Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020: Letters, Ideas, Conversations & Poems

Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020

Etchings of the first quarter of 2020: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2020

To readers of Sabarna Roy’s Random Subterranean Mosiac: 2012-2018, his latest slim and elegant volume titled Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020: Letters, Ideas, Conversations and Poems comes as another delightful read. In this two-part volume, packaged with a selection of his poems, Roy explores the concepts of duality and constancy in discussions with his daughter. Presented as conversations over coffee and desserts, the talks extend to diverse topics with Lolita at one end and marine conversation at the other. In his poems, Roy and his alter-ego, Sandy, soothe and shock you in turns until you burst out of the last page, breathless and asking for more.

Sabarna Roy was awarded the Literoma Laureate Award for Fiction in 2019. Sabarna Roy’s Random Subterranean Mosiac: 2012 – 2018 received the Fourth Annual Award for Best Book of 2019 from SALISMANIA.com.

Sabarna Roy’s characters are all around us. He has dabbled in poetry, prose, plays and non-fiction with equal elan and delved into the emptiness and futility of life reminding us of the masters in the trade.

Two quotations from Sabanra Roy’s works will provide the above stated point:

“A question leapt into his mind: Is it possible to achieve true happiness by living a solitary life or is it important to lead a community life where one instinctively believes that one’s own desires are insignificant compared to the desires of others and one works towards fulfillment of their desires as if they are one’s own?”

“Many questions crossed his mind. Did he secretly crave to believe in God? Was he looking for a God to deflect his loneliness or was his loneliness actually a sense of pride, which was an obstruction between him and his God?”

– Forbes India

 

Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Methodology

Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Methodology

Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Methodology: Copyright Sabarna Roy, Rajat Chowdhury and Basanta Bera 2020

Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Methodology (ISBN: 978-613-8-91928-5) authored by Sabarna Roy, Rajat Chowdhury and Basanta Bera and published by Scholars’ Press, Stabu Street 15-141, Riga, LV-1010 Latvia, European Union.

The books attempt to elaborate the use of Ductile Iron Pipelines in Irrigation application, Gravity Sewer application, Wet Ash Slurry application, Restrained Joint application and use in Steep incline and Hilly terrain, Life Cycle Cost Analysis between various kinds of pipe materials, Feasibility of Recycled Waste Water for Irrigation, a deliberation on Framework Agreement Procurement Methodology and Emerging Challenges in Pipe Distribution Network based Irrigation Projects.

Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018 Time Frozen in Myriad Thoughts

Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 - 2018 Time Frozen in Myriad Thoughts
Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018 Time Frozen in Myriad Thoughts: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2019
Roy’s Frosted Glass did very well in the market. His Pentacles and Winter Poems, did so well that Amazon Audible converted them into Audio books by the Australian young jazz singer, Colin Newcomer. Abyss was on the bestseller list at the Oxford Bookstore at the Kolkata Book Fair in 2014. Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012-2018 is a kaleidoscope of random, yet mysteriously structured to a pattern, fiction, semi-autobiographical, and autobiographical pieces, covering poems, short-shorts, opinions, observations, and conversations. Roy says: “All my life I have struggled to achieve an optimal lucidity in language and expression that is required to demystify the hidden self and selves and agendas. I hope I have achieved this in a large measure in this fifth book of mine!”

Frosted Glass

frosted glass
Frosted Glass: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2011

Frosted Glass comprises one story cycle consisting of 14 stories and one poem cycle consisting of 21 poems.

The stories, set in Calcutta, bring to the fore the darkness lurking in the human psyche and bare the baser instincts. The stories, compactly written and marked by insightful dialogues that raise contemporary issues like man-woman relationships and its strains, morals and ethics, environmental degradation, class inequality, rapid and mass-scale unmindful urbanization, are devoid of sentimentalisation. The result is they remain focused and move around the central character who is named Rahul in all the stories. We encounter the events that shape, mar, guide Rahul’s life and also the lives of those around him, making us question the very essence of existence. Rahul symbolizes modern man; he is not just one character, but all of us rolled into one. The story cycle stands out for two reasons – its brilliant narrative and the dispassionate style with which betrayal in personal relationships and resultant loneliness has been handled.

