Winter through a prism
This winter I’ll grow hopes on clouds, watch them surf pale lightwaves, find the spectrum lying in dust beneath my morning bed. This winter my thoughts are a town smelling of cinnamon.
My fingers on amma’s tangerine wrinkles, read the winters crafted in them. Nestled in daydreams we share our afternoon blues. This winter is an enormous blanket, a warm, open fireplace.
We watch fairylights, reborn as fireflies, shatter glass jars, cold skies brimming with love. A bonsai mango green outgrowing it’s mass with ripeness unseasonably.
Snowflakes on my porch, frozen imagination, shoved aside by mildloud jingles, streetcars humming carol.

The white of winter blooming into lovely spurts of red. We’ll reconcile whirlwinds, times and lives, one violet continuation.

 

 

Merry Crisis
Said the post and I stared at it, my involuntary eyes beyond my mind’s grip, tracing the curvature of c and going back to the y seeing a sinking ship that it wanted to jump, but then I never quite learned how to swim. Speaking of curvature reminds me of two things – one thing with two meanings – curve balls – from Twilight, the begining of a crisis, a piece of childhood and curve balls – that life has been throwing my way for the past week while I have been obliviously trying to write a poem in the absence of a ‘muse’. I wanted the poem to be about my grandmother and her ‘poush’ but my words were as dry as my throat is right now. And then she decided to bring me a deluge, my father would be shaving his beautiful curls in eight days from now. Curve balls with an s in the end means meanwhile, I missed a bus while waiting for it, a bus that was supposed to take me home to my supposed future. I missed the bus with my eyes wide open and I’m guessing it whoozed past me at a speed faster than light, where somehow space morphs with time and does things that astrophysicists talk about. Science isn’t my forte. Neither are words. Not that the two are binary opposites. So speaking of December – it was supposed to be a town smelling of cinnamon and other metaphors I struggled to give birth to but here it is now in my arms, a severed fallopian tube with nothing attached to it.
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Right Shoes.

My shoes were a size smaller for my feet but i convinced myself they would grow along the way, or  my feet would shrink to fit in. I did not consider the possible blisters at that point.
My tattered copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own has a paragraph where the sun shines on the gloomiest days –  glazed with a yellow highlighter, it says something about nourishment. I mention the book only because i found it inside my bag and had to take it out to reduce the weight before stepping out. It has nothing to do with my narrative.

 

Except that it prompts me to tell you why i need to carry minimal weight in my bag. It’s because the rains here are a drag and completely in-punctual. They can but don’t do their job by night, when everyone’s snug and comfortable in their beds; the ones who have a home that is. As for the ones who don’t, the rain, the sun, the government do not care for them. I am used to the sight of people, piss, cows, and cow dung cohabiting under the Dumdum metro tunnel, so i no longer spare them a glance, only put my hands over my nose, lest the stench reaches and touches some bit of humanity left in some corner of my nostrils.

 

As for the lush green canvas around me, courtesy of the monsoon rains, i cannot have them without also subscribing for the muddy street – a stretch of pure earth, punctuated with puddles, too frequently for one’s comfort, constantly breaking the flow of one’s movement, risking a fall unless one is attentive, leading to the railway station – a road not taken without a sigh by the hundreds who traverse it everyday.

 

I’m afraid you might complain I’m digressing much without really getting anywhere, but that is not true. We started from my home, i was tying my shoes, then we crossed the tunnel, and now we have leapfrogged our way through this gooey patch of land. Now we are at the top of the footbridge. Right before us we have the extended metro lines – under construction- raised on pillars 20 feet above the ground, a vision of progress. Work in Progress. It’s not raining anymore. The sky has shrugged off every sign of rain and so has the litter of puppies at my feet, the sun’s too bright and obvious, only my umbrella is dripping wet, looking totally out of the place. In a few minutes the raindrops on my arms will transform into sweat.

 

A few automated steps and i find myself taking the corner seat in an auto. We wait for other commuters. The driver, friendly, initiates a conversation, the weather, my destination, small talk, before suggesting i should cover my cleavage as confidently as he would ask me for a change. The air steadies itself. A command has been passed. I obey. Three thoughts trail one after another: glass bottles, iron rods, mother’s paranoia. Another woman huddles in beside me and we are on the move. For the rest of the journey my mind plays with a rubric’s cube which when solved would correctly spell the word entitlement. The humid air does little to clear my head.

 

***

 

The bus with its crowded belly rattles along its routine course, burping out passengers here and there. The rubric’s cube is annoying, I attempt to replace it with music and find a shrub of bougainvillea flowering on a fence. I want one for myself.

 

Now I am in the audience, now a motion picture has come to life: A huge white mansion with a nameplate in bronze and tiled courtyard, two securities holding position. The government hospital standing tall with renovated gates, reminding us as we pass, “I have served your kind for so and so many years”. Surrounding him his illegitimate children – food stalls selling diarrhea. And then, the traffic. Countless colorful beetles before the bus, honking, waiting.

