Slow Death

There is a futility in loving you
I know that you grow in lonely places in me
And will eventually
Kill me.

There is a futility in loving you
Like moss that grows in my village well
Beautiful
But treacherous, you see.

There is futility in loving you
Like arsenic
Green and lifeless
Someday I shall be.

There is something about you
Around you
And in places and things and sounds and stains and smells of you,
That softly weighs on my soul.
It’s like a background score
From a movie
Time forgot.

There is futility in loving you
And as I watch myself softly sink
I remember how you smelt
Of Victoria's Secret
And other crazy things.

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

Virus Attack

I know what it is
I have lived through this before.
It starts with a simple ping
A rather unnoticed query
Reaching out to the heart admin.

As I fight to forget you
You quickly upgrade yourself
From a PUP to a malware
And then to a virus that destroys
Any semblance of control
That I thought I had on my thoughts.

What shall I do with you
When every time I run away from you
You crash my OS with your thoughts.

Come hack me forever my dear
And turn me into a zombie
Forever playing programs
That entertains you.

Ink That Blots

Come
Fill my pen
And flow through my little life
Adding colors
And forever staining
What were white empty pages
In waiting
Endlessly
For this fluid verse.

Let's make love
With these moments.
Punctuate me
So that I never run out of breath.
Complete me
So that there be meanings
Stringed together
Out of ordinary letters
That etch a forever tale.

Special to Me

As special as every single snowflake
Before it falls on to the other
And becomes ice.

As special as the first born
After years of thankless
Tyranny of time.

As special
As the memory
Of our first kiss.

As special
As first love
As the first rains
The first house
The first pay
The first dance
The lost ones
The loved ones
The dear Lord

And
This life
With you in it.

With the Sun in my eyes

There was a turn up ahead on the road. A turn that I did not want to take.

There are times when you don't want any further changes in your life at the moment. It was one such moment in my life in time. However, the concept of having a choice is rather overrated. If I had a choice, I would have become a deodar tree in the middle of Indian rain forests and lived quietly for a million years. Such choices are never available.

There was a turn up ahead on the road. The turn required of me to move along its contours. The turn wished of me to succumb to it's long curves and stay away from its guarded rails. Missing the turn would have meant a dive into the setting sun. I can imagine how it would have felt, a white car trying to land on the setting sun.

As the sun's saffron hue set the horizons on fire, I once again found myself on a road that leads to you.

That wife like thingy who lives with me!

I change my name when I am home. The person who cooks bakes cleans mops and goes about keeping a very clean house is not me. It is someone else living in me. Her name is Rajesh Kumari!

It took years for the beautiful girls at Spencers to believe that I am single and I buy provisions for all of myself. In India, you cannot be 40 and single. Its too strange in too many ways for too many people. A typical Indian male is an infant forever on the verge of growing up, but never actually getting there. When the 27 year old is finally weaned away from his mom, he quickly learns to latch on to the young Indian wife who is supposed to suckle him till worlds end. Most men from my generation have rarely held a knife in their hands. Kitchen was always moms forte and then it was the wife's job. Most guys don't know how to fold a vest and the brief is something which is supposed to magically get cleaned and made available by the mom, or the thingy you call wife. If you show them a ridged gourd, they might call it big beans!

Given the conditioning as mentioned above, my milkman finds it impossible to believe that that devilishly clean house is kept clean by me. My new colleague loves the vegetable Korma and asks me to convey his appreciation to the wife, my new neighbor loves the mud  cake i baked, I could not let her into the secret. I was worried that if i tell her that there is no woman at home, she might even forbid my entry into her house for being too strange.

I settled all these issues once and for all by declaring that all household chores are carried out with great devotion by my beautiful meticulous hard working patient and God fearing wife. I keep her hidden and locked inside my house and she rarely comes out. My name is Rajesh Kumar, obviously...her name is Rajesh Kumari!

Bachao!

Just Passing Through

I have often been flagged down
By random strangers looking for a ride..
Which way they would ask
And I will tell them,
I am just passing by.