The poems weave a maze of dreams, images, reflections and stories. They are written in a reflective and many a time in a narrative tenor within a poetic idiom. The poems are inseparable in a hidden way and are magically sequenced like various kinds of flowers in a garland or chapters of differing shades in a novel. Calcutta features in some of the poems like the looming backdrop of Gotham City in a Batman movie.

Selected Excerpts

A Meeting in the Café – 1

Rahul gazed unblinkingly at his reflection in the mirror, looking for signs of a past that could provide him with subtle indications of the future. He wanted to know where destiny was leading him. He thought of the telephone call he had received a few days ago. An old man, on the verge of death, had begged to meet him. He was dumbstruck when the man introduced himself. He didn’t know how to react. There was a void deep inside him. He was aware that he was talking to a man, whom he had always been very curious about. Enmeshed in the trappings of his own life he had forgotten this man in the last few years. But deep within him was a strain of curiosity. Rahul had finally agreed to meet him after deciding on a convenient date, time and venue. When confronted with an overpowering turmoil in the depths of his soul, further intensified by the fear of dying a lonely and painful death, Rahul would immerse himself in the darkness of his study and look at his reflection in the mirror. Faint specks of light emerging through countless pores in the linen fabric of the curtains and tiny cracks in the panels of the doors and windows ensured that he could see his reflection. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the reflection that looked like an amorphous ghost took on a definite shape and he could make out the curved lines of his ears, his cheek, his nose and lips. Hours passed thus and then, overcome by disgust, he would fling the curtains wide open, and allow the light to rush into the dusty corners of his room. In that halo of light he imagined the scarred and ravaged face of his mother, her eyes sunken in the hollow sockets of her skull shrunk with age and disillusionment – eyes that were charming at one point in time. She warned him, in her feeble cough-worn voice, to run away and not to stare at her through the keyhole. Rahul paced with a cigarette in his hand, inhaling the smoke as though it were the last drag of his life. As the pale blue rings of smoke emerged from his nostrils, he waved them away with his hands. He lost his balance and fell down on the marble tiled floor, now cracked and corrugated with lack of maintenance and disuse. He lay there looking up at the damp ceiling, devastated by the rainwater that had seeped in year after year making innumerable saline patches and ruining the carved designs. Rahul smoked one cigarette after another till he was exhausted. His parched throat craved water. There was a raging fire ravaging his insides. But Rahul didn’t make any attempt to quench his thirst. Behind a screen of smoke he saw a dark adolescent with long tresses, walking through a forsaken mansion looking intently for something. The boy moved from one wall to another, pausing at the weed-infested doors, and the multi-coloured glass panels of the tall windows with their iron grilles. Lizards darted on the wet walls like streaks of lightning. The mansion was lit by sunbeams pouring through the openings in the walls, windows and glass panes. Between these patches of light were the frozen layers of darkness. The boy moved through the rooms, flitting through the rising smoke, light and darkness, hurriedly at times and sometimes slowly, looking furtively behind him as through chased by unseen djinns. On reaching one end of this empty mansion, he came across a spiral staircase without banisters, leading to the upper floors. He contemplated his next move for a while, and then moved on. He crossed identical floors drowned in thick billows of smoke to enter a wide terrace strewn with moss, dead leaves, half eaten fruits and bird droppings. A look of happiness and amazement shone on his face as though his dream was suddenly realized. He saw a sunlit valley of violet flowers stretching out before him. There was a deep blue river flowing on one side, its surface gently rippled by a southern wind. Rahul thought of a caption for the scene, “If you dare to cross your fears you will experience absolute happiness.” Rahul laughed. He knew that was not true. He was not sure how advertisements worked on human minds, or whether they worked at all. But the kind of money spent on advertisements of products and concepts amazed him. A few months ago he’d been diagnosed with a critical illness; a spectre of impending death ticked inside his body. The pathological reports had made him laugh and it was a laughter that welled up from deep within. It was so wild that it created a prickling sensation in his hair follicles and struck the doctor and his accompanying nurses with undiluted terror.

