To the Years that are yet to Come

In the long innings of this life, we are like the stage where the drama unravels. The Plays change, the players too come and go. The audience is like the river of time that runs through us. There are bright lights and wonderful stories and some stories that run to empty seats.

Whatever be your story this coming year, pray don't be enamoured by it, nor be bogged down. These are just stories. Stories change. But life as it is, is lived forever between the shows and the silences that follow when the curtains come down.

You are the stage. While you may have a little say in the stories that play out in your life, I hope you learn to enjoy the successful ones, and forgive, or forget, or do both, to the ones that never really took off. This is not a new year wish. It is what I wish for you, every year of your life and for the lifetimes that are yet to come.

Happy All Years.

Suddenly

It was not planned. It was a government office. A private sector bank representative was called in for some support. The person was supposed to come by 10. It was already 12. I was busy on my laptop. Three others in the room were busy in their own works. And then the door opened and she walked in. Just like that.

24 years of thinking about her, and she just walks in. It were as if there was a tear in the fabric of my universe, and she just appeared out of nowhere. We talked like two perfect strangers. If she recognized me, she gave me no indication of that. I wanted to hug her across the table. But that was not why we met.

Later, as we said goodbye and she crossed the busy road, my heart leaped at the familiarity of it all. All these years, and she still jump walked!

Did you think of me just then?

It was a long day. Just like any other of my dogged working days. There was nothing in it that stood out.

As my fingers worked on the keyboard, I could feel the words on my display suddenly blur. A shroud like silence stealthily climbed over me, surrounded me. The laughter at the workplace dimmed, the phones lost their ring.

First the words of what I typed and then the screen fogged out. I found my hands quickly moving to cover my eyes, as if hurriedly cleaning them of some imaginary fruitfly. And as they misted over, I could feel the warm rush of my tears welling over. I looked around, and found that the other bay was empty. Thank God for small mercies, I thought, as you, suddenly, without notice, and without tact, deluged me, again. As I slowly tried to crumple myself into a discarded page of my poems, I found the whiteness of my handkerchief funny. I remember I had used one of these to tie your toes once. And as the tears fell without restraints, I  allowed myself to slowly and gently float in its tides. Wobbling here, sinking there, but forever engulfed by you, carried by tides of you, into you, always and so awkwardly, living in you.

Separation

I have worked on many scenarios in my mind. None of the scenarios actually ended up with I having you in my life.

The glaciers will have to melt someday, and so you will say. The ocean floors have to heave now and then, sending unforgiving waves crashing on to unsuspecting lives. Gravity, you would say, is the glue that joins parallel universes. And universes keep falling into each other all the time. Time is fluid. It is not a linear variable. Time is a different thing to a fruitfly and to a child on her winter holiday.

I have explored all your definitions. Not one defines closely, how it will be, when you are no longer with me.

Death and Rebirth

I have looked far into the winter mist. At the heart of its cold grey despair, I have found shimmering undercurrents of hope.

This winter derives it's darkness from my longing for you . With the first flush of my unbeing, you will be born again.

Allow me this death for I need you to be reborn.

Fading Away

How many memories can my mind retain?

I have seen clouds up close. They are really filled with nothing in them. Their undulating form of fluff is made of my memories of you. Their white comes from my happy thoughts of you. The greys are my desolation, the black, a drape of your absence, falling like velvet and drenching my soul.

Such magnificent shapes you make, scattered through my once clear blue sky.

End of Innings

Cheruvally Appachi (The aunt from Cheruvally) is about 86. She looks just as beautiful as I remember her from the time my grandma was alive a decade ago. Yesterday, we met at the wedding of one of her grandchildren.

As I hugged her, I could feel her tears drench my bald head and creep through my shirts collar. Her tears would not stop. Nor mine.

Great Aunt of mine, I want you to know, do not grieve for the time that is no longer there, for we shall meet again. This one was as your favorite grandnephew, the next will be as your son.

Dry Eyes

For the years my blood
Has caroused
Through these pens for you

For the one hundred poems
Through which my words
Have called out to you.
For the dreams you invade
And the days you color
And my being
That you so pervade.

