Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Twilight Zone

We had missed the beauty of that twilight.
The twilight of mystical colours and earthly hopes.
The raucous birds had hovered over the river Brahmaputra.
And sunset had lingered on the sky like an old confused person.
I had waited at the same place, alone and forlorn.
And the dying light had wrapped around me, softly,
 like my  favourite pashmina shawl, like a shroud.
I saw the breathless wind stop its game and rest
 in the dry winter grasses and dusty benches.

And sometimes the shadows of the evening trees whispered about some tale
Where hearts had met in the fields drenched with magnesium moonlight.
When love and desires had whirled and swirled in a hot sultry night.
And a Midas – hand had turned life into a dream and the dreams so alive.

But tales like this fit only in a fictional story
where things always end happily.
For love if that is its name was crushed under the feet along with the dry leaves that day.
And the promise of “walking together come what may” was left unsaid.
And the defeated sun had yielded to a pall of thick darkness.

You had already left, left to be someone else’s.
And now I know I will miss the beauty of all the twilights.

When Mars & Venus make war on an sms on Earth

My friend has almost decided not to send such sms to me and perhaps now I miss the funny "RakhtCharitra" but what happened had happened and I can't change it.
So the sms was :
To make a woman happy, a man only needs to be: a friend, a companion, a lover, a brother, a father, a chef, an electrician, a plumber, a driver, a good listener; without forgetting to compliment her regularly, be honest, be very rich, not stress her out, not look at other girls and at the same time give her lots of attention, loads of time, never forget her birthdays and the anniversaries. But to make a man happy- just leave him alone.
I know many men out there are right now nodding their heads in full agreement.
But why is it that the simple idea- just leave me alone- dawns to the male species when they have wooed a woman and made a commitment as in a marriage or a serious relationship?
So playfully I sent an answer.
To make a man happy, a woman needs to be: his friend, companion, a lover better than a whore, a sister, mother, cook, housekeeper, laundry woman, a machine to beget his children who preferably are replicas of him, a nanny or babysitter, a decorator, a morale booster, a right accessory by his side to flaunt, with vital stats that can shame the katrinas or bipasas; a multitasker, a charming, sweet angel even if the devil’s around or hell breaks loose, and at the same time  give him the right attention at the right time, wait on him, be warm and friendly with his friends even if they booze like fish, are cricket bugs, or belch, fart, snore or pick their nose. Give him space to work like an addict, to chill out late nights with buddies, beers n girls and this need not be in this order. Pamper his ego that also includes faking the big O, never draw too much male attention to one self, and become invisible when he does not need you and so on.
Many of you may agree with what seem like a verbal war or rather sms war between the species from Mars and Venus. And there are some grains of truth in all this. But frankly speaking, the urban educated women are comfortable in their own skin and do not shy away to accept that they have had enough of multi-tasking, enough of playing the super woman. They no longer want to take the burden of so many roles that they have been conventionally playing and definitely want a new man. A man who is ready to share her roles. They want the men to show clearly that they are making an effort- effort to accept and change for this new woman. And change not just in appearances (hey, we too like John Abrahams and Brad Pitts) because change in material world is still easier than the change women need and also hope and many times demand in the non-material world. And when they do see this effort, women are ready to come half way. Yes, I say half way, because there is an expectation that the other half the man will tread.
Under pressure, dear men, from this new breed of women?
Well, we have learnt to enjoy ourselves. We are excited to explore and discover ourselves, from pottery, to scuba-diving, to clubbing, to heading a company, to playing football in rain with the son, or men-watching, or even being more adventurous and articulate sexually. We don’t mind being on top. But we are not being the feminists of the 80s or even the 90s. We are simply saying: Treat me equal but treat me special.

