Internet Today

We may be living in a space opera universe without realizing it…

The incessant beeping of the alarm on her phone breaks her sleep. As she clumsily presses “Dismiss”, the excrutiating ringtone stops and a pop-up flashes on the black screen reporting the number of casualties due to a bomb blast, followed by other news flashes regarding the number of people who died in a highway accident or the marriage of an uptown celebrity in the latest fashion. She slides them aside and checks her schedule for work. Two meetings.

Another day begins. She holds the electrinic brush near her mouth and it automatically cleans all her teeth. She looks at her own reflection, two vacant eyes stare back at her as she waits for the tap water to turn lukewarm. She gets ready and on her way out, she logs into the zappit app to preorder her lunch. She takes an Uber to her office as usual. The tiny icon of the white car keeps readjusting directions as they turn around the corners in the map on her screen.

At her workplace, everybody is already inside their cabins, sitting in front of their respective computers, pushing buttons and typing hastily. She lets the biometric machine scan her eyes and checks herself in before occupying a similar cubicle at one end of the large hall. Like a wound up toy, she starts working mechanically.

Just when the clock announces lunch break, her phone vibrates on the desk, signaling that her food is here. She goes down to collect it. They have a clean ad immaculate canteen. People eat quickly and don’t crowd together to discuss anything. Nobody wants to waste time. Everything is under proper control, they are under constant surveillance. If they spend more time than required, there would be unpleasant consequences. Nobody wants to risk it. People sit in their individual chairs and finish their lunch silently. They plug in their earphones and eat while listening to their favorite music. They can choose any music from the given playlists online. It’s very convenient.

After work, she returns home and spends the evening idly, watching some movies or TV serials. There are a list of programmes available to choose from. Sometimes, she browses stores online, checking the prices of groceries or clothes and shopping accessories. At times, she played virtual reality games. It ws a wonderful experience as she got transported to a new realm. She battled demons and giants, escaped dungeons and faught with guns or swords as she pleased.

Ordering dinner everyday seemed too much of a hassle so she had subscribed to a customized monthly food delivery package. At night, she puffed her pillow and turned the AC slightly lower. She surfed through her sns, uploading her selfies and reacting to other people’s stories, while lying enveloped within her soft quilt. She often opened dating apps and browsed through random profiles, swiping right or left, deciding on whether they could be a potential date or not.

It was the same routine everyday.

Little did she know that all the global leaders of different countries had signed a treaty with the aliens to stop them from invading Earth, under one simple condition, that they would be allowed to introduce the Internet here, the new drug that would slowly bring the inevitable end.

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Stargazing

She left the room, tip-toeing across the corridor. Walking towards the door, she slowly pushed it open and stepped outside. It suddenly slammed shut as a gust of cold wind rushed up to greet her. She leaned against the door, ears pressed against the wood, listening. Stillness. She stepped out into the quiet night, wearing her blue pajamas.

It was pitch dark and she let the shadows engulf her. She could hear waves crashing in the distance. It was cold. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering slightly. Something in the air urged her to stick out her tongue. She pressed it warm and moist against her dry cold lips. She was walking bare feet, the sand prickly underneath. Prickly but strangely comforting, almost soothing.

It was dark all around but she could see the wide stretch of sand glittering in the moonlight. Wave after wave crashed ashore, foaming at the mouth and then disintegrating into the bed of sand, the water rising high sprinkling silvery dust beneath. The wet sand glowed eerily.

She walked down to the edge of the shore. A half-crescent moon gleamed in the water, bobbing up and down with the ripples. It lured her. She wanted to touch it. She trudged deeper into the water, walking right into the middle of the reflection of the moon, trying to hold it, squeezing it. It slipped like jelly through her fingers, silver melting into a giant abyss of darkness. She took a few more steps. She could feel the sand shifting under her feet, the current getting stronger. Her toes curled involuntarily trying to hold on to the sliding sand. The water lapped at her waist. It soaked her pajamas and she felt heavy. It was getting difficult to stand upright, so she slowly bent forwards. She looked at her own face floating on the surface of the water. For awhile, she stood there studying her reflection, mirrored in fragments. She wanted to merge herself with it, submerge her whole body into the dark cold depths. But from behind her face, tiny lights winked at her reflection. They distracted her.

