Posted in Airplane Poetry, poems

Breathe.

Part 2 of 100 Poems in 2018 Challenge by Airplane Poetry.

Prompt: Without warning, you lose your eyesight. Write a poem about your reaction in the immediate aftermath.

 

Breathe.

The pulses of the weightless needle on the ticking clock.

Heavy curtains caressing the window.

My rhythmic heart and oscillating breath.

A bird, whistling.

They rang out in the silent room.

When I go out and about, full of doubt,

I’ll listen

In the school ground, in the play ground, when I’m home bound

To the sound in the background,

Before I take a step.

I’ll come around.

Now that I was robbed of light,

I was gifted sound.

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Posted in Airplane Poetry, poems

Look

Part 1 of 100 Poems in 2018 Challenge by Airplane Poetry.

Prompt: If your mirror wrote you a poem, what would it say?

A tiny you.
13 years ago.
Trying to hug me,
the tip of your middle finger touching one edge,
the other out of your reach.
12 years ago.
You introduced me to a smaller version of you.
She had the same eyes.
11 years ago.
Something changed.
Your body had lost all chubbiness.
I saw you flexing your muscles.
10 years ago.
You stood in front of me with your first gold medal.
9 years ago.
I see a little board in the corner of your room.
It’s full of medals.
Last I counted, there were 52.
8 years ago.
You packed all your medals and put them in a box.
You stopped wearing the tights and jerseys I was accustomed to.
That’s a really big t-shirt.
Are you putting on weight?
7 years ago.
You’ve put on weight.
You don’t look me in the eyes any more.
6 years ago.
It’s lonely without you.
Your mom comes in sometimes to look at your pictures.
I’ve seen her cry.
5 years ago.
You meet me once in a while.
You discovered kajal where you were,
Living with girls.
It makes your eyes water.
4 years ago.
You’re back.
Something changed while you were away.
Your hair keeps changing now.
When everyone’s asleep, you try new clothes on.
You end up throwing them at me.
3 years ago.
You spent hours talking to me about Arjun’s life as Brihannala,
and Shakuntala’s as a single mother.
2 years ago.
You threw the phone at me.
It broke.
You were broken too.
And crying.
Again.
1 year ago.
You were away for three months.
Your skin is darker and your eyes are smiling again.
The same eyes that hugged me 13 years ago.

Posted in Cultures, poems, Uncategorized

“Bhoot”-kal

Dear Papa,
Yesterday I saw something that I didn’t understand.
They were walking a little ahead of me.
But walking isn’t the right word,
because there were two people
and only two feet.
It sounds like a math problem,
But nothing added up in my head.
It sounds like Vikram Vetal, papa,
But unlike the story you told me the other day,
there was no strong king or sly demon.
I saw, however, one dirty underfed boy of eight
dragging his crippled mother across the street.
Adhunik Shravan bal.
A Lilliputian on a Herculean task.
I couldn’t decipher her age.
When you’re that poor, does age matter?
Do they keep count of the days that pass by
when their aim is to survive just one?
Do they have a mirror to look into
and count the wrinkles on their face?
What does age matter to an eight year old boy
who, instead of attending school,
is hauling his handicapped mother across the road
on a seating board with wheels?
When I was that age, papa,
you bought me a skateboard
that was the exact leaf green
from my 50 colours oil pastels set.
I couldn’t see the colour of their clothes.
There was the dark of the night,
yellow of the street lights
and everything was in sepia
like the picture you showed me
of your childhood.
You once told me you were raised in poverty too, papa.
Are there different kinds of poverty?
Did you get toys to play with
or were your clothes in sepia too?
I told you this sounds like a math problem, papa,
And here’s what doesn’t add up.
Isn’t a parent supposed to hold their child’s hand
and show them how to cross the road?
I remember holding your hand,
looking left-right-left
and matching my steps
with your strides.
Fast, but never run.
Who taught him, papa?
Did he have his own papa to teach him?
How did he learn to walk fast enough
and pull hard enough
so that he and his mom made it across the road in time?
How did he find the strength if he was underfed?
He truly reminds me of Shravan bal,
because who else would carry his mother
across such distances.
I told you it sounds like Vikram Vetal, papa,
and now that I think about it, it really does.
Maybe this little boy is a young king.
Maybe he brings his vetal back home every day.
Maybe he hears her talk about her day.
And maybe, papa,
when he succeeds every night,
she saves him from an evil tantric.
An evil tantric called hunger.

