Friday

I know full well how to write of pain,
And of love, of loss, of joy…
But how to pen down
This bleakness?
How to give shape to
This haze of gray
That obscures my unraveling,
To make it real,
So I don’t feel fake,
An imposter seeking an excuse
For my own laziness.

I was once a person, in myself
I miss her, as one misses
The closest of friends
Through a blur of tears
Shed for no reason
Desperately seeking distraction
Through the electronic devices
Strewn around me,
Leaching an existence
Out of remembered joys
And luxuriating in the anxieties
That keep me hemmed in here
For at least anxiety is a feeling
Distinguishable from the bleakness
That suffocates

I wish I could be her again
So that I know she was real
And that I am, as well.

memories of you

anything can wake them

the memories of you

.

today it was a leaf

falling from a tree

i was sitting under

.

later the particular way

a boy at the chicken shop

glanced at me

looking up from his chopping

droplets flying off

the cleaver

that he was too young

to be wielding

.

sometimes it is the breeze

that makes me

shiver

in remembrance

of your breath

on my ear

.

or the confident stride

of the girl

in the long straight blue skirt

with the short cropped hair

and black eyes

.

anything can wake them

a little breeze

nudging at the edge

of a folded paper

.

and there is a choice

let it blow away

or dwell on the moment

and unfold the memory

and soak it in

.

sometimes there is dust

to be blown off

and smudged charcoal details

.

like the shape

of the rocks

by the lake

with the mosquitoes

we tried to ignore

that night

.

other times

it is as clear as it was

or perhaps clearer

with details sharpened

into focus

and the background

blurred

.

like the pattern

of fish

on the bra

you shed

when i didn’t look away

as you changed

.

sometimes details fade

with disuse

.

your voice

is clear in my head

but not your words

.

and other times

they fade

with too much unfolding

.

the smell of

another woman

on your skin

i cannot now recall

.

all it takes

is a moment

.

and my head fills

with memories of you

.

every one of you

who lit a spark

in my heart

.

i sink deep into

that delicious loneliness

of what-ifs

.

but in the end

it is the memory

of a memory

.

an idea of you

that you never were

and never will be

On Distance

Touch me in the rain,
And I’ll inhale the scent of you,
As we kiss.

 

The remembered joy of moments we shared
Animates my daily existence
And time spirals around a longing
For your electronically transmitted voice-
A window into that mystical shared space
We build, moment by moment-
Inadequate and ephemeral
To the desperate reality of blind clawing need;
Memories, leaving a bitter-sour aftertaste of dissatisfaction
Like forgotten black coffee.

 

You come to me, my love,
In the depths of the night
And in the reality of darkness
We relive and forge anew
Our inextinguishable passion.

 

And in the watery light of day,
A vague shadow of my self navigates
A pale meaningless Existence,
Hinged on the promise
Of the tantalizing sound
Of your voice
Beamed across the vast silent spaces
Between us.

A long walk

I took a long walk
All by myself

The air was heavy
With evening smells
Earth-after-rain browns
Leaf dew greens
And a light flavouring
Of little green sprigs
Tipped with tiny white flowers

I sat down on a rock
And took my thoughts
Out of my head
I felt their texture in my hands
Gravelly as the rock
Squishy as the mud-between-toes
Faintly ticklish as a feather
Fuzzy as the underside of a leaf
Purposeful as a little bug

I played with them
Like a rubics cube
Until the crickets got too loud in my head
And I put them away

I walked back
Peering at the fingernail moon
In her pinky-purple sky
And everything seemed covered
With the transparent dust of memory

And I missed you.

Liquid Stillness

Shards of shattered vase reflect
The pieces of a life, once known
The warmth, the dark, the comfort, calm
And all the hues of life and love

Waves of laughter, shades of joy
In plastic cups, arranged just so
With colours poised to spread a smile
Across the face of all the earth

Promises of future joys
And plans and insecurities
The tensions, sulks, spontaneous lies,
Moments of ingenuity

Till all at once, a sudden shock
Sends waves of pain upto the shore
The walls of safety creak and crack
Come crashing down on every hope

Silence spreads like drops of white
Dissolving in the pools of noise
Suffusing every moment with
A stillness inevitable

Words shift round inside blank heads
Like newsprint on wet paper bags,
They stretch, they bend, they theorise
And struggle to encompass life

Time plods on its well marked path
And seconds flow in frozen hours
Till all that’s left are images
So hopelessly inadequate

The world spins quickly, madly on
We play our parts and then are gone
Our fleeting trivial foolish lives
With all our joys and all our woes

A sunburst through the clouds of life,
A rain-shower on the plains of love
Momentary joys and strifes
Perspectives of a universe

Donne Redone

IMG_0553

No woman is an island, entire of herself;
Every woman is a piece of the earth, a part of the main,
If a clod be washed away by the sea, India is the less,
As well as if Kaniyakumari were,
As well as any of your friends, your roommate, sister, mother, lover, cousin or aunt were,
Any woman’s rape diminishes me,
Because I am involved in human-kind.
And therefore never troll the internet to know for whom the cameras flash,
They flash for thee.

Finding my way

Frustration seeps into the corners of my mind
Like incessant rain through a cement roof
Dampening the walls
And chasing the lizards off on to the floor.

It fills the boundaries
Suffusing every thought with a must
That dulls incisive clarity
And breeds a cloud of irrational emotional fungus.