She looked up at the sky. Like soft fairy lights, they twinkled back at her. She splashed some water on her face and then climbed back to the shore. With a thud, she plonked down on the sand suddenly feeling exhausted. She craned her neck and sat gazing up above. There were so many of them. Little shining holes in the sky.

She lost track of time as she sat staring at them. She could make out strange patterns. Some lights dazzled, some glistened softly. The brightest ones seemed to be scattered on the sky like marbles across the floor. They flickered in the distance, hiding behind clouds and peeping out again as the cloud passed. She started feeling drowsy. She lied down on the sand..

The wind blew, dishevelling her hair over her face. She was too lazy to move them away. She lay there on the sand like a dead crab. Unmoving, unfeeling, indifferent and oblivious to the whole world. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moist air. She had almost fallen asleep when he came and sat down beside her. She was reluctant to open her eyes. She knew him by the familiar scent of coffee as he covered her with his shawl. It was way too comfortable to wake up but she looked at him and sat up eventually. They huddled together in the same shawl. She rested her head on his shoulder and nudged him with her elbow. He smiled as he glanced at her.

He opened the lid of the flask and after taking a small sip himself, handed it over to her. The warmth of his shawl suddenly made her realise how cold she had been before. Her clothes were still damp and sand particles stuck to it. Sand was everywhere; on her hands, feet, face and in her hair. It was on her whole body but it didn’t bother her. Instead, it gave her a strange sense of earthiness. She sipped the hot coffee and closed her eyes to savour it. Warm and delicious.

They sat there silently sipping coffee and gazing at the stars the rest of the night until the break of dawn. As the sun slowly crawled up on the horizon, the stars dissolved like the morning mist. Disappearing, leaving only traces of their existence on the glistening sands below.

Voler

Je garde les fenêtres boulonnés et fermées. D’une certaine façon, elles rendent la chambre chaude, même dans la nuit froide d’hiver. L’obscurité m’enveloppe.

Une fois dehors, la journée a déjà commencé. Bien que cette ville a des gens paresseux et un mode de vie inactif qui semble les encourager, beaucoup peuvent être aperçus dans les rues à pieds tôt le matin. Comme des petites fourmis occupées par leurs routines quotidiennes. L’air est froid et craquant, cela me rappelle les biscuits fraîchement cuits au four. Aucune odeur de vanille ici, mais il y avait quelque chose de particulièrement sucré dans ce jour à peine venu au monde.

Quand j’étais petite, j’ai souvent voulu voler. J’ai essayé; dans ma tête, de me faire voler. Cela m’a déçu quand “si il y a une volonté il y a toujours un moyen” n’a pas fonctionné pour moi. Je voulais éviter de faire face à cette réalisation percutante. Je voulais m’enfuir. Je me suis enfuie. Et pendant que je courais, mes lèvres fermées, serrées, tremblant mais retenant les larmes; j’ai senti la pulsation d’une énergie à travers moi. Comme je courais, engloutissant toute la frustration accumulée, le vent balayait devant mes oreilles, curieusement froid et apaisant. Tout cela alors que j’étais trop concentrée sur ma tristesse de regarder vers le haut. Le monde autour de moi tombant rapidement derrière à chaque étape que j’ai prise. J’ai levé mes yeux vers le ciel et j’ai rencontré les nuages qui ont couru au-dessus de moi, avec moi, puis plus lentement que moi. J’ai regardé vers le bas et mes pieds ont à peine touché les rues, à chaque foulée, le sol glissait au loin. Je pouvais voler, j’ai pensé. Et en effet, je l’ai fait.

