Spring In Delhi, A Poem, A Story And Some Thoughts


The more a voice gets stifled, the louder it gets. So much has happened in past few days. There is too much anger and anguish inside me and I am just not getting into the rhythm of regular writing. Pages are still lying blank. Pen poised over them like a finger on the jugular.How can one remain composed when  voices of dissent are silenced. When Rohith Vermula is pushed to commit suicide. When peaceful dissenters (students) are painted as “anti nationals” charged for  sedition without any proof, for just having a different political ideology and guess which one got targeted as a terrorist and why? When news channels incite the public with doctored videos/audios. When evidence is manufactured. When goons are given protection and encouraged in their hooliganism. When students, teachers, journalists are beaten up for speaking up for what is just. When Perversity rules. When acid is thrown on the face of a  woman tribal right activist to muzzle yet another voice of dissent. When the country burns in the fire of communal hatred. When you are hounded and trolled for your stance on what is happening right now in the country When a twelve year old child is hit and her father killed for asking a second helping of meal. When the tragic suicides of the farmers is termed as “fashion”. When there is a complete breakdown of law & order. When anger kills the power of reason. When you are targeted because of your gender, caste, name, political stance or simply because you use your mind and speak out against the unjust.

It makes me uneasy. Makes me pause and reflect.

I fear for my life every single time I open my mouth in this country where I was born and raised. Who will stand up for me or any ordinary citizen? Who will listen to our pleas? I am not as articulate as many of my writer friends but I am a thinking and concerned citizen. A woman trying to stand for her rights and her dignity. A mother watching two young adult sons growing up in an environment that is getting vicious day by day. I taught my children dissent, I taught them to participate actively as citizens. I taught them to be discerning without being judgmental. That is what my parents taught me. I do the same. Does that make us Anti Nationals? Tell me how? Be very careful when you label anyone. Know its power. Labels box you in. I have been boxed in and I know how it feels. It dramatically changes your life in a matter of seconds. Most of the times scars you for life. Listen to that little voice of conscience and dissent that is knocking from within you to wake up. Listen and act.

In the midst of this unrest the spring came quietly to the capital bringing myriad hues of flowers. Every roundabout, every garden, every park is a riot of colours. The barbets, the flaming golden woodpeckers and the parakeets and many other birds are here. The roadsides and roundabouts are full of nasturtiums, yellow poppies, purple asters, yellow violas, red pitunias, Cinnenarias, dog flowers, marigolds, sweet peas, sweet williams, chrysanthemums, dahlias and bougainvilleas in varied hues have painted the city in every colour. Some of the Mango trees are blossoming too and then there is this distinct fragrance of the Saptparni tree across the city. The coral trees and the Silk Cotton trees are beginning to bloom too.

Delhi also hosts flower shows during Feb-March. I went to he 29th Delhi Garden Tourism Festival Yesterday to get soaked in the colours of basant (Spring)

And when we talk of flowers and blossoming how can we forget poetry. A poem got published in prestigious Open Road Review Magazine recently. You can read it HERE.

A Short Fiction also found a platform in Read Fingers, a portal for those who enjoy reading and writing. This story is very close to my heart. Do read it HERE.

Heartfelt gratitude to the editors who appreciated my work and included it in their magazines.

Talking of magazines, if you have not submitted your piece for Cafe Dissensus March issue (23) then please do it fast as the last date is not very far. Here is the submission link. I am guest editing the issue this time. 

I will leave you with this brilliant piece by my friend Nabina Das. – ‘After Every War’: Reading poetry in the dark times 

And One more by Saif Mehmood – Repression and Resistance, Delhi 2016: Through The Prism Of Urdu Poetry  

 

 

 

 

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Time To Rejoice- Six Poems And A Story In Le Zaporogue XVI


The sun is shining bright and Delhi is jubilant.

This is how I am celebrating. With HOT CRISPY JALEBEES. I have more than one reseon to rejoice.

The much acclaimed Le Zaporouge XVI, the latest edition of Seb Doubinsky’s annual of literature, art, photography and illustration has been published and for the fourth time I have my work included in the magazine along with some fantastic writers/artists. It is a great feeling to be recognised as a writer and I thank Seb Doubinsky ( a great storyteller and fantastic poet) for this honor.

This special edition of 289 pages include Jerry Wilson– Tara Lennart – Celina Osuna – Jonas Lautrop- Laurent Maindon – Anne Krautwald – Franck-Olivier Laferrère – Manu Rich – Marcia Marques Rambourg – Justin Grimbol – Carole Cohen-Wolf – Tikuli – Valérie Debieux – Philippe Tertrais – Simone Rinzler – David Royal – Virgil Petite-Vallée – James Goddard – Alicia Young – Olga Theuriet – Dominic Albanese- Benoît Jeantet – Donna-Lee Phillips – Jacques Sicard – Mark and Janice Van Aken Williams – Stéphane Prat – Jean-Philippe Dreillard – Agathe Elieva – Serge Muscat – Yan Kouton – Maya Byss – ShaneZooee – Matt Bialer – Andréas Becker

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It is a must have impressive collection and  you can get Le Zaporogue XVI ( ebook PDF) as a FREE download here : ZAPOROGUE XVI

Or  for the FIRST TIME buy it in print too ( the back editions will also be available in print soon.) : Zaporogue (Paperback) 

So proud to be a part of this.  The good trend has continued from 2014 for my writing and I am hoping for more as the year ’15 progresses.