Stray Thoughts on a balmy winter day

Season to Love
Last year during Christmas I went to Arunachal Pradesh where I got a white carpet welcome…the roads, the rooftops, the trees everything was dressed in the purest and softest of white and if that was not enough heavens opened its doors to caress me with more whites. I enjoyed my experience with snowfalls and enjoyed not just its feathery touch but also the intricate design of snowflakes. All for the first time.
Snow is still away in Arunachal but winter has arrived in Assam and the greens have been replaced by the grey of dust (undesirably) and the chill in the year pleasanter (very favourable) and though I don't have the luxury of big garden or balcony and the privacy, I have big windows to let the sun fall on my naked legs. It is a soothing feeling, and the sun becomes the most loved thing in this season. It softly filters in warmth, love, calmness and contentment. Perhaps it is really a season of plenty and a season to love and savour the small pleasures and mercies of life. Like lazy coffee mornings with friends. Imagine the kick hot café mocha, with a lethal combination of caffeine and chocolate, can give. A walnut brownie or apple pie can be optional but some hot gossip and girlish giggles almost mandatory. Though I know I often can be only a listener and may sometimes have my throaty laugh.
And Punjabi friends or even friend ka friend ka friend (remember the Indian expertise in finding relations and friendship in strangers too), become so dearer at this time of the year. Aha the very though of it is ready to make me love them, befriend them and get oneself invited for sarson da saag and makki di roti. Believe me heaven is very near to a steaming bowl of saag, with lots of ginger and white butter served with ghee-soaked makki rotis with just a hint of methi in the batter to leaven the taste. Pao-bhaji, mooli paratha, gobhi paratha are next on the line though the bliss factor is little compromised.
Walks in a park, deserted roads and the Brahmaputra Boulevard with the sun shining down upon you and your iPod or Nature itself playing some favourite tunes in your ear is another winter pleasure. And to reward one self for the exercise one can surely sink the teeth on the best oranges from Shillong. Sweet, pulpy, juicy and loaded with vitamins.
The season invites for picnics, barbeques and al fresco eating. Pack your basket with pakoras, sandwiches, cheese, beer, wine, chocolate, fruits, cold meat any other treats and pack your family and friends into a large SUV and find a sunny spot, best next to some stream and green. Or if you are lucky enough to have a lawn, it’s the right time to make the best of it. A lawn serves its ultimate function around this time of the year- weekend brunches that lasts as long as the light and laughter do and if there is fire within and a bon fire outside, time does not play much shots.
And imagine the luxurious warmth of pashmina or fur against your skin. Time one owned all those items that makes one feel good. Some even revel at customized tailoring. And think of the joys of layering for a person like me. I mean sweaters that can go over shirt, jackets that go over waist coats and shawls that go over anything and all of it going over layers of flab. And remember you can go without the pains of waxing for these few months with no one noticing. Ok, agreed those in a new relationship can not enjoy this lazy, laidback mentality. But what we all can do is enjoy lazy lie-ins on the weekends. Snuggle deep and till late on the bed, sleep extra, linger and love and finally coax someone to get you a hot cup of tea or better still a wholesome breakfast on bed. A perfect beginning to a perfect day! And what a heavenly day one can have, on the terrace or the balcony, reading a book and feasting on roasted peanuts or spicy corns.
Evenings put on your boots over tights or skin-hugging leather pants and enjoy the sexy swagger in your walk to the club or disco. And then even if you care not much, you cannot miss the riot of colours in the form of plenty of flowers in parks and gardens, in terrace and balcony, along the roadside and roundabouts. What else one needs to warm up the hearts during the cold, winter season? 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Priceless Pearls....License to float in untangible pain....

Scattered Pearls and Souls

Anjali Tirkey

Every evening
gloom descends noiselessly
along with the night
and settles in every corner of my room.

But before that happens,
every time before that happens,
somewhere outside,
over the hills,
the sky becomes a collage of beautiful colours.

And in their midst,
in the midst of the fiesta of colours,
the sun does a ballet with the fleeting clouds
and the wind amongst the trees plays music in my ears.

And along this,
along this symphony of the silhouetty dusk,
a few boats sail quietly in the river
and the birds settle in the nests,
disturbing the harmony with much hue and cry.

And somehow unheard,
unheard in the clamour and the cry,
gloom sneaks in the room
and makes home in broken and sorry hearts.

And sometimes,
sometimes in some dark, unexpected nights,
the moon swims out of the clouds
and sheds a drop of water
for those melancholy hearts.

And once in a while,
yes only once in a while,
this drop of  salty water
reaches some lonely heart and makes a dwelling there.

And in the rarest of rare times,
the times when nature waves it’s magic wand,
a miracle takes place.
The moon’s tear perhaps with the heart’s gloom, 
creates a pearl - fair as the moon, fragile as gloom.

But often before that,
before the moon’s pearl blooms in the clandestine heart
the beating stops
and a clenched soul tears the gloom and soars high in the sky.

In that evening,
in the frozen silence of that scorching evening,
what is heard in my room
is the deafening echo of the gloom
and perhaps the soft sound of scattering pearls of moon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The face in the lake

The face in the lake

Anjali Tirkey

( Story written when I had not developed my breasts also, hence close to heart. It doesn't matter it got published at various places.)


I rode fast in the highway, leaving my hostel and the town far behind, whistling the tune from the latest hit number. The sun was bright and high above in the sky. It spread its warmth over the road, the fields, the trees and the grasses. The breeze was cool and refreshing and I filled my lungs with it. I was happy about my decision and broke into another gay song.

For the past fifteen days, I had confined myself within the four grey walls of my room in the hostel. Books, notes, various study materials and numerous sheets lay scattered on my study table, floor and even on one side of my creaky, wooden cot. An ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and burned matchsticks, a few stained, stale and dirty tea cups inviting an army of ants and a half eaten plate of rice, dal and mutton curry was shoved under the bed. The heap of my dirty linen had grown considerably in the last days and lay on a broken chair near the door. The room was in a mess and its occupant resembled it with his unkept hair, unshaven chin and untrimmed nails.

