Poems

The Lament


Jacks Lament by Yang-Nakajima on deviantart

He had to wait for a little while
Under the brilliant gaze of the pristine yellow fire
Unbridled, it rose not like waves but tiny spools of thread
Unwinding into the distance blinding haze
And still no message from heaven arose
No tip-toeing of the men and women who lived their
The air was silent, flaming and oppressive
He chose to sing his favourite song

His voice rose in a baritone
So powerful the frozen streams cried
And squirrels raised their sleeping heads, intoxicated
And all the pigeons fluttered from the rooftop
Gathering as though beckoned by a splatter of grains
But no child cried into the foreign night
Or pleaded for mother’s milk in the awful infant scream no human can ignore

He sang deeper still
The mountains themselves began to move under the weight of a thousand years
When the sand shifted, the pain of centuries rose through dust
Bellowing patterns formed in the sky, the stars disappeared
Glory was abandoned in the search for earthly sorrows
The kind that could shift the patterns of the night sky
But no human came, moved by the recollections of a childhood long gone
By the fact that men grow old and men die
And sometimes nobody can replace them

He finally rose and decided to leave
But something called him back, much like the tidal waves
Are pulled back by the moon no matter how hard they resist
He stumbled, half-blinded by his own creations
But into the pit and far, far down below
There were corpses piled high: men, women and children
And beasts swarmed with bees and cockroaches
With intense red waves, thickly coloured over and under
He collapsed; felt life oozing out of him
In one quick movement, it was all gone.

Movement

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Subjectification


Weekly challenge

I still remember the day when I couldn’t find my bearings the way they do in the movies because it felt like a big tragedy unfolding all around me. Falling in love wasn’t like a shower of pure rain mingled with the lilting music of violins playing against a backdrop of dancing people. It wasn’t a medley of every melody I’ve ever known. It was a tumultuous raging storm brewing inside my soul and exploding through my skin. I wasn’t swimming, I was sinking and there was very little to hold on to.

The little key ring I’ve still stored away isn’t magnificent or magical. It’s plain cute, some might say ordinary. But if I had to anchor the length and breadth of my emotions into a single object; it would be that little piece of glittering metal smiling up at me. I cannot afford to lose it. I cannot even afford to carry it around anymore because it makes me feel so exposed. In this world of transience I fight every day to find something to hold on to. Because the thought of letting things go is unacceptable. It may be a challenge to hold on but my soul finds it much easier that others do. The ordinary key ring reminds me of  day when I had resolved to let go of something I needed but didn’t yet know I did for the sake of something I am so happy I gave up now! It saved me from a fall I might not have survived.

We keep relics and objects that define us tucked safely away into the nooks and crannies of our life, too scared to acknowledge that we have attached abstract importance to things that are only physical manifestations of nature and have no emotions, no memories.

When I got off that train a week ago, I wanted more than anything to capture the essence of what I was feeling into something real. Memories fade out of our mind and we are left with a lingering scent we cannot quite place, flashes of scenes we remember, resolves we made and sounds we shared. But sometimes it’s hard to find things to attach these abstract thoughts to. Memories float away and out and there’s nothing we can do but hold on to an object; any object we feel could define us, define those moments.

The helplessness will pass too. Because guess what? If good things are transient, so are bad ones.

Fiction · Love

The Fall of Love


A story about love. Love can be anything but love can be everything too.

 

Wallace wrapped the earrings up with his own hands thirty years ago on that very day. He hadn’t known then whether he would ever come back and touch them or whether they would blend into the obscurity of a hundred thousand other untold stories. All he had known back then was that they were all he had.

His wife had called them ‘little drops of heaven twirling on a golden rope like a circus performer’. They were tiny glimmering gems set atop a silver ring dangling from the slivers of golden thread wrapped exquisitely together. When Wallace had first seen them, he had been twenty-three and madly in love with the woman who was to be his wife. 

Sarah used to be a performer at one of those little art theaters which aired sober versions of  popular musicals but brought them to life with the childlike patience of an affectionate old aunt. Wallace would be there at seven every evening when Sarah would come out in her peach pinafore, her eyes sparkling with both excitement and love and her face lit up under thick layers of runny make-up. She couldn’t quite move the rest of her face but he didn’t care. He knew that when she lay next to him every night in nothing but a thin negligee, she was beautiful and at peace. It had been the perfect love-story to tell their children.