Posted in Cultures, Kolkewadi, Short Stories, Uncategorized

Praying to Stone

My dad convinced some of the locals to take us for a trek to Kolkewadi Killa. Mom, dad and I packed egg bhurji and rotis and started off around 6 in the morning. We trekked for about four hours, and reached the caves we were headed to. There were a total of seven caves. One was underground, the mouth of one was about to be closed due to stone and soil filling it, and one was full of bats. There were some more, but the last one we went to had a clean water tank. We set up camp there, took out our rotis and egg bhurji, and sat to eat.  There were some random stones lying about, all carved and sculpted into some vague human shapes. Dad is experienced about stuff like this. After standing there and studying them, he said that they were at least a thousand years old. When they had been newly made, they had probably been exquisite, beautiful and perfect to the very last detail. Or they could’ve totally been just vague shapes. The locals who were accompanying us claimed that they were idols, and this was a sort of a temple. Some empty packets of incense were also lying about; proof that some people had prayed to those idols before. Papa indicated for me to come and see myself; I was itching to the exactly that. I walked over and peered at the stone slabs. Something seemed wrong, the way the idols were depicted, the postures, the positions. A nagging suspicion started forming at the back of my mind so I looked up at papa, mentally trying to frame what I knew might be true.

He caught my eye and said, ‘Yeah, I think its S-E-X’. He spelled it out so that the locals wouldn’t go through an uninvited culture shock. But my suspicion was confirmed, and I burst out laughing. Papa joined in, and so did mom. The whole day I was amused with the thought that people even today prayed there to sex like it was some god – burning incense, bowing their heads, giving salutations and considering it holy.

Posted in Cultures, Kolkewadi, Short Stories

A Period.

I had just come back from the market Alore, and was looking for mom to see if the vegetables I had bought were edible. I found her sitting in the neighbour’s (also Shinde’s and my extended family) kitchen and chatting up with my two aunts. As I walked in, she updated me- ‘They’re going to Ram Vardayini and Terav temples, do you want to go as well?’ While I took a few moments to contemplate whether I actually wanted to go, one of my aunts interjected, ‘She can sit outside the temple, if there’s a problem. If they say anything, there must be a garden or something where she can sit.’

I was stumped by this, and had no clue what she was talking about or why I had to sit outside. It took me a long pause, and super-fast thinking to realize that her comment was based on the fact that I had my period. Something, which, by the way, women tend to share a lot even if it’s not their period they’re talking about. It just happens to come up in conversations. For those who still have no clue what this is all about – women who have their monthly blood are not allowed to enter temples because they are considered to be ‘impure’ for that duration.

It was a little awkward and slightly offensive for me, because that is one superstition I would not (could not) believe in was the ‘impurity’ of a woman based on her menstrual cycle. However, I just laughed and said, ‘Aho, we won’t tell them! It’s not like they check, right?’ Everyone laughed, changed the topic and that was that.

Posted in poems, Short Stories, Uncategorized

The woman from 17 Again

How do you tell your boyfriend that you love him?
That you love him but.
That you love him but it’s not enough.
That you don’t wanna be the woman from 17 Again
‘Cause she fell in love at 17,
Got engaged at 19,
Got married at 20,
Had a kid at 22,
And at 35 she realized she had fallen out of love with her husband.
You didn’t want to be her.
How do you tell him that he is perfect and his efforts aren’t falling short?
But you’ve seen Monte Carlo
and you want to roam about Europe
on a Vespa with a really nice guy you met there.
How do you tell him thanks for handling you
when you were really drunk that New Year’s Eve?
But you want to know what its like when a guy buys you a drink across the bar.
How do you tell him that travelling with him is goals?
But that international trip wasn’t supposed to include him.
It was supposed to be your trip with your friend traipsing around the place, making memories and having no sex.
How do you tell him that the blame game sucks but it’s never one person’s mistake?
But you’re tired of accepting mistakes that weren’t yours in the first place when all your heart actually wants to do is make all the possible mistakes in the world without regret or guilt and own it, damn it!
How do you tell him that you once saw a future with him and you still do?
But you’re 20, a graduate, unemployed and you still haven’t figured out what to do about your own future.
How do you tell him that you’re tired of the fights and maybe if you both took efforts, the fights would be resolved?
But you want to take all those efforts and put them in yourself because if you did so, maybe, just maybe, you’ll figure out a career.
How do you tell him that you may not have whirlwind romances or foreign affairs?
But you can’t afford to know that they never can ’cause you never tried.
How do you tell him that you both once wanted the same things?
But now things have changed and you’re not quite sure what you want but you’re willing to give Life a try.

Posted in Cultures, Kolkewadi, Short Stories

Gulab Rao’s Lands

Today was cloudy. The sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds, but was more inclined towards hiding than seeking. Gulab Rao was also similarly inclined. He sat on the khat under the shed. The four sturdy wooden pillars of the shed had been hammered into the red fertile soil. The roof had been thatched with layers of dried up leaves stitched together. Not a ray of sunlight – even when the sun did peep – penetrated the thatching. Gulab Rao had taken off his shirt and hung it on the little stem that stuck out from the pillar. There was an enormous aluminium kalshi nearby that was overflowing. Gulab Rao had dipped his towel into it and used the wet towel to keep his head cool. Literally as well as figuratively. He had already fainted twice before. Now he had been instructed to stay here and entrust Vikas with the task at hand.

