Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Am Not

I can still feel him sitting beside me, looking at me. But something is wrong. I think I remember a time when he looked at me differently. Or was it someone else? I am going to sleep again; the medicines they give me make me sleep. I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay awake. To hold…

“I think we should take an auto back”, I said. “It’s late and they’ll lock the hostel gates.”
“No they won’t. I’ve been at the university longer than you. And I don’t think I’ve had enough of you for tonight.” His voice took the chill away from the night.
“But I’ve to meet my professor at eight tomorrow and I really need to catch up on some sleep. Between him and you, I barely have time for a wink.”
“You know one day, I might just commit a murder… out of pure, unadulterated affection.”
“Are you jealous, that I spend more time with my books than with you?”
“Nope. I’d rather call it love. Come now, there’s the train. We’ll reach faster than I want to, now.”

A buzzing woke me again. The television was on – a heated debate on some inane issue. “Of course they have to pay for it with their lives”, a woman in a red saree announced in a loud, bossy voice. “Capital punishment is the only solution. You have to tell these perverts, these anti-social creatures that they can’t simply walk away unscathed after ruining someone’s life.”
“They brutally raped the girl. Their lives are forfeit”, agreed a man in black-rimmed spectacles.
“But is it in our culture?” questioned one man in a pristine white kurta, emphatically blowing his moustache. “All this gen-x bravado, that’s landing these young people in trouble. Get into college, hook up with someone, and roam around till the morning. And when something bad happens, blame everyone and everything in sight.”
“We’ll continue our panel discussion on the burning issue of increasing incidents of women being molested, after this break”, the journalist announced, turning her face to the camera. “Meanwhile keep sending your responses and messages to our website.” She smiled, and the screen became a picture… of me.
I looked from the screen to the person sitting near me. I must have made some noise, because he switched off the TV and turned to me. It was then that I realized what was wrong – the bandages, his red eyes…

We were in the fast train, and at the next station the three others in the compartment got down. We had just begun congratulating ourselves on our luck when five guys got in. they swayed to the bench near the door, obviously drunk and making enough noise to wake the entire city. One of them saw us, and suddenly an empty compartment didn’t seem so lucky. He held me tight, as if he wouldn’t let go of me, but it was a desperate, useless attempt.
He had held me a minute ago, I thought as I saw three of them forcibly holding him down. And then there was pain, wave after crushing wave of it. The only thing that kept me sane was the memory of his touch, of the way he held my face and how he liked to breathe into my hair.
I remembered other things now. A flood of cameras and flashes and noisy people with microphones. Words, worse than the pain – ‘victim’, ‘punishment’, ‘death’ – all meaningless.

“I am not…”, I said and he came a little closer. “I am not… a victim”, I repeated, looking at him, wanting him to understand. “I am not the girl who was brutally raped. I am not the girl whose life was destroyed. I am not a reckless young woman. I am me. I am not; I have not turned into her, have I? I am not… HER.”

(“No. you are not”, he sighed into my hair, like old times.)

Friday, December 28, 2012


Silence had been her companion for a while now – weeks, years, ages perhaps. Inside the house with its courtyard and cobwebs, time stood perfectly still, eternal and silent. Days passed because of the morning’s milk and the newspapers, months and years because of the calendars.

Once a month she would go Outside – beyond the safe high walls of her house. Even for someone like her it was a necessary ritual – existence. It required food and clothes and all kinds of things. Sometimes, if she felt light or unburdened she’d bake a cake or buy some ice cream. Mostly she got her regular things – rice, flour and the like.

At home, with the silence as audience she told stories of a girl she once knew. She would reminiscence at length about the lithe, olive skinned girl she called Storm. She would tell the flowers of how Storm lived with her large family, of their laughter and tears. When she baked she always told the kitchen of what Storm did as a young girl at the University. She told a grand tale of friendship. And when she felt particularly lonely she would tell her favourite story about Storm – a story of how a young man fell in love with her, and how their love had lived up to her name. She would cry, sometimes, when she ended the tale – how the thunder and lightning was fierce and how the rains flooded their lives, and how when it had cleared it had taken much away from them.

