Calcutta Dreaming / Joseph Schreiber

Echoes of the past

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.

Up on the roof

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.

Twilight on Sarat Bose Rd

Market area

unnamed (35)

Across the immortal expanse of your waters . . . where time holds its breath. . . I discovered another dimension where past and present converge.


Dock with Kali temple


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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  1. Bill Mathis

    Enjoyed this! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leslie

    “this is an effort to dream back a place memory can’t contain” – This small sentence conveys so much. And how often our coming blind to a place causes us to misread it, or to almost misread it. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diana

    These are such beautiful photographs! I would buy prints, Joseph.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brief notes on returning home from travel and a link to my photo essay at RIC: Journal – roughghosts

    […] can find my piece here. With gratitude to Saudamini […]


  5. Kitt O’Malley

    Joseph, love how beautifully you write in this piece. Kolcata, the memories and images you brought back with you, truly inspired your writing. Love the photos, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa Hill

    A perfect blend of words and images:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A new year, a new optimism, in spite of it all – roughghosts

    […] As I mentioned before, I became seriously concerned about my well-being last November, when I found myself so physically drained and emotionally exhausted that I was wondering if I could manage to get through my trip to India at all. I had been planning a return all year and, at last, with the tickets booked, I was overwhelmed by the prospect of going. The day after I finally allowed myself to accept my psychiatrist’s suggestion that I was under something more than the seasonal blues, I dragged myself down to Mountain Equipment Co-op and bought a new lightweight travel bag. And I haven’t looked back since! My agenda for my stay is still taking shape, with room for impulse and adventure. I look forward to spending time with friends, some I have met, and some I feel like I’ve known forever even though we’ve yet to meet. I will be flying in and out of Bangalore with plans to go to Kochi and a desire to visit Mumbai, and beyond that, who knows? I am less of a tourist attraction hunter and more of a flaneur on the road. My attraction to India has grown more out of friendship and literary connections than anything else. Its neither romantic nor idealized, but as I said in my RIC photo essay: […]


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