Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
In a lovely build-up to a poem by Constantine Cavafy (reproduced here in italics), Rachel Cohen writes:
Walking in cities is an accumulation of small fragments of loss. A woman you want to keep looking at turns a corner; two people pass and you hear only, “It cannot be because of the child”; you look through a window at a drawing that looks like a print you have seen somewhere before, and it’s obscured when someone pulls a curtain across the window; a woman turns ferociously on the man standing next to her, but by the time you reach home you can no longer remember her face.
You begin to feel weighed down by all these losses, which seem separate from you, from the you that walks and sees and remembers and forgets and returns home. You wonder if the city in which you live is not the right city for you. Some other city might be less oppressive, freer. You dream of moving. And yet, you suspect that
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.
(Cavafy, “The City”, written 1894, revised 1910, tr. Keeley and Sherrard)
Magnificent poetry, and an essay worthy of it. The extract was from “Lost Cities”, an essay by Cohen published in The Threepenny Review, though I first read it, a few hours ago, in The Best American Essays 2003, which I picked up at a Landmark sale for 99 bucks. (Yes, I mean rupees. Hurry!)
For more on Cavafy, check out Chandrahas’s post on the man and his work.
Sita Sings the Blues: The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told
Dev.D doesn't flinch from depicting the individual’s downward spiral
9 across: Van Morrison classic from Moondance (7)
6 down: Order beginning with ‘A’ (12)