Saturday, August 27, 2016

Love, Maybe

The world is always little –
The walls of my room
The floor of my house
The stairs outside
The neighbour’s spouse.

They are always right –
The mikes on the street
The news on TV
The boss and my wife
The government levy.

I give them my all –
I twist and I turn
I hide behind my lust
I move around in socks
I smile when I must.

But they always go away –
The salesman at the door
The cloudless patch of sky
Top soil and tarred roads
A reason left to lie.

And then there’s only me –
Wall to wall roof to floor
Dusk to dawn rain and shine
The only truth is me
The only world is mine.

It’s good that you are here –
Without you I’d be free.

* * *

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Damned

I believe I pray I cry I lament
outside Your House
It does not open Its Doors to me
should I knock and break Them down
they will rush to your aid
they with the steel forged by the faith
they are pure and You are theirs alone
I am filth for I bow
where no one can see me but You
they will tie me to a tree
and set fire to Your Bones and your Skin
I will shout I will cry I will scream I will curse
and they will know they are right
for my voice will no longer be of this earth
and my words will no longer have peace
I will see You watch them burn Your Minds
even as they speak Your Words
and with my last breath I will sigh
as You hold me in the breeze
and join me with the colourful souls of others before me
green and saffron and blue and sandal and white
who know Bones and Skin are nothing
and Doors and Houses and Words mean nothing
if Minds are made of dried wood and sulphur
waiting to be ash

* * *

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dream

Pretend you're alive and this is not a dream
Float fly away fall free till your stomach turns
Twist from side to side and snort like no one's watching you
Dance laugh cry and spill your soul upon the sheet


Let the world lap it all up let them watch
Let the night wade into your life and make it whole
Close your eyes and see what you could always be
And say a prayer for the child in your womb

Let her laugh let her hope let her dream let her hide
The sun will be up soon enough and the fleeting dew
They will want to take her apart and put you together again
Do not wake till you know she is gone

* * *
This poem is about the child in each of us who wakes up every night when we dream and whom we must put to rest/sleep when we wake up every morning to return to our adult lives.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Unscathed

let's pretend I give a damn
that perhaps I have a plan
what's to say that I will stay
good and fair for another day
the bells are tolling the ship is sailing
the ghosts are trolling the paths are turning
the ocean snakes a vicious coil
the rage is real the calm a foil
I am frozen I am scorched
I am churning I am forged
of skin and bones and flesh and gore
of pithy takes on Trump and more
I feast and dine I skim and whine
I water gardens in my mind
what's to say I need a plan
I am here and of this land
and long after the page has turned
the hate has dried and the anger scorned
I will be here my tea and me
and you a distant memory

* * *

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Accident

The last rays burst through the clouds to cast long shadows as the Route 81 double-decker bus towards Haji Ali screamed to a halt at the Dadar TT bus stop, scattering the half-drenched motley group waiting impatiently. Amongst the bunch of black umbrellas that rushed towards the door were twins Rahul and Rohan, Class XII students on their way back from Agrawal Classes. As always, elbowing their way through the impatience of the crowd, the seventeen-year olds settled on the last seat at the lower level with relative ease and proceeded to survey the rest as they filled in the gaps.

But, unlike other days, today Rahul and Rohan did not stare and giggle in unison at the red salwar or the white top. Today, they did not wrestle with each other to rush up the stairs to capture the window seat and the spectacular view it offered of plunging necklines crossing the street. Today, they sat stone-faced, rigid, eyes to the front, backs stiff with tension. For, today, barely 10 minutes earlier, Rahul had slipped while crossing the road and Rohan had not stopped to rescue him.

As the bus lurched into second gear, Rohan looked askance at Rahul’s torn navy blue tee, a reminder of his guilt. He felt ashamed. At the instant when Rahul had fallen, Rohan had been a couple of steps ahead, a black SUV hurtling towards him at speed. As Rahul cried out in anguish, Rohan had sped forth in haste, skipping on to the footpath before turning to check on his brother. His pulse quickened as he recalled the look of sheer betrayal in Rahul’s eyes – a look he was sure he would never forget. Now, Rohan could only see Rahul’s eyes fixed in the distance, expressionless. No number of inane questions about the bruises he may have sustained were to bring Rohan’s brother back to him. Not during this ride, at least.

That evening, their parents marveled at their sons’ unexpected solemnity, their utter lack of complaint at the rather plain fare at dinner, their retiring to their room without a tantrum.

Rohan hovered next to Rahul’s bed for a while, hoping that Rahul would turn his way, that he would say something.

But, Rahul did not turn. His eyes still expressionless, his silence unrelenting, his heart continued to beat its unearthly rhythm. How could Vishal have been so callous? He had done everything – stayed behind Rohan while crossing the road, tripped himself at just the right instant, everything! And the idiot Vishal, for all his bravado, could not even run his car over the curse of his life, the one who had snatched Visakha from his grasp.


*****

The Painting

At first, there was nothing. A blank, blank stare. Lines – curved, benign, meaningless. They embraced like they meant it, and yet there was nothing there that Arun could connect with. They had told him, when inviting him over to this exclusive exhibition, that “The Maze” was the latest masterpiece of Archibald Crane, the current fad in the world of abstract painting. They had told him this was special, that “The Maze” held stories and colors and all kinds of hidden meanings.

