Thursday 27 December 2012

Not exactly a fairy tale

Cindy came into the room limping a little, her feet were killing her!  This particular pair of evening shoes was wickedly uncomfortable, she really didn’t know why Rex insisted on her wearing them on every possible occasion.  She didn’t know why she continued to pander to his wishes in this either.   She sank down thankfully on the couch in her bedroom, glad to take the weight off her feet. 

Molly was still waiting up, bleary-eyed and moved in closer to help, but Cindy was irritated beyond measure just now by her timidity and subservience, by her toeing the line unquestioning, much as she, Cindy herself, was used to do.  That’s all they did, each woman of them, from Cindy down to the last poor female chit in the staff.

“No, leave it,” she said to Molly, rather roughly, as her shoes were taken away, ”Go to bed now.  Leave me alone.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Molly looked like a whipped puppy,” Are you sure, ma’am?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Go get some sleep, you do look you could use it,” and when the girl still hesitated, ”Don’t stand there gawping, my dear.  I’ll be fine.  Let’s postpone the fuss till tomorrow morning, shall we?”

“Good night, ma’am.”

“Good night.”

God, she was exhausted.  And angry with a vague rage.  She wiggled her toes, and then folded her legs to tuck her knees under her chin, and massaged her instep with the tips of her fingers.  Her feet were still lovely, beautifully shapely and small, though not as narrow as they once were, the long toes with their delicate whorls of fine skin on the knuckled joints still ridiculously pretty.  She wished she had asked Molly to run a footbath, a good soaking would do the trick.  Splash away her blue funk and get her to sleep easy.   She got up and got a basin from the bathroom, filled it with hot water and a dollop of shampoo, she couldn’t find the gel she wanted, who cared what went into the water so long it was hot enough? She brought it back and wriggled out of her dress. Leaving it pooled in a minimalistic mass of silver lace on the floor, she curled back into the couch with her feet immersed in the foamy hot water. 

How had she landed up here? How had she landed up at that gala this evening? Wearing those uncomfortable old shoes that sparkled coldly and beautifully, and pinched her now coarsened feet; that Rex was so insistent that she wear everywhere, as though she still needed to prove anything to him or to the world.   Why did she go to the gala even? When all she had wanted to do was to spend the evening in with her boys, playing at Scrabble maybe, and then get some vastly greasy, sinfully basic meal eaten together off trays, huddled in the small sitting room while watching inane telly, laughing like maniacs.  But no, she had dressed up in that silver lace, it was a very striking number, elegant and austere and mind bogglingly smart. 

Rex had come into the room and said in his usual mild voice, "You look your usual beautiful self, my dear.  I hope you’re wearing the Timmy Woo shoes?  They are just made for that shade of silver grey.” And soured her pleasure in the dress. 

But she hadn’t protested.  Or to coin a bad pun, hadn’t put her foot down where she wanted to.  She had set aside the exquisite grey and emerald suede statement shoes she had had custom made, and worn those cruel old evening slippers again and gone tripping out on his arm and stood and danced and made small talk as though her feet were resting on fleecy clouds.  It was beyond stupid.  She couldn’t imagine the conversation even in her head.  It’s been 15 years, my feet are 15 years older, I have had three babies, life threatening illness, minor and major surgery, chin hair, cellulite, wrinkles.  I don’t want to wear Timmy Whoever girly shoes, I’ve evolved beyond them. Jeez, whoever heard of a marriage becoming stifled because of a pair of shoes? It was insane!

Cindy sighed and got up from the couch.  Best go to bed, otherwise she would fall asleep here.  She changed into a raggedy flannel nightdress, the fabric worn and softened with many washes.  She slipped under the covers, but still couldn’t sleep for the wound up thoughts in her head kept going round like clockwork mice.  Except for his blind spot about this shoe business, Rex was otherwise such a good egg.  He’d been a caring husband and father, within his constraints.   He loved her passionately still.  She couldn’t imagine her life without him, what trajectory it would have followed had he not sought her out the way he had, had she not been out that evening at that specific dance, or not worn that specific pair of shoes.  How tiresomely random it all was; and how tenacious habits became; and how impossible to go on for 15 years wearing the same inflexible shoes grown uncomfortable over time. Old shoes that didn’t wear down to accommodate her ageing feet.

