Tuesday 29 December 2015


Can’t say if he’s my north and south, my sea and earth,
but I know he’s my compass always pointing true.
He’s the track I lose sometimes, he’s its frantic search.
The jet contrail aiming home through the clearest blue.

He’s the stone fortress and its secret passageway;
the arched roof of tunnels; the stem of the goblet.
He’s the fizzing froth of light that makes up the day;
he’s that single star improving on the sunset.

Not my working week, no, he’s my blessed sabbath -
the spine of sacredness binding leaves of routine;
he’s my quiet street, my escape route, my private booth;
he is my ruby wine, he's my strongest caffeine.

He isn’t my voice or tongue, neither a song nor hymn.
He is not life or love.  Only their synonym.

Back at the usual spot on the couch after the travels, much enjoyed the break and enjoying being back at rest too. That closes my year here, which has been good, writing-wise and otherwise, closing it now with gratitude and hope. Happy New Year 2016!

Monday 21 December 2015

Celebrating festivals that aren't quite your own

In that city, it is easy to slip
into the pretence that you’ve never left home -
all along the lanes of the Island
and along the riverside
there’s the same mauve petal-foam
of the jacaranda tree,
the same flamboyant firesparks
the gulmohur shreds on the roads,
the stone built citadel, the pointed arch
in the crumbling ancient walls.
If you look away a moment
and look quickly back again
they exactly echo the ones in
the ruins of the mausoleum
next to your old schoolbus-stop.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Write...Edit...Publish : and a pair of empty shoes

Okay, so this is one of the last posts for the year 2015, which seems to have zoomed past faster than I could say Write…Edit…Publish, but it’s also a first.  And not in a good way.  I am travelling and cannot participate in one of my  favourite blogfests.  The first time that I am a no-show at WEP – just gutted! This post is a bloggish version of a pair of empty shoes, you know, like that march in Paris recently before the climate conference. I can't be here, but hey, here I am, right over here at WEP! 

This month it's all about Holiday Celebrations Out of This World, writing up Sci-Fi flashes are some of the coolest bloggers, among them Denise and Yolanda.  Go visit them and check out the entries, and jump in with your own if you like. Judging the writing contest will be the Ninja Captain of the blogosphere, Alex J Cavanaugh, the Sci-Fi maestro and best-selling author of the Cassa series.

My posts for WEP have usually been flash or poetry, all entirely imaginary. This time, to mark my absence, I am scheduling a different post, factual, no-nonsense non-fiction  - the empty shoes of my imagination alongside the WEP-ers.

Earthrise on Christmas 1968

Monday 14 December 2015

For a school friend

Someone asks what’s on my mind, and I pause
for a second, because I can’t recall
the exact details, which class we met, what was
the surname, how many siblings in all.

But clear three shaky lines drawn with charcoal
topped with squiggly dashes to make the stumps -
the pretend-wickets dropped on that low wall,
the games of make-believe, the fights, the thumbs

clicked against teeth, the k-word, the huge lump-
in-throat walk home alone. The making-up
next morning without adult fuss, the sum
of long-lost friendship, easy childhood love.

Someone asks me what; I pause a sec and say,
“Nothing. Just an old friend. His birthday today.”

I am travelling and will catch up with you when I get back.  Meanwhile, wish you all the joys of the season, and a very happy, peaceful and fun 2016.

Friday 11 December 2015

Revisit - School


The gateman straightaway knows me, perhaps
an inspired guess, or plain logic.
A long-time adult, as clock hands clap,
comes to look at an old school building -
who else but a former student? Longing
to touch once again those exposed bricks.

A road that was travelled day after day,
its twists and turns now made strange
by years of separation; staying away
has meant the asking of odd questions.
The poignant stop to ask directions,
face and eyes burn at the first sting of change.

School’s out now, shut for the winter break;
the classrooms and the long corridors
stand empty and dumb, somewhat bleak
without children’s voices raised or hushed;
blackboards wiped, not even chalk dust’s
faint perfume floats on the floors.

Bleakness has come in different forms -
fields squeezed into classrooms blocks,
bars on windows once left free.  Tighter norms.
But the old, benign drinking station?
That’s still smiling at its position,
the spot for much merry laughter and talk.

Stern iron gates stand with their arms crossed,
stop me at the stairs. The breeze whispers once.
They’re out of bounds now, some freedoms lost
to surge down in a mass at the last bell.
The school’s broken up into floors, stairwells,
order’s replaced happy exuberance.

I turn away from the stairs, leave the school
without walking up to my last classroom.
Wistfulness rarely works; as an obvious rule
past memories and the present don’t match.
Futile then to attempt to snatch
peace from change and closed volumes.