For all that is soft in me
And all that is white.
For what I remember
And for what I wish to forget
For the last time we spoke
And for all these years
Of satin stained silent nights

For the stars that still shine
And for the ones falling
Yet burning bright
You have me
And my dry Eyes.

Also Published in Muse India

Of Warts and Moles

I think about you constantly. I wake up with your thoughts playing in the foreground. I clench on to you as sleep invades my world and drowns me, one thought of you at a time. The melange of your thoughts continue in my dreams. I dream that I have been in a crash and you come to visit me at the hospital. There is a recurring dream in which I keep crying because I broke your toe nail. There is also this dream of you taking me on a long drive across a ravine, the car chasing the clouds and your hair smelling of wild lilies. There are other dreams as well, the once I cannot write about but you would understand.

There was a time when I used to be extremely perturbed with having to constantly carry you in me. I would often pray for a one-time memory wash. My soul would often be heavy from my burden of you. I would often cry myself to sleep, hoping that some bit of you would probably drift away through those tears. I have cried for my grandma too. Earth shattering hollers so that she can hear me in heavens and come down again. But yours were muted. Just a steady flow of my love for you drenching my pillows, and a weak moan now and then, as if an unborn child of mine had died.

But in time, my shackles of you transformed into strange limbs. Some bit of you turned into skin, some took the form of beautiful scars and warts and all.

And my dear, all these years, I have let you be, just the way live in me.

Some thoughts have to keep playing in our idle minds, why then should it not be yours? Most of them are so brilliantly colored and beautiful. Most of them smell so wonderful, quite like you.

Abandoned !

Once a wise grey owl perched on a large sullen tree in a garden in ruins. The butterflies hushed their wings, the snakes crawled for a while like snails and the wind that was already tired from all its windiness, screeched to a stop.

The owl would now look to the right and then look to the left. It would turn it's furry head all around without a rustle. It's bright golden eyes pierced the low light dusk falling like a shround on to an unloved body.

When the night finally drenched this forgotten garden in its mossy grey, the wise owl screeched a chilling shriek, flapped it's giant wings, and through a tear in the fabric of the universe, escaped into another dimension.

The Fear of Grey

Autumn brings in memories of muted grey and flying ash. Memories of fallen leaves gradually letting go of their greens.

Autumn paints itself on a desolate canvas.

It is that season wherein your eyes draw back your tears into itself. It is that season when your hope falters and your faith waivers like the last of the twigs holding on to some imaginary leaf.

Such is wretched misery of this waiting, it transforms your soul into a refugee. You grab on to made up memories from some imaginary springtime and trudge through your life believing that your world is this bleak canvas, and you that grey tramp ploughing your soul through limbo.

No. It is not a nightmare, for it is not night yet, just the dreary day draped in grey.

There are no dreams, for to dream, you need to get to sleep, and you rarely get to sleep on days that stretches for years and is blatantly grey.

But when the first set of silly shoots find their way through sunken craggy gnarly wood, we drench in its first shameless showers and hurry to erase memories of Autumn from our minds. Green replaces grey. Hope that springs eternal, brings back faith, brings back love. The only hint of Autumn is in the hurried glances that we keep giving our loved ones. It is in the sudden desperate hugs and fierce embraces. The fear of draught scalds your soul, singes your being. Just once is one time too many.

The Music in my Life

Do not ask me why I miss you.  That answer would come to me, eventully. Some day sometime in the future I will find myself not thinking about you.  And in not thinking about you, I will end up thinking about you just like that.

All stories are my stories, but I am not my stories. I am yours. When we are older and our world is quieter than it is now; I will be in those intriguing tales that your heart spins to give you company.

Do not ask me why I miss you. That answer would come to me when it comes to me. Why hurry?

Picture Postcard

The necklace road was just as well lit as any other day. Its park benches occupied by lovers of all hues. The lake was full of sail boats and the Buddha as usual, held on to his smile. I remember that the rain surprised all of us. It came in waves, slightly slanting, beating down relentlessly. I would have run into the car, had you not stopped me that day.

That evening, I walked in the rain with you. Hand in hand, you holding on tight so that I don't take a shelter to save my buckaroo leather, and I taking delight in watching you dancing in the rain. That was the first time I got wet in the rain...and did not mind it all that much.

Moving On.

