Sunday, 17 February 2019

News from Nowhere IV

You know, I left my raincoat on the hook
because I wouldn’t need it on the road –
three hundred suns per year, promises made good,
and at a pinch the sheet wrapped like a cloak.
Does it hang there still? Do you sometimes look
in passing in its pockets for a note?
a memory? - perhaps remnants of some mute,
faded smells of rain and cigarette smoke.

It drizzled here today but it was brief.
I went walking without a waterproof –
the rain was like your fingers on my face.
But all rain feels the same in every place,
wherever I go, however far I move –
some strange fluttering bliss akin to grief.

Well, V-Day has come and gone, and as in most other years, I'm continuing with my own version of love poems to mark the month. Because love is kind of an everyday thing around here, in addition to being a many splendoured thing of course.  Love is the dressing in life's salad bowl, it holds the salad together, makes the greens glisten and adds the zing, but you don't really talk about it much. It's made everyday without a fixed recipe, which was really a list of ingredients scribbled down somewhere on the stub of a ticket or something. Gone missing for years now, but it doesn't matter because it's a conditioned reflex anyways, if you know what I mean. 

On a more sombre note, the news out of India was terrible on the 14th, 44 jawans killed in the most atrocious and audacious suicide bomb attack in Kashmir. Or maybe not so audacious, given that we never seem to learn anything from our mistakes. Not one single thing! Terrorists can storm our parliament, besiege an entire Indian city, massacre security personnel at our border posts at will, kill dozens of them on the most heavily guarded road. Just like that. It turns my brain inside out to even think of it. 

Respect and thoughts for the soldiers and their families. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

News from Nowhere III

You know, I stop sometimes at an unknown town
and every market place and every street,
the parking lots, the concrete ramps sloping down,
the face of every stranger I chance to meet,

the sudden lunge of a voice by a window,
the rising noise of an approaching bus,
its windshield gleaming, mirror worked leaf shadows –
they are all you, all of it's about us.

The lampposts blink in the dark – power’s out,
the stars too blink and gulp in unison,
a blind busker tap-taps to the roundabout.

And even though I’m far from the river mouth,
I’m still with you, and still with our horizons,
however far east or west, north or south.

As in most other years, I'm doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day.  But I'm perfectly fine with anyone celebrating V-day, love and let love is the general policy around here. And who wants to argue about getting more chocolate, right? It's all good, whichever way it's celebrated. Love can run deep in an aquifer, or it can be a gushing hot spring, or a steady-serene, glassy surfaced lake. If you want to splash out, splash out, and if you want to be free, be free. 

To paraphrase another great - there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the beloved. Just keep the knees flexible. 

Happy Valentine's.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

News from nowhere II

You know, it is my job to love the road
as much as loving you. As what’s called home,
wherever that may be – without postcodes
or doorsills, bricks and mortar, steel and chrome,
walls that can hem things in. This elbow room
for neuroses, identity’s fuzzy cloud,
no pillow-talk, sheets of dusty perfume,
solitude, waxing and waning in the crowd.

Years of tarmac taken up to realise,
to give up the yearnings for residual,
to straddle two halves of the same whole.
Home’s the fringe of your lashes, pensive eyes,
patient lids. Home's also this burning fuel.
The slope, the bank, the turn, and the rare pothole.

As in most other years, I'm doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day. Because love is the biggest deal of all but it is all in the day's work, month in and month out. It is the only work with any kind of job satisfaction guaranteed imo. You don't have to count the miles, you don't have to count the eggs, never mind the chickens, before or after they hatch. Everything, every little thing, counts, and nothing has to be counted. How super awesome is that?

And yeah, I'm getting there, I'm getting there, at my own pace, just like you. Sooner or later, the job will get done. And it just might not be over even then. How awesome too, is that?

Sunday, 3 February 2019

News from nowhere

You know, I can’t say exactly where I am
but here the skies at night are bright with stars,
the earth is deep and cold against my scars
and though I’ve lost the map, I’m far from home –
the tents glow in the dark like low burning flames
flickering small in alabaster lamps.
You can call it a milestone, this lonely camp
or just another pit stop on the way,
a different northern route to get back someday
and I’ll go back to you, from where I came.
Everything will have utterly changed meanwhile
and yet everything will still be the same –
faded handprints on our walls and doorframes.
My feet on the flagstones. The thrill of your smile.

Well, I'm so glad January is over, it's been rough. Not just for me personally, but also for a lot of people I know, online and off. Relieved to get through without any major damage. 

As in most other years, I'll be doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day. Love is kind of an everyday thing around here, if you know what I mean. Like a low grade fever. You're not in bed flailing around focussed on being delirious and blind, being plied assiduously with chicken soup and ginger tea. Nope. Just that your eyes are glittery and/or swimmy, your pulse is a tad faster, your entire perspective a bit heightened. But you're going about filing documents and filling up the fuel tanks just as usual. 

It's a nonstop party inside even when the mask looks stern and the hands are smeared with some nameless gunk.  Because the heart is nearly always festooned with tinsel and with those fairy lights which won't stop twinkling. It too, is like a candle behind impassive, translucent stone, for the want of a better analogy.  The glow of love and gratitude and amazement doesn't always show up from outside, but I assure you, it's always there.

