Friday, December 26, 2014

The gift

I lost it.
The watch that
you'd given me.
The one whose
heartbeat I could hear
through my pillow
on the silent nights,
away from home,
in an exhausted,
sound-asleep dorm.
I used to keep it there,
under my pillow,
every night, carefully.
And then one morning
I couldn't hear it anymore.
That reassuring ticking.
Someone had stolen it.
That maroon, plastic
piece of my childhood
which I could have wound
tight around my wrist,
even today, like a
borrowed beating heart.
They can't steal though
the eyes that you've given me.
And I'm trying to keep in them
the light alive. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Your poem

Who is to tell you whether
your poem
is worth writing down
or not?
Would you let them
tell you
if your life
is worth living
or not?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gone by

Why am I still
holding your hand?
Maybe because
you still seem
a little lost to me,
a little vulnerable.
Wide eyed,
perhaps a bit alone.
I see you hiding
behind the curtain
and I make sure
no one finds you.
I leave you
breathing unsteadily
in your curtain cocoon.
Your breaths caught
in the words
you are rehearsing to say.
I know your struggle,
don't worry.
I know your rage, 
don't explain.
I'll protect you
for as long as
it feels right  to me.
Though they say 
I am a fool.
A coward with a
weak mind.
For holding on to you.
A child I should just 
leave behind.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Silent Poem

Why won't you speak to me?
The silences stretch tense.
Taut strings slicing air
into strips of white noise.
The nights dripping heavy.
The mornings are cloud white.
Loneliness has become loneliness.
No more time spent alone.
It resembles now
the endless dinners being eaten
in front of countless TV screens.
Every day. Mundane. Flickering.
Even writing about not writing
feels better for now. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

At a loss for words

I waited for a word to
float down to me
on the dust and the wind
of the purple mountain distant.
I waited with peeled red eyes
for a sign of the word I had lost
in the depths of the sullen water.
My breath dried on my lips.
Now I look at the page before me
and the words curve and curl.
Undulating their bodies
like a beguiling whore.
My fingers, they are singed
and I can write no more.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Harmonica

The shoes were empty.
Where usually sat a kitten
curled up in the tired evenings.
Those weather-beaten shoes
were now empty.
The kitten had given them up
and preferred now
the small boy's pocket instead.
Closer to a beating heart.
The wardrobe was empty.
The clothes,
they had been packed
and handed out to the homeless.
Warmer nights and dignity
wrapped up in cellophane.
The knob where the chequered coat
usually hung was empty too.
But the coat had been saved.
Its pockets,
the ones that used to be full of
sugary toffees - yellow, orange, red;
now full of moth balls.
The right side of the bed was empty.
Mother would reach out
and caress the pillow sometimes,
the small boy had observed.
But the pillow was empty.
No indention of a head even.
As he sat on the steps he saw that
the carnation beds in the garden
stood empty and waiting too.
The kitten purred in his pocket
next to the old, silver harmonica.
He took it out and turned it over
in his little hands, examining for faults.
The corners he observed were rusting.
He polished it vigorously on his sleeve.
I'll teach you - the promise was empty.
He took a deep breath, puffed up his cheeks
and put the harmonica to his lips anyway.
And the house, even the quietest corners
and smallest, narrowest hiding places,
filled up with the imperfect note he played.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Afterlife

He falls a hundred feet
into the hard arms of
barren rock.
And sometimes
swept, empty
morning pavements.
And every time
he gathers the broken pieces,
goes back home,
stands in front of a mirror
and puts them together
in a different way.
Hoping that now it'll all
somehow fit better.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hunt

You feverishly hunt
for your lipstick
in the cavernous depths
of your handbag.
And you can
never find it
when you need it.
Like faith. Like love. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On paper

My pen, he is selfish.
He will not write for you.
And he will not bend and
curve and dip and rise to
bring into being that which
you want from him.
He is deaf to your definitions.
Face to wall, he will refuse to
listen to expected expectations.
And he will forever remain in
one singular bull-headed way
a stubborn adolescent child.
The worth of his words
can be measured only in
the life that he has lived
and the lives that he has
come to know and feel.
Neither praises nor critiques
can justify or nullify his existence.
He exists only to witness
something broken being healed.
And that's all there is to it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Baby brother

