Song of the Road

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Image source: wallpaperswide.com

My legs dangle in the car
In the seat, I settle, awkward
The jagged outlines of
the interstate and the green
On both sides lighting up
Like tattoos.
Bollywood Hindi refrains
Gyrating, recycled, served up
Like frothy, milky chai
in old, verdant train stations
remembered with a child’s eagerness.
In our mouths, between
Our silences outstretched
And our tongues sticking out
Parched, tame, scanning
The flatlands and the ripples
We seek out our
love song for the road,
The tangy and sour essence
of the small towns
That ebb and flow with
the shrill rain,
the murky flood waters,
The turmeric-stained sunlight
That we taste, bubbling,
resting on our backs.
The tires push down the
Buttery roads and I am
Wrapped in the childhood raincoat
Where the playlist
of the songs become
Promises, vows, stillness grasped.
In the mirror, strands of hair
Dance to the orchestra
Like pesky birds,
Grey, trampled, bronzed
With colors, behind a veil
Of shrinking, errant drapes.
The wind and the light outside
A thin stick of pungent smoke
I inhale like a stealthy lover
On our way back home.
Soon the roads, robust
Against our limp bodies
Will bend and waltz,
Tweak and twirl, to
the stairs leading home.
In the brown, saucy night sky
Our road songs,
ingrained, left behind,
will jump, float away
in scattered lines.

Lopa Banerjee. All Rights Reserved. May 30, 2015
Note: Written while returning from a long distance trip by car on route Texas gulf coast to the plains of Nebraska, US.

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The Closure

Remembering my mother Rama Bhattacharyya on the month of August, which happens to be the month of my birth and her death. A couple of days following her first death anniversary, I would like to dedicate this piece published in ‘Northeast Review’ to the loving memory of my Ma. In this personal essay, I have attempted to trace my spiritual journey to Puri, Bhubaneshwar and Konark in the holy land of Orissa, India, following her ‘sraaddha’ (late rites) rituals last year, as per the Hindu religious rites. Hope she has found ultimate peace and salvation in an eternal kingdom of love. Rest in peace, Ma!

All my thanks to the editors of ‘Northeast Review’, especially to the Nonfiction editor Sumana Ray for accepting and publishing this narrative nonfiction piece which will remain the closest to my heart forever.

http://northeastreview.com/2014/07/10/the-closure/

Life on the Tracks: My Personal Essay Published at ‘Cafe Dissensus’

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This is a personal narrative born out of a series of dream sequences of a night journey by train. The dream probably has its origins in the past decade of my life in suburban Kolkata when I used to commute by local trains on a regular basis. The narrative structure of the piece is inspired by Dennis Silk’s essay ‘The Marionette Theater’, where an action performed in repetition is depicted with emphasis on every part of the movement. So happy and honored that this short piece is published by ‘Cafe Dissensus Everyday’, the blog of the online magazine ‘Cafe Dissensus’. Also, the piece is now a chapter of my book-length collection of essays.

Do have a look at the piece here and leave the footprints of your mind on the page:

http://cafedissensusblog.com/2014/05/28/life-on-the-tracks/

Thwarted Escape: a Personal Essay

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It gives me great pleasure to let my dear readers know that my narrative nonfiction piece, a personal essay titled ‘Thwarted Escape’ has been published in the online journal, ‘Cafe Dissensus Everyday’. Written in late summer 2010, the idea of this piece came to me while waiting at the terminal of the Delhi international airport with my elder daughter, a toddler, for our next connecting flight to Chicago. Just a couple of hours back, I had bid goodbye to my parents, in-laws and relatives in the Kolkata airport, and was thinking how there is this complete switch of universes in the course of one flight to the next.

I was thinking of the meaning and essence of the words ‘home’, ‘homeland’, the edges of which seemed blurred now that I had two different homes, two different set of lives continents apart. My exile, six years back as the newly wed Bengali bride was self-chosen, I had already embraced new homes, landscapes in the most unlikely of places. My life had already been intertwined with the air and water of the unknown soil, amidst unknown lives, but each day, we were coming closer, like fingers kneading clay, leaving imprints on each other. I was thinking about the life, the bittersweet memories that I leave behind in every annual visit to my parents’ and in-laws’ place, the emotional, physical, spiritual upheavals that have been part of both my leaving the places and coming back to them. It was then that I realized that in this act of leaping between continents, in the act of adjusting to the various movements of my heart, there is a story yet to be told, even to myself. This piece is born out of such a quest, framed in my mind in between the transit stops, and is now a chapter from my first, yet unpublished memoir. It is also the stepping stone to some longer narratives where I dissect, deconstruct my pent up, calcified memories, revisit my past in Kolkata and look at my present while inching towards honesty, integrity and self-awareness. It is a personal voyage that is bruised and bleeding, yet marked with reassurance, vitality and the animated signs of life.  