Rex came and climbed into bed just as she was drifting off, but he touched his lips to her forehead and she bobbed up, instantly awake and fully lucid, picking up the threads of her anger from where she had left off. 


“Yes, my dear?”

“I hate those shoes! I just hate them, I always have.  I am not going to wear them one more time. Not one more time!”

He remained quiet for a long moment before speaking again, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, what’s there to tell? It’s bloody crazy to make those shoes in the first place, or hasn’t that occurred to you? My feet were dead sore the first time I wore them too.”

“There’s no need to get excited. Chuck them if you don’t want them.  I wouldn’t want you to wear anything you aren’t comfortable with, you know.”

“Really?! You mean that?!”

“Yeah, of course. They’re only shoes, not your wedding vows.”

How strange, it was suddenly done, in the middle of the night, just like that!  She had broken the spell of the shoes, though now she was no longer sure that there had been any spell at all.  All these years! Putting up with so much discomfort, and all for nothing.  She got out of the covers and walked to the closet.  The shoes twinkled up at her when she opened the shutters, as dainty as they were on that far off day when she had first slipped her feet into them.  She took them out, and holding one in each hand, moved to the window and raised the sash.  The summer night was balmy and a million stars twinkled down at her with a glassy blue light.  She threw out the shoes one after the other and each curved a high arc in the air and fell on the paved concrete far below.  The musical tinkle of glass shattering into pieces wafted up into the room. Cindy stood for a few moments breathing in the summer fragrances of the night.

“Come to bed now, Cinderella. It’s really late.”

She turned then, and ran across the room and leapt into bed beside him, as light of foot and heart as she had been once upon a time.

Monday 24 December 2012


The door’s open a crack
a scoop of light shows
where to hook the toes
on limits to be pushed back;
hinges open close
along circular tracks;
facepalm maniacs
stand in straightened rows;
the trees’ stripped rib-racks
pant against the windows;
golden faun shadows
stalk aphrodisiacs.
The season’s in death throes -
the knots of zodiacs
tighten up the slack
disguised as ribbon bows.
But then, the rest is black.
But then, no-one knows
what’s there in the hollows
behind twisted almanacs.....

Thursday 20 December 2012

Romantic Friday Writers Holiday Spirit Blogfest: A Different Diwali

Most of my poetry sort of writes itself into a first person or second person narrative, without my really thinking about it much.  Writing has been my method of making sense of my world, so it’s natural that I write on most festival days, when and if there is a little window of solitude.  The verses are almost never autobiographical, though I suppose I draw on my conscious/subconscious memories.  But if anyone asks me which event are you portraying in this piece of writing, it’s all blurred.  I can’t ever find one specific memory that I can point to and say, yes, this one’s the one I have written about here. 


As I have mentioned here, Diwali is a pan-Indian festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, though darkness has never seemed to me automatically synonymous with evil at all. However, the idea is to light up all spaces with little oil lamps and candles and fairy lights and fireworks.  A different way of making a joyful noise unto our respective lords, I guess.  It does look very pretty and meaningful, even if you don’t personally celebrate it!


This poem was written several years ago, and as with all my poetry, doesn’t reflect any real events.  As such it is not a real memory, but I’d still like to share it here, because the narrator does feel like she is me in some ways!





There have been many mistakes, but some unknown hand has rectified
the major ones, and the minor errors just graciously waved aside;
and this has taught me nothing yet.  The urge to control still consumes,
every detail of each action and their results and reactions specified.