Le sentiment de l’arrimage du vent contre mon visage m’a étrangement étourdie. C’est un bonheur, un mélange d’anxiété et d’anticipation qui bouillonne en vous avant de rencontrer un ami d’enfance familier à nouveau après une longue période de temps. Plus âgé, un peu adouci sur les bords peut-être, mais quelqu’un que vous connaissez depuis toujours et que vous pourriez encore reconnaître tendrement. Quand je m’arrête, c’est fou la quantité d’émotions qui passent à travers moi, haletantes, riantes, épuisées et en même temps satisfaites. C’est un retour, un atterrissage en douceur vers la terre. Parce qu’en courant, je vole.

A Taste of Freedom

I was watching Black Swan, shut inside the four-walled green cubicle that I called my ‘room’. Natalie looking into the mirror seemed to stare straight through the screen at me. My stomach growled, I was hungry. The cell phone vibrated, I had kept it on silent. “Buzz buzz” it crawled on the table. Picking it up I held it against my ears, fiddling with the earphones. “Hello?” there was a pause on the other side, then she spoke, “Wanna go somewhere, out to the hills? There’s a train tonight. In two hours.” I sat there quietly repeating the words to myself.

If it wasn’t for that particular call on that evening, I’d have never known what I was missing. With a new sense of purpose, excitement flowing in my veins, I trembled with anticipation while I packed my bag. On a sudden impulse, I had decided to escape that green box for one day. To go somewhere in the dark night. The whole crazy idea of going somewhere unknown, unplanned, reminded me of Dean in On the Road. I felt high on adrenaline. Nothing could deter me.

We boarded the train two hours later. We bought tickets to the general compartment. It was a noisy hen coop. People rushed inside before the train came to a full stop at the platform. Wave after wave climbed in, squirming through the doors. We managed to slip through with them. People travelled all night standing or with barely enough space to sit. It was winter and as the train sped through paddy fields, a bone-chilling breeze seeped through cracks in the broken window panes. The wind whistled through the compartment, teeth clattered, the skin dried, people huddled together, inch by inch closing the gaps in between, to take the body warmth from each other.

It was difficult to sleep that night. I kept shifting, checking the time, nudging the people around me, trying to find a comfortable spot to lean on. Early morning, just before the break of dawn, the train halted at a small station named Chhatna. We got down there with our bags. The sky was dark. Brilliantly lit with tiny prick holes, scattered on the wide umbrella above us. It was beautiful, standing there underneath the open sky, shrouded in fading darkness. Birds weren’t up yet. Silence reigned.

We took a jeep. There wasn’t enough space for all of us to fit in and the next jeep wouldn’t be there in another hour so we climbed onto the roof of the car, sitting amidst the luggage. It was cold and windy up there. The roads flew beneath the wheels. We howled into the last remaining echoes of darkness. The freedom in the air was slowly creeping in, intoxicating us. In the distance, small shapes could be distinguished. Silhouettes of Susunia hills were beginning to appear in the horizon.

At a random bend in the road, a tiny settlement spread over the hills starting beside a small tea shop, we got down there and stood waving at the jeep that drove away until it became a speck in the distance. We asked for food at the shop and they served us hot tea with a loaf of bread each. It was strange, the taste of the tea. Dilute but wonderfully scented, as if made of snow; if snow could have a particular taste this must be it, I thought.

We spent the entire day going around this little town. People walked about leisurely, trekking uphill and downhill, in a slow steady gait. They talked in low murmurs, smiled a lot in response. We trudged along, panting up the slopes, red-nosed and out of breath, stopping here and there to admire the view. Like petty thieves, we were stealing fragments of bliss, etching them into our memory. The sombre hills, the small town secluded from the outside world connected only by the thin, dusty trail of jeeps leading to the railway tracks. The local inhabitants and the way they dressed, their colourful accessories. The strange flavour of their tea and the taste of bread, softly melting in the mouth, slightly pungent.

I had tasted freedom and it left me yearning for more.

