Look at me, tonite

Won't you look at me tonite
With those sharp little tiny eyes of yours
Won't you glare them at me
Whimsically, as if by mistake
When our eyes meet mid air, mid way
Only to undo that mistake instantaneously
And look elsewhere with a shallow gulp of guilt

Won't you make me feel seen
Observed, wanted, needed
For what else do we need more
Than this need to be desired
Tonite, and every other night, like this one
Thirst and lust, and the feeling of being quenched.

How long has it been that I have felt this guarded and protected in the safe haven of someone's vision.
My goodness, hasn't it been long. It has.

So now, please don't look away, you.
As we run out of breaths and time
We run out of passion and even words
Just be, this way, and steal your coquettish glances from me.

Look at me as I walk in, and walk away, and stand and sit. Appear engrossed. Appear lost and fathom me in that loss.

Look at me, tonite.

Keeping Promises

Perambulations

I see a man. In the 11 PM darkness. His restless perambulations on the roof top. I can only make a silhouette out. It's dark but yet not dark enough. In the faint light of distant street lamps, I can draw his rough outlines. Is he walking this way because he has to burn his dinner up before he falls asleep. Or has he a story. Is he smoking a hard day away. While his wife has nodded off on their tiny double bed downstairs. Has he a little son in a Spiderman suit. And a little girl who sleeps holding her stuffed bear. Their room painted in cartoons and their toys astray as his exhausted wife catches her breath in the hall. Our perambulating man has to make it to the end of the month, pay the rent and the fees. And the milkman and the launderer. And for the loans and the groceries. How long will this last. Time will pass. Kids will grow up. It will get easier with time, it should. But is his life a means to an end and all it is, is that.

In a blink, I turn into his wife dozing off downstairs. Or his son in the Spiderman suit. I pass through them like light would pass through a ghost. I am him, I can feel his heart beating within mine. Is he an abberation, an apparition, a figment of my drugged imagination. Then I become the solitary woman staring at it all from the distant balcony. 

Behind me, the lights in my bedroom are dimmed. The air is cooler than evening's. My legs are up on the grille of the balcony. I sit here nearly hidden from the world. Behind my clothes strung out to dry at night. Or so I think. Or so I imagine. But the man can see me clearly. Or my silhouette only. And imagine things about me, as I do. About him. About my many a daily crises, about the chaos in my pretend peace, about my trash of three days that hasn't been taken out. About my inane loneliness. And my simultaneous inability to cohabit my space with another. About my unfinished stories and my lame ambitions. About the bangle stand behind the mirror that my mother gave me years ago that broke many times, and everytime it broke I set it up again with glue. The glue that is holding me together right now. 

This faint light, is faint no more. We can both suddenly see so much about each other. Too much.

Asafoetida

In the corner of the bottom shelf of spice jars sat the good old jar of asafoetida. That jar was as old as her wedding. It was a wedding gift. Yes, a jar of asafoetida. Heengu. It came in a huge trunk of spices, in which, as someone had quipped during their wedding that both the bride and the groom along with their future children could be accommodated. And happily. In that trunk came bottles of ghee and oils. Tins full of flour. Rice, obviously, gunny sacks of rice came separately, to feed the bride's new family through the famine, if need be. But the trunk, it contained, lentils of half a dozen kinds, and semolina and  vermicelli. And nuts and cashews. If the bride felt like making dessert for her nieces and nephews. And a cart of vegetables came separately. But the trunk, it contained papads and badis for a lifetime. And along with it all, it contained all the condiments a kitchen could imagine. From seeds of coriander, fennel, cumin, mustard, pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, bay leaves and the list seemed to go on. In fact, the trunk contained a neatly written list of all its constituents. That list ended with asafoetida. To the fag end of that long slip of paper, was scribbled in motherly handwriting, asafoetida. The queen of spices. 

After getting married on that benign winter day several years ago, Manini had moved around quite a few places with her husband. Several cities into which he got transferred. Changed houses as many times or more. Had two children, one three, one one and a half. A son and a daughter. In each of those kitchens she cooked in, all her spices were used up. In the slow process that life is. Packed in the lunch box her husband took to office, or for the pakoras she sometimes fried on rainy afternoons, in the rice tasting ceremonies of her two children, in some of the parties and functions at her house that she had hosted. She had fed herself and her family of three. Sometimes, she bought new packets of spices and used them just so as the make spices she had brought in her wedding last longer. She wanted to carry a bit of home with her wherever she went, after all. 

