the scent of death




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

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


bluest eye or the night of many


There are lights on either side of the wall. One beaded along a string, the other lone and sharp. There’s a fan between both, one that makes the sound that puts me to sleep. It has not managed to do so successfully today. There’s a mirror in front of me and behind me. They are placed so they do not reflect each other. When I wake up, I can tilt my head a little to the left to see myself in the mirror. It usually prompts me to get out of bed and head to the little bathroom the size of a closet. The little mirror in the little bathroom is clear. I look at my face more closely. If I wake up too early or sleep too much there are little bags under my eyes. If I smile they make my eyes disappear into a soft cushioned couch of flesh. There are deep wide pores on either side of my nose, a nose that rises high and spreads wide separating my face in uneven halves.

The bed is wide and leaves only a two inch gap between both walls if I had to position it in the centre. I do not. I am afraid I will fall over. Now I only fall over one side. Besides ,the cold of the wall also helps putting me to sleep. I raise both feet high up till it touches the string lights. Today it is much too cold to do so. Underneath my bed is a long drawer. I have never seen its ends. I see its beginnings frequently. For nights that are long, which they usually are, the drawer is filled with wrappers and clear plastic boxes, brightly coloured packets and rubber bands from stale chips. There’s never anything there. But the drawer is opened frequently at nights.
The phone rests underneath a pillow. A few dozen times at night, I bring it out and place it on my side. Each time I change my side, the phone shifts position too. No one calls. But just in case. Sometimes there’s a blue light and I wake up immediately. It’s nothing. My phone does that sometimes.
The string light has been switched on to trick me into believing I’m in the kind of room and I am the kind of person who will now sleep restfully. Still, I do not sleep. I switch on the light in the bathroom. At night, the light is clearer above the mirror. I look much the same. I come up with a dream, it’s no good. I come up with the worst things, I kill off most of my family and go through entire funerals. Sometimes if it’s someone I like that I kill, I cry, and that puts me to sleep. But by now everyone’s had a few turns, so there’s little novelty to provoke tears.
I imagine my hair in tight curls. I imagine I have to count all the curls to make sure it stays the same way. The curls are sheep and the sheep are curls. One jumps over the wall. Then another. Then another. Then another. Then another. Beloved. It’s the bluest eye, it’s the bluest eye. Then another. Then another.

tHe SToryTEller and The IntRodUctioN


Like many people, my relationship with my father has been a complex one. Or atleast, for the sake of telling a story in a storylike way it is best to describe the relationship that way. One cannot deny its complexity, which I alone can verify in any case. The complexity of our relationship comes from both of us being objects of fascination to each other, often becoming caricatures of our roles as daughter and father. But not the good sort of caricatures of daughter and father but the poor sort, one always lacking in feature to be the good sort.
The good sort I believe comes to some use as reference in this particular tale of telling. The sort that has acquired the cringworthy comparison of Princess and Hero. Daughters as princesses and fathers as heroes of the daughters who are princesses. The reason I say this may be a useful point of reference is not to simply signify that my relationship with my father is far from any princess-hero rubbish, which it most certainly is- far from, that is. In an odd sense of term however this father of mine has played a particular kind of hero in many stories I have told. Mainly because it is the hero himself who has narrated many of the stories I simply repeat- and admittedly not relayed that they were all from another source. With this attribution, I must comment on how many times heroes narrate their own stories as heroes. One may say that this is a particular trait of heroism- to sing of one’s own valour, lest another may hesitate.
My father is a gifted storyteller. In that, I have secured my opening line to a story of my own telling which characterises him as the storyteller. This ploy has worked one too many times if I may say so myself. To what may face some derision if he were to be in the know, everytime I use this ploy it is to cast this father of mine as the unfortunate anti-hero to justify my politics. He becomes a villainous casteist, the ‘benevolent oppressor’, the misogynist, the patriarch, the manipulator and the easily manipulated. Now you see what I mean by not fitting into the princess caricature. At this point, my father who is a gifted storyteller would turn up his nose and tone filled with condescension point out to me that a story written in complicated sentences cannot be much of a story at all. Which mine are. His stories are long and end in other stories, but one may notice that his sentences are not long. They also have that particular feature of daddies who are heroes and are not, where the sentences trail when imbued with some emotion. To find completion would be horrendous and end in abrupt tellings of tales.
As the object of my stories, this father has played hero in all stories where I make a case against said heroism. I imagine that in all his long hours alone at home, he spins tales of me as the object of his stories as well. A princess who is anything but. He must in his long stories put me in various scenarios where I have not been a princess to illustrate how I must not be seen as one. In these tales I imagine, that as a gifted storyteller with an immense talent for description he will dress me in flowery pants and red lisptick. My red lipstick has become a source of some worry to him. The flowery pants were a mistake he made on my 10th birthday. In these tales he concocts while sitting on the dull grey sofa cover he chose, I must have long arguments about communism, economics and the best way to cut mangoes in the English he resents my command over.
The few times our eyes meet reluctantly over discussing steel plates at lunch, our individual tales of princesses and heroes collapse into the mindless mundane. My relationship with this father of mine is complex I imagine, because we are used to our distaste of each other in flowery pants and misogynist triumph.