I open my door and almost see you sitting there, angry that you could not get the air-conditioning on. Is that small speck of red on my yellow tea cup a stain from your lipstick? I ride my car and I can see you sitting next to me, glaring at those jealous guys staring at you. There are six strands from your hair that I saved from the last time you were home. A green elastic band sits lonely in my bathroom shelf.

A bindi stares at me from my dressing room mirror.

So much of my memory is stained forever. I am no longer what I remember. All I remember is you.

Rain on my window sills

As the rains drum down my windows
I open them a little to allow a sprinkle
Of the showers you so loved
Wet me once more.

There is nothing that i write
That can bring you back once more.

One Wave at a Time

I can hear your voice on the other side of the phone. Its like some lonesome wave spent from a long voyage crashing unto my shores. I love it when you crash into my world. I love the overwhelming sense of being drenched by you. I love the mysterious stories you tell me of magical lands. I love how you try to make it up for all the time we lost by speaking too fast, running out of breath.

I love the way you explore yourself around my loneliness from you. I love the faint sense of unease in your tone, as you try to find out if I am the same edges you rounded off from all these years of random onslaught.

I love the saltiness of my soul that you leave behind.

My Silences

Don't judge me by my silences. They don't divulge the whole story. There is a story that runs in my mind. I carry it's lines in my thoughts and live its scenes in my life. I am the Macbeth and the Othello. I am also the Romeo in my story.

You are omnipresent. It is as if the script revolves around you. You are in each scene, ever chapter every line.

And as the curtain comes down on me, you dissolve into my mind, like a dark cloud of my own making. Taking weird forms of my own perception.

Don't judge me by my silences. There was never a moment in my life, when I stopped talking to you.

आज़ादी

आज़ादी हम भी चाहते हैं
तुमसे आज़ादी।
तुम्हारे मांगों से आज़ादी
ये दंगों से आज़ादी
जिन शोलों में तुम हो लिपटते
मेरे आशाओं से भरे तिरंगे को
मेरी आन, मेरी शान,
मेरे ज़मीर के निशानी को
उन शोलों से आज़ादी।
जिस आक्रोश से मार गिराते हो
मेरे चमन के लाडलों को
मेरे वतन के सिपाहियों को
उस आक्रोश से आज़ादी।

आज़ादी हम भी चाहते हैं
तुमसे आज़ादी
जिस मिटटी कि खुश्बु है हिंदुस्तानी
जिस मिटटी में है सिमटी
यादें हमारी तुमसे कई पुरानि,
चाहते है हम भी आज़ादी
तुमसे
उस मिटटी की आज़ादी।

केहना तो बहुत कुछ है दोस्त
पर है हम पर भी कुछ पाबन्दी,
ये तुम्हे है अब सोचना
तुम्हारी मांग जो है आज़ादी
है किस्से ये आज़ादी
हमारे मिटटी से तुम्हारी
या तुम्हारी सोच से
है हमारी आज़ादी?
आज़ादी हम भी चाहते हैं,
तुमसे आज़ादी।

.... This is my attempt to voice the intense unhappiness that the state of affairs in our state of Kashmir is causing to every Indian. I wish our politicians and media would stand up for the country rather than help us burn down our own attic. The land from where flows down this ancient civilization, the land where our greatest sages once tread unhindered, and our oldest thoughts rest, cannot be lost.  Must not be lost, whatever the cost. Whatever the cost.

Rain in the Morning

It rained this morning,
The sky that was dark and broody
All these days
Broke into tears
With a loud clap of thunder.

The earth let out it's pent up lust
With vapor floating
Over black tar roads
And tin tops.

I had washed my car a while ago.
Raindrops,
Bouncing bubbles bursting
And dancing
Would have drenched it
All over again.

Everything I know
Follows some weird rules of its own.
It rains when it rains
And takes no notice of me.

Everything that happens around me
Everything that surrounds me
Reminds me
So much of you.

That Pinch of Blue with Grey

Long flights dredges up lost memories from an otherwise sunshiny life. They come from all the corners, steadily, like coyotes, biting away small bits, from my otherwise well preserved sanity.

