It’s that time of the year. The time when Tumblr users collectively begin to obsess over pumpkin spiced latte and patterned woollen socks. This is the time of warm colours and cold evening air. The time for blossoming Kaash, if you live anywhere in the vicinity of rural Bengal, and the time of flaming leaf-showers if you are fond of long walks around North London. It is the season of mists.
Autumn always makes me ask existential questions. Of course, city-dwelling Bengalis are probably rolling their eyes as I speak: how in the world can you be worrying about abstractions with the Durga Pujo literally rapping its knuckles on everyone’s doors? Yet if you look closely at those early November days when the air is hung over with the remnants of festivities, and the morning emerges idly from a thin sheet of fog, don’t you ever feel an emptiness buried in your heart, or an unknown grief that haunts you in late afternoons? Think of the landscapes of Hemanta (late autumn), the insomniac owl in the field, Mohin’s horses grazing under a moonlit sky amidst the plaintive sound of falling hay (poems by Jibanananda Das). You will understand what I am talking about.
Autumn reminds me that the world is vast and my days are numbered. It whispers songs of sleep and frost as I am caught in a whirlpool of red and gold leaves for the umpteenth time in the day. It reminds me that every adventure comes to an end. So I wildly look around for someone who understands the silent weight of this burden, propped against our hope to stick around until another year arrives with the promise of more sunlight. I feel an urgent need to convey this thought and more, but all I see is people walking past me, seemingly without a care in the world. And I have halted in the middle of a busy universe with no one but autumn by my side. But then I look through the glass pane and glimpse a different world inside. There lies something to help my darkening heart; if only for a little while. I push the door and step inside. And so it happens that whenever there is a reason for sadness, or just another lonely day, I eventually end up in a coffee-shop.
A coffee-shop could well be a person. There are strangers, and there are those you are acquainted with. Some become your friends with time, and a few remain close to your heart because of all the intimate moments spent together. When in doubt, go on a date with a coffee-shop. Be a little creative with your choices. Walk into an unknown place tucked away in a half-invisible alley. It is only too easy to immerse yourself in the mundane security of a Pret, a Café Nero, a Starbucks, or a Barista. You know it’s all the same there. The precise chocolate syrup measurements and the machine-generated flavours slowly and surely dull your senses; there will come a time when the scent of real cinnamon or the taste of fresh pineapple won’t hold any special meaning for you. Run before it’s too late.
Explore your city – or wherever it is that you live. Let your feet carry you to places you have never been before. Never mind if people angry-eye your laid back stroll on a weekday morning. It’s okay to take a breather now and then. Don’t forget to stop before an interesting looking coffee-shop or tearoom. Take a good look, even if it doesn’t seem to be your kind of place. Walk in, introduce yourself, and give the place a chance. If you click, then you may be in for a relationship of a life time.
(To be continued)