What’s in your mind, #1

We live in a world that is devoid of privacy. You don't need to be an expert to tell you that nothing you do is hidden anymore. The adrenaline rushes now for things that were once considered laissez faire, like the sparkling stream of water in a little brook that dreams of tasting brine of a vast ocean, only to find out once it leaves the blessing of the mountain that there's a steel and concrete dam waiting for it to lash onto and fade. But we are not as vibrant as a river. Or we are, maybe, maybe I'm too cynical to see the warmth. But there has been a fundamental shift to the way we operate, if I'm allowed to say the word operate at all. Human beings in general love to gloat in the pointlessness of superiority, and hence the fancy terms are reserved for only them – thus behaviour becomes religion, operation becomes characteristics, and lust becomes

Love.

The sneaky ways of love; the pleasure of holding hands during a public ceremony; the quick sweep of eyes with a single second or two of overlap between all four; riding the same bus, amidst a sea of people, standing or sitting a few paces apart – nervous smiles if a parent is nearby, telling all sorts of creative excuses to bunk school or college (one of my excuse-friends would have built at least ten computers with the parts he supposedly bought during those two college years that he, again, supposedly, had to be accompanied to buy them from Chandni Chawk- the sprawling electronics ghetto of Kolkata. What I would invariably end up doing is to swap trains at a junction, wrestle in the queue to get a subway ticket, ride the metro and then arrive at another Mecca of getting spotted by our relatives – Exide More), these things are rarities these days. People thrive on revealing their personal lives- vlogging is in rage, you Snapchat every moment of your existence, and in an especially morbid example a woman videoed an accident and her sister dying, without any remorse whatsoever. There is an almost alien nonchalance rampant in us these days. Like we don’t care. People are happy to let go of life’s tiny surprises, just to check another box that doesn’t mean anything in the long run. Dumb nostalgia it may sound like, but during my initial struggling days in office, my respite used to be the faint tolling of wind chimes from a dark,obscure, sleeping balcony – in a sweep it used to take my mind off the grueling day. I used to write a lot of poetry back then, a lot of nonsensical hapless romantic stuff : stuff I realized came from my innate longing for love.

The 'Knight in Shining armour' syndrome in me had made me a magnet of sorrows, I told to a dear friend of mine, and she shuddered with the thought that her plight would make me slip a few more steps in that endless spiral that I've been climbing all my life. I saw a warmth that was unmistakable, since during my life of continuous good-boy struggles I had received quite a few jar-fulls of them. These are those little wind chimes now that I seek after every crushing blow to the gut, after the panic attack I thought I had conquered decides to come back one day unannounced, wrecking an otherwise perfect afternoon. Movement has been limited for me; I can’t go to a movie theatre, I can’t go on long drives – the list is endless. The fear in the unconscious is relentless. As much as my distractions work, there’s a feeling inside me that this comes from a very different, primal place, that somehow saps the juice from my little stash of happiness. It’s a different beast.

A monster that I need to subjugate.

Welched in a bog, our feelings of togetherness is a rotten memory. The civilization is too fragmented to stand together, and the only bond is nature. Not just any nature, our nature. We seek comfort in each other. We seek validation from others. This inner feelings need to come forward to sew this planet together. Before it all falls apart. Before everybody goes to the rapture.

We must try.

What remains of Edith Finch : What really remains

Indie games are winning.

In an era where major AAA gaming franchises are either strained cash cows or a mass-marketing grand fiasco, indie games are continuing to hold the benchmark flags high. Video games to me are story driven pieces of art, an amalgamation of smart level design, breathtaking atmosphere and intuitive combat. At its core is story and gameplay mechanics. Somehow this notion seems to be unknown to even accomplished studios and people helming them (Peter Mollyneaux comes to mind). As a result we end up getting a lot of games that are unfinished. Either great story, or great combat, or a memorable soundtrack, but very few times coming together to create an unforgettable experience.

Last year, Firewatch became the raging point of discussion amongst the gaming community. A walking simulator as critics labeled games like these, Firewatch told a story that was emotional and lacked any fluff whatsoever. It was blunt and extended the right amount. Conservative in its frame narration and removing any sort of superhuman notion (which games like CoD and Battlefield have been famously known for), the game provided a riveting insight into the human psyche, painting a picture that was to last quite a while. Firewatch to me was the best game of the year, followed closely by another gem, Inside.