I had taken recluse in my room to study for my final Engineering examinations. They were a fortnight away. And though there were still many books demanding my attention, I had felt I needed a break. I got up, shaved, took my bath and changed into a fresh, crisp white shirt and a matching pair of trousers. I gave my cycle key to the mess-boy, who had come to collect my last night’s dinner plate, to get the tyre checked and filled with air. He was back soon complaining about the thick layer of dust gathered on the bicycle. I brusquely shut him up and rode happily, away from the brown hostel building and its black unwelcoming iron gates.

I left the main road and took the less-travelled path, which led towards the countryside. The path was a yellow, dusty ribbon, which ran through the mango grove, passed from the outskirts of a village and finally forked near a thick line of some thorny bushes.
Unsure about which path to take, I stopped my bicycle. The sun had become hot and I was breathing heavily. Then I saw it.

Behind the shrubs, lay a huge lake glittering like thousands of shivered mirrors in the sunlight which filtered through the Palas trees bordering the lake on its three sides. The trees had not flowered and looked unhandsome but the lake stretched majestically, unconscious of its not so royal surroundings. The silhouette of the distant, wooded hills made a fuzzy backdrop to the lake. I stood there gaping. The world outside the college, outside the town looked so beautiful.

I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see a village girl approaching towards me. She was eighteen or a little younger, and wore a mustard sari. An earthen pot was balanced precariously on her head but she seemed at ease. She saw me and stopped. I tried to look away but I found her face captivating. It was soft and charming with delicate features and her eyes were darker than coal.

“Have you lost your way?” Her words broke the silence and the awkwardness.

“Yes…..No…. I am just wandering around.”

She smiled and walked passed me taking a curve to avoid the prickly shrubs. I followed her unaware of myself. At the edge of the lake, she lifted her sari up to her knees and cautiously stepped down into the lake. She swayed her pot in the lake disturbing its stillness and filled it with the cool clear water. Carefully she climbed up, adjusted the pot on her head and started walking away. Her shoulders were broad and continued as two endless, slender arms. She looked so ethereal that I did not want her to go.

“Won’t you tell me your name?” I asked her, doubtful if she would answer me but wanting to force her into a conversation.
“What is yours?” she questioned back and at the same time, to my pleasing astonishment she lifted the pot from her head and put it under a tree and settled herself next to it.



The barrier had broken. I stood there, unsure for a while and then found a place for myself on an old tree stump a few feet away from her. We talked first hesitantly then gradually our conversation reached a fervor. I told her about myself, my studies, my exams and my dream to become a successful engineer. I didn’t realize that many of my talks were too complicated for her to comprehend and either to spare me from any embarrassment or probably, in wonder, she kept on nodding her head as if she understood every word I said. Her days spent at home in cooking food, in fetching water from the lake and sometimes in the fields. But she dreamt of going away to far lands, to the sea and sail in a boat.

It was almost dusk when I became conscious of the time. I hurried towards the cycle and waved to the girl who had been a complete stranger to me a few hours ago. I left her standing there under the Palas

It was the Golden Jubilee Year of my college. I had come, like the hundreds of other alumni to participate in the celebration. Two decades had passed since I last walked within the towering iron-gates of my college. It was exhilarating to relive the past in the lecture rooms where many minds had got access to the world of bridges and buildings, chemicals, machinery and electronics; the long corridors where we had goofed in between the lectures and where I had spent the very important five years of my life - my room. But the room did not look like the room where I lived twenty years back. Its latest owner, unlike me, did not unbother about the appearance of the room. It looked neat and clean and flaunted towards me its new possessions about which I never cared or thought. Pin-ups of the latest Bollywood heartthrobs covered the walls. Cards from friends and family stood on the study table. An expensive music-system showed itself off rather prominently, on another smaller table. Where were the books? I wondered but could not see any. I thanked the student who had been generous enough to let me see my room - his room - my old room, though now it had lost its familiarity and the cozy untidiness.

Somehow, a little disheartened by the state of my room, I decided to replenish my memories by going for a drive around the town. I started my car and drove around slowly, trying to match the big departmental stores, the boutiques and the restaurants with the tiny shops, which had boasted of some toiletries and groceries and the wayside tea-stalls of yesteryears.