It's a long road I have traveled
And with me on this journey
Have traveled quite a few,

These roads have been mostly kind
And in moments of rare distress
I have found strangers in my life,
Kinder than the friends around.

Don't honk too loud behind me
I shall allow you a pass without a murmur
I have been a rider on this road for long
There is really no place I call myself a home
Even as you hurry ahead
Remember brother
I am just passing through.

How high is high enough?

Would you like to have a bigger house, a bigger car and more money into your accounts? This is a question that has been thrown at me several times in the past. It is also a question upon which I have given many hours of thought.

My name is Rajesh. It is a very common name in India. Already 2% of all men, if not more, will have this name. My other name is Kumar. A good 5% of population will share their second name with me. There is nothing in my name that forces me to believe that I am either better off or worse off than anyone else. However, when my grandma used to call my name, she made it sound like the best possible name in the universe. When my dad introduces me to his friends, and ads "my son" to my name, he makes it sound like no other name. When my sister or my cousins speak of me, they make my name sound quite like a la George Clooney. When my boss calls out my name, with a string of superlatives and expletives, he makes it sure that everyone knows...you need to be a Rajesh to get the job done, no other bugger is good enough. My name is quite ordinary. The people in my life make me believe that its extraordinary.

My earliest memories of wealth are about absence of it in many peoples lives. While I and my sister studied in the best schools in Patna, the kids of our maids dropped out of local schools early and took to helping their moms earn more money doing the dishes in our homes. We were very middle-class but most of the people who lived around us were terribly poor. The schools I went to taught us to be good and taught us to pray and work for the poor. Thank you Sr.Subha and Notre Dame, Brother Cyril and Loyola for not asking us to be anyone other than who we were. You see, we were never told that is not ok to be somewhere in the middle between the very rich and the terribly poor. Nobody asked us to detest the poor and be jealous of the rich. Rich were rich, poor were poor and we were ok types. I did not grow up thinking of my first iPad or Audi. We had an Ambi and a Chetak, and that was all right.

When I stepped into college, my professors loved me. The only unsaid rule was that I go about spending time doing things I loved and that way, they were free to take their classes without me being anywhere near. The arrangement worked just as well. They survived me and I had an awesome education. Everybody loved me and claim to miss me to this day. Thank you St. Berchmans' for fostering a spirit of scholarship in me. If my Alma Mater were to ask me to become a Steve jobs instead of a future Elliot, I would have been so at sea!

My first boss asked me to go on and become a great manager. He forced me to constantly work out of my comfort zone. He never promised me an A, nor did he promise me out of turn hikes or promotions. I took his advise very seriously and went on to work for those who worked for me. I believed that I need to work on behalf of those who seek their livelihoods and success with me. They did not work for me, I worked for them. Success and hikes and promotions happened on their own. As I grew in ranks, so did the ones I worked for. Without them, I would have had no reason to exist. Without their growth, mine would have been so unfair. And life needs to be fair. It begins with me and includes the community I live in.

I don't want a two digit hike, and I love my small house and my cheap car. Those who love me don't love me for my wealth or absence of it. They love me for myself. Its a long life I have lived. They have traveled with me through long dark and lonely stretches. I have lived through bouts of insanity and mayhem, I have lived through great losses and grief. I carry within me fear and uncertainty and despair for things I have lost, or may lose in the near future. Neither the money in my bank, or the length of my designation or the brand of my phone has ever helped me get through a difficult phase in my life.

I measure my growth with how much more I can do for those around me. When I look back, I am amazed at how exponential my growth has been. And yes, I am very happy with my lot in life, there is just no other place where I wish to be.

Stain my white shirt

Kiss me everywhere
Stain my whites
Let there be pink creases on my arms
And let the glitter flakes raise a sparkle.

When I walk into the night tonight
Let there be disco lights all around.
I pray for people to stop and stare
And with a scandalous tch! tch!
Look at me and think of you.

Go on Princess
Paint me in all your hues.

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...