24 June, 2017

दिल्ली

Photo credit: Steve McCurry

अरे अजब शहर है दिल्ली 
जहाँ धूल घूमे अलहड़ 
और औरत
है कैदी। 

31 December, 2016

To Another Year

Things on this blog have gone steadily downhill. Adulthood came and disrupted my readership. Marriage. Babies. The works. Working Life managed to dry out my Wondrous Fount of Creativity. So that instead of verse and voice, all I have to share is Blank Pages, Life Lessons, and Vitamin D Deficiencies. For a year that saw me take a Humongously Huge Step, it's time I look back before moving ahead. The year has been generous and brutal; stimulating and exacting; indulgent and confusing; but most of all, humbling as always.

And now is when I explain why (cryptically of course, 'cause that's how I roll):

  • To Sopho: Thanks for taking the Humongously Huge Step with me. I would've been too scared to take it all by myself! Some days, I feel like Calvin and Hobbes on that makeshift sled of theirs. Wheee...
  • To Family Folks: Another year of realising my words and music, body and thoughts, dreams and roots, are all from you. How terrifyingly beautiful!
  • To Bangalore: You've gone and done that thing when a place becomes a person to me. Damn.
  • To Rin: Soulmate extraordinaire, we carry on, leaping from one conversation to the next. How relieved I am to see distance and contexts haven't sharpened their knives on us. Yet. 
  • To Academia: Thank you for letting me publish those papers. Trust you to make me measure my mind with your foolish metrics. They don't matter and still...
  • To CPC: For forgiving, as only you could.
  • To ABB: For being a surprise teacher. From you I've learnt, we never stop going to class.  
  • To Books: Thank you, for letting me carry on our love affair. 
It's not been an easy year and its ravages show on my body, in my eyes, on my yellowing brittle soul. In my envy, and my broken smile. And yet, and yet, a bulleted list of thank yous, not one but two exquisite diaries to write in, a renewed urge to write and blog, and the thrilling and somewhat terrifying prospect of taking an Even More Humongous Step in the near future. How can I but look forward to the new year?! Happy New Year people! :-)

27 December, 2016

Dollars Colony to Bannerghatta Road

In cities,
I encounter
Incomplete stories.

A girl standing in a mint green sharara
Wearing makeup far beyond her years
Weeping
Weeping inconsolably. In the breathless choking way of the young. 
And my shared taxi moves on
Another frame floats in front of my eyes.

A boy sits at a bus stand.
It is all steel and he sits exactly where the previous owner sat
The steel is warm and slightly forgiving there.
His legs dangle, the bench is too high for any Indian
Another copy paste
Of the West
His cloth sneakers are fashionable
His jeans hang sufficiently low
But neither his swagger
Nor the colourful laces hide 
The ripped soles
And broken zips.

There, I see a blue tempo
Full of three boys and two vacant-eyed men
They lean against the usual fare of migrants
A striped gadda rolled up, utensils,
a broken cooker, ragged bundles of clothes
Two phavda, every workman needs his tools after all.

Three girls take a selfie there
Near the man who sits on the footpath sellking helmets
shaded by a rainbow-coloured umbrella.

A government building decomposes 
in its own apathy
While the raintrees indulge with their canopy.
Shanthi Kitchen Slabs Works sits next to Bosch
Another new app is quietly announced
And the city flits past
contradictions marry cliches
As I close my eyes
to unsee the sounds
that drown me in an anonymous
unseeing 
wave. 

02 October, 2016

Sum of Parts or Guess Who

From him, I stole my love for the colour orange. From her, my favourite flowers. Nasturtium and amaltaas, hydrangea and gulmohar. From him, I accepted the strength to be vulnerable. And the hypnosis of silence. From her, I learnt my love of reading. From him, I caught this love for nature. And walking. From her, I learnt the value of solitude. From him, I won an idol. From her, I learnt the release of art. And hard work. From her, I understood the humility of unconditional friendship. From you, I learnt the impermanence of applause. 

12 July, 2016

Hands


I remember her hands. 
Fingers, so sure in their symmetry.
I'd enviously marvel at their painful perfection.
Then glance down at my stubby fingers —
each one a rogue character
from different stories that didn't fit.
Nails bitten, skin peeled off
cuticles pulled back in a painful grimace.
But I digress.

I remember her hands,
and that afternoon in Delhi.
A sharp cut splintered our chatter!
Blood plopped, staining the
chipped marble floor,
the red oozing out
as I stood, transfixed.
"Get me the dettol!"
I, anxious to help,
soaked a wad of cotton with the brown liquid
and eagerly I wrapped it on her cut thumb.
She screamed, I held on.
Sure I was doing the Right Thing.
First Aiding my way to a Heroic Deed.
Many months later she'd show me her scarred thumb
the Dettol had burnt the skin
a shade lighter than
the rest of her fair hand
and I'd squirm
guilty I'd ruined The Perfect Hands.

I remember her hands. 
Pinching my ears
as I tearfully discovered undone homework
A green velvet fish
sequined, no less!
Those fingers snarled, pinching my ear.
I trembled under their wrath,
sticking sequin by sparkling sequin
my tears making them twinkle
in the endless night.