Happy February!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

On being sent a photo of a Nepali woman baking clay pots

Clay’s useful only when it’s hollowed out,
fired in unbearable kilns and hardened;
the base level, the shape even throughout,
but it’s fragile still, it'll crack in the end.
The potter breaks, though later than the pot,
and once they’ve broken - difficult to mend -
they could be stuck back, sure, but you cannot
unsee the cracks, the fault lines that’ve opened.

Slowly getting back on track, onward with the teeny-tiny and long titles. Or maybe I should have just called it 'Crackpot' :) 

Will be round to catch up on the reading soon.  Can't believe January's nearly over! Hope 2019 is treating you well.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Empty Waters

The airport is already swankier. Clicketty-click polished granite floors where the carpeting does not deaden footsteps, the concourse wider, an enlarged duty-free, shops glittering with souvenirs – costume jewellery, camels, miniature coffee pots. Sleek kiosks of global brands. Rows of backlit signages, lights reflected off all surfaces like some kind of weird visual echo chamber.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Shaken, not stirred

Over familiar, she leans close, and whispers
as the steam rises from my cup,
‘You babble a lot about death and winters
but sometimes you’re forced to shut up.’

Early morning in the park the crowd is thin
just she and I at my old bench,
the clank of garbage vats, the year’s beginning
with the same noise and urban stench.

‘You can write it lofty when it is just you,’
she smirks, though her lips remain grim,
‘all immortal bravado- what will you do
when it’s not you but it is him?’

The coffee goes cold, and the day, between us.
Overhead a birdsong shrills, a branch shivers.

A rocky start to my 2019 - first a medical emergency in India with my mum on Christmas Day for which I had to travel back, then upon return, another visit to the ER here in Bahrain on account of my husband- scared totally witless! 

Both parties out of hospitals now and recovering at home. Truly grateful for the outcomes and the timely interventions, prayers and support from friends and wider family. 

Hope to be a little more regular with blogging and online life once the offline one teeters back to (the new) normal.  The cup may have gone cold for the moment, but thankfully, I'm being allowed the option of reheating. Staying positive and writing it as it comes, when I can. 

Monday, 31 December 2018


December sunset over Tubli Bay, Bahrain.

Teach me to see beyond this horizon
to the sea beneath the sea,
beyond flames and haloes, golden icons,
where all is fluidity.
Teach me to listen with every organ
to the flight of the dragonfly,
teach me to breathe in the dust, and plankton,
with my naked skin, and eye.

You must swim the darkness and the ocean
and know true north isn’t fixed,
witness butterfly seasons close and open
knowing all is change and shift,
and everything’s a cusp and an omen;
and that a fluid core's a gift.


I gifted myself a MOOC (yes, I know. I'm addicted.) over  the festival season, which in my parts lasts from September to mid-January, well actually it doesn't end even then because, well - spring! Anyways, this text  I read over at that MOOC resulted in the above. Because I know I will forget. 

My year-end has been a bit turbulent - I'm posting this from an unscheduled trip to Calcutta due to a family health crisis. Travelled back on Boxing Day and will be here over the New Year. Things fall apart but then they reconfigure, they are on the mend, fortunately...super grateful for all I/we have received this season. 

Wishing all who stop by here a fun and fulfilling New Year 2019. May your horizons and cusps be captivating always and may you always be able to see beyond and beneath. May each day be a blessing. Happy New Year!

Sunday, 23 December 2018


I could not spot one festive tree
decked out and lit up bright,
no charming tales of nativity
as I would have liked;

and up and down the streets I looked -
just a worn out sort of guy
over a punctured tyre he stooped -
nothing merry or blithe.

But then I passed a clump of palms
and through it the wind sighed
‘look hard - they come in many forms
sometimes quite well disguised.’

Indeed the clouds above me moved,
reconfigured the light
and dumbstruck underneath I stood,

And since that day I do not search
for festive trees and sights;
instead look at palms on the verge,
flat tyres, stooped men, roadsides.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Separate windows

If I lived somewhere close enough to you
I'd go round in the evenings, yes I would -
watch the stars pin the sky to your window
if I lived near by in that neighbourhood.
Sometimes we'd play at checkers or ludo,
reminisce over the old carrom board.
But we'd mostly idle. Nothing's left to do
but sit with you, beyond all games and words.

Oh, don't you think I'm a romantic type -
I know the exact count of miles and years
that keep your windows separate from mine.
Diverging's an intrinsic part of life,
the lights that pin your sky aren't in my sphere,
neither the neighbourhood, nor the starshine.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Write...Edit...Publish...December 2018: Ribbons & Candles

It is time for the last post at Write...Edit...Publish... and to wrap up the year I have another part of the same story I posted for the last two challenges. You’ll find the previous posts here (Change of Heart) and here (Déjà vu or Voodoo) in case you wish to reread. Now, for the whole backstory of the bloodstained’s my entry for Ribbons and Candles :

Small windows 

It takes only a few years. For worlds to fall apart. For rooms to stop breathing. For windows to go blind. The climate is unforgiving. The land is too fertile for its own good. A banyan can take root anywhere. In the cracks. Beside the exposed pipes. Wherever there is a toehold.

