Thursday, 18 September 2014


Sometimes I am afraid I write too much about the Valley, talk too much about it.
I'm sure people get sick of me, you know. I'm sure I come off as strange.
I'm afraid that I'm so used to saying beautiful things about the Valley, that I can't see it for what it is any more. I'm afraid of the next time I go - what if it isn't everything I hold it to be?
I'm afraid of thinking about it too much, to be honest. I'm afraid of putting it down in words and images and sighs, because I don't want to steal away any of its magic.

And then some days, when I'm stealing away the last hour of sleep in bed, a liquid ache settles in my bones. What is this, prose or poetry? I don't know. I'm afraid of being overly sentimental - and I'm afraid that someday, I won't be. A liquid ache settles down in me, and my body hurts to be so far. So far in both space and time. My body hurts, I lie in bed and hold it to myself, my knees my arms my wavering heart. I'm on the precipice, somewhere important, it's a boundary a border an edge. I might cry. I might cry, and I don't know where these tears come from, and I try to pin it down, travel deep down the lines of my body to remember.

When I start to remember, that's when I ache.

I sit in class sometimes, paying attention, writing notes. In a cold windowless classroom, I might turn back for a second to listen to someone. They've raised their hand, they're talking about Shakespeare, they're talking about Hume and how he contradicts Plato, they're talking about how power distribution is the foundation of all political activity. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to learn. I see myself grow every day. But when I turn back, sometimes, I realize that I'm not there, I'm sitting in the library on a magnificent golden afternoon. The desk is under a window, and the window looks out onto a pond in the administrative block. I can see artwork on the softboard outside, and everybody who passes by and sees me smiles. I smile and wave. There are pink lilies in the pond, and a frangipani tree. Delicate white flowers have fallen on lilypads, on the gravel around the pond, and in the water itself. They float. Next to me are books which opened up so much to me, so many ways of thinking. These books are the reason I'm in this college right now, genuinely excited by Plato and Hume. My bag is on the floor, some books in the damp sunlight on the desk. I'm sure I'm working, but I rest for just a minute. I float.

One of my hiding places was between two shelves in the library, on the floor. Light filtered through shelves and dusty books, and nobody saw me there unless they looked. There were poetry books there, and I curled up in a corner, a part of the wall the straw mat the white shelves the books themselves. Pablo Neruda and Vikram Seth, Eliot and Wordsworth, obscure German and Native American poets - they all sat with me, silent. They let me discover them, devour them; in turn, I let myself be devoured by them. I let myself be devoured by their words, and then by the delicately worn books themselves, incurably romantic objects. I let myself by devoured by the library (curled up in corners so I was a part of it) and by the forest that surrounded it. I have been devoured by the people, the trees, the sky of that school.

I don't know what to do with the great swirling sea inside of me.

Today morning in bed, I felt like being kind to myself. I let myself remember. And when I let myself relive whole days in the Valley, everything comes alive: mornings where I wake up myself with the birds and the dawn floating in through my windows, evenings where I detached myself from the laughter and conversation to look up and watch the sky, Orion winking at me through the clouds. There's too much to remember, and I know that forest like the back of my hand. Every winding path, I can trace it on myself. My footsteps remember the uneven terrain, the steps, the rocks.

All my life, I will write about the Valley. I will write about the Valley even if I mistrust my writing, because that is all I can do when it hits me like a punch in the gut. It's all I can do when I look back and remember days filled with magic that seems unreal from where I am now, from where all the world is. It's all I can do because I am exhilarated when I think of the Valley, and I am unbearably sad, and Sylvia Plath told me that I will be okay as long as I can wrench a piece of hurt and beauty out of my life and put it on paper, that I will never crawl back home broken and defeated if I can make stories out of my heartbreak. I will write about the Valley because from where I am in my life, those seem like the happiest days that I will know. I don't know why - was it the people, the trees, the sky? Was it what those rambling paths awoke in me?

