Homecoming

Stories that we keep telling ourselves. Every day. Day after day. We have become these incessant story tellers, hon, ain't nobody stopping us no more. That going through the motions is doing us good. It isn't. Every day is a disguised failure. Trembling with masked anger. Unspoken, unspoken wrath. Sugarcoated love, that only isn't. In all this rush, when am I myself? Never. I am scared that I am underacting my way through life, not pretending enough. So I overact. I laugh really loudly when I am sad. I joke around when I am angry. I make small talk when I am lost. I overwork to get rid of the omnipresent feeling of disappointment that life has become. Somewhere, a while ago, everything has shed its meaning. I keep masking one thing with another and then that with another. There are so many masks, hon, I forget where I hid the real thing. Life has become folklore's quintessential demoness's soul, stored in a chamber inside seven other chambers. 

Sometimes I recall the hallways in which I became a person. An adult from a child. Tunnel like long endless hallways with rooms on both sides. My memories are trapped in dungeons of the past. And it takes so much effort to uncover them because they have been positively hidden for my benefit. Yet I scratch that wound sometimes, hoping that probably, I would find something I left behind. And that something would help me hold on to the real and slowly unmask myself. But there too, I seem to find only pain. Only sorrow. I have nothing concrete to hold on to in the past. Because I mostly lived in imagination, partly in denial. May be I am still living in denial. Wobbling in knee high denial, you never know. Some truths are so tough to accept and internalize, I would rather choose denial. I am living in denial despite being fully aware of the scores and scores of flaws in my mind and body. Goodness, what else, is even there.

And more often than I would like, I think about the years to come. Will I continue to be this dull. This selfish, even. I ain't crafted for too many challenges, hon. In the face of adversity, I lack the fortitude. I collapse and become a shamble of bones. I wonder if I will even begin to deal with my issues, or will I have the glorious courage to accept oneself as one is. Probably, I will float in the mundane middle, forever and ever. And whatever the potential I deem to have, I shall never achieve. Will I always measure myself and never fucking free myself from the fucking scale. 

Living entangled this way, I have made chaos my home and look forward to going home. Deeper and sooner. 

Now Playing: Nina Simone's You don't know what love is. 

Yeah, hon. I don't. And I never would. Hon. 



Ergo

All of my memory converges into one evening in the past. It was 2006. Or 2007 probably. Because 2008 would rather be too late for the events I'm going to narrate. It was a silly little evening. Nobody significant was even involved, as in physically present. But people don't have to be present in body and mind to cause effect and effectively mar an evening, a day, a life. Mostly, it's their absences that work that charm. So yes, it was an evening long long ago and I was mostly by myself. And it was then that I lost my innocence. Ergo, all my memory, if retrospectively stretched back in time, converge, then and there. 

It was January. And it was drizzling. Winter rain. I must've been eighteen. Unscathed. In love. Brimming with naivete, unbeknownst of the ways of the world, that such scales existed on which humans are weighed and chosen, and the rest rejected, I callously thought till then that love begets love. It never did. Never does. And it shouldn't either. But I was young and full of colors. Purple, magenta and violets. 

It was a grey evening we'd stepped out into. With a few friends and somebody's cousin. I was meeting somebody's cousin for the first time. He was tall, bespectacled, comfortable in a lose T shirt. Forgettable as a person, because I don't even recall him name. But he has been reluctantly stuck in this memory forever. Because he simply happened to be there. It was a huge college campus. Somebody's cousin was showing us around. Mostly from the streets, their stadiums, activity centers, auditoriums, gyms. I saw numerous, numerous boys that evening. 

I knew you were there, out there somewhere. But we're never lucky enough for coincidences. I never saw you. You never sought me out. It was a lost cause. But you were right there. Within square meters probably. It was getting duskier, cooler, darker. Slowly yellow light from the street lamps filled the streets. I looked up to see bulky deodars on both sides of the streets. Upright like our guardians. We were just a bunch of kids back then.

Within minutes the air got chilly. The power went off. It was completely dark except for the shrieks of voices. And laughter. It began to pour. We took shelter under the nearest tree. I scooted to under the nearest tree. I almost hugged it tight. I could feel its trunk on my cheeks. And shut my eyes, I wanted you so much. It was so debilitating to be so close to you and still not have you. It was precisely under that tree, that day, standing in the rain that I got my heart broken the first time. 

For a few years I imagined you were there with me under that tree. But I knew you weren't. I have concocted so many alternative memories of the same exact incident, I can't tell the real from the unreal. Probably none of this even happened. But now I am too seasoned to give away the truth so easy.

In parallel universes and in other tesseracts of time, you were probably there with me under that deodar. In a tight embrace, in galloping rain, our cheeks touching its trunk. Because that would answer just so many questions right now. 


