A guest post from my husband:
This is Calcutta, my home and yet not so much my home anymore. Everyone around me is genuinely happy to see me back after almost two years. At the same time, everyone has at least five agendas in which I play a role of some sort. One of these, they will share with me; two, they will share with others in my “network”; the final two are secrets that no one will know but them. My own agenda is even worse; it fills a whole clipboard and is full of morally ambiguous but tantalizing items, ranging from the completely harmless to the potentially devastating. Like most things Indian, none of these agendas, mine or of others, exist in isolation. Indeed, they are all not only connected but even intertwined. As you can imagine, the permutations and combinations are a mathematician’s or systems biologist’s paradise.
The thing is, I was always legendarily bad at math. So I have resorted to forcing my own, rather simplistic linear regression frameworks to model a system that even complex quadratic equations would be hard pressed to solve. Whether this will work, I have no clue. I don’t really think it will. But it is the only way I know to deal with things anymore, having been away for over a decade. If you ever had the mistaken impression that “lonely” is a negative word, let me correct you in no uncertain terms. The only way I survive (and indeed enjoy) my immediate surroundings on these kaleidoscopic trips home is by literally treating myself (as in an ice cream treat) to generous helpings of loneliness.
Quoting here a beautiful couplet by Ram Niwas Awasthi, one of the vanished poets of Hindi literature:
bheer mein rehta hoon main viraane ke sahare / jaise koi mandir ho kisi gaon ke kinare
(I can live in this crowd because I have my ruins / like the little temple just beyond the village)
And so, wherever I go in this maddening crowd, I carry my little portable ruins with me, and like the little temple observing the villagers it knows and loves so well, but from just outside the village itself, I sit in the shade of my cherished ruins and watch the heartwarming charades around me. If this makes you jealous, I do not blame you.
And now, speaking of ruins, a lovely picture of an old house taken on a random road trip (or should I say boat trip) to the Sunderbans. Far past it’s prime, completely beyond repair but still beautiful. Just like my Calcutta.