Behind the unreasonable admiration, this city had always seemed mysterious to me. Perhaps the best feel of a city dweller is that you can cross hundreds of men with agony crying out of yourself and yet noone bats an eyelid. And I have always found that beautiful.
‘The city with a soul’, they love calling it. Yes you may call it a vague attempt to match up with ‘the city of romance’ or ‘the city of love’, but maybe once we all have felt it. The touch of that wandering soul which fills up every dark lanes, which cries out of the whirling river waters and which camouflages itself with the winter wind across the dead cement forest.
It was just a week back and Calcutta had lived once again with my friend’s tale. Unknowingly, his mirth had become addictive to that soul. And today, as I stood with mother, shaded under the same dark umbrella, the rain drizzling around us and the old man confronting us, I too got my touch of it.
It was perhaps our last conversation. When, “I believe the count starts from today. Anyday. Anytime,” escaped his lips, everything seemed to change suddenly. It was as if the words of this old spreading cancer patient hung loose in the air. But the busy city? That city which had a soul? It remained stuck in answering its own call of duty. It could not wait. It could not turn. It had no reason to. Who was this old man? But a weird unused punctuation in the long syntax of this era. A mere uncaring testimony of days we willingly forget.
I felt bad – bad for him, bad for us, bad for the soul I had adored, bad for everyone. Then a strange flash lightened up. It was not the end of everything. At this hour as I was standing in this dark lane witnessing the last conversation with an old man who was just an old man to me minutes back, maybe in dozens of corners of this city life budded out. Children returned home. Loves reunited. People met. People rejoiced, they cried, they laughed and that..that very aspect was the soul. It was not the soul which felt for you, it was the one you felt for yourself. The city with a soul was a city full of people with souls.
And as we parted in the rains, the old man back to his dark closet and the both of us heading towards home, we were glad. Not glad for the man to have had the luck of Nirvana, but glad for our realization. Glad for the feel. Glad for the final touch of the soul. The city with ‘the’ soul.
To Calcutta and beyond ❤