Here’s the unedited version of my poetry for Nostalgia and the City.
PART 1 – NOSTALGIA
Before you decide for yourself, let me tell you what nostalgia is.
Nostalgia, sometimes, feels like a sting in the arch of your spine, that downtrodden beast that knows nothing better than to capitalise on a mind caught off guard.
But it’s not always that intimidating. There’s another side to it, too; one you’ll only experience with time.
On some of those good days, nostalgia, you’ll realise, is more than just a yearning desire. It is a force of being that engulfs you like warmth on a stormy day; it is the rebirthing of a life already lived, a recreation of two dimensional memories that would otherwise lay dusty in a neat corner of your mind.
Above all, it is the belief that life was once much better and that it may or may not possess the potential for the same in the future.
When nostalgic, you don’t sit down with a pen and paper and list down your memories in a sequential order followed by a carefully organized recounting session of each.
Instead you travel through time. And before you even know it, you’re headed back in time with nothing but the company of your vulnerable self.
Vulnerable because you’re only half aware of what your destination has in store for you.
Once you reach your destination, you become an amalgamation of your deepest feelings, fears and findings.
You’re welcomed into its merry arms like a child hugging his parents after a bad day at school.
Thereon, you live a life of romance – the kind of romance that stems from a seedling planted within each soul,
You romance with your present thoughts as they dance in the meadows of your past. The rivers of your memories flow towards you with a kind of zest and zeal, you realise, you’ll never experience in the world back home, and the mountains of regret look down on you – reminding you of why you should not be here.
But, for once, you feel unstoppable. And you don’t regret it one bit.
PART 2 – THE CITY
To put it simply, Bombay is not a city; it is a story.
It is a story of the millions that live here and refuse to be held back by the shackles of love, life and loss; a story that embraces its past.
It is the people and the places of this city that constitute its being. The way these two entities amalgamate to form an entire culture, devoid of religious conflict, breathing in ambition and sleeping on the pavements of perpetual progression is a phenomenon known to exist nowhere else.
Bombay wears its history on its sleeves, and rather proudly, too.
It lays bare the bloodshed that has disrupted the sleep of the innocent, the terror that has managed to gauge its uncanny strength and the unfortunate mishaps that have left an indelible mark on the palms of its destiny.
Every human being that breathes here – whether it’s in the chock-a-block local trains, the jam-packed highways or the sprawling slum houses – is a diamond emerged from the abysses of coalmines; struggle is that natural part of him which helps him appreciate the futility of the mundane and realise that life is the little moments of quiet contemplation on the way home; he knows that life here may be fleeting but the moments, definitely, are not.
PART 3 – NOSTALGIA AND THE CITY
Every time the curtains of my memories
Drape over my ageing mind
I am transported to a city
That thronged with age-old delight.
Fresh out of enslavement,
Like a flower blossomed in the
Middle of an unexpected spring,
It was juvenile, we thought,
To be raging with so much excite.
Progression and advancement
Barged in as hallmarks of change,
We stumbled upon discoveries
And serendipity travelled our away.
But I hear when you say
That Bombay has changed,
That the people that once adorned
Have now taken to smother
This diverse land.
Let me tell you that
Lives will always come and go
And there will be disturbances in the status quo
But the soul of a human, animal or place
Does not wither away with time
Despite what you say.
You must realise that Bombay
Was always a firework of sorts
With people and places
Moving at a pace faster than
Most of the country that was
Still battling its past.
A past that even today
Rests on its palms –
Like the British architecture
That has long surpassed
Both time and memory –
Or the railway system,
Oh, Victoria Terminus
How you refuse to stop! –
The markets that continue to loll
Crawford, Chor and Bhendi Bazaar –
Or the sea that can be still
When the sun is blazing hot
Yet stroke you with an invigorating
Evening breeze on the rocks.
Leaving you with answers you always sought –
Whether it’s the summer of
Seventy-seven or twenty fifteen
There is man on the roads
Translating each breath into a dream –
There’s Dharavi housing aspirations
Of the immigrating millions
Whose crumpled faiths are
Smoothened till the very edge –
If it’s the unity you question
Let me remind you of the
Community that collectively continues
To wash clothes of the contrasting
Riches across, at the Dhobi Ghat –
The Gateway of India, the Taj and seashore
That stands tall on the grounds
Of cultural identity and more.
The Haji Ali – a symbol of harmony
That you might say is lost
In the emerging intolerance of thought
Muhammad Ali road and
Its infamous Kebabs!
Can you mention one thing
That has changed from the past
Don’t say “people” as
That is too irrational a thought
It’s the bodies that arrive and depart
But there are some things
That remain unchanged in the hearts
Walk the streets of Bombay
And find out for yourself
The humanity that rests
In every back alley of breaths.