And the earrings were all that remained now. Wallace didn’t know why he had come back when he had planned never to set foot in the place that was alive with so many memories of a woman he had given his heart and soul too. But back now, after all these years, he looked at the emptiness of the deserted house, at the bare walls which had once been alive with the kind of warmth only a woman could bring to define a home and he didn’t feel the way he was supposed to. He didn’t feel remorse or the pain that had kept him up through the nights. He felt peaceful because. As if he had never lived in this house. As if he had never known Sarah. As if this had all been a dream and he had woken up after all these years only to realize he didn’t remember half of it but whatever lingered made him happy. He smiled and wrapped his hands around the testament of love- the only thing he was going to carry from then on.

Sarah’s hands had become bony and her face had shrunk. The beauty was still there but her eyes sparkled like diamonds. Wallace held her hand in disbelief. Like holding on to it would make her stay. He couldn’t let her get away. Not like this. Not this soon.

‘I’m sorry Wallace,’ she was saying but he held her hand against his chest and shook his head like a little child.

‘Look at me, please.’

Reluctantly he lifted his face and looked into her eyes.

‘I have less than a month left and  I can’t leave you like this. I want to leave you with memories but I want you to be happy and you cannot be both. So  I have something I want you to do.’

‘What?’ he asked, not trusting himself to utter another syllable.

‘Throw away everything you have of me. All of it. Every single thing. And leave, go far away to a new city, a fresh start, a new life and maybe new love’

Wallace looked at her now, as though she was crazy. 

Over the next few days he tried to make her see how crazy her plan was, how absolutely unrealistic. It wouldn’t cure a thing, it wouldn’t change the truth. But she was so adamant, he had to give in. And after she died, he sold all her stuff and left everything behind. But he never sold the house. He couldn’t.

The girl felt woozy. She was sure love wasn’t meant to hit her, not after what she had seen her parents do to each other while they’d been in it, but she couldn’t help it. He was older and had some freckles, he had curly blonde hair and wasn’t all that tall but when he sat in front of a piano, she forgot all about that. She forgot how, when she had first met him as a little girl with pigtails, he had stolen her favourite pie from right under her arm and made off with it, grinning foolishly back at her while she cried. She forgot how he had been mean to her when he was the jock kid at school and she was a fresher with braces and plain clothes; how he wouldn’t even acknowledge her in the corridors and make fun of her if his friends did. She forgot all of it when she saw him again, after five years of drudgery, playing piano like his fingers were on fire and his soul bursting with heart-wrenching agony. And when she waited to speak to him afterwards, he smiled at her and talked to her like she was real, not an abstract wisp of smoke floating somewhere in the background of his life.

Fred met her almost every day after his show and it had taken her three weeks but she knew it now. She was in love. It was going to be disastrous, she was going to die but she was in love and nothing could be done about it. She didn’t think he loved him. She was very drab still and though her clothes weren’t patched together anymore, she dressed for convenience in dark dresses of plain tees and denim with her hair pulled back. She was experimenting with lipstick now but walking into a store and asking to see one was intimidating too.

But the wooziness made her heart feel full. It wouldn’t matter, ultimately, whether he loved her or not. There was nothing good to get out of love and she knew that and she thought Fred did too. They had a secret midnight corner where they would smoke up and watch dreams swirl by and then they would get up and walk about it under the starlight. She loved it. It would be enough.

Fred took her hand in his that night though. Her heart fluttered like a butterfly and she looked out at the stars but he was bending forward and when she looked down, her face was inches before her. Slowly then, he leaned forward for a kiss and his lips touched hers with the tender fury of the tentative first taste of love. She swooned and grew pale but kept kissing back now, with an urgency she couldn’t define.

She felt happy when she went home that night. Fred did love her. Things could work out and then he would play for her every night, after they had tucked their children into bed. She told herself to not be silly but the thoughts wouldn’t go away and she sang herself to sleep, feeling blessed.

The next morning she found a note inside her bag she hadn’t noticed before. It was in Fred’s scrawl and read, ‘The last three weeks have been wonderful. It is true what they say; you find love in the strangest places and when you least expect to. But love is a chain  I am not willing to wear. Not yet anyway. And I have places to see. So I am catching an early train out of here. I hope you don’t see this note before I’m gone. I hope you don’t try to find me because it would hurt me to hurt you but I’d do it if I would have to.’

No, no, no. She thought. She couldn’t let this happen. Her drowsiness was gone in an instant and she grabbed her wallet and keys and ran out the door. As she ran, she thought, don’t be silly you don’t even know which train he took. He’s probably gone. Forget it. 