From my childhood, comes echoes of laughter, and playing in the sand, and jumping off trees and beautiful looking Didi's and school teachers and sir Raj, smoking charms, endlessly. The laughter bounces off my brusque facade of professional chicanery, and chips away some paint on the go. Right from under the starched white shirt front, I bleed blue, as I remember myself and my sis, playing, alone, under the guava tree. We were young once, and our life was full of each other, forever.

From my youth, my grand uncle calls out, in a voice unheard for a decade. I see myself grinding arecanut for him to chew, in return of cardamom treated raw tobacco. I see us painting the front lawn red, together, three generations apart, chewing home grown betel. Some bit of that red betel haunts me again, sparkling red splatters in my otherwise clinical, lab life.

And then there is that wide expanse of tranquil greens, amidst which my grandma sleeps in peace.

It's a long flight. I wish for this journey to end. I look forward to being home again. It's a journey well begun. Some day, I got to be home again.

What the dew drop saw

To be caught in a moment
And in it find
Surprisingly
Entangled
Eternity.

To shine bright
In another's light
And still look beautiful
From every corner
Of an otherwise fickle
Life.

We will all die
With the morning sun
Eventually.
Trodden, ridden, burnt,
Ignored, unloved, sad
Ugly, old, young
We all die
Anyway.
Even meteors do
And oceans
And seas
And life
And pastures
And grandma
And uncle
And Krishna
With the morning sun
All that we do
Somehow will
By magic
Or HIS will
Will get undone.

To find eternity
Unsung
Glowing bright
And getting it right
Just once
Would work just as well
As a lifetime
Of burning bright.

Don't shun the moment
Just because you believe
That there is too much light
And makes you feel
That it does not belong
To you
Just yet.

Hold on. Burn bright.

Tomorrow is just another day

The train that I was on stopped at a small station on route to its destination. There was a sudden silence that fell like a velvet robe across the train. The station was absolutely empty. No guards visible, no vendors, no beggars, no dogs, no dripping of water from leaking ancient pipes... Absolutely nothing. It was almost as if the visualizer had morphed a train full of tired people into a 3d postcard.

Right then there was a shudder on the other lane. A train thundered across the rails at a speed that for me was incredible. Such was the speed that it did not allow me to count its bogies. Such was the speed that I almost forgot to breathe for about 30 seconds. Now I knew why my train was halted at this junction. We had to give way to the faster train. Our journey was about to end in an hour, this one's had only begun.

I see my little nephew raise a storm at our ancestral house even as his grandpa looks fondly at him, loving the coiled energy in the child. The young are in a perpetual hurry. The old get glued into postcards.

Some stories are like that only

I just finished this book. It left me disturbed. All the hours spent lovingly turning the pages came to a naught. There was no poetic justice. The villain was not caught, the hero did not get the heroine. It opened up so many loops that never closed. It was like a dream interrupted, a limb torn off. Stories have no right to end this way.

But some stories are like that. They are quite like our lives. Half lived. Like a dream interrupted and then lost to everyday living.

Musings

I miss many people in my life. I miss the dead but I miss some of the living a lot more. I can see them going about their daily lives, and their everyday lives look just as good without me.

I miss a lot of people in my life. Those whom I miss, rarely miss me.

Life on a Metro

The next station is New Delhi. Gates will open on the left. The constant crooning of announcements lull me into a trance.

As I consume time and distance, I don't want this ride to end. Everything is so clean. Everything so much in control. Each of us sit silently sullenly looking into some point on the roof that is really not there. Nobody catches my eye. They don't want me to remember them. Nobody wants to remember me either.

It's a ride. And it is all paid for upfront.

The Wanderings of the Soul

No. I am not in a shell.

As I grew older, I grew myself layers upon layers of skin. Each time I found a vulnerable corner, I covered it with a cloak of invincibility. As a child, I was lighter, I could fly. Now, I barely hover. Growing up, I used to plunge into every stream and sea. I was not afraid of the sea, its darkness and it's depths, for I believed that they would not sink me. I am not sure of that anymore. My being grows heavier, and I am afraid of the sea, afraid that now,  it might drown me.

The road that I have taken, was only mine to take. The paths, good or bad, were mine to tread. This journey is mine and I cannot loan it to you to cover these distances for me. If your path crosses mine, and it feels right, you can travel some distance with me. This is your choice, your freedom, my side is free.

