©️ অয়ন বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় (Ayan Banerjee)
The sky you see — never changes. Of course the position of the stars and planets change but we know their whereabouts exactly, and the colours of the sky change different times during the day. But, Job Charnock, did you by chance raise up your head on December 31, 1692 at noon — and see a steely blue hue over the land which wasn’t quite Kolkata then. Just as I raise my head and see now? Or was the blue much deeper — since your civilisation was not quite ‘developed’ enough to smoke out nature’s innate colours — so maybe your Kolkata boasted an inky Himalyan blue. But maybe not, since between Darjeeling and Kolkata there has always been a depth of six thousand feet filled with air which would merrily scatter away some of the true blue of virgin sunlight. So, Charnock Job — would you recognise Kolkata from its sky if we conjured you up here and now? Would you die once more — of COVID? Or was your immunity far more superior to ours since you survived this country for all of thirty six years with all the malaria and cholera and no quinine or clean water? You know what, Job — who was not pronounced Jawb but Job as in hope — I too saw the sky on the night of December 31 last year. And I saw many stars on a clear wintry night when we were partying on our roof-top to celebrate the cliché-est of all clichés — a bloody New Year — and I thought what the hell why am I part of this stupid celebration of no-change — another year and another boring continuation of everyday. The night sky will remain exactly like this again the next year, and I would be doing the same meaningless thing once more at the end of that year. And the next and the next and the next. Would it ever stop — this continuation of celebrating no-change?
That is what I thought. While my senses were slowly being sapped up by glasses of cold bittersweet-nolongerburning damnexpensive fluid. You would have smiled had you been there with me, wouldn’t you Job? At my ignorance and audacity? What do you think is the greatest change? Death? Can death bring the greatest possible change to a human? I saw death this year Job, up close and all around me. I saw two people whom I loved — of them, one shared my childhood and I thus considered him immortal — lying dead on cold cement waiting to be swallowed by the giant mouths of fire which would obliterate every trace of their being. It felt utterly strange, Job. I could not help picturise myself lying that way — a body that by appearance told everyone that it was me, but which actually had nothing to do with what I had been. How would the others look, looking down at me? Would they become shocked and scared if I suddenly opened my eyes, and would they want me to go back to what they expected me to behave as — a dead object, a non-living thing, which — when it was living — was me. Did you think about death at all? Job? It was there all around you of course, it was indeed something which happened as a natural consequence of living — you lived, therefore you died. But we have forgotten that Job — we have obtained the power of fighting death by our knowledge of how to keep on living — and so, each death appears as an appalling defeat, a refusal to accept that we lost. That we will always lose. Without death life is permanent. And therefore meaningless, since everything meaningful must change.
Sorry Job — I know I am generalising — when all I am doing is talking about myself. My feelings, my selfish, useless, and utterly meaningless perceptions. And maybe that of people like me, who live in a small bubble of existence, protected, fed, nurtured by the rest of society. People who would have been guillotined during the French Revolution, by the likes of those that had to walk thousands of miles this year in my own country to reach a place they called home. Or are — even as I write this — sacrificing the warmth of their hearths during the savage North-Indian winter in order to fight a super-Goliath called the State which wishes to crush the rights and the dignity they deserve being producers of food that the state itself survives on. The lives of many and myriad in my country — nay this planet — have changed Job. Yes, this year has actually produced change — change that is akin to a dragon licking its chops after coming from yonder unknown and burning to nothingness a contented village that expected the sun to rise the next day as they slept safely ensconced in their warm beds.
You, Job, had been a harbinger of change. That is why I thought of you as I began to pour out this kaleidoscope of random and desperate thoughts that this year has germinated in me, and which I had no option but to release. But a question Job — did you envisage that the three villages you purchased and then managed to convince a somewhat reluctant Company to make its headquarters in the richest state of India — would become the future capital of an entire country? Which would be home to a whole fifteen million people and haunt the dreams of a million more who left? Which would be the inspiration of poets and the punching-bag of the defeated? You set yourself up in a small village, fortified it to some extent, and somehow managed to sell it as a place of importance to the powers that decided. Time did the rest.
Or rather, things took off from where you started, and evolved with time. As everything has to evolve, only this evolved into something absolutely massive — much much bigger than what had been anticipated at the time of inception.
2020 too has started something. Something incomparably more drastic than the fortification of a small village in the swampy, malarial, tiger-filled banks of a river. By induction, it should end in something entirely unfathomable at this point of time.
2021 — the cycle of change has been initiated — we anticipate unspeakable wonders in your term.
Hopefully, the sky remains the same though, or is even that asking for too much?