And yet being able to once touch those bricks,
to walk corridors that had once known
my faltering steps and childish tricks,
dribbles a stream of peace into the day;
something lifts, perhaps wrapped dismay
after years of constantly being worn.

For school friends who are meeting up in Delhi under those exact exposed brick arches.  Wishing you all a great reunion, happy holidays and a wonderful 2016!

Sunday 6 December 2015

Guess my Guest? Talk about Gothic Tales. And Tuscan Moons.

Guess who I am saying 'namaste' to today right here? Denise Covey! Who co-hosts Write...Edit...Publish  and needs no introduction. I've known her for many, many Moons, since the infancy of my blogging days. A blogger, teacher, and author whose varied works I admire and enjoy hugely, Denise straddles across several genres, contemporary romance and paranormal, travel writing and self-help and chick-lit. Today she is talking about Gothic novels and the making of her paranormal romance, Under the Tuscan Moon.  All yours, Denise, take it away -

I love writing contemporary romance, but I also like to dabble in the paranormal. If  you're not familiar with paranormal romance, it’s a combination of romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance’s focus is on romantic love, but it includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation. It blends together themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror. 

In my first paranormal novella, Under the Tuscan Moon, I have combined these elements with a heavy dose of the Gothic I so love.

Thursday 3 December 2015

The Second Attack

I get these attacks sometimes, the first time it happened was fairly scary - you can read about that here.  I have not studied Hindi beyond grade 2, so the less said about my sense of grammar the better, especially my knowledge of the genderised nouns/verbs/adjective agreement.  However, the voice inside my head cares nothing for grammar or any rules, or my diffidence, it nags incessantly till I get fed up and paste things into a screen.  

The precursor for this attack is a poem - ahista chal zindagi (walk slowly, Life..) it's been making the rounds on FB recently and was on my feed several times. And this is my response, the counterpoint, loosely in the format of a ghazal which came less formed than the previous one, but still enough to unnerve me :)

Arz kiya hai....

ए ज़िन्दगी ज़रा तेज़ चल अब यहाँ और ठहरना क्या?
करवट बदलते बेचैन पल, इनके खाली हाथ, और करना क्या?

जहाँ सोचा था बसेरा है, दिन निकला, तो लगा अंजाना सा,
अपनों की पहचान खूब हुई,और ग़ैरों से बिछड़ना क्या?

तू लाख जतन  कर ले पर दर्द मिटता नहीं, ज़ख्म भरते नहीं
कंकर पत्थर ठोकरों से बस इन घावों को भरना क्या?

दिन चार, लेकिन ग़म हज़ार, इन हज़ार ग़मों के मेले में
टूटे हुए रिश्तों  के टुकड़ो पर पिछड़ना क्या, बढ़ना क्या?

सुनसान कूचें में दामन थामा, दाग लगा तो झटक दिया,
वह दाग ही कब दामन बना, अब इसे पकड़ना क्या?

तेरी हर मीड़ से वाक़िफ़ हुए, तेरी हर राह का धुंधलापन,
क़दम बड़ा किसी और ओर, इस राह से फिर गुज़रना क्या?

यह तू ने कैसी बात छेड़ दी के अपनी रफ़्तार से चलना है
एक तू ही है बाक़ी रिश्तों में तुझ से लड़ना झगड़ना क्या?

ऐसे भी कई लोग थे कभी जिनके दिल में शामिल दिल यह था,
न वहां न यहाँ धड़कता है, तो जीना क्या और मरना क्या?

कुछ वक़्त गवां दीया  तू ने भी और कुछ मुझ से भी ज़ाया हुआ,
पर कह लीया जो कुछ कहना था अब आगे शेर और पड़ना क्या?

ए ज़िन्दगी ज़रा तेज़ चल....

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Hello, December!

There is a stripping back, a certain falling off,
a darkness to the light, an awareness to the love;
a slight holding in where there was gush and rush;
a sharpness to the winds, and a sparseness to the words,
a clicking into place where enough can be enough
and not an iota more, a distaste for too much;
a tying up of leaves, an end to risk-averse,
a paring of the sky. A yearning for the nub.

Sunday 29 November 2015

I'd know them anywhere!

Some come to the door, leave a few footprints,
and others leave nothing, no sign, no mark.
It's clear how heavy or light the traffic’s been
from the way the dust’s disturbed in the dark,
from the snagged and torn strips of hanging bark
the eddies of crushed grass smells that rise and spin;
from the fireflies which leave en masse with their sparks;
the mesh of undergrowth - as it pales and thins.

And whether you’re here or not, this is the thing -
I still know your footprints, your touch, your heart;
and your distant trail weaves into my mornings.
The click of the door as it shuts and I start,
wherever I am, the middle, end or beginning;
and you are, for that matter, on your part.

