70 Seconds

In Freedom’s clasp.

 

Shuffling through radio stations,Indignantly.
Searching for music as I

Sallied along the roads of the country that did not make that music.

My feet pressed upon the brake paddle,

and I grumbled.

70 seconds of waiting.

 

The rays of Sun falling through a Sun-blocking glass was my inconvenience.

But I had shades on, right? In my AC car?- Yes.

Amidst my loud music and my mutters

Of cursing time, I heard a tap on my window.

I think she knocked on a lot of cars before-

her knuckles were darker than the rest of her skin colour.

 

The face of a young teenage girl, I saw.

Baking in the Sun, yet beaming at me.

She held up a white plastic stick-

Similar to the straw in my coffee cup placed down beside the gear-

except, much more delicate and dirtier.

 

To the end of the stick,

Loosely dangled a wrinkled, pale Tiranga.

8 more seconds until she mouthed-

“Five rupees madam!”

It was hard to make out if it was her request,

Or her adversity.

 

Her eyebrows formed a ‘V’ as she pulled them together,

To aid to her vision in the searing heat of the afternoon.

Her other hand carried a bunch of many such shabby flags.

She didn’t stop smiling. 

As I looked,

She stopped by six more cars. 

For 70 seconds, she knocked. 

Not one looked back at her. 

There were reluctant nods without eye contact. 

There was laughter inside, 
Shatter outside. 

Outside- was out of liberty. 

Green lights went off,

And the cars behind me honked in unease.

The girl dashed towards the divider as vehicles scooted as though she were invisible. 

The pale little flag on the top of my dashboard sunk lower than ever.

 

 

Blunt Nose

No curls in her hair,
A smile that could convince.

Eyes narrow, sleepy; lips dry and pale pink.

But nose- not sharp. 
Like a butter knife 

That glistens at night 

In photos clicked under the moonlight-

Reflected by her lip gloss
Her lip gloss was no longer peach

It had become coffee

From the cups she had and those she thought she did
Even if it was bad for her braces. 

She made jokes with it and laughed hard

At 19 she had braces
And a blunt nose

And no regrets. 
Because it couldn’t poke into others’ lives.

Taint 

I see a newly wedded couple in front of me. 

They’re sitting way too close to each other.

The wife is resting her head on the husband’s shoulder as they watch something on their phone,

And share a laugh.

They’re holding hands- fingers interlocked. 

She’s wearing bangles- like Sarita Didi did-  from her wrists down to her elbows.

They clink against each other as she gracefully laughs.

I hope it was funny, the joke. 

Because it reminded me of Sarita Didi’s laugh. 

Sarita Didi, she first introduced herself to as to me, was my neighbour. 

And last night I heard her scream again.

It was disquieting. Maybe she had spotted a cockroach in the sink.

I don’t know if anyone else heard it. Or maybe it was hard for them to hear it over the sound of their ignorance. 

Because that scream, wouldn’t have just been for a cockroach. 

I know it because I’m not 13 anymore. 

When I was 13, Sarita didi got married. 

When the couple came to their new home for the first time,they were holding hands. 

Fingers interlocked. 

She was in a yellow silk saree with bangles on her wrist that clinkered. 

I remember because I thought she was a beauty queen. Probably a little too shy for one, but nevertheless. 

Her mehendi was as red as her blush.

But the only time Sarita didi laughed was when her son would ask her what was wrong. 

“I’ll make you aloo parathas”, she used to say and we thought the smile was real.

Every other night, there’s a scream. One single, sharp, gut-wrenching, agonizing scream. And peace.

I look at the newly wedded couple in front of me. 

I wonder if the wife is afraid of cockroaches. 

Pipe Dreamer Colleen 

Pipe Dreamer Colleen didn’t need expensive toys 

Or money, or fame,

Or boys. 

Her skirt would whirl and the waves would stop. 

Her skirt would whirl and she would dream;

Dream to put her arms forward, throw them in front of her. 

No- no one need take them. She was only tired of being stiff. 

No big deal, Pipe Dreamer Colleen was tired of being stiff. Like her blouse. 

Starched and stiff. 

God knows she never felt her body.

But deviants around her would somehow see it. 

She always thought they were too old and wanted support. 

She just thought they held on to her because she was special. 

Pipe dreamer Colleen thought she was special. 