The Last Plunge – 6

In one dark and dwindling part of the city there was a stone-lined street with rows of butchers and tailoring shops on either side. The tailoring shops were not doing good business but the meat shops had long lines in front of them. The street was filthy but after a spell of rain it looked clean, and almost welcoming to the occasional visitor. On one rainy day, Rahul walked down this street to watch the meat chopping operation at length – the butchers and their assistants who made keema meat meticulously and the people who came to buy meat in starched clothes. He witnessed an agitated procession on the street. As he looked at the people in the procession he was overwhelmed by the older intellectual faces, the baby-faced young students, the hollow-cheeked faces of peasants and the dark faces of provincial women. They were shouting slogans vigorously against the government’s industrialization policy and the recent land-grabbing tactics for setting up car factories and chemical hubs in the suburbs. There was an intensity and clarity in the slogans, which affected him. He thought of joining the procession. Suddenly the area was cordoned off by the police. He felt afraid of being beaten up and slipped away, almost hurriedly. That night he remembered the face of his elder son. Tears came to his eyes and a poem welled up in his soul. He sat down and wrote the lines that resonated in his soul.

When I entered the prison I was wearing a blue shirt. At night, a few stars slipped into my dungeon, snatched the blue out of my shirt and made it colourless. Morning, I rushed to the faceless Warden and reported the stars. This warden then looked at me and my colourless shirt and tore the clothes off my body. When he saw my frailness trembling, He spoke in a whisper – Tonight, I will ask the stars to come and prick all the flowers out of my body and leave you flowerless, my boy. When I entered the prison I had a dahlia and a lily growing on my shoulders…

Having written the poem, he felt an unknown happiness and calm surging inside him. He titled the poem ‘Enter the Dragon’. Before going to sleep he read the poem a couple of times. A question leapt into his mind: Is it possible to achieve true happiness by living a solitary life or is it important to lead a community life where one instinctively believes that one’s own desires are insignificant compared to the desires of others and one works towards fulfillment of their desires as if they are one’s own?


 Pentacles

pentacles
Pentacles: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2010

Pentacles comprises one long story and four short poems by Sabarna Roy.

The work delightfully bridges the gap between the mundane and arcane writings of today and provides an interesting, yet intellectually stimulating, treat for the discerning reader. New Life is a long story written from the perspective of a successful adult whose mother had deserted the family for another man. The teenage angst and the scars it has left behind on the psyche of the protagonist are subtly reflected in the character. The different elements and characters of the story are beautifully interwoven to produce an intense and compelling story of an adult haunted by the trauma of being deserted by his mother. The work is interspersed with thought-provoking views on issues like love and socio-economic conditions in India. The traditional rhyme and metre dominated poems are on love, loss and longing. Unshackled by the bonds of rhyme and metre, Sabarna’s free verses evoke the stark reality of urban life, hitting you straight in the guts. The use of everyday urban imagery adds to the appeal of the compositions. The concrete prison of urban life and the unfulfilled desire to escape to a simple life is aptly brought out in The Tower. The other poems of the collection are more biographical in nature with the protagonist being the member of the fairer sex. The free verses sketch out their life story with its attendant pathos, poignancy and logic. The best part of all the compositions is that the reader will definitely identify with the poet and will, in one form or other, have similar stories to narrate.

