12:22 AM


I met Noor at Howrah Bridge, lights dim, yet a faint golden glow, as I stood there in the middle of it, holding to the railing as Ganga flowed below.
Staring at the flowing black river, which glowed in parts from neon lights of Howrah railway station's sign, I wondered how quick would be my death if I'd jump into it. I heard someone laugh.
"Don't fight against yourself, jump into it if you want to," it was the first time I had seen her, Noor. Still laughing. She always considered me a coward for not jumping off the bridge that night.
"Would you jump?" I shouted back at her, as a few policemen were standing hundred meters away and were staring at us.
"One day you'll hear about me, a lady wrapped in the most beautiful dhakkai saree, found dead by the banks of Ganga," Noor replied, walking towards me.
"And what if they don't find you?"
"Then I'd have found a hidden kingdom under the waters and would have shifted there," Noor whispered in my ears. And kissed my cheek, then laughed once again.
I deliberately missed my train on that summer night of 2010. As we found our ways through the dark alleys of Bhowanipur, sitting by a park, forcing a Puchka waala to stay till late, serving us. Sleeping on her terrace, as we stared at the sky that night. We didn't spot any star, but spotted a few drunk men singing merrily through the night.
Like a tram running through a busy College Street, stopping for students midst their conversations, she slowly traced my skin with her fingers. Writing stories, as she said, which will remain through the years.
And Noor, she remained standing at the door that I left from the next morning, as the drivers were busy washing their taxis near a leaking pipe, and the school kids were running for their bus.
And she, she stood there. Like calmness. Like Kolkata, unchanged through time, calm between chaos. She was there, staring back at me.
I still think of that night at Howrah bridge, of Noor. And she still stares at me, laughing, and yet with a desire to consume every inch of me that night.
And I, still ready, to jump off every bridge, into her calm waters. Waters of Ganga.

She walked gently that morning, but I could still hear her anklets in my dream, as she poured water into the bucket, and shook up the sun.
"Choncholo mon amar sune na kotha..."
She woke me up by plucking the strings of an ektara, singing a song she once heard from a baul. The night before she told me about Bauls, about how they sing and make love through the night, seeking divinity in each other.
That evening she ran around playing hide and seek with me on the streets of Gariahat, hiding behind multicoloured tops hanging in the street market, and making faces at me, while everyone else stared at us. But I didn't care, just like Noor, who had no care in the world for anyone except the one in front of her, and I knew that when I sat across her in the tram and she kept staring at me throughout the journey and I kept wishing that it never ends.
"Only fools wait for tram to completely halt," she jumped off a moving tram and rushed towards Naya Bazaar, where she had promised to roam around with me.
Noor wanted to show me Kolkata, and all I wanted to see was more of her in every moment, we walked on Elgin road, hand in hand, overdosing on puchkas.
That evening we just strolled all the way till Maidan, then laying on grass, as she read me few verses of Tagore, singing a song that she heard during one spring in Shantiniketan, and I felt I knew all of it. I knew of whom Tagore wrote, and the lady was in front of me.
Her name wasn't Noor, it's the name she wrote with. Her pen name. But everytime I kissed her, I felt as if I was kissing the person she hid between blank pages of her diary.
I kissed her on that bus to Dakhineshwar, no one was watching us. Letting my lips graze her neck, as she smiled mischievously. And then watched her hand kissing the edges of the temple, as if she was praying to everything. She believed in a God that was in every inch of this earth.
The same earth Noor walked upon, barefoot by the banks of Ganga. I could hear the sounds of Durga Puja pandals that evening, as I stared at her.
For that night the atheist in me had started believing once again, in a goddess that she was.

Paban Das Baul kept singing in the background on days when I used to cook for Noor, while she used to sit there on the slab, talking to me, teasing me, throwing stuff at me, disturbing me and then pulling me towards her and melting me into a kiss.
She would never let me cook, and we would always end up with burnt meals, and a pizza that we'd have been eating, laying under the sheets in bed, staring outside as the weather gods would rain down on the dusty deserted lanes of Bhowanipore, and we would rejoice those times in the timelessness of Kolkata.
Some mornings I'd wake up to find her standing in front of mirror, clad in a saffron garment and smiling to herself, and I was sure she would go mad one day, and I used to mention it to her, but who was she to listen to me, Noor was the one I would eventually learn freedom from, when one morning she disappeared.
But it was a morning before many a mornings where each of my whispers found their way into the words that caressed the pages of those old diaries that filled her almirah, and I would find those diaries days after she was gone.
Noor was the madness, Noor was the love I would once feel in the afternoons spent sitting on terrace and eating Muri, or the evenings spent walking the Elgin Road, having infinite puchkas.
She was the madness that spent nights sitting by the ghat, reciting her poems to me, and then making boats out of those papers and flowing them in Ganga.
She wanted to discard everything she owned, for there lay a world for her beyond everything, beyond all the chains, all the desires including the desire to be free.
And Noor flew in the bluest of skies, burning the sun, soothing the stars, caressing the lands that touched her, kissing the hands which held her, and yet each of her kisses were meant to liberate your soul. Like the moonlight slowly creeping in a dark room, and leaving behind dreams to fill your lives with.
And that was what Noor was, as Paban Das would sing about her saying,

"Choncholo mon amar sune na kotha..."

Devyani Kapoor for Abhinav Chandel's Noor from Kolkata

I know Abhinav from some 7 years and if you ask what is common between us, I would say our version of dreaming and executing. Turning our dreams into reality, we collaborated to work on what for me would be a dream project. Noor, an epitome of love, madness, dreams, freedom is Abhinav's love character who might or might not be true. Well, this man his own ways of narrating his stories.
Here's one from Kolkata with his Noor from Kolkata aka Devyani.

In Abhinav's words - "I would say this was my best ever photo shoot, because I was shooting a girl who has inspired and intrigued me for more than half a decade, but also because we were just two crazy kids trying to create something that'd satisfy our souls, and ended up having a wonderful and fun afternoon.
.And isn't this the thing about following your heart, you go ahead and do what you feel like doing, and when you find someone who's exactly the same, it's nothing but absolute bliss.
.Here's to my wonderful muse and great friend"

Follow him to know more about Noor and his travel experiences HERE

Pictures and story by Abhinav Chandel

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  1. Very well written. I could visualize every damn thing. Keep doing it (Y)

  2. In one way or another, you look mysteriously​ gorgeous.


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