It's a strange phenomenon how the mention of the word home made so many chords string her heart. First two decades of life that she had lived in her father's house and shared with her brothers, the recent years she spent at her husband's, where she had given birth to his children. Sometimes, and no matter how hard she tried, she felt this duality of having two homes and being homeless at the same time. Ironical. Nevertheless, Manini tended to her young children and her husband, visited her parents on most summer vacations. 

Her bottles of condiments though, perishable as they were, ran out over the years, One after the other. This bottle of asafoetida, due to its frugal use probably lasted the longest. Every other day that she cooked lentils, she added a tiny pinch of asafoetida into the oil before spluttering it with curry leaves and red chillies. For a brief fraction of time, just the smell that emanated from a pinch of asafoetida sprinkled on hot oil filled every corner of her kitchen and reminded her of home, wherever that was. Her father's. Her husband's. Or somewhere in between. A chunk of her own piece of heaven. And Manini cringed with Hiraeth.   

Hiraeth

Hiraeth is a longing for one's home, but it's not mere homesickness.
Hiraeth is a Welsh word which doesn't translate well into English. 

Who You Be

I don't keep a good track of time. Because what is to it. Every realization that such and such quantity of time has passed, you only feel nostalgia. And along with nostalgia, a tinge of sorrow. Helplessness because we have been so callous in life. Though we have been extremely savagely prudent, we have managed to be callous, nevertheless. So I don't appreciate keeping a track of time. I keep no album. No journal. Nothing. And it feels liberating, living like this, deliberately, without a care for time. Living life day wise. Hour wise. Week wise, at most. But not in any longer tranches of time. 

However, I remember, faintly though, deeply loving myself. Loving yourself is a good thing, no doubt. But I was a narcissist. I don't judge you if you are, by the way. But I don't like being one. It's a huge waste of time. But then what is not. If you are not the artist or the muse, your life is a ludicrous waste of time. But I was arrogant. For no apparent reason. I wasn't even pretty. That I wasn't pretty played over my fucking head a lot. I overcompensated the lack of being loved. It's basically sort of playing defense. But in a twisted sort of a way. 

After a long time, I cannot tell you how much time exactly, because I don't keep track of time, but after like a dozen rejections or so, I learnt my lesson, that beauty probably cannot be attained. And no matter what you do, you be who you be. And nothing you do, believe, can ever alter that truth of truths. So I shed the arrogance and compensated the lack of love with deep compassion for the self. Yeah. And it's been working. I guess. 

Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly. Khaled Hosseini

Many Mirages

I've seen you for years.
Been seeing you:
Watching over you
And now look
I am stuck with a tonne of memories
Not knowing what to do-

Remember that time
That August evening
When we stopped by a tree
For a quick smoke
And in the dark, lit the cigarette from the other side
Burnt our lips and laughed so much.

Remember the homes,
We have lived in
Middle aged clingy apartments
Our clothes drying on railings
Piled on chairs..
Heaped on the bed

And the getaways
Particularly that one-
When we passed out in the bar;
In mid afternoon
Boy, were we high!
Don't recall puking, but I know we did and a lot

Do you remember,
Conversations and walks
Comparing our tastes
Among authors and makers of cinema
Couldn't have been more divergent
But, we were both alike in being different, for sure

All these years
We have both grown older love..
Ain't nobody gonna deny that
You've grown larger in my eyes
From a boy to a man
And then you've shrunk back

You're many men. Many mirages
Probably, it's just me hallucinating.
And drugging myself unnecessarily
With your bygone memories
To squeeze out sleazy poetry
Yeah, that's how it works

But I clearly recall.
Your grey eyeballs
The li'l bald patch, you were so nightmarishly afraid of
The neat buttons on your shirt and rolled up sleeves
And how you altered conveniently
Between being many men and the One for me.





