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
There are two reasons why you’d find a crowd in front of a shop in Kerala. One, it’s pouring: aunties with their big black umbrellas, hold up their sarees as the roads turn into rivulets; men with their well-oiled hair and their lungis tucked above their knees, won’t risk riding their bikes in this rain. The only other reason is that there is a strike/ a hartal, and there’s a queue of men outside an unassuming looking rickety old shop, with a small board in yellow that reads TODDY. Today it’s both. In the peak of the monsoon season, Kerala rid of its tourists and its sweltering heat takes a break and watches the rains. Life comes to a standstill. Nothing here works when there’s a strike and no one moves when it rains. In a country that celebrates religious holidays every other week, communist Kerala depends on the rains and hartals for a celebratory glass of toddy and fish fry.
Kerala, a small coastal state in the south of India is a place of indescribable beauty, and describable cliches. There’s green everywhere, in every possible shade- the green of the paddy fields, the green of the mango too raw, in the peacocks, in the hills, in the moss on the streets, in the ponds and the luridly painted houses. It’s an artist’s muse. But that is the tourist’s Kerala. The Kerala that is my native place and feel forced to visit every year is that of pettiness, party politics, overbearing relatives and houses that reek of fish and wetness. A place that rings of familiarity while still being completely alien to me. My romance with Kerala, comes from a nostalgia that doesn’t exist. Nostalgia for a past I created through stories.
My father is a brilliant storyteller. His stories of growing up in his hometown were coloured with the idea of growing up in a large ancestral home- a joint family household that owned most of the land in the village. He had 5 brothers and two sisters and numerous cousins for company, they played in mangroves, had little interest in school, and had servants to cater to every need. He also spoke of times of strife, of experiencing poverty as the landlord system changed after Independence, the caste system being abolished, the family separating. Having grown up in a big city and never having seen his ancestral home, this was the Kerala I dreamt of. The reality only disappointed me year after year. I wanted an elephant in my courtyard, a temple in my backyard, and to walk down streets my family owned. We merely retained the name, as new houses were built on old land and old servants became the new elite— nouveau riche, if you will. It was class over caste.
excerpt from Vidooshakan- the Harlequin
Somewhere in the hills, there is a cottage without our name on its door front. My love, you and I will find our romance in daily chores and shades of silence.
When it is cold, we will dust old sweaters and discard them for blankets and the warmth of our bodies. When it is wet, we will go outside to hold each other steady in wet mud. You can write and I can read and we will make our lives of book shelves and papercuts.
There will be ink on your fingers, on my neck and my waist. Green glass bangles will break when we cook. Rain to wipe our sweat, salt to satiate the spice.