Here is an excerpt from one of my poems –

My Mother 

“Clasping your infant body
like a broken doll and a
picture of your mother in my pocket,
I took refuge at a patchwork of shelters
that had sprouted on the smoldering land.
A few of us sat under a small covering
of rags, tarpaulin and sheet metal,
holding whatever was left of our
precious belongings, somewhere
a man sharpened the knife on a stone,
click clack, click clack,
the blade glistened in the dark.”

Do read the rest of the poem and many more poems and stories that I enjoyed reading in this edition. Do give us your feedback.

Follow the FB PAGE by clicking on this link.

To know about more of my online and print publication click HERE 

My Debut Poetry Collection turned ONE this January you can read about it HERE 

Once more Thank You Sebastian Doubinsky for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

Jason – A Short Story


Jason was first published in MICROW 8 (Luminous) Winter 2013

It was a special day for St. Luis Hospital. The conference room was filled with medical students, support group volunteers, media people, friends and well wishers of Drs. David & Jane Brown.

Jane’s eyes scanned the packed 80-seat room. Most of those present were familiar with Dr. Jane’s captivating presence and they listened to the story of her courage and pain in rapt attention trying to imagine how a child could illuminate the lives of millions. She stood at the makeshift podium under the spot light; everything else was flooded with soft darkness.

A year ago they’d lost Jason. He was two years old and terminally ill. As David listened to his wife speak about their dying child, their hopes and despair during the two years that Jason lived he recalled his child’s gradual decline and his wife’s courage.

“I knew it was just a matter of time as I leaned against the nursery door taking in the sights and smells of my baby’s room I felt a profound sense of emptiness. As I ran my fingers along those untouched things we had collected for our son I felt that I didn’t know myself.  I could hear Sara playing and blowing soap bubbles with her father in the garden. Sometimes I would find her perched on a stool near Jason’s bed talking to herself or watching her brother quietly. She seemed to understand that her time with Jason was almost over.  When Jason smiled it illuminated the entire room and brightened our lives but I needed more, I needed a sound from him before he was gone forever.”

“I went and stood near Jason’s bed and watched the light filtering through the blossoming branches of a cherry tree. As I watched his face lit up and his eyes moved as if following something.  My eyes followed his gaze and saw that a soap-bubble had floated in through the window. He was fascinated as it drifted around him glistening in the sunlight. Slowly Jason’s hand lifted towards the bubble and then he chortled. My eyes filled with tears of joy.”

Jane stopped speaking, took a book from the table and held it up.

“This is a story of the two years we spent together, ‘Jason – A Mother’s Account of Letting Go’.”

She clicked a button and a large photograph of Jason smiling, filled the screen behind her.

“This is the picture my husband David took of that one precious moment.”

David and Sara joined her on the podium. They hugged and for the next half an hour she read passages from the book, finally she said:

“I hope my book will help all those with a terminally ill child cope with their loss. David, Sara and I would like to thank everyone for their support; you offered it when we needed it most. “

There was a moment of total silence, then a ripple of applause grew louder and louder. Jane listened with tears shining in her eyes.

 

Luminous

 

(Digital Art by my son Aditya . The story was published under the theme Luminous with a 500 word limit)

Proud Moment – Short Stories in Le Zaporogue 13 and MiCROW 8


Year 2013 has started on a great note. Two short stories featured in two illustrious literary publications. It is a blessing to have friends who support, encourage and unconditionally help me learn and polish my writing constantly.

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In January my short story ‘ The Bookmark’ shared space with some fine writers, poets songwriters and photographers in Le Zaporogue 13. You can click on the link and download it for free or purchase it too.

There are some other wonderful treasures in Le Zaporogue Store. Do take a look.

Le Zaporogue 11 has some of my verses and  if you are passionate about poetry please feel free to click on the link and download this edition.

I want to thank author and friend Sebastian Doubinsky  for giving me this platform to showcase my work.

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Riding on the back of  late spring  breeze came another surprise. This time a Flash-Fiction ‘Jason‘ based on the theme ‘Luminous‘ has found place in MiCROW 8 : Luminous  . This edition of Full of Crow flash fiction supplement section includes wonderful B&W photographs and some exceptional stories. You can read online , download the pdf. file or purchase the chapbook HERE . Check out the gorgeous FULL Of Crow ,a semiannual publication of very short stories and prose.

Thank you Michael. J. Solender  for giving me this opportunity. Looking forward to co creating more miracles.

This year I was able to break many mental barriers and swallow my self doubt to a large extent. I think I am more confident, more focused and tuned to myself and writing now. I am glad to have found mentors who helped me achieve this. Onward we go, one step at a time.

 

Related links :

online and print publications

Zaporogue 11

 

Photograph credits belong to the rightful owners. 

The Song Bird


Someone asked me,”Should a blog be used to rant about personal issues? Is it alright to expose your vulnerable side to the entire world?  Is it in good taste to bare your heart’s innermost feelings in front of  everyone? One can write about so many other things then why whine, rave and rant on a blog and why not use a pillow instead to cry your heart out? There will be hundreds who will offer you sympathy but that’s all BS. Actually no one cares a hoot.”

I listened patiently and said,”I don’t do it often and I don’t do it for sympathy. That is the last thing I want from somebody. Sympathy and pity. I write for no particular reason. Not everyone reads my meltdowns and those who do, maybe it helps them overcome theirs. Who knows? ”

Obviously she and I did not see eye to eye on this like many other things. So, if you think personal outbursts are not your reading material, move on. For, this is going to be one such post.

Sometimes one goes through this deluge of “what ifs and whys, If only and I wish” and seeks answers to questions which are better not raised. Questions which burn like embers in a dying fire. If you stir it you might start a wild fire. Uncontrollable and Unstoppable.

