2 years of GARIAHAT JUNCTION
This is an appreciation post. Also, one of stock taking.
The book’s birth was greeted with enthusiasm: special thanks are due to Arunava Sinha for publishing an extract in Scroll; to Malavika R. Banerjee for making it part of a Panel at KLM-2020; to Koral Dasgupta for including it in a ‘Writers-in-Conversation’ online-series at TMYS (with Damyanti Biswas), during the first lockdown in 2020; to Tanuj Solanki for the very first, honest feedback on Goodreads; & three other gifted writers for their sensitive and nuanced reviews -- Anurima Chanda (in The Punch Magazine), Dipika Mukherjee (in Jaggery) & Bhaswati Ghosh (in The Woman Inc.).
But I'm most grateful to those who bought & read the book. A first time fiction writer is a deeply insecure person & nothing encourages her more than when people buy her book to read. In my case, many were extra sweet & send me photos when their copies arrived & little notes about what they thought of the stories – on Facebook & WhatsApp (some of which I incorporated in short videos). They have found a permanent place in my heart!!
I am also thankful to those few - among the many I had gifted the book to - who got back to me with their feedback. I have to mention Prof. Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay (Sanjoyda Ke Valobasi) here: on a quiet February afternoon in 2020, he called me & spent some 30 minutes telling me what he liked about the title story, going to some length talking about its “cinematic quality”. I haven’t had a more flattering half-an-hour in the last 24 months!!
This appreciation post would be incomplete if I didn’t mention a few who have encouraged me as a writer, in their own different ways, in the last 2 years – Asijit Datta, Swaty Mitra, Swapna Bhattacharya, Gerry Roy, Bhagwathi Rao Sandilya, Bratati Raybardhan, Brototi Das Gupta, Srinka Bose, Pinaki De, Debasish Mukherjee, Piu Mahapatra, Runa Chatterjee & Sudeshna Chakraborti.
Last year, I lost a reader – my father – to dementia; and found a new one in my daughter. My best & most devoted reader left me 5 years ago – I miss her every time I write; I cry every time I mention this. Her elder daughter - Nilanjana Ray - stands in for her, steadfast, to support me in all that I do & what I choose not to.
I haven’t been able to write much in the last 24 months; or rather, not been able to write what I planned to -- I’ve written X number of blog posts, Y number of essays, Z number of articles and reviews, totaling to so many thousand words; but a shelved novel remains shelved, a work-in-progress memoir doesn’t seem to progress.
The problem is not always a question of time. Fact is, I’ve been wracked by an overwhelming sense of futility. Whatever I think of writing seems somehow irrelevant & meaningless in the face of what we are facing globally since 2020 – the relentless dance of death and disease, of unbearable pain and suffering, the maddening uncertainty of the times.
I am simply not able to handle writing a ‘book’, to give it the sustained attention it deserves -- can only manage shorter pieces; and sometimes, nothing at all.
So much of what we “do” is intangible work, I’ve realized. It can't be put in a CV or posted on a wall; no certificate or photograph can encapsulate it.
My chief “doing” of the last 2 years has been a profound questioning of & renewed confrontation with the self – both the personal & professional self. I have learnt new things about being a daughter and a mother; come to terms with the kind of work I really want to do & realized what I won’t, even under duress.
Most importantly, I have learnt - in a whole new way - the depth of my insignificance. It inspires me to pursue a project where I can think beyond myself. But it stands in the way of my writing…
I’ve had to be my own chief publicist & PR agent, with GJ – I haven't enjoyed that at all. I’ve done it reluctantly, fitfully, incompetently – not posting anything for months on end in the first year, and almost forgetting the book myself in the second. I’m not up to the relentlessness of the exercise… & I’m not supposed to, either; my chief function as a writer is to write, after all.
But I did enjoy the process of creating this particular video: I was both inside the book & outside of it while conceptualizing it; & I loved the fact that so much of my past & present came together in it, as also many dear ones.
In the long run, it is quite likely that this video will be seen more than the book read.