The unmistakable stench of chemical effluents disposed in a water body fills the air as I grope for the light switch in the darkness on the terrace of my building.
It is funny how even a terrible smell can evoke such tender, fond memories.
For it was this very strong, sour stench of chemicals that used to announce the arrival of Haldia every time. I used to stifle my nose with a handkerchief when Durgachak used to be around the corner back then; today, I take a deep breath to fill that smell in my system.
I vividly remember the last time I traveled from Kharagpur to Haldia. Rather, I have memories of what I thought was the last time because the semester got extended for two whole weeks due to the postponement of the last exam.
I remember fighting the unimaginably strong breeze that seems to flow around Haldia every minute of the day and look out of the window, and write that moment in my mind with the label of my last, my very final journey to Haldia. The actual final time I traveled there, I have absolutely no memories of.
And maybe, after ten, twenty years, that image of myself sitting at the window seat of the ladies compartment of the 5:20 Howrah-Haldia local and preserving a memory with a choked throat will what I would remember as my final journey to that place. Because as Shahid Ali writes, "my memory keeps getting in the way of your history" and that is what always happens- we replace the objectivity of history with the subjectivity of our memories.
I do not write this with the sentimentality that demands a sizable lump in the throat and swimming pools in the eyes. I write this with a perfectly dry vision, that too not because of a poetic "my eyes have dried with the tears they have cried" phenomenon, but due to the simple reason that I have become weary. Weary of craving for things that I will never get back. Weary for people and places that will never come back in my life. Weary about everything in general.
I do not write this with a sense of defeatism either. There is a fine line between being defeated and being wistful and I hope my words, to whoever reads them, deliver the latter.
I write this because a friend asked me why I had stopped writing. And though I was asked to 'fuck the journal entries' and write proper prose, I write these words in defiance because I do not get stories in my head anymore.
And if I force characters out of me right now, they would think and feel what I think and feel right now. Which is just fine because that is how it always works out but this time, I don't want to lend my emotions to my characters now. They are mine and I want to keep them.
If I write about a girl now, she would require to have a short-heighted, tom-boyish friend around whose shoulder putting an arm was as perfect as it could be. She would need to have a beautiful dancer friend with the most hypnotic eyes, whose (mis)adventures with guys falling for her was a constant stream of amusement. Her character would demand to have a hiding place in a kind -hearted girl who would be her 'mother 2.0', a companion for music and poetry and all other arts in a girl with the most beautiful voice, a person with whom silences were comfortable and walking, magical.
It wouldn't do if that girl doesn't have a mother who had both her children far away from her and yet she found ways to be funny when her daughter would cry for home.
It would be unfair if I didn't give her a father who would watch over her always like a silent guardian. Like Batman.
And it would just be impossible if that girl didn't have a brother who thought she was the most innocent, deserving person in the world (and who cooked like a masterchef too).
So my story can't be about this girl because I would never be able to do justice to all the people she has in her life and I cannot think of any other character in my head now.
Maybe I have failed. Failed as a writer, as a story teller and hence I write these words now. In defiance. And with terrible, terrible sadness.
There is nothing worse than not being able to pen down the avalanche of words in your head.
I am what Emily Dickinson's 'Volcanoes be in Sicily' describes perfectly. A crater of emptiness waiting to blow.
"I judge from my Geography-
Volcanoes nearer here
A Lava Step at any time
Am I inclined to climb-
A Crater I may contemplate
Vesuvius at Home."