The mind still stalks mesmerised around disbelief that hugely plumes
hotter and higher and prettier than the prettiest anar that blooms
into the Diwali night each year. And even after the sparks subside
goes round the courtyard counting the lamps still left burning in the gloom.




Some lessons are learnt early, some late, and some never at all.
Like the one on turning loose this obsessive need for control.
Even when each blade of grass shows me on its poor, crushed face
that neither of us can determine exactly where my foot will fall.


Interlocking seams and verses, even as I try hard to erase
the idea that I am the one who can decide and sustain the pace.
No matter how carefully I cup my hands around the flame
in the end the winds blow out each of the lamps I set in place.


There is no-one and nothing to which I can attribute the blame
for the winning and losing hand both appearing much the same.
The heart dearer than diamonds or clubs, but above them all the humble spade;
the highest given the lowest rank, based on the rules of the game.


Control and blame are concepts that by now I should have been made
to unlearn as fast as I learnt them.  Perhaps I should stop and ask each blade
that I trample upon unconcerned, its own perception of its role -
why doesn’t it grow some thorns, why offer the feet the lawn instead?




Not only does it offer the lawn, the next morning there are the marks.
Spilt wax and oil, broken lamps, and a million scars from the sparks.
Cigarette butts in various lengths, torn trails of tinsel come to rest
alongside the charred embers of the burning binges after dark.


But still the grass goes back to growing, the thing that it knows how to best
without pausing for blame or praise, without lodging a single protest.
Before I sweep away the pieces, pick up the lamps with their burnt out wicks,
newer shoots are budding forth even as burns blacken its breast.


As I walk around and idly pluck the many used-up sparkler sticks,
torn cartridges smelling of sulphur stuck in the cracks between the bricks,
golden wrappers now in shreds, spattered with mud cry out to me,
beauty is in both the burnt and green, if I can only accept the mix.


And that really is the crux, the very core of this complexity –
acceptance of the scars on grass from a transient and terrible beauty.
To spot the beauty in things burnt, to take a lesson from woodlands and parks,
to grow new shoots on a burn site, with the strangest pride-like humility.






How simple it is to twist garlands of pretty fire in many hues
into deadly explosives and weapons by the differentials we all choose.
The same ingredients and a different effort can so easily combine
and deflect a pleasing, sparkling display into quite a different and dreadful use.


Cracker bursts in my backyard and somewhere beyond this starshine
the same principles morphed into a shell or grenade or land mine.
And nearer home.  All our children play with fire indiscriminately.
But we think boundaries, and end up drawing the wrong battle line.





The hawker who came to sell the sparks, I asked him about differentials in cost
why his *bombs* were priced so cheap, and the *rockets* priced more than most.
He thought a minute, and smiled and said, “Sister, noises are easily made,
but to spatter the sky with music for eyes, that needs to be thorough and well-composed.”


I remembered his words on Diwali night, as the rockets and wheels whizzed and sped
into the sky and climbed up the dark enticing our minds with their colours and spread -
music for the eyes. But all music in the end gives way to the music of silence,
all flames stilled, all lamps darkened, all books must close once they are read.


And the rockets must fall back to earth lighting up the sky for mere moments,
music for the eyes chars the grass even with its most charming cadence.
Only the balm of darkness stays, all the rest is here to be lost
The grass that’s burnt, white candle wax, as also the greenest gardens.




This entry is my second contribution to the Romantic Friday Writers Holiday SpiritBlogfest where we are getting together to share and celebrate the holiday spirit and our holiday memories. Do feel free to click on the link and join in with yours. Wishing you every joy of the season and a very happy 2013.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Which side of the border? and fence? and angle?

All your shapes are drawn into paper
as jitter-quivery as brains;
your limbs flared out a little
for balance on the water;
someday no-one will bother
to ask what it all means,
someday all the borders will smear,
and where  will cease to matter.
I ponder the asking of questions
that really have no answer - 
the lift of pig-snouts in and out of  
the muck and melees of rains;
the blinks of streetlights climbing into dawns.


