Wear-about

It is a caress gone unnoticed everyday.
Softly, flowers graze my breasts,
seeds flying wild, transported
on chiffon, floating far away
on your anguished, breathless sighs.

A bare mid-riff — silken to touch
with the dampness of down
trussed up in roses billowing 
on a petticoat the colour of summer —
is the middle, the end, the beginning

Of a new chapter, a new idea,
born in your soul, a desire that burns,
much like dry, flaky wood,
incensed by a fluttering pallu,
winging up your lustiness.

but much like that brittle bark,
your burning will be all smoke too.
six yards to seduce — is that all
it takes? I may not be as compliant,
flexible, open or ready to bend.

It’s a caress I may not feel anymore,
But my delicate chiffon will defend.
Your mind may sing, even go hoarse
thinking of my virtue, so loose. 
This chiffon, I warn you, will strangle.

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True Love

There was once a boy who knelt in front of me with a bouquet in his hand and said that he loved me by way of asking me out – such was his innocence in matters of the heart. I was his first love (the rest were mere crushes) and he did everything he could think of to keep it going. He bought me flowers, chocolates, food, music, books, walks around beaches, beer (though he was a teetotaller) and oodles of chicken (though he was a vegetarian), he wept for my pain and laughed for my happiness, he sang me songs, he wrote me letters…oh the letters – going away letters, coming back letters, random stream of consciousness letters, gifting letters, celebratory letters.

When he handed me one while we were sitting next to a window in a fast moving bus one day, it blew away. I was reading it with tears in my eyes for it had promises I was desperate to hear. And then the wind blew it away. I turned to him, eyes full of shock and apology, and he just said it was alright. I was going away and he was dropping me to the airport. When I returned 15 days later, he handed me a patched up piece of paper. It was muddy, crumpled and torn in places. He’d gone back to that exact spot and fished about in the gutter and the roadside and found most of the scraps and taped it back. It left me speechless.

Towards the end of our relationship — and I knew it was ending at astronomical speed, and there was nothing I could do to stop it — a very flippant acqaintance of mine commented that he was a very good boy, and that I didn’t deserve him. She’d met him fleetingly once and barely knew me in our two years of shallow camaraderie. I was shocked — and this comment worked to cleave us apart all the more. I know it was unreasonable, i knew it then, but how do you explain all this to a passion-filled heart?!

A year and a half later, I am sorry for how things transpired between us. There are times when I regret my actions, but I know if all this were to happen again, in some other universe or another time-space axis, as they show in the sci-fi movies, I’d end up doing it again. The coordinates may have changed but the climax would’ve stayed the same. At some point in those four years, I’d begun to see the unseeable: This wasn’t it.

I really am sorry. Please take care of him, Universe.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There was once a girl who radiated happiness in a manner that could put the sun to shame. She came from Kashmir, from a conventional Muslim family, yet, defeating all stereotypes of the world (as most people are wot to do at some point of time or the other) she had attended the hallowed halls of a much cherished, much desired all-girls college in Delhi. Her father was in the merchant navy. She rode to college everyday in a creamy white Corolla Altis with her grandmother and five-year old sister in tow. The surveillance on her life was very heavy. Her stint at the college where we met was her first experience in a co-educational school. It had taken her parents a lot of will power to let her go to a co-ed school for this implied immediate contamination.

But she was a bubbly child, super-excited about being in the company of boys other than her brothers and in an open environment. She wore fully covered salwar kameez with Puma sneakers and a grey backpack, which carried her notebooks onto which she inscribed notes like a dictaphone. She loved the world of hi-fashion and had grown up to venerate the ways of South Delhi ladies. But her innocence made her seem cherubic. She laughed and giggled and hugged and kissed and sang and hummed and danced and burst with such energy that the first thing any of us wanted to see when we reached college was her big smile and a big bear hug — it made it seem like everything in the world would be alright.

