Sunday, August 31, 2014

1999

Before dusk falls
we put on the usual-
strappy flip flops and pants,
that reach our muddy ankles.
On tip toes, we open
the towering black gate
and head for fields,
that for us quietly await.
We pedal away, and when
the road is void of pot holes,
we race, wind in our hair.

We are only seventeen
and the roads don’t care
where we have been.
So we pedal wide and far
and leave behind
our private little boudoirs.
We breathe in forests and hills
that bask in the sunlight
and here we create
our very own idylls.

Now, when I return
to the valley of the mighty river,
the winding roads take me
to a place where we chased
dragonflies on cold Sunday mornings.
Today, the road is painted
with lines of bamboo tea stalls
and the dragonflies, they tell me,
watch the hullabaloo
from behind the forest.

A lot like you

A lot like rain, you soak me,
drench me and wash over me,
unannounced;
and as droplets from my hair
fall to the grass, you patter on
my ears euphonious nothings.

A lot like spring, you spin me
into a dizzy
a heady mix
of honeysuckel and
plum blossoms;
and as sultry afternoons
caress sun kissed cheeks,
you paint streets
for me to walk by,
an electric grey.

A lot like moonlit skies,
you get me gazing

glittering dots around
sickle shaped moons,
they illuminate behind
fluttering white curtains.

A lot like love, you storm
into my life, breezing out
worries. I walk miles
through dirt allies and
boulevards and at dawn,
I leave it all behind
in the shadows
all except you.


*First published by Poets Printery in their anthology, Dilli, an Anthology of Women Poets

Kaleidoscope

At first, I did not like you.
It seemed like you blurred my days
into fragmented moments
while I sorted through them, filling
them into small corners of my life.

You knew how I felt about you
and yet, you waited patiently,
till I could hear you from above
the deafening roar, see you
beyond the blazing lights.

I found my comfort in you while
you woke me up to golden
summer days that refused
to let the shadows
of starless dusk peer in.

You whispered to me tales
of a city from a different time.
A time when you and I
were no different than
two strangers in a crowd.

Tonight, I find myself looking
at you from behind the window
panes of my taxi – crowds
of strangers and a distant din.
Yet, we’ve stayed the same,
strangers no more.

*First published by Poets Printery in their anthology, Dilli, an Anthology of Women Poets.

Colours of a Childhood

The haystacks we climbed in Odalguri
were a glistening titanium yellow,
a mix of the sweltering sun and monsoon rain.
In the front courtyard, it stood reaching
out for promising, summer blue skies.

Mounting trees, we threw down tangelos
that landed in our make-do basket like frocks.
The tangelos were a dark shade of amber
and often sour that crinkled up faces.
Among orchard trees, we sat peeling them
one at a time, until a flash of an idea came by.

The meadows, a shade of lime green, was
a carpet of velvety grass where we played
hours of dodge ball and stuck in mud.
Evenings, we lay about in open fields
watching birds fly home, before our mothers
lured us into ours with the promise
of freshly made pithas*.

When Uruka* came, we camped counting
stars, drawing faces on moonlit skies.
Through cold nights, we huddled for warmth,
playing old shadow games.
And as flames from the bonfire flickered
against the black of the night,
a tinge of tangerine lulled us into
a warm, mellow slumber.

*Pithas - Pithas are usually made of rice flour during the festival of Bihu in Assam.
*Uruka-The first day of Magh Bihu, a harvest festival celebrated in Assam, a northeastern state in India.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The City of Lights
















You’d think that a city
was a whirlwind
of meeting, parting
and forgotten yesterdays.
Who was to know
a hundred images
would remain ingrained
in your mind just like
it was last night’s dream.

This is not a city
that does not sleep.
Drive by its boulevard
and you can listen to it slumbering
under midnight blue skies.
And this is when you know,
it’s much like you
not wanting to run
when you can walk,
not wanting to do it all at once,
when you can take
each day at a time.

When you walk past people
through its crowded streets 
and a rhythm wades through the air,
gaze up at its skies sprinkled with stars.
It would be no different looking
through the window of your high-rise home-
cars, shops, and people;
a hundred twinkling lights below
are what will keep you company
through lonely rainy nights.


*First published by PageTurners, October 2012.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Place called Home

Through desolate corridors of a run-down
building, her cries echoed as she hobbled
through dark passages; her head was a bundle
of fears, trapped in a cubbyhole she only
visioned in nightmares; her hands ran against
scraggy walls trying to figure a way out of it,
while faint voices in her head told her otherwise.

At a distance, a ray of light streamed in through

a tiny gap between boulders; the gap was a meager
size of a fist, enough for her to squeeze through
the tip of her fingers and then, for the first time
in three days, maybe more, she touched another
human being-a hand, coarse skin while a river
of tears rolled down her grime masked face.

As she stepped out, there stood a city in the gloom

of death, and just when the hollowness in her heart
was about to set in, she saw that familiar face
against the backdrop of the broken city.
running towards  him,  she flung her arms around
his shoulders, burying her face into the wonted
hollow of his chest, the faint scent of cedar lingering
in his shirt and she knew,

She was home. 


*First published in Songbook Circa, November 2011.