I will write about the Valley all my life, and I will search for ways to go back. I will go back, I know it, but it will never be the same, and that nostalgia (straight from its Greek derivative, "the pain of an old wound") will sit with me, both heavy and unbearably light, for all my life. There will never be enough to say about it. I will make paintings when I miss it, and fashion critical thinking essays justifying why Valley is home - although the answer is here already, solid and tangible, sitting inside me and smiling.

There is a liquid ache in my bones my voice my mouth my hands. There is a liquid ache, and I might spill over. How to explain that this is not rhetoric, this is something real and alive inside of me, a fire and a flood all at once? Perhaps on somebody else's tongue, these words will represent only pretense, artifice. On my tongue, these words are a desperate plea to the gods of expression. On my tongue, these words are all I have. Pause. Breathe. I have to go for class now. I won't let myself think of Valley for a few days - too much of me is ragged and fluttering in the wind right now. Let me gather myself, so I can begin again.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Nature of Desire

Words float down the breeze
to me. Across windowless cold classrooms.
'The nature of desire is such'
he says and I give myself
a cold hard look,
'that it is never ending'.

'The nature of desire...'
I test it on my tongue.
An earthy word, stable,
that settles like dust
on the sensual sound
of 'desire'. Wisdom
perhaps is the greatest
vice, gently pulling you
from side to side, open
to the storms of the world.
Screw this. I don't want
to know. (Who am I kidding?)

To know, to believe, to
understand, and then give way
to yourself to grow. I want to
be wise, and yet I also want to
possess you, and everything you
stand for. And not only you,
and not just in that way. I want
to hold on, desperately,
to every moment, every sight,
every limb of mine desperately screaming
'desire'. I desire beauty. I desire life,
and knowledge, and joy, and youth.
I desire every galaxy, every photograph,
every deep-veined leaf floating in the wind.
I desire - and I sit, on the other side
of the mirror, watching. I sit 
in the eye of my cyclone, listening
to myself think. I lie down 
in a golden field at sunset, and
fashion rhetoric from my words.
'The problem of possession', I say.
'The existential angst'. The grasses
lap like waves at my feet, blown astray
by the wild, wild wind. The sun rests momentarily
on the taut string of horizon, a deep orange orb
against sky.

I languish
in a fragmentary existence.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

To The Others

We can breathe meaninglessness
into anything. We don't even have to try.
We are children of the sun, all of you and I,
and if that is true then I'd
want to be caught
only in the night sky.
I want to be
far from a definition of myself
that includes your callous eye.

I want to be far from the
cracked beer bottles, far
from stubs in ashtrays.
I want to be far
from your whirlpool
of seductive smoke
strobe lights flashy cars angry mouths
spitting angry lyrics to angry beats
in an angry world.

it's fun to dance.
Sometimes, in the backseat
of a car zooming down a highway,
with the windows down
and the volume high, I'd smile at you
and your simply joys.
But what you stand for
every day, when all I see in my mind
are the children dying, and the
thousands of questions
that no-one will ever answer,
I can't stand you then.

There is war.
There is war, and that is why I must study,
do you understand? There are chickens
strapped to the back of trucks, and I must
fashion my ideals carefully every day
to see that I don't go wrong. There are rapists
and cynics and neo-liberalists and
there are those who are hopeless.
And I cannot unwind all this from around myself,
I cannot stop watching and thinking that there is
too much that is wrong with the world.
And I want to grow, and I want to learn
and be the absolute best person that I can
stretch myself to find in me.

I'm sorry. You and I,
we're from the very same boat.
It's just, I choose to dive deep into the sea
every day, and I get the feeling
that you don't.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ready to leave

I am ready to leave.
I have been ready to leave
for the longest time.

Still, dust-laden roads
line this city. The conversations
are tired; the sky a weary shade.
I am a stranger here.
I know only that pulsating screen that pulls me
like a planet, a dangerously divine orb.

My story gave up looking for nourishment here.
I lit it up from within, a vanilla candle in a ceramic frame,
casting a midnight dance of light and shadows,
upon the walls of my mind, within the belly of Time.