I fell for her in a way only a girl can fall for another girl, minus any sexual connotations. I wanted to be the reason she smiled, laughed, i wanted to be her best friend, her secret keeper, her advice giver and seeker, her confidante and co-conspirator. It might seem childish now, but a day of her absence made me restless for I didn’t know who to turn to for company. Some of the best times from college I remember today are with her in the picture.

Halfway through our course, she fell in love with an Afghan fellow. I warned her, attempted to make her understand that these things should be taken one step at a time and not rushed into. She wouldn’t listen — she had an army of Bollywood stories to back up her convictions that he was the one and if you don’t die for your love, it never was love at all. In the end, she listened to another — one who brought the same look into her eyes as she did to mine. I’d never thought I’d be in a platonic love triangle!

Today, I don’t know where she is. None of us know where she is. Even her Afghan sweetheart has no clue where she is, seeing as he was violently thrown out of her life. Her father called us all up and warned us to not speak of her ever again or there wold be dire consequences. Her heartthrob blames the end of their relationship squarely on her. And her FB page looks like a vigil for someone long gone.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. I fell in love with her – it was that simple. She may not have reciprocated, but she had a good heart and does not deserve this state of affairs. Please take care of her too, Universe.

Narrow Escape

That morning, I woke up wanting
only a vision to calm the restive animal
hammering to get out of  my rib cage.

That morning, my breakfast
was a few dry crumbs dissolved in tea gone 
cold. I wasn’t paying attention. 

That morning, all those years of lies
And deceit were unwanted company 
On the balcony, twirling in tune with the smoke.

That morning, the valley yonder
was a vast, relentless admonishment —
“Who do you think you’re running away from?”

That morning, I thought I’d escaped
on a blue bus, out of the city, out of the civil,
out of me. And there I was, face to face.

That morning, the wilderness was inside
me like never before, confusion reigning,
anger thrashing, the madness hunting.

That morning was just the night in camouflage,
only just beginning to descend. With fingers
clammy, it would’ve squeezed me bloodless.

But that morning turned into noon, into 
evening and into twilight, and i walked
from sunset to sunset and rainbow to rainbow
and felt the monster disengage, dissipate,
apparate as the sweat on my forehead
arrived to witness………………………………..

…………………………………….THIS.

Reckoning

2012. Distances grow. Without meaning to. From innocence, from love, from sharing, from family. From concern, from grappling, from reality. From truth. From coherence. From understanding. Growing up is happening too fast. Suddenly, there is no time. I’ve lost myself in a tumult of the outside, forgetting myself in the hurricane. Gladly so. Suddenly, it is easy to ignore the mundane, be engrossed in the trivial. It is easy to feel like I’m doing something of credibility, of worth, something that will have an impact. Much harder to realise, in moments of self-truth, that this may not really be so. At the end of the day, my eyes hurt behind lids that are coloured grey and red every time I close them. Loud guffaws of the day echo in some cob-webby attic of the mind. There’s distance in perceiving time too. Days have begun to feel like an age. Exhaustion consumes me, I don’t have the energy to think things through. And yet, this is ordinariness. Others have lives twisting into hyperbole every second. And I run away from them, from myself because I have no solace to offer. Every morning, I wake up unwillingly, and the first thought that floats into mind is a tiny prayer for a sense of humour to a God I don’t particularly believe in. And he/she grants it to me. And I live on…

That thing on my arm…

They often ask me, why stars?

To which i can never think of a singular concrete reason. Like a four leaf clover is for luck, angels are for security, chinese letters are, well, to embody whatever they’re supposed to mean. I can’t ever come with an objective-type answer for ‘why stars?’

I remember somebody telling me once that you are preoccupied by what you usually draw on pages subconsciously, like when you’re sitting in a boring class or are on the phone having a long winding conversation. That what you end up doodling is what is uppermost in your mind and will in many ways be a tell-tale sign of what you are and what you want and what will be most important to you. So when i’m asked this question, i remember the many many stars i’ve drawn on the back pages of my notebooks, throughout the years.

I also remember that stars are supposed to mean ambition, like hearts are for love, flowers are for clean-heartedness – among the more common things people end up doodling. I also remember Physics chapters on stars and black holes and the whole phenomenon that had me hooked. That part of Physics was possibly the easiest to understand that entire year.

