The shared auto in Bhubaneswar is a self-evidently polyglot space than any other place in the city, with the possible exception of a general class railway compartment. You also hear stories, like that of the battering, that you would rarely hear elsewhere. What is it about the enclosed space of a shared auto rickshaw that invites this willingness to expose oneself? I do not know.
The two pieces included in this post are part of a book in progress that Sailen is writing, comprising a series of Odia short stories set in Bhubaneswar. The stories are around the theme of ephemeral and routine encounters of love, or its possibility, located in places that serve as public and private landmarks of everyday life in the city.
I notice the night jasmine in front of my house in Bhubaneswar, after many years, when it gets infested with termites. The insects have woven a second skin around the tree. I hate termites. They eat books. I break a twig—as long as my forearm and as thin as Rumi’s little finger—from the guava tree that grows just beside the night jasmine. I don’t remember whether I planted the night jasmine or if it has grown on its own.
What is it about the olfactory sense that seems to hint at absences as much as presences? Why does one recollect so many peripheral details about ‘that particular smell’ but not quite the odour itself? Perhaps smell forms the base, the foundation, for our sensory memories, sending out tentacles into visions, hearings, giving then nourishment, yet ultimately laying hidden, subterranean. It is only when, for some reason, one does not use a particular sense organ that one gains faculties related to the others. This seems especially true for the sense of smell.
This is the first piece commissioned by Chiragh Dilli, hopefully there will be more, to open up conversations with others who write on and engage with cities in intimate ways. I wanted Sailen to write this piece, even as he was unsure how it would fit into the framework of our blog, for various reasons.… Continue reading This City, Other Cities