the monsoon strums brittle chords on the corrugated iron sheet that covers my balcony.

it’s sunday, i tell myself. you’re home. before 9 pm, despite an iftar.

no way, whispers back a part of my brain, the part that adores schedules and routines, that prefers order among chaos, that likes to take jumbled up numbers and pictures and seek out neat patterns. the obsessive-compulsive cortex, as i like to call it.

and when this part of my brain senses a disruption to a regular routine, or something impeding a perfect sense of order, it starts sending out ominous signals to the rest of my body. did i remember to bring home the laptop from the office? did i lock the front door after coming in to the house? did i turn off the faucet? a world of uncertainties and unsteadies emerge from the mere act of being home before 9 pm.

on a sunday?

and why is my brain insistent that something is out of balance? it’s because, this afternoon, i submitted the final draft of a report that marks the formal end of my efforts to get a masters degree. of course, there are still a few more headaches – thesis defense and all that fun stuff – but the worst is over. i. am. done.

two years and 72 exams ago, this moment in time seemed like it was a lifetime away. and now it’s here, and i am finally free.

the question is, what do i do with this freedom?

What matters…

…is that I didn’t give up writing, but that I still think about writing here, extensively.

A thousand unfinished drafts fester on some device or the other, forgotten and incomplete. Each the essence of an idea, initiated but forgotten. In the midst of them all lie stories without a second chapter, political analyses without a clear answer, jokes without a punchline. And so they are fated to remain, unclaimed and incomplete.

Who’s to blame this time? Work, studies, family? Or the constant procrastination that is a hallmark of my life? Maybe a combination?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity – what nourishes it, and what saps it. It’s been years since I wrote a single song – the act of picking up a guitar for that purpose somehow transforms into a few lonely strums, and even if I find a pattern I like it is confined to the nether realms of my brain, quickly forgotten. Even recording doesn’t help.

Perhaps creativity is contingent on a particular state of mind. One that is limited in quantity and is easily exhausted by the day long work grind – “Make it more concise,” they tell me. “Sharper, stronger, more succinct, more powerful…” Or maybe it withers after carving through yet another set of PowerPoint slides, trying to figure out how to convert a wall of text into a simple yet powerful graphic. Or maybe it diminishes without practice, or due to stress, or because of the effort it takes to navigate through the increasingly dense urban jungle. Or maybe it perishes on the altar of responsibility – that bewitching ambrosia that is more addictive than any narcotic known to man.

As you may have heard, Violet Smoke is no more. Careers and family have transported each of us to distant corners of the world, and Skype is no substitute for the pleasure of sitting together, face to face, playing a few chords and seeing where we go from there. I’ve been trying out a few new bands – but that drive to create, to entertain, to lose myself in the music I create, and to make music that is fundamentally about me – all that is gone.

And so I look back fondly upon a time, just five years ago, when we were at our most creative and most prolific. We would churn out songs by the dozen, and somehow we knew just what words would fit the song. We weren’t afraid to try new things – adjusting songs recorded with instruments to an intimate stage ensemble is no easy task. Yet we were always in sync, knowing just when to transition into the next verse or chorus.

My writing followed a similar trajectory, it seems. Prolific at first, propelling me to some uncertain renown, and then disappearing just as quickly. It wasn’t writer’s block – it was a tap shutting off, with not even a drip remaining behind.

I might not have control over other band members, but I do have control over my writing. After all, it isn’t only a few words to me – it is catharsis. And so today, the dawn of the Bengali year 1419, I think it is time to brush off those frayed neurons, uncover that dormant creativity, and let loose once again.

No more drafts hidden away in the dingy dark corners of the internet.

a brief letter

hello there, old friend.

it’s been a while since i last saw you.

actually, that might not be the whole truth. i thought i caught a glimpse of you today, just briefly, almost hidden between an under-construction skyscraper and a large garments factory. i could have been mistaken – the traffic had just let up, and my cng was trying its best to squeeze through impossibly tiny gaps between a wall of cars. i thought i saw you from the corner of my eye, but by the time i realized what i was seeing, we’d zoomed through already, and you were gone again.

how have you been? i wonder whether you look the same. do you still turn dark gray just before you weep? do you still let flashes of rage rumble across your countenance when you are angry? do you still glow in the light of the sun when it’s pleasant outside?

most of what i remember of you are stolen glances, incidental memories of you etched in my mind. in these pictures you’re hidden in the background of some significant life event – a picnic, perhaps, or a day at the beach. i still have a few actual pictures of you stored in my laptop as well – though when i look at them, you’re seldom the first thing i notice. you have this amazing ability to be in the background, just hanging there, as inconspicuous as ever, while i tried to capture other more significant moments in time or more significant people. but when i turn off the laptop, i realize just how important you really are.

i’m sure you know i miss you. how? just look at the number of pictures i took on vacations in which you appear. maybe that’s why, whenever i do go on these vacations, all i can take pictures of is you.

i really wish i could see you more often, you know? until recently, i could sit on my verandah in the evenings, gazing out towards you, catching a brief glimpse when you lit up in joy or anger. now a thirteen-storied monolith rises from the ground in front of the verandah, and cuts off my view. i’ve tried to find some other angle from which to drink you in, but alas, you’re nowhere to be found.

you used to seem so close, so near, once upon a time. are you still the same? our meetings are so few and far in between, generally only when i leave the country, that every single time i do see you in all your glory, you seem farther and farther away. is it true? are you really pulling away from me? is it because i don’t get to see you as often as i used to?

i can’t control the walls that are rising up between us. i wish i could tear them down, start all over again with a fresh, clean slate, and admire you the way i once did – but maybe that’s the problem! maybe you’re angry that i – heck, nobody – valued you while you were still around. is that why you’ve been weeping almost continuously these past few days?

you know that i’ve never forgotten one thing: our own little secret place – the roof? remember those foggy winter afternoons, when you kept watch over me while i played? or how about those quiet evenings when i sat there, basking in your glow? back in those days, we’d spend hours with each other, with me admiring every single facet of your face. i know i haven’t been up there in years – maybe it’s time i went up there again. after all, that’s where these walls we’ve put up between us cease to tower, and there are no monoliths that can prevent me from drinking you in.

i’m off to europe next month for a week. i’m looking forward to seeing you then, spending days and nights with you, basking in your cold embrace, admiring every single facet of you, until i’m once again wrenched back to this state of forced separation and this compulsory distance we must maintain.

i’m sick of hiding behind these walls, sick of being prevented from watching you. i’m sick of your absence – it doesn’t make our hearts grow stronger, rather it weakens our resolve and determination. i’m angrier, unhappier and sadder because i don’t get to see you as much as i would like. and so are the people around me. please shine your light back in to my life, and forgive me for my veiled and hidden existence.

i can’t wait till i get to see you again.


your friend