Selected excerpts

New Life – 4

Some people may recall the first appearance of the shark in the movie Jaws by Steven Spielberg. You had been waiting for this scene for a long time in trepidation. Just when you thought the scene is likely to be delayed by a few seconds and you relaxed from the numbness of an anxious wait, the deadly fish sprang out of the foamy waters and you thought in panic that it had torn apart the cinema screen and leapt inside the dark hall. I had similar feelings waiting for an unknown woman in the milieu of an effervescent crowd of hungry eaters. The air was filled with blaring music, scents of cheese, garlic bread and French fries; and the lingering haze of expensive perfumes and colognes. I had no liking for pizza. Why I had decided to meet Seemanti at Pizza Hut was difficult to grasp! I reached the place five minutes before time. Frankly I was growing increasingly irritated with every passing moment. I waited in a relatively less noisy corner with a translucent glass of coke, sipping now and then, trying to look through the ocean of people to locate somebody walking towards me. Ironically nobody seemed to be interested in me. When it was approximately thirty minutes past four, I thought the phone call was a hoax and in all possibility, a dirty prank played by a cohort of Ranu on me. It was possible Ranu and her companions were keeping a close watch on me from near about and having fun at my expense. This infuriated me. I scanned the entire place carefully and stealthily with my roving eyes: my head moving slowly like a lighthouse lamp, trying to catch a glimpse of Ranu. I was sure by then that she was hiding somewhere in a strategic vantage point laughing out in rolling waves and patting herself at the success of her practical joke. I decided to invent some issue to throw her out of the company. I felt my neck stiffening and suddenly afflicted with a sharp pain moving up the spine because of the awkward rotational movement of my head. I started feeling tired and exasperated. I was on the verge of getting up. As I looked at my watch before leaving, I was a bit shocked to see a woman sitting opposite me with a magical smile on her lips. It was somewhat embarrassing looking into her enormously big black eyes. From a cursory glance, yet most comprehensive under the circumstances, I observed the woman was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a red t-shirt. She was frail, short and pale. She was not someone one could compliment as beautiful, but her eyes and smile had a charm of their own. Her head was full of thick ruffled curly deep black hair neatly cut to shoulder length. Although she was tiny in size, she carried with her an air of firm composure. From her smile, I could make out she knew me. I felt relieved with the growing feeling that I was not being used for somebody’s mindless enjoyment after all! It was soon replaced by anger. I felt very angry at this woman; how discourteous she could be! She kept me waiting for an hour (after having taken the initiative of fixing up an appointment with me in the unholy hours past midnight). As I looked at her eyes once again I found them slightly swollen, possibly from lack of sleep. “Mr. Sen I’m Seemanti. I’m so very sorry to keep you waiting. Frankly, I fell asleep. The alarm didn’t work. I apologize. I know you are mad at me. I worked till noon today. I was awake the whole night. I’m working on something very interesting now. I’ll tell you. But please smile first.” She spoke so frankly and in a matter of fact manner, I had no option other than swallowing my anger. In fact, quite unexpectedly and involuntarily, I burst out laughing. In another part of my mind, I was exploring each quadrant of Seemanti’s face for any connection, however weak, linking her to Amalendu. Surprisingly I found none in my quick mental comparisons to the images of Amalendu’s face that flickered in the wells of my eyes based on memory. I was happy about it. It would have been so difficult for me to carry on a proper conversation with anybody who reminded me constantly of Amalendu. Seemanti relaxed as I laughed.

2001-2002 – 1

I remember the night of December 21, 2001 vividly like a fresh cut wound, I saw in a dream: A monstrous blackbird swerving, Making mystical patterns in the air on orange fire-lit desert. As if, the loneliness and boredom of my life was on an edge of explosion, I woke up from my bed and sauntered down the corridor of my apartment, Through vaporous darkness unaware of others, And the chill freezing in the midnight breeze. I walked from room to room imitating, The motions of the blackbird in my dream, In search of something I did not know. Then I saw the refrigerator standing in the corner of the dining hall, Faintly illuminated by streaks of bluish light. It shone like an ice-man whose image I had conjured up in childhood, Listening to the mysteries of the Yeti roving among Himalayan peaks. I proceeded towards it pulled by an unseen magnetic force, I opened its door half-hoping to find the mysteries of my life, Preserved inside its cooling chambers in colourful bottles of glass. I opened the door and saw a haze of white light bathed in thick clouds of steam, Pouring inside the apartment filling it up in no time. There was nothing inside, The freezer, the trays and the walls looking maniacally sterilized, As one did in a morgue and they were lying there brazenly empty. All of a sudden the fluorescence, The shafts of cold steam and the buzz of the electric motor became one, Resonating with the universe and the motions of my soul to tell me: I was still swimming in my dream.