Do read the full personal essay published at Cafe Dissensus Everyday:

http://cafedissensusblog.com/2014/04/20/thwarted-escape/

 

The piece has also very recently been accepted for publication by the 2014 River Poets Journal Special Edition “The Last Time I Ran Away.” It is a print literary journal published from Lilly Press, NJ. To know more about River Poets Journal, go to:

http://www.riverpoetsjournal.com/index.html

Coming to Thine Arms and our Home

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Notes for my readers:

In this short piece, I describe a definitive moment in my life, the sensations of that very moment, and how the memories of those very moments still fill me with wonder and childlike delight.

Six years back, on an unusually rainy evening in March, I finally got to see the face of the long-awaited day of my life after tying the wedlock. After months of waiting at my in-laws’ in Calcutta that had made me hysterical and ruthlessly impatient, I was finally granted a spouse visa by the American embassy and could now go and live with my husband, the love of my life, in the United States.

For all the two years I had known him before getting married to him, I had dated him in person for a brief one month while he was on a vacation in India, after which the insurmountable geographical distance between us became a reality that had consumed both of us entirely. Virtual rendezvous over the phone and on the internet became a daily reality that had kept our sanity, while we earnestly prayed to be physically together for a lifetime. Getting married, for him, was a brief vacation of ten days, three of which he spent in our Bengali wedding rituals, one in our wedding reception, one in the legal formalities of our registry marriage and the three others in a surprise honeymoon, at the end of which I found myself stranded in a suffocating 5’ by 7’ room in the old, narrow alleys of Calcutta, while he flew away ten thousand miles from me, to his world of office meetings and deadlines, to the everyday occurrence of our crazy, long, untimely, distant calls and correspondences.

Here I was in the airport, my clothes all drenched in the rain, surrounded by my parents and in-laws, leaving the most loved and hated site of my childhood and youth, the memories of sunshine and color and of agitation and dejection, lured by the calling and sweet seduction of love which was yet to be consummated in mind, body and spirit, ten thousand miles away from my childhood town. Here I was, a newly wed Bengali bride with a little vermillion mark lingering on my forehead, hugging my teary-eyed mother for one last time before passing on to the boarding and luggage check-in, the customs clearance and emigration area of the international airport. I was waving my silent goodbye to a life lived amidst known people and known surroundings that had gradually become claustrophobic to my existence. On the other hand, there was this unexplained anticipation and anxiety to see with my own eyes how the promise of the uninhibited pleasures of a conjugal life in another part of the world made by my husband turns to reality, becomes the cherished universe we so much fantasized in our discussions.

My mind ached to unknown pleasures as I imagined myself seated at the Niagara Falls, roaming around the streets of Times Square, New York city, hand-in-hand with my love; I laughed to myself thinking of these mushy, sentimental promises of sweet nothings which I knew, would one day sink into oblivion. As I walked into the boarding and luggage check-in area with the trolley, I looked at my heavy handbag, the two huge suitcases stuffed with my endless belongings–heavy silk saris which people gifted me in our wedding reception, cosmetics, loads of books, my favorite music CD’s, a CD capturing our wedding moments, framed pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses, packets of Indian spices. While I had closed the doors to my existence in the city, entering the sweet, unexplored realm of love in another continent, with these belongings I was carrying an inextricable thread that would always bind a part of my being to the city I was departing.

While the 18-hour flight that landed me at the huge John F. Kennedy airport made me see an ocean of multitudes of people flocking to the emigration area, I realized I just had my first encounter with an airport outside my own country. I thought of myself, the only one in our family to have come all the way from India, crossing the Atlantic in search of love, a home and companionship. In the flight, I had thought about my last job I had to quit on the pretext of migrating, about my last days in Kolkata fraught with bickering, pettiness and anxiety, about old friends and foes who had made my life in the city dark and aimless, about the new apartment which my husband had shifted to and its pictures I had seen in the internet. I felt how, entering through its door for the first time would be filled with awe and delight. Today, after all these years of staying together with him in this country where we both are constantly evolving in age and perceptions, I still love to remember that day of my first departure from Calcutta, the following day which was my first arrival in New York, with all the pristine promise of innocence, the sweet seduction that it carried, which has lost its allure in the merciless hands of time.