Utopia – A coffee shop in a book shop

I finally picked up Gun Island today. A book by Amitav Ghosh; a gift from a loved one. I am sitting in my usual spot – the bar stools overlooking the trees in Bahrisons Book/coffee shop. There is something extremely alluring about a coffee shop that smells of books and freshly roasted coffee beans. Even Ma associates this place with me and my Sundays. So, here I am. Sitting on a high chair, holding on to my cortado and looking outside at a giant Neem tree (I think). Winter seems to have overstayed its welcome in the city. Grey clouds coupled with the pandemic have made its way into our moods. Few pages into the book, and I have already started referencing the dictionary a little too often. Typical Amitav Ghosh. The backdrop of Calcutta and Ballygunge Place in the story makes me smile. Places that have become close to my heart. It is beautiful how a city can just be a city, till you make memories there with a loved one. Then, the city and everything that comes with it becomes a fragment of that person and all the time spent with them. The places may become hazy, but the warmth never leaves.

Deep in my Calcutta reveries, heard a voice saying ‘Do you mind if I sit here?‘. My reflex response was ‘Please sit!’. Even in a pandemic stricken world, I am too nice to say ‘Please take one of the (many) other tables‘. I say I am too nice, not because of a high opinion of self, but because friends of mine have scathingly pointed it out to me many a times. Soon enough, my table mate coughs vehemently. And follows it up with ‘Don’t worry. This isn’t Covid. It’s just smokers’ cough.‘ I burst out laughing. At the inanity of it all. Welcome to a world where coughing, because one smokes too much, is okay. Where sitting next to another human is a health hazard. Yet, this new normal feels normal now. I smile some more and stay at my window seat. I can see bleak sunshine outside. Maybe, it is time for the gloom to go.

In spite of a raging pandemic, 2021 was quite stellar (for me). I do realize it is a huge privilege to be able to say this, in a year of unforeseen tragedies. Yet, my year was beautiful. Writing it down because I am also told that my memory is shit. I am sure there will be a day when life won’t make a lot of sense, and I will be looking for a silver lining. 2021 will stay as one of those warm reminders. We emerged from deep grief, stronger as a family. Figured that proximity to the parent set feels safe. Feels good. Figured that even a two month long isolation in an apartment can feel warm, with the right person. I found love, and was reminded in one too many moments, that being home with someone you love is the home we truly seek. It was never a fancy city or an apartment. 2021 will also be the year when I liked my work. Looked forward to it. That’s a game changer too. I grew roots, yet last year was when I grew more comfortable with change. Moving countries with one small bag of pajamas in tow can do that to you. 2021 felt like a minute, yet it felt like a lifetime. And here I am, sitting in the first month of 2022, wondering what this year would bring.

I am going to go back to Amitav Ghosh now. I don’t know what this year will look like. But if last year has taught me anything, it is to be hopeful. Ending this post with the hope of good health and warm hearts, for the loved ones near and far.

P.S. – Happy 46 years together, Ma Baba. 🙂

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