Category Archives: Writing

Lists all my fiction and non-fiction work.

Political consciousness of the common (wo)man

I think who we end up becoming as individuals, especially, the basic values that we imbibe in ourselves: kindness, optimism, pessimism, insecurity, political awareness etc. are very much informed by the early conditioning in our homes.

In West Bengal, maybe, my family stands out as an anomaly, because we never had detailed political debates in the house. Even if there were any such discussions between the parents and grandparents many years ago, it wasn’t discussed in front of us. Maybe this was so because my father was away at the shop for over 14 hours a day and my mother was too busy taking care of the house and the kids. None of my parents ever actively supported any party, never campaigned for any local leader of a given party or raised funds for party.

The mandate I had growing up was hide myself in my books and even if the house was on fire your focus should not be diverted. I dare say that I have done this very well, you’d need to work really hard to get my attention when I am busy with something.

But as you get out of your home, meet new people and new cultures, you wonder what is it that you should be busy with. Should you be part of the ongoing political debate that you see overflowing all around you? Or should you put your head down and just focus on your work (similar to what you did as a kid with your books)?

For the longest time, I did the latter. In my defense, I do find the current political environment in India distasteful, to put it mildly. I see a lack of leaders who one can be inspired by. I see a lack of representation of the causes that I personally deem important. To give an example, I see very little representation of sustainability in political speeches. While on the other hand, the century-old debates on religious fault lines are still at centerstage, even though for a good chunk of the population, religion has very little impact on the day to day life. I suppose though my views are urbane and I do not see how my religion defines me. Perhaps in a more rural setting, religion does define your identity. Even so, should that be the cause the common people should be bothered about when the world around them has changed so much?

The tendency to give religious or caste-based color to topics which are far removed from being any of those things has become so prominent.

When you live in such a day and age, not to have a political view becomes difficult. Because now, that student has become a corporate professional who pays taxes. She does feel the pinch when the price of her hard work goes straight into income tax but does not necessarily translate to the kind of reforms she wants to see in the society.

I’m fortunate to have a few left-oriented friends who often provide a counterfoil to my centrist, liberal views. It makes you wonder what would a different world view look be. It makes you think of the larger picture into the future and form your own political philosophies. To that end, I have purchased The Communist Manifesto. Perhaps, there will be another post in which I share my thoughts on the book, but for today, all I can say is: “Interesting.”

Longing

If there was a chance, I’d linger.

But we have been walking

On vastly different paths

And each day, so far

Even though we are

Who we are,

Smile as we speak,

Speak as we think;

In each other, we exist,

There are growing microchasms

Unseen to the naked eye.

Little molecules,

Lost in the vortex of the Universe,

We are in a centrifugal storm.

Each day, the parts of Us

That existed

In each other, cease to be.

We smile, knowing that the paths

Will suddenly take an abrupt turn,

And there can be only moving on;

There can be no pause.

No moment to look into your eyes

And talk about the deep longing in my heart

No moment to let you know

That if there was a chance,

If only you’d let me,

I’d linger

For a journey we can walk together.

And meet at a secret spot

Many years later

When everyone has stopped to look.

If only you’d let me

Know that I’d linger.

Know that I’d wait

As we both

Separately, wait for a conjoined Fate.

© 2020 Arpita Pramanick

Adulting

Being an adult is not an easy task. Of course, when you are a kid, you don’t even think about it. You think about what you want and the fact that you want to achieve them. But the older you grow, you learn that getting what you want to get comes with its price tag. You have to make compromises, you have to make decisions. Decisions which are always not black and white. It’s a constant dilemma of weighing pros and cons of every decision. If nothing, you end up feeling like a weighing machine! 😛

When you are an adult, you realize sleep is the best thing that can happen to you. Sleep is magical. When you sleep, the biological fairy waves her magic wand and wounds heal and tissues repair. And you wake up brand new, fresh, ready to take on any challenge that the adult world throws at you.

When you are an adult, you learn to look at the impact of your decisions in the light of how it impacts others. It’s not easy to do, because even though it means you are more sensitive to the needs of others, sometimes it also means choking the throat of your own desires. When you are an adult, there is no time to think about your deepest desires, because the world may not consider them proper.