But I have a home (although it's not here,
in this deeply-bricked complacency
I hate within myself). I fell in love
with a forest at the edge of a city,
a thousand miles from here. And
that is where I will belong. For even
as I languish in the heart of a city
I never loved, my plot lines escape me.
They flutter in the cool wind of a Bangalore evening,
beneath the gently waving trees. My plot lines
are fragile, ragged, wild. They write me a poem
loose on a breeze, a vagabond of Love.

Now I'm leaving home, physically,
(and so in my mind, too). As I pack
my bags, brush my teeth, get into the car;
as I drive past the streets I never held close;
I must also leave what is home in my mind.
I will have to call out to the wind,
go rambling down loved paths to call back
my ragged nostalgia, my fluttering joys, my plot lines.
It's a relief to have found a place I can always return to.
It's strange to leave my house,
and not head to my valley of yearning.
It's strange, but I must do it anyway.
Who knows what I will find on my paths,
what deep-veined red leaves, what feathers,
what polished round stones, what stories?

It's good to keep moving. It's good to have hope.
It's a beautiful day, and I hope tomorrow is better.
I hope to find within myself all the magic I have sought,
and I hope to have the strength to keep seeking.

I'm ready to leave, it's good to keep moving.
I'm tip-toeing, balancing on a well-settled life. Packing away anchors,
(in my mind and out, in suitcases and backpacks and memories)
sipping the deep form of ocean from the hollows of my hands.
Now I'm putting up sails, bright yellow against a swaying shade of sky.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Where the poetry goes to die.

There is poetry in me.
In the gravity of the black alphabets
I am able to make sense of.
(I tell myself).

The windows mist up,
clear. The green outside
is fresh and crisp; waiting
on the clear wings of dawn.
But on a cloudy day, sometimes,
when I forget to be living a meaningful life.

I see the absolute
of a human life in search of beauty.

(I tell myself)
There is poetry in the feverish chaos
running in the wrinkles of an aging face.
In the cynicism that punctures
something important within me.
There is poetry, also,
in the deep well of stillness I feel in the wild.
And in the pulsating power of a harsh screen
that pulls me to it like a planet, there must be poetry,
in the malicious bubble
of complacency and lethargy
that fits around me like a glove.
There must be poetry in this maelstrom.

Some days, the storm is raging and the light harsh.
In the meandering mess of this mortal life,
in the rolls and loops and webs of stories,
relationships and people and arbitrary memories,
in the faith you must put in your existence
in order to survive, yes, make it through
another day, in the existential struggles of
crossing the road or having a meaningless conversation;
the futility hits you hard. Where it hurts.

What if
there is no poetry there?
What if I am able to, really, see the world
without the overbearing cloak of beauty
that I assign to it, surround it with?
"See the world for what it is" -
do you know what dangerous advice that is?
I sleepwalk through the hours. It is a desperate attempt
to hold on to sanity and purpose. I dive,
wade through the days and float through the nights,
hoping to come across an island, a salvation,
a catharsis to this ever-growing sea in my soul,
a veritable ocean of ephemeral silences, senseless rhythms.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


“If there is a knower of tongues here, fetch him;
There is a stranger in the city
And he has many things to say.”
[Mirza Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib]

He will say what he has to, of course,
but to learn to listen, that is the greatest trial and joy;
To know of love, that insidious stranger,
that magnificent word, to fall
willfully and with the grace
that love demands, and the surrender.
For on the other side
of reason and rationality
I often forget something important.
With all of my logic, my caution,
my 'self-awareness', my exhaustion;

Sometimes I still wade through my days
and float through my nights, and emerge,
dry driftwood,
untouched by the the ocean, caressed by no wind,
tossed wildly in ecstasy by no frothing waves.
I am, but a stiff white skeleton of what I might have been.
Safe, safe but with no grace. I learnt how to live
once, under the bowers of towering trees,
but in the callousness of rubble and city lights, I forget.