The Red Oak Door





















Our ancestral house had a red oak door
towering tall against cold December
winds and June afternoon rains.
Sometimes it kept out wild stray cats
that appeared mysteriously
and left empty crates of packaged
milk half spilled on hoary kitchen rugs.

But mostly, it welcomed visitors,
neighbors and the unexpected passer-by.
Even when balmy evenings rolled into
savage rainy days that rattled our roofs,
there was the occasional ring of the doorbell
with a familiar face or an unsuspecting visitor
at our Bougainvillea draped front porch.

The children usually came in clusters
scuffing along flower bedded sidewalks.
The tallest one managed to reach the bell
after several high jump attempts, waking up 
the inmates out of cozy warm beds.
But with no signs of a potential playmate,
they went dashing to the open fields nearby.

On special occasions, the families visited
traveling long hours from uptown.
At the door, the men brushed imaginary
specs off ironed pants; the women tucked in 
unruffled hair behind ears while the bell 
reverberated and faint sound of footsteps 
were heard, they cleared throats
just in time to greet the host 
with beaming smiles.

There was the occasional visit
from the affable mailman
garbed in an oversized khaki kurta
and milky white pyjamas,
with a jhola strung around his angular shoulder,
carrying the neat stacks of crème wrinkled 
envelopes grabbed by our eager hands.

changing seasons wrapped hours into years
like little glittery holiday presents;
the big old colossal door now stood
a little rickety and timeworn
yet burnished and beautiful,
like our own  lives.     

*First published in Songbook Circa, November 2011.

The First Time

I remember the first time
that i saw him sitting
in the corner couch
twitching his thick brow,
forcing an uneasy smile
at every other person 
walking through the door
and then making a paused
conversation with the old man
crouched beside him.

The hall was filled with smiling
strangers who made funny noises
with their bare mouths
while kneeling to pinch
my cheeks or fluffing
my ribboned hair.

My feet barely touched ground
as i twirled in my vanilla hued
dress and became dizzy. 
But even as I spun, i saw 
his eyes follow me as i hid 
behind the periwinkle flowered 
muskoka* chair in the patio,
peeping in once in a while.

Pulling me out from behind it 
my grandmother whispered,
"Go say hello."

His large date coloured hands
held the grandest box id ever seen,
encased in powder blue paper-
dancing snowmen and candy canes.

'Do you know who i am? Your Papa..'
I looked at his bulky leather shoes
his tilted grey barret that shadowed
his large brown eyes, and glasses
with rims thick as bricks;
I said with a hint of a frown,
'I don't think so. You don't 
even look like me.' 

*Muskoka Chair is a type of chair used outdoors. The original Muskoka chair was made with eleven pieces of wood, cut from a single board. 

First published in Songbook Circa, November 2011.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Train # 217



With bags tied to our backs,
we wait at the platform.
Dusk borders the skies above
enveloped by thick black clouds; below
against white walls with scribbled names,
we share laughter and small talk
about chai and the weather.

Taking warmth from cups
against freezing bare palms,
we watch baggage balanced
on tiny coolie heads,
wading through crowds;
hawkers with nasal voices
calling out to frantic travelers
– bobbing heads, a blur in seconds.

Leaning against a grey marble pillar,
he stands clad in a black cashmere sweater;
blowing into his tea, he glances my way
against the dark of the moonless night.
his eyes hold mine for a moment too long,
the moment broken by the blow of a whistle,
the crackling voice of a woman
from blaring speakers above.

217 the announcer calls out;
dragging piles of heavy bags
we clamber into the train.
He waits next to my window
as I walk up to him with jelly like legs;
no more goodbyes, I whisper.
Against the darkness of the night
his body is a silhouette now;
his mind, oblivious to my thoughts
his presence, a utopia in my brain.

*First published in Pratilipi, November 2011.

Inferno





















It seeped into the moonless night,
creeping its way through back allies
when the city plunged into deep slumber.
digging its bane dripping fingers
into reposing people, it rambled on
its abysmal journey;
scalding fluttering leaves to the ground,
feet scrambled through abandoned
streets -a dozen whirling stampedes.
                            
curled up by the sidewalk, a man
slept on a tattered rickshaw seat;
rising with a startle, he watched
the meandering line of people, 
the air wheezing down on him. 
as the pounding of his heart grew
lustier than the shuffling feet of men,
he leaves his slippers behind
scurrying to join, the snake like 
passage of weary strangers.
                            
behind closed windows, families
huddled together in cardboard like boxes
for solace; peeping through curtains,
the cremation ground was a mountain
of bodies heaped by the ticking hour, 
carcasses by the roadside tossed into
the Narmada~bobbing cows and goats.
                             
gehenna hung over wrapping the burg
under it's baleful blanket of wrath; the city
cried a chiliad rivers while abaddon
passed bucks; stuffing choking pockets.
at dawn, they packed bags full of sins
traveling miles to satiate their greed.
inferno nights failed to burn their souls,
they walked past the city watching it die 
- a zillion deaths. 
--
The Bhopal Gas leak is one of the world's worst industrial disasters. The leakage of MIC and other toxins from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in 1984 consumed thousands of lives and raised still birth rates by 300%. After 25 years of waiting for justice, eight UCIL officials were sentenced to two years of imprisonment and the then chairman of the company still remains scot-free.