Ageing

When I was young, maybe 10 or so, I remember jumping from the attic box-room to the floor below. In my mind, I was a superman, and this could be achieved. The excruciating pain that followed reminded me that Superman also experienced pain when trying to achieve extraordinary feats!

It was only yesterday that I lifted you off your feets and swung you around, your hair forming a circle in my little room. I love the shreik of surprise that you let out, and the tantrums you throw when I don't put you down. I would love to do this with you all my life.

That hint of a sprain in my lower back tells me that the Superman is still alive in me, it's just that you, probably, you should hit the gym more often.

Dead People

It was probably the moustache
That attracted the fly
This was probably the last time
He would be buzzed
And the first time
That he would not know.

There was a lot of white
The drapes, the sarees, the cotton
With which his toes and the thumbs
Were tied.

When you are dead
I guess these things don't matter
The color, the flies and the incense
That invades the nostrils
Until you feel heady
With his death.

When you are dead
I guess you are
Probably just dead
And it's different
From just not being alive.

Nicotine


I can snuff you out
Like a cigarette butt
But the smoke that gets into my eyes
And the nicotine that stains my heart
Will eventually
Kill me.

RED

There is a certain Red
Let me describe it for you.
It is a shade darker
Than your blood
Spilt
When I broke your toe nail
And a shade lighter
Than the dark cotton robe
The Dalai Lama wears
When he snoots a finger
At the Chinese
With no sense
Of geography
And a lot of money.
That Red
Talks to me.

Published in Lakdi Ka Pul-II

Intersections

It has been raining for three straight days. Even the trunks of trees are soggy with water. Lichens growing on the driveway have grown an inch thick. The drains on the terraces are blocked with fallen leaves. Its been a while since anyone has visited this place. The termites living in the window frames have grown courageous with neglect. This sprawling mansion of hers slowly dies of our neglect. Neglect.

I look at the place where we had cremated her. There were one thousand people to see her off, eight hundred had stayed back for the feast, and a feast it was. The last and the biggest feast in her matrilineal line. Such was her extended family's love for her. Agricultural workers from her era, carpenters, laborers, temple representatives, community representatives, and many of young ones, some as young as three. The parents wanted to seed the memories of their kids with this event. Decades later, when the then old ones spoke of the great Gauri, the young ones were expected to say, I was there too, when they sent her off.

The moss on the driveway squishes under my weight. The coconut we planted over her embers is unattended. Like the other, older coconuts on our land, this too will have to fend for itself.

I try to pull some weeds from around the coconut tree. When she was alive, she would make me work on this land until my palms turned rugged and coarse. Most large trees here were planted by her, their pits dug by me. Twelve years and I still have the same set of labourer hands. But these weeds have deep roots. I try to pull them out once more. A handful of leaves slips out of the weeds and I fall backwards, right onto where she was lying, into the wet land she so loved. Slowly, my glasses misted over in the rain.  For a moment, in that haze, I could feel her grace falling like soft showers on my being.

The Dark of the Night

You would not have walked with me
Had the nights been not so scary
And your nightmares
All so real for you.

I would not have held your hands
Had the hands that I wished to hold
Not left me out in the cold.
Let us together, you and I

Celebrate our togetherness
Even as in our silences
We cherish our separateness.

Mar 7, 2015
First published in Indian Sahitya, Feb 2017 Issue on Contemporary Indian Poetry

A Strand of You

I was on the table
When a strand of your hair came calling.
I could see you in the kitchen,
Your face at once a storm and a breeze.

I curled the single strand of loving you into imagined shapes
And spoke to it of fascinating tales.
And as it played on my fingers,
Twirling, and curling
I could hear the music from its silent songs.

I had half the heart to carry it with me home
And hide it in a book marked you.
It smelt like July Flowers.
It smelt so much of you.

First published in Indian Sahitya, Feb 2017 Issue on Contemporary Indian Poetry

Folk Songs

Thannare thana, thinna thannaram thaana....(II)

I am not sure of the words of their songs
I am not even sure if this is my language anymore.
But as the rhythm beats
It holds me in its serpentine sway.
My soul strums up some ancient memories
Of a life in the cradle of green fields
Of grains and harvests and rainfall
And pagan Gods.
The beating of crude drums remind me
Not to forget
Where I come from.

As the music fades into the distance
I walk up to the little temple of my ancestors
And light one more lamp in their memory.
And as the wick sputters into a bright light
I am once again my great-grandfather's thought of me,
I am a continuum of His cosmic grace.

First published in Indian Sahitya, Feb 2017 Issue on Contemporary Indian Poetry

अबकी होली

इन रंगों में वो रंग कहाँ
ये रंग नहीं, है फीका पानी
जो स्वाद थी तुम्हारी
भरी इस ज़िन्दगी में
जो तुम नहीं
तो वो स्वाद नहीं।

सुनो प्रेयसी
थी अबीर जो सिंदूरी
उड़ गयी शायद
बीतते वक़्त की आंधी में।

लो आज फिर जो आयी है होली
एक चुटकी तुम अपने हाथों से
वो लाल हरी चूड़ियां की खनखन से
उड़ा देना दखिन की ओर
और रंगरेज मेरे इन रंगों को
फिर घोल देना बहती झरनों में
और ले आना मेरे आँगन में
फिर से एक ऐसी होली
जिसमे रंग हो उसके गुलाल की सिन्दूरी
जिससे कम हो जाये
फिर हमारे दिलों की ये दूरी।

Prayer of that "Thing" living in me

From less of that "Thing" thing
To more of that thing with thoughts of her own.

From less of having to play the donkey
To your grand-dad's ancestry
To freedom and equal choices.

From less of my shreiks
Being stifled in my own womb
To regaining ownership
Of that which is naturally mine.

You can be my hero
And you need no armour
Nor an Alpine account, as some would
Want me to say..

I am not your equal
Nor am I more, or a little less.
I am different,
So when you look at me
The next time
Look at me
With a look
That celebrates who I am
Celebrates Me.

(Celebrating women on International Women's Day today)