There is no grace
in the passing of time without the giving of myself, broken as I might be,
indiscriminately. There is no grace
in holding back, deliberating,
forgetting where a day began and where it is ending.
There is no joy in living this life if I live it hollow,
if the echoes ring back to me in my fragile dreams.

I worried I would forget
the massive vulnerability
I hold in myself, so carefully.

But it is a joy
to know that there is still grace.
There is grace in the newness you open within me.
Grace in the delicate fumbles in the dark,
in the wonderful awkwardness of
freshly born lovers. There is grace
in the notes of your classical guitar,
resting on my skin like gentle drops of dew.

There is a stranger in my city,
and I wish to know him. I will learn the tongues
and wait in the rain in a blue dress.
I will open myself to the skies, and my skin
won't be burned or numb. I want to feel the drizzle
slide off my arms, and I want to feel a thunderstorm
beating in on my worn-out door, if it has to.
I want to hold every moment
in the hollows of my hands,
and partake of it well and deeply.

And perhaps when it passes
I will let myself pick up the glass fragments
of once-seamless hours, and hold them up to the light;
watch the sun break through the dust, and smile
at the grace of life.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Empty Plot

When I was younger,
There was an empty plot beside my house.

Weeds and brambles
boxed in on three sides.
An entanglement
One canal wide.

When goldfish from my aquarium died,
we threw them over the terrace wall.
Until we could see them no longer,
we would watch them fall.
That chaos of green seemed to have no floor,
on which unloved dead fish could land.
I watched, but
they simply vanished,
out of sight, out of hand.

They started building a house there.
It took years.
I would watch, wide-eyed,
a silent child,
watch my mysterious forest disappear.
I watched bricks and concrete and marble tiles
rise up from the floor they somehow found.
It took years.
Once, I tripped over fallen bricks,
and cracked a bone. That house, constantly in flux
watched my childhood pass. As I grew, so did it.

From my terrace, I now see an immaculate lawn.
Flowers in pots. Tiles on the driveway. A towering house,
looming over mine. A familiar stranger
to greet me whenever I come back home. Like
the rest of my street. The rest of my goddamn city.

Behind my house lay a bungalow, peach-walled.
I would watch it from my windows. It was always
alarmingly empty. Looking over my back-garden,
my guava tree, my grandparents' swing. It saw me
play, build, break. It watched steadfastly as I dreamed.
For as long as I can remember, it stood there, sturdy.

They're breaking it down now. I never asked why.
It's been a matter of days. Workers come
every morning, in the stifling heat,
brown figures against the stretched out sky
fighting a house with atavistic anger, straight out their bones.
First the walls went, on the first floor. I wonder why
they didn't use one of those huge machines. I wonder
how much they pay these daily-wage workers.
Tirelessly drilling through the ceiling. They left
the pillars, through the pillars we could see
windows, and the street beyond.
(In cities, we have no horizon).
The roof went. Falling through itself,
cracking and crashing. Then they attacked
the floor, two wiry men in ragged clothes
taking turns, with hammers heavier than them,
Thud. Thud. Thud.
They brought down those massive hammers
on a square of floor between them. Right
where they stood. I watched
from the window, eighteen years old now,
nose pressed up against the glass.
A wide-eyed, silent child.

If they broke the floor on which they stood,
wouldn't they fall?

Now even the ground floor has no roof.
Or the first floor has no floor.
Through pieces of pictures
gashed out by iron rods
we see rubble filling
the living room, the bedrooms.
I wonder if anybody will miss this house.
The men are still drilling through
the chaos of grey concrete and peach walls.
There's a single staircase on the first floor now,
leading to nowhere.
There's a green bottle tottering precariously on a ledge.
Daily-wage laborers get thirsty too, I guess.
There's broken bricks and tiles and
rooms and cupboards and walls.
Soon, this will be gone. Just
a day or two more. It will be as if
there was never a house here. Just an empty plot.

For now,
all that's left is the shallowly-breathing
skeleton of a house. It's only been
a couple of days. There's a single pillar
still standing, and on it
hangs a mirror,
framed in golden,

From my window, I try to catch my reflection.