A little boy appeared out of the red stone house behind Gulab Rao. He carried a glass of water for the old man. The boy’s tattered shorts threatened to tear off his frail body as a strong gust of wind engulfed the hill top. There were certain benefits of being positioned on the hill top. One, there was a comfortable khat, thatched shed and abundant water. Two, the monumentous Sahyadris sheltered them from the heat. Three, an occasional breeze or gust of wind passed through. Four, Gulab Rao had an eagle’s view of all the lower land being surveyed along with the people surveying it. Five, to access the higher mountainside lands, they would have to pass Gulab Rao on their way up. This meant, he was always up-to-date with the going-ons.

Gulab Rao rubbed the dirt and sleep from his eyes. After scratching his belly and adjusting his seat, he was now ready to monitor the ant-like people going about their business in the fields below. There was no real structure to those fields. Surveyor sahab’s map ls showed perfect rectangles and triangles, but real fields aren’t shaped that way! Fields in Maharashtra had been traditionally divided by placing gigantic boulders on every land limit, and joining them with a stone bund. Some plots were divided by growing specific long-lasting trees. In the midst of this, the white spots scurried about with tall red flags. The surveyor sahab’s yellow plain table was positioned in the centre of it all. Raju Shinde’s young daughter was holding an umbrella over the surveyor sahab and his plain table. Dressed in a bright yellow t-shirt and bright red cap, the girl looked like a flag herself. Surveyor sahab could just make her stand at the different ‘fixed points’ of the land. Gulab Rao was wondering why the girl had come today. He had thought she would be tired after yesterday. Besides, she didn’t really have any business here – not in the fields, not in the survey. But here she was, holding maps, carrying the umbrella and offering water to everyone.

Gulab Rao’s thoughts were cut short as the wind carried snippets of a heated argument up to the hill top:
‘This is wrong…’
‘We know our lands…’
‘What do you mean one more landowner?’
‘You’ve made a mistake…’
Gulab Rao got up. He wore his shirt and slippers, and made his way towards the source of this disturbance.

Earlier this morning, surveyor sahab had decided that Raju’s mountainside land was to shift about 20 metres into Gulab Rao’s current area. A heat wave passed through Gulab Rao’s body even thinking about it. He paused a moment to steady himself. The amount of area that each of them had would remain the same but Gulab Rao didn’t want even an inch of his current land limits to shift. 20 metres! That was the first time Gulab Rao had felt faint today. All his rice fields would go into Raju’s possession if the limits shifted by 20 whole metres!

By the time Gulab Rao reached the group, the men were drinking tea and the argument seemed either settled or paused. Gulab Rao accepted a cup of the sweet liquid – not his preferred choice of drink – and sat in the shade. The silence reigned as everyone was engaged in drinking tea. Surveyor sahab was busy at his plain table. As soon as the tea cups were collected back, the silence was broken. Amidst all the clamouring, Gulab Rao gathered that everyone thought surveyor sahab had made some miscalculations, thus leading to recalculations.
Surveyor sahab moved away from his plain table with the big map and a pencil in hand. Everyone fell silent. Surveyor sahab asked one of the helpers to pour white paint on a rock. Breaths were being held. Surveyor sahab walked right across to the other side. White paint was poured. Sahab declared these to be the new limits. Screams, shouts, insults, insinuations – the Sahyadris were rattled by the uproar a group of four to five men made. Only two people didn’t make didn’t make a single sound – Gulab Rao and Raju Shinde. Gulab Rao’s mind was racing. These new boundaries, if declared final, would mean that four whole plots of land that belonged to Raju would become his. The entire plot that Raju was setting apart for building a house would become Gulab Rao’s. Gulab Rao’s heart fluttered dangerously. He got up hastily. The world blacked out and came back to him in circles. Gulab Rao suddenly felt someone hold him up. His eyes focused on Raju Shinde supporting him. Gulab pushed him away and sat down. Everyone was surrounding Gulab Rao. Raju took this opportunity to go talk to surveyor sahab uninterruptedly. The girl went and whispered something in sahab’s ear. Gulab Rao tried to say something but the air had been knocked out of his chest. Surveyor sahab was back at his plain table. He took the helper boy and poured white paint onto a few more rocks. This was the limit now, he said. His previous calculations had been made with the wrong ‘fixed point’. So close! Gulab Rao had been so close to gaining possession of four whole plots of Raju’s land! They had been snatched away from him! That Raju Shinde, what had he spoken to surveyor sahab when everyone had been distracted? Gulab Rao’s feeble protests of ‘that was the true limit, not this’ went unheard. Damn Raju, he was taking away Gulab’s land.

Gulab Rao wasn’t really talking to anyone. Vikas, in his stead, signed the documents stating that the new limits had been accepted by all the shareholders and neighbours of Raju’s land. Gulab Rao was ushered into Raju’s big car at the end of the day. Gulab Rao was to be taken to Alore to check his blood pressure at the hospital. Gulab Rao sat there without any protests. He was a whirlpool of emotions – anger, guilt and anticipation. Upon reaching Alore, Gulab Rao stayed in the car, unsure of what to say. Rane, Raju Shinde’s friend, turned from the front seat and held out another fifty rupee note to Gulab Rao. Just like yesterday. Accepting the money, Gulab Rao alighted from the car and made his way to bar. There was no better medicine for his blood pressure.