Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It is always a bad time to write these days

It is always a bad time to write these days.
There is always something else to do,
Work is forever pending
Some dripping tap needs mending
Ideas, as always, are far too few.

It is always a bad time to write these days.
I am never there when needed around,
Why didn't you call or ask me why I am upset?
It is really not that hard to get,

Endless, justifiable complaints abound.

It is always a bad time to write these days.
Suddenly giving advice has become harrowing
Tell me why I should not cheat if it pays?
I cannot come on time, no matter what one says!

Fitting-in is harder than ever, tolerances narrowing.

It is always a bad time to write these days.
Responsibility - the sound is enough to make me cringe
or sometimes love, or perhaps just a good romp in the bed,
will wear me down just enough that instead,
I'd rather go on a sleeping binge.

It is always a bad time to write these days.
Why don't you exercise? Go for a run at least.
Running one's mind does not burn fat,
Especially when done silently, without a chat,
From now on all Maggi eating will be policed!

It is always a bad time to write these days.
Time that is spent budgeting, making a miser miserable
Can we get a sofa? And a pet cat?
To fix the seepage on the roof, put on the engineer's hat
And then watch the latest reality circus on satellite or cable.

It is always a bad time to write these days.
To be a writer, just to rant and rave
Nobody reads, so why bother to put in the effort,
Of forming sense out of glee and hurt,
Unless it is words to adorn some blessed grave.

It is always a bad time to write these days.

Monday, November 08, 2010


There is no shame in apathy. There is no honour in compassion. There is no joy in the living and there is no sorrow in the dead. And that is why I gift you a pathetic death. I dedicate to your grim future this massacre of innocence. Let this day garland the end of freedom in these lands. Gentlewomen of Hasselplough, breathe and let your blades bleed victory from the jaws of defeat.



The rains had come on time. As had the seepage stains on the walls. The air was rife with the smell of fresh fungus. Even Nishtha had left on cue, to meet her ex.

"Why will they not come?"

He looked in disdain at the books that had sprouted like weeds on his table. Trying to weave legends of mythical lands and Gods with pedestrian language. Trying to ink to life the magic of human folly. Trying, yes. And failing miserably. Spilt milk from the cornflake bowl formed a white pool at the edge of the table. The fountain pen slowly rolled into the spill and fell off the table. He watched. The creased sheets of paper languished on the only clear patch on the rosewood desk.

A photo of him with Nishtha was nailed to the wall right behind the desk. She was smiling. He was looking dazed. As if he couldn't believe his luck at having her in his arms. She had not only fallen for him but curiously enough, also for his writing.

Yet now, the words did not come. When he needed them. Desperately.

He ambled into the kitchen to look at what she had left in the pan on the stove. The mushroom-chickpea soup was still steaming and smelling of a fresh ginger garnish. A loaf of half eaten cinnamon bread lay on the chopping board. He opened the fridge and took out the tin of butter. He carried an overfull bowl of soup, butter knife and tin all together to the writing table with the half-loaf of bread held between his teeth.

"Did you forget to pay the phone bill again? My cellphone is not working. How can I go out without a phone?"

The splitting clicks of Nishtha's heels butchered the silent laziness that hung around the room.

"Well... did you?"


And so they went to war, the gentlewomen of Hasselplough. Nobody knows what happened after that. Did they kill many? Did they snatch history from time and carve their names in battle cries? Or did they freeze to mercy at the sight of their beloved enemies. No one knows. What one does know, however, is that the pen of legends was lost that day. Lost forever in an impasse with reality.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coffee and Cookies

He walked down the pavement, nonchalantly avoiding the hawkers strewn on it. Miserable little twits, he thought. He did not have anything against anybody in particular. He just hated them all. Except her. Her, he loved.

She was dressed in white. Long, flowing white. The kind that strains the sun into one's soul. He could see her walk down the long corridor from his bed. It seemed as if she was floating. He turned to see the cut marks on his arm. He remembered walking into his bedroom earlier, with the tin of cookies. He remembered the screaming. He remembered all the shattered glass. He remembered a lot of blood. She walked into the ward right then.

The cafe still had a brass bell on its door. It rang every time the door opened. A welcoming, playfull ring. The elegant pista green leather upholstery was gone. Replaced by bright cubist patches of woven colour. He took the corner seat, his usual, beside the glass window that looked out into the pavement.

