Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For 2014

Be like super-woman or -man,
Be more than you think you can
No knot can not be undone
When you choose to so become

But curse not your weakness and fears
The greatest too shed silent tears
For being "super" is rarely without
The humanizing effect of doubt

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Grow Love In My Backyard

I could die, as I live
in stories I weave
Spin webs around me
and never, never leave

I grow love in my backyard
Hide songs in tree hollows
Dreams in cottonseeds
I slavishly follow

I blow soapy bubbles
I'm in them, I soar
They stick, they burst
I blow some more

It's madness, hell yeah!
I'd hate to be sane
You're ashes, I'm dust
We're dying all the same

Don't save me from darkness
Don't tell me how it is
There's nothing out there
That I will ever miss

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let go, baby let go

Let go, baby let go

Your roots hurt the ground
It cracks from your love
You grew too fast to stay
and far too above
Release, your memories
Go down, nice and slow
Let go, baby let go

The brand of iron hot
with your name it sears
a flesh that once did live
that died with every tear
And now you lie on your bed
with lion-hide on fours
Let go, baby let go

Don't wait for a last kiss
or parting words that seal
The script's been long lost
and monologues won't heal
There're far too many questions
for all you want to know
Let go, baby let go

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Act

She was old. So old you could not tell whether she was a woman or a man. Her jaw was once proud; now it was just a bone, waiting to shed the undulating folds that clung on to it for their dear life. Her breath sounded like a locomotive that had run out of steam from all the climbing up, now wheeling its way down to a place it could finally park itself. She looked around from the doorstep, which opened into the balcony. It was dark and light from the solar lantern shifted as her hands shook, revealing a crumbling edge of the parapet, greening the black of the Tulsi leaves, exposing the tail of a nocturnal insect - all in a few seconds. Just like flashes from her memory - barely coming together as a coherent whole, shifting too quickly to take any form, leaving behind only a sense of the past. Was it ever there?

Very slowly, she placed the lantern on the parapet.  If it fell down, she would have to grope her way through the hall and climb down the cumbersome stairs. She drew nearer the wooden stool, still damp from the rain, lifted the pleats of her sari and carefully adjusted her buttocks so that her weight may fall evenly upon it. As she sat down, she let out a faint groan. The locomotive had found a temporary parking lot.

The light from the lantern was stable now. And it fell on her forehead. The grey of her hair shone like the silver of the moon, under which glistened the lotus pool of her eyes. Her shifting gaze had also settled and placed itself somewhere distant. Or at least it looked like somewhere distant, for she could no longer see too far. What use is seeing too far anyway?

This act, of getting up past midnight - getting up and not waking up for it never looked like she slept - had become a familiar sight. Familiar, if there were an audience to witness, that is. Her balcony would transform into the only stage that mattered, for in this stage she could once again be the Prima Donna, acting out all the parts she once had. Or wished she had. The difference between the two did not matter any more. Fact and Fiction were only matters of labeling; it was Fiction when she was an audience and Fact when she was the actor. And she would spend what would remain of the night, alternating between the actor and the audience. Until the break of dawn, when the curtains would fall, the lights put on again, the soliloquy replaced with the approving tinkling of bicycle bells or the jeering cackle of the peahen. No thundering applause though. There never was. 

The moon slid behind the chiffon blanket of clouds. The edge of her lips curled into the faintest of smiles. Which part was she playing today? The lover into whose ears had just been whispered the promise of faithful love? The friend who had just taken the blood-oath of sisterhood? The little girl who looked into the mirror and saw in it a queen? In any case, it must have been a happy part tonight. Or perhaps it was the fabled smile of knowing. Knowing that there was nothing to be known. 

The moon slipped out, surreptitiously, from under the clouds. Their rendezvous was short lived. One of them had moved on, it didn't matter which. The space between them grew and the wind was in no mood to reverse direction. She blinked, let out a sigh and began to twirl the corner of her sari around her index finger. In some time the black of the night would turn violet, then red. Black and White would be filled with garish colours. And she would retreat into her tomb, waiting for another night, another act.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Girl in the Ivory Tower

The girl, up there, in the ivory tower,
She smooths her nails with scented flowers.
Her curtains are gossamer, for up so high
There's no one who sees, for her to be shy.

