we didn't start equal.
i was one step back,
you didn't love me...
two steps back
you were unaware
ten steps back
in the wrong race
as a human, you didn't care
you weren't elegant in bed or in life
you didn't have to love me back to prove love is true
just be a person who can hold their truth
i wish my being locked with someone
who treated life the way it should treat you
why would i assume
the world would make it better?
why should i read a path?
why do we have to say something to everyone?
if i said one thing to someone
won't it last?
Siddhå was a son of the slums.
His father had a small cellphone repair store where he used to sneak in and watch old-school Bollywood movies on antiquated iPhones, stealing wifi from the rich mutton vendor who watched ‘adult’ programming in his air-conditioned shop, away from the eyes of his doting wife. Siddhå’s entire education was a combination of what he saw in movies, and what Kaal Ikka told him.
Siddhå was four years old when he became a man.
That birthday, his father had bought him a painted toy train that Siddhå had not wanted. It was true that Siddha stared at the train that zipped past the slums every day. His father, in some attempt to win the child bought him the closest version that he could. Unlike other children who would have probably appreciated the effort and been distracted by the happily painted toy, Siddha didn’t understand what he should feel. He stared at the real train because it was alive, and seemed to take people away from the grit of the slums. He wished his father had bought him a ticket to sit on the trains instead. He saw people hanging out of the doors of the train, swinging freely and looking onwards into a somewhere that Siddha didn’t know -he couldn’t see the end of the tracks. This unknown always fascinated Siddha.
Still, holding the toy train that his father had bought him, gave him some peace that didn’t stay long. His father chided him out of the house to play with the train outside the chawl. Even at that age, Siddha knew he was being escorted out for a reason. It was that time of the afternoon turning into the evening when father bought Radha Maasi home. She was a flower vendor with long black oiled hair, green glass bangles and crooked teeth.
Holding his red train in one hand, Siddha watched as his father walked behind Radha Maasi into the four-walled cubicle they called a home. His father locked eyes with Sidda for a moment before shutting the door and Siddha for reasons unknown to him felt like smashing the train to the ground. Instead, he ran to Kaal Ikka’s store. Ishu, the lamb who had been there for the past month would cheer him up. Siddha had made friends with Ishu. Kaal Ikka had allowed him to untie the lamb from the post he was stationed at and take him for a walk around the store. Today Ishu had a red mark, like a tilak on his forehead. Siddha didn’t like the mark and tried rubbing it off, it wouldn’t come off though. Kaal Ikka had told him that he couldn’t take Ishu for a walk today so he sat down beside her trying to get the static wheels of his toy train to move. He looked up surprised as his mother called his name. She gave him a hug and said that she was going to make his favourite dinner tonight; birthdays are special, she said and he wondered why. She had come to Kaal Ikka’s store to buy the meat for the meal. Siddha immediately cheered up. It wasn’t often that they got to eat meat. Hand in hand with his mom, Siddha said bye to Ishu and walked to the front of the store. As they waited for their cut of meat, Siddha suddenly remembered that he had left that godforsaken train near Ishu. Although he didn’t want it at all, he was afraid of being beaten to death by his father for losing it. He informed his mother that he’ll be back in a minute and ran out of the store to the back. That’s strange, Ishu was not at the post but the train was. Oh well, he thought, and just as he was about to run back to his mother, he saw Ishu being walked by Kaal Ikka to a thin corridor at the very back of the store. That’s mean, Siddha thought stubbornly, I could have walked Ishu. Then he noticed that Kaal Ikka had that knife in his hand from the front of the store. Siddha’s heart started thumping loudly. He vision fogged and he wanted to move those legs that were suddenly planted heavily into the ground. It took masses of effort for him to turn and run. It was too late- he heard an all too familiar bleat for one last time and imagined the rest. He went back to his mother dazed and forced his hand into hers. His mother’s joy at making him his favourite meal kept him silent.
Ishu arrived folded in yesterday’s newspaper. There was nowhere in the house Siddha could go and cry privately so he sat stone-faced next to his father waiting for the meal to arrive. He looked nauseated at the plate in front of him and then looked at his mother’s joy in serving him what she could on his birthday. He saw the train next to him and the meal in front of him, two unheard wishes and unwanted gifts. He slowly and deliberately forced the meal down his throat, tears streaming incessantly and involuntarily down his face.
He realized his third unwanted gift that day, he had grown up. This is life, Siddha had decided. He will not wish. He will not hope. He will do with what he had. From that moment, he switched. The tears dried. He forced himself to enjoy the lamb curry as he forced the train’s wheels into movement. Much better, he said to himself.