But having said that, in an adult world, you live in waves of possibilities. You could be an influencer. You can find the best of both worlds. You can be a great weighing machine. When you are an adult, you have a choice. You have a choice of weighing the pros and cons, and you have the capacity to identify the pros and cons. When you are an adult, you are not at the beck and call of anyone.

The world is your canvas, and as an adult, you can paint anything you want in it.

The Dichotomy of Creators | An Essay

You know there comes this phase in life for all creative people where they are trying to discover their styles? That point you don’t know where your ground lies, what is it that you are trying to express and what is the right medium to express yourself?

When a plant is born from a seed, does it know what it is meant to grow for?

I’m kind of going through that phase. We are alive in a century when anything and everything seems possible. There are so many ways today to express yourself. You could write, you could paint. You could take pictures, you could tattoo your body black. You could cook and make your dishes look beautiful. You could make movies, produce songs, produce music. You could just talk, become a speaker. You could write poems, you could perform your poetry. You can act, you can dance. You can be a digital artist, you can make animation, you can make cartoon or magic worlds. The possibilities are endless.

When the seed pushes against the soil, the soft, gradual push of the tissues, does it know that it’d come to see a world of sunlight, a world of the pleasant monsoon breeze?

As far as I can remember, I have expressed myself creatively through my writing. I have a special bond with the pen/pencil/keyboard. That’s something that I have perfected over the years. When back in 2011, I was on writing.com, I came across so many different styles of poetry, so many different styles of prose. “Baby shoes. For Sale. Never Worn.” And even to this day, writing remains my primary form of thinking (unless of course, when I am walking and thinking to myself, or talking to someone and thinking out loud). But over the years, I have come to realize that sometimes I want to express myself through something more than writing. Something more visual, something more auditory (auricular). So, I bought a camera and I clicked photos and made videos. I added sounds to the videos and I found my peace. For a while.

How does the first wisp of breeze feel on a newly born leaf?

But then, I realize that making videos has something very closely to do with the world around us. That world is peopled by peoples, by rules, by regulations, by fashion, by money, by trade, by technology. By history, by politics, by biology, by physics. By relationships. By reference systems. It is a complex world. It is a multi-dimensional world. I am thankful I have the five senses to grasp this world. But at any given point in time, can I truly grasp it in all the dimensions that it exists in? As-is? Simply grasp the world as it exists?

The baby plant continues to grow – by some prehistoric rule-set that dictates its growth, encoded in its DNA. It does not have the ability to think, to shape how it grows. It merely responds to the stimuli the world provides it. The direction of the sun, the kind of the soil.

Existing as a human in this world is complex, if not difficult. We are fighting to maintain status quo. We are fighting to destroy status quo. We are hungry to find a new world. We want to travel back in time and explore the era of corsets and kings and monarchs. We want to be free in choosing who we love. We want to be fit and not give in to the sedentary modern lifestyle. But if you are a creative person, sometimes, the world feels even more complex. Because you are not just trying to live it. You are trying to understand it.

And so… the plant can become a tree, without bothering to understand the world around it. It could be a dumb, blind witness to generations of life forms, and still be in a healthy state. 

And so, I envy the seed. I envy the plant. I envy the tree. I envy every simple life form that can exist without having the obligation to understand. To be understood. Yet, when I am feeling lucid and I can write what I exactly feel in the depths of my tissues (without knowing if it’s the heart, or the brain or the chemical reactions in the nervous system that allows me to do it), I feel grateful that I am a higher form of life. I am human. And that’s something to be grateful for.

Some nights speak to you in poetry…

Some nights speak to you. It sits with you, as you hug yourself and tell yourselves lullabies.

Some nights watch you like a predator, a big cat in the night. Shiny eyes sparkling through a tiny gap in the bush.

Some nights writhe in pain, and ask you questions. Why? Why? Why? The sound of your heartbeats. Dum-dum-dum-dum-da-dum-dum.

Some nights listen to you as you tell the stories.

Some nights break into a million tears, and vermilion paints the sky red.

Some nights the moon is oddly absent, and big cities do not see the soul of an owl.

Some nights gasps for breath, as you await the final word.

