The Moonstruck Columns

Rhapsody In Blue

‘Chapter one.’

‘He adored New York City. He idolised it all out of proportion.’

The faint skyline in black and white flashed on the big screen followed by the montage that had once made me fall in love with New York City and, well, montages. But that’s not what this story is all about. The story is about the tune that kept ringing in my ears long after the movie was over.

The first time I saw it, I could hear the movements of Rhapsody In Blue from a distance in my dream with scenes from the movie sliding in and out of view. Although in my dream it was a different town. It was a blend between the high-rises and the narrow alleyways. For those of you who don’t know me, I lived a major part of my life in Calcutta and the parts I didn’t, I have admired it from a distance. It has the fine texture of an oil-on-canvas. As Annie Hall once snapped back at Alvy with a Death In Venice quote, I could relate to it—Calcutta is a dying city as well. Yet it continues to live on. It’s strange how the soul of one city is so remarkably similar to another like it. With corners that look right out of a Satyajit Ray movie, (well, literally) you could almost hear the music amidst the hustle bustle if you happen to walk the serpentine lanes of Bowbazar.

In the afternoons of fall or spring, the mist which usually swallows the skies clear away and lets the golden rays soothe the air that makes everything even more poetic. Calcutta still feels home somehow. Sometimes I picture New York to be similar. Midtown Calcutta reeks of the olden times still with the dilapidated trams passing you by. You could hear them coming from a distance and continue to hear them long after they have disappeared around the corner. They are like iron elephants that slow down the otherwise fast-paced city-life.

I do board them once in a while when I am in no hurry to reach places. I fear that I won’t see many people and someday they will have to shut the mode of transportation. I imagine how heartbroken I would be. But funnily enough, even though people appear to be in a whole lot of hurry, they still seem to enjoy the slower side of life. Every time when you feel like an era is on the brink of ending, they keep deceiving extinction for just a tad longer as if whispering to us in tunes of Rabindranath Tagore—‘Not today, my friend. Not yet.’

As the dusk falls, Rabindranath Tagore’s aching melodies somehow manage to blend into the Gershwin piece with its mesmerizing movements. Dreams of New York suddenly longs to be Calcutta. The movements thrill you, make you fall in love and snap you out of a trance only to put you into another one. But what I love about it the most is how it acts as a time machine coupled with a teleporter. I could put it on my earplugs and close my eyes and I know I would see the Manhattan skyline and when someday I would live in another city and miss Calcutta a little bit, I know it would remind me of here too.

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