Her face was special. It was so innocent. 

Her lips never objected. 

Now her bitch face was suddenly offensive, but childhood-

Childhood was a dark place for her. 

But it was okay when her dad didn’t hold her hand at the beach. 

Because that was the one time she could be a child.

Slaves

I wasn’t smiling, but I wasn’t weary. I stopped everything and began to search. They were all over the place, a few just carried forth by the waves, a few buried partially in the loose sand. These shells knew hardships, knew the gallantry of the mighty sea. Some of them were beaten, shattered, and broken; Battered, trashed; Their beautiful, vivid textures developed a kind of asymmetry. 

But not when they sheltered their masters. Those fragile crawlers that made these strong carapaces. 

For the sea, they were just abandoned slaves. They were broken and many of them out of place. They moved with the foamy shore- in and out. And as for me, I did not know what they meant to me but they were mine. I picked them up like I needed them. When I was lolling about, jumping, getting my white leggings wet and sandy, I would see them lying about, abandoned. They caught by attention like fireworks. I picked them up, and their patterns would dazzle me, and I’m slightly happier than I was. They might be abandoned, coarse, withered and faded, but they always carried in them the magnificence of the ocean. They remind me of the valor in the waves, the intrepidity of the waters, and the world under it. This necklace of seashell, I wish to wear. They never had life, but to me,

they are always alive.



Firescape

I am composed of cells

And I have fuel in me

Fuel that ignites 

Every part of my body

And through every gap in my other body

Does it spread

I am not dead yet

I can still feel the blaze, the sear

On my skin And the soot

Charres my fancies

Flames my fantasies 

Erupts my fathoms

My eyebrows are smoldered 

And my hair is cindered

But I am not dead yet;

I am only beginning to feel alive.

Over tea: After midnight

​A series of penny plain thoughts that I get over my tea.
Once again I dip the bag in steaming water. And I gaze at the liquid as it hazily turns black. It’s dark. It must be midnight.
As I pour in water from my carafe into her hollow-shaped palms, that never seem to get enough of it. 

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”, asked my childhood friend, Cheer, as her hands shaped more and more hollow, as though wanting more of the water I was pouring in.

” I don’t know”, I replied. 

It was dark. I couldn’t see her face. I wish I knew what she looked like now. The last time I saw her, I didn’t bother to look at her. I was too into the gags with my friends and family, that I didn’t have the time to look at her face. I could just feel her presence. Now I can’t even see her in this dark.

I closed my eyes, and I pressed them tight, my carafe of water broke and one last outpour of water onto her hands. I couldn’t see in the dark, but I think that’s when those palms finally overflew. 

It has been a few days now, and I have been poring out to her. She takes everything in, yet when it’s time for her to give to me, I do not even notice her. It is the best relationship that I have. Every night does she ask me, “what’s wrong, sweetie?” Every night I reply to her the same. She never seems to get tired of it, even when I am slowly beginning to. 

One day I had asked her, “For how long will my container stay full?”

It felt like for a while, she thought over what to reply. I waited patiently. Focussing my stare on tilting the water container, I held on to it. And the water poured and poured. My arms began to slightly feel numb. The container, which always felt heavy, was starting to get feel lighter. Maybe my numb arms are unable to feel the pain of it. I started losing focus, when I started to feel light headed, and put my container down. I realised how tired I was. I was also getting restless, for I didn’t get the answer to my question yet. I began to feel angry. I wanted to ask her loudly as to why she wasn’t replying. 

Or was she even there beside me? 

Eyebrows pulled together, I looked all around vainly in the dark. Suddenly, I reflexed to what seemed like a spark below me. My pot disappeared. Instead, from that place, emanated a little white light, as though from a small LED bulb. As I looked at it, it began to grow larger, and everything around me grew brighter. Soon, the place that I was is filled with bright white light. Indeed, the stool in front of me was empty. Cheer was gone. It was just me. And then I felt it. 

I felt myself saying, “As long as I let it”.

As long as I let what? It must be a dream. Or maybe it’s morning already and my mom had pulled out the curtains to wake me up. And then after what felt like eons, as though I was that ancient to my senses, I felt her within me. I felt her within me, answer my question. She(or he) is in all of us. Through midnight, and all along the day. That’s where broken hearts and emotional breakdowns go. 

Just like how broken tea leaves had now become my brew.