But her feet refused to listen and she ran all the way to the station, breathless for a last goodbye. She searched everywhere but there was no sign of the man she loved. As she turned to walk out, she realized, to her frustration, there were tears in her eyes. She let them flow, accepting them freely as she walked. People were staring at her but she didn’t care. It was cold and she felt hurt but she didn’t care. She would have kept walking if the old man hadn’t stopped her.

‘Why are you crying, young woman?’ he said and she noticed he had kindly eyes, thick-rimmed glasses and a mass of curly hair which were blonde like Fred’s but fading with age.

She didn’t reply but stopped and a fresh river of tears fell down her eyes.

‘Tears of love?’ The old man asked with a knowing smile.

She looked up, defiant and willed herself to stop crying. ‘Maybe.’

‘What is your name, Miss?’ he asked her next and for some reason, she couldn’t help but tell the truth.

‘Sarah’ she said and looked at him just in time to see a flicker of emotion pass behind the wisdom of his aged eyes before he masked it again. She understood then that pain in love was universal without exception and this man had too, in his own way, experienced something he wouldn’t talk about. Or couldn’t. Because it would never make sense to anyone else.

‘Maybe I was wrong.’ The old man was saying. ‘Maybe I can’t hold on to something I never really had. But love cannot be chained, can it? It always flies away, one way or the other. That’s the truth.’

She raised her eyebrows again. He had said the very emotion she had felt behind the lines of Fred’s letter. ‘I-I don’t know’ she stammered but he wasn’t even listening to her. His eyes were glazed over and he was mumbling.

‘I thought my memories were noble but memories are just that- the past. You can hold on to them but time will still erode them away, one chip at a time. They become pathetic shadows after a while.’

Sarah stood silently, out of politeness, more than anything but the old man seemed to come to after a while. He looked at her and reached within his pocket. He took out a small paper bag and thrust it into her hand with the vicious force that only old people possess when they’ve let the passion of their youth reach their hearts again.

‘I want you to keep this. You’re Sarah and that’s special. Remember that. And remember to look for love and cherish it with reverence.’

He turned and began walking away. Sarah unwrapped the packet and saw a pretty pair of earrings inside. She looked up.

‘You didn’t tell me your name’

The old man stopped but didn’t turn back.

‘Wallace’, he said and then walked away.

 

Poems

Demons


Oh dancing lords in all your glory
Your red fire fills souls with light
So brilliant, so intriguing
We fight to enter your empty heart
Build a home inside your power

Take us, like you would a cur
What use is this world if one exists above and one below?
Disbelief is fatiguing and I am tired too
Maybe your blameless heat can cure me
Maybe your admonishment can beat my soul out of me

Bake us, cook us in oil
What use is my soul if this isn’t where it’s supposed to be?
You’ll tell me next I should never have thought any thought at all
Because thoughts make me weary and my love drains
I’m tired, I may wither but thoughts stay
Until the very last breath I breathe in and out

Charge into us, break us up
What use are my breaths if all they do is pump blood through me
Letting me live- even fruit-flies live! Maybe better too-
They aren’t bogged down with history
With tasks to complete and ruthless rules to follow

Tear us from limb to limb and put us back tomorrow again- as you want to
What use are these rules if you’re not judging me every single day or every single year?
I might as well raise my hand and strike a life out of a living body the way you do
But I would never- maybe because I am not blessed like you
Maybe because I’m not pious like you.

 

PS: Perhaps my most controversial poem till date. I mean for it to be heavily sarcastic. Not sure how it comes across though!

Red

Poems

Pain- A Poem


Through these streets I must pass
Carrying nothing but winter in my yearning heart
The pale, crisp white sunshine
Where dew-covered leaves shimmer like silver
And luck is flowing through the veins of the cold, still air

I feel those sobs erupt against my chest
From somewhere within me, I forget the folds of the world
Because this yearning is so strong, so jarred, so crooked
It cannot be stolen, it cannot even be untangled
It can only be drawn in the air, my hand an invisible finger

I sleep alone, curl my bare ankles around the sliver of a blanket
I sing alone, feeling a constriction form deep inside me
I feel red hot, unbent, unbroken
What is life without pain, pain without darkness?
Only absolute, utter insanity is worth the flow

I am intoxicated on something so brilliantly full of depth
That I can plunge inside a rut on the road and never come back out again
So what if it is rain-fed, infested, reeking of ugliness
It is true to the forms pain can and should and will take
So when I clasp my hand around that symphony, it rings dead

