It is yet another February. It is just that I am not in Kolkata this time either.
Exile hurts. Self-exile, on the other hand, can be excruciating.
It will not be an exaggeration to call Kolkata February the best month in any place in the world. And this time I chose to miss it.
I chose to miss that smell of dry dust in Maddox Square in the evenings. The first time they brought the football out and tried to conquer the cricket battlefield.
I chose to miss that near-itchy feeling that makes you crave for someone would scratch your back for ten minutes (at least). You know what I am talking of, right? You sit under the ceiling fan, and then, suddenly at two in the afternoon you get the first prickly-heat feeling on your back, and…
I chose to miss Book Fair (which meant I lost a chance to get copies signed first-handed by Tanmay and Kuntala — two of my favourite authors — both of whose books came out this year). I do not miss Benfish, though. I wish I could finish an entire book on the grounds the way I did in 1997.
I chose to miss the late nights when you feel that a very light sweater wouldn’t have been that bad an idea. You work all day in an air-conditioned office till, say, midnight: and then, when your office transport races down the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, you decide after a while that it is time you rolled up the window pane.
I chose to miss the month that evokes childhood memories the most.
I chose to miss the month that brings the orgasmic best out of ice-cream. Especially at Scoop.
I chose to miss Saraswati Puja for no apparent reason. Okay, maybe because girls used to look pretty in yellow sarees when I was young. Especially that girl I had seen crossing Manohar Pukur Road in 1991. I wonder what her name is.
I chose to miss the breeze against the shins for the first time in the year when I summon those shorts that had been tucked away neatly for winter.
I chose to miss facing the shower with my head held high for the first time in the year.
I chose to miss toying over that thin line between nothingness on one hand and the ceiling fan-quilt combination on the other.
I chose to miss the anxious, animated couples getting quieter inside the Nandan Complex as evening happened: after all, the excuse of shawls will not be an acceptable one for about a year.
I chose to miss watching the perfectly diagonal flight of those gray-white birds at Rabindra Sarobar. I wish I knew what they are called.
I chose to miss Kolkata turning a Pantaloon’s end-of-sale into a Choitro Sale.
Kolkata did not choose to disown me. When I look back at the barren sky on my way to work I realise it’s the same sky back there. I know it’s further towards the East — or rather, from where the Sun rises. I realise the Sun kisses my city on its way to this city; and then the rays kiss my cheek.
Maybe, just maybe, if I search frantically, there is a little bit of my city hidden somewhere in those rays.