I remember her hands.
Turning the pages of Little Women.
I'd pretend I was Jo. Never the others.
Somedays it was My Experiments With Truth,
And as she'd read a page or two,
I'd feel drowsy,
waiting for the hands to stop
turning to another page.

I remember her hands.
whipping up biscuit cakes and crêpe suzettes,
ringlets in my hair and billowing frocks.
They conjured up exotic things those hands —
things I could barely pronounce
or understand.
But I'd dance along,
thirsty to be thrilled.

I remember her hands,
knitting needles flitting clickety click.
And as if by magic,
out came sweaters, caps, socks
made to order, "Amma, I want one with pockets"
"Amma a loose one to sleep in".
And those hands would oblige,
weaving me memories
woolly indulgences to my every demand.

---

I try to unsee these hands
now riddled with marks.
Veins too tired to
take in another needle.
She gasps as Sister pokes and prods
there are no places left to draw
any blood
that had once flowed so freely that
I'd drowned it in Dettol.

I try to unsee these hands
that recognise me not.
I hold them now,
willing them into remembering my face.
But they wilt long before they reach me.
They stand blotchy and bruised
ugly in their amnesia.
"Rotate the wrists,
Five times clockwise
Five times the other way."
As I instruct, they tremble
Unsure of my demands.
they collapse, lost and weary.  

Whose hands are these?
I wonder, adrift.
Silent they sit
vacant and uncertain.
Desperately, I clasp them
turn them around this way and that.
Whose hands are these?
Something shatters as I scream
Whose hands are these?
Whose hands are these?
And then, as if sensing my anguish,
she points to her thumb —
The Dettol mark
stares back — slightly paler than her blotched, bruised skin.
And for a moment,
I remember her hands.
Yes, once again, I remember her hands. 

23 May, 2016

Who am I today?


I spoke to no one today. Or yesterday. Or the day before that. And it was ok. I swept and swabbed today. My sweat flowed into a river of grime and I carried on, melting into the day. I watched a movie and washed my hair today. I watched a boy and girl sitting beside me snuggle up today. I smiled a them encouraging them a little further today. I walked past the shop that sells animals in little cages today. Two emaciated kittens lay sleeping, their fur matted and dirty. In the cage below, two puppies slept - thin in a way puppies shouldn't be, sleeping in a way only puppies can. I saw a man pick up used Pepsi bottles today. He opened each one and sipped the remains. And then I bought a pen that cost 75 rupees today. I saw potato wafers being fried in a massive kadhai of oil today. They simmered a golden yellow, glistening with what could clog my arteries one day. I ate a burger today. The pongamia tree showered its blossoms on the road today. I felt the little buds get crushed under my feet as I walked. I stared at screens a lot today. I remembered a time I used to write. And quill. And sing. And bake. I am not that girl today.  

21 January, 2016

साँस तो ले लो

मन करता है कहीं छुप जाऊँ - 
अम्मा के पल्लू के नीचे 
उनके पेट की ठंडक पे 
सेहलालूँ थोड़ी देर 
अपने मन के सलवटों को। 

और धीरे से वो
मेरे माथे को सहलातीं - 
"बस, बस, रुक जाओ,
कहाँ भागी जा रही हो?
साँस तो ले लो। 

मैं सांस लेती हूँ - लम्बी -  
और कुछ देर ही सही,
मेरे चिन्ताओं के गाँठ
उधड़ते दीखते हैं
उनके हाथों में 
मानो ऊन के गोले।  

18 October, 2015

That time of the year

Every other autumn
you pale 
at the colour of our love.
Sullenly, you pluck 
at the last remaining leaves:
ochres and oranges
swirl down
confused, let down.

It will take another 
bitter winter, and
the breathless vigour of spring
to breath back some colour 
into our story
and compassion
in our hearts.

30 May, 2015

La Sagrada Familia


[La Sagrada Familia or The Holy Family is an unfinished Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, Spain. Its architect, Anton Gaudí, was a Catalan architect who significantly contributed to Barcelona’s modernist movement and built several iconic structures during his life. Construction on this grand church, often considered Gaudi’s masterpiece, began in 1882 but its design is so complex and ambitious that even today, it is far from complete.]
I am
the Sagrada,
unpolished, rough cut,
a work in perpetual progress.

I started
with one architect,
but I have become
a trencadís1 of different artists.
Every person I meet comes and
carves another pirouette in stone.

A thousand workers
mould and polish me;
they chip, chisel and hurt me
taking more than they can give
hammering me hollow as I powder at their anvil.

Some paint me
the gentle swishes
of their brushes lulling me into love.
they put another coat here, one there,
hiding the uglier blemishes, painting new wounds.

I start and stop thus,
some days growing tall –
a glorious castell2 well-balanced, proud.
Some days a pillar is pulled down,
And I start over, dejected but never outdone.

I thrive thus; a back and forth of sorts:
A continuous creation; unendingly unborn.


1. Trencadís or pique assiette, is a form of mosaic used in Catalan modernism, where broken pieces of colourful tiles are used to build intricate patterns.
2. A castell or castle is a human tower made during festivals in Catalonia, which has an intricate process of assembling and dissembling.

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