I came upon your writing
On a neatly folded sheet forgotten
Between the pages of a book.
Even spaced squiggles in a script I never learnt
Your usual exquisitely detailed symmetry
Measured in thought as in speech
Not a line crossed; no edit smudge or strike
Space filled with a quiet conviction
Ceding little to doubt. The known, spoken;
The unknown, silenced from voice or sound.
A question mark never more ambiguous
Than its intent: a query and nothing more.
Always an effortless perfection in restraint.
The moment passed without much complaint.
That you inhabit and pervade time and tract
In your place; amongst your books, your space
Should that compel my lament?
It is only as it has been; as it always will be.
I close my eyes and retract into a togetherness
Into, an as it should be.
The end of the orb
High up here above the clouds
There is no rain, no wind
No great show of might
No artifice to enshroud.
Here, there’s just you and me
In different physical forms,
A benign sun wrapping us in
An equal same. The heart’s decree
Sleep a nightmare
NoooYawk. NooYawk. NuYawk. NyawK. Nn..yAWp.
Scale walls of brick and glass
Find a foothold in a joint, grab a gargoyle
Scale the sheets; Of rough concrete and slippery steel
Too polished; Wrong-fit.
Run up stairs; nail my cowardly legs, that gave out
On the 3rd floor, to the exit door
Hang my pounding heart on the rails of the 16th
Leave it there beating and dripping
Against familiar unyielding steel
Slap my mouth stuck slick with drool and escaping breath
On the red Fire box of the 30th; agape in panting wannabe scream
A forceful blowing gale meets its match on the 45th terrace
Loses and retreats. My eyes prise open in triumphant blaze
Scan lanterns in squares of gold strung by lintels and by beams
Mostly plane empty light; some filigreed with shapely mysteries
Coming. Smoking. Going. Little shapes. Big ones. Moving. Doing.
Light ascending in rows and columns of never ending desire
Reaching for the moon. Who.., washes down in broad benign glow
On the caterwauling symphony of the alleyway cats
Crowding around a dismemberment.
Her wet hair turbaned in white weave;
The brightly coloured one begins her morning ritual.
With a hand and a gaze steady with purpose; she
Draws doubles lines, stretching them from point to point,
In bright white on earth blackened by wetness.
Between the lines are dark empty spaces
In triangles, squares and rounds;
Opposites combining to calculatedly conceal
Mysteries. Of the known and the unknown
The seen and the hidden; an Anubhava and a Darshana.
Some she fills with colour, proposing desire;
Some she leaves alone, for His disposed grace.
Her auspicious algorithms welcome auguries;
And the ants that scattered return on cue to feed.
What is your name?
I know of you now. I know you are a girl. I know you are a student. I know you are young and wanted to live. But, my dear, what is your name?
I’ve heard you called: the girl, the woman, nirbhaya, amanat, damini. Names that try to capture you; that try to define you through your ordeal. But, my dear, what is your name?
I know you wanted to study medicine. I imagine you kept odd hours, studied subjects with big names; laughed at the Latin twisting on your tongue; cursed the tomes that you filed in stacks of memorized data, yet turned to them every night in reverence and awe; slowly and surely fell in love with the body and its mysteries. But, my dear, what is your name?
I know you went to watch a movie. That you chose to watch Pi over others. I imagine you read the book. I imagine you argued over which one to watch. I imagine you worrying about returning home, the late hour, the work piled up for the coming week. My dear, what is your name?
I know you had a friend. That your friend was a boy. That you trusted him enough to share an evening with him. That he didn’t betray your trust. Did you hold hands? Did you know the love of friendship? My dear, what is your name?
I know you climbed into a bus. Did you climb those steps in relief of finding a ride; did you climb in choice-less anxiety? In a life led against a backdrop of fear; where the simplest exercise of choice could spiral into a descent to terror; was it one of the myriad times you took a chance, the kind that you and all of us born with the same strikes take, in the hope that fate is our ally. Oh, my sister, what is your name?
I know you were shrouded and consigned to dust in fog and silence. That you were denied the dignity of presence. That you were denied the sorrow and love of the millions that would’ve walked with you on your journey. My dear, my dear, what is your name?
“ Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air. .. Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest.. And read their history in a nation’e eyes.” – Thomas Gray
For my sister, in Delhi
If my rage could wash away your memory
I have enough for the two of us;
If my fury could kill the monsters
My bare hands are up to the task.
If my prayers mean anything at all
You will rejoin the universe
And rise as Kali to dance on their carcasses.
I have a big wide sheet over my desk
Crisscrossed with squares
Divided by thin rows and thick columns
Each filled with a big bold number
In black and red; a day and a date
A Gregorian and a Panchaangam.
It gives me the comfort of movement
Of an uncluttered march forward,
Until we get to the end of the sheet.
Then it all suddenly cycles back to square one
In the dreaded circular reversal
Every hour. Every month. Every year,
Return. Retrace. Relive. Recount
Marking time in diligent unerring precision.
If only time was measured linearly
Coded like library books on unending ladder racks
Of hours and days, months and years
A forward drift with no end in sight;
Memory then might wear a different garb,
Have a different name; mean something else.
Instead we have this ceaseless switching on and off
Of a then and a now. Some real; some desired.
An on and an off. And, again.
Pranaam [For, Pandit Shri. Ravishankar]
“Should the music stop
Or must it play on?”
As reverence or as contrivance
Quiet your voices; your voluntary cadences
If only for a while.
Let the silence of another
Rejoin the stillness of the universe.
The ebb, the flow and the in-between
Consciousness awakens slowly
sharpens with time;
Sensation surges to feeling in an instant
and fades to the pale with time.
When subsumed in yesterday
Where living exists as memory
They resurrect in today
Both liberated forever; from time.
The Sun recesses
Always in a violent fury
The drama of a finale
A final attack on submissive Sky
The end, we think
Clap and retreat.
But recouped she returns
A new assault on forgiving Night
Seeks and wakens in evil glee
Her might recording, ‘Still living’.
A protest sounds a triumphant discord,
I have traveled my life
Through these self-same wretched streets
All these years
Always hating their sameness
The same odious landmarks; the same old walls
The same rudeness.
The same unease with a stuporous disquiet.
One day, the newness came.
In a shape different from how we’d imagined it,
In an ominous reminder that change
Takes hideous forms at times.
It came draped; in folds of monstrous terror
Rented the frippery of desire asunder
With ease; battered disarray into the gash.
It came uninvited and settled to stay.
I still travel the self-same streets
Without you to return to now
A new dazed, diminished and derailed me
And the newness is the sameness now.
This day is about me
Everyone says so; it must be so; it has been so.
But they are wrong.
It is about you. It was always about you.
Birth: A mundane moment for the born
With little control over a beginning or an end.
But, for the one that was the passage,
For the one that the very universe works through,
For the form without which nature is brought to nought,
For you; A pass-over moment to the Divine.
Enjoined with it. Becoming it. Venerated for it.
It is about you. It was always about you;
Why did I not know that
How were we all so wrong?
When things break
My dear, when things break,
Don’t try to mend them
If things must break; let them break fully.
Don’t buy new toys
To set the shifting scene
In the shape of the remembered
To create the familiar stage anew.
New toys with gossamer fancy –
Deprived of the hardy sweat that
Dripped into the old tenacious sinews,
Now worn and frayed by worldly cares –
Fast and frivolous, snap.
If things must break; let them shatter.
The painful shards of memory
Will bring you more delight
Than that of a rushed embrace.
From here, this vantage point,
My restless, dissolute gaze drifts upwards.
In combative protest. Forging an escape.
Tears that imprison my sight
I don’t wipe you to free that restless spirit
I claw at my eyes to wipe the images clean.
Sight is our decadent sense.
He fashioned lids,
To shut it down.
A laden sky bursts
Revealing its hiding Sun.
If I didn’t find you behind my broken heart;
Maybe, it didn’t break enough?
When you bear down on me with the arrogance of belonging,
When you drench my parched lands with hope,
When you give me the delight of being owned;
I want to collect you in, by the armfuls,
Sail my colored boats in your raucous torrent,
Tempt you with their journeys; Dare you to stay.
Grief as commodity
All this talk of grief
They say they can quantify it,
Define it in time; By time.
By the hands of a clock.
By the mindless march of days.
Do I have more or less?
If they pronounce less,
If they then aver you mean less to me,
Will they also know to say by how much?