Dear _ ,

I find that as soon as I begin to write as if in a letter, I write differently. As if the letter might reach someone, maybe you. Today, I am wondering what it is like to have a day suitable for a novel. I have not written for more than two months now and still find no particular inclination to write.

I assumed that the romance of the place, the birds, the trees, the lack of internet even would drive me to write. I imagined writing passionate letters to you, continuing half-written stories and hoping that this page would be filled with a long list of vignettes from the extraordinary things that happen here everyday in the nothingness. I imagined I would read such excellent novels that they would serve as my muse even if I were shut up inside a tiny box-like room. I imagined that if I were present again in the same environment that produced writing that has lasted more than a year, I would write again- afresh, anew. The Usha ceiling fan runs well, still. The house is still as decapitated as before- leaky roof, wet walls, lights that don’t work, doors termite-ridden and littered with the kind that creeps and crawls let in everyday through little holes in mosquito meshes and little cracks in the walls. I take bath regularly with frogs and a lizard or two. You have to keep an eye on them, it’s a staring contest until one falls on your head and you vigorously shake it off. They splat, don’t fall, have you noticed?

I have seen things here that I have never before experienced in life, yet I feel unable to write. One could say that I have been weary by the end of everyday after having been out in the humidity. My fingers and toes swell up to little bulbs, causing my little toe much pain as it presses against my shoes. When I return at night, I am exhausted but also filled with the fullness of the day. Then why can’t I write? Where do the words go? There are plenty little spaces for them to slip through and into the forest. Is that what happens? It’s possible. Because it’s just as full of sound as always, the trees stay quiet only until they begin long periods of music. The birds sound cacophonous as if something has happened but they are the only thing that is happening. Yet, I have nothing poignant to say about them.

I’m quite melancholic about how unable I feel to write. And then I think of how beautifully you write and feel a touch of self-pity. There are no raw mangoes on the tree outside even though the branch hangs low. The smell of mangoes and the rain is distinctly missing- these could all be reasons for the lack of words. As for the reading I hoped to do, I have been reading some and even though I am not struck by anyone’s writing as such it captivates me so. That’s where I found this little trinket to begin the letter, what does it mean to have a day suitable for a novel? Is it filled with nothingness or is it filled with events?

The river, by the way is just as exquisite.

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the scent of death

 

Flora_Sinensis_-_Sum_Xu_AND_Tortoise

 

The scent of death is warm, moist, and always slightly crumpled
Bundled up in fists like loose earth, shredded like petals of rose
It is the smell of marigolds that accidentally burned in the pyre
And violets that shriveled on tombstones

It is that spectral whisper you catch, amidst the chaos of the ritual
Or a moment you take to taste her breath while in throes of passion
It is restless like a flock of birds fluttering their wings in alien lands
It is also familiar, like the morning newspaper, at the end of the day

It moves slowly and carefully, like the hands of a scavenger
hunting for bones, in the ashy aftermath of sacred fire
Or, it can be swift and jarring – intrusive – like memories
of dull dinners, tasteless sex, and imminent partings

Gloriously romantic, like romping lovers
touched by a hint of melancholy
under the winter sun
next to the creek

Or, it can come
like an even feeling
on a night of blue
nothingness

Welling up in your shimmering eyes,
it flows down the length of my back
I taste it between your thighs
And always find it smeared
on your limitless lips

The scent of death is not climatic
It is not an interval either
It simmers like longing
stretching its limbs
forever in ecstasy
like a poem
interrupted

 

***
फूंक-फूंककर किए सारे तारे किनारे
अम्बर की स्याही में डुबोकर ऊँगली हमने
देखो, सफ़ेद कागज़ पर काले काले तारे उतारे हैं

 

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***

 

 

आकाश के टुकड़े नहीं होते
हर टुकड़े का अपना आकाश होता है
ननिहाल के छज्जे से आकाश को देखो
नानी का सूती आँचल नज़र आता है

 

 

rabbit holes in velvet fabric

I am at a loss for words.

Sometimes it is like that feeling – when you wake up from a nightmare and try to call out to someone but the words are stuck in your throat. You are trying to push them out, but you still seem to be stuck too deep inside your body for them to come out.

Sometimes it is like my voice has just been taken away. And that I should listen now, to the wordlessness. My voice will come to me suddenly, sometimes. In an auto ride, when the driver and I start wondering if there could be just one lover made for us in this world. As I leave, I tell him my favourite line from Devdas, from the mouth of Jackie Shroff, “D se dil bhi hota hai, d se dard bhi, in dono ka rishta bahut gehraa hota hai bondhu.

He nods.

We return to being at a loss for words.

As a child, I spent most of my time in silence. I read in all the gaps of the day. But at night I would go up to the terrace, and lie down and stare at the night sky. With each passing year, the city would swallow more of the sky. But when I lied down on the terrace, it didn’t feel like the sky could be that far away.

Just within my reach.

…stretch my arm…a little more…and maybe I could…just touch…a little…brush against…the sky…

What would it feel like?

like velvet, like felt, like malai, like the skin between my thighs

The sky robbed me of language. Stars don’t need the kind of language I am swallowed into.

But how many men and women through centuries and centuries have looked up at you and written love poetry? As if the sky could care. As if the stars would care. Why won’t they give me poetry too?

I am at a loss for words.

Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 12.07.27 PM.png
Image from A Popular Treatise on Comets (1861) by James C. Watson

 

छोटे से भी छोटा होना

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Pomegranate_poem_drawing 1
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दादी,
तुम इतना धीरे धीरे चलकर भी
थक कैसे जाती हो?
बेटा,
तुम मेरी गति नहीं
पैर देखो- छोटे हैं
स्कूल का यूनिफार्म था
निक्कर के साथ एक बेल्ट थी
शर्ट के साथ एक बैज
निक्कर और शर्ट का
रंग नीला और नीला था
शर्ट का नीला दिन का आसमान था
निक्कर का नीला रात का समंदर
स्याही के धब्बे समंदर की जेब में
छिप जाते थे
लेकिन आसमान के कपड़े पर
साफ़ नज़र आते थे
सुनते सुनते चुप रहना
और बोलते बोलते सुनना
सुनते सुनते ज़रा रुककर बोलना
और बोलते बोलते ज़रा रुककर
सुनना
सुबह सुबह जब पटरी पर
गाडी खिसकी
तब कोयल की कूक
इंजन की सीटी
में जा घुली
अकेले घर से निकलना
और पहली बार शहर आना
शहर से लौटकर घर न जाना
शहर में पहली बार
टूथपेस्ट का ख़त्म हो जाना
लोहे के सख्त ब्रिज पर दौड़ती
चलती ट्रेन की खुली खिड़की से
नानी का थमाया सिक्का
गोदावरी में छालना
और उसके गिरने की आवाज़
का इंतज़ार करना
इस शहर में
पतझड़ के आने का
कोई तय समय नहीं
और जाते हुए
उसे मैंने कभी देखा नहीं

छोटे से भी छोटा होकर
भीतर के भीतर जो
भीतर वाला कमरा है
उसकी बड़ी सी खिड़की से
कूदकर आकाश में जा गिरना
और घास पर लुढ़कना

 

You, are winter

Kahlil Gibran_Love_Winter

The Spring is deceptive – a fleeting orchestra of smells and sights. You can have it all, it says, and you recklessly go around plucking until the sun burns everything down. Summers irritate me. They are harsh and sweaty and yet, for some reason unbearably bright and cheerful. You try to laugh around, while an itch creeps up the unreachable middle of your back. Rains are humbling – they are not content with looking at you from far away. The drizzles invite you, and the thunders excite you. The rain washes all the plastic colours away and paints the landscape afresh. The destruction is romantic, the creation passionate. Rains teach you consequence. You can run naked in the fury of the season and return shivering – cold to your bones. The autumn nurses your heart. Separation is inevitable, it says. That when you fall, you fly. You are like the tree trunk – empty and naked, grateful for the occasional, distant warmth of the sun. Like the leaves, you are free and vulnerable to the winds. You feel coarse and dry, and yet, you know that it is the only way to break down. You know that no amount of trampling can destroy you completely. You can be broken down to bits as minute as particles of dust. And that like dust you can move slowly, and calmly and settle down. You move and you settle down, you settle down and you move. Autumn is not a season of many colours. It is a season of many shades of a single colour. In the several hundered shades of ochre, I look for my own loneliness.

Then winter comes, and says – you have been obsessing about the wrong thing. Loneliness is a futile figment to chase. For once, try solitude. Like your body, your solitude is your own. The warmth two bodies is never the same and every body nurtures a hundered different currents of heat. You touch the tips of your toes and are startled by their coldness. You reach for the gaps between them and find little pockets of warmth. Slowly, winter makes you map the temperature of your entire body – every curve a different degree. When two bodies meet in winters, they are not shocked at how differently they feel. Every touch is a recognition of your own patterns. Winter says, intimacies are for sharing, not devouring. You cannot taste without being tasted. You cannot consume without being consumed. You cannot speak without listening. Over the course of night, each body will go through its own trembles and its own silences. And the two pairs of feet will find their own corners under the blanket of love.

You, my love, are winter.

 

 

*painting: Kahlil Gibran

 

 

Weird Vintage Christmas Ads (35)
He sang me a song

One sweet, one rank
He gave me a rose
One red, one blue
He saved me some bread
One green, one white
He lent me some money
Some bruised, some scored
He bought me a dress
It’s your birthday, he said
He bought me a cake
You turned twenty-two, he said
He blew out the candles
He tore my dress
It was mine in the first place, he said
I made him some coffee
I bought it, he said
I wrote him a poem,
The music is mine, he said
He built me a kitchen
I strangled a chicken for you, he said
A bottle of rum for a Christmas cake, he said
A bauble for your pretty little head, he said
A bell for your thin little neck, he said
A buck for your pain, he said
I carved him some chicken, I sliced him some bread
I poured him some rum, I baked him some cake
Then I put my darling to bed, and cut off his head
The knife was his, he would have said
One head for him, two for me

a page from an old diary, 118 months ago

in two days it will rain

ten things will arrange themselves
ten things will arrange themselves in rows
ten columns will cut across the ten rows
a hundred images will place themselves in ten rows and columns
one thousand twenty-two words will accompany them
 in a few minutes the clock will die
it’s been there for ten years, for ten years it was nine twenty-five
a bonsai plant will appear by the window some day
and that will then live for ten years
i may buy it at nine twenty-five and the dying clock will say it is nine twenty-five
in six pages the book will end
it will last me only a few months
three hundred and fifty-seven pages lasted me two days
there is a stalk on the cover of the book
you have to go back three hundred and seventy-two pages to see it
at nine twenty-five i will finish this book
two of the six pages were blank
in ten small light bulbs the year will come to an end
it goes around a plastic christmas tree by the night stand
a bonsai christmas tree that will live more than ten years.
The light bulbs and the clock compete in a tick-tock to the end
in three hundred and sixty five days they say,
the twenty-fifth line of the poem will be done