*image from The Storyteller, Evan Turk
off late i’ve had this strange feeling. it’s a strange feeling i’ve been having about my house. every morning i wake up and everything is fine. once i know everything is fine and i go down for breakfast there it is again. there it is again this strange feeling. that strange feeling about my house. my house is getting bigger. it is getting bigger every night. every night when i sleep my house is growing. growing wide and growing long, growing long and getting tall. so tall that i know i won’t be be able to tell the difference between ceiling and sky. so wide that i know my mum is getting thinner by the day. so long that the resident pet is beginning to look like a hot dog on a stick. my house is growing too big for me, too big for me to find its corners and know its ends. too big for anyone at all. best of all no one seems to see it at all.
off late i’ve had this strange feeling. it’s a strange feeling i’ve been having about my house. every morning i wake up and everything seems just a bit odd. once i know the oddness is everywhere i go down for breakfast. there it is again this strange feeling. that strange feeling multiplied by a hundred. my house is getting smaller. it is getting smaller every night and every day. every day when i’m away it finds a way to shrink, every night when i’m asleep it’s just an inch smaller. getting shorter and getting thinner, getting thinner and getting narrower. so narrow i can barely squeeze my way down the stairs. so short my mum’s idlis look like melons. my house is getting too small for me, too small for me to fit my little toe in, too small for me to climb out of the doors and crawl under the gate. too small for anyone at all. best of all no one seems to mind at all.

Raw mango dreams

Day 1

It’s raining by the time I reach the bridge. Under me is the Nila. On both sides. On my right is the broken bridge. I wonder if someone fell through it when it broke. It’s raining heavily, each drop heavy and full. I look at her, she’s barely there. It’s the first rains I think, she will emerge soon enough.