Your heart gets filled to the brim with this deluge and overflows on the blog. I think it is cathartic in more than one ways.

It makes me restless to realize that there is no escape to freedom. There isn’t a thing called ‘freedom.” It is always a caged reality. The cage gets bigger and better than the previous one but the walls begin to rise magically the moment you want to step out and not just the walls , the roof and the floor begin to close in till you choke and gasp for breath and surrender to “what is”.

It’s a woman’s life. A caged song bird.

“You always think as if  the entire world is out to get you and is conspiring against you.” She said. (It is strange when women talk about women’s issues in this fashion. Why am I surprised anyway? )

I think it is because at times I feel it.

Not the entire world maybe but then my world is very small. It is a world within a world and in this world are people who don’t give a damn about what I go through but are ready to make snide remarks, pass judgement, show all kind of indifference camouflaged as love, care, support and what not. It is an art. Not all posses this skill.

How does one feel to leave behind young children  in a personal quest for dignified living?  Mind you it is very different from “empty nest syndrome”  and ‘one day kids will grow up and do their own things and go their own way” thing. It is a living, pulsating, raw hurt which eats you away bit by bit. You try to reason with your self  but fail. I always said, “I have given my boys roots and wings”, never knew it’s not them but I , who will fly away leaving them to fend for themselves. Leaving, in search of myself.

Did I find “myself” ?

“No” and “Yes”.

“No”, because there is a lot that is concealed. There is deeper play of shadows that I do not understand at times. A door opens and closes behind me. I forge my way through the unknown only to discover a wall , a trap or again a door, sometimes just a window or a crack. The search continues.

“Yes” , because I managed to cut out most of the weeds which were blocking my way. I bled and bruised myself but finally found myself at the edge of a new beginning. Another challenge but certainly not as suffocating as the previous one

Some prisons have no bars. Some cages are imaginary. Some others we build around us unknowingly or knowingly because we are used to certain comfort zones.

I sometimes wonder who has got who locked in the cage. I just might be free, on the other side of bars. Looking in. Remembering my time within the cage. The feeling sweeping through me whispering to me that I am still there when I am not.

Have you heard the song of the caged bird? Do you find it different from the one who is free?

One day when I woke up I saw I had grown new wings. They seemed so unfamiliar and yet they were part of it. I was scared to spread them lest I lose an illusion. Instead I wrapped them around me and found comfort in the new-found warmth but wings are meant for flying. They throbbed with exciting energy sending sparks into my listless soul to make use of them as I should.

With the break of new dawn I decided to take a plunge into the valley of unknown. Either to sink or to rise.

The cage suddenly didn’t seem to be there. Was I living an illusion or just a shattered one? I wondered.

I looked around at the crumbs , the bowl of water now empty and turned upside down. I looked at the blue sky , slowly spread my wings, flapped them, took a deep breath and folded them back. I wasn’t ready. Then the wind began to blow. It picked up the momentum and I could feel my cage sway with it. Scared of this wind of change I buried my head in my breast but with one shove I found myself at the edge of the window. Perched precariously. Now there was no turning back. I leaped on the back of the wind and dipped my wings in brilliant sunlight and claimed the sky which was truly mine but the storm raged in insane fury and rain lashed like whip of bare skin. Bewildered and panicked by the raging storm, blinded by the dark rain I plunged and rose with the tempest fighting the forces beyond me, trusting my wings to keep me afloat. Fear gripping me from within, a tight fist beneath my breast. Caught in the whirling skirts of winds I circled and circled and longed for the comfort of the cage I had left. I scanned the murky unknown, shadowy in parts brightly lit in parts, a plethora of possibilities that could take me anywhere.

Startled by the fire bolt that swept the sky with lurid glow I screamed and was shocked to hear my own voice, stilled for so long. If I could scream in fear I could sing in joy. I began to hum and the words came back to me. Muted words buried in some deep crevices of my heart. In the midst of rolling thunder and chaos I had found my song. I began to sing and I don’t know when and how I glided out of the storm into a blaze of color — oranges, pearly pinks, vibrant purples, molten gold and when I looked down I saw deep green mountains and rivers coppery with sunset.

Then , at that moment I realized , “Deep in the heart of winter, there lay within me an invincible spring.”

I realized that the cage though real was also imagined. I had built it myself.  It was wherever I went and no matter where I would run, I just ended up running into myself. If you stay within the patterns and conformity you carry the cage with you. I broke those patterns and reclaimed myself, my freedom.

Songbird

This post is especially written for a songbird who lives in the Pyrenees.

Case 1 – Come Into My Parlor


This is one of the cases from a series of cases recorded by the narrator. I have given it a working title. Still a first draft. 

Fascinating and bizarre, those were the two words that came to my mind about my recent case.  As a psychiatrist I deal with all sorts of mental disorders and abnormalities but this case was special and very challenging, something beyond my domain. I am that kind of person who, unlike others, goes beyond conventional techniques to treat a patient but Tara’s case left me with no choice than to withdraw which again was against the ethics of medical profession.

It was only last month when Peter came to my clinic. There was nothing unusual about him except the eyes. Those deep-set brown eyes were nothing but pools of hurt and fear and anger. He mumbled a greeting to me and sat down nervously on the side chair. I noticed that his hands were trembling slightly and he kept shifting in his seat.

