The Ballad of the Labourer’s Daughter

Have you seen the nests they are building with everything we left behind?

Can they see our broken homes from their heights?

Do they not feel the resentment plastered on their walls?

Can they not smell your sweat flowing in their drains?

Or feel my mother’s tears wetting their streets?

Those happy faces I see through the glass windows

Seem like ghosts stuck in the peepal tree rooted in your stories

The crane came in the night

It always comes in the night

Raising its head like a snake ready to bite

This wall that lies ruined was the face of our fort

You built it yourself brick by brick

“That way our house will be just as strong as the tower next door”, you said.

It was a tiny palace behind the castle, but it was ours.

On days when you’d be too tired to tell bedtime stories

We made up stories out of the crevices in your hands

Those scars you won in a battle

Those scratches were from crawling through the trenches

Your bony fingers were hiding your superhuman strength

My father was a war hero everyday

In the mornings you’d be gone before our dreams ended

I never once wondered if you’d dreamt anything at all!

Our school was beyond the railway tracks

You would help us cross them every day

A shepherd flocking his herd

“They’re making another building, next to school” I’d say

You’d just smile and say

“That’s for you to stay in when you grow up”

I’d look up and wonder

All that hard work just to be locked up in a tower?

In the nights when our palace was silent

I’d hear your whispers through the walls

I’d touch them so your words would flow through me

Your stories of everyday valour

Some nights I even heard your laughter

It was rare but when it came

It beamed like lightening through the walls and touched my heart

The night the crane came in

You picked me up in your arms

You couldn’t see but I was staring at my books in the corner

My only friends at the time

I tried very hard to hide my tears on your chest

You thought it was the heat of the night making you sweat

I didn’t know then but my dreams that night were my best

The hum of the machine pierced through the night

As if singing a chorus to the lament of our crumbling walls

You held me tighter with each thud

You were turning yourself into my fort

Suddenly I heard nothing, not my mother’s sobs or the crumbling walls

I looked up and you were smiling down at me

“Time to build a new nest”, you said.

Sketch by Daniel David Talegaonkar

Broken Girls

They say

“broken girls blossom into warriors”

Do I strive to break or be broken?

Read unspoken words

Scamper to the top of mountains

Look down at my bruised feet and my swollen chest

I feel no pain just my pride

For I’ve blossomed


Each chink in my armour

Makes me stronger

If you claw on my skin

It’s your fingers that bleed

If Someone breaks my bones

They slowly turn to gold

So I break, keep breaking until this earth

Is full of tiny pieces of me

Until there is nothing left to break

I’ve blossomed

“Broken girls” they say

Around here they break one everyday

They wipe off her smiles

That dazzled their eyes

Like rainbows coming up for air

They deem her beauty too bright

So they cloud it with their darkness

And wait for the rains to bathe away

The fairies in her tales

Until only the ashes of a phoenix remain

She’s blossomed.