There ain't no ground beneath her feet,
She's light as the air of summer sweet.
So she drifts with the wind, in and out,
Sleeps like a feather on rainless clouds.

And when it is dark, she lets down her hair
To merchants, paupers and princes fair.
Candles flicker, fade, burn out,
But nights are longer, colder without.

With tales of courage, of love and sorrow,
Of faithful pasts and Godless tomorrows,
They gift her little boxes of the world out there,
She who is light as the sweet summer air.

Come mornings and she puts the boxes below
Her bed, full of stories from ages ago.
She gathers her pleats and straightens her curls,
Sends for some of the neighbourhood girls.

They drink, they eat, they chat and laugh,
Some complain of the insolent staff.
She sings with them the songs of ivory towers,
As she smooths her nails with scented flowers.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Absentia

Where do I go?
If here you are not,
In the potter's pot,
The Ragi dough,
Where do I go?

Where do I rinse?
My blood is faulty,
My tears too salty,
My soul smells of sin,
Where do I rinse?

Whom do I love?
My heart is chained,
And arms merely feign,
White flights of a dove.
Whom do I love?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Under the Moon

Like the moon you emerge
When the sun goes down.
That which was real
Becomes shadowy,
Shadows become the truth.

Moonlight shifts like mercury -
Deceiving as is deceived,
Enticing as is enticed,
Discovering as it reveals.

Sight loses its hegemony,
Touch and sound take the ground.
The silver soothes the sun-burnt soul,
If only for the night.

At the break of dawn
Life sheds its robe again,
Dances the naked dance.
Everything as is,
With nothing to conceal.
Mocks dreams, perhaps.
Belying its other half,
Ever so skillfully.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Impoverished words for the loveliest of all things

music that teases
promises love, appeases
music that warms
cold nights, dark storms
music that tears
through ears that yearned to hear
music that grows
deeper with woes
music that holds
secrets untold
how i long
to lose myself in a song

Friday, July 5, 2013


I will not have you love me because I can write beautiful letters. Nor because I can sing a song about it. I wish you could see beyond the dances I can dance and the work I can competently do. But how can I blame you when I myself fail to see beyond that? Is there anything more to me than a set of talents, pretty plumage to strut about with and signal some kind of genetic advantages? Why must I feel loved because you think I am better than others? 'Better' is so transient, so slippery. Come rain and it is washed down to 'as good', come winter and it acquires layers of snow-white superiority. I guess I am looking for something that transcends all of that. I guess we all are. Ah! The Great Transcending Truth. Humbug!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Nearly Poignant Afternoon

There is this tiny voice in my head that does not allow me to be in peace. No, it isn’t the self righteous voice of conscience. It isn’t schizophrenia either. It is just like one of those compulsive film critics who get the kicks out of making fun of your film, in this case my life. So this afternoon certain events left me feeling mildly low. By ‘mildly low’ I mean something like an incipient cold. There is a funny feeling in your nose but you are not yet sure if it is cold or bath water that made its way to your sinus. It is like the police preparing for counter-terror strike on independence day, which may well turn out to be much ado over nothing. But prepare one must. So I was slowly, watchfully dipping my feet into the river of melancholy, wondering whether I should take a full fledged dip. Just when I decided to pinch my nose and take the plunge, the tiny voice whispered, “drama queen!”

Drama queen! It called me drama queen! The nerve! Imagine what would have become of all the great poetry if a tiny voice had called Keats drama queen! I mean here I was, about to take a long, lonely walk, stoically swallowing my woes, gently reproaching myself for being so sensitive while feeling superior about my critical self evaluation. What deep philosophical insights could have been revealed while pondering the nature of my misery and generalising it to all humanity. Perhaps some poetry as well! Indeed anyone who deprives a self proclaimed loner of such self indulgence is nothing but cruel. So I said to the tiny voice, “How cruel!” Not that I expected it to cringe in remorse, but it could have toned the sarcasm down. Instead it guffawed in mad glee and offered me a wet tissue to wipe what it called my “crocodile tears”.