Day 2
It’s raining again. We stop to pay the toll fee. The new bridge was built years ago, but they still collect the toll fee. It’s Rs 3 for both ways. Crossing the bridge we reach a different district altogether. Is it a different her in this district? I look down, she’s barely there. Sand, sand and more sand.
Day 6
Two drops, one on each shoulder. It hasn’t rained in a few days. Evening walks have become more regular now. Today I took the narrow bridge that crosses over fields. I imagined the grass beneath sitting on a bed of water. If I fell over, each foot would feel get enveloped in wet mud and water. It’s going to rain. I wonder if she’s arrived yet. I wait for another drop to fall, this time right on my forehead. There’s a peacock, a kingfisher and a cow on one side of the field. The side where the sun is setting. I turn and walk home.
Day 22
It has rained all night. There is no power at home. I lie down in my box-like room, windows wide open. But the air is still and I begin to sweat. There’s a single green mango, hanging from the tree outside. I lay staring at it. There’s not much else to do, on a balmy afternoon but wait for it to rain again. I imagine getting up and going toward the window. I reach my hand out, squeezing it between the rods of the window and pull the branch toward me. The mango is not easy to pluck, it’s nowhere near ripe enough. I pull and twist and tug and pluck it. The branch swings back sharply, the leftover rain from the leaves spraying into the room. I imagine going back to bed and biting into the raw mango, it’s tartness not causing the slightest twitch on my face. I eat till the seed is white and bare. The trees outside begin to sing in chorus. It rains. I sleep.
Day 25
Endless green stretches out in front of me, to the sides, leaving a trail behind me. It’s a bright green as if every single leaf holds a drop of water. I wonder what a blade of grass would taste like. Green, I suppose. I walk hastily. It’s almost irritating how long this is taking. I wonder why I am waiting, I didn’t come for this. But then again I can’t imagine having been here and not having seen her. I see glimpses through the trees now. I’ve forgotten where the path gives way and leads down to the bank. When I find it,I find sand. I keep walking on the sand. Someone is doing yoga, that someone is White. I walk till my feet hit water. And then there’s just enough water to slip between my toes. There’s more ahead but even that holds little promise. On the other side there are some women walking down to take a bath. They seem to have enough water to take a dip in the river. But she isn’t here, not for me anyway. Not today anyway. Not the her I want to see anyway.
Day 28

I don’t step out today. I didn’t yesterday, or the day before. And maybe the day before that. I don’t know why I’m not going back. Maybe I will tomorrow. It’s what I said yesterday. It rains everyday, every few hours. Sometimes a drizzle, sometimes with thunder and lightening. The mango has fallen. I stare at the empty branch and will another one to grow. It hasn’t yet, so I continue staring.

Why I shouldn’t sleep as much
For years I have been told that I must sleep early at night. I don’t ever remember being able to sleep fully or early or peacefully. I was a restless sleeper, a reluctant sleeper, a sleepwalker and an avid dreamer. The joys of 8 hours of sleep always sounded like a vomit-coloured pill that I didn’t want to take to better myself. But off late- perhaps these are signs of ageing- I have found myself being envious of sound sleepers. I find myself increasingly needing those 8 hours of sleep to feel slightly awake for the 12 hours of work ahead of me. So I sleep. I sleep only a few hours after I reach home from work everyday. The results that I’d assumed would be miraculous and gratifying, aren’t nearly as amazing as everyone made it sound. I find myself, instead,waking up to guilt. Guilt for not having done that extra bit of work before going to bed. Guilt for not having finished that bottle of water like I used to, after dinner. Guilt for not having watched a whole film in weeks. Guilt for not finding time to read the book that haunts my dreams. Guilt for even not sleeping light or restless enough to be conscious of my dreams. So I sleep. I sleep fully, I sleep peacefully. I sleep early.
Why I shouldn’t sleep as much
To read the book I can’t seem to finish and then read ten more. To watch the films that I add to my list but never watch. To dream because without dreams I don’t seem to be able to imagine while I am awake. To write even, because writing needs the quietude, solitude and the romance of the night that the broadest brightest ray of sunlight refuses to inspire. To  work a little, because my work requires the creativity that a workspace- in all its charms- cannot provide. To have those midnight snacks, because my favourite biscuits seem to disappear and I believe elves steal my share at night. To send those mindless texts to ex-lovers, overly emotional ones to friends long gone, and highly inappropriate ones to those that cannot be. To cry, because a good cry- and I swear by this- gets rid of toxins and is akin to a great facial. To walk restlessly and explore my house at night, because it comes to life in new and frankly quite eerie ways in the dark. To even perhaps sleep fewer hours, because it makes sleep itself a thrill I can seldom indulge in.