Fog

It was the nimble winter of early November. The morning air was heavy with fog. She had draped a dupatta over shoulders for the cold and was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt - quietly sipping her tea when a kid from corridor waved at her. It was a Saturday but to the dismay of late risers, breakfast at the canteen ran out sooner than weekdays. She had been fortunate enough to have had two servings of pav bhaji and was in no mood of relinquishing her cup unfinished. But the waving continued. She left her seat at the table and walked out with the cup still in her hands. It seemed she had a visitor. 

She didn't think she was supposed to have any. Surprised, she followed the kid - the security guard's son - into the reception. The guard smiled and wished her good morning. She smiled back, confused. The guard pointed at the road in front of the hostel, pointing far away. She couldn't make out a thing - until she saw a silhouette. She walked out half curious, half knowing who he was. She was gasping heavily inside and was staunchly able to hide all emotion, on the outside. 

For a second, she felt she couldn't breathe, and her temples were hot. Then her eyes were moist, and she was also angry - it had taken him so long. For a moment, in there, she was scared, so utterly petrified of him - and of herself. So many possibilities open up when they stand next to each other - and the choice they make decides everything. The minute following this one would be so freakishly consequential for her that she thought she would faint and create a scene. But she was together - all her limbs intact, hair hurriedly tied into a ponytail, spectacles tucked into her t-shirt, feet taking long steps, fingers holding onto the cup which was filled to the brim with tea - which was too sweet - too dilute - boiled for far less a duration than she liked - but this was all she got. She was regretting that tea and walking - wondering why he stood so far. Was he moving further away? Wondering what his intentions were - did he take the conversation of last night a trifle more seriously than she meant it at? Slowly the fog parted, and her face eased into a smile. 

He was chuckling like she had cracked a hilarious joke, and he was no longer able to keep it within. He raised his eyebrows and asked 

'What's up?' 

'You tell me.' She asked him, right back. 

Third Person

Moisturize,
My dear
Feet don't stop cracking
Skin, is begging for some love

Don't overthink
Think not, rather
Just keep going on
Pause not

Control thy frizz
Braid and unbraid your hair
Don't hide in corners and cry
Not in bathroom breaks, ah no

You're more than your failures
Beyond your muzzled ambition
Breathe, deeply 
And then shallow

Take long baths,
Scrub some more
Nap, as much.
Don't bother. Nobody cares as much. 

Nothing comes of anything, anyway.
Nothing gets. 
Write about losing
Just so you can erase and move on.

Be a third person
Stand, unfazed, outside your body.
You're as dead as you're alive
Disconnect on volition

Observe and appreciate
Whatever little you got
It's not as little, perhaps
You wouldn't be able swallow more.

Plateful of meals
Washed clothes, listless midnight breeze
Fairy lights, potted plants
Skin on skin; mouth on mouth

Ain't too shabby for Rachel 



Loop

It's only Tuesday
And my feet hurt
It's only Tuesday
And I don't wanna wake up

But I am keeping up 
With the world,
Because I've to keep going 
I'm keeping the world up, rather 

Everyday's in a loop
Countless weeks,
Back to back
In an anxious delusion

Nauseous afternoon traffic
The same billboards, staring down
Lunches and dinners cooked 
And kept away

Nothing is ever new
Honestly, new scares me now
And I don't even remember the old
Stuck in this static repetition 

To pause, 
Is to allow existential bs to take over
So, I'd rather not
But one random Thursday evening

Perhaps at 7:36 pm, say
In a quiet moment in the balcony
Wondering whether to water the plants, or not 
I pause, unconsciously - 

The loop is broken 
And the whole world comes crashing down. 


Saturday Sorrow

Keep your tote bags in
No brunches for you.
And no long stem, purple carnations either
No resting wine glasses or dangling forks
Or longish conversations, either

You're perhaps, not worth it, after all.

Run errands, you!
Doctor appointments, medicine store hauls
Pending gynaec visits, the psychiatrist awaits
Kitchen's all a leak, call the plumber will you
Door's come off it's hinges, so have you

The house is falling onto us, what-do-we-do

More errands, some.
What about some deep cleans
While doing which, time's a plenty
To regret, while you clean
Thing's you've done and thing's you've not done

No Saturdays for you,
Only the sorrow.
No movies, no writing
Keep your creative corner 
In your 100% imaginary artisanal balcony
Shun the jute rug, which you never bought

Decay. Slowly though
Without mercy 
Lose yourself, irretrievably 
Feel your temples heat with temper
What-do-we-do what-do-we-do 




Slow Day

Slow day, braid and unbraid your hair.
Watch yourself age in the mirror, see them lines, under eyes.
Cook slow meals, de-shelled prawns in coconut milk
Eat in quiet corners, looking at Christmas lights on a stranger's balcony.
Imagine her life, breathe in. Breathe out, be you again.
Rummage through old clothes, unworn for years, yearn for smells of past years. Past lives.
Encourage clutter. Never get rid of stuff, ever.
No agenda, no to-do crap list.
Let thoughts simmer.
Tip toe around in lil-nothings. Let dreams be.
Don't try, do not try. Just be. 
Watch the fuzzy sun, in the cloudy sky.
Take long naps, dream only then.
Wake up into the evening, cheeks a bit swollen.
Is it still today?
Then you isolate again and write a poem.