No Underlying

A couple of months ago, I compiled a bunch of stories I'd written and put 'em up for sale. But that's not how these artsy things work. Nobody read me. Then my parents came to stay over for a week. I was grappling with loneliness on and oft. Solitude is peaceful until the deeper emptiness of it all hits you in the soul. Then I came to know that someone I knew was terribly sick. It felt as if it could have happened to me as well, that sickness. I felt saved by a threadbare margin and yet I felt vulnerable. And then there always is this constant feeling of bein' a loser. You know how that works. You wake up, you're a loser. You go to bed, you're a loser. And there's zilch in between. It's not that the joy of others itches my eye, it doesn't, in fact, I possibly couldn't care any less about the life of others. But there are short minutes in may be, say weeks, that my knees feel weak. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

Despite it all, I was not depressed. I was alright. I mean, yeah, life's tough. It has got its meandering way of going about things and it doesn't give a shit what I think. 

And then one day, last week, I completely damaged my glasses. My glasses had been damaged two years, but now they started feeling too bad. I visited the optometrist. And as he was checking me for the correct power, switching so many glasses and asking me read out the letters on the wall, a bitterness caught the pit of my stomach. It wasn't unusual. Nausea is my second name. I feel like puking for two three hours every day. But this nausea stayed. But two days straight. Like I had been constantly inhaling automobile fumes. I got the shivers. All day in summer, I shivered. The hair on my skin stood perpendicular. I had nothing, no shawls or jackets. I shivered all day. At night I got chills. My forehead felt feverish. For a moment there I thought I might be pregnant. Then I looked up all the new diseases that were in the news recently. Zika, Ebola, Dengue. 

The next day, the shivers and chills subsided to certain extent. The nausea too plummeted. But there was no energy left in my body. I didn't have it in my to lift a finger. I felt no hunger. No thirst. I just sat there like a log. Didn't cook or clean. Didn't work even the slightest bit. I slept for very long hours and woke up exhausted. I couldn't taste whatever I ate. The void that my life is, hit me. Hit me in the soul, finally. And I felt this actual loss of control on my mind. Like literally, I felt my fists loosen up and let go of the grip. I wanted to vanish. I went through several days, doing nothing but waiting for the night to come so I could go to bed. And sleep and get a break from life for as long as possible. Everything was pointless. Then I heard myself saying hushed, that this is what Depression is. 

Every morning, I wake up, drink three fourths of my water bottle and take a dump and brush my teeth and make tea. Then I whip up breakfast and make some lunch, and then pack that lunch, take a shower, put on face cream, book a cab and run to work. Then work or pretend to work and drink tea in between and more water. Eat lunch. Work some more. Read some more. Check social media. Hate social media. Pack my bags, book another cab and come home. Wash up, sit on the couch. Watch some TV. Eat dinner while watching TV. Do the dishes. Some more TV. Then a book possibly, then bed. This is my life. My life on the surface. 

I am too scared to look for any kind of underlying. I do my chores, breathe, eat, drink, earn a living, sleep. I never look for any deeper meaning. If I feel like it, I do laundry. Or dust the shelves. Or watch some more TV. But when I am Depressed, my vision is so much clearer. I can see below this surface of artificial and constant busy-ness. I can see that there is nothing underneath. No underlying. 

Not a single reason to wake up in the morning. 

Edge of the Night

Bikers ride by, bikers zoom past. Their tires crush the midnight roads with such friction, it's not music, not even to my semi-deaf ears. It's an awakening sound, though, on a dawn like Saturday night, smokey as hell. That crass noise of bike tires, does awaken you in ways few other things can. We are sitting inside, by the man sized window, grilled, but only hardly. Through gaps in the grille, arms can easily pass in and out. May be even an entire baby. This night feels, strangely on the edge.

The coffee table is now strewn with our paraphernalia.Cigarette butts, the ash tray over turned. Ash mixed with vodka has created a clay which darkens the color of tonight. There's like a dozen other bottles on this table. Bottles of all shapes and sizes. Tall bottles, slender bottles, stout bottles, curvaceous bottles. Just like women, who come in all shapes and sizes, so do bottles, apparently. There is a measuring cup though, that works for all alcohol alike. Hour-glass shaped, on one side it measures 30 ml, turned upside down, it measures 60.

Large drinks are for the big guys. We take small measured sips. Moisten our lips mostly. And lick the edge of the glasses. And sit and sit for minutes that melt into hours. The night is forming outside, like an amorphous being. The buds of flowers are shyly blooming outside, in the courtyard, on the roofs of our neighbours and in the rest of the world. The earth is slowly rotating on its titled axis. That axis must have also been as drunk as us, to be titled all the time.