It was one of those things
your mother tells you,
about you as a child.
You walked a mile in
your new, squeaky shoes.
You stuck a glass marble
right up your nose.
You put on my make-up
and danced all day.
You said, if you had
a baby brother,
you'd want to kill him.
I couldn't imagine
sharing my tiny world
with you then.
My mother's lap,
my grandma's story,
my grandpa's toffee stock.
My, mine, only mine.
But now I wish
we'd shared a womb,
a childhood, a swing set,
a dog, a room, a bicycle,
half a sweet, a summer
a sorrow, a growing up.
I don't know how we
would've turned out.
I don't know if we
would've grown up
to become strangers,
obligated by their history,
to be nice to each other.
Or whether I would've
held your children
as if they were my own
and bought them gifts,
wrapped carefully, lovingly
in coloured paper.
I don't know if the fights
of our childhood
would've turned into silences.
Or whether we would've
simply remained children.
Saying it all without a word.
I don't know how it would've
been with you, baby brother.
But yet, somehow, I feel
it would've been better
than it is without.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Powder Blue

She was singing by
the open door of the train.
A raspy, husky voice
well within the boundaries
of melodies and tunes
flowed out of her
scarlet painted lips.
The shining silver hoops
in her ears were swinging
to the rhythm of the train.
The single bead on them,
like a single high note,
catching all the light.
The powder blue of the bead
matched the sky and also
her well cut dress.
The dress matched
the style of that worn by
that famous actress
in that blockbuster movie.
The bangles on her arms tinkled.
Arms, sinewy and strong.
Bangles, brittle and bright.
She caught me looking.
Perhaps she saw that
my stare bore no malice.
She flashed me a smile
and then continued to sing,
standing at the door of the train.
Standing somewhere between
the male and the female.
Between ridicule and sympathy.
Between strength and vulnerability.
Defiance and destiny.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Blessed Dog

When I was a child.
May be I was
six years old?
I don't really remember.
I had a dog.
He wasn't a good dog.
Not in the dog show sense.
He wasn't disciplined,
heeded no commands.
He knew no tricks.
Didn't  play dead
or shake hands.
Neither did he
come, heel or stay.
May be he would have,
had I asked him to,
but I never did.
He hated people who
covered their heads.
We had a few incidents
where he jumped onto
these suspicious visitors
teeth bared, eyes rolling.
I don't know what demons
he imagined under those
caps, hats and scarves.
Once, he bit to bits
the small wooden gate
that led to my grandma's
house on the first floor
when we left him alone.
Blood, spit and chips of wood
greeted us instead of
a happily bounding dog.
Who knew what nightmares
were chasing him.
But he was a good dog
in having a dog sense.
He licked my tears off
if I cried. Even if I was
just pretending to.
I never liked performing
that particular trick for people.
What joy was there in
making a show of the sorrow
he hoped to share with me?
The only time he growled at me
I felt betrayal like no other.
But that was the only time.
And even that came with a
shredded tennis ball apology.
He growled often
at my mother though.
Some unspoken grievance
that he had with her
expressed sometimes in
a low guttural growl
and at times with
a ferocious bark.
But still he was a good dog.
In having a dog sense.
He liked long walks,
warm food and cold water,
a good belly rub
and sleeping on my feet.
One day he woke me up
at the break of dawn
with a more than usual
show of affection.
That was the morning
I found him still, stiff
and glassy eyed
a few hours after.
Later, when I calmed down,
my mother told me that
he had come to her too.
His eyes no more menacing.
His guttural growl now silent.
An alien warmth filling up
his liquid brown eyes.
He looked at her as if
he would lick her tears off too
if she happened to cry.
He was a good dog.
A blessed dog.
Who had the chance
to lay to rest
his unspoken grievance
before we laid him to rest
under the guava tree.
A small mound of earth
and a small red eyed child,
who had to dry her tears now
with small, tightly clenched fists,
left behind.