East Bengal or Mohan Bagan?
which of the narratives, dialects
do you speak at home, oh none?
yeah, your accent’s wrongly clipped -
where did your foremothers come from?
where are your descendants going?
what do you mean you don’t know
when our lives are being ruined
by borders drawn long ago?
how do you take your riverfood?
that’s the wrong recipe entirely!
The silver fishtail thrashes in the bowl,
the nib gleams in a sad chuckle.


An ad banner for a photo club says
to focus on the bigger picture
and then choose the smackro-ed details
to rub into an artistic blur;
someone like me in her status updates
has “control” paired with “gun”!
Somewhere a man holds aloft a banner;
near home the march of a million.
I ponder the building of echo chambers
that have no other options
except to return the same last words.
The domes and arches of your minds
fade away into the shadows.


Why do you worry about the murdered
halfway around the world
when your sisters are gang-raped
and your brothers killed
bloodlines can neither be erased
nor can they be re-drawn.
Sister, who do you call brethren
and which side are you on?
Specify your birthplace here,
and where is your deathplace?
The forms crinkle their eyes at me.
The ancient bones of pyramids crack
before the secrets spill.

For my readers who are not Bengali/Indian, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are football teams.  Bengal was partitioned into two separate nations based on religious lines during the independence of India in 1947, and there was massive displacement of people on both sides and horrific casualties.  The Hindus by and large came to India, and many Muslim families left their homes and went across to the other side.  Bangladesh has subsequently fought Pakistani control and become a sovreign nation in which struggle India too played a role. They celebrated their Victory Day on Dec 16.

The Partition is an event that Bengalis regretted then and some continue doing so now, it is artificial as the heritage and language and the culture is common. Even now, where an Indian Bengali has his roots - "this" or "that" side of the border, is an important part of his identity.  Signs of i.d. compliance, adherence to the correct protocols, supporting the "right" football team, cooking with the "right" recipe etc are given undue and sometimes quite ridiculous significance.  And we as a race elevate nostalgia to a fine art! Probably a little like the Irish from what I've heard, but then I wouldn't know firsthand :)
This week has been eventful in a bad way, too many terrible headlines right round the world, Sandy Hook, a young woman gang-raped in Delhi, political unrest in the ME, where to start or stop? Expressing in a poem is the best way to cope sometimes!

Shared for OLN @ dVerse

Sunday 16 December 2012

Will that be enough?

I see you sometimes now,
your spectacle frames through mine
your eyes of dandelion;
your voice rasps a little
against my inner membrane
a feline cough and purr
against the nap of where I hear;
stick figures of memory march
in the convolutions of veins,
have I loved you enough
before I let you go?


I tend the same gardens
cook the same hot meals
in the same dented saucepans;
yellow sludge of lentils
the same wooden utensils
with their edges broken
in all the same places
and each grain of your faces;
did I grip you hard enough
before you left my table?


The milk of the afternoon
curdles quickly into evening;
my hands fumble at switches
you let go of your knitting,
the sacred incense somewhere
lets its unctuous fragrance wisp in
trailing the bells and conch
doing the jangly rounds of temples,
the moon with a pointy beard
waxed stiff at his chin.

I touch your chicken-skin forehead
without having an inkling
did I touch you gently enough
when I saw you out to the darkness?

Shared at dVerse where the prompt this day invites us to to sweat the small stuff and write in technicolour 3D HD...

Saturday 15 December 2012

Honest things


You summarised our time together with ordinary phrases,
“Enjoyed that time at Zoe’s, didn’t we? And those other places?”
The summing up itself was the closure, though I didn’t realise
the purpose to your conversation, the frustrated half-sighs
and a refusal to meet my eyes till much, much later;
and when I did, the whole thing had almost ceased to matter.
Nothing really, just a pang that leave taking was so concise,
a vague disquiet that honest things can also end in disguise.