The slight droop and the drag that you see is from the heaviness of my being. Is from the seeming continuity of this never ending journey.

Some day my friend, I will rest this tired soul on a pavement and leave behind my bag of fears. Someday, I will run back to meet my sea and face my eternity.

What We Don't Speak About

The silences between us stretch longer than these desolate island shores. The slow tide of time is eating away into the very ground under our feets, yours and mine.

I loved you once, and I keep telling that to myself over and over again, even as I feel myself standing on shaky grounds, with the sand beneath me hurriedly caving into the sea.

We won't talk about it. We will look into each others eyes and discuss the weather, even as the sea around us turn choppy and the waves slowly run inshore.

We will not build one more bridge and cross over. We will not take one more piece of white paper, and write off our sins. We will not sing one last song together, nor have one more drink to get drunk and fall asleep into each others arms. You won't shreik and holler and chase me in feigned anger. You won't tell me, that you will kill me. You won't swing your wet hair and spray my white work shirt. You won't bathe me with your dove or spray your Charlie on me anymore.

There will be no tsunami, we will sink and die, slowly, looking into each others' eyes.

Half of you

I am sitting at this airport somewhere and I see a girl who looks quite like you. Something that she did caught my attention. She was almost as tall, almost as fair and her hair, it was just as straight and shiny. The way she looked into her bag for the boarding pass, the way she held her head high and her gait graceful and stately, reminded me of you.

And then she looked at me, and the way she looked at me, I knew it could not be you. She did not look at me the way you look at me when you love me, nor when you hate me.

Only you can look at me, the way you look at me. 

Hope that Springs Eternal

From the dead barks of our yesterday's, hardened with hurt and regret, scrawny with so much of scrounging, and flaky with all this neglect, we can still will for hope to bloom, faith to survive.

And then sometimes, like a miracle, from the this stoic heart full of deadened despair, a new shoot will grow, you will never know.

Oceans' longing for the Sea

What if I did not have this phone? Would I have so longingly stared into my empty spaces just as well? There are times when the noise of your silences, deafen me with its roar. It's almost as if an Ocean has come visiting a sea. I am home, and my home is missing me. I write, but my words are not me. I try to force meanings into memories, but my memories, they deceive me.

How much of me over the years, have you taken away from me. And how I wish you would take away,  the little that remains as well.

This ocean so desperately longs for its sea.

On Your Side of the Shore

I call her once in a while, and make idle chatter until she brings up you. I don't want her to know, that I think about you. I think about you constantly; but she is important too.

And when she talks to me about you, I feel like you are standing on the other side of this endless shoreline, watching me watching you.

It's one more day of living without you.

Redemption

I look at her and she reminds me so much of you. I know that she is another, but I like her not because of herself, but because of you. She looks into my eyes and find me staring at her all the time. Sometimes she asks me, why do you stare at me all the time? I am right here next to you, but you look at me as if you are seeing me for the first time, all the time!

I look at her and I hear you asking me to stop staring at you. I look at her and hear you asking me to grow up.

For her to live, independent of you, I have to let go of a part of me that lives with you. And whenever I have tried doing that, I have discovered that in losing you, I lose most of myself too. And whenever I have tried doing that, I have found in me a stranger who goes by some other name. I cannot have another name, for I have not answered to any other name than the one by which you called me, the last time you called me.

Death may not bring a closure to that which this life could not sustain.

हलचल

भागते हुए वक़्त से जब की हमने गिला
यार जल्दी में क्यों रहते हो तुम इतनी
इन सांसों की हलचल को थमने तो दो
कुछ देर के लिए तो रुक जाओ
जो बिछड़े हमारे तुम्हारे अघोष में
हमें उन्हें ढूँढने तो दो।

पलट बोला वक़्त ने मुझसे
लौट न आएंगे वो तुम जिनके
लौटने की आस लगाए बैठे हो।
जिस धुंद से थे तुम गुज़रे
रह गए कई तुम्हारे अपने वहीं ठहरे
राह ताकते तुम्हारी
बस तुम्हारी ही आस लिए।

मैं था कहाँ बढ़ा
हूँ तो मैं कबसे वहीँ खड़ा
बढ़ तो तुम गए हो दोस्त
मैं तो हूँ बस तुम्हारे पीछे पडा।

Silences

Once the cooking is done
The dishes
Stain free
Stare sullenly  into the darkness
That surrounds
A kitchen awaiting it's master's
Return.