“Things change fast,” I muttered marvelling at the glimpses of modernization. I lingered in the town for some more time. Past and more of it flashed on my mind. And then I remembered those two smoky, raven eyes. Something stirred in my heart. A quaint, mystic spell overpowered me and before I knew I was on the same road which ran across the country and was met by dusty, straw-coloured path before it continued its journey ahead to distant cities. I drove for half and hour before I saw it. It was the same dusty, bumpy path, which twisted and turned through the mango grove to lead towards the lake. Some things do not change. I stopped. I remembered the path was too narrow for the car. I got down and walked. The winter wind seared through my bones. I pulled up the zip of my jacket and started walking briskly. The mango leaves fluttered in the wind. I walked and walked. The quiet village yawned in the purple, cold afternoon. A sudden excitement grew inside me. I started running till I reached the lake. Gasping for breath, I browsed around. A pall of dust covered the place, making the lake look grey and lonely. The trees had shed their leaves and stood gauntly, ashamed of their ugly nakedness. I walked closer to the lake; my heart beat faster, and peered in the water, wondering where it had lost its lustre. I remembered the last time I had visited the place.

It was a bright afternoon in the month of April some twenty years ago. The Palas trees had bloomed into raging red flamed of fire. Their awesome glory reflected from the lake which unlike now, had given away it’s coldness and was steaming with lust. The vapours rose to kiss the hot air above, hungrily. The bees fluttered around to suck the sweet, life-giving nectar from the flowers’ breasts making them shimmer, flare and explode into a radiant orange – red. A surging sensation took over me. I looked towards her. Her soft, angel – like face glowed in the sun. Her, warm, sensuous mouth was slightly open and beads of sweat decorated her shapely nose and forehead. Her little, virgin breasts rose rhythmically towards me with her every breath. I wanted her at that very moment. I could feel myself growing, desiring for her. I took her face in my hands. I was trembling. I did not know what to do; how to make any moves. And then I looked into her eyes. They were two furnace burning in desire. Soon we were in each other’s naked limbs; wet with sweat, our bodies merging into one and in complete empathy with nature.

We lay there, together; sleeping blissfully after moments of exhausting but fulfilling love making. It was only the loud chirping of the birds, which had come back to their nests on the surrounding trees, after a long, tedious search for worms and the hum of the cloud of mosquitoes hovering above us, which woke us. Coyly, she stole herself away from me and picked up her crumpled sari. She wrapped herself with it, her graceful hands moving languidly around her. I watched this beautiful figure in front of me with intent, longing eyes. Oh, I wanted her again; her long, shapely arms, her firm, slender thighs. I wanted to bury my face, my mouth in her body. But the growing darkness made me aware of the time. I remembered I had miles to cover before I would see the first lights of the town.

“Will you come again?”

I knew she was embarrassed, even scared. We had met a few times before, thrice, to be exact but I had never touched her. We had shared three afternoons, sitting beside this vast stretch of water. We had thrown a few pebbles in the lake causing ripples in its serene stillness, while we talked or silently watched the sun turn from red to crimson to purple before it finally set behind the hills. But we had stopped there. I didn’t know what possessed me that day that I did what I did. Was it her griping beauty or the untamed demon, which lives in every youth, waiting with its claws sharpened, to pounce on him on the very first opportunity? Or was it nature itself which provided a provocative ambience to nurture the seeds of desire making it swell up to a gigantic form where it knew no bounds or restrain.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you love me?” she looked like a frightened girl who had broken her most precious toy.

“Yes, I love you. The hills, the Palas blooms are the witness of my love for you. I’ll come again, very soon. And when I have a job, I’ll take you with me…….”   I kept uttering words and more words to console the frightened figure. But I think my words were unconvincing as much to her as to me; for she walked away slowly but with firm, sure steps.

“Come soon. I’ll wait for you by the lake, everyday.” I heard her say.

I thought I saw her, her face, in the lake beautiful and radiant, as always, bringing a glitter in the water.
 “Come soon. I’ll wait for you by the lake everyday.” She was saying; her arms spread towards me, invitingly. Some female voices and giggles brought me back to the present. I realized I was standing perilously closer to the edge of the lake. I moved back gingerly and came face to face with a group of five to six village belles who had come to fetch water. I stood aside to let them pass.
 Who is he? What is he doing here? Man from city……..They asked themselves as they crossed me.

They looked so alike in their dull clothes and shared a young, gay spirit. Conscious of my presence, they lowered their voices but threw frequent glances in my direction as they stepped down and waded into knee – deep water. I remained there aimlessly but stubbornly. I watched them fill their pots. Their movements were so uniform and their faces, too. I observed. But there was one face, which stood apart from the rest and somehow seemed familiar.  I looked keenly. I had seen the face before. It was the face I had seen twenty years ago and just now in the lake. Bano!  But how could she be still so young.  The girl was nineteen or twenty but not older. Bano’s daughter?