Some nights, after all is said and done, and goodbyes float, some nights, they lull you to peace.

 

Date: 23rd March, 2019

Written within half an hour of watching Masaan. Inspired.

Why would you make actors act if you don’t point the camera at them? Sometimes, it is good.

The City-Dweller’s Diary | Part 1

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Every year in March, the non-evergreens shed their leaves. They shed a year of growth, tiredness, hard work, boredom, memories and lifelessness and go on to become homes to tiny neon-green leaflets. To become young again. To make more memories, to produce more oxygen, to become homes to countless birds, insects and squirrels. Year after year. Growth. Death. Renewal.

As humans, we don’t have a symbolic growth aspect. Our everyday is merged with our regularity. There probably isn’t one single moment which defines a significant change in life. It is gradual. Full of hopes. Full of fears. A literal step ahead, literal two steps backward.

Yet, over the years, our cells are constantly regenerating themselves. Our memories are become weaker – we are inadvertently forgetting some, forgiving some. We are becoming more accepting of the world around us – we are learning to live and let live. The hair is turning grey, and muscles are no longer taut. Yet, we morph into a version of ourselves which is less insecure of how the world sees us.

Traveler, behold! If you made a promise to yourself and never followed through: well, there’s a non-evergreen in everyone of us. Somewhere inside of yourself, you are shedding those leaves. Perhaps you don’t see yet, the growth of those neon-green leaflets. But in the moment you decide to wake up half an hour earlier to see the sunrise, to donate your old clothes to folks who need them more than you, in the moment when you let someone else take the lift because it is full and they are late, when you help a child to learn the alphabet – you grow a neon-green leaflet. Small. Fragile. So much so that it could break. Yet, in it lies the potential to grow bigger, stronger, the provider of purity that sustains the world.

So close your eyes, and nurture the neon-green. Because, at the end of the month, a deeper shade awaits you. Every moment. Every year.

Is this my life?

Note: This piece is part of Creative Writing series.

I am walking on a lonely road. The road is not dark. It is illuminated by the yellow lamps of the shops on the side. It is populated by people walking beside me, ahead of me, people on the other side. I do not know any of them. I do not speak most of their language.

I live in a solitary room. The walls are far away from each other. From the window, I hear rain fall on leaves of trees. I can hear crows caw if I wake up from a nightmare in the morning. I live on my own. I do not speak. I watch my life unfold in text messages, social media posts. I do not really do anything – I do not take decisions. I feel confused: at what point in life do you intervene the river of life and try to course it to the tune of your free will? At what point do you take charge?

Life is passing by. I fight my poor posture, keep straightening my back which invariably slumps back to a more comfortable but potentially harmful position. My teeth ache from time to time, I keep postponing the visit to the dentist. I think under my bed the plastic bowl of food is still lying. I did not cook today. I do not feel like it. I eat junk knowing fully well that is not what I should be doing.

Days are passing by. The love I care about flit through my grasp. I look at his picture on my phone, knowing well that it is futile. We are not meant for each other. Yet, sometimes, most times, in fact, every day, I lie in my bed, hoping for miracles to happen, while somehow being fully aware that the odds are steeped against me. In fact, there has never been the promise of a relationship.

I am at a fork in my life, slouching through it. On my morning walks, I meet the squirrels on the boundary of my apartment. I do not have any relationship with them. I want to Google what squirrels eat, but I do not know if they will come near me even if I take them food they like to eat. I do not wish to take chances. Somehow, I do not want to influence anything. Somehow, I just want to let life run its course, and watch it like a passive audience.

Is this my life? Or is this the shadow of someone else’s life that I am living?

Uniquely Bengali

I am Bengali – I belong from a state in India which is well known for its confusing political state, its obssession with fish, intellectual addas, chopsingaramuri, its contribution to Indian Cinema, music, its extravagant Durga puja and so on. It is a beautiful state, but who doesn’t feel that way about their birth places?