“My wife is an adulterous.” He began without any prompt from me. ” She has someone else in her life. A lover.  It has come as a shock to me. We shifted to this neighborhood recently. We hardly know anyone here. She has no friends and certainly no male friends.  We were happy even though we had our usual arguments and fights but then everyone has them, don’t they? “   I nodded silently. I got such cases almost three times a week. There was nothing unusual.

“I could not understand the change in her behavior at first. She became moody and purposely started to keep herself away from me. We stopped going out and calling friends over just because of her mood swings.  She did everything to push me away. Sex first became a routine and then died a silent death but never ever she insisted that I sleep in living room until two days ago. She said it was all over between us and that she had another man in her life. She said she cannot love me the way she loves that man. I, who have +been her companion for more than a decade. Tara never used to wear even a ring on her finger.  Not the kind who would dress up and flaunt her possessions. Am sure all the new clothes and jewelry she is wearing lately has been given by her….” He couldn’t bring himself to say the word Lover, got up and began to pace the room and then collapsed on the couch sobbing uncontrollably. I somehow wanted to go and hug the man but stayed glued to my seat for some unknown reason. He came around finally and muttered an apology. I offered a glass of water which he sipped as if finding it difficult to swallow.

“Have you met the man? Anyone you know, maybe some old friend of hers or yours? “

“No”. “I even hired a private detective to watch over the house and her but nothing came up. She hardly goes out and no one visits the house in my absence. I even tracked her emails, phone calls, social networking profiles but nothing. “

“I think she is unwell and I need you to cure her doc”. There was an urgency and fear in his voice.

“I feel the change has affected her and she’s going insane. I love my wife and suffer day in and day out knowing there is something wrong with her. ““Please help us”. His eyes welled as he pressed my hand in his.

I watched him closely.  He needed therapy more than his wife. To me he seemed in denial and shock, unable to cope with his wife’s affair but refrained from saying so. Sometimes a joint session helped couples in such cases. I made some mental notes, assured him that things will be just fine and told him to bring her along the next day.

The woman who walked into my clinic next morning was exactly as Peter had described, quiet, demure, and pretty. She had bright intelligent eyes and a beautiful captivating smile. She greeted me warmly and said she wanted to speak to me alone.

“I know why Peter wanted me to meet you. My husband thinks I am gone nuts”, she smiled “but let me assure you am perfectly fine.”

“Am sure you are”, I returned the smile.

“I love S, he is my childhood sweetheart. We had lost touch.  I never thought I would meet him like this but it was meant to be.  I didn’t want to hurt Peter. He is a good man, good husband but S is my soul mate.  Now that he has moved in with me I am much happier and alive than I was ever before. “  I noticed the glow that radiated from her.  She surely loved the guy.

“S moved in with you? How is it that Peter has never met or seen him? “I was beginning to see why Peter was worried about her.

“It’s our secret”. She giggled like a teenager. “He moved into the attic the same day we met. No one except me knew, not even Peter. She recounted all about the wonderful time she spent with S, their intimacy, and how they managed to keep it all hidden from Peter, waiting for the right time to reveal. “But then I was beginning to feel guilty to have both my lover and my husband in the same house. I had to tell him.” Her face clouded. Trust me I never thought it would turn out this way but I can’t help it. Hope you understand. That’s why I wanted to meet you alone.”

“I do”. I said but I knew from inside that this wasn’t going to be easy. There was something more than just what appeared at the surface.

“That’s a lovely bracelet you are wearing. “  The delicate silver filigree shone brilliantly on her wrist”.

“S gifted it to me as a token of love when we last met. I have always worn it since then.” She ran her manicured fingers gently over it.

“Doctor, I want you to help Peter come to terms with it.  I am thinking of moving out to the new apartment S and I rented some time back. I need a divorce. Every time we make love I am aware of Peter’s presence in the house.

“Is that the reason you told him to shift to the  living room”? I asked.

“Yes”. Her blushed and lowered her eyes.

“I will talk to him and I would love to meet S if it’s not asking too much.”

“Of course, he will be delighted to meet you. You will like him. In fact I am going to introduce him to Peter tonight. “

Interesting, I thought. How I wished to be there to witness the scene, a woman introducing her husband to an imaginary lover.

“You don’t think me mad, do you?” She turned around as she opened the door to leave.

“Not at all but I would love to meet you again sometime.”

“Sure. Thank you for understanding.” She looked at me with those deep eyes.

“Pleasure” I said and the door closed.

It was bizarre.  We met again a couple of times at different places and she never mentioned S being with her but always told some incident related to them. I did not know how to get her into therapy sessions. She intrigued me not only as a psychiatrist but also as a person. There was something about her presence that stopped me from looking at her as a patient.

I called peter and narrated everything about our meeting. I told her Tara needed medical attention.  We decided to meet and work out some plan to make her agree to take the treatment. I also told him to keep a watch on any unusual behavior.

The thing that disturbed me was that Tara did not show any signs/symptoms of any mental disorder. I thought it could be a mild case of ICI  until one day when Peter broke into my office unannounced and looked as if he had seen a ghost.  He was incoherent and trembling with fear.

“She moved out to her new apartment last night. I found the front door open and there wasn’t anyone there, just this note. I am scared and worried about her doctor.” His voice trailed off into a sob.

I took the note from his hand.

It had my name on it and an address.

“Give it to Dr. Shreyas and please do not try to visit me.” It said.

I had a difficult time making him understand that maybe Tara had created this whole story to leave him. She maybe couldn’t bring herself to break away in any other way. I told him to go home and rest while I investigate.

It was a still warm summer evening. I drove to the address written on the note. It was a small apartment with a small patch of garden in the front.  It took her some time to open the door.