Keepsake

Do you remember the dim lit alleys. And cafes with bowls of water and petals floating amongst floating candle flames. Have the slightest memory, do you. Of the long nauseous drives, uphill and downhill and then uphill again. Do you remember, how our friends hooked up and went for long walks leaving us behind, alone, alone-together and writhing in unbearable adolescent solitude. Seated on wooden benches under tall, very tall pine trees, picking up pine cones from the ground and counting them. And those long sun less mornings of fog mixed with steamy breakfast. Memory is a tricky thing. You forget the obvious. But store these tiny irrelevant details. Like the big flat-screen TV. Or the aimless strolls uptown and getting lost. And then not finding a cab on the way back and getting caught amidst a hail storm. Do you still think of late night, almost running into dawn, parties. Do you remember the first time you held a drink in your hands while another girl mixed up vodka with rum with whiskey and danced and puked. Do you remember watching, and being watched. And how the feeling of undiluted lust was. When you lusted for a man, so blindly without considering parameters of beauty or money, just lust. Pure lust, on plastic chairs, holding drinks in plastic cups, until dawn, under pines. And then witnessing a gorgeous orange sun crack the sky and washing off that illegitimate lust with all the pragmatism you could gather. And walking back to your room and taking a really hot shower. You could never claim what was not rightfully yours. Nevertheless, you smoked in disquiet corners in insomniac parties and imagined poems. You wondered what it would feel like to doze off on each other's shoulders and wake up in the touch of undiminished love. Even if things didn't work out much, you thought of dinners in cafes of floating candles on rooftops. Same rooftops that were too tempting not jump off from. Yeah.

On a slightly different note, do you remember home. Unbearable summer days and sucking off seeds from melons. And forest fires. And rickshaw rides of total absolute liberation. Do you remember long chats and unacknowledged affections. Do you remember splitting the cheque on a date to make it look platonic, how fearful were we. Do you remember wearing capris and skirts and hiding your bosom full of love in loose immortal t shirts. Do you remember the earphones and endless playlists on loop. And windows media player. Do you remember boat rides and swooping bats. Propositions and heartbreaks. That could never be healed. And walking back in the rain, plucking wildflowers. Strange train journeys and waking up bare feet because your slippers were stolen. Staining your fingernails in flower juice. Do you remember grainy pictures and unsophisticated phone cameras. First touches, shoulder brushes and kisses in the dark. How naive were you, how unloved were you darling. Do you remember. Chomping off platefuls of noodles and gravies in garlic sauce, and espresso, all that. Yes. Do you remember being ugly, particularly. 

Picture courtesy: Ukiyo-e 

Man from the Past

You've come back from the past, haven't ya?
Rather, come forward in time, if I may.
For me.
Because you seem so familiar 

Like a neat culmination of all my unrequited loves.
Everything that I've lost, back in time,
I've found in you
The very exact qualities

How can that even be
An irony of that magnitude
Whoever said, time travel wasn't possible
Particularly in matters of love

And time is just a coordinate of continuum 
The fourth axis. 
Just like x, y and zee
Time is malleable and ductile

We can clap our hands
And move forth and back in time
As we wished
2007, here I come, 2021, here I am.

Now, finally that you're here
Regret not that you are late
Possibly by a decade, if not less
Be elated, that you've found me now, better late than never 

Now, we have the wind in our hair
Music in our ears
A funny sway in our gaits
As we walk down unknown alleys, 
We have an entire evening to create memories, that couldn't be



Crushed Paper

People think writing defines me. More or less. That I shall get away with life by writing. Prose poetry. About lost loves. And about the general vagaries of life. It's true, to an extent. Sort of a half truth.

Half only because I have repeatedly proved to myself that I lack the stamina for it. 

Nevertheless, when I open old closets I find neatly wrapped still unopened gifts. With notepads of hand made paper. With ornate bookmarks. The ones that have gifted them expect me to fill in their pages with an equally classy ink pen or so. Poems, may be. Some notepads have ruled pages, some are completely blank. Some have plain white rugged paper, some have fine lines and an egg shelly hue to them. Some look like straightened out crushed paper. 

People have been to places and collected such notepads as memorabilia from said places for me. I sometimes want to understand what must have been going on in their minds when they picked up these gifts for me. It's not that I have wanted earrings. But still. People come into my life and leave similarly. But they leave these notepads behind. Good old friends, college mates, admirers, paramours, if I may. 

If I went out now, looking for them all, I am pretty sure the world would have gobbled them up and in their chosen obscurity, I wouldn't find them. But a pinch of them, stays locked in those neatly wrapped gifts. Their odor intact between the sheets.

For Nina Simone. Happy Birthday. High Priestess of the Soul. 

