Near and Far

I thought I heard my voice sucked dry
There is something boiling in my blood
It isn’t anger, just pain
At watching the stars come lie
Next to my palm and then
Fall like silver glitter in my braid

I thought I saw my moon rise high
There is something cursed in my veins
It isn’t red hot, just blue
From grasping at whispers in the sky
Catching notes of weeping tunes
But only running off the page

I thought I saw where fairies fly
There is something dancing in my chest
It isn’t neurotic, just insane
And linking years into chains
They weave around my neck and suddenly
I’m watching magic from so far away


Accompanying song:

I’m alive now; it took

The colluding of a million stars
Into a mesh of gossamer cloth
Worn thinly like an autumn shawl
To protect me from hearsay

And I only asked once:
Why were fireflies buzzing above
The deep basin, darkened by
Something that fed their veins;
Before collapsing, bitten
Or was I almost dead?

And then I saw those stars
Carrying stories of the past
It was a small consolation but I
Can carry it for another fifty years (I think)
And then I shall go out of vogue too.

Why- Are My Atoms Still Aligned?

Like a smoker I stare
At the swirling, rising cloud
Of turbulent haste
In circles of grey-
In reluctant sweeps of fingers
gesturing sullenly; the nails
chipped and broken
from powdery insinuations
Caught like lint in the cracks

And think- why?
Why is this emptiness not
All-engulfing, all-penetrating?
Why am I entitled to a niche of air
Why– despite every breath
I take to put an end to these
Vibrant, disturbing colors
Swimming dangerously before me-
Are my atoms still aligned?

On this Bed

On this bed

Was I
To die
Awaiting a summons
That never came?
That gorgeous call
Of a future that enraptured
My imagination;
I breathed the fire
of horses; the smell
of heat singed my
hair, my arms
my intestines.
But the ecstasy was unmatched,
the horror unbidden but broken
by the dare
A foreign landscape that
grew magnanimously
into a tale of
sorrow. Heartbreak.
Was it all
I was waiting for?

And on this bed
with its mouth
wide open,
was I to tie
myself to something
part dream, part
sudden, solemn, sickening

Midnight and Beyond

The dull grey vacancies of midnight
Swallow me whole, pin me within
A horrifying dimension unexplored
Except by the gaping eye of my storm

I am lead by ribbons tied to my arms
The weight like armor; like chains of gold
Like an insomniac’s call of desperation
Which grows and grows and grows

Until yellow light from down there
Pierces home, both here and afar
And in the distant land of memories
Float flat conversations that never were

The cold rivers sweep me, born anew
I rise a mummy from her centuries-old grave
The tongues that lash are pink and fresh
But the rest embroiled in deja vu

The dawns are jaded, silvery blue
And sparkling in a mystic dew
But my heart is laden from the pit-less light
From the dull grey vacancies of midnight

Miss you

I miss your crazy banter
Your charming smile
Your growing limbs
Your fiery eyes

I miss the magic of your words
The charisma of your thought
The maturity of your years

I miss the breadth of knowledge you have gained
And the way you cut darkness like a flame

I miss your antics and your mischief
I miss watching you grow
I miss knowing you every day
I miss letting you know

I miss the smell of your hair
I miss kissing your forehead
I miss watching you sleep like a frog
And leaping awake out of bed

I miss hearing you talk on and on
I miss listening to your elaborate plans
I miss all these intangible emotions and how
You’re shooting up into a man.

Not the best of poems. But I miss my little brother so much. This was the best I could do right now to vent those emotions.

The Shower

I looked to see if you were gone
As my heart could still hear your sound
From over the sky and under the ground

I searched my memories for dreams
We had talked about starting a family
I scratched the surface of my skin
But couldn’t feel enough to dive within

I had fought the demons for so long
Your jarred land had become my song
It had begun to get easier still
Now I’m left with dried oceans to fill

I would hear a thousand melodies
But they wouldn’t become a part of me
Your breath will linger on my lips
My soul on fire, my body split

I might even survive this assault
And the pain might ebb or even stop
But what we had was so raw and real
A part of me would never heal

Our love was spelt out in the stars
And I saw it fall through like dust
I couldn’t move, I stood silently
And it was the shower that drenched me

– Dedicated to my dearest, closest friend who is one of the most wonderful, beautiful people I know.

Through tears sometimes, we find the strength to move forward. And I know you will too.

Will You Miss India?

Will you miss India?