You’ll feel the cold sunlight too
Just stare long and hard into the breaking dawn
I pick at the moths that litter twilight but the morning is pure and senile
It is the beginning of fresh bouts of uncontrolled, untamed pain
It is a study in scarlet, the eruption of a bosom’s self-demolishing agony.

books · Fiction · reading

The Mahabharata Secret by Christopher C. Doyle


A secret brotherhood of nine that dates over two thousand years back was formed by Emperor Asoka to safeguard a deep secret with the potential to destroy the world. With the dawn of the twenty first century, some facts come to light which bring the legends of an ancient Indian text within the grasping reach of a modern nuclear physicist who is assisted by some powerful people. At the same time,  a young Indian man is entrusted with a set of emails and clues which will help him and his friends reach the heart of the ancient secret that has been passed down by the brotherhood through generations. But they are being raced to the finish line by a terrorist outfit that has something sinister on its agenda.

Sounds familiar? There is very little left to the imagination in this book which takes place in modern India and leads its readers through a maze of clues and riddles left by an ancient organization with the aim of protecting a secret. In fact, The Mahabharata Secret is so close in nature and story to The Da Vinci Code, that it can make you cringe. The only difference is that the fancy palazzi and expansive vistas of Europe have been replaced with Indian vaults and heritage sites accessible by rutted roads, pillar edicts, temples and caves.

The story is battered and very predictable. There is absolutely no suspense, the sequence of events are artificial and fall flat. Vijay Singh, our protagonist is a good-looking, tall, broad-shouldered, athletic young man and the woman he will inadvertently fall in love with is beautiful, witty and resourceful. The characters ring with hollowness and this book could definitely be turned into a Indian film, complete with songs and the whole package. The plot is full of loopholes that make a laughing stock out of a bunch of terrorists and a seemingly all-powerful conglomerate of politicians and businessmen from across the globe. The IB is reduced to  passive investigation of the kind that any amateur sleuth could easily carry out, and probably better.

The Asoka puzzles are okay but the entire enterprise of hunting for legendary weapons throughout the country has lost its charm and the riddle-solving doesn’t seem like something that would require an impressive background anyway. What with Google, the whole point of the protagonist and his team is somewhat defeated and rendered redundant.

I do not like it when a book shuttles between locations with very little regard for the details that make a reader’s imagination palette come alive. This book falls very short in that regard; the superficial nature of the synthetic scenes strung together with very little harmony is a big disappointment. I wouldn’t have minded the Dan Brown-esque nature of the novel if there had been any depth in the book at all. But it was a very immature venture, even from a purely entertainment point of view. A first-timer expecting a big break from this sort of book-writing, speaks oodles about the sort of fiction that really sells like hotcakes. But I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone at all.

 

books · Fiction · reading

The Vendetta Defense by Lisa Scottoline


Judy Carrier agrees to take on the case of ‘Pigeon’ Tony, an elderly pigeon racer who has been arrested for the murder of Angelo Coluzzi, a neighbor and a lifetime nemesis. From the rolling lush countryside of Fascist Italy to the sunny corporate offices of South Philadelphia, an Italian vendetta that is three generations old is rushing towards its bloody culmination. Caught in the crossfire, Judy Carrier finds it impossible to let go, especially since her heart strings are getting tugged at by ‘Pigeon’ Tony’s grandson. But the Colluzi clan doesn’t let go so easily either, albeit for a completely different reason. Carrier finds herself defending a murder client despite her misgivings and with the odds stacked against her, she will need all the good karma she can get, in order to stay alive by the end of it all.

 

Let me just start by saying, The Vendetta Defense is like the love child of a Mills and Boon and an all-female Perry Mason cast with bits of the Godfather thrown in for good measure. It’s pure entertainment and serves its purpose well. You’ll be hooked, despite the cliches (hunky handsome, ruggedly good looking hero who makes our protagonist swoon, a sixty-odd years old vendetta that needs to be honored above and beyond the law, immigrant Italian corporations with shady dealings and a host of bulky, sunglass-ed bodyguards who’ll shoot at the back of your car while they give you a high speed chase through the Little Italy suburbs of Philadelphia where people don’t speak up because the police means little or nothing to them and spinning court cases with a twist at every end that need  the rule book to be thrown out the window while you’re at it). Yes this book has got all the stuff in the parenthesis but it combines them together in a refreshing manner. You’ll be smiling at places, but at other places you’ll shake your head at the naive story of the book. However, you can choose to be entertained because through the slippery spots this book pulls through just fine. It has its cliches and it has its niche in the book world but most of it won’t make you roll your eyes anyway. So that’s a good sign.

