Thoughts kill thoughts. At least, mine do. Therefore, no matter how hard I try to keep my promise of keeping on blogging, I never manage to do so. My friend teases me, “You know, you can only write when you’re paid for it.” Well, he may be telling me the truth, but as a journalist I’ve written and continue to write for some publications that do not pay me.
I have now begun to realise what overwhelms me is the number of possibilities. When I write for my sake, I have the freedom to choose what and, more importantly, how to write. Unlike assigned pieces where you know what is expected of you, your own blogs present before you a number of possibilities to manoeuvre. I’ve never been good at making choices. Eating out, I’ve always liked the order placed by the neighbouring table. On one occasion, at an Asian restaurant in London, I even asked the waiter to cancel my order and give me “what they are eating”. Similarly, when I sit down to write for a blog, thoughts emerge with the zeal of an active volcano, each outdoing the other. If at all in the end I’m left with a written piece, I begin to hate it. My thoughts die, one devoured by the other.
Sorry for that long intro, which I am never going to read again. If I do, it will have to go too. I just thought I needed to explain my disappearing act.
What makes me write today is the fact that this is the last day of the year, 2013. Year-enders are “in”. Deepika Padukone is the woman of the year. The man of the year is either Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal, and so on. I’ve had a great 2013. Looking back, here are some memories that are going to stay with me forever. My personal small epiphanies.
1. Saw snow. Big deal, eh? For someone who has snow in her backyard to go all the way to the UK and get excited like a kid at the sight of the first flakes? Tut, tut. First let me explain the snow in the backyard bit. You get to see amazing snow if you go to North Sikkim, not very far away from my hometown Siliguri. I’ve seen it once. But it was already there like an installation art, sitting white and pristine on the mountains. At Oxford, where I spent six months of my 2013, I saw them fall. The flakes descended down, white and lovely, all around. They sat on my hair and nestled on the folds of my jacket that was never warm enough. And, bit by bit, like the strokes of a paintbrush, every thing turned white. But it was not an installed art. It was life. It was real. It threw everything haywire. Buses and classes were cancelled; our seminar was put off too. The snow soon turned into slush and made walking a challenge. Dog poo remained frozen for days in slippery ice on pavements. That was the end of my romance with snow. It always looked grey after that, even when the innocuous flakes fell with all the best intentions.
2. Went to Berlin, twice. Now, now, what is it about Berlin? Don’t ask me. If I knew, I’d have written in as many words. The best I could express is, well, there’s something about the feel of the place… something.. it feels, ah.. so Berlin.
Guess what I did in Berlin? Of the many things, most of which were downright crazy, I fell in love with a wall graffiti I had seen in my first visit in 2010. I felt assured, hopeful and am still dreamy-eyed. Let me call it ( picture below is from my 2010 trip) Masks and Men, don’t know what the artist would have desired. I’ve always loved Berlin’s street art. But there’s something about this (again, don’t ask me what) work. It’s such a wonder that a graffiti has lived so long. It’s almost a landmark, drawn on one side of an old building facing an abandoned yard appropriated by squatters.
Don’t ask me where it is. I know it’s somewhere close to or in Kreuzberg. The first time I saw it, which was in 2010, we (group of Asian journalists) were being taken to an office nearby. We were struck by the grandeur of the work. We stood there for minutes, took pictures. Masks and Men later on became the cover photograph of my Facebook and Twitter profiles. In May 2013, when I went to Berlin, I told my friend with whom I was staying that I want to go back there and check the graffiti out. I showed him my pictures of Masks and Men.
“Where’s it?” he asked.
“Near a bridge. First left, after you have crossed it.”
“That’s really helpful.” We both laughed.
“Well, there is this bridge you cross near, either before or after (depending on which side you are coming from) East Side Gallery. It’s a beautiful bridge.”
He sat down with Google map. And we went down the Google lanes.
“Is it the Oberbaum bridge,” he asked.
“May be, let me see how it looks. Well, yes, yes. This is the one. Okay, go straight and take the first left.”
That was the way toward the East Side Gallery. “No, turn. Cross the bridge the other way.”
Lo and behold! My Masks and Men was there.
The next day, I landed there with a friend of mine who was visiting me from Dresden. “Of all the things that you wanted to see in Berlin is two masked creatures pulling at each others masks on a wall facing a junkyard in a notorious area!”
Below is the picture my friend took of me with Masks and Men.
3. Crossed the tower bridge, looked back to see it had split into two! I had heard of some bridges in Calcutta dock areas opening up to let ships in, but had never seen that happen. Imagine then what it must have been to see THE Tower Bridge (that I had thought to be the London Bridge for a long time) split into two and its flanks slowly rise up to let a tall boat pass. It was a glorious sunshine that evening; it was a glorious summer I spent there!
What images to mark a year in a stockpile of memories!