Sunday, June 28, 2009

I choose to

You choose who comes into your life. You choose what becomes of it. If you get yourself in a mess, you better get yourself out of it. Forget the past; you can’t improve history. No matter what, you can choose to start afresh. If you believe in this, you’re ready to take the blows without looking for excuses.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Where the spirit falls short

My voice slumps
In conversations with you
What do I talk about?
My tongue hangs dry like tinder
Ready to catch fire at petty provocation
Then, as you say, I keep the phone

The new sun beams cold rays
On either side of the peninsula
Where we lie, at the mercy of geography
Chained to the remains of last night’s dreams
Distance is a poor excuse for what separates us

I bank on memories
To offer you some vestige of lingering affection
Being apart breeds new images
It stiffens the soft cotton of your sari
I somehow forget: Of the nine yards you draped
You kept the longest to shield me
From His harsh gaze

Now, I think of you as the Past
A temporal truth
The Present has saddled me with a different version of it
Teaching me the composition of silence,
And the war that wages when human beings retreat into themselves
This is a more lasting truth, I tell myself

You and I
Travellers of different landscapes
Cannot concede
That we are separated by a wilderness called human nature
Intermittently, we make cripples of ourselves
In trying to reach out

The boundaries between are not physical
They rise where the spirit falls short
There’s little place for largesse
In hearts that have shrunk with time

Yet, like all cruel/blessed things in life
You dare to believe in your notion of me
And allow selective ignorance
To eke out pounds off irrational happiness
Preserved even in a deluge of ready evidence
Against a son
Who is frugal with love

Friday, April 10, 2009

a solution/problem

A solution is composed of words
Them strung together in an order
With pauses and gestures—wafting, floating,
And agreeing to your mien
A solution is an inching closer
To delightful experiences of living and learning
Of distant music in familial gatherings
A solution is an arrangement

A problem is an arrangement
(1) Of phrases and their turns
That travel determinedly to reduce you
(2) Of silence and empty vocabulary
That crush hopeful will like a sombre second opinion
Once they reach, overcoming space
They create fissures anew
Of anxiety, dependence, and life

Sunday, March 22, 2009

moving around in circles

It was in the 1980s that some popular Hollywood movies began offering consolation, by way of jingoism, for America’s losses during the Vietnam War. It’s hard to imagine Rambo and Uncommon Valor being made between ’64 and ’74. In the late 60s and early 70s, the public mood was more of snowballing rebellion against a war that didn’t stand up for anything that the American people valued. There were Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.

Was there any one point when the public realized that the war had gone wrong? The answer, in all probability, is no. The war continued for more than 6 years after the My Lai massacre in 1968. In fact, Nixon started a new war—by ordering an invasion into Cambodia—in 1970. The so-called Christmas bombings happened in 1972. The war moved around in circles.

The US won every battle, yet as the majority believes it lost the war. Or did it? Either way, it’s hard not to be a cynic. The US entered the war to contain communism. It was the height of the Cold War. Maybe US involvement was justified. Yet, if you trace back steps, you find giant Pandora’s boxes strewn along the way. These boxes lock ugly, enervating truths that make you echo Tommy Lee Jones’ words in No Country for Old Men: “I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.” That’s the overriding feeling I have.

Sometimes, it pays to be a spectator. There’s more room for solace. Ignorance, while probably not being bliss, is definitely a good sedative.


I visited my friend’s dad in INHS Asvini, a reputed naval hospital, this weekend. Asvini is located in Navy Nagar in Colaba, south Bombay. Not often you see a yawning ocean through hospital windows. The place doesn’t quite exude sickly gloom, or maybe it’s just me imagining things. Uncle has been an eccentric man all his life. I was wrong-footed by his second question—a deep backhand volley when I was at the net, exchanging pleasantries: “So how is life? How much do you earn? 25,000?”

I burst out laughing. It hit me that he hadn’t really changed. Don’t know why I had assumed that he would have mellowed. He pulled me closer to him and held my hand for a long time. Very unlike him. Later, I realized why. Diabetes has eaten his retina. It has also fucked his kidneys and weakened his heart. We had a regular conversation. I didn’t ask him anything about his health, how he felt, etc. He asked me if I had visited Siddhivinayak, Haji Ali, or the Mahalakshmi Temple. And then chided me for being a nastik (atheist). I said I was too scared to visit Siddhivinayak because a friend—a deeply religious guy—had had his pocket picked there. He looked at me and then we both burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the answer. He showed how swollen his legs had become, pressed the skin near his ankles to show the depressions that would form. When we were about to leave, he asked my friend to level the bed. It was one of those beds with a handle you can use to lift the bed. As he raised his head, I saw tufts of hair on the pillow, like a puppy had slept on it. I felt the saddest then, don’t know why.

Old age is not inevitable, not depressing. If you were to ask him, he would shout back at you, “It’s just ridiculous.” He’s that kind of a man.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My plan

I plan to take myself
by the scruff of the neck
turn myself upside down
shake myself
until the last drop of poison
spills on to paper
and soaks it

And after that
who cares.
There’s absolutely nothing beyond that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


My hands—brothers in arms—keep adding bogeys to this toy train called continuum. The hands are three: the long and short, and the frenzied. Together, they keep ticking. They keep everything running.

When early resplendence slides in through doors ajar, I am there to witness musty corners shrug off their wimpy edginess and mingle with the smooth whole. The world as a brave whole…aah…where does it begin?

When the silence of after-lunch siestas eats the day’s vigor, and activity gives in to abeyance, I stand moved. I continue my merry-go-round. Lending substance to naps and dreams that appear and vanish like meteors. When lurky servants pinch off sleazy magazines from under mattresses and spill themselves on Persian carpets, I am there. When they remember the spots of spillage and smile at having stained a rich master’s possession, I am there too.

When shadows make two of each, I am there. When old memories return with long shadows on deserted walks, I walk too. When aggrieved patriarchs rant endlessly in after-dinner outbursts, I do not pause to stop them. When the socially respected take off their contraptions and defenses for others like them before retiring, I bear testimony.

When my hands meet—seduced by coterie—I egg them on. And they start all over again. And they make you start all over again.

Mine is just a job. I don’t know why you do it.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

witness to life

I read somewhere that one of the reasons people marry is that they want a witness to their lives. Like much later after things have happened, a married man will have someone to testify what had happened. In conversations, he will not be the only one rambling; there’ll be someone to finish his sentences, to furnish details of the past, to lend credence to his claims.

Which is partly why long-distance relationships are difficult to sustain. Because there’s no constant witness. Witnesses change, and more importantly the ones that are there don’t pay much attention. Or else your work friends would be your best friends.

Solely as proof, the “marriage” kind of a permanent association isn’t worth it. Photographs and home videos should suffice. That marriage rewards you with a guaranteed history is a given. But exactly what sort of history?

I dislike the kind of history that paints pictures in broad, sweeping strokes. I find it irrelevant. There’s just very little detail. It follows then that I don’t particularly like to know about what couples have to say when they sum up their lives together in a few pithy sentences. Such remarks are more like comments fit into a small box in a report card. Like you had to deliver a judgement, so you did it. The judgement is not the truth. Truth is in the details. And at different points in time, truth is different. And part of the truth is that when you do choose to marry, you’re offering yourself as a witness to your partner’s whims and fancies, his vices, his unacceptable traits, his irritating habits. And also his absolutely adorable qualities.

The question I ask myself is whether the virtues redeem the vices. Whether it’s only the sum that counts—not what goes into the final figure.