The Patriarch

Would I ever be my father’s daughter

An aged porcelain sans cracks

Pretty but fragile

Smart but pure

Happy but not cocky

Loved but never felt safe

Would he be proud

My words in his eyes

Or write it off as one of his many regrets

Etch selfish on my forehead

Everyday for the rest of my life

Scarlet letters on crisp brown parchment

My skin was a scratch card

He, the player – forever looked for obedience

It is the drum where sounded

Screams of bones unwilling to conform

“Don’t study too much, the men won’t want you”, he said

So I, as was my wont, tried desperately to unthink things.

I then unschooled each thought taught by mighty Venuses

Because he, a hero of my life since the age of three,

Would shed tears of pride one day

For his victory over my self worth

It wasn’t his first one

He has been winning this war

……For centuries now

The House

This house is a cave

Where silence like a monster

Rests

It has been fed for years

Pieces of children’s skin on their father’s cane

Sent its way like lambs out for slaughter

This house is an asylum of nightmares

Shadows lurk in every doorway

Waiting for the darkest edge of the night

They wait for the mother to implode

And the patriarch to explode

Until they swallow both of them whole

This house was a mistake

A dream destined to self destruct

Dreamt by a hopeless heart

Put to test by toddler souls

Running scared from one dark room to the next

Till one day they elope leaving their scars and heartbreak behind

It has a caustic system

That burns down joy in an incinerator

Every year

The ashes choke the inhabitants

Until their breath becomes shallow air

And love for years has been hiding inside dusty bookshelves

It has rage for bricks

Cemented together with insults

That hold the walls together

Everyday the mother hits the walls softly

Hoping to let the anger course through her veins

At least it’d keep her alive

The father he stares at the unforgiving walls

Searching for absolution

Praying his sins are worthy of redemption

This house is her.

This house is him.

But the one thing this house is not and never was

Is a home.

Dear diary

Ever had a day when you wish you could blurt words into the diary

The way you used to as a little girl?

A day where you want those words carved into your arms

But your mind has hidden all sharp objects in the room?

I wish my mind were a loaded gun

With words on point enough to kill.

Instead I scar myself

Branding my skin piece by piece

I tell them it was an accident

The doctor wonders aloud if I did it to myself

Or did someone hurt me

I tell her I need no one to love, to hold nor to burn

I don’t feel pain

I don’t allow for it

These walls are too thick

And pain just lashes on the outside uselessly

Instead I preserve my scars

Spread open my heart and let them breathe

While painkillers worm through my blood

Hospital ceilings make for good parchments

It must burn the doctor says

I tell her it hurts but not enough just yet

Perhaps there will come a day when the levees will break

And the pain will flow in these veins along with the killers she injected

Don’t get me wrong

This isn’t masochism nor some dark confession

This is me simply acknowledging the stormy seas in my mind

Listening to the thunder and the distant rumble and bracing

My demons are on my bed every night

Awaiting my implosion

Waiting for charred skin and wounded flesh like

Vultures waiting for death

But these walls hold strong every night

Held together by the same words

That in the morning rain like knives

On my parched skin

As the sun rises, there is this fleeting moment of quiet

Where the pain and the demons don’t exist

And my mouth morphs into a smile

And my scars? They aren’t scars anymore they are old friends

Of Monsoon, Mumbai and Love

Part 1

The word monsoon comes from the Arabic word mawsim

When the Arab sailors would come looking for riches in our lands

The winds of the east would change directions holding them back

Forcing their ships to wait – pining for Ihla Da Boa Vida (the Island of Good Life)

The Dutch would do the same after four months around Africa

Chasing stolen maps, they’d reach these shores only to find “moesson”

The trade winds of the east making them wait

For these clouds to change their hues

The British would time their deaths to it

Claim no one survives two monsoons in this godforsaken island

Yet they stayed – for death in Bom Bahiya – the Good Bay

Meant they were war heroes – in their battle for a British India

***

Do you ever think about me – your poet?

Everytime you look at the monsoon slashing at your windows

Do you stare at puddles in potholes

Imagining a different reflection of me with each ripple

I’m a lot like this island, you know

I’m not a part of the whole

I show my love the same way

By longing for you oceans away

You’ve tried reclaiming me from under the sea of solitude

Many times at your own expense

Yet you fail to claim me

I am and will forever be submerged in my silence

So – you wait out my monsoons

And descend with your ships of thoughts

When the clouds in my mind have cleared

You bask in the glory of sunshine

While my thoughts like stones drown me in my procrastination

Your love is a silver lining

And my love – the cloud

While you sigh at the smile on my lips

I just want to rain my words on your joy parade

Part 2

The brave they landed

The Parsis, the Jews, the Iranis – the Runaways

The British they were just a rubber stamp

This was and is an island of rejects

I often wonder how does the city not burst into flames

When every one in it is a firecracker?