It is good that you are ok, she said, almost thankfully. She thought for a while, choosing her words with care, I am leaving you. It cannot work anymore. I did not want you to see me with him like that. But you have known it for some time now, haven't you? , she asked in casual rhetoric. He saw her, he saw his arm. The scar was still throbbing a warm crimson red.

It had been a year since he had last come here. He had come here to buy a tin of chocolate chip cookies. He wanted to surprise her or rather, placate her. They had not been talking since the past few days. He stirred the sugar in his latte. The coffee tasted the same - a frothy, milky taste that he liked. He wondered if they still stocked the cookies. He never had a chance to taste them last time.

You always knew you had to be alone. She had put her hand on his. Did you know it would come to this? To a time when we will not recognize ourselves. She gently pressed his palm and said, stay safe. Then she had turned around and walked out. He had lain there watching her glide away into the reflections.

He found it difficult to sit straight with his jacket on so he took it off. The 0.44 Smith and Wesson inside his jacket was heavy. It had taken precisely two shots from it. It will take one more, he thought. Everything was finally as it had to be. He had to be alone. He smiled. He remembered what she had said. And he sat there for sometime, sipping his memories and his coffee.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


She sat there, on the bed, slightly bent forward, with her rippling locks held in one hand, while the other cautiously guided a comb through them. The noon sun generously lent its crisp glow to her face. Beside her on the bed lay a copy of Lolita, splayed face down on the bed.

Will you stop writing and talk to me, she said. I've returned after so many days. Instead of talking to me, you are cooped up in your corner, writing God knows what abomination of melancholy again. It is another one of those, isn't it?

Sailesh lifted the makeshift stone paperweight and put it over an untidy sheaf of written-on paper. The fan, with its usual scratching din, lazily ruffled the stoic calm on his face. He turned to find her trying to look most indignant. The askew folds of a cream-beige sari refused to follow the curves of her breasts, making her look more faceted.

Yes, it is, he said without trying to look amused. How was your visit? I thought you would leave from there, off with your parents again, without coming back.

I would have but then I thought about poor you and came back. I cannot leave you for so long with you writing the way you do - who knows who else might fall for it, she teased. But now that I am here, you will stop, won't you? Why do you never write when I am around?

She stood at the window, looking out at nothing in particular. He studied her smooth silhouette, carved out of shadows, ensconced in the gentle hum of the refrigerator. Suddenly, he felt a need to reach out and touch her. Make sure that she was real.

Do I make you very sad, she asked in a languid voice.

He wrapped his arms around her and let his stubbled chin rest in the nook of her neck. A few truant strands of her hair tickled his nose.

No, it's not you, he said after thinking about it a moment. But you still have not told me about your trip. I'd rather hear about that.

About what? About how comfortable I was at home at not having to listen to do this and do that. About how addicted I am to being pampered silly. About how I wish we had a bathtub. You don't want to hear about all that, I know.

Sailesh could see a small black ant trying to crawl up the window sill where her hands rested. He could smell the scent of her skin. He remembered now what he had missed many a still night, lying quietly, alone on the bed.

Mrinalini suddenly turned around and hugged him, nuzzling her face in his shoulder. He felt off-balance in her embrace, as if he had phased out of reality.

I've missed you. She paused a bit, hoping he will say something. Haven't you too? Or were you too happy to be alone, writing?

I want you to be happy and so I give you my happiness. When you are not here, I give what is left to my writing. Rini, he raised her face up, cupping it gently in his palms, don't leave again, so soon.

Why don't you come with me? I'll ask Papa to book tickets for you too. We'll tour Europe together. I don't want to miss you so much and I want to go there. Why can't I have both?

He kissed her forehead. He heard the window of the apartment below close.

You should take that nap while there is still time. The flight back will be long.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vey Malang Tera Iktara

A door bangs shut somewhere. Night dawns. Slowly but surely it flows into my veins. Purges the day's touch from my skin. Whispers your name to my soul.

Rooh ka banjara re parinda,
Chadh gaya dil ka re gharonda.
Chadh gaya dil ka re gharonda todke
De gharonda todke, gaya chodke.