Me- Why don’t you wipe your hind side with it?
Tiny Voice (TV)- I am not the one suffering from an “upset” stomach!
Me- How clever! I did not know disembodied voices could make body puns.
TV- Awww.. does the revelation topple your world view? How about taking a long, lonely walk titled, “When my world came crashing down”? I know this really depressing, funereal song that we can play in the background...
Me- Is everything a joke to you?
TV - Not everything. Just your fits of self pity.
Me- You have a sense of humor the size of your body.
TV- Speaking of my body size, did you know how much leg space there is in your head? Very comfortable!
Me- Yeah! What with parasites like you eating into my brain.
TV- Tsk Tsk! What a victim you are of the atrocities of the world! Say, I have another song for the walk titled, “They never understood me”. It goes like, “They came and robbed, they plundered I sobbed, Now I’m empty and in tears, like the space between my ears..”
Me- Thank you! But I can do without your smartness.
TV- I have my doubts about that.
Me- Why don’t you get to the point! What do you want?
TV - Why, Louuve and attention!
Me- Listen! If you just want to be cruel, by all means do. I am going to ignore you.
TV- Although that is a physical impossibility which would mean getting rid of the better part of your humbly sized brain, I shall shut up and let you believe you control.
Me- How awfully kind of you!
TV- No baby! Not kindness! It is out of Louuve and attention you seem to not get enough of from the big insensitive world!
Me- There you go again!
TV-  You started it! In a way you always do. Your tales of woe are so inviting! Though I must say I am beginning to get bored of the same old patterns. You need to script fresher angst. How about a long, lonely walk titled, “I want to break free”?

I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You’re so self satisfied, I don’t need you
I’ve got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free...

I could hear someone’s phone breaking into the song. I wondered why someone would choose such a dated number for their ringtones.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hall of Mirrors

Sometimes I am the director's actor. Sometimes the doll that plays into the hands of little girls, taking pleasure in being the part of them that they want to disown. I seem to be an echo, a reverberation, a response that plays out later, the ghost of an action. What is my own? How can I say? Some would say I am I because of you. I would say I am you. I am the hall of mirrors in a thoroughfare. And you, they, the center of it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To be or to be more

To do more with my life -
The sky above my head
stretches its belly,
hungry for more.
The earth beneath my feet
crumbles, cracks,
makes space for the new
The wind keeps pushing me back
So I push harder, stronger.
To be or to be more
That is the question.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wrapping Paper

In ten minutes
I will throw into the bin
the wrapping paper
the cardboard box
the bubbled plastic
that safely ensconced and escorted
your loving gift
to my table
Memorablia clutters my cupboard
Which has very little room
for the extraneous
Yet for these ten minutes
I shall let these lie on my table
partly in gratitude
partly in guilt
and in the hope that they become
a part of me
before I say goodbye

Friday, March 8, 2013


Little girl,
I want you to grow up to be free. I don’t know what that means but I hope you will. Yes, “hope”. “Hope” because I doubt if I will have the courage to let you be different. I do not know what to tell you when you come home and ask me, “mamma, why does the teacher have two different prizes for quiz competition – one for the best boy and other for the best girl” or “Why did the teacher ask me to colour my dress pink and papa’s dress blue?” I would want to tell you that that is how we engender gender differences in school, but then stop short of it because I would not have the heart to paint a grim picture of the world to you so young. To be very honest, “not have the heart” is only a cover-up of my cowardice.  I would not have the courage to ask you to question your teachers and defy norms that you do not feel right about, lest you should be ostracized and ridiculed.  Because I want to see you get “good education”. You will ask me, like you always do, what is “good education”?  I will tell you good education is that which gets you good jobs. Like mamma and papa’s.  Not satisfied, you will ask me what a “good job” is. I will tell you that a good job is that which can give you a good life. Relentless as you are, you will ask me what “good life” is. If I still have patience, if I haven’t chastened you for asking so many questions, I will tell you a good life is a life where you are happy. “But going to school makes me unhappy!”, you will say. I will tell you it makes you unhappy now but will make you happy later, not knowing that I am implicitly assuming that your school and I are right and you are wrong. You will ask me how do I know that what makes you unhappy now can make you happy later? I will tell you to trust me because I am more experienced and wiser.  What I am telling you is to not question my authority. What you will learn, by hearing such things over and over and over again, is to not question any authority.

