December 7, 2013

All I could do was cry

It is the saddest thing, for tonight is their last night
as an innocent, complete, ideal couple; her last night
with a man she has known for so many years,
a man she knows almost everything about,
                               and wants no more of.

Soon they will be strangers; no wait, they can never be that.
Even hurting someone is an act of reluctant intimacy.


November 17, 2013

The Champs-Elysées

Afterwards, she stood in the window with a blue-printed
cotton scarf wrapped around her body like a sarong,
looking out over the courtyard. A fat black kitten
with white paws ambled on the path beneath their room.
The kitten looked up with wide green eyes, intent, face uplifted
like a little black bowl, turning, raced into the bushes,
chubby tail standing upright. "Viens, viens," she called,
rolling the unfamiliar French word on her tongue,
playing at being a little girl.

















Our Lady of Paris - Daniyal Mueenuddin

August 31, 2013

Here comes your man

He buys her a new jar of cream every day.
It's the only indulgence she permits herself.
They are little sample jars he buys from
a herbal beauty shop, next to his place of work.

Every night she would wait eagerly,
to hear him read the label aloud,
sighing with pleasure over the voluptuous names :
cocoa butter, tea tree, elderflower, camaomile.

Today, a cream made from satsuma.


July 21, 2013

A Story of Boy Meets Girl

"You peck like a bird,"
he says disapprovingly, as he dips the toast,
all of his and most of hers, in the hot tea.
She quietly slips a square of toast into his plate.

It is not true that she has such a meagre appetite
or he such a large one, and they both know it.

But it is one part, a necessary part,
of the complex ritual of belonging,
this transfer of food from her plate to his.


July 13, 2013

Banana Pancakes

She is a self-confessed aficionado of home food.
He finds it funny the way she would draw this
gustatory boundary between self and alien,
between "home food" and "other people's food."

In their nuclear house, flavours have become code words.
The family beyond - parents, brothers, sisters, 
a snarl of cousins, uncle, aunts -
eat food that is subtly different.

Point mutations is masala,
Deletion in spices,
Translocation in flavours,
all these make for other people's food.

And to think that there was a time, when she didn't even know how to make tea !
















The Life Uxorious

March 5, 2013

Sea of Love

Was it necessary, then, to weep before you recognised joy ?

He remembers how the night before he left her,
how a tear or two trickled down his cheek,
and how she, a woman he had learned to love
without knowing how to tell her, had taken his tears
as the token she'd been waiting for,
the sign that he didn't want to leave her,

They were mere strangers,
strangers who knew each other only too well.





February 18, 2013

The Weakness in Her

In the kitchen, she washes the teacups as the water burbles.
She stands ready with the sugar, alert and concentrated,
and the smell of heating milk and the leaves, and wisps of steam,
send her reeling into the past, replaying images of the first time
they woke up together, the profound heat of his skin against her,
and her confession that she didn't know how to make tea.

The heat from the stove spreads across her hands, and she remembers
the newspaper splayed across the table between them,
and buttery kisses, and she feels her heart wrench,
kick to the side like a living thing hurt, and she falls to her knees,
holding her head between her hands, and weeps.

She feels his hands on her shoulders, and his breath on her forehead
as he whispers her name, and she turns away from embarrassment,
but he pulls her head back, into the solid curve of his shoulders,
and they vanish together into the familiar fragrance of their smells,
unknown for so long, with its flowers and underlying tinge of salt.

















Love and Longing in Bombay

February 4, 2013

Bombay Central

'I'll walk with you to the platform.'
'Oh, don't. Go back and get some sleep'
'No.'
'Why?'
'Because I want to be with you, that's why,'
he shouts, furious at her for not understanding.

They remain trapped in the moment ,
in the pitiless glare of the florescence,
examining their first flush of love.

Then it is time for her to leave.
She misses four trains, with joyous deliberation.

The last train is here. 
He lifts her with a light clasp across the waist,
expertly dodging the waterfall from the train's rain spout.

'I'll call you.'
'I will be waiting.'

What do words convey ?
They are mere excuses to prolong the time of silence.



January 29, 2013

Julie & Julia

When she was younger, she hadn't wanted to hear about cooking.
To acknowledge the titbits of information about food,
that her mother kept passing on to her, apropos of nothing,
would be to acknowledge that she wanted to model herself on her mother,
which at fifteen or sixteen or even at twelve, she most certainly did not.
She had spent her adolescence resisting her mother, not to spite her,
but just to establish that she was different.

Despite all that, when she cooked now, it would be the same way
like her mother did, and it tasted exactly the same.
After all, it seemed so obvious.
So she had been listening after all, it had all come back to her.




January 23, 2013

Angel from Montgomery

On some days she feels like an old woman -
an old woman tired of it all,
tired of the endless cycles of birth and death,
tired of investing any hope in the next encounters,
tired of finding more human beings to love,
knowing full well that every person she loves will someday
wound her, hurt her, break her heart with deceit,
their treachery, their fallibility, with their sheer humanity.

She feels dried out, scooped out, all hollow and empty inside.
She has nothing else left to give, no more love to spare.


January 17, 2013

Lost in Translation

What had happened to their unending conversation ?

For years she'd consulted him about her decisions,
occupied herself with his comforts, enjoyed his presence
beside her in bed awake or asleep, depended on his involvement
in every aspect of her life, felt rejected when he came home and,
burying himself in some tome of Ghalib, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky,
seemed to ignore her need for company, or responded to her
easy flow of anecdotes about work or life, with an abruptness
that sometimes bordered on cruelty.

But somehow - she knew this now - she had ceased to ask him about himself,
lost the questions she might put to him about his fears or his needs,
as if by doing so she would be an intruder in some very private place,
a hermitage with a firmly barred door.
















Aamer Hussein - Another Gulmohar Tree

January 13, 2013

Mumbai Diaries

She stood on the slippery rocks and gazed at the dark waters around her.
Behind her, the sounds of the city were muted, shushed into silence
by the steady lapping of the water around her bare feet.
She stood there alone - alone with the murmuring sea and the distant moon -
empty hands, an empty heart, the hollow shell of a woman she used to be.






















The Space Between Us

January 7, 2013

Non, je ne regrette rien

There was a time of naivety, when she believed
that she would get used to the loneliness of her life,
that she would accept the numb spot on her heart.

But now she knows that no,
time doesn't heal wounds at all,
that it is the biggest lie ever perpetrated,
and instead what happens is that each wound
penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day
you find that that the sheer geography of your bones -
                    the angle of your head,
                    the jutting of your hips,
                    the sharpness of your shoulders,
                    as well as the lustre of your eyes,
                    the texture of your skin,
                    the openness of your smile -
has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.