Day-to-Day

I still think of life
As a multiple of days

I never think of,
Say, a week, a month,
A year, or a decade
Say

All I think of
Is the fuckin' day

In the morning
I pray that it be a good day
That we be saved from misfortune

At night, I pray
That we get good sleep
That we are alive and safe
When we open our eyes.

Isn't that enough?
Thinking of life
On a day-to-day basis
Sometimes, I count hours too

A day is the smallest unit of life
Also I am afraid to think of it in longer units

I live day-wise
Buy milk every other day
Do the dishes every other day
Do my laundry every third day
Or fourth
Have a drink once in a week, or oftener
I watch two episodes of Seinfeld every night
To lull me to sleep

I can't paint my nails, as often as I would like
But that's okay
Same with writing
But who cares?

All I care is that,
Did my day go okay?

I am not looking for flamboyant success here, or glory

But is life still livable, are we alive,
Did I see things I was shown
And most importantly,
Did I hear what I was told
And did I
Open I mouth even half as much as I would like

Very modest expectations

May be this lack of ambition
Has me impoverished
And I don't remember
When exactly,
I got into this business of
Counting days
And hours till I got to go home
To eat the dinner
Whose recipe I've been Googling
Since 5 pm

But I just am.

And I can't complain,
If I can have it this way
For days to come.



Saturday


She's dressed in three-fourths and a T. Her hair is braided thick and knotted up into a clutch. She's twenty three. This September. Sitting before the television, she's completely focused on her plate. Like, she hasn't looked up at the screen even once. Today's Saturday, it's the weekly off from her dieting schedule. Earlier, she used to take breaks on Sundays. But with Sundays being the days of special lunches and special  dinners, she began eating more in one day than she had forgone all week. So she included Sunday into her dieting schedule and took  an off on Saturday. On Saturdays, she ate whatever she wanted. All the junk. Rest of the week, she lived mostly on salad and low fat milk. 

All she had on her plate was a bed of white rice and atop that, three curried eggs. One is good. Two is too many. Three is beyond glutton. Three egg whites, three solid yellow yolks. To be nibbled slowly, broken down with fingers and mashed into the curry of numerous flavors. And to be licked off each finger with infinite delight. That delight, should fairly encapsulate the renunciation of the upcoming week, the agony that her taste buds would go through with meal after meal of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. 

All this for what! Slimmer thighs. Such that those old jeans didn't embarrass her as much. For that romantic interest of hers to spare a second glance. Too many reasons. No more brooding, she told herself. 

Outside, it began to rain, an unexpected afternoon shower in May. With the thunderstorms, et al. That familiar smell arose from the soil. She rushed to the terrace. Lines and lines of her clothes, leggings and scarves hung to dry in the free summer sun were half drenched already. She had done laundry all morning. Not for this. She gathered as many as she could and piled them on the floor downstairs. And then it began raining too hard and the breeze was unreliable too. She gave up on the rest of them. Still handing abandoned.

Her next door neighbor, her aunt, screamed from her side of the balcony after the power went off. It was pitch dark. She switched off everything. Lightening was known to damage electronic devices. And obviously, her mother wouldn't be able to buy them a second television or a second air conditioner. She unplugged them all and sat on the bed, quietly continuing the remnant of her meal in the dark. 

Remember & Write


On early mornings in December
I witness,
Sisters in tow from upstairs
Rushing down with school bags & lunch boxes
Their hair split into twin braids
And tied in white ribbons
So neatly, so neatly
I can never be a nihilist again.

Life must have some reason
Some hidden order in this chaos.
It must. Because of those braids
And the bed of flowers

Here, you know.
They haven't got marigold or gerbera, I believe
All they've got is chrysanthemums & roses
In that paucity of variety, there is infinite beauty
Heaps of roses, blood red, orange, pink, magenta
And chrysanthemums yellow and white
Those hawkers, stuck in your peripheral view are omnipresent
And they make life feel akin to
A bed of roses & chrysanthemums

And even if you don't buy yourself a bunch for Valentine's,  that's okay
It's alright. It's not the end of the world
Until it is.

That your poems don't rhyme, horribly
You couldn't care less

What matters is that you remember and write
Like a mild insomniac beyond caffeinated midnights.
Remember & write.

To pay bills and die.