Shadows

Here, darkness descends softly and quickly. It was only a quarter to six and still the purple sky enshrouded the campus in an intermingling web of shadows that spread all over, unevenly, interrupted by the yellow light from the street lamps punctuating the wide, now empty lanes. Clusters of listless students stood huddled together, buzzing amongst themselves like bees hovering over a flower, reluctant to go back home. Three of us walked into the building with a sense of exploration born out of idleness. We climbed up the stairs. A kind of restlessness had infected us, the kind that drives you towards irrationality. Darkness settled down on us like dust in an old damp storeroom, it crept up behind us, following us along the desolate staircase. Empty bottles and discarded cans littered the obscure corners. Slightly apprehensive, the adrenaline rush emboldened our young bored minds. Voices hummed in the distance. People talking in discreet, intimate whispers, words softly caressing each other. As we crossed the threshold, the stifling claustrophobic box we often find ourselves trapped within, expanded and dissolved into thin air. Out in the open, the sky so wide, so vast. All above us. So vast, surrounding us. A kind of greatness that has a humbling effect without intimidating us. We stood in silence. Staring at the tiny blinking specks of light that glowed far below, like fireflies. The smell of cigarette smoke drifted to us with the breeze. We found comfort in the darkness cloaking us.

আমি স্বপ্ন দেখি

Yes, I am from Mumbai.

Yes, I had got into Delhi University, but I left it to come here,

To Kolkata,

To Jadavpur University.

Yes, I might be immature, and not know a lot of things that goes on around this world.

Yes, you might be 60 or 50 or 45,

But you – are dead inside.

Because when you say, “Dream a dream that you can achieve!”

I say, “That’s stupid.”

Because, a dream is meant to be unattainable in the first place.

You have to struggle strive toil and yet fail

You have to spend endless hours fruitless, ennumerable nights sleepless.

Race through the day’s routine only to lag behind at the end.

Skip dinners, parties or not see a friend.

And that is why when a dream comes true,
It’s a miracle.

I touched your feet to seek your blessings,

“জানো? আমার যাদবপুরে হয়ে গেছে,” said I.

A little excited, anticipating “Congratulations”,

some act of acknowledgement, praise;

“বোকামি করলি তুই, ওখানে পড়াশোনা হয় না। শুধু পলিটিক্স হয়। জানিস, ওখানে সবাই গাঁজা খায়?”

I stared at the words, stuck in the void between you and me

Heavy, dripping with judgement, choking me.

I felt my shoulders sag in disappointment.

I thought you were 60 or 50 or 45,

But you – were already dead inside.

Thanks to Maa Baba, I was still alive.

They taught me how to see through the fog,

How to read between the lines,

How to listen beyond the gossip,

Or how to question that which was given,

And how to feel from deep within.

Thanks to them, I could look into your eyes.

“কোলকাতা যা ছিল, আজ আর তা নেই” you said,

“কোলকাতা তো এখন‌ও আছে কোলকাতা তেই” I believed.

Because you live in exile and see what the media portrays as you read your morning Times of India,

While I breathe in the same air which gets tainted by বিড়ি, সিগারেট আর গাঁজা তে

I walk through the corridors where on the walls, posters of revolt cry.

I see the students rising up in defiance, challenging a mammoth apolitical sleeping body of mind.

I see them pushing to break through the silence that spreads like an epidemic all around.

I see them struggle and fight alone in this slumbering ground.

তাই যাদবপুরে আজ‌ও হয় কলরব।

আর কোলকাতা আছে কোলকাতা তেই।

Because Kolkata is it’s people,

সকাল বেলার গরম কচুড়ী আর চা।

Where everyone speaks বাংলা ,

And even জয়দেব দা পাশের দোকানে,

Knows a little of politics, Rabindrasangeet and Satyajit Ray.

Kolkata is made up of US,

The ones who want to ask.

And that is why here I am,

From Mumbai to Delhi to Kolkata,

Because I love বাংলা and this is where my story began…

Yes, you might say I’m immature, and that I don’t know “real life”,

But I’d rather be a dreamer and stay ALIVE.

