21 January, 2021

Still Not Gone To The Rats

A tortured love with Patna, leavened with intimacy, is well told, but a misplaced despair for it is just nostalgic myopia

Manoj Sinha
Still Not Gone To The Rats
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Cities become an integral part of memory. They acquire a human form where, as the poet Masoom Raza put it, kahaniyan jo suni theen yahan pe soti hain. Amitava Kumar’s portrait of Patna is, therefore, understandably a very personal memoir. Patna is where he grew up. It is the city that moulded him, shaped his earliest mem­ories, gave him his first identity, and spun the seminal relationships that could never leave him. Although by now he has lived more out of Patna than in it, and has made New York his home, where he is pro­fessor of English at Vassar College, Patna has not left him. Cities cling on to you irrationally. You may think that you have exorcised them from your consci­ousness, but they survive your betrayal.

Neither Patna nor Amitava have come to terms with this betrayal. Betrayal is a curious phenomenon. It implies both a rejection, and the inability to come to terms with it; a certain kind of liberation, yes, but the persistence of guilt for having sought it in the first place. Amitava hates Patna for not freeing him from its memory;...

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