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What remains of Edith Finch is a different take on the Firewatch genre, but it keeps the core ideas same and evolves on the concept. Telling the story of a decaying family from the perspective of its youngest member is quite a task to take on, and this game hits it out of the park. This is not so much a game as it is an experience, a soul wrenching at that. There is an unbridled joy in freedom of expression, in freedom to choose life and death and the realities that surround us, and visiting every Finch, knowing their fate through their own words is both harrowing and spectacular. The monsters that consume them eventually are their own creations : fame, desperation, despair, fear, delusion, craving — and most of all, a relentless pursuit of their realities.

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The ending to it all was not as sad as I thought it would be, but the individual stories left a deep mark on me. After I finished this short game, the haunting, minimal soundtrack kept on harping on familiarities that I didn’t want to dig up. Somewhere I longed for my family, my own bunch of loonies with their own fallacies and their own perceptions.

This is where Edith Finch succeeds in telling a story, and being an art. It makes you think : of all possibilities that could have been, and whether we maketh our destinies or our destinies maketh us. At one point I contemplated on whether I should write it all down and get it off my chest, but this in its current state is absolutely worth experiencing.

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What remains of Edith Finch ends up telling us whatever remains of us and people we care for, in a way I have never seen told before through the world of gamepads and keystrokes.

Best Game of 2017, yet.

Nothing really matters

Ultimately, nothing matters.

All these efforts you put in to make your life happy, your loved ones content – just burns down one day, in one moment’s brisk wind, and then the ashes pile up on you and you choke. Mercy, never comes. What comes is a fourth degree burn, looking at the watery eyes and a face in so much pain that your soul writhes. Yet you are a creature of habit, a slave of conscience that is bound to make mistakes. And ultimately those mistakes form your hell, your doom, whatever you call it.

Better snuff the lights, man, it’s getting too bright in here – said nobody, yet at times the scorching rays of the sun char your skin and you can’t protest. Not because you’re mute – you’ve given it all and you’ve come short. The end result is that you’ve become such an asshole that now the world you built around you has thrown you out to the dogs. You, you alone has to fend of the harshities of life now, all alone, watching your loved ones in pain because of you and then not because of you. Both of them hurt equally, and make you bleed.

Ultimately though, nothing matters. You’re but a cosmic mistake, a blatant blasphemy on this speck of a planet, a vile scoop of soul sundae. Your arguments are invalid and out of date and shape. The long walks through the shopping malls through jungles of amused people makes you realize that they don’t matter either, that they just exist as background noise, to give your story of imperfection some color and a palette, as do you for their novels. Friends are just as convoluted messes as you are, some fake, hiding under a facade, and then some that are truly lost, believing they can save a drowning existence.

But you’ve already drowned. The tar is in your lung, the rotten carcass is already showing. You’ve just put on a new coat. You’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet.

My head becomes lighter, my visions dizzy. The water drops, warm and still poisoned with feelings – from the eyes I am watching. Those eyes mean everything to me, but I know in the end everything is going to consume me, like love does, and leave nothing but dust.

I’m slowly walking towards nothingness, and she is too.

Rust

Lacquered in a comatose white and gray, the auburn thatched mud houses look like the ruins of a terracotta army, battered by time. But they stand hollow, their windows stolen, their doors eaten by nature.
When the vicious jungle wind blows from the dry riverbed and passes through this necropolis, a howl ensues that tears open the naked breast of the rainforest.

Guineafowls peck little mites from the bones scattered across the plateau. Skeletal hands holding rifles, books, bags.

Or other hands.

A century ago, this patch of dense green had leopards, lions, tigers, elephants, wild buffaloes. Trapped between the bullets of sixty years of ferocious monarchy and the peculiarity of human masculine pride, the animals have traveled to become busts, adorned in the living rooms of the richest.

Time has crushed the biggest of kingdoms. The Kings and Queens have died. Revolution had taken place.

Then the rebels became rulers, and the first thing they did was to put every opposing butterfly to the waiting guillotine. Carnivals were named on dead men and women, their blood gushing through the river. That river has dried up into a valley of rust, where souls without salvation wander.

This used to be a good world. But then good worlds barely lasted.


He loved light. Like the flicker of sunlight that fell on his eyes, making their way between her flowy hair and salwar-clad shoulders, while he fiddled with poetry, lying on her lap.

This city of broken bridges ate small-time love like theirs, people said. They didn’t pay heed. Reckless as the monsoon, their love was devoid of any measured steps.

Five years later, the light had returned in his life. As he was slowly watching her body being engulfed in the pyre, he thought why he loved light so much, only to realize that it wasn’t light that he loved.