 

We take one of the lefts from the convergence of the five streets, and we’re onto a street that celebrates and sustains life. I speak of Haatibagan and all she has to offer to the middle-class, provided they are into the bargain. Curtains and draperies rushed and replaced by cushions, plates, plastic flowers. Every stall tries to get up-close and personal, asking quizzically, you sure I have nothing you need? A trinket? A pair of shoes that fit, a fancy bag to shield Woolf from the rain? Before I can answer we move on to another scene: a man whips it out and brands the wall. I avert my eyes.

 

When I reach where I’m supposed to be, my cousin’s there to receive me. The movie has stopped abruptly, we are engrossed in a conversation. We are now the characters. She has a day off from duty, I have a few days off, she is making money, I am not. And jokes and laughter till we reach her place, and I eat all that she has lovingly cooked for me.

 

I ransack her bookshelf after lunch.The neon cover of a book seizes attention. It’s Bukowski. Post Office. I have heard this story before. I have heard the narrator speak of drudgery, routine, unfulfilled ambitions, racecourse, women and alcohol, breast piece and whiskey, his tone confessional. I have witnessed his fantasies about crazy women in see-through negligee and no brassiere who provoke him and then scream RAPE while he does what he was urged to do. There’s nothing new for me to learn here.

 

The rain and the sun keep arm-wrestling and no one wins till the sky changes colors from tangerine to brown to black like a rotting orange. We make our own island on the wet terrace with a mat, watch the factory chimneys breathe out more clouds. They obediently join their flock and hover near the horizon like shadows of the trees beneath them. Farther from the horizon, above our heads, patches of blue fight for their place reducing the orange clouds to stretches of mud. Islands. As below so above. When all colors merge into a singular black, I see Venus shining quietly in a corner.

 

Back in the room, life’s limited. My sister and I dress to go out for dinner, I put on the same clothes and ask her how do I look. She eyes me carefully and suggests I should place cotton balls in certain places inside my clothes, to make parts of myself less visible, because if i didn’t draw attention by existing, I’d perhaps be left alone in autos.

 

I accept the cotton balls and ask for some Band-Aids. I realize my feet didn’t shrink during the journey. My shoes didn’t grow to accommodate them. I notice the blackening blisters.

 

 

Letters i don’t write

I spread a white page on my desk, place the globe on it, leaving enough space for all I have to say beyond its outlines. I tear a piece of monsoon cloud, make it rain on the edge, a puddle to a lake to an ocean. I pluck some of my roots, polish them over years, now they are made of nothing but my dreams. My roots are now a boat,every breath a ghostly sail, together they cross oceans without moving an inch. The boat brings you a treasure chest, full of words unsaid. You search for letters I don’t write, then set it back to the sea.

Namesakes

Have you

Seen how the trees transform

through the seasons:

 

Bare skeleton arms wrapped in snow-woven mufflers; embroidered with icicles sharp and fragile; cold, like a grown-up heart, a tree, in Winter.

 

Bathed in fragrance that makes a heart clench; stops time in the middle of a busy street, wondering…a nip in the air still, defensive but not quite, cold but not quite, unsure about the leaves, should they grow? Could they? A tree, in Spring.

 

A Gold scarf about the neck, time to recover the time lost, time to get things done, time to try to get things done, and make space for diversions when the things fail; diversions: they are important. A fruit here a flower there and perhaps the lost time can be recovered. Summer has no time for the remembrances of Winter. Summer but has time for reveries. Of flowers and fruits and creepers and crawlers that thrive clinging onto the tree like hope, the green mosses which now paint the bark. Tattoos, anyone? Embracing the old, evolving some more, anyone? Summer, a tree, in Summer.

 

Monsoon arrives to complete the evolution. The tree stands its place, drenched, looking down, watching the grasses get greener, basking in the earthly smell that reminds one of home. Home is the self. And looking up from the self sees how the hair has grown, how the branches are heavy with leaves. The tree in monsoon is a stranger to the tree in winter. They only share a name. Strangers. Namesakes.

 

With Autumn we have one complete revolution. Autumn, the rebel, full of self of substance of doubts of questions. Full of zeal to ask the questions. Full of patience to wait for answers. Full of digressions. Aware, of looming Winters. Autumn with red and orange and yellow vibrant leaves, Autumn with violet dusks of chirpy birds and tranquil nights of starless skies. Autumn comes with wisdom. The roots grow stronger and shorter and the branches spread far and wide, growing by inches. The tree wishes to uproot itself and gallop about the garden the street the terraces the unpaved narrow alleys. Out of joy, celebrating…what? One complete revolution. Life after death.

 

The tree of Autumn vaguely remembers Monsoon but with all the hustle-bustle can hardly remember who she was past Monsoon. Or past Summer. Or past Spring. Winter she remembers with a shiver, but not who she was last Winter.

 

The tree of one season is a stranger to the tree of another. And so am I. Namesakes.