And i remember lounging on a beach in Goa one October evening many years ago, when the sky was bursting with stars and i was breathless with disbelief at their immensity and wishing like a child for some to fall on my lap so i could preserve them forever in a jar and keep them next to me.

So when the time came to etch one up for good, it seemed like stars would be an obvious option – they’re pretty, they sparkle and they’ve sort of been part of me for the different levels of wonderment and joy they’ve brought.

Maybe, someday, my stars will grow and blossom into something else. Maybe, just maybe, there will be evolution. Until then, they fizz and shoot up and down my arm, up and down my spine.

Quarters

In the O of the Whole
And the | of the half
Lies a quarter of a soul
Waiting for its last laugh.

Quartered lemons
With half a glass of woe
For one momentous whole day
And some candles to blow.

Four quarters or two halves
To make a perfect O.
Within the black hole of existence,
Is it possible to glow?

Wanting to be, to grow,
To live, to lose, to flow,
Is three parts desire
And one part, to know.

Sanity-Schmanity

We are well into the Age of Unlearning.

By the ‘Age of Unlearning’ i mean the time of our lives when convictions passed down to us by the medium of carrot, stick or just plain old genes, through the younger, more innocent years of our lives, get violently shredded one by one, into tiny itty-bitty pieces. Like Bertha Mason’s poor curtains, they become victim to an overpowering, uncontrollable rage, which itself stems from some form of clarity.

Convictions? Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Love, Karma, the power of Altruism, democracy, the You Ess of Ae, Capitalism, or Socialism, My life is the dream, Money will get you places, theories about superiority of the species, God?

Is this just the natural trajectory of growing up? Or is this just a phenomenon specific to our ‘post-modern’ generation whose motto is ‘everything goes, man’?

Madness is only expressing what shocks, abhors, deranges the babus. Bertha, your anger may well have been justified. He didn’t give you the chance you deserved. What of ours? At the betrayal of a thousand full moons and countless content nights? Of the violation of an innocence that will never come back as it is? And to think, saying that your God is a farce if you want blood on his hands is madness!

Growing up is to be able to see better through thicker lenses. That’s just sad!

Tenses

Two years. Two massive years that have just buzzed by in a flurry of fun and fretting, eating, playing, dancing, drinking, poking, jumping, posing, laughing, breaking, singing, screaming, running, copying, studying, dozing, listening, shopping, holding, hugging, crying, kissing, supporting, talking, BCing, reading, writing, fighting, clicking, dragging, begging, teasing, falling, scraping, cutting, flying, burning, freezing, baking, partying, daring, confessing, climbing, snatching, tracking, gossiping, arguing, walking, sitting, following, caring, sighing, wishing, dreaming…coming closer, loving, hating, but always being…together.

In the name of peace, may this present continuous never end.

Mise-en-scene

Location: The isolated room to the left of the main entrance at 802 Kailash, Kaushambi

Circa 2000: The barest of spaces. Walls: newly whitewashed. Floor: the dirty brown tiles, unkempt and untidy, as one is used to in public sector company flats. A small, very bare, pigeon-infested balcony. One diwan (to function as the bed) horizontally pushed up against the wall opposite to the entrance. One pista green study table in the opposite corner, next to the cupboards. A dressing table and mirror next to it. One steel almirah, holder of all off-seasonal clothes and my deepest darkest secrets, next to the bed. One broken bulb lamp. One tubelight. An old aluminium box has my pricest teddies displayed on it. Six months later, there’s an old BPL TV in their place and they find pride of place on the bed. The ceiling is a replica of the sky, only with green glow-in-the-dark stars and moons and planets instead of the real ones.

2002: The dressing table and mirror have been shifted to the fraction of a wall between the balcony door and the bathroom door. Next to the study table has appeared an old Akai TV set, replacing the BPL, now having been demoted from the parents’. The wall i face while studying now has a few posters, mostly of Tom Cruise and the Backstreet Boys.

