Sunday, 27 February 2022

Yes, you can!

 

Credit


Come, show me a different face, you know you can;

take off that helmet, close those cocked gun eyes,

collect and still in your lap those grenade hands

and wipe up that small smudge of blood and lies

 

from your lips, that dribble of hate, go on;

finally switch off that screen, delete that plan

just stop carrying someone else’s weapon,

rise and reach into yourself, you know you can.

 

Let the flashing blades of all your cruel words

rust to dust, all triggers jam, all arms fail;

there are many other things, far, far worse

than a loss of will for hatred to prevail.

 

The planet is your country; you do not want

to create another random battlefront.




Another ancient one from the archives, I don't think I ever put it up here. Was going through the stuff I was writing ten years ago and this felt it needed airing here today. 

Uff, I'm so tired of seeing millions suffer at the whims of a few delusional, arrogant old men.







Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Sometimes...

 



Sometimes, an explosion will defuse time’s bomb

and sometimes, a stranger will lead you back home.

Sometimes, a puddle becomes a river mouth,

the true north is lost but you find a true south.

 

Sometimes, a door might be only a panel,

whitewaters be an irrigation channel.

The days might turn from you like opposing poles

and sometimes the polestar becomes a black hole.

 

Sometimes, your courage will shrink to a splinter,

all tracks will vanish in cold depths of winter,

words will seem meaningless, maps will feel flawed.

Know that the road chooses you, not you the road.

 

Wherever they diverge, each fork and each bend -

trust them. They’ll take you to the journey’s right end.










Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Write... Edit... Publish... February 2022 : All You Need is Love

 




Hello and welcome! to the year of the music at Write...Edit...Publish...We're starting off with All You Need is Love...I’m posting a super condensed story from a collection of shorts called The Intricacies of Returns I did in 2014-15. The original is close to 5000 words, so I hope you will forgive me the 200-odd words it's gone over the limit.  


Dead Lake Eyes


Saroja is accustomed to rise before daybreak. By the time she finishes the dawn worship, her much younger, twin brothers are here for the first cups of  tea.  That too is a habit, her brothers in the house every morning. Saroja is a striking, willowy woman, her features regular; thick hair, greying close to her scalp, two small silver wings at her temples, discreet and  symmetrical.  Her large eyes are beautifully sculpted into their sockets, irises deep black.  Her husband at his most romantic used to compare them with the black waters of a lake in sparkling sunlight.  Her irreverent, much younger brothers call her “dead-lake-eyes.”

 

***

 

Saroja has always been her father’s favourite child.  The only one who he speaks to now, the only voice to which he responds.  She visits him daily – her  childhood home is just minutes away.  She reads the scriptures aloud, he listens mostly in silence. 

 

He has always been a family man, wanting his children close.  He had sent the twins abroad to study, but had insisted they come back to work here.

 

The daughters were married close by too. Any distant proposal he would reject, “ No, that’s too far, we’ll never get to see her!”

 

His planning had come to nothing though.  The sons-in-law had, one by one, got jobs in other places.

 

But Saroja has never been away, never had any respite from her blood family and her family by marriage.  One time her husband had got an offer to go abroad  – she  remembers it vaguely now  -  both families had been completely horrified.  Her mother-in-law had lectured non-stop about abandoning one’s roots for mere money.

 

Her father, more diplomatic, had steered him gently, “By God’s grace, you have enough. All you need is love. Why go?”

 

***

 

She showers and goes straight up to the terrace shrine. The family deities are woken, prayed to and put to bed daily in cyclical rhythms handed down for generations.  She grinds the sandalwood paste, pours out the holy waters.  She wakes the idols with gentle clapping around their tiny doll-size four-poster beds.  Lights the lamp, burns the incense, blows the conch shell. She offers flowers, food and drink, rings the small bell, chants and sings to them as if they were family members. She performs a final prostration before she rises to leave.

 

As she comes down the stairs, the doorbell chimes.  Her  brothers have arrived.

Mukund flashes a smile,   “What’s up?”

Madhav snatches her sari end, wipes his sweaty forehead, pretends to elaborately blow his nose into its pristine folds. She cannot help laughing.

“Really, you two! Incorrigible. Get in now. I’ll put the kettle on.”

“What? Tea isn’t ready? What’s happened to the standards around here?”

She can hear them talking, the murmur of words interrupted by the crackle of unfolding newspapers. Like the noise of the TV, also turned on a minute later. She brews the tea against a backdrop of insignificant local news.

She sits with them, her eyes on the screen, her mind on other things. The twins carry on teasing and joking, so that when Mukund brings up illness and wills, she thinks it is another attempt to needle her.

“No, death’s off-topic, that’s too much,” she rebukes him.

“Well, you need to know. Father asked for Suren-kaka, wants a new will.”

“Again?”

“He didn’t tell us more.  Remarkably taciturn,” Mukund says.

She cannot decide whether he is joking.

 

***

 

Her father looks drawn. She is suddenly shocked at the crinkled parchment skin around his eyes, the fine folds at his waistline, his belly hollowed out with his great age, the skin hanging off him like a loose, ill-fitting shirt.  His teeth are good but discoloured with chewing tobacco, his rheumy eyes float as if unmoored in their orbits. 

 

She wipes his brow with great tenderness, prepares a betel-leaf for him, the old vices become strangely less objectionable with age.  His body has failed but his mind is sharp still.  He notices if she misreads a known verse, or deliberately skips a line to check his attention.   