Thursday 26 November 2015

The title is the hardest part, therefore 
I've left it wholly blank, left it to your 
imagination to supply the words 
and I just carry on writing the verse. 

There are no titles to my days and nights;
they come and go behind my back as I write.
The sun plays out his reel to hook the moon
in the oceans of the sky, the tides turn -

surge and ebb, surge and ebb without headings,
without glossaries and footnotes shedding
any insight, their whispers softly muted;
the dots of stars always unconnected.

Summing the whole with just a part, just a phrase
seems bizarre, much better off with a blank space.

Monday 23 November 2015

The title is the hardest part

I still come here sometimes, where the lane turns
a little on itself and then narrows;
the teashop still stands, a gas stove now burns
charcoal’s banished, also the radio’s
replaced by screens; various sizes and types –
television, smartphone, palmtop gizmos.
Only humans retrace their steps in life.

I can’t honestly say that I retrace.
True, I come to stand beneath your window
in some vague effort to find my exact place,
to find a peg again from long ago;
you’ve moved and I have too, nothing stops
and it’s both pleasant and fitting that it’s so.
But some evenings I still walk to the teashop.

Thursday 19 November 2015

All the world's a war-zone

The flowers dry, the candles burn;
both reach their ends. The world still turns.
The streets are full, the café chat
is about revenge, tit for tat,
air-strikes, mortal wounds, ground combat.
I cannot take in any of that.
I only know she won’t return.

Although each time the doorbell rings
my heart leaps once, instantly sings
then recalls the days before.
She’ll never be back at my door.
The talk is thick with migrants; war;
how exactly to settle the score.
But I can’t relate to those things.

There must be justice, and a stern
reprimand,  offenders must learn
how strong we stand, crime never pays.
The news channels are choked for days
with some or other leader’s speech-haze,
clips gone viral, constant replays,
rehashing the current concern.

I just know that flowers dry rough
that candles aren’t warm enough.
I just know that my room’s gone cold,
my heart is shrivelled and grown old;
she’ll never again cross this threshold
whatever events might unfold.
That’s my truth, the rest’s just stuff.

For all the families - in Nigeria, in Egypt, in India, and in France and elsewhere in the world, who have lost loved ones to terrorism.

Monday 16 November 2015

A petal on the stream

This is a candle for those who died
without flames and flowers by the roadside
anonymous, just long smears of blood,
just shattered bones fallen on the mud
and not even one column inch worldwide.

This is a petal on the stream, offered
for those silent voices no longer heard;
those who fell in and yet, sank like stone
and no-one came in search or to mourn
and the world just rushed past without a word.

This cannot be a poem, we have no rhymes
that can sum the injustices of our times -
it's just a pair of hands to cup the last sighs
of those forced to stop breathing; otherwise
no lines can bring themselves to describe the crimes.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Now and then

Diwali 2015

Never quite ached this way for stones and streets
and sharp winds that blew out all Diwali flames,
nothing to do but pick them up and retreat
indoors there with blackened wicks - each year the same -
and nurse the hurt, reflect on bittersweet
memories where the oil lamps stood aflame,
where wicks lit symbols of hope and not defeat
in faraway cities of different names.

Now in a place where not a zephyr stirs,
the lamps burn steadfast, though no goddess feet
will come searching for them under the stars.
Never again will steady flames feel complete
without the blackened wick where nothing flickers,
the last wisp of smoke without light or heat.

Diwali 2010      

I have had to bring my lamps inside,
The wind’s just blown too hard
A small flicker and each one died
Even before the match was thrown aside
No matter how many times I tried,
Flames didn’t glow in my courtyard.

The night of lamps is a moonless night
And starshine casts no shadow
The shadows are deepest when the lamps are bright.
Yet I am aggrieved that my lamplight
Was put out summarily at the insight
Of a force I barely know.

I draw my comfort where I can,
Done with feeling hard done by.
A star sprinkled dark far better than
A dazzling yard lit by a puny plan.
Minds can be changed in an hour’s span
And flames found in a moonless sky.

The festivals always act as a prompt, though not every result finds its way to this blog. Some feel too rough for public consumption, and I don't like smoothing them out always :) This year I feel differently about roughness, rough and less rough, and much revised - all are mine ultimately...so this year two poems in one post.  One now and the other written five years ago on Diwali from a very different place, physical and mental, before the blog was even birthed. I have left the poem just as I wrote it, no edits, and one difference that stands out straightaway is how my capitalisation has changed in this time :) apart from the other stuff.

Happy Diwali to you if you are celebrating, may the light always fall on your path and never be in your eyes. And if you are not, then I wish you a happy season, autumn or spring, whichever it happens to be at your end.