The girls were crossing me again. They gave a strange look towards me, as though I was a loon. I think I looked one as I gaped at the girl who resembled Bano so much. And then I saw her eyes. They were the same pair of shiny black eyes. I knew, instantly, she was Bano’s child. How was Bano? My beautiful Bano? Was she alive? Was she married? Did she still have those arresting looks and eyes? ……….. I took a step towards the girl. I had to know everything. But the faces of my simple, devoted wife and my children who adored me came between us. I halted. Word froze in my mouth. The girls and Bano’s daughter walked away and faded behind the trees in the twilight. I stood there, watching. The cold, heavy air settled down around the lake. I felt cold, numb, forlorn and old and dragged my heavy legs towards the car.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

O Woman...where ever you are.....

Sunday, 8th March, 2009

They want me to speak. It’s Women’s Day. They are celebrating womanhood. Good. How do I feel? Not sure. But I am sure I am neither proud nor ashamed to be a woman. Why should I be when I had no role in choosing my gender? Why should I be when I know only a minuscule percentage of women are empowered in the true sense and a huge lot simply struggling to live with some dignity, some food in the belly and a safe and proper ( or even not so proper roof over their heads).

I look in the mirror. And it speaks. To me.

Black, bitter, beautiful

A daughter, a mother, a stranger

Home, streets or in Power Places

Don’t go by my faces

I am many, I am one

I am woman

I stand on the world’s stage

I sing to you

Match my heart and my words

I speak of Life and Nature

I bleed myself every month

I give birth

A daughter, a son, a hope

But hear; forget not, there’s more

It’s also about my body, my womb, my dream

It’s also about my choice, my freedom, and my survival.

I get up and go to the window. A pall of dust hangs outside. I don’t know what is more parched and dry. The weather of Guwahati or my soul...

Sad we are. The Earth and me. But can Man really love a woman when they have forgotten how to touch the Earth?

Monday, 12th January, 2009

So, tomorrow I will go through the heart operation. My second one. So you see I am an experienced one. And hence I am not afraid. But I do let my thoughts stray. It keeps your mind away from the medical procedure and anyway I am a weakling when it concerns my thoughts. So what do they weave now? Where do they want me to take?

They want me to rest.

In mother’s womb, in the warmth of her full breasts. In the rocking cradle embraced with smell of milk and Johnson’s baby oil. In the creaking bed, in the sensuous rapture of a man. On the soft mattress with the velvety arm of a child around the neck. On the green field behind the hills. On the bare earth. On the rough-palm-mat. On the green bamboo bier lifted by four men. On the dried dung cake and woods at the burning ghat next to a murky river, in liberating fire. In the six feet earth in the ethereal plain, in eternal peace. SLEEP.

Tuesday, 13th January, 2009

My heart beats. My pulse, pressures are fine and I will do fine. The doctors say so. And I like to believe them. But I am immobile for some time. And that is bad. In a common ward I could have watched people. People watching and bird watching interests me though I am better in the former. But in a special private room you are alone. I watch TV and after a while Satyam Scam on every channel with their every “breaking news” detail bore me. I have my rescue team though. Freshly bought books. More than I can manage to read in some months. I can read books from the start to the end in one go that is if they deserve that, even postponing brushing, bathing, working...

But when I think about work, I realise I simply like working but not when you shape it like a proper job. Taking orders from the same people, giving orders to the same people, doing the same things, going to the same place five to six times a week and that too going at the same time and coming back at the same time is not my cup of tea. Make me do that and I will quit. Rather I like to work like an ant with no time, space limits for a few days and then simply relax like a sloth bear or follow a passion- can be travelling or simply cutting myself off from everyone and being at home. You can call me eclectic and eccentric, if you please; I call myself a free spirit. A gypsy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A lot can happen over a coffee

A lot can happen over a coffee.

A beautiful catch line but nothing interesting or note worthy happened over the mug of coffee all these years. It’s true I love coffee, rich coffees.

Chocolates, coffee, men...somethings are always better rich, but while I still think straight I have given up them..not yet totally but almost. So a few days ago when I agreed to meet this beautiful lady at CCD, coffee wasn’t any important reason. I was trying to come out of my cell/self and ready to shake hands with or hug people.

So what do you do in a coffee shop? You obviously have coffee, you date, you pass some time, you do many things over a coffee I guess, if we really believe in the marketing jingo.

I and she talked. Perhaps initially with a well-hidden awkwardness but soon thoughts and words found channels that paved their way within. Later that night I delved on relationships. And saw that there are so many of the kinds. A complete rainbow; each varied and of different hue but each talking of some emotions, some thread which binds us all, some hope. Relationships that open you up to something new and exotic, spurring you for an untried venture, area, where you go with an open mind...ready to enjoy the lust for life or ready to be vulnerable enough. Relationships that are old and familiar and you feel instantly at home. Relationships that bring up lots of questions, making you answer with favourable answers or quiver inside seeking answers and relationships that bring you somewhere unexpected. Some bring you far from where you started, and some bring you back.

