Thursday, December 8, 2011

Judgement Day Blues

For that rush hour traffic's run to eternity when life and death gets dirty in the passenger seat, for that old man whose salvation came in a monthly statement where price of his house tumbled down to that drug-raped girl's dignity, for those beggars by the bridge who look east to see the greatest city of the world and only get to see a million candy-wrapper catching white light and silent light from the sky,I did not want to lose these lines. And for me, of course.

"Of rock and love and heaven above all written in a piece of bread,
She painted a scene of tenderness that humidity might fade.
The decades that passed, in between us, must left some more to lose,
You are eye to eye with someone to die, singin' the judgement day blues.

Jesus walks a vagabond in downtown Newark,
His black face looks merciless in the amber of the dark.
I asked "my lord when the time will come for human soul to choose? "

He flipped me a bird and sang from afar the judgement day blues.

In heart of the hearts, we lived apart, for those days of losing the count,
Some chose the life of 'let-it-be', some chose that blab from the mount.
In the end you lived, neither saint nor a thief -- a train full of
faces so confused

singing in a single line , for one last time, the chorus of the judgement day blues.

An old man chose a busy street to show me the creases of time,
He crossed the path of roaring cars when the heat was so sublime.
His ancient spine, with tales to tale,looked eastward for answers and the clues

Of what went wrong for the city to croon the judgement day blues

Hope lies smeared in a chicken soup in every story of death,
Salvation's in an empty bottle or streets of Nazareth.
The day of calling, this Halloween, how tight is that noose?

Atta boy, sing a final time the judgement day blues. "

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jagjit Singh

And now when you are gone, we can start this obituary with any of those couplets which you weaved to our heart, to our emotion of daily life or to the lack of it.Perhaps that will be like hitting a brick wall with truckload of cliches , specially while remembering a man who proved to be a toned down and 'soothing-to-ear' version of Howard Roark for a century old genre of music.
I can not remember any one couplet that you sang to me. They fritter and fret, take form of butterflies whose dusty wings, if touched, break into sadness of another earth.
They come in a flock. sometimes as colorful as laughter of few dead children from century of happiness, sometimes like the beggar's rags, each little pore talking of life in a rainy day.
And you sang to me. Choosing one couplet from Ghalib and balancing with one of Gulzar, using words of Gods which human's going to forget very soon, bringing works from some oblivious pens at the tips of each lover's tongue, you were that rebel to change the way we hum to our loneliness forever.
And now we uttered loneliness. When I first heard you, on another un-anchored afternoon , restless from the mindless cruelty of heavy metal, an uninvited song filled up my little room with a velvet like serenity. Then there was no stopping until the day dream dried and the purgatory of real life broke my little jar of liquid phosphorus.You still remained somewhere like a dessert in the course of daily life to compensate the otherwise tiring and tasteless meal. You filled up the windows of my car when heat of August swarmed like an old man's rage against death, when a dozing office looked like resting place of world's all the clowns, when my restless day with fleeting attention tried to hold on to a pillowfull of present moment.
And there will be no one. To read Ghazal to me, to put me into sleep with ancient lyrics of longing, to put hope in a hopeless place.
And all these gibberish, all these conscious mourning...someday they will become a song. They will fill the empty sky when a voice--bowed down to the lyrics yet touching each Lavz as memory's first taste of saliva from another woman--sing them to us like hymn of the sun worshipers. That song is worth waiting for. That song to find a place where he can sing without a care in the world, he can sing while playing with each turn and twits of Ghazal,he can sing when the world suddenly becomes a quieter place.
And in that misty morning of quietness, in the other side of chaos and survival, in the next coffee break from the drudgery of purging my soul from the dust and grease of modern times, I choose to live with my personal Jagjit Singh.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Suman Chatterjee: Remember When You Were Young

...You were there.In those teenage days, when life as a meaningless, shapeless drudgery was still an unknown nightmare, when each day , like individuality of freshly minted coins, looked different and exciting. In my little room of 'growing-up-days' you came in 1997, and through my 'T.Rex' cassette player, changed my ear for a song forever.

Songs were for entertainment then. A mass production for an half-ass ignorant masses--Indian songs, beyond its classical heritage, was mostly tied to a movie.The scenario was not different for West Bengal where you dared to stand against the tide-and against all those rotten tomatoes.The rest is an oft-repeated history and urban legend which shaped an entire generation(my generation who grew up in uneventful '90's). That generation still roots for you,and an interview like (this)from those days makes them a little moist around two eyes which seldom got a time for tears in their adult life.

But apart from being a legend who somehow resurrected Bengali songwriting for a certain class of people in West Bengal, what did you mean to me?