 

“Baba, you’ve called Suren-kaka?”

His eyes are  swimmy, but their vision is suddenly shrewd.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Changing my will. Upsets you?”

“No, it’s your property. I just don’t like death-talk.  It’s inauspicious.”

“Death isn’t inauspicious,” he tries to recite,” Just as – a man –discards –old garments –”

She completes the verse. “What happens to the old will? What will you change? Or can I not ask? “

 

His will had been made years back. With a typical archaic conservatism he had willed his property to his two sons.  The daughters had been left mementoes only – nothing of any substantial value. 

It did  not bother her, she had her own home two steps from this one. The brothers getting the house was the best, the status quo undisturbed, no extra responsibility, the freedom to come and go unchanged. 

“Not Mukund.  Not Madhav.”

She is dumbfounded.   “Why? Your own sons!”

This parental house has been an unshakeable landmark all her life. It disorients her to think it gone. 

“And what about Makai and Madhai? Where will they go?”

His lashes are sparse against his cheek, almost invisible, a thinned out silver fringe moving cumbersomely, like a broken insect wing being dragged in the mouth of a lizard.

“New homes.”

A sense of impending doom, of  terrible, unwelcome change hounds her.  How can her father, the same father who had refused to marry his daughters away from this city, suddenly decide to disinherit his sons? 

 

***

 

Next morning,  she cuts through the twins’ banter crisply, “What are you doing about this new will?”

“You think we should contest?” Mukund says mischievously.

“Seriously.  Where are you going to live?”

“Well, we aren’t being thrown out this instant.  But as a matter of fact, change’s afoot.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re moving,” Mukund finally shuts his smile, ”I’ve got an offer to head my own lab down south,  I’m out soon.”

Saroja is completely non-plussed, “Out of the city?”

“Yes, actually.”

“And Madhai?”

“Yeah, me too.  For a UN project abroad.”

“But you’ll return?”

“Who knows? 

“And…Baba?”

“That’s it, Didi.  Couldn’t you move in? You mean more to him than the rest of us.  And it can’t be very long now.”

“What a horrible thing to say,” Saroja is suddenly raging.  “Why didn’t you tell me? Does he know you’re going away?”

“Yes, he knows.”

“Then I’m the only one who didn’t!”

It falls into place now. The things her husband had given up to keep her close to her blood family, to her twins, to her father!  Her husband dead many years now, her siblings gone soon, only she and her father left in the eddies of loneliness.

“You’ve never lived away from each other, how will you manage?”

“We’ll be fine. Too much living in each other’s pockets is bad too.  Wears a hole in the pocket,” Madhav refuses to take his sister seriously.

 

***

 

Saroja rises and performs the rituals for the final time.  But unlike other times, she lays the deities back one by one, from their silver day-thrones into their ornate beds.  She strides out to go back to her childhood home.

 

It’s only a few steps. Saroja looks over her shoulder, you can run back whenever you want. No need to fret. All you need is love.


~~~~

WC - 1223

FCA


Tagline : Sometimes, love means having to move back instead of forward.



Read the other entries here - 




Tuesday, 15 February 2022

More than I've cared to admit

 

 

It so turned out that love wasn’t a uniform rainbow
arched the same thickness over lands and oceans.
That was hard enough, but even harder to let go
the stereotypes of rigid, unbending notions.
It was difficult to find its ultra-violet edges,
the infra-red loving, all that’s invisible.
No smooth spectrum here, disjointed waves and ridges
and way out of earshot, just one whispered decibel.

 

It turned out that love wasn’t a rushing river
trilling down the mountainside with its chant
of what goes on, or doesn’t go on, forever.
It chose to dry up sometimes, nonchalant.
It was a shock at first, but more of a surprise
that even dehydrated it can hum a tune.
that it sings somehow, even though it dries,
or suddenly stops into a lake or lagoon.

 

II.

 

I’ve loved you more than I’ve cared to admit
too much loving is also a character flaw.
It’s all about moving and rapid transit
to love one world and then quickly withdraw,
little to do with ultra-violet and infra-red
banded into one single width of a rainbow
and listening for songs in a dried-up riverbed
and waiting for stagnant lake-waters to flow.

 

And I have loved you more than I’d like to write
in careful poems counting out the syllables
on parchment pages held up against dispersed light
read low in whispers of uncertain decibels.
I have loved you in this arid desert dawn
and seen the entire possible serrated bandwidth
without a drop of moisture. And where the sun has shone
down on the dry river bed from its zenith.





An old, old one from ten years ago, when the blog was in its infancy! Floated up and felt right so reposting. Back here on Wednesday for WEP. 


Sunday, 6 February 2022

Equal

 

Giza. 2011.


Did I ask for a smooth, trouble free passage?

teach me instead to steer the roughest sea.

When the times are lean, the world’s reeling on the edge,

not asking you to hold it steady for me,


grant me instead the patience to weather storms,

a spine that does not bend at lashings of rain,

a heart that doesn’t crave a hearth and home

and a mouth that smiles through pleasure and pain.


To stay the course which you’ve set me upon -

did I ever waver? just grant me the skill

to ride out again into the harsh unknown,

to submit with grace and not break at your will.


No roses strewn, clouds cleared - nothing I ask

except that I be equal to the task.