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.

Untitled

You linger

Like the aftermath of the wine I finished last night

You said I drank too much

So after you left I drained all the alcohol

And roamed the halls of this house

I wanted to be sober for you

We poets are connoisseurs of tragedy

Yet tonight even my blank pages are no use

Because the only words that flow from this pen

Are ones that rhyme with you

You

You who smelt like the sea every time

Washing over me

Walking away and coming back like a tide

Flowing on its own time

You who never held me without an agenda

Who only dreamt of the inside of my pants

Who never once wondered what lay in the deep folds of my mind

You don’t leave

Even the walls remind me of you

They whisper sweet nothings in the night

I touch them like I had touched you

A soft rub here a dig of the nails there

They moan just like you did

They don’t wander off though

You used to, at the very start of our many conversations

“I don’t do frivolous talk”, you’d say

And keep looking for intelligence on your phone

Not these walls

They absorb every last of my words

Tonight I write on them

Desperate to draw you out

Then I stop

If you didn’t love me then

Why would you love me now?

For now, the paint awaits

The walls could use a coat

It’s got scars where it was hit by things that missed me

Like prisoners of war, these walls have seen it all

The torn up insides of our caustic relationship

The silence and the violence

The chaos after a brawl and the calm before the storm

Everyday playing out like an operatic tragedy

Not tonight

Tonight these walls are a shrine

Entombing pieces of you

Tonight you will be immortalized

I stare at you and wait until the paint’s done

Consent

I can’t speak

You swallowed the last of my refusal

You tasted it in your mouth

Did it taste like the sweet cherries you said it would?

Did you feel my throat choke on the string of words you used to “woo” me?

All I could taste was your charred tongue

Burnt and scarred by your betrayal of my trust

I can’t speak

But my hands spoke

No they screamed and fought

The only way hands know how

They said “move away, leave me be!

You were just a hero to me

A deity, worshipped in the altar of my teenage heart

My love of you was too innocent to be carved out of me like this”

I can’t speak

By now you’ve swallowed all my NOs

They’ve echoed in your gut

And convinced you I just need more convincing!

Your hands move up and down my spine

Slowly carving out my skin

And I’m just wondering how would I wash away the scars no one can see.

Months from now I will muster up the courage

Corner you in rage and scream and stomp my feet

And you will convince me

That while I tried to scream with my body

You NEVER heard a peep

And there, in the tiny screens of an obscure messenger

You will be brought down from your pedestal

By your superpower that put you there.

Your words. Your words wrapped around my neck.

I can’t speak

For no one can hear me

They will point their finger at me

“Did you say no? Did he hear you say it?

If you were fine with his hug

Then why weren’t you fine with a kiss?

Why did you agree to meet him?

Did you drink anything stronger than tea?

What were you wearing? A skirt, that’s….interesting”

I can’t speak

These days I just write alone

Friends can’t be trusted anymore

For if heroes turn out like you

What would my friends turn into

You surgically removed the one strength I had

My ability to love without doubt!

But some things are even stronger than love

My words! My awesome motherfucking words!

I can’t speak

For I will scream this to you and the world

It doesn’t matter what I wore

Or whether I loved you or not

Or if I was smitten by your words

Or what it means when at 15, I loved the works of an older man

Or if my messages to you were heartfelt

Or that you “expected” a kiss

For you may have eaten my refusal

And I may not have said no

But

I

Definitely

Did

Not

Say

Yes.

A letter to my 11 year old self (when I wrote my first poem – Butterfly)

Dear girl,

You aren’t so little anymore

Those rhymes you’ve just written down have aged your soul

You are now wise beyond your years

Your tears that dissolve your words into large blue dots

Will one day become rivers flowing through your veins

Filling your heart with an innocence you thought you forgot

You write of fluttering butterflies right now

You will soon turn to werewolves and vampires

And then

You won’t rhyme at all

You will just paint pictures of your soul on pieces of paper supposed to contain class notes

The doodled angels on the corner of your pages will smile

At your childish notions of sorrow

Soon your poems will be cries for help

All that angst of teen age will turn into a knife inching into your veins

Each poem will enter your heart like a shooting star

Burn through its chambers and turn into star dust

Every night you will crumple your pages into hugs

Till the words drill a hole though your chest

In the mornings you will wake up with a smile

Those pages will turn magically into blankets

You will write of unrequited love

Of that boy who thinks you will never be pretty enough

Of that boy who loves you relentlessly till you break his heart

You will walk over a thousand such hearts

And place your words like flowers on the graves of your failed relationships

You will then wait till you are alone

And then embrace your solitude like You are all you need!

And just like that, one winter morning

The green of the forests, the growls of the wolves and the grim of the fairy tales

Will be back to claim their space on your empty pages

You will shoo them away brandishing your pen like a sword

Soon your scribbles will becomes quivers of arrows

With which you hunt down the voices in your head

Until all you will hear are the waves of words washing poems on the shores of your pages

Little girl, my friend,

That pen you hold like a laser beam

Will one day vaporise your insecurities

It will fill your heartbreaks with hot chocolate

It will teach you that remembrance is the only cure to death

It will keep your innocence neatly wrapped up and safe

In the pages of your notebooks

And plant tiny pieces of your soul in every poem

Until there is a garden blooming new words each spring

That pen you hold like a mountain top in your hands

It will find your love, bury your anger and save your soul

My dear girl,

Don’t ever let that pen go.