December 2, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Excerpts: The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows by Siddharth Dasgupta

5 min read

The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows_05.12(1)IN SYMPHONIES WE FLOW

Life, in all its red-blooded bliss of ache, skin, soul, and sky is brief; wouldn’t you know…

And tonight, the night refuses to be anything but brutally young. Photographs keep washing on to the shore, and dreams keep playing truant with the light within your eyes.

As pupils blossom and in seeps the ocean’s silent sonata, you see an ancient wooden home by the waves, keeping time to the rebellious tides. You sense three stilled notes of pure, amazing grace. You uncover atonement in knowing that someone, somewhere is thinking of you at a café by the sea; wanting to be held in your arms, wanting your shoulder to rest her head on, wanting your lyrics to make up her song. That’s all there is. And you try and figure out the dots and the lines that lead to something resembling a picture; an image filtered through the rapidness of time, tide, man, and myth.

Were you destined to play the rebel to karma’s near-perfect script? Was it decreed that for this act, you be the joker of the pack; a Capricorn dissident wreaking disorder with the beautifully aged tarot cards? You cast such aspersions aside as you drink some wine and you smoke some moonlight and you try and keep innocence alive. It’s nothing. It’s everything. The ocean saves its best for last.

Beyond me, like an ancient sacred snake, winds the mighty Bosphorus. It is early morning now, and a soft layer of mist rises above the water. No life here in Istanbul is left untouched by the maiden’s majestic sweep. These are two different halves of the world, being unified by a cadence that sometimes flows in shades of pure blue, as it is doing now, or in billowing clouds of ink black, or, as when dusk is at its doorstep, in striking palettes of golden red, or, most thrillingly, as when the night is thick and filled with the moon’s romantic essence, in streaks of giddy silver.

I step on to Galata Bridge, taking the lower passage, and walk, keeping step with the shores as they flank different customs, different communities, different relationships, and even, as it feels at times, different eras. Beneath the onslaught, there are boats coming in with the day’s first catch and small ferries waiting to transport an anxious working-class horde to any of the city’s distant villages and tourist hotspots.

As the fishermen dock their precariously tiny vessels, one of them offers me a smoke. I accept gladly, and inhale the dark essence of dawn, nicotine, and rancidness. My senses are alive to every heartbeat. My ears are privy to every secret. Small makeshift cafés have already begun grilling the fish and handing them out in hastily wrapped paper.

I’m reminded of yesterday at dawn, of biting into the ethnic chaos of the Eminonu ferry docks, out by the banks of the old peninsula, opening my arms to some of the most spectacular views in all of Istanbul. Yesterday’s fare was the fried fish sandwiches, delivered to me by a young fisherman with a toothless grin. Basit was sailor, commander, and head chef of the good boat Ayda, a garish, illuminated wonder that rocked ever so steadily on the water even as its chieftain set about his delicacies. Akin to this morning, I sat for a while on a red plastic chair, while the dock and its coterie of pickle sellers, corn men, and leather-goods salesmen set about readying themselves for the day ahead.

Today, with every savoured bite, with every protracted drag, with every inhalation of dawn, always and forever, the revered hush of the water’s sacred flow fills my mind. Ahmet and I bond over the silent language of the wisps of our unified smoke. I sense from his eyes and the scars that mark his face and the soft trembles that accost him from time to time that here is a man whose past lies littered with loves lost, hopes crushed, and addresses forgotten. But in his sea-worn smile and the glint that often infuses his eyes, I also see the bliss of a life lived in tune to the strange vagaries of the sea. Even at this early hour, Istanbul lies afflicted with a symphonic cacophony of hooting cars, streets waking up to the surge of the day, wailing calls to prayer, the equally wailing replies from a wealth of seagulls, and, as always, those haunting sermons from the far-away dissonance of water traffic. I try and map out a course. I try and gauge the direction of the wind. I try and imagine myself as being one with the city—exotic, erotic, multi-ethnic-hypnotic—one amongst its 19 million, an anonymous speck in a wild confluence of colour and texture.


Excerpted from ‘The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows’ written by Siddharth Dasgupta, published by Niyogi Books.


Across lives, cities, and continents, melancholy and its tentacles inhabit spaces that are often left unexplored. Through ten stories and ten main protagonists, this book paints a portrait of the universal emotion that strikes the deepest and lingers the longest—sorrow.A nuanced narrative of the eternal human existence, this collection embraces light, laughter,hope, and that silently pulsating craving called love, delivering a communal meditation on mortal failings and human persistence.The stories traverse the length and breadth of the world picking up a train of melody from the sonorous sound of the Bosphorus to the resounding refrain of the Qawwali, from the quiet streets of Isfahan to a crowded city in Japan, from two lovers fraught with desire in Bombay to one man’s spiritual awakening in Lebanon.Each story, mired by the undercurrent of simple occurrences and profound epiphanies, also forms an unwitting part of a Sufi’s journey as he navigates the world in his mystic inquiry of the unknown.

About the Author:

siddharthInspired by The Little Prince at the age of seven, Siddharth Dasgupta resolved to explore and experience the horizons of the universe when he grew up. He appears to have come good on that promise combining travel with cultural immersion and contributing regularly to aesthetic magazines and travel journals alike. Siddhartha’s fiction is infused with travel details, imbued in lyricism and magic realism, and enriched by a meditative touch. His first work of fiction, Letters from an Indian Summer, was published in 2014. This is his second book.


About Author

Leave a Reply