Je naina karoon band band, beh jaaye boond boond,
Tadpaye re, kyun sunaye geet malhaar de.

A carnival of memories begins its merry waltz. Wefts and warps of fine threads weave them into the breeze. Tinkling between the roar of traffic outside I can hear a chance laugh. Rare laughter. Prized laughter. Pince-nez laughter. I wrap the breeze snugly around me.

Megh peoner kothaye badi, kothaye she kon doore,
Asaad holiye kotha theke aashe akaash joode.

Mon kharaper disti guli, kokhon bili kore?
Raat jaaga kon bhore, megher deeprohore,
Paak dondi pother dhaare, bagaan ghera ghore?

Starlight twinkles in my starry-eyed tears. Intimate silences partake in revelry of the past. The fan suddenly blows my way chill from mountains of yore. A brutal cough chokes my mind.

Beeti raat basi basi padhi hai sirhaane
Bandh darwaja dekhe lauti hai subah.
Thandi hai angeethi seeli, seeli hai deewaren
Goonje takrake inme dil ki sada.

Crickets gossip. A limping cow slumps onto the ground, exhausted. A vagabond kitten wants to talk. Alas, we have run out of things to talk about. The only talks left are the ones we do not want to have. Let me see if she'll settle for some milk.

Aekhon rod otheche, megh peoner jabaar shomoye pray,
Je shob chithi hoyeni bili podeche jhornaaye.

Godiye gaeche nodir jole,
Chodiye aache gacher daale.
Tuk tuk tuk podbe jhore pahad dolir pothe
Dheere dheere shukiye jaabe shukno patar shaathe.

Time tickles and ticks away. Making our brand new sadness old in a jiffy. The night is in cahoots with the spirits today. Spirits of silly thought that ask me to forget how not to remember. Mucus wells up my throat in a fit. Time to bend-over and surrender.

Vey malang tera iktara, iktara.
Vey malang tera iktara.

The night loses its spirit around me. Incredulously, it inspects my washed out silhouette. It is time to melt back into memory.

Mon kharaper shojol tuku shukiye giye sheshe,
Miliye jaabe tir-tire aek mon kamoner deshe
Megh peoner bagey ebaar mon kamoner dista
Shei mon kamoner sroter taane cholche boye Teesta.

Am I happy to be alone? There are no doors when I am alone. Neither is there anywhere else to go...

Monday, March 29, 2010

What villainy is this!

We all love our villains. Because if it was not for them, we would never have our heroes to worship.

Today morning two young boys landed at my doorstep asking that I grant them a hearing. And so I did. I did not invite them inside because you see, I do not have any furniture in the living room to make them sit on. Embarrassing? Yeah, well... but I did hear them out.

They went on for a good two to five minutes. In crisp, clear Hindi explaining to me how the moral fabric of society is in tatters today and how the world needs a change from the ground up. A revolution fueled by young blood that will let "the people" have power over "the people's" lives. In the end, they handed me a pamphlet which they claim has their thoughts laid out in more detail. Their demand - volunteer for the revolution or pay-up for the cause. I told them I'll read the piece of paper they had given me and if I am convinced then I'll contribute. But you already know me, don't you? It is not that easy to convince me of anything - even of my own sanity - and especially if I am given time to think about it.

So I turned my rusting thinking apparatus, and came up with this suggestion: "Read History!" For history serves us well. What did these kids say that has never been said before - the moral fibre of society, if we believe any provable historical account, has been in decay for as long as we have known morality and society. Power to the people has been a idea that the people themselves have chewed, savoured and spitted out - only for it to grow back as some new variant. And that is how we as a race have grown in time. Does that mean that there should be no revolution? Of course not. But it certainly does not and will not need me to spur it on. It will happen when the time comes, because what is a revolution if not coming around of a newer time, once again.

Ah, but we started off with villains, didn't we? And how we all love them. We make them in the image of our worst fears and erect heroes to fight our wars against them - and call this process a revolution. (Oh boy! Am I or am I good at this. Ok .. here it comes...) Every second that we breathe on this planet, we stand at the edge of an immense reservoir of knowledge that mankind has assimilated as a race - we stand with the hand of God just an arms reach away. But do we reach out? No sir! That would be no fun at all. It is much better to beat down (up?) each other rather than learn from each other. After all, the world is a jungle and it is the "survival of the fittest" that dictates who wins. Right?