Monday, March 03, 2014

बंजारे

थोड़े बंजारों से
थोड़े फ़कीरों से
तो हम भी हैं

परे दहलीज़ कि
लकीरों से तो
थोड़े हम भी हैं

बारिशों में
बेह गए तिनके जो
थोड़ा उनका गम भी है

पर उड़ानों को हमारी
ये आसमान पड़ता
थोड़ा कम भी है

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Emoticons

It's a hunched over world.
The faces hidden as they
bend down to stare into screens
glowing fluorescent.
And a little cold.
Smiles flicker in the light
every once in a while.
But mostly, the world has assumed
a stoic expression now.
It can't be said
what anyone feels anymore.
Or is it that it can be said too plainly,
too easily?
Little yellow circles that say everything.
Smiles, laughs, shocks, tears.
Disappointments, well-dones and fears.
They are all there.
Swimming in the cesspool
of that fluorescent, radiating light.
We prefer these perfect icons
of our hopes and pretenses
and of all those things in our lives
that live on behind little masks
of oblivious indifference to our voices.
We don't trust our voices anymore.
Those terrible, betraying voices
that tremble and quiver and break and choke
and disappear altogether sometimes.
They let escape a sliver of hate,
a hint of love sometimes.
We can't have it. We can't let it happen.
Not in this hunched over world
of hidden faces.
So we speak in beeps and clicks
and ticks and tocks instead
Emoticons we call them, isn't it?
We use them unrestrained.
Click click click.
Beep beep.
Tick.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow

They tell me don't hope for snow
in an arid land.
In a land of chemical rains
and greasy dew drops
don't hope for it.
There are flowers dying,
heads drooping on to their chests
like old men sleeping on a train.
Newspapers and peanuts
and old sweater vests.
They tell me don't look out of
the window with those hopeful eyes.
They burn into others fear and guilt
as hopes that can't be fulfilled
often do.
Big gaping holes
with charred walls through which
the land continues into infinity.
Don't put your hand
out of the window like that
you foolish child,
they scold me.
What do you expect? They ask.
There is no one sitting in the sky
with a basket of snow
just waiting to throw fistfuls
down to you.
There is no one.
No. One. At. All.
There is only miles and miles
of land that you can dig
and plant trees in, grow food in
or make graves in.
Take your pick and go along
with the world.
So I stop hoping for snow.
But I have to tell you
I can't stop wanting it though. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Lunch

You told me
you were leaving me
over lunch.
To be precise,
over a plate full of
grilled chicken,
french fries,
tartar sauce
and iced tea
in a tall iced glass.
Could it possibly
get more insipid?
It was a nice day too.
And for something to do
I looked at my plate.
The cherry tomatoes
were sitting
amongst the lettuce
like little ladies
on green garden grass.
I could almost
hear them gossiping.
I almost laughed.
I almost cried.
I almost threw
my half of the money
on the table and left.
Like one of those
dramatic, deranged
heroines in movies
made by that little man
in the big, bug glasses.
And then I thought.
What? Is this it?
Is this going to be
our last moment?
Sitting in a restaurant,
amidst inane people,
eating food priced too high?
I have an insatiable appetite
for last moments.
I like to plan them,
cherish them,
and turn them into memories.
Big, beautiful, grandiose.
Melancholy, full of pathos.
Leaving of lovers,
parting of friends,
it must all go perfectly.
It's not a recommended way
of doing things frankly.
But if you have ever
missed out on a last moment,
one that you can never get back,
that you have no memory of,
you'll probably feel
this hunger clawing at you too
and you'll probably understand
why that overpriced lunch
on that lovely day
looked so very bland. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Nightmare