Smoke gets into the eyes

There was a betel wine that fondly and fiercely cuddled on to a yellow flower tree in my courtyard. They lived together, with each other, intertwined, for as long as I remember.

I will pluck the tender betel leaves for chewing pan, and my grandma will gently sweep the fallen yellow flowers from the courtyard everyday at dawn. The dying flowers huddled together in their final journey to the recycling pit. 

One fine day, grandma did not wake up, and in a month, we had lost her

One rainy day, not long after i saw last of my grandma, the yellow flower tree got uprooted. It died too, with the sweet betel vine.

Karma

The transience of my being
Is in contradiction with the permanence
Of this journey.

I shall come back again
And again
Forever

Until I get to travel
Once
With you besides me.

एक पतंग थी हमने भी उड़ाई

एक पतंग थी हमने भी उड़ाई
सिर्फ तुम्हारे रंगों वाली.
लट लगाती
गोते खाती
लहराती झूमती
खुले आसमानों को चूमती।

एक पतंग थी हमने भी उड़ाई
सिर्फ तुम्हारे रंगों वाली
बड़ी प्यारी, बड़ी दुलारी
आसमान में, सबपे भारी।

डोर न था वो मांझे वाली
न कटती, न काटने वाली
शाम न थी वो आंधी वाली
फ़िज़ा सी थी वो भीनी भीनी।

फिर कटी क्यों मेरी पतंग प्यारी
जा लिपटी किस झोंके पे वारी

इक गुडबाय तक न वो हमसे बोली
और छोड़ गयी हाथों से लिपटी
ढेर सारे दिल के धागे टूटे
और एक लटाई
जो अब है हम पे भारी।

The Living Well

Don't draw from me,  without leaving behind a bit of you in me. I am not eternal. I would wither away, with each day of your neglect.

I Don't Miss You

No
I don't miss you like the morning dew
I don't miss you
Like leaves from Spring
In midst of Autumn's desolation
No, I don't miss you
I don't miss you
Like an umbrella loaned
And never returned.
I don't miss you.

I don't miss you
Like a favorite pen misplaced
Or the old house
In a new place.

Life goes on
Some bit of longing
Helps hope survive.

That Small Blip

You swarmed my being
Like a locust cloud
Invading
Fields in full bloom

I was just another small blip
In your radar of life.

That little patch of sunlight

As I walk through this wilderness
In large circles and loops and forever
I still cling on to my little dream
My little patch of sunshine
And all the promises
Hidden within.

Shine on my dear
For I am not afraid of the dark anymore
For as in a dream
I hold on to your light within.

A Train Journey to Hyderabad

As the sleeper class coach hurtled on iron rails, I found myself gazing out of the window, the wind catching what remains on my balding head.

It was the Carriage's willingness to be lead by the engine that surprised me. It kept pace and hurried behind the big boss, trusting that HE will lead the way. The landscapes changed from urban grime to barren wasteland to paddy fields awaiting harvest. Soon, the dusk fell upon us, and there was more light inside than outside.

By the time I could make sense of the journey, sleep had invaded me. I woke up at 4.00 in the morning and found a cab home.

The train was neither sad not happy that I was no longer a traveler. It's a journey it has to make, and that's about all it ever needed to know.

As the car entered my residence, I could hear a Siren honk somewhere in the distance.

Sulking Shades of Blue

It's not that you don't love me.
You love me in fragments
In small bits, from little corners
In small moments in time
When out of time
Some wanton memory
Reminds you of me.
It is then that you love me.

And I love you with my being.
All my broken parts stringed together
Into a complex whole.
I love you to the extent of my unbeing
Until there is no more of me in me
It's only you.

Also appeared in Muse India

The Waves and The Shore

How far can I swim away from you
For someday's I catch a lonely wind
And float along aimless adrift
Into a sea that I once called home.

I tire out and find myself longing for you
And just when I believe that I am far away from you
I find myself washed ashore
Into your arms
Forever awaiting
Never letting go.