Inked Existence

Words are stuck in my mouth like salt from the sea breeze clinging on to your lips. The wind breaks open the skin and creates new gulfs between our languages. I want to touch you, fold you in my arms and watch you evaporate under my gaze. The sense of pleasure shivering down the trunk of palm trees, dark and silhouetted against the red sky. The trees bend with the wind, arching to kneel at the feet of the soil. They make sloshing noises, the leaves rubbing against the bark of other trees. Like a huge tidal wave, I push you away from within my depths out towards the sand bare shore. Few minutes later, I choke on the void that I weave around myself. With another surge, I pull you away from that bed of stones and debris again. There is no fight, no struggle. You bob along the waves and ripples in the current, on my whims. I want to hold you and yet let go of you at the same time. Maybe in different parts of the world, it’s happening right now. Our alter-egos are pushing and pulling each other away simultaneously. In a parellel universe, we might be two poles of a magnet pulling each other yet kept infinitely separate. What would I have done if I never met you? Would I still be hanging suspended in this two dimension world waiting to be reborn in this inked life? Like a kite without a thread, flying listlessly or better yet floating aimlessly over our heads across the sky? Or perhaps, I would be the dust that rises and floats and settles back down on old furnitures and carpets and then rises up again with every wind that blows.

~Le Souvenir D’Amour~

Je me souviens d’elle quand il neige 

Dans le ciel vaste, les étoiles sont apparues et disparues

Quand l’odeur de la cigarette et des chocolats se mélange,

Ça me souviens d’elle encore

Ses cheveux courte et son tattoo dans la main

Ses yeux petites qui disparues 

chaque fois qu’elle souri

Un sourire sans penser

Un sourire qui m’a attiré 

Quelques chansons quelques poèmes

Je peux les écouter même aujourd’hui quand il pleut

Sur la pluie, sa voix du passé vient à moi dans le présent

Sa voix, pas trop douce, pas trop fort 

Mais, un son que j’adore

Je ne peux pas oublier tout ça

Je vais les préserver 

Parcequ’il me rend nostalgique de mon amour

Et c’est un souvenir près de mon cœur

Dalhousie, Himachal

Pine trees, ancient and majestic, stood all around us. As our car sped up the slope, the narrow roads snaked around the hills, twisting and turning at each bend suddenly. Despite the icy cold wind lashing at my face and biting into my skin, there was a certain unexpected crispiness in the very air that lifted my spirits. Clouds softly descended on us and slowly the roads ahead disappeared, the tall pine trees faded away and everything vanished into the white. 

At night, these clouds enveloped the little hill station and left their faint traces behind, on the red tiled rooftops, the glass windows and car wind shields, just tiny water droplets.

With each gulp of the steaming hot coffee, the heat poured into my soul and warmed me up from within. I held the cup in my palms, absorbing it’s warmth quietly. Birds chirped outside. Wild flowers bloomed in the shrubs at the edge of the roads, in the bushes over the boundary walls and in little yellow red cane baskets near the schools. Children dressed in uniform ran outside laughing, talking, staring at us. Down below on the hillside, colourful Tibetan flags fluttered in the wind here and there.

In a hamlet by the hillside…

the morning sky was just beginning to clear. Little shapes huddled together in the fading darkness were starting to form their own outlines against the grey that stretched far and wide. One could slowly distinguish the trees drenched in soft golden hues, standing tall and proud. The younger saplings swayed in the damp cold breeze. The wind swept across the valleys, through the pine trees, in between the green saplings and crept down towards the dingy settlements gathered at the foot of the hills. As it lashed upon the shut glass windows repeatedly, it grew colder, harsher. Left out in the open, it circled the settlements impatiently and wailed in complain, seeking for a hole or gap to burst in through. The morning lay cloaked in silence, except for the occasional moaning of the wind scraping at the wooden doors and slipping off the window panes. As the sun tried to emerge, in the distance, smoke went up from tiny chimneys here and there. Long dark serpents of fumes coiled together remained motionless in the air, almost meditative. Then, gradually they dispersed with the clouds in the sky. Sunlight washed all over the village. Another new day began.