A myth

I was fed a myth,
a mere myth was all.
Of deep, beautiful eyes
gazing out in calm,
of light curls resting
on the nape of that neck
and shy smiles playing upon those lips.
I was fed a myth,
(one that I hungrily devoured),
of light touches and deep embraces,
and searing poetry that ran through my heart,
seeping into me, every pore,
running up my thighs
and settling down
near my throat,
unchecked, unanswered.
A myth was it all
I’d been shown,
as one I’d never known,
but had seemed
like a promise I’d come to forget
from memories long past.
A mere myth it was,
a gentle one that brought me
close to everything I sought.
But untouched, unknowing
it chose to remain,
so I let it go,
and watched it return to
realms to which it always belonged.


Three ways to a weary heart

A cup of overly sweet coffee
dousing a half-asleep morning
crowded with endless deadlines
in a tug of war
between broken hearts.

Unfamiliar dreams of longing and hope
still finding their way,
into familiar landscapes of distrust
long after the sun set,
in the wee morning hours,
leaving behind unexpected specks of joy,

Ten rituals that start the day
to appease distraught planets,
another couple of my own
to bring back weary friends.
Oh stay with me, now numb heart!
There’s a way out of this one too.

Burning you out

On a cold night
a cold, dark night,
in search of a cover,
when I’d walked into your arms
looking for a little heat
to keep me warm,
I snuggled into your folds,
feeling the cold leaving
the edges of my body,
until I found that fire in you,
lighting up slowly
at first,
the flickers of your heat
beginning to scorch me.
I knew I could only survive
if you were fully spent
and so I let you burn out
inside me.
I’ll bring my hunger to you
another day, contented for now
that I can light you up
every time
I seek warmth.

Two stories

Two stories showed up at my door.
One I had promised another,
the other, promised to me.
The first an obligation that’d pay my bills,
the other, a seductress I let in to entice me,
her existence the sole reason for my being.

When before I’d have chosen who’d stay,
I’ve begun to let them both play
in the expanses of my mind,
acutely aware of whom I am honest to
even as I am
of where my loyalties lay.

“That mistress,” they’d call her,
those tiny voices of reason
planted in my head;
stripping her, they hope,
of dignity and respect
(and, thus, the purpose for her existence).

But peek-a-boo,
they take their turns,
in unravelling to me,
one intricate weave at a time,
the plot that’d be
the story of my life.

These days, there’s always
a little story at my door,
unsure if I’d take the cue
but prodding me to follow it through;
waiting for me to help it grow,
hoping I’d make it my own.

My very open note on RGV’s “very personal note”

At first, still caught up in my sorrow over Bollywood actor Sridevi’s untimely death, RGV’s “very personal note”, floating around now on various social and online media, came as an assertion of all the rumours I had grown up hearing about the beautiful, late actor. I won’t go into how she shaped my life for me or how I let the ambition of becoming her one day guide me into my life, in what little ways it could. Far too many people have shared it. Mine would hardly be any different.

Emotions settled down as chores of the day took precedence. (Because life goes on even in death.) Slowly, away from my phone, where I’d received the “forward” that had reawakened my sorrows about not only her death but also the circumstances around, and an inexplicable, untimely void it brought on, I realised that this was rather typical of the RGV we’ve come to know of late. His “really personal note” on something, anything splashed around as un-apologetically publicly as he would like to. Because those are the only statements he is capable of making anymore. The pretense of empathy. Letting out demons for the the rest of the near and dear ones of the deceased to carry on their shoulders. That thing, even if only a phrase or two, about how he wished, after seeing her as a person, “she was allowed to be a star even in her normal life instead of being constantly directed her relatives, husband and to an extent even her own daughters” , he’d said. How did he know? And did he, in his need to come across as the only one who may have seen Sridevi’s true “person” “in her silences”, transform the fighter she may have been, given her childhood and the circumstances even he claims she had, into a person who played victim? Living off someone’s “alms” to “find” her little bits of happiness? What if her kids are like my daughter, and they shared a wonderful relationship with their mom? And what if Sridevi was like any other woman who’s come of age? She may have been only a part of who she was with her kids, her family. Like I am with mine. Sometimes burdened by the weight I carry on my shoulders to teach my daughter to become a better human being, wondering at every step of my way how I would affect hers, and her outlook of the world around her, wishing I didn’t have to, almost impatient about when I can let them all be, have no cares in the world expect to follow what my heart chooses. Yet at other times, unable to think of anything but the joy I derive from her. Unable to understand how I could be anything more than the mother I am to her.

What if after reading his “very personal note”, Sridevi’s kids wonder if they had, god forbid, an indirect hand in bringing that untimely death upon their beautiful mother? The one, let’s assume for even an improbable fairy-tale moment, as per RGV’s “understanding” of the beautiful actor and the relationships she may have been capable of having, they shared a very deep bond with? What kind of guilt trip is RGV setting them off on? What demons may he have let loose at them besides the many they may already be battling? Couldn’t that man keep his very personal note to himself or, if he wanted to “fight for Sridevi in her death”, sent that note to the family he spoke of? Given them the dignity of keeping their battles to themselves, and not having to wash their dirty linen, if at all, in public? Why didn’t RGV choose to take this out in person with the family, spoiling for a fight as he was?