But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself and your own life. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, and love the life you love to live, wow then, it’s just fabulous.

A lot does happen over a mug coffee. If not elsewhere, in your own self.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

September Nights

Puwali gave him the orgasm that he wanted and then went to the window to gaze at the moon, on the sultry September night. She was thin and beautiful and one could make out through her thin white slip that she was yet to form full round breasts. Though the moon outside was creamy white and almost round. She thought of the fluid he had spilled on her stomach. At 45 he too looked round like the moon. Like the Big O. That is what he came for to her. Sex and smaller o, he had with others; within marriage, with the women he worked in his office. She neither asked nor really cared to know.

She gazed at the moon continuously, without a flutter of her eyelids. It was difficult to decipher her expression as she smoked the cigarette she had borrowed from him. She didn’t like smoking but she didn’t like doing many other things. A grey cloud veiled her eyes. But even despite this smoky veil her eyes looked blank and still- like the lake I had seen in the Himalayas, and cold. It was not an expression you associate with 16 year olds. Young, lively, cheerful, carefree. Girls should be like this. Puwalis should be like this-like children-exuberating innocence, curiosity, a zest for life. But Puwali was different.

She knew he will leave with no hug, no kisses, and no sweet nothings. Their “relationship” didn’t require these expressions of love. And she did not crave for these or anything from him. She heard the door shut softly after him. He was gone from her room. Then she heard another door creaking. He was now in his room. She let a breath out and started rotting:

30 days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31

but February’s the shortest one.

With 28 days most of the time,

until Leap Year gives us 29.

She was still murmuring the poem when she went to the bathroom to have her shower. A ritual like shower. Nothing made her feel clean; loads of water, perfumed soap, ample doses of dettol and a scrubbing so rigorous that it left red marks on her body.

Did Lady Macbeth feel the same before she went insane? Before she killed herself?

Still in the shower, she recited her own version of the poem.

Thirty days hath September,

All the rest I can't remember.

The calendar hangs on the wall;

Why bother me with this at all?

Her friends had laughed at her this creation and she had joined them but actually the poem disgusted her. She almost puked. There was a fire blazing within her, one she wished could devour her, clean her.

Will Ma ever know why her daughter is as she is? Why she is not like every other girl? Or does she really know that she is not like any other girl? Has she bothered to really know her? Or if she knows something is amiss, has she tried to find out? Ask? Talk? Puwali didn’t think so. Often she had tried to tell her Ma but feared the fingers that would point at her, the blame she would have to bear. Feared that she would be misunderstood and made to carry a cross heavier than she was carrying now.

How can you be so ignorant? How can this happen only to you? What did you do to provoke him? Questions Ma may ask. Questions that had no answer.

Puwali changed into T-shirt and tracks. Drops of sweat fringed her forehead like dew droplets on the greens. Dewdrops are said to be the purest form of water created by the forces of nature in the silent womb of the night. The thought brought tears to Puwali’s eyes.

Puwali was not her name. He called her that. Her name was Dew- pure and serene. That was the expression she bore when she looked at her Ma, at her new world when she was born. And her Ma had said: My darling Dew.

She was 6 or may be little over and had just got a bedroom of her own. She was sleeping, the deep, calm, innocent sleep which only a 6 year can sleep. He had crept into her room like a thief, lifted her mosquito-net.

“Puwali, do you know of the story of Snow white, the beautiful princess or do you know the poem 30 days has September.......” He was on her bed, removing her sheet, lifting her cotton slip. His one hand warm, sweaty, trembling but discovering her with intended force and the other on her mouth.

The room was silent except for his movements. The room was silent except for her muffled, anguished groans. It was a cold night. Cold like death. She could feel the numbness all over her body. A cold numbness that penetrated into her spirits. The only thing that was warm, was the salty tears running down her cheeks, under the mosquito-net in that dark room. A crescent moon shone outside, a mute witness to the forces of the night which ruffled, tore, corrupted, molested, raped Dew.

Ten autumns have passed. The moon often witnesses this gruesome act. Dew carries the burden of guilt, filth, shame with sealed mouth. The web around her has become more stifling, more complex with each silent day. Puwali is indifferent; seems indifferent as she gives him, the Spider, the orgasm he wants every time. But she never forgets her bathing ritual- her survival string.

Her Ma cleans the room every day, after Dew leaves for school. She finds the same note glued to the mirror everyday: Ma, please help clean the web.

Ma looks around the room. There are no cobwebs anywhere. She thinks her daughter is a clean-o-freak and takes the broom and sweeps everywhere. Every day.