The garden used to be fragrant with jasmine. Not any more. The squatters were here till last Monday. It took endless visits to the thana. Under the table, over the table, sunlit, bulblit negotiations.  The local AdSP finally had a word with the goons. The squatters magically left the next day. But traces remain. Ugly blue plastic awnings. The smell of stale urine and unwashed bodies. Stink pressed hard into the cracks. Bald patches on the ground. Where the lawns once were. Deep holes in the earth for bamboo. The marks of tent pegs and scaffolding. Holding together canopies of borrowed space and time.

The front door has still not been breached. It is teak gone black with age. The shutters are nearly three inches thick. The wood logged out of the forests of Burma. In some dim past when trees had solidity and girth.  And a lifespan greater than men.

But one cannot be too cautious. The sisters have got those ugly collapsible gates installed. Two heavy locks. Chains with fat links on the backdoor as well. The interiors remain secure. For now.

It used to be a happy house. Oil lamps around the porch at Diwali. Ribbons of smoke from the sugar snakes, ribbons of sparks from the Roman candles. Children in the garden messing up the beds. Paper lanterns and streamers at birthday parties. A pair of hilsa fish brought in. On the day for the worship of goddess Saraswati. The faded marks of vermilion on the walls. From the offerings to the deities. They always showed faintly through. Even after the painter's quick job of cover up. No amount of repainting seemed to help.

No-one passing by would guess. An ordinary house. Washing strung out on wire clothes lines. Pegged with wooden pegs. Little frocks and shorts gradually giving way to bigger and bigger sizes. Frocks replaced by saris.  Shorts replaced by trousers. Then a sudden fall in the feminine items. Two daughters married and moved away. No daughter-in-law to replace their presence. Only the mother’s sari flapping lonely in the wind. First in multicolour. Shading to pale pastels shading to white. A new one joined it. Both like the start of an oversized prayer bunting. All traces of red on the white ones’ borders vanished.  Then the white one vanished altogether. The coloured one billowed lonely again. But there is more heartbreak and loneliness layered into the rooms inside. The clothesline can only tell a partial tale.

The rooms are closed now. But the air stirs an uneasy dust inside.  The dining room rug has a patch of discolouration. It is an old Turkish kilim. The cleaners tried the strongest agents they dared. But they could not get the bloodstain off. The patch is quite prominent.  The sisters cannot bring themselves to throw it away. A valuable rug.  Sentimental. Brought back from Istanbul by the grandfather. They cannot agree on its disposal. But it needs to go. If they are ever to find a tenant. Or a buyer. They are not agreed on that either. One of them favours selling. The other is reluctant. 

The stories hang like the cobwebs. They are like the bloodstain. Faded but still distinct. Recognisable for what they are. No polite pretence is possible. The mésalliance. The resentment. The brother’s stubbornness. The long illness through which his wife nursed him. Losing her own balance a few times. Then the sudden heart transplant and heady hopes. Which came crashing down with the death. The killing. It was not deemed murder. She was judged ‘not criminally responsible.’ The trial was endless. So was the gossip. The family name in tatters. Splashed luridly across the tabloids.

She died later in the institution. No one claimed her body. No one performed the last rites. Given a shoddy send off by the penny-pinching government. Not exactly a tragic heroine.

The unsavoury stories still keep tenants away. Not much talked about these days. But enough to cast a shadow. It must be handled delicately. Easy to scare off prospects. Only the squatters do not scare easy.  They will probably be back in a month. There is only a small window. Always too small a window. And such a lot to address.


WC- 757

This is part of the same story I developed for Moving the Margins, a MOOC from the International Writing Program at Uni Iowa. Totally a fan. 

In this exercise I tried 'moving the margins' of my language by using parataxis. The idea was to keep it a little stark, spare. Thank you, as always for reading. 

A very happy Christmas to you who are celebrating and happy holidays/December to you if you are not. Wishing you peace, joy and love this festive season and all through 2019.

Read the other entries here and join in with your own. 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

What Absence Shapes

Rickshaw van in Taki

We are on a three wheeler, my cousin and I - three bicycle wheels with a flat wooden platform for seating, the front wheel connected to a saddle for the ‘rickshaw-van’ puller.  A common mode of transport in most of rural West Bengal, in India. The road, after a feeble attempt at being macadamised, peters out to a rich brown, wet mud track. It is mid-monsoons, the season of rains. The growth all around is so lush that the diffuse light of a cloudy day is filtered green through it. The road runs parallel to the river, the glimmer of water breaks through the dense foliage from time to time, sometimes the branches clear up to reveal the waterscape. There are small, pointy boats out, each one with the Indian tricolour flying. We are at Taki at the border - the far bank of the river is Bangladesh. Debhata, Satkhira, Khulna. The names are just as familiar as the Bengali ones this side of the river – Bashirhat, Taki, 24 Pargana.