They break us in droves

A factory plucking out each dream

Storing us in jars

Until the anger is just ripe

They choke us till we can’t breathe

They don’t see, we no longer need to

We simply wait

on the edge of life

Blossoming everyday

So here we stand battle ready

Swords unsheathed

Shields up

Ready to consume all their hate

Their anger is scripted on our skin

Scars that have branded stories

On a mind that wishes to forget

We are an army of warriors

Who never wanted a war…

Dear 2017
You weren’t easy
You saw too much
You saw the coronation of a creep in the free world
You saw him grab them by the p—— and jab fingers at innocence
You saw women march for freedom from prejudice
You saw that freedom thrown away by bosses, leaders, kings and jokers
You saw the world tear up at the borders
You still had hope
You found it in men lining up to give blood to gun shots
In the courage of millions of women who wrote #metoo
In the celebrations of love over hate
In the music that unites us
Now in the darkness of midnight
You ask me in your fading voice
“Will you miss me?”
The dark of the sky is a black hole set to swallow you
You are vary of my answer
You know you weren’t easy
I found my moments of bliss in you
When I came home to a city that changes colours every time I leave
You saw me smile without an agenda
You saw me cry at poetry that touched my soul
I know it touched yours too!
It was here in this city I had found myself years ago
I got lost in between
But in you, I found myself again
You sigh and say, “the next one will be better”
You were a friend, a lover, a sworn enemy
All rolled into one
Yes, The next one will be beautiful
But the next one isn’t you
You will be safe in my memory box
Where I will keep you like a lucky charm
I will lock you in
Saving my hurt, my joy and my love
Saving the world, all of its light and none of the darkness
And as the sun begins to let you go
I await the start of a new love, a new you
With the few lessons you left behind
Always march together so no one’s left behind
Cry when you feel like it without judgement
Find your crowd and you will never be alone
Never try to stop your fall for it teaches you how to rise
Treat your friends like wine – preserve them, love them,
Age them, consume them.

Confessions of a Serial Poet

I’m not a spoken word poet

I’m not 

A performer 
I won’t move you to tears 

I’m just a fluff

That cotton puff that flies by 

Lands in your palms right under ur eyes 
I’m not that guy who fights for the fall of the tall

The one who sings words 

Listens to the voice of faceless souls and goes quiet

When the night falls 
I am not the girl who takes you away

On a journey into unravelling minds

Through flowing lines 

I promise you I won’t tear you down or make you cry 
I’m not worth the sound of snapping fingers

I write words that need to be read

Not out loud but quietly 

When angels have gone to bed
I exist in the darkness

Where you light up your mobile

To know what the world is upto

You find me then 
Sometimes at the crack of dawn

But mostly in the middle of the night 

I am the voice of your demons

And they don’t perform on stages
They lurk backstage 

In shadows 

Until the mic goes on

You start to speak 
The show starts

And I am


The Dancer

Odissi, by Gungur

You are the leaf

The music your breeze

It touches you in places

You never thought existed
You are the pebble

Softly ebbing the river’s flow

You are still

And yet you move to it’s rhythm! 
You are the grass

Trampled upon by baby feet

Of humans you’d rather not meet

You are rooted to your ground
You are the tree

Each mudra a branch

A name – a word sent out to the world

The rain is your anklet the ground your feet
You grow on sun’s hallowed stage

Wait for the rain and hailstorm 

You shiver quietly to the winters hymn 

And breakthrough at each spring’s song
And when they mow down your soul

Dry out your river, 

Saw your bark and knaw at your roots

You are Durga
Hoisted on your ride ready to roar 

To cut down the heads of the Machevillian whores 

And dance atop their bodies slain by the tides

Until the sun shines again and the rain falls 

And you are a leaf once more.

Does writing dark poetry make you insane? 

Clinical insanity: mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

When I was about 25 I wrote a story about a hotel constructed only for those who are willing to die. Whether by natural causes or by suicide. The concept was, those tenants who committed suicide would, for eternity, work at the hotel as staff – A purgatory of sorts for the lost. The idea of the story came from a forward of a Stephen King book I was reading at the time where he mentioned this unforgiving knack of asking “what if?” That has led to his various best selling publications. 

