21 Sep 2008

Echoing Rendezvous

I came to see you. Yes, there was work, but does one need work to come and see you? As I told fellow train passengers the reason of my meeting with you, I smiled inwardly at the flimsiness of it all. Aren't you both the context and pretext for every visit of mine?

Upon reaching, I looked for a familiar face among the milling, hollering mass of heads floating before the eyes. I searched for Anwar, the rickshaw-puller, who hadn't only acquainted me with you, but had also helped me know you so intimately. I couldn't find Anwar, but you hadn't forgotten me.


As I came along, you embraced me--wide-armed and ever so charming. Thereafter, you winked every time I looked at the faces of the countless rickshaw-pullers, hoping to see Anwar's mask on one of them. All along, you never left my hand, caressing me through wild meadows, neatly trimmed gardens, haphazardly scattered bamboo bushes, and those closest to you—the people of the soil, treading by with their sun-burnt bodies and folksy smiles. As I passed by Khoai, I couldn't help feeling awed at this magnificent rock site that you still dote on so tenderly, just as you do with those earth-people.

And then, when it rained even as evening's dark cloak couldn't soak all that outpour, there, at the craft shop, miles and miles away from where we were staying, you sat with me and nudged me to enjoy the rain with you. For monsoons take on such an electric aura in your company. And I remember the worry in my heart dissolved in that torrent, even as it washed through the meadow, the garden, and those swaying bamboo poles.

On the day of my farewell, Anwar showed up at the door. Not for a moment during my courtship with you could I predict you had stored this mischief for the day of my departure. As Anwar's yellow teeth gleamed through his unkempt mustache, I could see you winking once more. As I stepped on to his rickshaw, you stood by at every stop of mine—the baul neighbourhood, the bookstore, the street-side jewelry shops.


Leaving you wasn't easy, but who said I did? Shantiniketan, dearest, you remain alive, green, and invigorating right here, no matter how far I am from you in terms of space. Or time.



18 Sep 2008

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