I mean no harm. But I am torn between my wish to see you happy and my instinct to protect you. I will tell you to go out in the world and do what you like doing so long as you are within “reasonable” limits. You will time and again question me what those reasonable limits are. Does that mean you cannot play basketball after 7 ? Does it mean you stand up for your friends till as long as you are not hurt? Does it mean to participate in candlelight marches but not confront wretches who pass lewd remarks at you? Yes, I will tell you. “Ignore” them and walk faster.  Whatever you do, do not confront them. I will be worried sick if you decide to dress differently, I don’t even mean scantily, I mean differently. Don’t I know that rapes are more crimes of punishing the victim than lust? That some women are punished for being different, for not playing the “roles” they are meant to, for not being “good girls” and submitting to patriarchy? 

Maybe I’ll enroll you into Karate class. But what about subtle violence that is not physical? However much we may have tried to systematically quell your adventurous spirit,  you will still come and ask us uncomfortable questions, like why do you have breasts and a uterus? I will smile at your naiveté and tell you that is because you are a woman, and someday you will give birth to a baby. You, in your youthful chutzpah, will ask me what if you would not want any babies. I will laugh it away and tell you, partly amused and partly bewildered, that of course everyone has babies and that it is nature’s norm, God’s will. “Is God male?”, you will ask. I will tell you I do not know. For once I will admit I do not know. But that’s only because it was easier to tell you I did not know than to tell you that you have a choice.

Because all choices have repercussions. When you make a choice you take responsibility for its consequences. For instance, when you decide to not marry, you have to fight the lecherous advances of men who think you are therefore available on demand. Why blame the men only? You will also have to forego expectations of support from the women in your society because they will think you to be a whore who corrupts the minds of those lecherous men who happen to be their husbands. “Why then does she not get married?”, “Why does she come so late at night?”, they will whisper behind your back, in voices so self-righteous  that even the most sanctimonious of priests will be put to shame. They will never understand why you were working till late night. Your ambition will only feed their stereotype of the “immoral, ambitious” woman.  Even at work your “professional” and “educated” women colleagues will collude against you for being the “ladder-climbing, cut-throat, bitch” who can do well because she does not have the responsibilities that they have, secretly congratulating themselves for having made all the right "sacrifices". The men will think you made it because of you-know-what. They will conveniently not factor in all the time you have to make to get your flush fixed and pay your bills. Speaking of bills, if you do happen to fall in love with someone, the bank will not allow you to open a joint account because you are not married. How many demons - from neighbors to state - will you fight for making that one choice? Like I said, I only care for your good. So I ask you to “adapt”, “adjust”, “compromise” a bit, because I could not change a thing in my own life time.

The truth is, little girl, that before I blame a screwed-up world, I confess that I am not as sorted as I would like you to believe me to be. That I do not know how to raise you up to be a woman who makes a difference without facing the consequences of it. And I do not have the courage to see you become another victim of standing up. I know, you probably are asking, “What right did you have to bring me into this world then.” Because of course, everyone has babies, and well, they all grow up just fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whose war is it anyway?

millions millions electric connections
passing signals in the brain
no cables no wires
yet entangled convoluted confused
so many speaking all at once
i am slowly becoming we
we are all fighting
taking sides
whose war is it anyway?