On that cold November night, two souls had melted into the darkness.

Only the city remained, ravenously waiting for its next victim, throwing poetry in the air as lures.

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Let’s talk about Love

I am a hapless romantic. No matter how hard the outer cynical, nonchalant shell becomes, there are always some things that I cannot overlook. Even in the days when my mood is as inclement as a pre-norwester weather, simple things often coo their presence and put a smile on my face. Remembering a particular morning when I was en route to Ganesh Chandra Avenue, the mecca to all things eletronic in Kolkata, and was in a particularly foul mood. The hour-long journey from my place to the city in the local train was as exhaustive as travelling through a cattle van, not only because there were way too many people on board, but most of them moved and behaved like biped bovine.

On my way, I was walking through the bustling footpaths that were often home to all sorts of people – hawkers, homeless, the mischievous and the charlatan,  and the common beggars and loonies. On other days, this common fixture didn’t bother me, but on that day, I saw something amidst them that made me pause for a while.

A little baby was lying on his back a sheet of torn cloth, barely enough for his little toddling body. His eyes were beautifully rounded by gracious lines of kajal; and his toothless smile was a stark contrast to the paltry conditions where he was in. A few paces away, his mother, probably a sweeper, worked on making lunch from the spoils of a vegetable shop. He, unperturbed, smiled away at whomever looked at him.

No matter how much annoyed I was then, drenched in sweat and my despair, at that moment, I couldn’t keep myself away from smiling. The more I smiled, the more the kid smiled back. In the end, I walked away from that scene happy, content that the world still made sense. That pure love was still a thing.

Being the fat, shy guy I was (and still am), getting my courage up to actually propose a girl was completely out of the picture for me. That and my reluctance to discuss my personal life, coupled with the complete lack of any social media (Orkut was in rage those days, but I wasn’t that involved until later on) gave my friends plenty to speculate about my potential girlfriend. I remember walking into such a conversation during my second year in the college, only to be slightly amused.

Interestingly, in my entire life of about thirty summers, girls that I have proposed to always turned me down, whereas I always accepted any proposals that came my way. How much that speaks about the certain desperateness of mine, you’re only to judge. I am also very fortunate that both the women who proposed to me turned out to be amazing, and shaped my life in a major way. One, the latest (if you call nine years latest, that is), is going to be ma femme very soon.

But my love isn’t bound to flesh and blood entities. I am drawn to nature, I am drawn to books ; I am drawn to anime, cartoons, comicbooks, manga ; I am drawn to technology; I am drawn to video games. I am more at ease in a calm, natural habitat rather than in the hullabaloos of a city life, yet the duality in me craves presence of other souls. Souls that would listen and hear what I need to say. At times, my rants and ideas might last a few hours; at times they’re confined to one conversation. Over the years, I had plenty conversations about the not-so-normal things, and absolutely enjoyed the deviation. As intrigued I am as to the Basilica and the modern history and paleontology, I am equally drawn to long hours in Diablo 3 or League of Legends or reading through the lore in Age of Mythology or Dungeon Siege 2. Besides reading news, one of my daily routines is to check AnandTech or Tom’s Hardware to read the latest and greatest in technology. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read The New Yorker or The Paris Review for their excellent articles and literature published. Moreover, I am equally fond of both Bengali and World literature.

In essence, love doesn’t need to be in cards or paintings and pretty words. It needs to be more than that. With all of our feelings withering for each other and our blue planet, it is high time that we don’t get stuck to the confines of a single day to profess our love for something or someone. Get out, hold a hand, or hands, or paws, or hooves, or branches, or pages – and make it worthwhile.

Happy Valentine’s Day, folks!

Hiraeth

​The beige and brown tiles on the otherwise white marble wall look like little crying faces. A faint buzz emerges once in a while from the machine that monitors the air.

World outside is a fresh loneliness kept out by a wooden door. The one that lives inside this old restroom is decades old and smells like chlorine.

I come out after a cold splash of water on my face. The Indian Summer sits and waits for me with a whiplash. I let the water vaporize off my body for a moment of soothe, and soon enough, riding in a crowded bus, the last of the recluse drops vanish. Screams of a thousand kind return and take form of a city. Images, crumbling to and fro, conjure up images of a concrete jungle.

The safari starts.

In the dusk silhouettes, an old planetarium stands still, a church bell tolls, brick-ribbed, naked buildings bare their history. The sea in front is yellow and red and flowing, slave only to the stop signs.

Somewhere, dry coconut skins and resins make fiery love, and the odor smells viciously divine.