Only I exist

Only I exist.

Rolling in swathes of time,

Loosing count of days & years,

Memories wiped clean,

All joys torn apart

Only I exist.

Terribly alone,

Singular, bathed in solitude

Devoid of dreams

Cocooned, with my desert like mind.

Sans the slightest aspiration,

Only I exist.

Forgotten, abandoned

Fiercely stoic, nearly inert.

Counting breaths, caught amidst an infinite pause.

Frozen. Decaying.

Only I.

Only I exist.

Drive

This day, the day of the Drive, was years ago. And I have been aching to write about it since I thought of it to be any value. But then, there have been days when nothing has felt valuable, enough to retain, and translate into words. So I have gone back and forth on this and the memory of the Drive has simmered in my head. And then, out of the big blue, life squeezes out an hour for me on a random Friday when I am buoyant with hope and believe, anything that has simmered this long, must be of some value. Some, if not much.

It was a Monday, I presume. How many years ago, this was, that many years ago. It's funny because never before on a Monday had anything been planned. Anyway, so we packed small bags and the baby's things. Milk and towels and diapers and blankies and wet wipes and such. Such an stifling hot day it was in August. Humid and sweaty. The air conditioner in the car was in full blast. The baby was so tiny, in my arms. It felt like a toy. Except that he cuddled. But my head was so dry. And my memory was so faint, post partum. I could barely remember the friend or the relative I met the day before. I zombied through the nights and the days were - well - the days stretched between hours and prolonged into slow afternoons and suddenly merged with sleepless nights. Sometimes I didn't connect correctly, how hard everything was. But everyone told me, it would get easier, most definitely. 

And there was a friend who didn't tell me anything. Just listened. Established her presence. And allowed me to feel what I felt without intervening much. I felt closest to my previous person with her, and when she suggested the idea of this drive, I jumped. But we had to collect an aunt, on the way. An aunt, would accompany. The aunt was a must. Those months in my life, it was difficult to have a view or an opinion on anything since the mind was not fully functional. So I nodded, for most things. And shrugged, subsequently. Nothing seemed to make a difference, oh my.

After settling down, when each one of us got comfortable enough to slumber, the aunt started talking. To begin with, it was nice. She was no stranger, of course we knew each other. But to share the close confines of a car for seven hours is something else, altogether. Aunt started narrating the story of her life. But very much in brevity. I respected that. I tended to the baby, wiped its pee and poop, aunt did not pause - she moved on to how people make a living, in the world today. 

Now that I find debatable. I have slept over it, and woken up on it. I oscillate between having a purpose in life and being a full blown nihilist. Now, nestling a baby and cradling nihilism don't go well together, so I gather all my forces to hold on to whatever is good in the world and build my life around it but aunt started to float away in her tales. 

Aunt, being the aunt she was, told us how her husband was no good. He wasted decades of his life, sulking at his government job and battled alcoholism. Battling is the wrong word her, allowing alcohol to rage and take control of his life, would be more like it. And now he was dead and the children were no better. The daughter had married herself off, reasonably well, given everything that could have held her back. And she had nothing to do with her mother or her brothers. The younger son, decided he would be a parasite and live off his father's retirement money, whatever there was. The older son, her first born, was a replica of his father. Started drinking very young and didn't know how to stop. 

Aunt spent her days and weeks worrying about him. She told us, the mother worries about the weakest offspring. I looked at the baby's sleepy face, the one and the only. 

This older son of hers, she told us, was educated and could do all sorts of jobs. He could be a salesman, anywhere. Or have a smug desk job. There was hundreds of thousands of young men, who started jobs in private firms and moved to Middle East and made fortunes in dirhams and came back to their ancestral villages and built concrete homes for their grandmothers - and mothers. They had wives and children and lived peaceful lives, away from intoxication of all sorts. Of course, some habits - a few cigarettes or day, or something was fine. As long as you could work and make a living, aunt said. But her son won't listen. Then there were hundreds of young men who would sit for exams - banking or the railways or postal and settle down with jobs. They lived in dingy quarters to begin with but outgrew them soon. And they escaped the downtrodden impoverished lives of their forefathers, who lived off the land. Also, there were young men, hundreds of them again, who started businesses. A grocery shop in a busy locality, if you managed it well, would make money. You just have to show some interest in life. Both me and my friend agreed. Aunt went on.

There were traders, who just sat in their homes and talked on the phone and made deals on laptops. All sundry jobs, making money. You just have to decide to make money and money would come. She was so staunch in her words, I felt bad for her. I did. I imagined her son, whiling away the Monday in some bar downtown or drinking away at home and telepathically ignoring what his mother was saying, a hundred kilometers away. 

Forget men, the aunt continued. Even girls these days are leaving no stone unturned. Either they marry well, meaning rich. Or turn into beauticians or nurses or flight attendants or bank clerks. But they definitely turn into something. And in the city they meet boys who are salesmen or businessmen and then they marry and then they have two kids each and they are happy and they buy a car and they buy a house and they build houses for their mothers and buy gold too and keep buying new phones and shoes and televisions and washing machines and keep paying everything on EMI. Nobody the aunt knew, except her son, who sat in front of the TV and drank rum all day. 

I sighed. I had forgotten how rum tasted. I wanted a tall glass of wine and to fall asleep afterward. And not wake up until we were there.