Monday 25 September 2023



You have to walk uneven footpaths

where workmen have dug up the bricks

and show the housing of your heart

beyond your body and its ribs.


You must steer through old tree shadows

lying in wait like feral beasts

the leaves like spears from ancient wars,

warnings laid down on modern streets.


You must look straight at flinty eyes

and never even once must you flinch,

you must prove, whatever your crimes,

legally they amount to nothing.


You’ll spread out your life in bills and cards

the locations of all your roofs

a lifetime of paper innards

in forms that are government approved.

You must learn to wait, and be dismissed,

you must know how to stand in queues,

carry on as though it counts not a bit

that your probity must be proved.

Passport renewal - totally an eyeroll-worthy process I'd have thought, especially In Kolkata where illegal immigrants are brought in by some shady politicians and given Indian i.d.s including passports to inflate their own vote banks. So it takes time and there's a police verification involved for everyone, no exemptions. 

The last time my passport was renewed here, Kolkata was Calcutta and I was not present at home when the authorities came in to verify - I was at work and my blood family and in-laws managed it between them. That was in 1992, long time! - the renewal was necessary due to the change in marital status and the consequent changes. 

Subsequently, my passport has been issued by embassies abroad, pretty smooth process, no verifications, nothing hassly. I was expecting this time to be a contrast, but surprisingly it wasn't too bad. The new one came through less than a week after the police verification was completed. 

This was my second interaction with the Kolkata Police recently, I had gone to the local P.S. for a clearance certificate before leaving for Fiji  last year. We'd been told to apply online and it had come through in 48 hours flat, no time at all. 

Our films and stories and even the neighbourhood gossip always paint a negative picture of the police, but my real life experiences with them has been quite the opposite. I have been in police stations multiple times and have been treated with courtesy, efficiency and exemplary professionalism each time. I also have close family members who have been victims of burglaries and the police has unerringly recovered the stolen items within weeks. Therefore, I am a fan of our police force and this is my own small way of countering all the negative stereotypes flying around.  

Monday 18 September 2023

In Memoriam


Ma. Possibly in Agra in the late 1960s.

A birthday is a hollow sock

when the person’s gone,

stockings empty of the present,

no chats on the phone.


A birthday is flowers and vase,

and some photographs,

a looping back and touching base

and cupcakes on behalf.


A birthday is a cloudy mood

the weight of milestones,

a mixed up bit of pensive glad

and darker undertones.


Although the day's a mooring too - 

pinning the year in place,

a chance to dial the chaos down,

to renew and retrace.


A thumbing of old albums and

a rough-edged thankfulness

that we had what we had when they

lived at the same address. 

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Something like a footfall


Not everything falls into place at once.

The paperwork. The people. The connects.

Maybe the days are a test of patience.

The darkest nights not restful but suspect.


The moon’s not a tilak on my forehead.

An angry sun reluctant to kindness.

The purple flowered vine’s gone dry and dead.

No one’s at home at the given address.


Yet in the twilight between day and night

there’s something like a footfall on the stairs

and a bunch of fireflies in zigzag flight

the scent of flowers opening somewhere.


So I will wait. I’ll wait and pace the grounds

maybe in time someone will come around.

Patience has never exactly been my forte, but still. Keeping calm and pacing the grounds....maybe if the vine is watered it'll revive? 

However, as the most famous independent journalist of India said somewhere - what's crumbled in the last ten years is never coming back. My heart sinks a little every time I think of it. 

Hearts are not made to sink though, they are buoyant little persistent things, always finding space to wriggle and rise, to balloon, to beat, to hope. 

This too shall pass. Everything passes - the bad, the good, the ugly. 

Wishing the good in your week a super slow passage, and the bad a lightning fast one. 

Monday 4 September 2023

Idle chatter


Screengrab from 

We were just chatting, mulling things over –

falling bird populations and their lovers,

the erosion of earth, secular values,

the policing of garments but not the shoes.

The hair, the torso and their approved covers.


All around us, the entire city was loud –

the traffic, the politics, even the clouds.

Many had forgotten how to coexist

with their neighbours, voted in jingoists,

ignored the rights the constitution allowed.


The voiceless are always sidelined and othered

whether human beings or a plain looking bird.

It’s been years since you’ve looked at those on the fringe

or thought about them, shifted even an inch,

nor turned down the volume so they could be heard.


Only the rich and resplendent are prized.

The ordinary’s always marginalised.

We sighed, fell quiet as old friends often do,

by and by the silence was pierced by a coo.

Some find a song even when they’re compromised.


I wondered aloud if that was a good thing? - 

bird populations going down singing?

My friend stared and said, ‘not even a slim chance!’

But the universe does find its own balance,

with or without men and their petty failings.

It's been the usual crazy out here. Just scooting in to post this and scooting right out again. If the gadget on the sidebar shows the number of posts in any month being less than the regulation requirement of four - that gives me the heebie jeebies. It's super strange that I should be able to post through the most monumental, hectic life changes and then suddenly can't because well, I've come back home now, all the travelling and relocations finally done and dusted. It happens only in India! :) 

I was part (albeit the silent, listening part) of a conversation centred around falling bird populations, which an elderly Calcuttan was lamenting. Both this post and the last one came out of that. That and the non-stop churn of the fake news machines and the whatsappisms. 

Birds are not only birds of course. They are harbingers of hope, they are ill omens of death too. They are symbols of wisdom and peace as well as greed and evil, their nests are used for marketing models as well as the most beautiful metaphors for home and women's eyes. They are part of our mythology and idioms and slang, and life in general, in overarching ways. It boggles my mind to think of losing them, or of any other, less resplendent species, or less resplendent populations of humans for that matter. Who decides what's the definition of resplendent anyway? Diversity is what makes the planet and the nations beautiful, inclusion is a necessary condition of survival, even of the most ordinary. Without the least resplendent, we all wither and disappear. 

Have a brilliant week.