By Nabanita Sengupta
He spends his days painting his beloved Ghumi – a riot of colours bursts upon his canvas, pouring out the passion he has for the place. I admire the way his brush moves, the way a picture takes shape yet I feel sorry for him. For the solitary life that he has chosen for himself, though he is happy in it. His paintings too have attained a maturity that his clients all over the world much appreciate. Also, it is because of this quirk in him that I have got this lucrative job as a caregiver and my future is almost taken care of. Not just that, I enjoy taking care of him too! It gives a purpose to my lonely life.
I have to revisit my origin — the place that had nurtured me for the first fifteen years of my life before I plunged into the real world. Yes real world I said. Because Ghumi was not exactly real. It was almost like a simulation for the real thing — like those driving lessons you know you can take on your computer screen before the actual driving? It was like that.
Rough edges of dangers padded off in a very large extended family. That place was my whole world and a place that I had to leave for the real one; because Ghumi did not hold back anyone. It trained you, taught you, helped you with important inputs for sustainability but ultimately let you go. And exactly at sixteen! That age when the world was either pink or black and very rarely white or grey. That age when either you could be wallowing in romance or rattling off revolution or even both, in a mission to change the world. So it was at that volatile age that we were all simply shot out of Ghumi high on ‘we are the world’ motto to various higher educational institutions across country. And we did survive.
Ghumi, I knew had the solution to my problem. A place that I had not visited for almost twenty years! A place where I had painted the first canvas of my life — a hill with many greens. Ghumi had taught me colours in a way no art teacher could. She lovingly made me aware of the nuances of various shades of a single colour. She was the muse for the budding artist within me. In fact, I feel that the artist in me was Ghumi’s gift. Even now that I am successful as an artist, I feel Ghumi’s colours predominate my palette. My canvases carry a madness of mahua, a glimpse of the huge saal, dark green of the jamun and so much more.
So much has changed since those early days — in the world, in my life. Yet I have not been able to unhinge myself from her. Of late the association with that place has grown so strong that it is becoming difficult for me to ignore. I have begun neglecting my paintings, my studio and even my wife.
There are spans when I would drown in a deep melancholy, stretching even to days. Neither medication, nor counseling helped much. Geeta, my better half, had been quite understanding and patient to my mood swings and neglect. Initially she had tried to talk it out with me but after a few attempts, she left me to myself. So when I told her that I must go to Ghumi to find a solution, she too supported me. In fact the idea had been initially suggested by her.
That was a moment so special — the moment when my feet touched Ghumi after such a long time! What happiness! I felt energised. I wished I could be all around the place all at once but of course my emotions needed to be controlled. Geeta did not come, in spite of my repeated requests. Instead she asked my assistant, Rohit to accompany me. I was grateful for Geeta’s motivation behind this entire Ghumi idea, for inspiring me to embark on it. After a long time I passionately made love to her that night after I booked the tickets. It was overwhelming, and when she was almost spent, I could smell in her the mahua, that intoxicating scent which was so much a part of my Ghumi days. Her face was flushed with the colours of flaming Palash. For one last time I inhaled her deeply and fell into one peaceful slumber. That night, I had one of the most restful nights — soundest sleep in my life.
Ghumi hadn’t changed much. The factory, the school, the pond — they just looked the same. Even trees had an ancient charm. Like the Lotus-Eaters of Homer, they wove their magic spell upon me. I was mesmerized, forgetting almost everything of my city life. My studio, my wife — they remained a faraway reality for me. I relived my childhood with a gusto that was almost unthinkable. I put up at a guesthouse that had come up in the recent years — one of the few changes that marked the face of Ghumi. The other new additions that I saw were a quaint little cafe, a print-out and photocopy shop, a private bank and a few ATMs.
It was a three-day trip that I started finding inadequate. But of course, there was Geeta and the studio to return to. Caught in the web of a modern lifestyle, how long a holiday could I afford! But what if I stayed back! I was hit hard by this sudden thought — staying back, and why not. But of course, there was Geeta who was waiting for my return. In the soft afternoon of Ghumi, amid the eucalyptus and sal trees, she seemed to belong to another life.
I pushed back my fanciful thoughts and putting on my track pants and tee, ventured out alone. Though I had Rohit with me, I was planning to do more of self-exploration. What did he know of my love affair with this place! I wanted to visit those new places that had sprouted upon the face of my old Ghumi and see how much change they had wrought upon her character.
A desire for a steaming mug of coffee took me towards the cafe. ‘Ghumi Tales’ — that’s what it was called. In the low light of the setting sun it looked more mysterious, as if there was a lot hidden within it. I was drawn towards it. Though a new addition, it had somehow blended with the character of Ghumi.
That night I made a call asking Geeta to cancel my return tickets. I needed to feel the place a bit more. I would perhaps, one day return to her, after I have made peace with myself.
I am Geetanjali, Arun’s Geeta. We have been married for the past six years and I could feel this coming gradually. At first it was nostalgia, a general remembrance of the past. But slowly it turned into an obsession. He stopped most of his activities, spoke only of Ghumi and lived in it. I changed my role in his life — from friend to lover to wife to a caregiver. I knew he needed support, I needed help too. There was no one I knew who could help me — psychiatrist visits were out of question — I knew I could not convince him. Rahul appeared as a Godsend.
As a psychologist and a childhood friend, he listened to my problems attentively. It was he who first made me aware of the terms ‘terminal nostalgia’ and ‘restorative nostalgia’ in which a person wants to recreate his past and wants to live in that period. He said Arun’s was a case of such extreme ‘restorative nostalgia’ which was pushing him towards clinical depression.
I looked at him aghast! How could Arun, one of the most successful artists of his times, one whose career graph was showing a steep rise, become like this? I raged and ranted and cursed my luck — all through Rahul held my hand. I loved Arun but was becoming dependent on Rahul.
The last straw in our relationship was when Arun made love to me comparing me to Ghumi! I could not take it anymore. I refused to go to Ghumi with him but made my secret preparations with Rahul to keep an eye on him from here.
Once there, I could feel the calmness in him, the distractions much lesser. The phone call regarding extension of his stay at Ghumi was as anticipated one; hence I had made arrangements with one of the local elderly women to take care of him during his stay there. For a long-term stay, he would need a proper house with a set up for his studio. Reena aunty, the woman I spoke to had assured me that she would take charge of everything, I would just need to pay for the expenses. I am more at peace now. I have understood that Arun does not need me — we would merely be hindrances in the lives we want to lead. He has found the Land of Lotus Eaters. Nothing perhaps can take him back or make him happy if not Ghumi.
Dr. Nabanita Sengupta is an Assistant Professor in English at Sarsuna College Kolkata. She is a creative writer, a research scholar and a translator. Her areas of interest are Translation Studies, Women Studies, Nineteenth century Women’s writings, etc. She has been involved with Translation Projects of Sahitya Akademi and Viswa Bharati. Her creative writings, reviews and features have been variously published art Prachya Review, SETU, Muse India, Coldnoon, Café Dissensus, NewsMinute.in, News18.com and Different Truths. She has presented many research papers in India and abroad.
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