Will you miss the crazy honking on the street; the bronze and blistering bodies cohabiting a narrow breadth of space; the stalls of watery, salty-sweet, spicy, laden, yellowing, creaming mountains of fly-infested snacks and the jingling of pennies as bodies rub against one another, pushing to be the first in line; the pink sunsets across a dusty patch of land or through the worn, grey mesh of a half-abandoned building (and there might be a story behind it!); the scarves and kurtis that play at being rainbows draped over pear-shaped bodies under oiled, coiled, tangled, wispy hair worn thin or flown high from the heat and the smoke and the traffic and the dust; the perennial sound of traffic buzzing, whistling, flying past and men hurling words at other men, often not caring; the hostility and the harshness always permeated by the yellow sun, trailing a thin line of birds; an under-construction road or building piled with concrete and mortar and bricks; the tiny hammocks made out of thin cloth with little brown babies placed within them, their tiny fingers grasping the air for the first signs of that constant struggle which is to define them for eternity; the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps clad in half-broken slippers, the supple prepubescent bodies shrouded in hand-me-downs from generations ago and turning black under layers of grime and dirt; the toothless grin of a woman shoving her hand into your ribcage in the hope for a penny or two, dancing with an undernourished babe held in her arms as the signal turns from red to green and your eyes are focused on the vapidness ten feet away; the bone-showing hungry trot of a street dog uncared for except to be thrown stones at or fed by the occasional kindness of a stranger and his bark like a question mark, challenging you or his fellow competitors to hurl another hostile gesture into his life of a street thug; the sway of a cow, its body thickened under worship and fodder as it moves nonchalantly down a busy junction; the lines of girls and boys in their late teens, dressed like a uniform in jeans and a tee-shirt from real brands or fake ones, their eyes surveying the scene of their triumph as they trudge down streets that are unwelcoming to pedestrians or navigate their bikes and scooties with the giddiness of first timers- I could write for hours about the images I’ve absorbed over the years, taking for granted the tiny around-the-corner shop where you can find anything from a stick of gum to a bar of soap and the raspy cry of an ice-cream vendor making his way through rows of houses in the twilight. I can talk about nights of religious festivities where loudspeakers would blare the word of God late into the night, regardless of an individual’s sleep requirements and marriages would be celebrated into the next morning. I can close my eyes and see shops with absurd names next to showrooms of international brands on the edge of a road with barely enough turning space for two vehicles planning to go in the opposite directions. And I can see men staring, leering glaring and women walking with their shoulders squared against the onslaught. And I can see the fear in their eyes and the spark and the absolute certainty that tomorrow too, life shall go on and they shall be here trying to make the best of what they have, fighting through a sea of other human beings just as desperate, just as intense, just as overwhelmed, just as burdened and hurt and preoccupied and obsessed and determined and helpless and amazed by the contrasts and the competition frothing all around them.

So, yes I will miss India, in my own bittersweet way.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no
bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

In as little as sixty pages, Virginia Woolf covers the entire span of humanity’s greatest chasm- the inexplicable notion of ‘male’ and ‘female’, the unending debate on the cycles of gender oppression and denial. This short fictionalized account from 1929 considers what it would take for the world to have more women writers but the essay covers so much more than just women’s ability or inability to pen down their thoughts through the ages. Ms Woolf talks about why there is so little to be found of women’s autobiographical accounts of themselves and how that has led to a vicious chain of suppression for women writers. .

I can say more but I would rather pen some quotes from the book which conveyed the point much better:

“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.””Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority. That was what he was protecting rather hot-headedly and with too much emphasis, because it was a jewel to him of the rarest price. Life for both sexes- and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement- is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate that imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By feeling that one has some innate superiority…”

“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.”
“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.”
“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

“All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are ‘sides,’ and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot.”

And so, despite its often unsavory topic, this essay was not a bitter, distasteful rant but a reasonably concluded commentary on women’s role in recorded history over the ages. Ms Woolf expresses an optimism about the future- and indeed, we can look back now and feel fortunate that so much has changed and writing is such an easy and fluid occupation for women today than it ever was (of course, to be truthful, writing is hardly ever easy and often excruciatingly rigid in its flow). This essay does not lose its timelessness because it is unapologetic about the past of one half of humanity and yet does not beg or pray or demand but releases softly into the world a delicate truth that must have taken it by storm when it first appeared in print.

PS: The one glaring absurdity she expresses is a belief that a woman (or man, for that matter) cannot write unless she has a steady income and a room to call her own. She says that impoverished individuals cannot be good writers which is a bluntly snobbish statement to make.