Café Yezdan – Siddharth Dasgupta

 

SiddharthDasgupta_CafeYezdan_IlishaDhond

Illustration – Illisha Millind Dhond

Old Parsi bentwood furniture beckons

stories, in much the same way oceans

beckon rush. Each morning at Yezdan,

a ripe, ravenous invitation for longing

to wallow in the warm embers of tea

being instigated in kettle, for hunger to

rise with the rhythmic scent of freshly-

baked bread, a morning rich with the

voluptuousness of age. Each complex

strand of this land comes woven in

multi-religious threads: born Hindu,

bred Catholic, versed Muslim, imbued

Buddhist, and fed Paris, which is how

things are this morning, lost faces and

wrinkles and smiles foraged from the

innards of life spuriously wept. Brun-

maska dances on the newly-birthed

temerity of butter, dough, glass-veiled

masala chai nips at the air with teeth bared

cinnamon, ginger whole. And thus the

symphony unfurls, in so many old cafés

and corners, this childhood caress of a

city, Irani flooding Parsi, immigration

birthing confluence, yet another thread,

richly, evocatively sewn. Those lingering

echoes of butter, rich and shortbread,

flaked, with the semolina sigh of soft as

silk mawa cake within Kayani’s age-old

secrets; the profusion of lamb roaring

to the symphony of eight spices and rice

as mutton biryanis arise behind Dorabjee’s

well-worn doors; the flood of the bygone –

crystal drops of coffee cold and stories

often told as Marz-o-Rin slips into the

creaking comfort of a century-and-a-half

beneath those sprawling leaves. Is a city

a matter of soul or a matter of taste, the

question hovers; in the end, aren’t the two

just the same, the rhythmic riposte. It’s

true, old Parsi bentwood furniture beckons

stories, in much the same way oceans

beckon rush. Early morning at Yezdan,

a ripe, ravenous invitation for this city’s

Parsi predilections to infiltrate the blood,
for myth, mischief and memory to simmer

in coal and kiln, for poets and their cities

to call it a truce, nourished, akin.

 

The Songstress of Bombay

 

Your voice, dipped in the fragrance of ether

Elicits days gone by with violent ease

That warmth of vinyl, all frayed and imperfect

Raises its veil when you lose yourself on sad afternoons

 

… on sad afternoons such as these.

 

That initial crackle, those hiss-filled sighs

They’re yours, and yet they belong to the past

You are the swirling black, you are the iridescent memory

In you the semblance of echoes of vapour

 

… of echoes of vapour kissed gently with glass.

 

This voice burns when you take on the fabled

It trembles with delight at Farida Khanum

It shimmers broken stardust with Madam Noor Jehan

It threatens, it ruptures, it violates Gauhar Jaan

 

… Gauhar Jaan and her thousand bitter moons.

 

And of tortured verse, what to say

Ghalib through your throat is a thousand birds set to flight

Your wine-drenched chords, Khusrau’s bereavement emulsified

In you the soil of this land, in you the fabric of our blood

 

… our blood flooded with the impropriety of thyme.

 

That voice suffers elision, at times words have little place

While this skyline charts blue lust and its consequential course

Perhaps the Arabian Sea is portent of incipient soliloquy

Just you, your voice, your city, and this air laid thick with words

 

… with words and the vestigial enigma of waft, where, rose.

 

To imbue is to infuse, to inflict is to penetrate, deeply

But what of your voice, which leaves little place for even skin

Stilled between the now and its residues of halcyon days

It stares me into the arms of an overwhelming languor

 

… an overwhelming languor, an influential sovereign.

 

Bombay, vanquisher of violence and hatred and bullets

Bombay through your windows, bound by vintage, mythic lace

Bombay, harbinger, catalyst, and reservoir for your old-world soul

Bombay the eternal aftermath, and the sweet blue hereafter

 

… the sweet blue hereafter kissed with ever-rising flames.

 

 

Siddharth Dasgupta’s fiction and poetry have appeared in the likes of Litro, Cha, Entropy, Sunstruck, Coldnoon, Burning House, and Kitaab. His travel and culture immersions, meanwhile, feature frequently in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Eat Stay Love, and Harper’s Bazaar, amongst others. His first novel, Letters From an Indian Summer, has met with consistent critical acclaim since its release in late 2014. April 2017 sees the release of a Short-Story Collection – The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows. A wild hybrid of poetry is also in the works, and ought to appear towards the end of the year. On any given day, Siddharth can be found chasing after the fleeting gravity of words and the poetic resonance of wild hearts, both of which have proven to be the best of confidantes. www.facebook.com/leavesfromabook | @Siddha3th

 

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