This is not a diary. That would not be fair.
Kolkata conspires against the first time visitor, the casual chronicler. It takes a few days to acclimatize. To the noise, the energy. To the concentrated humanity with all of its capacity for life. . . this is an effort to dream back a place memory can’t contain. . . to find traces of my time in it. . . to keep the splinters of joy from slipping through my fingers.
I came blind. Forgive me. On your streets I saw first the broken. The crowded. The layers of life and living. Too much to process.
I almost misread you.
I had to enter the fray. Tread your crumbling cobblestone sidewalks. Repeat the same routes, by day and by dark until I could begin to see where old meets new… let your alleys and roadways seduce me. . . respond to the plangent call of your voices. . . the hum of traffic. . . the chorus of horns. . . the music of urban life.
Across the immortal expanse of your waters . . . where time holds its breath. . . I discovered another dimension where past and present converge.
In this corner of India, still just a step out of time and history, on my own and with friends, I found my pace. . . my rhythm. . . and solace in the wonder of being alive in a reality half a world away from my own.
Solace from what?
From the discontent that troubles my being . . . from the restless longing to escape the fear of growing old. . . alone. . . a fractured soul. Anchorless. Ungrounded.
I’m drawn to travel in uneven places. In scarred and wounded spaces I recognize myself. Complex, interrupted histories mirror my own.
Walking foreign roads, I feel the earth tilt beneath my feet. I feel release. Until, home again, the return to routine fades my postcard imagination. . . recollections become muted. . . sadness sets in. . .
Until next time, Calcutta. Wait for me. . . in my dreams.
Joseph Schreiber is a writer based in Calgary, Canada. He is criticism/nonfiction editor at 3:AM Magazine, and an editor at The Scofield.
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