In less than four days I will go back. The terror of the library that haunts my days and my nights will be waiting, gates open wide, temperatures between lounge and reading rooms that are too differential to be comfortable. It’s a place that smells of the forgotten assignments and last minute deadlines and silent frustration. It’s a place that is so obviously drenched with coffee and productivity that several glossy eyes are simply scanning off Facebook and online stores.
I will struggle to find a place near a socket. Always, always I’m in the crazy hut for a socket because my soul has now been embedded into these electronic devices that I carry around, and I know that if I should simply disappear these metal beings will live on to portray the oddity that I am and was.
Some philosopher who chooses not to study in libraries because they represent the many shattered dreams of prospective weekend nights will tell me that the suppressed silence is too stressful to get work done. Indeed, we all have our excuses for why and why not the library, which is a standing testament to generations of knowledge should be regarded simultaneously as a haven and as a perpetual state of coma.
I love sitting by the windows watching when it rains and it comforts me immensely that I am surrounded by the warmth of knowledge collected over so many years and people who are struggling through the same, if not equivalent, journeys as I am. I will revel in the simple joy of being warm and indoors when I will check my phone for the temperature outside and let that Google-data-induced number induce a shiver under my many layers of sweaters.
I will be going back to the city. Except for the library, where there is still the rustle of paper, the vibrating phones and the ghostly glow of battery-drained laptops, there is a perpetual noise that screeches through all other aspects of life. There are so many opinions, jokes, conversations, protests and complaints against that background of the noisy wind, milieu of pedestrian footsteps and shadows of vehicles in perpetual motion. There will always be something open in this city that doesn’t sleep. The old neon lights will be replaced and I might find myself in a restaurant which will close after nearly 30 years because it is simply not sustainable. I will then have to find a new place where I can derive the same comfort, for that is what I’m searching for in all this noise and solitude.
Sometimes when it rains and if I am outside, I will pause and think back to all the different places I have experienced the unadulterated joy of the rain. The soft persistent drizzle in New York that creates an odd glow as it pushes against the eternally mobile tide of people. The afternoons in Bangalore where I would watch children running free, ruining their shoes and school uniforms by skipping across puddles and wait till the next morning when the paint from the walls would have run. In the distance I hear the clamor of everyone trying to board the local express to Howrah, and I would watch the few beggars huddle in the shade of the platform station watching the torrent wash down in merciless waves. It’s a testament to the worn-out Konnagar station sign that it does not crumble.
I will go back to the life of New York, and sometimes I will feel the deep, unexplained wonder of the beauty that it is. Silently I will concur with every other person who has been charmed with New York and I will also paradoxically agree with the many who hate it.The noise, the metallic grime and the insomnia is not for everyone. I will go back to the life where I am so caught up in absorbing the little impressions of life around me, friends, schedules and food that I won’t relish pauses like these until I am thoroughly depressed or put-down by life. It is a shame because I have come to love my solitude so much, but I know that if I tell anyone that I am simply staring into the endless nothing of a place where everything is happening all the time, they won’t believe me. It’s not their place to believe.
So listen future me, listen to these little bits of sanity talk back to you in the mixed dialects of Bangla, English and the inimitable, classic Harlem-Bronx. Listen to the uncovered impressions of soft vowel sounds, the crisp familiarity of a language I hear almost everywhere and the on-point sass of a social demographic which insists on being heard.
This is my world and I belong here. These places own a part of me as much as I am a transient visitor, and perhaps it is a hybrid of these short and ageless visits that form a large part of my identity. I know that I am one of the many zombie shadows who hallow the libraries, and perhaps I may even be in one of those states when I am re-reading this. But I will pause, no matter how small that pause is, and breathe in the realm of what is physically, materially, tangibly, obviously happening around me. This is who I am. This is what I owe to myself.
And in less than four days, I will be going back to it.