Abyss

abyss
Abyss: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2011

Abyss is a full length play in two acts with an interval in between.

It is essentially a racy crime thriller full of gritty suspense. Act one builds up slowly to result in a crescendo of conflicts between personalities and ideas finally to end with an unnatural death before the interval. Is it a suicide or a murder? Act two evolves through a series of incisive interrogations to unravel the truth, which is deeply disturbing and affecting. As the play unfolds into a very well-crafted situational thriller, underneath is the debate about using land for agriculture or for industry, the ethics of a working author and the nexus of a modern state all wonderfully enmeshed into its storyline and the personal lives of its subtly etched out characters. The highpoints of the play are its central conflict between a mother and her daughter and its female sleuth – Renuka.

Selected excerpts

Act 1 / Scene 5 …….. …….. Mriganka: You’re a confused woman, Oindrila. There was a time when you wanted to follow your ma’s footsteps almost blindly. Today you want to oppose her come what may. You’re damaging yourself. Oindrila: You don’t have to bother about my hurt. You don’t love me anymore, do you? You didn’t even tell me that. You’re so mean. You just dropped me like I was a piece of shit! Now that my ma is on your side… Mriganka: What do you mean by that? Oindrila: My ma sees in you a writer worth investing! Mriganka: Are you jealous? Oindrila: It only shows the kind of person that you are. You’re hobnobbing with a person whom you hated until a few days ago. You’ve no standards of ethics. You write so well about things that you don’t believe. You don’t live the kind of life that your principal characters seem to urge their readers to live. You’ve abandoned your friends at fancy. I ask you Mriganka – for what? If you had a conscience you would feel remorse. Did you ever for a moment think why ma is doing to you what she’s doing to you? She might be using you. On the contrary you beam a halo of pride. I feel so tiny having fallen in love with you and more so for what happened today. Mriganka: Get out of it then! I think we must join the party. It looks so odd keeping others waiting. Oindrila: When did you master all these bogus courtesies? Mriganka: Oindrila, can you see this, you’re only ranting at me? You’ve been drinking for too long now! I’ve many things to tell you. My mind is in a jam too. Let me clear them all. I’ll unbundle them at the right opportunity. Come on now; cheer up; for old time’s sake. [The drawing room side is illuminated once again. Oindrila and Mriganka join the others in the drawing room side.] Debibabu: Whatever you might say boudi, I’m of the firm opinion – we should not go ahead with the new plant before the state elections are over. Debasree: Even if that escalates our costs by twenty five percent? Debibabu: Yes, of course. The estimated cost escalation can be brought down at the time of actual procurement, I’m sure of that. Lalita: Jethima, if you push it too much, the resistance from the locals will increase beyond a manageable degree. Ayan: Is it true that our supervisors were hurt on their heads by local stone throwers? Oindrila: Yes, it’s true. Debibabu: Oindrila, have some red wine. I brought a bottle of Malbec for you. Boudi has poured it for all of us. [Handing her a glass] Come have your glass and don’t look so glum tonight. Debasree: Come Mriganka, have your Johnnie Walker. [Moments of silence follow. Everybody is drinking reflectively.] Oindrila: It must be a beautiful night outside, no? Have you seen the stars tonight, Mriganka? Have you seen them, ma? I need to see them. I just need to see them. I’ll go and I’ll come like a jet-fly. You guys entertain yourselves. I’ll pay a visit to the backyard, possibly the terrace. [Exits stage] [A moment of silence follows.] Lalita: Is didi not keeping well? Debasree:   Why do you say that? Lalita:         I don’t know. Doesn’t she look a bit paler? Ayan:          She does. Debibabu:   Boudi, I can understand the situation you’re going through. Debasree:   What? Debibabu:   I’m referring to Oindrila. Debasree:   It’s only a passing phase. She’s a wretched soul. She feels for others, she’s a kind girl. Gradually she’ll see the truth. Mriganka:   What is the truth, madam? Debasree:   The truth Mriganka is – man has learnt to live best for him. The other truth is – my daughter will be the Managing Director of my new company. Mriganka:   I need to go for a leak. Excuse me. [Exits stage] Debasree:   You’ve anything to say to that? Lalita:         No, except that I would like to be a part of this new venture in whatever capacity you find it okay for me. Debasree:   Don’t be anxious. I’ll take you on board when the time is right. What about you, Ayan? Ayan:          What about me? I’ve decided – I’ll quit working. If Mriganka is actually serious about producing my film. Debasree:   Did you discuss with him? Ayan:          I did. Debasree:   What did he say? Ayan:          He said he’ll look at it. Debasree:   If you want, I’ll talk to him. Debibabu:   Can I ask you something, boudi? Debasree:   Go ahead. Debibabu:   When are you planning to organize Oindrila and Mriganka’s wedding? [Screaming voice of Mriganka from backstage.] Mriganka:   There’s a dead body here. Oindrila is dead. Help! Help! [Before lights are switched off we can see terror descending on each and every face. They’re seen rushing backstage. The stage becomes dark and curtain falls.] [Interval of ten minutes is declared]