Many of my friends picked a thousand different things from your songs. Some found it amazing-the second coming after Rabindranath;some found it a copycat's attempt to imitate the great Dylan, some found it highly imitable (and arguably that "man with a wooden guitar", a new addition to Bengali's fantasy-gallery of Romantic male, gave birth to myriad 'Bengali' rock bands whose cacophony died as soon as college was over and lead singer made his voice hoarse by waiting for an interview in the August sun).

For me you opened an window. A very big one. A boy who never lived in a city, it was his first peek at the by-lanes and neighborhoods of Calcutta. It was his first peek at other side of a song which can go beyond that universal vending machine of 'selling' love and talk about anger, hope and heartbreak of contemporary times, of contemporary Bengal. Yet it was the very first time of knowing that love songs can be so much tender yet so much closer to daily life of common people. You gave me imagery which till now no one else in the world of great lyrics been able to give--image of that common man and his eternal war to live another day, image of a rusty, unkempt urban park and so many microcosms around it which left invisible to our ignorant, hazy eyes, image of an ancient writer's walk through the rural roads of beauty--countless image, countless words. Only for you, the crows feet at the corner of my eyes will always teach me a 'trigonometry' of different kind, only for you my hope will always stand like two lovers or like a mother who lost her son and about to make her dead son's bird free from the cage.

In the end, with all these images, with pirouetting of your pen to make a much-used Bengali phrase or adjective sound like first surprise of human kind, you cursed me. You cursed an entire generation who will live with your songs ringing in the head. For them there was no bigger idol, bigger soothsayer who would utter deeper than the ocean emotions, truer than the fire protest songs and tender than a beautiful woman's midday slumber love songs. They will search every nook and corner to find a better pen than yours, they will compare in their head each new form of music they encounter, they will live with your poems in myriad pedantic efforts of imitation. You will be gone then. Pens given its knee down to politics, head given its blue sky to the pit of the stomach. But , on a day like today, when the evening brings some emotions for which all the men of the world can not find a word in the dictionary, my mind reaches out to those years of growing up. Nobody tells thanks to his father, but take a bow for being the guiding light of that threshold of a life which learned to live beyond 'eat-shit-die' because...

Friday, July 22, 2011

BORDERS : Everything Passes, Everything Changes

Borders gonna close( Here). What will happen to the gigantic one they have as the doorway to the Madison Square Garden? What will happen to the one they have on the Magnificent Mile of Chicago? What will happen to the one they have at the middle of nowhere, by northbound I-90 in Florida? What about the one in one of the small airports?
What about the ones where my working man's soul discovered Richard Yates? or DC Comics? or New Yorker ? or Chuck Palanihuk and then bought it with a glee knowing that the grease of his dollar bill's been well spent as Borders with its coupon had the lowest (and well justified) price for a book.

Those stores, my bookstores(One in Deerfield,IL, one in Highland Park ) started to shut down somewhere from last year. Borders somehow chose to die like a slasher movie victim with each of its organs getting a well schemed maiming until liquid death fills up the screen.
And then came the final blow last Friday as my mailbox-in its nonchalant bits and bytes-showed the final coupon from Borders, an invitation to be the vulture on its dying body.
Almost like a living cliche from one of those movies where a letter, a page from a forgotten book or a news opens a long sequence of sepia colored flashback,I got all those vivid scenes playing at some quarter of my brain where teardrops are still a thing or two to consider.
Images of that long wooden staircase in Deerfield's store and it's mile long shelves of DVDs. Images of the overcrowded one at the footstep of the 'Garden' where I had to sit on the vent at the bottom of the windows when Manhattan flows like a turgid river on my back.
And images of a girl who once worked in now-dead Highland Park downtown's small yet extremely cozy Borders. Her earnestness in a 98% white area where none has seen an Asian working in customer service before, her last shift that ended at 10:30 on more than one January nights when mercury had an ungraceful fall to the floor,her small world filled up with new friends who would soon become jobless.

Time for a Kindle? Time for finding another bookstore which in its false elite ambiance would serve the same old book with price marked few notches higher? The wheel of capitalism marches on and next time my unmindful head makes me to take that turn on Seventh Ave, I know shapeless void of a bookstore will be waiting for me thru those large and dirty windows and doors where once life used to make an entry and an exit every other minute.
You flicker your unbelieving eyes--the emptiness fills up with many ghost crowds, ghost smells of new books, ghost sound of laughter and whisper and the mini-storm sound of a tired coffee machine. You flicker it again--and before midday's swamp of tourists gulps you like a small dot in a Pissaro painting---you realize, Borders is gone. Forever.