Rural Bengal in Bombay

I started a crowd-sourced project on this blog and on Facebook, about spatial memories. Predictably, absolutely no one responded to the blog, and lots of people embraced the idea on Facebook. Owing to various things – chiefly embarrassment at having to claim ownership of something actually successful – I avoided the Facebook page for ages.

Today, however, having woken up uncharacteristically early, I was driven to finally read the stories people posted on the group. Here’s why. My family had a couple of houses in Jhargram. Well, we had considerably more than a couple of houses, the entire market was built on land my great-grandfather donated from the family estate, but by the time we came along it was just a house on my grandfather’s side, and a house on my grandmother’s. The grandfatherly house had permanent residents (cousins of my mother), so whenever we visited – and it was rare, because the annual Durga pujas has stopped by then – we stayed at the maternal abode.

This morning reminds me of those mornings: the sense of clarity, coolness and peace that dawn brings after a dark rural night, punctuated with stray calls of crows, and stray crowing of roosters. In Jhargram on such dawns, gold would edge the eastern leaves and grass, and the house would cast its shadow beyond the western boundary wall, onto the red soil beyond. A low mist would hang in the distance, lending a soothing, almost physical caress to the sense of magical solitude.

Going back to rotten Calcutta after living in IIT will be hard. This place, with its lakey mist and greenery, has become the vessel for so many of my blissful childhood memories, homeless for years in my loud urban life.

I think we’ll stay here for as long as we can.

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