Instead its lights from the sky,

Quietly guide our souls home every night

***

I like this, city keep my flames inside

Quietly burning from the inside out

While you – are always on fire

Forever warming my cold feet

You celebrate my empty rooms

Win my silence like a trophy

And I keep my longing for you packed in boxes

We will love like this forever I suppose

Blank Space (as explained by an introvert)

This.

This.

This is what my silence looks like

A dark room full of unknown faces

All of your eyes on me

Waiting for words that just

Don’t

Come.

These are my hands

Trembling at the thought

Of wading past an ocean of thousands of you

At the end of this night

Swaying me with your tides

Invading my silence over and over again

This is also my space

Empty but for my breath

These walls are my friends

All the same colour

But each with a different heartbeat

Slowly teaching me…. How to be

The space holds in it years

Of avoiding strangers like you

It’s what our mothers used to say right?

But while I was busy warding off the evil

I’ve also kept a few new souls away

It’s a price I pay and I pay it in plenty

And from where I’m standing

Silence is a precious prize

You’ll call me the quiet one

Wonder why I look scared

When you call me beautiful

Sigh when I look away each time you try to smile at me

Wonder why I have nothing to say

When you say my words have changed your life

You’ll deem me just a mystery

Intertwined with your life for no reason

“She’s just shy”, others will say

And you will wonder why I am not that shy on this stage

You don’t see what I see

You don’t see my blank space

This is also my canvas

Where I paint stories

Through relentless strokes of my mind

Stories of unrequited love and outraged fists raised in hope

Stuffed in jars like fireflies lighting up my nights

Where my realities collide

Burning through my dark skies like fire

Until my words like stars turn into dust

You may call me the introvert

Claim I dwell in caves

While I spend my weekends in empty rooms

This mind tethering at the edge of my page

You may even give up and walk away

To never come back again

But this.

This.

This thing u call a blank space

And shrug off because it’s empty

This is my whole world, my masterpiece!

And you…..are just a background.

Vantablack

Is it ironic?

That they birthed the blackest black

In a room full of white light

Made me wonder

What does black look like in a womb?

Waiting to be born, waiting to absorb all the light

They gave it a name

Vantablack rose up through the metallic flames

Anduril in one hand the Antichrist in another

The sculptors and the painters fought for the science

One won his vain war, the other asked:

“How do we SEE the absence of light?”

The poet, she smiled.

For the world has now seen and baptized

The blackest black of her mind!

Outrage

There is no outrage here

They came knocking on my door

Looking for it

Before going back on the streets

There is only a numbed silence

Like the ringing in your ears after a bombing

Or the haze in the air the morning after Diwali

Diwali

The festival of lights

Celebrating the victory of light over darkness

The homecoming of Maryada Purushottam – the perfect man

Our Ram

Our God

“Where is the outrage?”, He asks

His shrine coming to life

“I burnt it, alongside your judgement of me”, says His wife

“I walked past the embers into your guiltless arms

And then let the earth consume me.

That dust you see, between your idol and mine

Those are the ashes of my outrage.”

Outrage:

N. An extremely strong reaction of anger, shock or indignation

They are raging in the newspapers

Coercing outrage out of numbed souls

“Where is the outrage?” They ask

I can’t find it,

It played hide and seek with Shame when I was 10

And Shame won

Shame

The ornament of choice of all women

Across centuries, throughout Bharat, across its Yugas

Protected by gods after husbands gambled their wives away

Saved and preserved until it rusts and turns into hate

I shed it today

My snake skin of shame

I don’t wait for new skin to grow

For the outrage is flowing

In my blood, in my bones

I open my door

The sun’s red makes me glow

I stare at my bloodied hands

Make my anger into fists

Raise them to the sky

And my outrage

Turns into hope!

P.S: Ram refers to the Hindu God, he is an incarnation of Vishnu(one of the holy Trinity in Hinduism) and considered the “perfect man” – Maryada Purushottam. After he rescues his wife from the clutches of Ravana (the evil king of Lanka), he asks her to prove that she is still “pure” and hasn’t been defiled by her captor so his wife survives Agni pareeksha – the fire test and proves her purity but also “punishes” Ram for questioning her by being buried alive into the Earth.

P.P.S: Bharat refers to India as described in Mahabharat where yudhisthira the king of Dharma (righteousness) gambles away his wife Draupadi to his cousin brother. As a result, Draupadi is disrobed in presence of the full court until God in the form of Krishna comes to her rescue.