She had gone Outside just three days back, but today she felt restless. Even her favourite books seemed to have exhausted their charms. With nothing else to do, she decided to once more step Outside.

She pulled on a pair of jeans and her favourite blue shirt. It had begun to hang on her, she noted, taking an unaccustomed glance in the mirror. She decided to go to the coffee shop five blocks away. She would have the coffee flavoured with cocoa and her favourite cinnamon rolls. As she walked down the once-familiar road, she noticed how it had changed. Many of the old things she remembered had gone. Would the coffee shop still be there, she wondered.

As she turned the corner she heaved a sigh of relief. There it was – the vintage wooden signboard and the large poster on the door announcing the country’s best coffee and rolls. Opening the door, she headed straight to her favourite seat. She sat down, commanding an exotic view of the kitchen and whenever the door opened, the smells spilled out in a welcoming warmth. She gave her order to the smiling waitress and waited…

As she took another sip from her second coffee she heard a voice behind her she heard a voice, “I was in the city and I just knew that I would find you here today.” Her eyes met a vaguely familiar face. There was something about the smile, and the way he looked at her. She smiled…

Later, she could never remember how much later, she woke up with the rain on her face. Lightning flashed and she could still see those eyes smiling in that disconcerting manner. Thunder rolled menacingly, promising more rain. She got up and walked to the door. The rain had made a little lake out of her courtyard. The lightning lit it up beautifully. She stood entranced, unaware of the cold winds that whipped her hair.

And suddenly warmth wrapped around her. It whispered into her hair, “It’s the perfect night. Remember what I used to call you?... Storm…” A light laugh and the warmth now held her a little closer. “You’ve lived with this silence and solitude far too long.”
She turned, those eyes were still smiling down at her…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


To reach out and hold Time.
Let the sun forever lie in the embrace of the low branches,
Like a hapless babe on an enemy spear.

To reach out and catch Time.
Let the moon stay half-shrouded behind the pale clouds
Like a shadow shattering against darkness.

To reach out and this once, bind Time.
Hang the bright stars over my bed,
Let them chime in the captured winds.
Freeze all waters to unmelting ice
And bottle all heat in a candle’s flame.

And then to perch on the table’s edge
And watch the sand trickle down the hour-glass.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Memories of another rain,
Like the lightning that flashes.
Storm clouds and a warmth beside.

A warmth beside, drenched in the rain
Now holds me, now brushes my hair
The wind rustles the leaves on a tree.

Lightnings flash, faces pass
The city trains move for ever on.

A new city, tonight, a new people
But the rain remains, and the faces
The city train moves for ever on
And beside me vagrant drops,
Stormy clouds and washed out eyes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What matters now?
That my love was true, untarnished
For you have gone, walked away
And now the mist holds me in his arms.
Cold warmth, yet something still
To lean on, hold fast and cry my fill.

What matters now?
You have run,
From cold tears and warm smiles.
Bitter kisses, sweet fights.

What matters now?
That I remain alone.
And the sharp pictures-
Demonic love and angelic lust.
How your hand sought mine in the darkness.
How your lips breathed against mine
Softly, then like a tempest unleashed
Closer, closer still.
Until it felt an eternity
To be in your arms.

And now the mist holds me
In his cold arms.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Listless Waiting... for black or white?

The vibrant crowd or the roaring silence?

On greys I feed, amidst the black and white.

The reds and yellows, blues and greens

The brightness of light, marching across my eyes

But I search for the grey, the dim twilight.

Search? I don’t know that word.

I walk – across the fields, beneath the trees

I see.

See? I don’t know that word.

I walk – beside the streams, the hulking rocks

Walk? Not me, I move...

Move? Wait? I know not.