A soggy painting on the damp cement wall
The only constant goal of my life-
To make my parents proud.
A humid depression hangs over my actions.

And in everything I do, I seek approval
As a pointless moth flutters around a tube-light
I yearn for the impossible-
That glass-encased, blinding certainty.

My choices, like cobwebs, ensnare my thoughts
In soft threads of lethal possibility
Branching off into the elusive limbs of time
With the occasional scuttling spider.

The rain pounds cracks into my roof
And I stumble out, into the torrential downpour of reality.
Soaked to the core of my being,
I squint against the watery blur of doubt.

Until finally, I cease to fight it.
Arms outstretched, face lifted to the sky, I glory in it,
Embracing the cleansing downpour at it’s splattering best
Unstructured, untethered and tumultous in its beauty… Life.

Coffee in Anonymity

A coffee brownness laps the edges of my consciousness,
As I stir in luxurious sleep
Resisting for a few seconds more, the totality of awakening
“Coffee?” asks her smiling voice,
Rich and dark with shades of brown
As the drink she offers me.

I smile and sip,
In our blue curtained room,
Our cocoon set delicately in the neon noise
Of the anonymous city.

The crisp rustling newspaper
Brings stories from far away
Earthquakes, terrorists and wars
And I shake my head and sigh
Safe and comfortable in my cocoon
Cradled in the garish anonymity of the city.

Honour killings in my hometown, yesterday.
A high caste girl, a low caste boy
Death on the railway tracks,
The vengeful honour of a family.

For a moment I shudder,
As I look at my love.
Her wavy black tresses
Her deep dark eyes
Her lilting voice…
And thank our different Gods
For the anonymity of two young women
Sharing a room, a life, a love,
Blending into the milling crowds
Of the big city.

Barbie-doll

Like nausea
The putrid wave
Makes my hair stand
On end.

Cloying shame
Dilutes my vision
And the pavement stones warp runnily into eachother.

Innocent film songs
Emerge spontaneously
Made lewd and leery
By the congratulatory laughter
That greets the singer
As he passes me
And joins his friends with a grin of triumph.

Anger speeds my feet
In their delicate dance
Weaving in and out of pedestrians
Avoiding bodily contact
Eyes downcast.

Cold eyes
Fill with shared wholesome-healthy laughter
And slide over me in fun
Undressing me in their heads
Like a Barbie doll,
Weighing my breasts in their sweaty mental paws
For ripeness
Like mangoes
Squeezed, smelt and passed around
In the grimy market.

The sickly-sweet smell of decay
Colours the moment a festering gray
As the oh-so-casual hand
Stabs between my legs
Or pinches my breast
Or brushes my behind.

And my father/ friend/ husband/ brother/ lover
Fights for my ‘honour’ in impotent fury.
Asking me not to fight back
And risk the revenge of injured pride.
Haven’t I heard of acid attacks?
Of rape?

My safety is not worth this fight!

Watery frustration fills my eyes
And I cannot dredge up anger.

This is me,
Naked.
A chunk of meat
Dripping obscene drops of red
As a hapless calf sniffs forlornly
At the butcher’s counter.

This is me,
Naked.
In my sunny-yellow kurta
And lime-green salwar and chunni
Haggling with the mango seller.

This is me,
Naked.
In my blue pinafore and black buckle-shoes
Lost in my own head
Playing with the end of my tight plait.

This is me,
Naked.
In my low-cut red dress
And chic cropped hair
Gingerly avoiding puddles
In my high-heeled shoes.

This is me,
Naked.
In my black flowing purdah
A hint of a baby blue churidar at my ankles
My deep black eyes hinting at my mystery.

This is me,
Naked.
In my green cotton sari
And red blouse
Watching my daughter play in the mud
As I carry bricks in a metal pan on my head.

This is me,
Naked.
In my oversize T-shirt and harem pants
Hung with colourful beads and earrings
Carrying my rainbow umbrella.

This is me,
Naked.
Begging for spare change
To feed my hungry baby
And pay off the ones who let me beg
So I can try to feed my child tomorrow, again.

This is me,
Naked.
In my green T-shirt and jeans
Talking to the mechanic about his life
And his sick mother
As he mends my cycle
And his friends snigger
And pass comments I can’t understand.

This is me,
Naked.
Locked in with the others
After six p.m
So that we would not be raped
By our classmates
Who could be out till ten
And who, for some reason,
Could not have raped us
Before six.

This is me,
Naked
To whom strangers feel entitled
To give advice on how to dress
Or how to cover my ‘apples’.

This is me,
Naked.
As authorities,
Ask why I was out walking alone
At two in the afternoon
When I complain about being attacked
By three men.

This is me,
Naked.
In a protest march
For women’s rights
Sneered at for not appreciating what I have
And not being in touch with the virtuous village woman
Or the abused prostitute
Or the oppressed Muslim
Or the rape victim
And thus not having a right to protest
At all.

This is me,
Naked.
Barbie-doll naked
Faceless, featureless,
Naked.

A toy on display
Who should be grateful
That they are only playing with her
In their fetid minds
Or brushing against her in passing.
And learn to dress properly
Stay in after dark
Not stare back at them with hate
Or hit back
Or say ‘no’.

It is, after all, only for my own safety.

Like the cellophane and cardboard
That shields the vapid, smiling
Barbie-doll.