The book is mostly about Judy Carrier’s lawyer-ing but it includes a back-story whenever we are flung far into flashback with Pigeon Tony as he reminisces about life in Italy. I particularly liked his little story with the exchange of tomatoes by a coy couple as they start to fall in love. There are tiny references to the war-torn Italy under Mussolini as well. Another part I liked was when Judy Carrier finds her naked self-portrait slashed through, end to end, in a ruthless bid to scare her off. Can you make any guesses about whether or not it works out?

When it comes to the lawyer bits however, this book falls a bit short. You would not expect your lawyer to be this inexperienced or this emotional. I do not think any law firm would give Judy Carrier the pats on the backs that her boss (who is supposed to be a tough cookie) does in the first half of the book. It is only after a certain blow-up in a corporate office, that Judy seems to dust off and start over, kick-starting her rusting lawyer-brains in the process. An amateur Perry Mason, she shifts gears after showing you how much reason you have to not to take her seriously. None of the other characters here take on any more depth than that, either but you can sit through it.

Read if you’re looking for some light entertainment! 🙂

books · Fiction · reading

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden


Memoirs of a Geisha revives the life of the traditional Japanese entertainers and hostesses known as geisha through the sorrowful tale of Chiro- a young girl who is sold by her father and sent to live in an okiya- a lodging house where geisha’s live on a debt they are supposed to pay once they start to earn. Trained in the difficult arts that a geisha must master in order to earn her keep and subjected to a long list of atrocities that change her as a woman, both from the inside and the out, Chiro becomes Sayuri- a transformed geisha, a woman who has suffered and borne and must continue to do so in order to escape from the clutches of her enemies and the cold, bloodied hands of the Second World War.

The first most striking aspect of Memoirs of a Geisha is the fact that it is a book written from a female’s prospective, chronicling the numerous ways in which a woman might suffer- a geisha, even more so- but it is written by a man. I could not help but marvel at the ways in which Arthur Golden captured the flighty thoughts of a little girl, the rebellious determination of a growing girl caught in a crossfire of libelous adults, the coming of age of a woman who knows what she must do and uses the devices at her disposal to get through the compromising situations she finds herself caught in. In that respect, Memoirs… gets it all right.

I found myself oohing and aahing through the picturesque and lively parallels Sayuri draws in her world. With the naivete of someone who hasn’t been taught to understand every aspect of the world around her, our geisha’s memorial is interspersed with rich and freshly created metaphors for everything she sees. She is resourceful and once she understands the compromises she must make, she never shirks away from them.

In the very beginning we see that she has been successful in her art, in the only way she could. But the story then journeys in flashback and takes us through her life in chronology, one incident at a time. Her growth through the book is not entirely artificial, nor completely organic. The ending you may love or hate- depending on what you were expecting and what kind of a reader you are.

The characters are colorful enough- from the notorious Hatsumomo to the subservient Pumpkin, from the money-minded Mother to the mentoring Mahema, Memoirs… has some strong female characters across the entire human spectrum. There are a a variety of men too, most of them despicable but since we see them all from the outside looking in, they fail to make a lasting impression. A geisha’s life is concerned with deceiving men into believing she is everything they want- a porcelain Goddess with a weak but sensual spirit and so a geisha is not free to reveal her heart to her men.

People in the West see eastern culture as something mysterious, untouched. Memoirs… manages to dispel a part of that enigma but the problem with the book begins when you start to do a little Googling. In his acknowledgments for the book, Mr. Golden profusely thanks Mineko Iwasaki, a famous geisha- one of the last ones trained in the old arts- but Miss Iwasaki later sued Mr. Golden for revealing her identity and for bending the truth to suit his direction. She went through a great ordeal as a result of the revelation because as a geisha she was traditionally sworn to secrecy. She even went on to say that the book did not provide an accurate portrayal of a geisha’s life (most of all the mizuage ceremony- which, she believed degraded the art of a geisha to the level of a fallen woman and was not something she underwent.). She also felt Mr. Golden modified some of her positive experiences in order to show them in a bad light for the purpose of his story. Though the plot of Memoirs of a Geisha is said to depend heavily on her life, Miss Iwasaki later wrote her own account published as Geisha, a Life which is said to vary greatly from the fictitious version. I hope to lay my hands on that book sometime soon because I would love to contrast the two versions and draw  my own conclusions.

In the meantime, Memoirs of a Geisha is an entertaining book, anyway- whether or not it clouds the truth is another matter altogether.