“I was expecting you. Please come in”. She wasn’t her charming self and looked tired and irritated.

“I knew Peter would go running to you. He refused to believe in my relationship with S and kept insisting that I needed to be admitted to your hospital. I introduced S to him but he was rude and insulting. He called him figment of my stupid imagination. I couldn’t take it anymore so left. Please tell him to leave me alone. I will send in the papers to him.”

I stood there in the middle of the living room listening to her when I felt something shift in the air around me.  I ignored it as just a stuffy feeling due to humid weather.

“S, meet Dr. Shreyas”. She suddenly smiled and looked to her right.

There was no one but I still extended my hand and greeted.  I strange warmth spread through me.

It was unreal. I had never thought of this angle.

“Let’s have some tea, shall we?” She said.

The door to left swung open and closed.

“Don’t be scared Doc, S won’t harm you.  He is a good man.”

I was still to recover from my initial shock of having a ghost in the same room as me.

Something kept me glued to the place; I had no wish to run out of it screaming. Somehow I really wasn’t scared, just shocked.

She was living with a ghost in her attic, making love to him, and she left her husband to move in with him? A friendly spirit who had in some way filled the empty spaces of her life? It just couldn’t be true but it was. She looked happy and I could feel S’s lingering presence very prominently now.

I wondered how I was going to explain it to Peter.

It was surreal.

I don’t know why but I relaxed into their company and enjoyed it too.  In last one week I have met them a few times and it makes me a little guilty too as a doctor that I haven’t reported it to the authorities or said anything to Peter for that matter. I just told him Tara wants to stay on her own and I haven’t seen any man in her life.

I never saw Peter again but I visit Tara on and off. Remarkable lady. I am sure you will like her too.

******

The evening sun was slowly setting behind the buildings and the city shimmered  in a warm glow. I glanced at my watch.

“It’s time to introduce you to my friends. Let’s go” He smiled at me.

“I am looking forward to it. Let’s go.”  I said.  I had known Doctor Shreyas for years now and as a paranormal expert it was going to be an exciting experience.

We drove down in silence, each one wrapped in his thoughts.

We parked the car and walked up to the bright red door of Tara’s apartment. Dr. Shreyas rapped on the wooden door. There was no movement inside. He rapped again and then fumbled inside his pocket.

“I have a duplicate key to their house.  Tara gave it to me.” He said.

It amused me that she should give him a spare key? I just nodded.

He opened the door and called out, “Hey Tara, We are here.”

After a second his face lit up. “Hey girl how you doing, how is S?” He moved towards the winding staircase and held out his hand. ” Meet my friend Robin.”

“Robin, this is Tara”.

The house was empty.

Beyond The Unknown – A Short Story


I felt slowly being lifted out of my physical body. It wasn’t a hallucination. I was very much aware of the separation of my consciousness from the flesh body I was living in for all these years.  I was aware of one of my selves watching the other in moment of life. Fully conscious of what was happening to me I watched my sleeping self for some quiet moments, turned and began to walk.  Nothing unusual.

I walked on a familiar road shaded with the deepening shadows of ancient trees that lined on both sides and remembered what a beautiful shade of green they were during daytime but at night they acquired demonic shapes. There is one thing about the night; it paints everything in its own colour. All forms, colours, and shapes dissolve. It fills them with similar melancholy stillness. There are things one can see only in the darkens of night

The road beneath my bare feet was like a glacier. I was sure I heard earth’s soundless whispering drifting through the trees.  Why wasn’t I scared? Why did it seem familiar? Was it Déjà Vu? Or was I under some spell?

I remembered my physical body lying on plush bed. The slow rise and fall of my breasts and the constant humming of the ceiling fan. And then I saw him. A hound. At least I thought it was a hound. It sure was a larger than life and had deep non luminous eyes. A hell-hound?

I could see his balanced athletic body movement as it advanced towards me, slowly growing like a huge sinister black shadow.  Strange that he did not charge on seeing someone on a road – deserted, charmed, and vacant running through the middle of nowhere. It surprised me that the darkness of the night failed to camouflage him.  There was nothing ferocious or scary about him, not even the demonic red eyes that looked straight into mine… instead I instantly felt a connection, an at ease feeling. I felt his sinews strengthening mine with his growing presence. A strange sensation began to flow through my veins. He seemed friendly, maybe he was a protector, an animal spirit guide or maybe not. Maybe he had some ulterior hidden motives? As far as he did no harm, it did not matter much to me.

I felt a drop in temperature as the distance between the dog and me shortened but kept on walking. I noticed he had stopped midway blocking whatever lay in the darkness. For  fraction of a second as my attention shifted from the dog to the rustling of the leaves he was gone. As if he just melted into the night and slid into some dark hole taking it along with him. Making it all even less visible than invisible.

The scene changed dramatically. I could see the graveyard now, dilapidated, old, forgotten and vandalized. The headstones were barely visible even though the early morning light pierced through the thick foliage like spears making some sort of voodoo motifs on the earth below. Everything was transfixed except the light.

The graves themselves were covered by wild flowers and moss.  I stood there observing the scene that lay in front of me.  For a long time I kept staring at a headstone half covered with gray green moss. It was the only one intact even though it had aged with time and had a dull decaying appearance. I tried to step a little closer to inspect but found myself rooted to the ground. I just could not move.

A bunch of wild daisies fluttered furiously at the base of its left side as if desperately wanting an escape. It was bizarre because the breeze wasn’t that strong.  The flowers held my gaze. A strange feeling of some past connection swept through me. The effort and the feeling of déjà vu were now consuming me.  I felt as if my skull was about to crack open.

