I do not sleep
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the gentle Autumn rain
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds
I am the soft stars that shine at night
I did not die
New York City has a delicate imperfection to it, naked and painfully vulnerable. It can confound, charm, smother, anger and arouse the most sullen nights; tug and heave till the coldest are left singed by it’s sheer fervor, throbbing and relentless. It is bluntly unapologetic about the dirt on the sidewalks, the overpriced stores and the vacillating weather. And most of all, it’s fiercely proud of it’s people. The single mom, the self important shopper, the hassled waiter, the teen rebel, the rowdy drunk, the pretty whore. It’s somebody's and everybody’s place to be. From the high heels on fifth avenue to the dumpling soup in chinatown, the neons lining broadway and the fall colors in central park, it manages to slake every parched soul that strays into it, yet leaving one famished and delirious for more. It fails to warrant any emotion in moderation but that’s the thing about this city, it has a way of generating comfort in the unlikeliest of places, weaving magic with it’s little New York moments, built, broken and bulit again, in a heartbeat.
"One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. "
I was looking at our bookshelf. It’s a wooden thing, hiding the wall and its stains. It used to be shiny. But it’s tired now. There must be some few hundred books there. Borrowed, bought, forgotten. It still sparkles sometimes, when the letters on the jackets are legible, when I stand on the sofa and reach for one, when we switch on the bright lights above. It’s like a distended pocket we’ve tailored to house all the books lying around. I’ll miss the bookshelf. And a million other things which I’ve started to pick and keep with me and see me through this change.
Now that I leave in a month, I’ve started packing.
The noisome fumes at the public urinal, a sting of betel juice and tamarind from the chaat vendor, the heady fuel vapors at the petrol pump, the familiar odor of dust that’s settled on the book hawkers lining golpark, the whiff of mustard on the succulent roadside fish fry and a thousand other smells of hurried people and lazy sunday mornings, trams and rickshaws and gutter sewage, all packed into one little resilient bubble of familiarity inside me.
The other day, I crossed the kalighat metro station. It was Sunday and the shutters were down. I felt something interred deep within me move, an insipid yellowed photograph that started to twinkle. And suddenly the delight and dismay; impatience, relief, anxiety and the countless other little bits of me associated with that ten minute commute to college became infinitely dear in a single fleeting pang of clarity.
Then my car started to move, and I was lost again.
Leaving isn’t tricky, letting go is. But I’ll pick the scab in one painful flourish, because I know there’s new skin below.
Someone asked for a line on what the Department of Microbiology at St. Xavier’s College means to me.
My first true sense of competence with an incubated petriplate, my first experience of delving into knowledge at its very best, my first taste of harmony in turmoil, my first second home.
Pathetically limp. It’s like trying to trap sunshine for the dark nights.