The lockdown can unlock strange memories. Like that gentleman who came into my life on a stormy monsoon night without a spotlight, as people sometimes tend to do: to the vapours of alcohol and a prayer. He broke into the front of my precious old car.
Are you driving your mother’s ass? I asked, while we were both standing there, angry, tenacious, soaking wet. My car lights up like a Christmas tree. Don’t you see?
Are you Santa Claus? He asked, somewhat defensively.
Fortunately, I have returned from the abyss of violence to the humour of the eccentrics. We went our separate ways.
In the early days of closure, desperate memos piled up in irresistible memories. Get supplies. Partial deliveries. Concern about the child’s education. Wipe the house clean. Clean cobwebs of all kinds. Resume martial arts. Black book review. Write in a frenzy. Update the CV. Start over. Get out of here. Where to? Then I calmed down and realized that as a hermit I’m locked up every day. A conscious rhythm, relative calm.
As the frenzy of terror and hope shifts from locking to unlocking, this speed and peace becomes more and more urgent. The world – the raging sickness, the overwhelming turmoil, the death by numbness and the deliberate cruelty of fugitive emperors, a country and a world that have gone mad – remains a scene at my window. And in the eye of my mind. As before, my home is a sanctuary to which I return after hunting and collecting stories, taking with me the anger, impoverishment and humiliation I see and feel; beside happiness, wealth of knowledge and simple needs and dignity; and beside understanding the richness and overwhelming power of a Croesus and the inhuman and irreparable ominousness. I come back with all the beauty I can find in my travels. There’s still a lot of them: Nature is too busy spreading magic to be economical.
Author Sudeep Chakravarti
Then I lock myself in, I immerse myself in the world. For days, weeks, sometimes a month or more. It also reminds me that I am only a writer, a storyteller of the lives and desires of others, as if it were my own life now. It is a sobering intermezzo between too much criticism, too tanned in the spotlight at a literary meeting, too full of conversations with people who have real power, too eager for the flow of consciousness and the flow of sponsored red. All this, of course, as the divine rights of a writer.
This work is now largely complete. But there is life beyond the daisy and illusion. Now, my audience, my readers, go home. We live on Facebook. Zoom in. We talk about the Battle of Plassey, about communities and communitarianism, about history and politics, about conflicts and disputes. The festival of books and ideas continues unabashedly. That’s reassuring. We all seem to have an idiosyncratic sense of humor. If you let go of the lock, it doesn’t change.
I’m writing about the change Covid made. For to me, words to speak are words to speak, words to write are the soul. More and more writing can’t be meaningless, like the memory of a phantom limb in winter. Because there’s more censorship. There’s more fear. Empty promises are increasingly the opium of the masses. There have never been many places of refuge for writers, and now there are never fewer harbours to visit. But writers have to write.
Revision: Sudeep Chakravarti Bengal
Yeah, there’s excitement. Publishers are setting new priorities. Some books from before the Covid don’t make sense if you look at them through a money lens. Reading habits, tastes and needs are changing – have changed – and publishers are following suit. The counter-attacks are being relaunched. It’s economical. The Mumbo-Jumbo is booming. It’s profitable. Sales of printed books have resumed. So am I. Not everyone can afford an enlightened reader. For most people, a pill is still synonymous with medicine. The distribution of e-books is still limited here, although Kindle and Kobo may cut paper in the future.
In the excitement, I started writing a book. There are preparations for another one, also non-fictional. A long delayed novel is visiting; he spends a lot of time studying. I started sharing poems, some old and defensively bound in notebooks, some new and daring – take it or leave it. A game is to maintain social distance. He’s patient.
400pp, Rs 799; Aleph
In today’s madness, I’m one of the lucky ones. Our village is the same as it has been for decades. Our lives have changed drastically, but today our houses are still decorated with the sight and sound of jungles, fields, rolling hills, quiet rivers, lonely fishermen and church bells. At night there is now a refreshing breeze, some rain and a soothing silence, except for the occasional scream of a nervous lapwing. In the morning you can almost hear the lotus flower.
What about tomorrow? Ah, yes. Good morning, sir.
Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of Plassey: The battle that changed the course of Indian history; The Bengalis: A portrait of a community; The Baptism of Tony Calangute – a novel; and several other fiction and non-fiction books. He is also a columnist and specialist in the field of marine conservation. He lives in Goa.sudeep chakravarti plassey,plassey sudeep chakravarti pdf,sudeep chakravarti wikipedia