2004: More posters. More of Tom. New study table. Imported from Papa’s office, it’s a big grey, blue and brown thing, very official, making me feel very important. And it is now where the bed used to be. The bed is on the wall perpendicular. There’s a two-level book shelf nailed right above the table with the top one reserved for the special books, the ones i like to read, and the lower one full of commerce crap. A carpet now hides the icky tiles partially. My first bean bag, which looks a little like a chess board, arrives.

2006: A big collage of photographs, cards and such up on the study wall. notes, time-table, quotes, poetry, butterflies, colors, people…all part of the wall. Tom Cruise and the Backstreet Boys now reside all rolled up in a corner of the cupboard now, gathering dust. The books change from Accountancy and Business Studies and Maths (brrr!) to Milton, Foucault, Shakespeare, Ghosh…over three years of literature compilation. The aluminium box is replaced by a proper TV stand and now boasts of a fancy new Sony music system as well. The study table also has some of my teddies, a few photo frames. One of the old masterbed’s side table is now the reservoir of my music collection, tapes and discs. They all soon become redundant with the arrival of a shiny new iPod Nano. As does the Akai, which is sold off and replaced with the Sony flat-screen as the parents upgrade to an LCD. And then arrives the treadmill.

2009: Two years away, and the room’s now a bigger storage den than the rightfully assigned one in the main balcony. All sorts of debris piled onto the study table, into the shelves, the cupboards. It wears the look of one ignored, abused and exploited. So we begin from scratch: take down the cobwebs, dust everything up, throw a gazillion things out, find other things that seem to have been misled into the space of Losing-It. The room is now purple. The curtains are purple. There’s a new chocolate brown bean bag, a Daughter’s Day gift. The new bedsheets i buy are purple and blue with many many elephants and flowers on them. A carefully crafted rosewood book case, a much craven thing, now towers over the TV. A new study lamp on the old table, paper flowers, paper lamps, knick knacks accumulated as gifts all find place on the corner stand, on stools, on the study table…on any flat surface.

2011: The music set, the treadmill, the TV are all out of working order, but they’re still here, too hard to let go off. Or maybe the hope is we can get them fixed and they’ll be running again. A split A/C to make the heat more bearable arrived the previous year. A pin-up board has posters from the Jaipur Lit Fest, postcards from McLeodganj, some of the oldest, nicest photographs, a redundant time-table and a ‘To Do-Doing-Done’ routine with no post-its under it. Two framed paintings of a sole woman, one communing with nature and the other playing the Sitar, decorate the wall opposite the main door. The balcony is now pigeon-free and is now the most functional space of the room with a washing machine installed in it. The most important thing on the study table is now a laptop – the window to the world.

This is the space i’ve called my room for the past decade. It has been the only constant thing through my teenage, supplying all that is deemed most essential by an adolescent, coming-to-grips-with-adulthood-and-the-big-city girl. In film theory, the representation of space in a scene affects the reading of depth. Perhaps, what populates this space i so proudly call mine is a portrait of me on different dots across the time-space axis.

Virginia Woolf felt that ‘A Room of One’s Own’ was the first and foremost requirement of a woman looking to become free. Mine sure gave me wings (thank you Ma and Papa), and yet, this is where i choose to come back to. I get what those breeding pigeons loved about my room. It is the same even when it changes. Warm, cosy, open. Home.

I am wanting…

…to not want so much.

…some new good clothes. some common sense. some perspective. some good books. a pair of magic hands and a kind intelligent soul to do my thesis for me. And to find me a job. some courage. a good friend. someone to talk to. the winter back. or even the spring. a trip up north or east. to lose weight. to dance. to swim. to get off my lazy bum and do something. to meet old friends. to walk many laughing miles with Kavya Sree Satish. And to have silent deep conversations with Anand Shankar. to take good pictures. for this cloying feeling to go away. to sincerely have at least one thing i could call mine for keeps from the past couple of years. to write some. to write some more. to find peace within, to begin with. to run away. desperately to go to London….

like i said, too much wanting!