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.