Suspended between a strong desire to stay there and a stronger one to return I stood there in the midst of all that sadness that had burst into various shades and textures of green.

Why was I there and whose grave was it? I noticed that most of the other grave stones were buried under wild growth or barely visible. Some seemed ravaged, as if mauled by some animal. I suddenly remembered the hound and instantly felt a presence behind me.

I turned on an impulse and floated into a dream.

The same woman who came in my dreams, my friend, confidante and lover was standing behind me, wearing only a smile. Her left breast seductively half concealed behind the long dark tresses which she had brought forward on one side. Let us call her Luna. The familiar feeling of being at the receiving end of a torrential desire crept up between my legs.

I looked at the sky, the shadow of the moon was slipping away slowly from under the clouds.  Either the time was travelling too fast today or her eyelids had closed upon the day. Day and night seemed to have merged.  Weak with longing and fatigue I sank into her arms.  The touch of Luna’s smooth skin felt like ice on my scorched skin.  I was delirious. I remember whispering strange meaningless words to her. My face resting in the curve of her neck and her strong comforting arms wrapped around me like a blanket. It was uncanny how easily I melted and morphed into her skin and became her. Our relationship was something between friendship and love, something which I had not experienced in real life. It was fluid with no spaces in-between.

Luna had been my dream companion since time’s beginning and even though I am not a lesbian many times I found comfort in her. It wasn’t just erotic sexual relationship we shared but the bond of intimate oneness was stronger than any I had experienced. We were friends. Inseparable. When this world became too much to bear I always turned to Luna or should we say Luna was always there.  I don’t how to explain my relationship with Luna.

It surprised me to find her here in the graveyard and that too naked, why was she roaming around naked? But then I had always seen her like that. No, sometimes she wore mist but today her voluptuous body shone like an August moon in tranquil night sky.

I felt a tingling sensation tickle down my spine. A cross-road demon?

My body seemed chained to the bed and yet it felt strangely relaxed.

It took a lot of effort to open my eyes.

It was then I realized I was nude under a thin sheet carelessly thrown over me.

The kaftan I had worn lay crumpled on the floor.

My throat was parched. Somehow I dragged my body to the cabinet twisted the bottle lid and took a long drink of water. Some of the icy liquid ran down my bare neck and sizzled as it ran in rivulet between my breasts. I was still hot like flaming embers.

I manoeuvred my way through the smokiness  of the room turned the door knob of the bathroom turned the shower on and stood under the cold needle sharp jets of water. Eyes closed. I could hear voices and feel the coarseness of a bathrobe on my skin.  The water had stopped running.  The heat was returning and I was drifting again.

*****

I could not have heard her last words had I not been sitting close to her. I reached out and touched her forehead. The temperature was normal.  She was fast asleep.

I picked up my recorder and stood up. My shoulders and back ached as I tried to stretch myself. It had been a long day.  I walked up to the window and looked out at the lengthening evening shadows.  It had been strangely hot and murky day.  The tarmac on the road steamed and gave out sparks as the vehicles zipped passed on it. Something moved and caught my attention behind the cluster of trees across the road. I thought I saw a large shadow leap and slip away into the forested area.

With a swift movement I turned around. The couch was empty.

 This story is based on a dream I had some months back and which returned two days back

 

GBE 2 Week#67 Peace


Danny watched the enthusiastic joggers and wondered if he would ever be able to catch up with the pace of the park which moved with its younger regulars sweating it out profusely before returning to their air-conditioned lives. A lot of elderly too visited the park to exercise, walk or just enjoy the lighter side of the city, meet friends, inhale the fresh morning breeze from the sea and reminisce about the past to avoid the present. Children usually came on holidays or in the evenings. He had seen the way this beautiful Park had changed over the last decade.

He noticed that today also the elderly gentleman was sitting alone at his usual place aptly named “Garden of Peace” away from the hustle bustle of the main park. This section was designed in the style of a Japanese Zen garden overlooking the sea. He and his companion had spent many a glorious mornings in these tranquil surroundings laughing, talking or just sitting quietly watching the sun break through the clouds just above the eastern horizon. It was almost a fortnight now since his companion had not shown up but he was always there. Oblivious to the surroundings he watched the water lilies float in the pond or gazed at the deepening rosy glow of the sky.

Today, in his freshly ironed lavender shirt the old man had sat there for more than his usual time.

Danny wondered what had happened to the old lady. Unable to stop himself he collected his sketchbook and pencils and walked up to him.

The old man was busy observing the little yellow butterflies flirting above a row of colourful flowers.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” He said looking up. His face was that of the Buddha, calm and peaceful. “She would have loved them. I have been coming to this garden since its inception and why not, it is I who planned and designed it.” He added.

Danny saw the riot of colours in front of him and the little winged beauties fluttering over them.

“You designed this garden? How wonderful. It is beautiful” Danny looked around the serene ambience that had attracted him to this place years ago and since then he came here every morning to sketch.

“May I see your sketchbook?” He nodded and gestured Danny to sit beside him.

“Sure”.  Danny noticed that the old man’s hands trembled as he took the sketchbook.

“I used to paint at one time, now it is difficult to keep the brush steady”, he smiled at Danny.

“Really, I would love to see some of your work”. There was something about the old man that drew Danny to him.

The old man did not reply. Engrossed in the sketches he turned page after page as if looking for something and then he stopped. His slender fingers traced the patterns on the lines and curves on the paper.

Danny leaned forward to see what had caught his attention.