His father saw him play with the red train. His mother saw him eat. They went to bed happy and made love that night as he wept himself to sleep. Little did they know, that they brought their second son to life as they killed the first.
when silence speaks.
is like changing
the language I think in;
I am losing my mother tongue.
i read memories
as if I missed a line-
to know how our
I don’t actually remember you
From the first time we met
There was an old phone, an empty house
And dark curtains that danced slowly in dust-dirty sunlight
It felt like your voice poured through my ear into my blood
And never left
I don’t know when I first I saw you
Everyone was loud
And you should have seemed small
Partially lost in the crowd
Partially swallowed by the cloud
It seems like the café itself smoked
The building was on fire
Like a hotpot of burning dreams
I remember the oud that wafted from the saree pallu, flapped by the lady sitting beside me
I had come with them but I left with you
If only you knew
That I don’t remember you
Or anything about you
I don’t recollect you from the first time we touched
There was a room that spun around us
Hardwood floors that couldn’t catch a breath
Sinking, moving, flowing
My legs widowed from my knowing
I wobbled like a fish now alien to the water it grew in
One step forward, three steps back
It felt like a waltz
With a crack and scratch
We’d never move on
I don’t know
Did we almost kiss
There was alcohol-stained breath
And noses playing at tilted shifts
I don’t know why you like sleeping so much
Maybe I’d remember the first time we made love
If you woke up and told me
There was nothing I knew that could prepare me
I still can’t say what the feeling is like
It feels like unknowing
I wish I could say that I remember your words
You were so full of them
silences were hardly heard
they were nothing romantic
but they had a bite
like peanut brittle
hard to chew;sweet to eat
I’d try hard to fight them
But they stick on to my teeth
I’d have to work through them for sweet release
Your “nice” thoughts were few and far between
I’d live them like prayers
Repeat them like chants
Till they became nothing
But sounds dissolved into
the mind where they were romanced
You didn’t leave an impression
Neither did your ways
you were there; just as a plain as a sip of tea on a rainy day
like a home I had walked far away
so when I did move from the haze that was my life
through the mirrored maze
that was your plight
you were me, reversed
in a game
that had no rules
no middle no end
just a start on an infinite loop
why would I remember you
you are as forgettable as breath
I was less human than the rest.
It took me a little under three hours to get over your death. The noisy pace of this new world helps.
Theoretically, there should be guilt. I chose to leave when you were dying. Cancer kills families, not people. If I stayed, two lives would have been wasted.
Fuck. That escaped my tongue quickly.
Were you though? Happy with your life? You gave up your pen for a ring too early. Ink suited you better. It would have kept you sane, maybe even alive...did I tell you that before I left? Write more? You and your words were a marriage more suited than you and me, although my bluntness did serve your writing, didn’t it?
The cafe we met at is still living around me; their espresso is still sharp and neat. Johnny’s great-grandson served me. Genes shape up over time, huh? This boy is a looker!
Don’t flatter yourself...I didn’t come here to resurrect you. I came here looking for me. But our stories are so mingled that I can’t read them apart now.
Everyone is so engaged with themselves. Personally, I love the little bubbles they live in, but I don’t have a phone to speak to...yet. Their screens walk with them.
The food on the other table looks great, like little mountains of conquest on a plate. They eat for two! Maybe their food doesn’t reach them? Maybe they eat till their full but not satisfied? You would have read them better, I’m sure.
There’s a neon sign curved into artistic submission where the paint chipped off the walls. There are people taking pictures of themselves alone in front of it. I suppose that is one kind of memory.
They said the others hadn’t survived the culture shock. They begged to be made back into ice so that they didn’t feel the bizarre isolation of being alive. But, I’ve lived with myself for so long nothing from the outside moves me. In fact, the frozen wait felt the same as being awake now. Maybe my blood is too cold for my breath...
We were young. Sometimes, I feel we wrote our age off to love. The less we were ourselves, the less I could be for you.
I didn’t expect to live through this though. I thought I would sleep my way to death. You know I hated long goodbye seasons. That’s why I never drove you to the airport; I had to feel you leaving the entire way there. I was forced to live the silence pregnant with separation.
I figured, if they put me to sleep, I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to you then.
The thing about changing worlds is that nothing changes if you stay the same.
I ran because I couldn’t lose you, slept so that I wouldn’t feel the pain but here I am crying over my words again.
Goodbye, my dear.
My dear, goodbye…
Mangoes In The Rain
She sat caressing the fruit in the curves of her hand; luscious and naked, the mango sat tantalizingly. She could feel the golden–orange flesh seeping through the windows of her fingers. There was no distance between what she was going to taste and her. She sunk her teeth and then her lips into the sun-kissed sweetness.
It was counter-intuitive to experience divinity through the senses, but that moment couldn’t lie to her. The juices of the mango pulp ran down her fingers in sticky streams, and she licked them off in childlike pleasure. Her eyes were in love with the mango. She ate around the seed. Demolished the peels and sat in awe of how she felt. Satiated.
She looked up to the skies and wanted the rain to release the stains glued to her cheeks and lips. She hadn’t ever eaten so boldly and without inhibition. The rain did as it was told that day. It landed on her pleasure-warmed cheeks and washed the remnants of her sins away. She knew at that moment that she had the immeasurable pleasure of living fully. Head stoked to the sky, she laughed, a deep-rooted smile radiating from her insides.
Even for just that moment, she had lived.