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Editorial || Broken Selves

How many live in you,
Oh my mind, you know not.

One paints in a fervour,
While the other drenches in colours,
And who spoils that picture, oh my mind!

How many live in you, you know not!

This hastily done translation of a famous song from the endless oeuvre of the mystic bauls of Bengal does in no manner capture the rustic charm and lively nuance of the original.

It will, however, be an interesting exercise to analyse this particular verse in terms of the ‘many selves’ theory which has always been a fruitful staple of literature as well as clinical psychology. The opposition of personalities that often send us frail human beings away from the proposed paths of our ‘choices’ is a problem that has plagued even the most gifted of women and men throughout the humble history of humankind.

As little as I may know about literature, my knowledge of clinical psychology is far abysmal for my pen to quote any pearls of knowledge that might pacify a broken self.

What I can express is mere gratitude for the seemingly magical phenomenon that comes as much as a necessity as a blessing to the multitudes that inhabit our tropical nation. Rain – the graceful gift of the heavens as it were that not only alleviates the searing summer heat but brings life by feeding the acres of natural produce that would, in turn, feed more than a billion souls.

But what is rain to a cosmopolitan as I but a cyclical show of the seasons marked by waterlogging and escalating surge prices on taxi services? The heat has been taken care of by the uber-cool systems conditioning the breathable air at office or at home while food is the purview of the local supermarket or online vendors, hardly something “I” should be concerned with.

“I” seldom empathise with a cinematic group of desi farmers who might be singing and dancing in true blue Bollywood fashion as they pray for monsoon. “I” seldom empathise with that man in rags hogging the boiling attic of his own home – now that he is old and nearing a lonely death, his dear ones deem it better to free up one room of their three-storey castle in upscale South Kolkata.

I cannot help but think of myself – only myself – even when rain floods the entire city, district, the entire southern part of our state to prove, yet again, the theory of natural non-discrimination.

Water fits the container, sure. Thus one might argue how the waterlogging of Behala (the western bit of the city) and the crisp dryness of the bylanes of Sector Two (far east) is not so much a discrimination of the rudderless clouds but a human folly in something as basic to a city-state as a drainage system.

As I keep reverting to myself and the states of unclean in my multiple selves – the unprepared issue of the magazine that is past time, the fiction that is to be filmed which is not getting enough light – and of course, the newly acquired teaching gig that promised to be a regular monsoon of money.

The rain, as I think of nothing but myself, rages on with as much ferocity of wind inside as it does on the outside. I feel the three selves melting into each and the unspoken many fuse themselves in the dance of the water too – the guilt, fear and heartaches all roll into a cohesive din – rain on a tin roof – until it filters to the drip-drop on a wooden drum in the middle of a haunted jungle out of a Satyajit Ray juvenile classic.

The point of contention – when one reverts into a glorious rain drenched afternoon in childhood, spent looking into the eyes of a girl I fancied, or making paper boats to launch marine expeditions to the north of our childhood home- that moment of sheer time-travel is but a moment too short as the dam – it gets flooded, broken into a wave of binaries I cannot help but fall for.

Where black meets white and “I” meets all other, why does myself feel like an unkempt rock in the sky that keeps revolving around a neverending ball of fire? Why do I keep waiting for the rain, and when it comes, begin to wait till it is done? []

First published in Issue #6 of CultureCult Magazine (Monsoon 2016)