It was a sketch of the old couple he had made just before the lady stopped coming. They were standing next to the lily pond holding hands. Her face shaded by the summer hat and his beaming with love.

“They have sent her to an old age home. I could do nothing.” His face betrayed a glimpse of the emotional storm that was swirling inside and then seeing the puzzled look on his face he placed his soft wrinkled hand on Danny’s and winked, “She isn’t my wife. She is my first love.” A faint hue from the sun-kissed sky spread across his face.

Surprised by this sudden revelation Danny didn’t know how to react so he simply smiled.

I saw her one winter morning strolling here, talking to the birds and flowers. The morning mist had just begun to clear. I recognised her instantly but did not approach. After all these years I wondered if she would remember me.” His face shone like the sun which was now shinning in all its glory. “For some days I lingered around avoiding her eyes, quietly enjoying her presence. She evoked memories that were long since buried in some crevice of my heart.

Then one day as I bent over struggling to tie my wayward shoelace I heard a voice, “you still can’t tie shoelaces properly, can’t you?”  I looked up and there she was with a mischievous smile on her face. She held me by the shoulders and helped me stand. For a moment it seemed like a scene from a fairytale.

“You thought I may have forgotten you, didn’t you? I was wondering how long we would play hide and seek,” She laughed.

“I remember, he continued, I had laughed sheepishly and muttered something silly. Since that day we met here every day, spent some time reminiscing the good old days and then parted with a heart full of hope to meet again. We found peace and solace in each other’s being and not being. Life had been a roller coaster ride for both of us and these hours of togetherness were in which we truly lived.

We often noticed your presence and she was the first to realize that you were making a sketch of us. “

Danny’s face flushed a deep shade of pink. “You knew I was sketching both of you?” “I am sorry I did not ask for permission. Both of you looked so much a part of this garden of peace that I could not stop myself.”

“I am glad you made it.” He glanced lovingly at the sketchbook in his lap.

Danny took the sketchbook slowly pulled the page from the spiral binding and handed it to the old man.

“She will always be with you.” He smiled and he gently pressed the two trembling warm hands.

For the first time the old man’s face really showed the pain of longing and separation. A tear escaped the soft brown eyes.

“Thank you.” He said softly.

Both men sat there in solitude under the shade of the fragrant Frangipani connected only by the warmth of their hands. The ‘Garden of Peace’ watched quiescent.

This post is written for GBE 2 week #67 Peace 

Snapshot – GBE 2 Week #66


His hands trembled as he tried to light a cigarette. It took him five tries to get it right. He leaned against the wall to steady himself. Everything was a blur. His mind became warped.  He could see nothing, think nothing.  And then came the tears. They ebbed and flowed like seasonal flood. Only that his was not seasonal. He hadn’t cried in years. Slowly streaming down his face like hot lava at first and then like a deluge that surprised even him, hot water for pain like blood flowing from an open wound. Perhaps it was a wound. He did not know, couldn’t think, and couldn’t stop.

She came to him not like a memory but a stray thought. A thought that catches you unaware at the least expected moment. It was something he didn’t want but he wept all the same, shedding all inhibitions. He slumped to the floor and wept like never before into the deep night.

And then it stopped as suddenly as it started. A dull ache swept through his body, a cocktail of myriad emotions that he could not decipher in a single moment. It drained him out.

He lit another cigarette and took a deep extended drag and felt the smoke fill his lungs. Slowly he exhaled and through the smoke screen he saw her. She must have been in her early twenties. He had just begun his career as a photographer and travelled all over the world. People, places fascinated him. He found a story behind mundane objects inanimate objects and infused life in them through his lens. He first spotted her near a roadside café. The city was shimmering in bright sunlight after an early summer rain. The breeze flirted with her waist long windswept hair as she stood with her hands embracing a hot mug of coffee. The harbour in the background made a pretty picture of her. He could see the hint of mascara in her deep dark eyes. She was dressed in a floral dress that clings to her voluptuous body giving it a sensuous flow.

She seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Near her, on a wrought iron table, lay a book. The pages fluttered like hummingbird’s wings. Unable to contain himself he pulled out his camera and focused on her. From behind his powerful lens he could see how ravenously beautiful she was. She did not wear any make up but her face shone like molten bronze. He zoomed a bit more and studied her profile mesmerized to react. It was like a dream sequence. He quickly clicked one snapshot after another and then stopped as if under a spell. His eyes still glued to the viewfinder. She brushed her hair back in a dancer like sweep and in one swift motion picked up the book and vanished in the sea of people who has emerged from a nearby mosque.

Before he could realize he had lost her.

Cursing himself for a lost opportunity he briskly walked back to the hotel unable to stop the excitement of looking at the pictures. On uploading he could find only one of the many he had clicked. Rest of it was as black as night. He was puzzled and angered at this unusual occurrence but the eyes that gazed at him from the screen of his laptop held him captive. For the next six days he went out every day in the city looking for her.

And then he saw her again, this time in a book shop. She wore a plain black dress and had tied her hair in a swirl. He made no mistake this time and approached her from behind. She suddenly turned as if aware of his presence. A little startled he stopped in his steps. His knees became jelly as she beamed at him.

‘You took my picture that day at the harbour, didn’t you?” she said in honeyed voice. She was a Latino for sure. He made a mental note of it.

‘So, you noticed.’ He smiled back.

For his age he was exceptionally fit and good-looking and he could see that in the mischievous twinkle of her eyes.

“Would you give me a copy of it?”

“Yes, of course” he said.

He took out the printed copy of her snapshot from his wallet and handed it to her. He felt the warmth of her body pass like an electric current through his body.

