Banerjee has seen twenty seven summers, but he doesn’t remember all of them; his existence is torn between the suburbs in India he grew up in, and the cities he lives in. The cities adorns many masks, and so does he, while roaming around its streets with the eyes as a journal and his soul as a pen. He is searching for answers in this surreal yet slimy maze, but the questions keep on changing every time.
He started writing early, but found his niche in his early twenties. His works have been published in many Indian and International journals and magazines. He currently works in a software company, and is a lead writer/reviewer for a technology website. His blog however represents a more chronological evolution, or decay of his writings.
He observes, sometimes giving up consciousness in return. It is a dangerous thing, this silent stalking of nostalgia, but he has a maddening urge. He follows the trail, from decaying jetties to swanky corporate buildings, picking up little breadcrumbs of memories and then giving them their due place in white and yellowed out papers.
La Douleur Exquise
There was a city so full of herself that she forgot to grow up. Rickety trams still ran through its potholed roads, and yellow cabs played hide and seek with passengers. The city smelled of ruin, like the abandoned villas at its limits, derelict, mossy, but like any old house it reeked of nostalgia and love. When the whole world was moving on, this city, this old place by a grey river happily stayed in its own bubble, slowly disintegrating brick by brick.
Thousands of miles away, two eyes looked at an old photograph and longed to return to that city of his dreams. In his dreams he rode the clouds and hovered over the railroads and houses and green fields and radio towers. He read books and text messages with the same inquisitive eyes. He searched for love at the wrong places, going through memories.
The photograph was yellowed, and dogeared, and had words written on it that through the test of time had smeared into a mound of illegible symbols that hardly made sense. But to him that was a sigil, a portal into this city he craved for. Like the lanterns tied to the fishing boats in the river Padma, the consciousness lit up old memories momentarily, and then swayed to others. The handwriting didn't belong to someone from the city. It was from another far away place, a place nested in the caring hands of the Himalayas, its inhibitants as hardy as the mountains, and as vivid as the rhododendron. He had been a visitor there on a summer, eons ago, searching for a cure. His madness was in full youth then, a raging bull that rammed anything that purveyed the course of sanity. In the Thankas of Shangri-La, he had found a spiraling heaven that only talked to him in cryptic languages, giving him hints of an antidote. Packing his bags, he had left the dying city, boarding the wooden train that ran on diesel.
He arrived at the place with black smoke in his heart and a complete lack of conscience. The city had molded him for twenty seven years. Purity was like poison to him – his sins festered in pollution. When the sunlight glimmered on the top of Kanchendzonga and dazzled his eyes, he thought the attack on his senses was a deliberate one.
Miffed, the man asked the Sherpa, "Is it always so bright around here?"
The Sherpa, a man in his late forties had a smile of a vicar and the tenacity of a mountain goat. He was wondering about this citybred creature ogling at the mountains with ravenous intensity. To him, this man was so lost in the swirling mess of his mind that Naraka was but a playground for him. Old legends always told to be wary of such a man : for he could do what normal people could not.
Chewing a yak-milk toffee, the Sherpa replied back with another question "Do you know where you are?" He wanted to be sure that this soul was truly beyond recovery.
To forget that he made an awful decision to travel to these unknown lands, the man had decided to take refuge in the fumes of weed. The visions were vivid in that world. There, he saw the voice call him again, asking him to desert every mortal thought he ever had. But our man was a coward, and his thoughts often ventured towards the lustful and the grotesque, and this time as well, he veered past these haunting visages.
Two days later, he found himself inside a damp, cold stone prison. The thick walls were incensed with emotions and ancient fragrances. The walls rejected the light of the sun like an old vicar, and only orange glows of the candle were permitted. In that fade light, the walls showed their true colour – outlines of sculptures emerged, once neatly curved, now made mortal by the scions of time. Many of those stone idols had half-closed eyes and curly hair.
It was here that he had found his solace. A little lump of sanity neatly tucked inside a human interface. For the next few weeks he had blindly followed that light, while his black mind had warned him time and again about mirages. Then on the night of the blood moon, his solace had finally found a voice that he could understand.
"I can't be with you." it had said.
"You are the cure" He had insisted. "Your longing is not for me." the voice had returned to darkness, tearing the silence into pieces.
Seven years later, when he was leaving the dead city in an airplane to the land of fallen leaves, he was holding the very same photo. It had come on that very day unannounced. The picture was of a woman dressed like a monk, with short hair and doe eyes, on a backdrop of silver tipped mountain peaks and mauve valleys underneath.
On the back it said "May you find the love you seek."
When the plane was taking off, he felt a pain that he had never felt before. This city, that woman, they didn't reject him, but he wasn't accepted either. The long walks on the road by the cathedral, the lying on the lap of someone in park and looking at paintbrushed clouds on a blue sky, the getting wet in rain – these were thoughts carefully created by his own mind, with elysian elaboration. His world was as dark as the city, and the city grew in him like an infestation.
The notion that he and his kind could never be happy made him smile, even though he felt like an elephant had sat on his chest. When he had landed in that foreign place, he found brown and golden leaves stuck on his messy hair, and saw a world around him that wasn't dead yet. It was just beginning to wither.
So our hero, a man with age unknown, a soul with la douleur exquise took it upon himself to cure the world from withering memories. Only that picture reminded him of who he used to be. The rest he had forgotten, like those fallen leaves.