As Arun angled his balding head to one side, his eyes wrinkled in his usual pose of concentration, he could find no hidden stories. “The Maze” was perfectly clear to him. There were lines, yes, and there were triangles, and all kinds of oblongish shapes arranged in a peculiar contortion. Yes, there were the usual hues, he ascertained, though he could not decipher them. Yes, there were, perhaps, even hidden contours – stories within stories, but he could not read them.

Distracted by a shadow, Arun turned back, and was instantly blinded. The light emanating from the doorway was acidic – it took away his sight for the briefest instant of time. And, then, just as he felt the first surge of panic, Arun saw him. A little boy, awkward and gangly in his oversized shorts and T-shirt, looking at him. Arun held his arms open, inviting the child to him in a rare moment of affection.

As the boy approached, the light faded, the shadows withdrew, and Arun saw himself before him, some forty years back, holding in his hand that first sketched drawing. It hadn’t gone well, Arun remembered. The paintbrush had refused to obey him and had gone where its heart had taken it, and his father, the eminent painter Varun Srivastava, the venerated Varun Srivastava, had been furious. That insolent paintbrush had cost tiny Arun a few hard lashes and a permanent dislike for paintings.

And then, as Arun’s face hardened like it did every time he remembered his childhood, it hit him. “The Maze” was not that different in its refusal to cling to norm. It held the promise of that first attempt at art. It deserved a home.

Arun’s decision was made. “The Maze” was his to buy – a gift for his father on his upcoming 70th birthday.

*****

The Trip

The weight of its wetness stretched across the skin of her face. Asha soaked in the hint of lavender, her eyes closed, her lips half open as her mind tried to make sense of last night. Arun had seemed less intimate, his lovemaking more efficient than intense, his arms unsteady, his eyes unfocused. He had simply fallen asleep afterwards, without as much as a cuddle. As Asha wrapped her tresses in the luxuriant Turkish, she noticed the hickeys had faded already.

Asha prided herself on being a realist. She understood that married life would inevitably take its toll, that passion would soon be replaced by habit, hours-long conversations would peter into even longer silences, and coyness would devolve into crass familiarity. She had read all about it, seen it happen all around her, and expected to be no exception.

But, for God’s sake, it had only been three days into her honeymoon!

As Asha stepped out into the hall, she noticed Arun keep his newspaper aside for a moment and look at her, a glint in his eye. This was interesting! Just like college times, when Arun would show up at her hostel unexpectedly at the oddest hours with that look in his eye and whisk her away to places she would cherish ever since. But he hadn’t taken her on a trip for a while now – not since that long ride to Panchgani in the middle of the monsoon, with the roads slick with rain and the hills green with envy – Asha recalled, her lips pouting in mock complaint. But the look was back, and all was well with the world!

“What’s the surprise, Arun? Where are we going? Tell me!” With a laugh, Asha stepped forward, her hand reaching out to brush Arun’s unruly hair.

“What are you doing, Asha?” He stood up with a jerk, stopping Asha in her tracks. Then, with a sigh, Arun walked up to the desk in the corner and pulled open the drawer. The metallic strip in his hand, he addressed Asha quietly, “You haven’t taken your medicine again, my darling.”

Asha’s eyes watered as she perceived the sixty-seven year old man hand the capsule and glass of water to her, his hand unsteady, his eyes dilated through the thick glass. Asha reached out for the pill quietly, her wizened hand shaking with the effort.


*****

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bulldozer

The window is quiet.
It’s been a while
Since she gazed at the gate across the street.
Nowadays, she doesn’t open but
With a sudden clap and a high pitched shriek.
Who could blame her?
The sky has fallen away from her trance,
The leaves have let the concrete in.
The sounds are shrill
As they sometimes are
When a wandering fever rages within.
The voices grow loud,
Dust gathers storm –
They push at her with brutal force.
She pulls, she fights,
She cries, she begs.
They shatter her final lintel hold.
The window is broken.
She’ll never again
Gaze at her gate across the street.
He lies as her –
Broken. Crushed,
One rusted arm stretched out to meet.

* * *

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Evil

There’s a demon attached to my pate,
If only hanging by a thread.
Seems an easy enough thing
To detach, I think.

And so,
I turn my head this way and that.
I blow at it hard.
I pull at its root.
I curse it. I ignore it.

But, all I get
Is a headache,
A puffy face,
A fistful of hair,
A silence.

And, then, just when I’m about to give up,
It goes away –
I can’t see it. I can’t feel it. I can’t hear it swishing anymore.
I rejoice!


Till it cuts me blind again.

* * *

Friday, October 24, 2014

Debt

Because you drank and drove and hit that pole,
I could see again today.
Why did you drink and drive?

Because you drove your children away,
I could find a roof and bread.
Why did you disinherit them?

Because you broke her trust and faith,
I could find a lifelong friend.
Why did you break her heart?

I owe you.
Your children.
Her.
Your pain.
Your sins.
Your guilt.
Your choices.
Your foolishness.

I tremble. I crumble. I falter. I stumble.
Why did you gift me this debt?

* * *