But beyond all this, what is the underlying motif of being Bengali, of being part of a Bengali household? This will differ a little bit depending on which area you are from, but here’s how I see Bangaliayana as:

Being Bengali is waking up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4-4.30 AM, freshening up and heading for a morning walk with a translucent polythene bag. The men may wear shorts and sports shoes, but the womenfolk tread on in their pumps and sarees and their petticoats and blouses, sweating profusely through them. The polythene bag acts as a storage of all the flowers that they will pick up on their walk, sometimes over a little chat with the neighbor whose trees they are picking the flowers from, sometimes secretly, making sure no one sees them in their flower-picking exercise. These little furtive activities sometimes make for the most pleasurable experiences for a Bengali soul.

Being Bengali means standing in the line in front of the dairy or the meat shop, bargaining for the best pieces of mutton: chest, leg pieces etc. Being Bengali means going to the market for the fresh vegetable produce and fish, before everyone else had picked it up.

Being Bengali means the occasional fast on a plethora of festivals, to appease the 33 lakh gods the Hindus pray to: Manasa pujo, Bipottarini pujo, Shitala pujo. Being Bengali means making luchi and payesh to break that fast, and distributing small portions of those as well as the auspicious threads to tie on the wrists among the neighbors.

Being Bengali means gossip for the womenfolk as they do their dishes and shout out from the windows to the neighbor – whose daughter was not going getting married yet in spite of looking for grooms for the past year, whose son failed in the exam because he fell into bad company, whose children don’t look after their parents after having comfortably settled in Germany, whose mother-in-law is too quarrelsome and makes life hell for the young wife. Being Bengali means womenfolk sitting on moras in winter, with the December sun lusciously teasing their backs with cozy warmth, as they knit mittens and sweaters for their grandchildren.

Being Bengali means conch shells blowing in the evening, along with the burning of incense sticks and ululating women. It means the mandatory arati of the tulsi plant, which is regarded as the sacred plant and is part of every Bengali household.

Being Bengali means prodding the children away from the television as dusk falls, to their study rooms, because the mothers and the grandmothers will now watch the serials that have been continuing over ages, and also because, everyone wants their children to be doctors and engineers and they have to beat Mr. Sen’s daughter in maths.

Being Bengali means the machher jhol ar bhaat ar akta ruti for dinner. It means leaving the dishes in the sink for the cleaning lady to grumble over the next morning. It means the tucking of the mosquito net under the mattress of every bed, irrespective of mosquitos being in the season or not.

These little snapshots in time, in my eyes, are uniquely Bengali. This is what I know my Bengali households as. I know, like every other community we have our faults and failings, but hey, every little fault makes us who we are: human. And do we excel at that!

The past that lingers on…

I am in my hometown, Durgapur, on a break for a week. It is the month of monsoon, and what greeted me first was the all-encompassing greenery and the damp weather. Durgapur primarily has a tropical climate: hot, sweaty, sticky. For the most of Summers the city is brown, but with the advent of monsoons, the shrubs and bushes and the trees claim the land – it is no short of an invasion. The bright, rich green is unashamed in its exploitation, and claims every inch of the land it can touch. It has a raw quality to it which soothes the eye and makes me remember the years in which human beings lived in jungles.

Durgapur is where I grew up, went to school, played with friends. It is a well planned city, with mostly good, wide roads lined with trees. The neigborhoods are calm and silent. Traditionally, people used to work in the steel plant that Durgapur is famous for. Nowadays, kids study and move out of the city all the time, settling down in different parts of the country, and sometimes, even the world. Durgapur has a few good schools which lay the foundation for good careers. Today, while I was on my morning walk, I saw schoolkids in variety of uniforms, in buses, pool cars, on parents’ scooters and bikes, rushing towards school. One of the girls was behind her father on the scooter and she had a bunch of papers in her hand that she was studying; probably for a test at school. This took me back to my school days, when I used to climb onto the school bus, and find myself a seat next to the window and go over the copies one more time before we reached school. The world has changed a lot since I graduated from schools: I did not own a mobile phone until I went to college. But to see that still some things remained same – some kids to this day are as studious that I used to be – was weirdly satisfying. Note that now that I am grown up and have seen how professional life works, I realize that the number of hours put in studying is not always proportional to professional success and I would probably not encourage my kids to study while we were dropping them to school, but nonetheless, it is interesting to see that my hometown to this day remains similar to how I saw it growing up.