( Published in The Eclectic in the September issue 2009)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stray Moments

10th May  ( But does it really matter? )

It was only the other day; a reader asked me why I named my column as Stray Thoughts ( and now the blog too). I wanted to tell him that perhaps my intellectual capabilities and my age are growing in an inverse ratio. A few years ago things used to come in a flash and I would have lured the readers with perhaps more romantic title for the column like Magical Musings of a Maiden or cheekily copied something from the bestseller’s type How to make fools (of people) and still influence them or one that had a double meaning which at least made the men raise their eyes to the article in anticipation of more rising elsewhere, hence increasing readership, something like Woman Bares All but then, I said, what the heck, a rose by any other name would be as beautiful, and therefore, logically enough, a bad article by any other title would be as unreadable. So, there.

6th May

From my very childhood, living in a small town which had very few distractions I started living in my own world….imaginary world of my own making. And this world I realized was always hungry and I ended up feeding it with books. Its appetite was voracious and many times a book a day was also not enough to satiate its devourer nature. But somehow it had no taste for the MBs or even the Danielle Steeles. It never believed in the Prince Charming coming on a white stallion or even a red Ferrari and those lines “they lived happily ever after.”

My world had a few movies too, initially only the Hindi or vernacular languages ones and now English and other foreign language films. But here my mother played a crucial role. Even when I had not reached my teens she had baptized me with Gurudutt, Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Bimal Roy, Govind Nihalini etc. So I am neither surprised nor hurt when JB says I jumped from Bachpan to Burapa.

He is not too far from the mark. But I have my funny bone too but one that David Dhawan and his likes cannot tickle. Why are you so serious? Why do you have to think so much? They ask me. I don’t know and I have never delved too deep inside me. I like to discover myself but often I come across things which seem more worthwhile to discover. And I abandon the discovery of myself for that. A book. A movie. A hobby. A game. A place. A person. An art. A cuisine. An ideology. The list can be endless. And being a person who cent percent believes in only this one life…I know I have to do the good, the bad and even the ugly in this very life however clichéd it may sound. Yes, I must be accountable of that and have the maturity and strength to accept the consequences.

Isn’t this a simple thought? So why do you think me and my thoughts complex? I write about simple thoughts, stray thoughts of stray moments. I don’t always deconstruct or annihilate, scream a cause or voice a polemic. I have done that and got recognition and awards I didn’t dream of, didn’t try for. But the inconsequential, the trivia, the silly, the ridiculous, the personal, the vagaries of mind, the tides of seasons, the joys and pains of living, each has a place under the sun, on some piece of paper.

And once in a while during my travels I do meet people who let me see that when we take it all too seriously always and demand too much from the people around us and ourselves, we lose our way. So what sayst thou? Chill and take the time to be not so perfect and laugh at the madness of life???

7th May

But today I feel lonely and I take out those bits of paper, I keep in my drawer where sometimes on a forlorn, melancholy mood I scribble. I read them. I see many things have changed over the time but some are glued to me, the thoughts or events surround me, never to go away. And how idiotically I thought stray thoughts are like winds….they touch you, caress you or pierce you and move on to do the same to someone else somewhere! But then I was wrong. Often they stay with you. Forever.

I read these lines which I wrote years ago and they feel like the twin sister who I never had but who might have echoed the same things because at least in the womb we would have been one for some time. But sisters need not be blood sisters. Sisterhood can be found anywhere. It’s universal.

They say -

At twilight,

at that moment when the blue night falls on the world,

the world becomes silent,

silent for a moment,

like the audience in rapture after the curtain drapes down the stage.

Perhaps it is this moment- the moment of complete silence

when I hear a muffled voice say your name.

Where are you?

Who else is with you?

Saying what?

Are you busy?

Making big endeavours in a still bigger world?

Or are you thinking of me?

Remembering the smaller moments of my small world?

Why does love come on me

and the whole of me wants you in the evenings,

when the hills recede into blur lines

and the gloomy trees into erasing shadows?

Often I have sat in the rocking chair


Watching the sun sway behind the purple clouds.

Watching it display the wonders of melting into a darkness.

Of dying.

The tea has turned cold.

You will be late-as always.

When you will come you will be preoccupied-as ever.

I know you will move into the room called “self”.

Where is the key to this room?

Do I have it?

Do you?

Or is it lost?

Lost and gone like the sun.

And we?

We will recede like wonderless, dark silhouettes

Into our “selves”

Into an oblivion

Into death.

( Poem Published in Assam Tribune as a series of poems titled Meloncholy Moods.
The write up is a part of article published in The Eclectic June issue. )

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Indian August

August 1947 / November 1984 / December 1992 / February 2002 / December 2007

Naked to the bone, the morning crept through the barred windows. Piercing the curtains, it stood in front of me to wake me up. A needless effort! I am wide awake even before the night has completely melted away. But these days, I wait for yet another morning, naked from head to toe, to arrive before I leave my bed and fumble with the numerous locks. My day begins with the opening of the locks and my last duty of the day is to check that every door is securely locked, every window shut, every curtain drawn. I do this at the first hint of darkness.

