29 June 2017

Rain Time

These days, the only measure
of time
is between when the rain stops
and starts again. My ear is always
waiting, it seems, for the murmur
of drizzle on mango leaves outside
my window, or the incessant gunshots
of hard rain thundering on the roof.

In the garden, the roses try not to drown.
The wind rushes through the bougainvillea,
the bottlebrush, the amaltas, the mango trees.
Plants fly off our terrace. The rain hits our house
like a war, and I cannot hear my parents talk.

The days are long and empty, and I never
wear a watch. Darkness gathers in all rooms.
A limp light fills and empties the house
as and when it wants. There is no measure
and no reason to measure, time collects
at the bottom of shallow pools on the road
and makes no demands. Time is off on
summer vacation, on monsoon break.

A strange freedom lines the air.
Sometimes the sun emerges suddenly
and everything outside becomes
muddy and gold

13 June 2017


It is strange to know that my grandmother
is still dead
even after all this time — just because
she died then. Like it is strange to know
that I will always
be woman
just because I am one.

It is not like I can imagine it any other way.

Yet sometimes it is hard to accept that this
is unending — this skin that is mined for meaning
until I am ready to shed it and hand it over
to the next man who looks.

If there is a wish, let it be this:
if I must be woman, let me
at least
be defiant.

Let me stand on the streets 
like a man — not graceless,
but with a swagger to

shake nations.

20 May 2017

Delicate Day

All of a sudden I am made aware

of how people open up to each other
only in rawness, how every word is a flower
offered to the other. Today, we work hard

to hold the spaces between ourselves
delicately. Most of the things we say to each other
are not held down by words. Words are dangerous, we realise,

each sentence left half-broken and incomplete while we watch
each other think. It is a long and hard thing, to be human,
to want to know the world, to want to know each other.

But words are also lovely, delicate in so many ways: we lie
on a bed full of sun and read poetry to each other
in wonder. The words wash us open and leave us aching,
new dreams dripping down our spines like dew. It is not
about knowing anymore. We let the afternoon envelope us.

The world seems well-scrubbed, almost new.

Context and meaning has vanished: so we must then
understand everything again, start right from the ground.
The self is fading, a strange figure at the horizon, hard to
recognise today. Other things have become more tangible:
the electricity between us three, the talking without words,
or the giant clouds propped up against sky. Beauty suddenly

has become so real. In a corner of S's room, the plant gestures
to me in such deep intimacy I almost want to weep.
The moss in the AC vents waves to me gently.

The next day it feels as though nothing happened,
as though these lessons are hard earned and once is
not enough. I must climb these mountains many times
must re-remember
again and again
how lovely and soft the world is.

7 May 2017

a quickie

as always, I write only
in desperate times.

when my literature teacher asks us
with a smirk - do you miss me
when I am not here? the right
answer (we learn partly) is that
we miss her even when she is
here. we miss each other all the time.

not in a purple or hazy or sentimental way,
although that too. she means it about words
and angles and reflections, how we look
to each other like flowers aching for sun,
but find nothing. no solace, no meaning.

another literature teacher from the past
was kinder. but she too told me, face
lined with compassion - no two people
are ever having the same conversation.
so i wonder - do we all always
just bounce off each other
like badly angled lighting
on a strange stage?

oh, words, words, words.
we hit and we miss, and hit again.
I give up trying to make sense
of conversations, and let my essay
breathe like a fresh puddle in rain,
all muddied and muddy. we are not
reaching anywhere today. nor tomorrow.

5 April 2017

Things I Do Not Remember

Dear M.,
It is strange to write this poem and turn you
into a thin portion of my long life, a memory
from the backyard. There are so many hours
that we gave over to each other in innocence.
Growing up was a strange and mammoth task
that we were going to do together: my house
was always welcoming, wooden floors and suave
architect parents straight out of a picture book
you never read. I never asked about your parents.
We never went to your house. I do not really
remember it, except in fleeting images: it was
a dingy room, and I was uncomfortable.