What was wrong with him? Stupefied, he picked up a white rose from a nearby vase and carefully tucked it in her hair. She didn’t stop him.

She glanced herself in the glass door, smiled softly, placed the snapshot in the book she was carrying and left without a second glance. He inhaled deeply absorbing her fragrance and came out in the street. She was nowhere in the sight.

He left the city two days later for another assignment. They never met again but her memory stayed with him every moment. She became an invisible companion who filled the emptiness of his life. In those moments of quiet when he was alone with himself he created memories with him, made love to her, walked hand in hand through empty walkways and streets of cities he travelled. She became his shadow. He never felt alone and for some reason he was happy.

It was twenty-five years ago.

He went to island of Majorca many times and every time his eyes had searched for her.

A tear silently left the corner of his eyes. He dragged himself to the window and looked at the dark night sky. It seemed to have become deeper than ever. The breeze brought  fragrance of winter roses from the manicured gardens of the hotel.

He closed his eyes. How could he not recognise her face even from under hundreds of tubes that ran everywhere? He felt a lump rise in his throat. What had brought her to this godforsaken city in America? Where was she all these years? He cursed himself for not ever asking for an address or a phone number back then. He always believed that the universe will conspire to bring them together again but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined it to be like this.

He was in New York to attend to his ailing mother. She was the only other patient in the room that smelled of nothing but sanitized air. It was on her bedside table he had found the book of verses. Mom had told him amidst uncontrollable sobs, how the frail lady on the other bed had handed her book to the attending doctor and gestured him to pass it on to her just before she died, the book which she always kept close to her frail heart. An emotional avalanche hit him the moment he recognized it.He had stared in stoned silence at the book, unable to breathe, his eyes transfixed on the empty bed to his left.. He had picked it with trembling hands as everything else had slowly begun to fade around him. The snapshot had slipped and fallen near her feet and he was once again held captive by those gorgeous eyes. It was then he noticed for the first time the sadness that filled them. With great effort he had managed to pick the photograph and the book and unable to withhold the surge of pain and hurt of loss he had rushed out of the hospital as if driven by some hidden force.

The flutter of paper brought him out of trance. The breeze had become stronger and the pages of the book were fluttering like wings of hummingbird, just as they were on that summer day. The snapshot lay in their shadow.

This post is written for GBE2- WEEK #66 (8-19-12 to 8-25-12): Snapshot

 

GBE2 Week #64 : Hidden – A veiled Life


Her fate was sealed the moment she was born. The Chador that wrapped her, grew with her infant body. Layer after layer it hid her slow painful journey into womanhood, chained forever to her home and hearth,  by norms of society and religion. She was born to serve and submit.. Serve  and submit to the omnipresent men of her clan. In silence.

She was one of the few who survived birth but her voice was stilled for life.  The muffled cries of her infant sister dying a forced slow death still woke her up in the middle of nights. Unlike the so called emancipated, literate, liberated urban women, her life was tied by invisible ropes that rubbed against her soft flesh and left wounds that scarred her being.

She ceased to be human the moment she “came of age”. The menstrual blood brought with it emotional and physical abandonment. It also brought a sudden realization of turning into a “woman” who had, a body “to be kept hidden”, tongue which was just a purposeless mass of flesh, heart which would in long run become a vault for unmet dreams and desires and a mind which was considered “non-existent” and which only worked behind a camouflaged screen of darkness.

Suddenly she shrunk under the chador which had taken monstrous proportion since her infancy days. Her life was no longer hers.  A marionette whose strings were pulled and pushed by the men in her household and extended family.  Shrouded in mystery of her gender, modesty, pleasure, shame, pain and drudgery she carried her body through the lonely barbed web of rules designed to keep her in hold all through her life.

She was still in better position than her aunt, barely a few years older than her and a widow, who had to continuously protect her “unguarded, dangerous” body till she is lowered into her grave safely, a daunting task in a society of vultures ready to pounce on any slice of flesh that they can lay their eyes and hands on.

Deep buried and hidden under layers her body and voice stirred and quivered in want of release but never reached the climax. Considered unfit for any function but marriage, childbearing, housekeeping her entire being came out from the hidden depths during the dark recesses past the midnight silence.  Lying next to a snoring satisfied husband or alone, she  freely roamed around the courtyard and beyond the threshold into the unnamed, unknown lanes and streets like a alley cat.

Suddenly the landmines erected by society to prevent her from deviating from specified gender roles forgot to explode as she stepped on the prohibited terrain.

Not swathed in black from head to toe in the age old dirty chador that hung near the main door, she set the woman in her free. Reclaiming herself. Night after night.

In those intimate hours with herself she would try and familiarize with the contours of her body, feeling that fervent rush which knew no outlet in her forsaken life. Many times she would slip into the veranda, dressed in nothing but a thin duppata, which made her a bit comfortable with herself, throw her bare arms in the air and watch the night sky with two bright starry eyes, letting the breeze flirt with her.

Imagination would thrown open the doors and windows which usually remained bolted. Walls that had risen brick by brick around her segregating and secluding her would collapse in a heap, making her vulnerable and alive. She would create and recreate the stories told in the midst of giggles and laughter by her city cousins.

Before the first light of dawn, hidden in the safety of the darkness she would dare to live a life she imagined. Strange that the very darkness that engulfed her in daytime became her saviour at night.

This post is written for GBE2 WEEK #64 (8-5-12 to 8-11-12): Hidden

Inspired by Tamil writer Salma’s book and Kamla Das( one of my many muses)