"Bhai ajke college-ta kintu jetei hobe. Prochurdin jawa hoyeni. 9-taye Baghajatin."
Ten in the morning. At the bus stand. Take that auto to Garia where we inevitably realise that we are not going to college today. But the question is where do we go then? Presi? JU? Or Aasma? Now, one of the strange things about Aasma is that when pitted against any given destination, the answer is always Aasma. Kind of like a zero-multiplication. Aasma is the philosophical zero/origin of our lives.
Aasma, Baruipur local, beef biriyani, chaap, Chutki and cold drink, take the longest auto-route back to the city. Another auto to JU. Eyes on the JUDE ledge across the hanging bridge. Doyeeta, Bimbo, Suchismita, sometimes the very talented Ragini. Crow-chicken noodle dotted with sperm infused ketchup. Thums up. Some mild coercing later we are off to Golpark. 'Pick up the Shonai' is the name of the game. If she is back from Presi. Then walk to chayer dokan.
Or if it had been some other day we would have taken the metro from Tolly straight to Central. Walk to the Presi canteen. Laddu had to be called from the union room. Shonai had to be called too. Gnaar mein danda was the song of the moment. Yummein, pan-fried momos at Chini's. Steaming cauldron of gastronomic awesomeness for twenty-five rupees. Then, in the afternoon a metro back to Kalighat. Walk to champadir chayer dokan.
So, there were about two courses of action in our lives. Both of which led to the chayer dokan. Simple. But not as simple as it sounds. Poulami, Rommo, Teko, Koushiki. Of course, every day would bring some random person or the other. Some of them would go on to become a part of the group. Some had to be shaken off like dirt, or gym-going gropers. Some times when we had money, there would of course be a party. We would skip the chayer dokan and head straight to Laddu'r shattolah. The hazy Calcutta quiet in the hot summer afternoon stretching out as far as one could see from the window. The guitar, the 5.1 Creative speakers. The Old Monk. The Sun would set and more people would turn up. They talked about their day. About their current crushes, heartbreaks. In the evening the small lamp with the umbrella would be lit up for 'mood-lighting'. Mohiner ghoraguli, bawraa mann and then someone would start playing Pianoman and we would all sing together - voices cracking with sincerity at the line that goes -
"Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinking alone..."
Everyone had their songs. If it was 'Wish you were here' you knew Laddu was going to play it. Then one by one we would leave. I would walk down Southern Avenue. If it was quite late there was always the fear of being followed by transsexual-looking prostitutes. It was okay though. Very often there were not so kind words from the mother. But who gives a shit? We knew, yes we all did, that these times, they are not going to come back. That was the most beautiful thing. All along these five years we were very keenly aware of the fact that this was happiness. There was no doubt about that.
Now when I talk to people in various parts of the country/world they talk about things like 'exposure', about 'keeping the options open' and other vague terms I do not understand. If you asked me, when I see what I love best I just go after it. Yes, I know. I am like one of those irritating people who cross the street in diagonals. Calcutta is where I will be because all I need is to be happy.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ― John Lennon