In the labyrinth of South Calcutta, you may find Surajit behind the receptionist’s desk, as you sit amongst agonized men and women at the dentist’s chamber. In front of you, past issues of India Today and Femina are heaped on the glass-topped centre table. To forget their toothaches, a few of the patients around you try to lose themselves in the magazines, moaning periodically in pain, looking up from the magazine and glancing at the wall clock above Surajit, ticktocking late into the evenings. By eight, the crowd thins down. By eight-thirty, Surajit packs up and leaves for her haunt by the park, to be amongst her dearest friends and chatting late into the night over tea. It’s been a while she’s been working at the chamber. The pay is not bad, though it bothers her when it gets late, when medical representatives visit her employer after chamber hours. But Surajit loves this place, it’s been lucky for her. After all, she met her boyfriend here for the first time ever. And her life wasn’t the same again. At the same cigarette shop, Surajit’s friend Rintu shares her dreams with you. Rintu’s sweet smile never deserting her face; with great excitement, she talks on about her mongoose and how the beloved pet has sweetened her existence. At other times, she shares her dreams with you, dreams of undergoing a gender reassignment surgery. We are all dreamers, we dream day and night; without our dreams, the emptiness of our existence is hollower; to quench our material thirst and to comfort our hunger for emotional closeness, we must keep dreaming on. Dreams, they’re so varied, yet they all seem to be stringed by the common desire for a better life. Dreams of repaying loans, dreams of saving up for hard times, dreams of buying all those clothes that we’ve always thought of buying but never could, these are all dreams which we are all nurturing in our heart silently, from the depth of those matchboxes we call home, the city of matchboxes twinkling with lights, seen from across the glass windows from the claustrophobic interiors of an airplane on hazy late November evenings.
Amongst grief-stricken friends paying tribute to the young filmmaker who left us a little too early, tears run down Julie’s closed eyes as her melancholic Atulprasad song chokes us all with grief. Julie had always nursed the dream of being a famous singer, her dreams left shattered by the heartlessness of our beloved metropolis, where hardship mercilessly smothers great talent ritualistically. But can talent ever be smothered? Or is it perhaps that hardship is that heartless master bringing the best out of a student, sailing through the rough waters of crisis? But then again, aren’t we all sailing through crisis all the time, making lemonade out of life’s limes? In Calcutta’s Panditiya, in a two-room apartment full of loved ones, six-month old Babu, dressed in his milkwhite dhoti and kurta, is sleeping peacefully on his mother’s lap, all eyes on him. He would have his first rice today, after six months of living on his mother’s milk. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and well-wishers have all come to be a part of this ceremony. And sporting the biggest of all smiles, Rono is taking photographs on the family’s KB10 camera. For a long, long time, this rice-feeding ceremony of her brother’s baby would remain the happiest moment of Rono’s life. As the baby giggles on her lap, as the baby falls asleep peacefully, soothed to sleep by her sweet lullaby, life to Rono has never seemed so beautiful.
On empty streets at night, in lonely parks amidst the chirping crickets, in the interiors of the concrete jungles of my beloved city and by the lonely dancing fountain dancing tirelessly like a devdasi, on ancient terraces of rundown mansions and by the station after the last train had passed, in the warmth of night-time abodes and in the laziness of winter festivities, I’ve attempted to chronicle my relationship with my beloved friends and chronicle their relationship with my beloved Calcutta. And like all chronicles, Blue Flower is a work of fiction and like many works of fiction, it will fade away someday soon. What may remain with us one day will probably be the memories of togetherness, spent over endless cups of tea.
(Soham Gupta is a photographer based in Calcutta, exploring loneliness in its various hues. www.soham-gupta.com)