Memories play hide and seek. The roads, never lonely, yet I walk on them lonely as a fish thousands of feet under water. The pressure is immense, and it almost breaks me.

For once, I don’t panic. The scurrying couple amuses me, so does the bus conductor, the tea-shopwallah, the feeble beggar singing Manna Dey, the bike-toting romeo. Yet in this maze, they are just pale distractions.

What am I searching for? The library of Babel is enormous, the sadness of Murakami a well of no return, the madness of Kafka bewitchingly spiraling. The anxiety attacks are just bubbles in that enormous pool, something that keeps on telling me that this all is real, the kisses, the slaps, the poems and the rejections. Even holding the rails of a passenger train and vomiting into the abyss, and the aftertaste of stomach acid – real, all real.

Maybe I’m a little too homesick.

The Art of Caring, or the lack thereof

The definition of a New World notwithstanding, there’s a distinct lack of care in today’s planet blue is alarming. Back in the days, I fondly remember the caress of people living in our community, be it a pat in the back or a stern look if you were returning home late, something that is missing like a sore void; like the potholes in roads that get filled up by rainwater during monsoons and look like extensions of the road as the reflection of a gray-ash sky, the problem presents itself in camouflage. You never get it until you have experienced it, on one hot summer noon when you come back home and don’t find the old lady hanging out in the balcony by your place, asking you about your health, or what time it is, or just asking how you have been – you realize that it isn’t the city you hate. It’s the devolution that strikes you.

I whine a lot for a guy of my age. I complain about almost everything, because in these years I have grown cynical of our species. I see humans butcher other animals. Recently in Bihar, I saw trained hunters kill more than 300 Nilgais, the largest Asian antelopes, just because they had become a nuisance to the local farmers. Without going back to the root cause of why these animals were coming out from the jungle in the first place, the local government happily gave permission to these killers who made this occasion look like a festivity. A few weeks later, another post covered how in the name of a Pegan ritual, hundreds of lizards, snakes, squirrels and birds were captured, killed and cooked – all in the vicinity of a particularly busy railway station in Bengal. Nobody batted an eyelid. Every year, thousands of rare species of birds, animals, reptiles, fishes are being killed for apparently no reason at all. The peak of these stupid activities are in the form of ‘pleasure hunting’ – a passtime for millionaires and spoilt brats toting guns and shooting hapless animals who have been bred for this circus.

This lack of respect for others has manifested itself viciously in our ability to curb violence as well. It feels like nowhere is safe anymore – you point a place in the world map and it is seeping with blood. Innocent people are dying, and men and women and children are being pushed into an atmosphere of hatred where they are being told and taught that theirs is the only way. The lack of compassion is astounding, and yet nobody raises their voice.

I come from a very humble background. My family used to be a joined one – an amalgamation of happiness and sadness. Sure, there were big fights every once in a while, but I couldn’t see myself growing up to be like this had I not been part of a big family. My family extended beyond relations of blood – from the old man who used to call me Captain Green to the lady who used to take me to school for twelve years of my life, from the shopkeeper who used to tell me and my sister if our mother had arrived from office, to the uncle who used to sell electronic items to an inquisitive, eleven year old me – they all became my family without me knowing. And today, when I look back at all these memories, the immense pleasure I get from them can’t be described in mere words. I owe everybody my sincere gratitude, and even more than that I want to share similar passion in everybody that I meet.

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The culture of not-caring has been growing like a plague. That is mostly because people do not understand the difference between privacy, or space, and the blessing that is caring. Nuclear families; pigeon holed existences; communities without any sort of communication – these are the traits of modern society, eating it from inside like maggots. A Durga Pooja a year doesn’t make you know thy neighbor. Empty houses in Jodhpur park are flanked by swanky skyrisers in South City, where nobody knows each other. Like the anonymous public lives of the celebrities, the common man (and woman) has adorned the mask of nonchalance. This arrogance is a propaganda like no other : spreading into young minds as a penchant for coolness. Forty years down the line, the generation X/Y/Z will lament that their kids are too progressive, yet they are as blind as the government I spoke earlier of. Without going to the root cause, we will be bound to our everyday cotton candies – Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat/Instagram, or even Pokemon Go.

The art of caring is learned, not something that is inborn. It needs practice; it needs enthusiasm and helping hands. If we continue to disrespect each other, if we continue to disrespect every other being, there won’t be any next generation after a certain point of time. This blue planet will become another speck in the universe, another dead rock – another ball of dust and rubble.

There’s still time.