I see rubble. Grey concrete, peach walls.
Iron rods balancing in empty corridors and halls.
Beyond the destruction, I see a shard of sky.

Friday, 9 May 2014


Words rumble and roll down mountains of youth;
Down valleys and rivers and gurgling brooks
until they come to rest in this darkened pool.
It is still and empty
the magnificent thunder of silence
rings in my ears.

I wept for the stranger in the photograph.

Stand as high as you can and hold the sunbeams in your hand;
isn't possession all you want?
Irrelevant human.

The tears were so silent. So sudden.

Pick up the shattered glass pieces of your life
and hold them to the light.
Let them tell the story you're afraid to hear.

My face, my neck, and my collarbones.
Wet. The ridges and curves
it took thousands of years to perfect.
Atavistic mechanism activated.
Watch the lights and the shadows
dance in the belly of time. Impatient.

Hold my salt-dried face in the hollows of your hands.
Let me cry if I need to.

Someday, I want to be
a poem that would shake you.

Monday, 28 April 2014


In the chaos in my mind, there are images, fleeting.
A yellow window with shadows flitting.
Footsteps. Leaves. Bad decisions.
Later, sitting on a pile of chairs,
I could be the last one left here.
The crumpled edges of clouds float by.
The leaves forget to flutter. I hold on
to the armrests, grabbing them tight.
I'm in a ship, unsunk, yet
floundering in this maelstrom.

The meowing cats and graying sky,
violently loud to my silent mind.
Momentary madness.
And everything gets rolled up
and punches me in the gut.
It's heavy as iron. Rusted and raw.

Sunday afternoons are the worst.
One doesn't know what one is waiting for.
Everybody is a mystery. Everything obscure.
Freedom was always the colour of the sky -
Until it faded into a pale, washed-out grey.
The clicking keyboard. The bent back.
Unable to really look up, to see. To change.
To run like the wind into faster days,
instead of easing into the future
like pickle leaking out of a labelled glass bottle.
Staining the mantelpiece a shadowed blood red.

What am I doing? I should be doing something.
But I look around, and it hurts even more.
The lives, so many, hollowed out,
like the deep gorges carved on aged faces.
It makes no sense. The ache in my chest,
it deepens. Homo demens.
I drift further. In my mind, even further.

When I'm desperate, though, it's easy to console myself.
You see this mess? It isn't me.
I live far too meaningfully.
My real life isn't here.
It's by the swaying trees
far away. Where the sky is blue,
and the birds sing anew every day.
And I'll watch the clouds from there:
By the fields where the dogs lay.

Friday, 4 April 2014


A hundred, a thousand
neatly folded slices of history
carelessly packed by grimy hands
handed to guards, deposited in yards
and street names and numbers zoom
past wobbling bicycles
the day awakens lustily.

A hundred, a thousand
cups of tea
a veritable ocean on the stoves
of a thousand squalling kitchens.
Early morning hands unfold the papers,
bleary eyes peer through warm tea vapors.
Sleep swollen mouths sip, pause.

                    and he died
      and lying
                          we died

Sip again. Swallow.
What does it take for a man to give up?
For a spirit as wide as a sea to hollow.
What does it take to kill a child? Hold down a woman?
What does it take to steal, to lie,
To die. To kill.

A hundred, a thousand
stories we tell. Can you imagine
the sheer power of newsprint
deliberate and dark
holding tight behind walls of alphabets
stories of infinite endless unspeakable violence.
Day after day
                  after day
                           after day

and we are numbed, blunted
heavy thuds leave no impact
sharp jabs provoke no pain
we have layers and layers
of middle-class protection, of artificial conscience

We have lives to live.
Lives to lose.

So we read
halfheartedly about
watch it on the screens
keep it fresh with the coriander leaves
in the fridge, cool
under the children's mattresses
behind cobwebs in cupboards
hidden under the scream of the pressure cooker.

Someday we will do something about it.
For now, fold and live.
Fold and live.