Often the wounds are made and healed, a scratch here or there,
and farewells said in strange formats, while we remain unaware.
You could have shook me by the hand, looked straight into my eyes.
But you didn’t. And taught me that not all untruths are lies.
For one of the pair things closed that day, for the other nothing changed,
one still kept her weekends free just as both had arranged.
But no-one came back to knock.  Many days and many goodbyes
had to be flipped to understand what a summing up implies.

Shared at dVerse where we are exploring poetry written in the second person this night.

Friday 14 December 2012

I'll show you straight!! Yeah, right!

There was a lovely girl from Waltair
who had very little sense and some flair
for dress, fashion and style;
and one wide, radiant smile
though the occasions she flashed it were rare.


And the reason she remained so grave
she explained to me thus, “The curly wave
looks graceful on the sea,
not-so-charmingly on me
I’m so fed-up of my curls that I could shave.”


“Have you heard the one about the mongrels
with tails impervious to all creams and gels?
Well, that is my sad fate
my hair just won’t go straight
crowning glory is no glory when it rebels.”


“I’ve tried everything, all I could think of
I’ve treated them gentle, and then got tough
it’s just no point, I guess
my waves are quite shameless
they curl back in a sec and don’t give up.


“I’ve powdered beetle wings into a poultice
added both babies’ breath and angles’ kiss,
unmentionable parts of bats
stomach contents of gnats
applied carefully for days. But then, look at this!


“And I’ve stretched my hair out on the rack
for five whole nights steamed them back-to-back,
but when they were unpinned
only the roots had thinned
the rest curled fiercely as soon as they got slack.


"I’ve tried vrischik asana, tied stones to each lock
and I held the pose upright round the clock.
They straightened when down
as soon as I turned around
they frizzed right back. My toes too curled with shock!


"I got special uncurlers from the coiffeuse
hot steel plates that straighten while you snooze.
I slept ramrod straight
but the curls resumed their state
the minute they were off. It’s just no use.


"My ringlets just refuse to lose their ring
as I’ve said before, I’ve tried everything
both normal and insane
but curly is what they remain
Straight sexy is something I can’t seem to swing.”


I tried logic, she said, ”Give me a break
you straight-haired lot don’t get our heartache.
You haven’t got a clue
how it curbs my hair-do!
Don’t say now each one’s a unique snowflake.


“I’ve tried remedies modern and medieval
each and every option left open to a gal
but I’ve been led to think
that this is no ordinary kink
and it requires measures strongly radical.”


The last I heard that curly-haired virgin
stormed into the clinic of an upscale surgeon
and she said, ”Please stop
my head being a curly mop
slice my genes off, or something else merge in.”


I’d tell you the end, but I’m not sure I should
because at this point it gets a little lewd -
limericks are often ripe;
and so sometimes is life.
So dear reader, the story’s for you to conclude.






This entry has been written for a contest,
the link over here will explain it best -
ideas extraordinaire
for straightening curly hair
and this is the tale of curly and distressed.


There are certain tales that must come out
and this one’s of them without a doubt;
if they bubble in the brain
then they become a pain
in the arse and other parts – terrible fallout.


Will this long entry win? And should I care?
Is straight or curly a significant affair?
Between us, one-on-one
I’ll confide it can be fun
to style it diversely, but then, it’s just hair.


So long it’s slick and healthy, tangle-free
and on a head that’s heady as well as happy
it matters not one jot
both curly and straight are hot
what’s one person’s ho-hum is another’s pretty.


And I can tell you that I’ve had the fate
of being born with hair that’s rigidly straight
and I have always wanted
what the others take for granted -
a curl or two would have been just so great!


The truth is that we’re never satisfied.
Just wear our natural hair with care and pride.
Style it straight and flat
wear a braid, or a hat
but it shouldn’t get your knickers in knots tied.


Dear reader, fellow blogger, whoever you are
you’ve come here, and stayed with me, this far
so I must be thanking you
for your patience – and I do
with a sweeping flourish and an “au revoir.”