Even as the Indian media shows yet again how undignified they can be in a celebrity’s death, it’s the likes of RGV that disgust me more. Because a man of his stature should have known better how he could have started this trail of mud-raking, deeply affecting friends and family, if not her fans.

But why would he care? He’s let everyone know how much he cares. Oh the shame!

Songs for the day

My deep slumber unravels
and I wake up to another weepy morning
outside my window sill.
The pallid rain clouds have yet again
turned the dark greens into greys
and deep browns to ochre, in puddles,
building up the rhythm I need to follow
to trace my song
before urgent melodies of the day
take over, and I am reduced,
once again,
to playing second fiddle
to another’s plot of deadlines
and distractions of earning a livelihood.
It’s yet another unmusical morning where I live,
begging me to play a different tune.


एक नज़्म में पिरोकर
तुम्हारी दास्ताँ लेकर आए थे जो,
अब फ़नकार सभी वो लौट चले।
बस दिल में तुम्हें पाने की चाह
ठहरी सी, दबी सी रह गई हैं।
अब उन्से क्या गिला करें,
जब नज़्म और हक़ीक़त के फ़ासले
मिटाए भी हमने ही थे।


I should have known
that stories must begin in the head,
no matter where they’re planted
and nurtured
into the legend they’re meant to become.
I took you in craving salvation.
Now you fill up vacant spaces in my mind
like water, unrelenting of boundaries,
spilling, seeping, not stopping.
And talk of a debt I owe you,
claiming retribution
for having led me into becoming
the author I am,
pointing out how I am
born of half-lies,
on untended half-relationships,
claiming ownership to borrowed dreams,
seeking deliverance through a half-life.
And you speak of my indolence…
that I seek redemption
in another’s truth,
uninvited, as if
claiming rights to a story that never belonged to me.
I should have known
that stories had to start in my head.

The gusts of happiness


The wonderful beat playing into my ears,
bellies the ache spreading through my chest.
A lover’s note lies on my desk, bare,
starting a debate in my mind,
to respond or not, to the slight in it.
But as the dust begins to settle in
over giving in to the vulnerabilities of love,
a gust of cool wind floating in from a distant rain cloud
flies in through my window
from the greens of a lushness nearby,
gracing my skin, tugging at my heart.
And doubts…away they crumble,
reminding me
there’s more to joy than strategies in love,
radiant in the lights of the sky and
wistful greys of floating rain clouds,
especially when a few miles away
they move trees into making a wary heart smile.

A week of losses

The domestic help walked in today, two days after she was supposed to show up, looking like she’d been crying all night. Before I could ask, she blurted out apologies for not showing up, her voice shaking, eyes looking like they’d brim up again. She had withdrawn ₹10,000 from the ATM, she said, and lost it. So she couldn’t make it yesterday, she said, while trying feebly but unsuccessfully to smile.
I stood there numb, unknowing of what I could say in response, partly because I couldn’t articulate in her language my shock and sympathies at her plight, and partly because my head was wrapped up in wondering if the past week had exacted loses from everyone I knew, just as it had from me.
Earlier that week, you see, I had lost my wallet, with a lot of money and everything of value to me, including my identifications, to the sly of a pickpocket college girl. So easily. So stupidly.
I was still reeling from the shock when the next day, I lost two opportunities close to my heart. One of which I had built my hopes of security upon.
A few hours into the next morning, I realised I lost a pathway to a heart, shut and latched as it chose to remain to me. Or to everything around it.
Then the next day, while arguing with my friend around what she meant to me, I saw I was lost out on being the only, or even the most important, one in her life. And just like that, I lost reasons, and the ability, to complain. Then in my angst and jealousy, I failed to notice the pain she had lived through when she’d lost her little bundle of dream. And by the time my miss hit me, I had lost the privilege to console her. Clearly, I had lost the ability to look beyond myself. As I did my rights to claim my love for anyone…and suddenly, the ability to forgive myself.
As I woke up from a fitful sleep the next morning, I realised that somewhere in the darkness of the night, I had lost faith. Again. And as I got out of bed and remembered the heated discussions with my dearest in an attempt to prove who was more hurt, I knew I had lost my sense of compassion, the ability to be considerate, and perhaps the sensibilities to be a friend.
So many losses in less than a week. My wallet, my money. Hopes for love. That sense of optimism. The capacity to be a friend. My understanding of who I am. My identity.
Maybe when she wrote about the art of losing in One Art, Elizabeth Bishop had meant it for me.

A familiar longing

I woke with up with that familiar longing
to draw in your fragrances
and bury my face in your chest.
But you haven’t seen me yet
and may not know I exist.
But I woke up with that longing.
So I step out into the cold air
rushing in through my French windows,
seeking solace in the breeze.
The sun’s making blossoms cheer and treetops glow,
leaving light pastels around my morning floor,
but I am not invited.
So I get back into my covers,
my plans to join their bliss
discarded in a corner, with my walking shoes.
Then, pen poised over my green-bound notebook
I let my words paint this pain for me.
And taking centre stage,
they weave into my solitude,
turning my ache for you
into a memory, a hope, a desire—
anything that guides me into you.