The other part of the story came from an establishment called “The Metropolitan” situated in the heart of a city I was, then, and still am, in love with. 
More recently, a very close loved one happened upon the story and wondered, even if for a brief moment, whether I am clinically insane for conjuring up these horrible thoughts. He also went on to question every single thing I have written in my life to this point. Our conversation moved into why I write dark poetry and whether it is fuelling my dark thoughts instead of being therapeutic. 
He then proceeded to find connections with my past behaviour, my poetry and my writing. Leading up to a conclusion that I might be clinically depressed to be thinking up all such stories. 
For obvious reasons, that conversation has led to this blog. 
I don’t consider myself a great poet, actually I don’t even consider myself an ordinary poet. But the one thing I have been true to all my life is that I have always looked to improve my writing. Whether it is experimenting with the structure or imagery, I have worked hard at the 100+ pieces I have written in life. Whether the subject of it makes me clinically depressed never really crossed my mind because they were simply reflections of the world and sometimes reflections of stories that I imagined. 
I must, therefore, have a wicked imagination. Well so do Anne Rice and Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe, does that mean they were clinically insane? Honestly, I have never had a problem in the past with such observations. With people looking at me all funny thinking ‘what’s going on in her head?!’ I suppose this affected me more because it came from someone I love deeply. But having seen up close and heard up close the problems of mental illness, I have a problem with my poetry being labelled in such a way. If anything it is an insult to scores of people dealing with REAL mental illness. A lot of these observations come from the stigma around death and mortality. A lot of it also has to do with the stigma on mental illness itself. There is a perception that if you are in general thinking about these things, you must be thinking about hurting yourself. Nothing else’s could explain your interest. 
At a very young age, my father’s stories of a lost era of genius family members had affected me. There were also stories about funeral rituals that used to scare my father as a child. Death has always been talked of as a welcome friend, almost training children of that generation that this will happen (perhaps it had to do with the general high mortality back then). In our myths, ancestors would come back to look after us when in times of trouble. Death was just a gate through which they went and they’d often come back to visit and it was fine if they did. Now we think twice before even saying, if I die — perhaps that is what has led to a lot of the criticism that has come my way. 
A Ruskin Bond ghost story set in Shimla at the age of 12, got me excited! The hills that had otherwise been settings for beauty and clean air (I grew up in Delhi!) were suddenly the scene for something sinister. My lovely fifth grade teacher got us to write our own ghost story making writers out of all of us. It was the first one I ever wrote and I was delighted when my peers watched me wide eyed after reading it. I saw it unfold in front of me, my story, but no one said I must be insane. I suppose that fear is more pronounced when we grow up. 
Mental illness
Our school had a Manovikas Kendra (mental development Center) where children suffering from Down’s syndrome and other congenital neurological disorders came to study. My peers in sixth grade would say only “Buddhu” (stupid) kids went there. I was once there talking to the school counsellor and happened to interact with these kids. I realised how smart the kids were and how my classmates were the stupid ones not realising the amazing and witty company they were missing. 
What makes us think about pain or sorrow and why is it more interesting to some people than others? There is no answer to that. But does thinking about pain and finding the same beauty in it that one finds in joy, make a person depressed? Well I have had these conversations at length with a certified psychologist (because that was my level of self doubt at that moment!). And the answer is no. It perhaps makes us more empathetic to other people’s pain but doesn’t necessarily mean we’re heading towards the knife or the noose! A lot of times I find that people when approached with thoughts they don’t want to associate with have a couple of reactions: 

1) “you’re too philosophical for me.” Well, in a way you are right, most writers and more importantly confessional writers are philosophical. They wish experience their feelings at a deeper and spiritual level. But the little I know about philosophy, I don’t think it can be measured to be less in one person and more in another! 

2) “Oh my god! You need help!”- true. We all do. But does writing about pain make me an ideal candidate for therapy? I don’t think so!
There is of course a third set of non judgemental friends and family who typically just turn a blind eye. “If I’m not reading what she wrote, she didn’t write it!” They still love me and I still love them so no burnt bridges there. 
I have,  since the long conversation with my loved one, done a lot introspection and even thought about the joy I get and always got while writing. I’m still scared of the reaction I might bring from him after this post. But I’m gonna brave it. Sylvia Plath was more than just a woman who stuck her head in the oven. Emily Dickinson was more than just a recluse. Edgar Allan Poe was more than just a drunk. They were all writers who sought to change the world and while some people don’t remember that about them and their social and mental well-being has become more important that their poetry and prose. I, for one, do not forget that their best work came when they were in their complete mental faculties and in fact their respective illnesses made their lives tragically short. It is important to separate the insanity from the writer because otherwise we fall prey to foolish and confining psychological theories like the “Sylvia Plath effect”. They wrote to break free and not to be chained by their minds. I have a wicked ambition to do the same.