In fact in my city (its name changes with the date), these days, silence deep like death, arrives much before darkness. What do I do between day break to dusk? How do I occupy myself? I open locks. But I have said this earlier. Yes, but listen again. These days we often talk the same things and listen to the same things. I open the locks to witness a morning, stark naked, stripped of any beauty and hope, shamelessly flooding the streets, entering every home to fill it with either fear, despair, anger, vengeance, loss, tears, shame. I try to cover it with the newspaper. But newspapers are not regular these days. No, the newspaper-wallas are not regular these days. On those days I shut my eyes tight and stumble inside the house. Those are the days when the morning wears a thick garb of red; gory, warm, spilling on the streets. A strange and cruel effort to cover the nakedness. Effort so ruthless, so exhausting that by evening, the morning collapses in some alley, as a bare, nameless corpse.

When newspapers come, I glue my eyes to it. By midday, however, it has been shredded to bits- they try to give an identity to the blood spilled-name of some community, ethnic group, religion practiced. Don’t they know that blood has only one identity, only one colour? It is red. Call it crimson red, scarlet red, ruby red, purple red, warm red, cold red...but it is red. Red whether I put vermillion on the parting of my hair, red whether I have no foreskin, red whether I grow a beard and tie a turban, red whether I light a candle in front of the wooden cross.

You don’t believe me? I am surprised! Surprised that you don’t believe me. But I do. I believe and I know. I had cut my wrist and asked the sap seeping out. My colour is red, it said. And no matter who and where you are, my colour is red. That is my only name.

Why did you do that? You may ask. Because I could not stand those days. Days stained of brutality. Days that echoed the stampede of human feet, clanging with sounds of unsheathed swords, spears, lathis and guns. Because I could not take the nights. Nights like crazy, raped, homeless hags, wandered the city, shrieking.

That is why I keep the doors locked. My heart locked. My mind locked. My conscience locked. Lest the shrieking make me mad, make me insomniac, make me a sleepwalker.

Lest after 64th year of Independence, I realise freedom is far.

15th August

I lived in a colony as a child. And January and August had a special meaning for all the children in the neighbourhood. We all had voluntarily taken a task that made us feel important, special. Selecting a ground or someone’s courtyard, clearing it of weeds, decorating the area with sand, chalk powder, brick powder etc. Digging a hole, sacrificing a part of pocket money to buy a bamboo pole, a rope and the tricolour and the laddos and candies. Practising the anthem, selecting a chief guest – someone’s parent/grandparent, learning to tie the right knot and begging, even stealing flowers from neighbours’ garden for the flag. It was an act that united us in one faith - faith in the country, faith in oneself that only children can have; that everything is achievable, by us, by our country and one can dream dreams that went beyond the kites that we flew in that August afternoon.

Hurrying to the school after this “ private” flag hoisting was still better. Marching past with heads held high, saluting the flag, listening about the freedom struggle that inspired us to do our own bit, going home earlier to watch a patriotic film or the kite flying session, everything was a celebration, a matter of pride.

Years have passed since then. I still live in a colony but time and complacency has perhaps got the better of us. The attitude towards the national holidays has changed. I miss seeing that kind of enthusiasm within the children. The significance of the days lost somewhere and what remains are another two days of holidays. Yes, the government building will have the flag flurrying and the representatives attending the state ceremony but the Aam Admi? Very few.

Someone said patriotism need not be displayed merely by standing there and singing the Anthem. True, it is a symbolic gesture in one way but what other gesture did we do to show respect towards the country for the whole year? I read somewhere that the progress of India did not depend on the government, as important as that might be, but was enormously dependent on the initiative, individual and group- of the Indian People.

18th August

An idea was growing within me for a little while. To give you a blank page titled Stray Thoughts. Period. Not a joke. Blank page for you to fill up with your thoughts. Blank page as an emblem of Silence. To listen and hear the Silence, to listen and see the Silence, to listen and smell the Silence, to listen and taste the Silence, to listen and feel the embrace of the Silence.

I had been travelling within the city a little more than my liking the last past weeks and unfortunately during the rush hours. The city seemed chaotic and engulfed by a constant noise, loud voices, blaring music, honking vehicles, and meaningless talks, the cacophony of sounds to hide restlessness of unhappy minds. I longed for silence, the quietude of the inner self, the meditative spirit, the gentleness that soothes the dusty, crowded, enervating roads. I longed to watch the humble serenity of a flower, the glorious blaze of a yellow moon, to hear the soft twinkling of the stars that braves the polluted air to reach us, to hear the movement of clouds, the rustle of earth under my feet. And hear no words, air no opinions, write no words. But I got the call from the editor and the idea was aborted and you have these words.

( Published in August 2009 in The Eclectic magazine. Made some minor changes though. )