If that had been right, Darwin would have thrown a fit. Or had one. Maybe he did. But that is beside the point here. Why must people, and I mean people around me mostly, for I cannot really speak for people not around me, ... Why must people be so stubborn about what they want to see in all that can be seen? What is the use of all the learning, the education, the knowledge, the faith in the world - if not for a simple moment we will not appreciate the beauty that is man. If we will not acknowledge the wonders that our minds are capable of.

Of seeing the world in grain of sand, even quite literally. And equally significantly, of seeing a grain of sand in the palm of our hand.

Chenashonar kon baire,
Jekhane poth naayi naayire,
Shekhane okarone jai choote.

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

Ghorer mookhe aar ki re.
kono she jaabe phire.
Jaabe na jaabe na --
Deyal joto shob gaelo toote.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

Ja na chaibaar taayi aaji chayi go,
Ja na paibaar taayi kotha payi go.
Pabo na, pabo na --
Mori ashombhober paaye maatha khoonte.

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

Pagla hawaar badol-dine,
Pagol amaar mon jege othe.

I have faith in nights.

Tagore and Rilke. Villains and heroes. Me? I am just the postscript.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Aei aache, aei neyi, hai re je jona
Kano shikole baandhe taare bhabhish aapona
Chayare ki kobhu bolo dhore raakha jaaye.

Aaha re bidhigo tor leela bojha daaye
Je udiya baedaaye taare bandhish khanchaaye
She je ude jaye, ude jaaye, jaaye jaaye, jaaye jaaye.

Kintu mon je jete dite chayena taake. Ude hoyeto she jaabe kono din - aar shedin hoyeto taare aar dhore rakha jabena. Kintu diner por din, raater por raat, taake aaro jore aankde dhore rakhte ichche kore. Ete kaar ki dosh bolo - paakhi chaye ude jeete, khancha chaaye dhore rakhte. Pakhi ke to khancha hote bola cholbena. Khanchakeyo paakhi hote bola cholbena.

Bhebe dekhle obaak laage - kikore je khancha hoye gelam sheta jaanteyi parlam na. Hote aashole cheychilam onno kichu. Ki? Hoyeto ekta poth, kimba ehta kolom ba ekta paata. Paata ta hote paarle moteyi mondo hoto na - besh haoar shaate ude ude baedatam. Kintu tomake pete hobe bole, ki hote cheychilam sheta bhuliye dite holo. Aar taar pore, tomake aatke rakhte hobe bole, khancha hote holo.

Tomake jete dewa cholbena. Tumi je aamaake bishesh bhabe jaano. Temni kore aar keu janena. Bhishon bhoye kore je aekbaar jodi tumi chole jaao tahale tomake aar phire pabona. Kapurush manush to - bhoye theek aamar shojjo hoyena.


Y va liviano
Mi corazón gitano
Que solo entiende de latir a contramano
No intentes amarrarme, ni dominarme
Yo soy quien elige, como equivocarme

Aprovechame que si llegué ayer
me puedo ir mañana
Que soy gitana
Que soy gitana

Nilanjana stared at the blank canvas resting on the easel. She could see the dust that had settled on it, shining in the morning sunlight. Paint-caked brushes lay scattered on the floor in a corner. She stared blankly at his worn out sandals. They were lying at the side of the bed. He lay curled up in an entangled mess on the bed, as if he was fighting a war with the sheets. The ceiling fan was making a periodic drone. The morning sunlight had crept onto his right upper arm. There were a few truant hair strands there, standing up shapeless and drunk.

He stirred slowly, pulling another pillow from the side to under his right leg. She saw his sleepy movement carve the space around him in light and shadow. His pyjamas moved up as he folded his legs. She knew exactly how the skin on his bare knees wrinkled when he bent his legs. She was intimately acquainted with the salty texture of those wrinkles. Once the way in which they folded space and time in them, was a source of fascinating mystery for her. Now, it was too easy to read them. Even the brush strokes she used to draw them, seemed practiced and tired.

He open his eyes, catching her blurred, glowing form in his first waking sight. He could smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. A smile broke on his lips. "Ah! You know me too well."

I do, don't I. That I am afraid, will not do.