I saw you in my dream.
Holding an automatic.
You looked so young.
As if we had
gone back in time.
May be twenty,
twenty-five years?
You hair sat perfectly
on your pretty head
in a fashionable bob.
Slim and delicate,
the automatic looked
heavy in your hands.
The crowd milling around
seemed oblivious to you.
They didn't sense
the danger close at hand.
I felt afraid though.
Sitting there on the floor,
my bony legs stuck out
awkwardly under
a flower patterned frock.
I sensed it with a child's
sense of irrational fear.
Of the dark, of monsters
hiding under beds.
I looked up and saw
the faces of the people
walking around aimlessly.
But they were distant blurs.
Their shoes and feet and
the tap-tap of their steps
felt nearer than their identities.
I wasn't afraid for them.
I didn't care if they lived or died.
I was afraid for you though.
I cared if you killed or didn't.
And just as I started crying,
my face twisting into
a helpless portrait of misery,
you opened fired.
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.
Bullets and blood.
Fire and flesh.
Shells and sinew.
Suddenly it was scarlet.
Sun blotted, vermilion dotted.
Prey spotted, lives clotted.
It went on like an endless rain.
And then suddenly it was over.
The noise of the gunfire stopped.
The ringing in my head went on.
You were exhausted, bent over,
hands on your knees
the automatic discarded for now,
soaking in the blood.
I just stood there.
A child amidst a massacre.
There were tears streaming down
my face still when I asked you
"Why did you do it?"
You were as quiet
as the gun had been loud.
You looked up then, sighed,
and with a blank face
and a calm voice said -
"You made me."
I woke up, twenty, may be
twenty-five years later
my face still wet with tears.
That night, I remember,
I slept with the lights on.
Till much after the break of dawn.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The bar

She sits uncomfortably
on the bar stool.
And in her skin.
The night moves on
around her, walking
to the rhythm of erratic
unchanging music.
She plays with a coaster,
damp with drink.
And coughs delicately
in the cigarette smoke.
A few smiles and
a free drink or two.
They make her
feel beautiful.
And she now
seems to exist only
in the images reflected
in the roving eyes
of passing strangers.
In her I see that sedate
loneliness that keeps
 the nights long
and the mirrors cracked
and corroded.
That lulls and dulls
and dissolves little pills
of self pity in her glass
at the bottom of which
she then finds only
some bitter cynicism.
I will her to walk out
and find her way home.
To start once more.
To once again begin.
But even as I leave
I see her still sitting
uncomfortably
on the bar stool.
And in her skin.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Of poets

Sometimes you take
unearthly shapes.
Like shadows caught
in passing headlights.
Trapped frozen
in the viscous blue
of the thickening nights.
You are the thought
that I think when
the water is swirling
in velvety circles.
Taking with it the grime
of simple, worldly pleasures.
A new shirt here.
An old song there.
Everything turned to
liquid and drained away.
You catch me unawares
and yet sometimes I can
hear your footsteps afar.
You are the memory
I can't shake off.
The guilt I can't diffuse.
You are the past sorrow,
the unseen tomorrow.
But more than my monster
you are my muse. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

कंकड़

ऐसा  नहीं है कि
महसूस नहीं होता
अकेलापन कभी.
कुछ पल ऐसे भी
आते हैं जब घूमता
है वो इर्द-गिर्द
पहाड़ों से उठती
धुंद सा.
मानो यादों से बनी
रूह कोई  छू गयी हो
अपने सर्द हाथों से.
ऐसा नहीं है कि
महसूस नहीं होता
खालीपन कभी.
पर समेट लेती हूँ मैं
उसे अंजल-अंजल
भर-भर के.
मोम सा पिघलता है
हाथों कि गर्मी से
वो फिर.
किसी किनारे से उठाये
मखमली एक पत्थर,
एक कंकड़ सा.
जेबों में रख कर
घूमती हूँ उसे.
तकलीफ़ तो नहीं होती
पर एक एहसास
रेहता है ज़रूर.
बोझ सा कोई.
झील जब आती
है कोई रास्तों में
तब फ़ेंक देती हूँ उसे
उसकी गहराईओं में.
थोड़ी दूर तक
उछलते-उछलते
जाता है वो फिर.
पर फिर समा ही
जाता है, चला ही जाता है
नज़रों से दूर.