Stars come down to my bed
On some no moon nights
They glitter like insomniac jellyfish
And keep me awake too, and thoughtful

On Sundays, as the westbound sun
Dries my afternoon wet hair,
Clinging to my shoulders
I reluctantly give in again and think

What am I letting go, to become who I be

Which layer of me, be the true layer, like I were an onion
Every peel, and a new color. From dried and coffee brown, to orangish red and pinkish yellow, and the wheatish stem of the onion be my untamed soul.

Am I numerous persons, all at once
Or am I a process, and every day catalyses me towards my core being.

I know, it's impossible and untrue.
We are all tame, mostly, mere domestic beings, victims to carefully cultivated routines that keep us from thinking.

To pay bills and die.

But when a westbound sun, quietly dries my hair, I've gotta think.
Think on an endless loop. Think towards no conclusions. As the rest retire to siesta and my lunch awaits, getting cold.

Anathema

Drunken slurs.
A woman once was
The funny caricature in her ex-lover's poem
She sat feet outstretched in winter wind
On a January midnight
Old Monk in her hands
A glass with a square base
Fit into her hands like magic
Ice cubes clinked 
And it was all that moved
She spoke in indistinct 
Drunken slurs
As he drew her that night

Eight years later,
That ex-lover is a father
Of the child of another woman
And everyday, he dotes
On his naive daughter,
Who knows not one bit
Of what life holds
And packs her lunch box,
With the purple butterflies on it
And takes her pictures

The woman with the Old Monk
Eight years later,
Down the line, or so
Contemplates freezing Old Monk 
Into cubes in the tray, to drink that then
Such that it doesn't water down
And that her passing out each night
Take not as long

Simultaneously,
The woman tries to write a poem
About the new daughter, and the butterflies
And the utter obscenity of fates and heartache
Her drunken slurs, not much coherent.

The passage of eight years
Has been as cruel as healing
Everything happens for a reason
And yet, for no reasons at all. 

How they became whoever they did,
They would never know. 
But they did become their own.
Anathema. Anathema. Anathema. 

Thirty

Is it indeed deliciously befitting to lose everything, indeed. Aging is losing something everyday. I stare at the mirror. At my pale midnight reflection. And lather coconut oil on my cracked feet, this winter has been harsh, particularly. Where my eyebrows meet a wrinkle has permanently appeared, I worry a lot. The eyes look exhausted, dreamless. Of course, it's midnight. That being my alibi, I dissolve into a dream. Suddenly I am eighteen again. I am young and plump. I write poetry about how my hair looks like a tree on above my head. About seeking out my shadow from among the shadows of dozens of trees while walking back home on late nights. The street lights dazzle me. I wean myself off my infatuations by writing their names on pieces of paper and burning them in candle flame by the window ledge. Turning love into ash by some warranted act of karma. Exploring newer ways to dispel the many jinxes of unrequited love. And learning to accept my body, of course. Everything that I came with. My bulging thighs, messy hair, my dusky tone, overall anti-delicate-femininity. That was at least a decade before the phrase body positivity was even phrased, and I was fighting my own mighty battle. And losing everyday. 

I was losing then, as I am losing now. I am thirty. It's a gorgeous age to be. Fucking gorgeous, mind wise. You have seen just enough of the world to start taking the right calls on it. To stand on your own two feet, somewhat. To have a place of your own. To quote from poets you have fallen in love with. To laugh quietly when you hear a book you read being discussed. Thirty is as good as it gets. 

But on certain midnights as these, now that you don't stare at the moon much, you stare at the mirror slightly longer than usual to notice the loosened skin on eyelids, the sagging arm flesh, the extra flesh in the wrong places as goes by acceptable misogynistic standards. You feel maligned. Wronged. Abandoned. Depreciated. 

So many years have gone by, so many of them. So many films watched, songs heard. So much prose written. So many many miles walked. Yet nothing has changed. At the end of the day, pretty is all you gotta be. #ohfuck 

Stasis

We are so indulged in being deliriously average, we forget to feel the passage of time. We constantly look for alibis to not be who we should indeed be. A thousand reasons cease us. From overstepping the lines we have so meticulously drawn around ourselves. From escaping our cocoons. We hang on to the illusion of being sheltered. But in truth, we are furthest from being sheltered. We are being eroded by time. Deprecated. Completely unaware. Or even aware, one bit. But fearful that we may, in case we venture out, lose the iota of peace, we have claimed in decades of inaction and ennui. Such is the irony. And there is no escape for us from ourselves. We are, but caged within the confines of our mind. Hoping we were free.