Note: The Bangla lyrics are from a song from the movie Palatak, sung by Pankaj Mitra. The Spanish lyrics are from the song Gitana by Shakira.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

You always smile!

"Talk to me," she said. "You never talk to me these days. It always let's play scrabble, let's see a movie, let's go to Goa. Why will not just sit down and talk to me for a while."

He smiled.

"There, you are smiling again. Anything I say, you smile. That is your answer to everything, isn't it!"

Is it?, he thought. The answer to everything. That would be nice. A real 42. He felt like holding her and reading poetry. Out loud. Like they used to do in the warm winter sun on lush green lawns of the Lodhi garden. Talking was effortless then. Even when he knew she was not listening.

He smiled again, and nodded his head as if you shake off that nagging feeling that is the bastard child of longing and memory - the one that tells you that you are living the life you wished for. How annoying to be told that. This cannot be it.


"I am going to go and stay with my parents for a month. Is that ok?" He listened to her. "Don't smile again, please - tell me. Is it ok if I go?"

The instinct to smile at helplessness is very strong. Let's try saying no for a change. No, it is not ok. You cannot go. "Yes, it is fine. If that is what you want." That is what she wants. Even if I want her to want otherwise. That is what she wants. He smiled again. A thin amusing line formed by pursed lips that quivered when he thought about how his life had turned out. A life that was very much, still being lived.


"What can I do if I am hardwired to like lanky thin men? They just turn me on. Without me having to do anything. Living with you, I have to fight my instincts every day. You've never had such problems, have you?"

"Do you know? That is how a God is worshipped. Against or rather beyond all reason. You make me feel like a God. Though left to myself, I would have preferred being lusted-for than being prayed-to. No, I've never had this problem - sure I like women a lot and I like a lot of other women but I did lust for you once."

Enough to stay up and work all night, to return home by the first tram next morning, to not eat till I felt distinctly faint the day after - it does not seem like much. But it did then and it burned like the flames of Hades. And it still feels charred there sometimes, like tasting ash, burnt a long time ago.

The smile surfaced again as he remembered how it had made him work out at the gym like a man possessed.


"Do I have to eat fish? It stinks! How can you people eat this .. this disgusting thing. I am turning vegetarian for the rest of my life. Except for the frozen chicken sausages in the fridge - can I have those? I miss my home."

A home. My home. I never even let myself miss it. Not its people. Not even its smells, tastes, sounds or colours. There is no place in my life for it today. Today I have to build another home. And then another, and then possibly another. Every time from scratch, with you. Hoping at least one will resemble yours enough. It will someday, perhaps, be our home.

"I am sure you do. You are going there soon. Just a few more days." "But wont you feel lonely if I go?" "Yes, I will. But you will come back." "What if I don't?" "You can try... not coming back... but you will not be able to."

She curled up beside him, filling his curves with that subtle regal feline grace that she barely knew she had. He let his hands gently caress the tangled knots of her jasmine scented hair. He bent down and kissed her on her forehead gently just as she tightened her grip on his other arm that was wrapped around her. "I will not come back if I go."

He smiled.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Bizarre Year

Let's not be poetic for once,
let's be straight and say
I had a bizarre year,
Truly marvellous though, if I may.

Last December, I was alone
Talking to my self inside a fluffy rajai
Then a long chased affirmation, a simple yes,
and Boom! It was no longer I (let aside alone).

Frenzy of shopping and people and colours and food,
Fighting, tears and expertly crafted taane,
Lounging lunches in cars parked in shady shades,
Employment and pedicures happened together, not bad, eh?

Then happened a tryst with more stress,
Sweets, grandma and OMG - wearing a saree!
Coming away and going away sandwiched
between movies and lingerie.

All this I got no chance to write, or sing aloud,
Preached, led and taught kids to draw
in colours of equations and numbers new.
And just what I thought was the last straw...

Seepage landed on my woes. Fresh. Damp. Green.
Onions and cots and curtains! Prices connive
Noodle men and Maggi fights followed by cold milk,
Monsoons that left me drenched on Marine Drive.

Long Island Ice teas and Bonjours,
Flunked firsts, botched beds, chastised charms,
Yet, this new years, I had someone with me,
though sobbing, but still loved, cuddled up in my arms.

As I said... a bizarre year. May you have one too.