We were young and we talked all evening but
we never talked about how we were different.

The words I am using in this poem are leaving
such a strange taste in my mouth, something to do
with ruin and sadness.

This poem pretends to be an exercise
in memory, but perhaps it is, instead,
an exorcism. Or a monument of guilt.
I do not remember your father. I think he was
a plumber. Your brother, as much mine in the
tangled arms of our childhood, must have grown
by now. I can pretend I do not remember his name,
but of course I do. I remember everything.
I remember your smiling mother with sweet
Nepali eyes. She was a maid in the doctors’
house down the lane - or ‘house help’ - what is
the word? - but we never wondered then.
Perhaps you do not wonder now. I hope
you never have to.

When I meet you now, I worry
the Hindi sounds stilted in my voice.
When somebody says old friend, or
somebody from my childhood, I think
always only of you, never of the fat girls
in puffy dresses who I met at birthday parties,
never of the tall boys in torn denim whose eyes
I could never meet. You, with straight black hair
and eyes that narrowed into happy slits, I met you
every day. Things I have almost forgotten, but
not quite: our various childhood obsessions, how
we spent every long afternoon in the lazy sun,
how we swung from the bottlebrush branches,
did cartwheels on the street, made houses
out of cardboard, and sat on the white swing
in the backyard, thin legs dangling, and talked.
But now, if I cannot find my tongue in the
language we lived in, how will I tell you

This is a monument of guilt, a document
of privilege that claws at my heart when I
am not listening. My father tells me to meet
you. You are in college too. Your english isn’t
bad at all, but who the fuck am I to tell you that?
I cringe, curl up, curse history. In my literature
classes, I study the subaltern. I hope you never
read this poem. I don’t know if you will understand.
There is nothing to understand. The anthropology
of this country leaves me reeling, and I have nothing
to say in my defence. Sometimes in Delhi I go to
Khan Market in a crop top and drink sangria
in the early afternoon.

1 April 2017


After J. Estanislao Lopez

“All you can offer anyone suffering in the world is a sentence,
which is more often than not not enough” — of course, of course
this is true, but still it wrenches my gut every time, a rusted punch
right where it hurts. My mind is a strange ocean, and the more I learn
the deeper I swim. Language is the deep blue water I travel in:
there is no way of escaping it. This much I have learnt. My debts
to the world shall be paid in an economy of words, with sentences
I will build like monuments. It is all I have to my name, to my self.
The words create whole landscapes, and it is where I always return
to search for that most elusive dream in a human life: meaning.
The words are all I have to understand my small body and this
vast world, they are all I can offer to the small gods in prayer.
I want the words I write to be the shining lights of a harbour
for a stranger’s faltering boat, I want the words to carry me, to
save a drowning lover. The sentences I carve should be some kind
of solace, should be lamps of comfort for somebody, somewhere.
I have nothing else to give of myself but these strings of words.
O poet, do not tell me about my predestined failure in your words
sharpened like swords, do not reveal my helplessness to me
in the very language of my hope.

26 February 2017

summer and a boy

the strange sound and light show of summer returning to the world: the sudden heat of sun on my arms, or a breeze that doesn't sting, or the rustling of new leaves, or the aching blue of the sky.

I think I am less afraid to write even if nobody is listening.

part of it has to do with smiling at strangers, and part of it has to do with the way I want to hold his hand when he trembles in his sleep. I am finding more and more poetry hidden in the lining of his skin, and something about his grace overwhelms me, like when he is driving so effortlessly, absentmindedly biting his lip, a faraway look in his ocean eyes.

he is listening even when he is not listening, and the beauty of it all makes me want to rejoice.

summer is coming, and winter did not choke me. I am running at the world with open arms, trying to love it harder and harder, trying to rediscover childish joy in whatever ways I can. the pebbles, the sunsets, the sea. it is all glorious.