 Winter Poems

winter poems
Winter Poems: Copyright Sabarna Roy 2013
The poems contained in this collection, Winter Poems, by Sabarna Roy were inspired by the relatively mild season that prevails in Kolkata following the season of festivities, the Durga and Kali Puja, and portray myriad shades of human life. Some of them deal with the imaginations of death and home while still others the idea of loss and coming to terms with gradual wasting of life. Many aspects of human life and commonplace human impulses are examined and brought to life through a range of imaginations and varied metaphorical associations. The poems are sure to delight the readers and generate a whole range of emotions among them.

Selected excerpts:

Winter Poems 2010 – 10

They forgot to put my body on fire On freshly chopped logs of wood On oil cracking and boiling They forgot the charm of cotton ball plugs, the sight of wetted white petals of fecund flowers, the absent-minded twirl of smoke chains, incense sticks, the sonorous trail of holy hymns, crackling sounds of earthen pots and above all, the communal mourning around a corpse Instead they hurled me down inside a pit – laboriously excavated, dark and deep And, instantaneously covered it up with fast-setting slurry With a sleight of hands that can be defeated only by mystic magicians at work So, I exist there frosted miles below From where you are waging your philosophical wars on trains against commuters struggling to reach their office on time, commissioning ecstatic cocaine soirees on yachts and rafts, executing orgies with strangers on a plane, stealing antiquity from private museums of nouveau billionaires For you had told me once: I will blow up my life Indoctrinating me with the scent of your body and introducing me to the nucleus of this explosive club: Death rattle Clan What holds me here is an intricate web of undefined silence and darkness – so pure in form – In this marsh of soil, water, plant roots and rotting flesh You worry sometimes, don’t you; struggling in sleep: Do I remember your face and touch as I crossed over the perimeter of life? Do I know that your face is one among their faces? Do I remember all their faces as distinctly as I should? Do I remember our plot of blowing up our lives? Might I end up sharing it with a fellow corpse? Remembering and forgetting are complex phenomena even otherwise; more so after you’ve crossed the gate Sometimes – nowadays – I will to laugh at our words – words crafted out of beliefs – mostly non-beliefs – yet preached with so much intensity, precision and timing – a way of time passing for all of us at this explosive club, Death rattle Clan.

Winter Poems 2012 – 2

This black girl in black short skirts and black flapped collar top Swam in the sea like a lethal fish – eerie silence all about her I watched her from the scorching shore Then she ran a long mile – miles – through the rubber woods Almost crazy dancing to Dido songs I chased her panting for air Through my apartment’s eastern window I saw her steel razor in hand foaming her dying dad’s head and then shaving off like a skilled barber She hardly talked to anybody in the community Smoked Wills in chains This petite black girl one day went to the terrace of her tower Shoved off her clothes and stood naked in the moonshine looking up in the sky And then as I adjusted my binoculars well Found beads of shining teardrops streaming down her cheeks.


The images have been released under GFDL license

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