On my morning walks, I also walk beside the fair ground which hosts the Annual Rath Yatra to celebrate Lord Jagannath’s visit to his aunt’s house. In my childhood, this ground used to be a place of wonders: lots of snacks places, shops which sold cheap jewellery: necklaces and rings with shiny stones, toy shops which sold trains and cars and dolls and tiny houses. There was also a book fair, which was my favorite haunt. I used to wait for the entire year to buy one book at the book fair and read it many times in the coming months, over a bowl of muri and samosas. Today, when I walk through the narrow lanes of the fair ground, all I can see is the amount of dirt on the sides of the road and the crowd. It bothers me, even though as a child I looked forward to it. Today, I feel more at peace at home, enjoying the silence of the rooms I grew up in, sometimes going through the diaries I kept when I was younger.

Every time I come home now, I discover a piece of myself in those old notes in the diaries; I understand the things which drove me as a child, the things which made me happy. I miss the prayer ceremonies at school, where all the school kids stood in lines, as per their classes and in order of their heights, singing songs that glorified the country and the state and the mother tongue. I miss the ceremonies we used to host in the school where I played the role of an anchor, guiding the ceremony to a successful end. I miss standing on the stage to make a speech (even though it was something that made me immensely uncomfortable). I miss dressing up in sarees and bangles and wearing make-up and flowers in the hair for the occasional dance performance. These things are no longer there in my life – somewhere, I have lost the creative influence that surrounded my childhood likes clouds around a snow-capped mountain. I miss it and I crave it and I want to become part of something similar again.

In all my writing, I have realized, there is a craving for the past, of something that exists in my memory (sometimes in the vague, muddy manner that is characteristic of dreams). It feels strange that I have lived through my childhood and it is really over, for in my heart, I somehow never grew up.

Stories are powerful

As a kid, when anyone came into our house, I used to bug them to tell me stories. I don’t quite remember the stories that my these people told me anymore. Looking back, I don’t even understand why I wanted to listen to those stories. As it was, it was not the age of deep thinking. I guess what I craved for was a a glimpse into a world that was not mine, something different, something wonderful.

I began writing for my school magazine in my third grade. The first few years were poems, and then I graduated to writing fiction. I was never good with storytelling; even today, I am not. I derive heavily from the life that I am part of, which is why, my stories are always, in some form, about me. I know for a fact, I could never spin up a world like Harry Potter’s. I think I do not have the imaginative mind to do it.

I have not written stories in a long time, even though I want to. I have always wanted to write good stories. But somehow, I always struggle with a good ending. Or if I have the right ending, I don’t know the story that led to that ending. Sometimes, I feel I am too young, I have not seen life enough to write anything meaningful.

It impacts how my relationship with this blog has also changed over time. There was a point when I wrote anything and everything here. These days, I don’t feel like writing unless I really feel like I have something to say. Even that is filtered to an extent. A lot of my writing are now personal, diary entries in a folder in my laptop. At this stage of life, that’s what feels right.

When I was younger, stories were independent things, with a life of limited duration. They began in the time that I started reading a book or someone started telling a story and ended when the story ended. The life of the story was within the duration of when it was told. But as I grew, as I watched movies and TV series, as I read more books (currently reading The Kite Runner), I realize that the stories we watch/read become a part of our everyday life. They somehow manage to creep into the fabric of our lives, and come back to us in their own time or affect the way we deal with our lives. As I grow, I realize, we all are also living some form of stories. Why do we want to be friends with different types of people? Because we want to witness a version of life that we are not living. We want to see how different life can be, when the actors are different. We take lessons from other people’s lives, we discover ourselves in the lens of other people’s lives. That’s why we write stories. That’s why we read stories.

Even businesses, at the end of the day, are stories. When you have a bunch of data and want to find some insights from it, what do you do? You try to visualize a story that the data can help you tell. That’s what analytics is all about. That’s why modern corporates stress so much on the art of storytelling. Analysis, done in silos, findings found in disparate chunks of data, do not make any sense unless they tie to the story that depicts the current state of the business, or tells it where it wants to go.

That’s why storytelling is powerful. That’s why art will always be counterpart of science.