The air feels warm for after midnight. May be, we are just locked in a closet, a closet with the mirage of a window. In a closet, mind numbed in asphyxia, high enough to believe that we are making sense, when we are not, and we are whiling away our entire lives watching American television. And then from being the size of a closet, the room expands gradually and becomes an open field, an open gallery. And there is no need to hide behind walls anymore.

There is a back room though. A bed room. With a fluffy mattress and a bobby print curtains. Should we leave the night alone and go back in there. What are the chances that we make love tonight now. What are the odds?

House with no mirrors

I took an auto to the market. I had some money. I didn't even bark at the auto wallah over the fare. I paid whatever he demanded. I was there to buy clothes for me. Dusk was dissolving into the air. And I was at the beginning of long and seemingly endless veins and vein lets of streets. Filled with hawkers selling split open raw mango sprinkled with salt and chilly powder, guava the same way, and bangles and wallets and trinkets for your home and you. Of course there were so many well lit stores, filled with stacks and stacks of clothes. Thousands and lakhs of clothes, I couldn't imagine how many there were. For the first time in months, I began to feel overwhelmed.

I randomly walked those streets to regain my breath. Paid for things in cash and hoarded clothes and bangles and bindis and earrings into my bag. It got heavy, but it didn't matter. It began to drizzle and I didn't stop even then. Despite knowing that the rain would wreck havoc over the city traffic and I wouldn't get an Uber to go home. I ran out of cash and started coaxing hawkers to take Paytm. I swiped my cards at so many shops, I don't even remember. And then suddenly, my gusto collapsed. It had enough reason to, alright. But that happens, you don't know why you feel the way you feel. You take yourself by utter surprise. It makes you think if you've been hiding something from yourself. Intimidating thought that.

My mind traveled back to my first apartment. It had a lot of windows but I had the maroon curtains so stretched out end to end that no voyeur would even dare. I lived there for about a year. And entirely by happenstance, that apartment didn't have a mirror. I lived an entire year without looking at myself. Not that there was anything to look at. Life batters the self esteem of a no looker by the time you are thirty. But nevertheless, not even the tiny flagellant remnant of the narcissist in me wanted to see myself for a year. So weird was that. I now come to realize. 

Self esteem apart, what does a mediocre laggard even get in life. Except crying in gulps sitting on the office toilet. Reading what great writers have written. And how every sentence of them once read pulls a chord real strong and pours out of those fucking tear glands. Because I know I will never write like that and never be cried over like that, at least, not anymore. I would rather go shopping in endless streets and feel overwhelmed. Once in a blue moon. 

Penumbra

There was a time when we were all,
Gleelessly stuck in Penumbra
Between the ages, thirteen to nineteen
Or twenty-one

That teen angst, wasn't like nothing else

One particular afternoon,
I wasted sitting in the sunbeam
That trespassed through my window
In the dark, and writing a letter
On pen & paper, yes, real blue ink
And sprinkling it with rose petals
An unposted letter with that angst
About being alone and unwanted

Don't recall much else though
Literally speaking, for instance
My first sip of alcohol (cocktail - sex on the beach)
Or my first kiss
The first smoke,
But I know I had many firsts

Growing like a multi faceted organism
In so many directions
And with so less control
Nothing could begin to heal that angst
Not a box full of books,
Or nights spent drinking coffee
Or making craft

So many years of constant rebellion,
Do you recall yours?
Stuck in Penumbra, glee-less-ly
So long, so long.


Amour Fou

Lately, I landed myself with a bunch of letters. Between two people I don't know. I exaggerated, actually. Not letters. They are mails. More like chats. Conversations. It feels illegitimate to read them, like intruding their privacy. I know, it's wrong. But I just can't stop, right now, I am knee deep in their lives.

They worked together and talked incessantly on an intra office chat messenger. Among their numerous typos and monosyllabic questions and answers and even entire statements consisting of punctuation marks only, I have formed two images of them, I can't seem to get past. I've never seen them, never will. It's just a bunch of chats erroneously downloaded.

Their talks are coquettish, least to say. The man seems to ignore the woman at first, but then later he too folds into it. They barely discuss their spouses, but reading on and on, I realize that they are both married. The woman's husband stayed away, probably, the reason she sought out his attentions. And he seems to fall for it, even between his short and precise replies, I understand, he is very much in the conversation.

If you take the two marriages out of the equation, it's even a sweet story after all. And even if you don't, even then it is.

If love doesn't find us, we seek it out. Like a blind child, in a dark room, we are pounding for love. There is no wrong time and age for it. They probably never had an affair, or kissed in the elevator, or booked surreptitious hotel rooms. May be their fling stayed at chatting only. Or may be it didn't.
But now they're apart. And I can't help, but imagine so many things.

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.

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.