Sunday, 12 October 2014


No eerie music foreshadowed your arrival.
It happened on a dry, dull summer evening. It must've been a Tuesday.
You walked in, wearing a tuxedo, smoking a cigarette and sinking down into my moss green, rexene covered chair. The one I usually reserve for stacking magazines and worn clothes.

You never asked me any questions, those first few days. To be honest, I was always looking over my shoulder to check if you were still around. I remember that evening after work when I had to rush out on a first date. There you were, sitting on the armchair, flicking cigarette ash onto my floor and refusing to look away as I pulled my t-shirt off my head and slipped into a sexier dress.

You didn't ask me any questions when I came home later either. But I could feel you staring at me in the darkness, while I lay on my bed with my back to the chair, obsessively refreshing my text messages.

I also got used to you being around fairly easily. It's like you'd never left. I don't remember when it was, but I stopped replaying that scene of you storming out of our apartment and slamming the door. I forgot the burn from the pit of fire in my stomach that night. I forgot that I carried nausea with me like a purse, for months to come. It was deliciously romantic how watching you sitting on that chair, I forgot things I once thought I would never unlearn.

Would you like some water?”

Those may have been the first words I spoke, breaking the silence. So oddly formal, to you, who had once known every crevice of every turn of every emotion I ever had. But it was a hot summer day and I know better than anyone else how much smoking parched your throat. That was also the first night I left a glass of water by the side of my bed.

You would think come winter and a new, handsome, wonderful man in my life that I would ask you to leave. I don't know why I never did.
You could've offered to split the rent if you were staying. Refusing to pick a fight and determined to move on I just decided to simply ignore and forget you.

But how does one forget someone who takes over an armchair and fills a corner of your room with cigarette smoke?

I learnt how to change inside the bathroom, except on days when I wanted to remind you what you were missing. I'm almost certain that I saw pain flash across your face when I put on your favorite red dress to go out for dinner with him. Then again, it could've been the dim lighting in my room throwing shadows on your face and tux.

I never let him come over of course. Refusing to answer to myself who I was hiding from whom. However, happiness is more difficult to conceal, given away by stark, simple facts of staying out late, needing less sleep and constantly smiling to oneself. Love shines through, like a hickey on the neck of a boy who has just gotten laid.

“ I didn't want to say anything earlier to you, but I think I need to clarify. It's not that I don't still love you. It's just that he makes me happy. Not happier. It's different.
He's different.
Listen, I really wish you'd say something instead of just sitting there, judging me and making a mess on the floor. There's just so many times I'll sweep the ash up. Ok?"

"Look, he's sweet and kind and I don't want to be consumed whole again. 

Maybe there's nothing more of me left to hurt. Anyway, I don't want to get sucked into this black hole of a discussion again. We were epic and special. Everydays are not lived out in epic and special. That's not how life works.
Plus, I really don't think he will hurt me.

If there's one thing I've learnt in life, is to never make a wish out loud. There's a reason you keep it in your heart and release it only when swathed inside a soft breath while blowing out candles.
A wish come true can break you, in more ways than one that never did.

I was curled on my bed, sobbing. It must've been a Tuesday night.
I was a heaving mess of tears and muffled wails. Maybe that's why I didn't register the moment when you left the chair, lay down and wrapped yourself around me. I just felt your spiced musk on the skin of my arms. Your you-ness rocked me close until I fell asleep against your chest, wondering if I had single handedly discovered time travel or if you were holding me again.

“I hope your suit's not too wrinkled. I can get it dry-cleaned for you”.

Or something awkward to the effect, the next morning. I don't remember my own mumbles, just a heady feeling of wearing your smell on me again.
I must've broken up with him the next day. Or maybe he broke up with me. It was all a blur. I just knew I had to stay away from my apartment and you, so I crashed at my friends' house for a few days. Mourning and longing had spilt into each other, so often and so violently in my life that it took all I had to not come undone. My friend kept telling me how strong I was- to survive these losses. To forget you and him.
If only she would stop pinning bravery medals to my chest she'd notice that those were blood stains on my shirt and not an interesting motif. And suddenly, that morning when my skin started to smell of me again, I knew it was time to go back. It must've been a Tuesday.

Theres a strange charm and disobedience to what my memory remembers and forgets. The next few months, for instance-  I can only recall sighs and sinking into you and not caring about wrinkling your tuxedo anymore. I remember asking you questions, feeling your breath on my neck and faintly convincing myself that maybe it was ok to be consumed again.

A few people repeated the unkind things my own friends have said about me. I haven't met them for months and yes, missed a few birthdays and baby showers, yes. But what do they know of epic and special? I know I could have worked harder and stayed longer hours at my job, maybe that would've bagged me one of the two promotions I missed.
But I always needed to rush back to my room when the smell of you started to fade.

People always underestimate the power of musky smells.
of skin on skin.
and unfinished business.

(Art credit: Herbert List's amazing collection of photographs. See here)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Haider: A Poetic Rendition

(To Vishal Bhardwaj: Haider may not be perfect, but it needed to be made. 
To Kashmir: You are perfect, we need to stop. 
To all the repeal AFSPA discussions: You're a cause close to my heart, and hopefully one day kids in DU will not use you as a debating topic).

Hai yeh hain nahin

blood churned into mortar
mortar slapped onto betrayal
betrayal spawned by true love
true love for a river (now dry).

Sawaal ka jawaab bhi sawaal hai

homes ravaged by poetry
poetry tattoed onto graveyards
graveyards littered with vows
vows impersonating as questions.

Jaan loon ki jaan doon 

Songs spun out of truth
truth woven into scarves
scarves undone by grief
grief outwitted by rage
rage flirting with tragedy.

main rahoon ki main nahin

To stay or not to stay
To love or not to leave
To be or not to have
To die or not to scream.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

How To Read People: A Manual

Start with facing them and trying to look them in the eye.
Of course, this will get you as far as knowing four letters in the alphabet will help you write a full novel. But don't be deterred. Learning to read people is an art. Mostly accidental genius.

Watch closely where they place their hands.
Are they on their hips? Both left and right?
In that case, it's no use learning how to read them- they are probably mid sentence declaring that they're Superman searching for Kryptonite. But those kind should only be a few (if you're lucky).

Body language goes a long way in reading people and understanding what they really mean. 
Some giveaways like hugs and kisses generally imply love and affection. Of course, it's never as simple. This could be past love or love in the future tense- 
Let me kiss your cheek because I once loved you. 
I'm now going to hug you, out of social propriety and the hope that one day when you lose weight and if I'm still single we could be together.

People are best read out of their natural habitat. 
Take them somewhere new and unfamiliar, tell them something they never expected to hear and take away their phones. Then step back and watch. 
You'll be able to read them in tiny increments. Like how their eyes and thumbs, so used to scrolling, will be equally wild and ravenous. Searching feverishly for something to rest on.

One place where you will never make any headway, is when you see people with each other. 
Steer clear of their interactions, especially those involving actual words and laughs. 
Look out instead, for sighs, lingering glances, bitten lips and sentences left half unsaid.

But the only way to actually do it, is to read them like Braille.
The only time anything will ever make sense is when skin will met skin.

                                                (This gorgeous artwork from here)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Opposite Of A Kiss

The opposite of a kiss,
Is a sigh.
Heavy, burdened, hopeful
And itching for a way out.

The opposite of a kiss
Is an undoing of lips,
Of fingers slipping out of a grip.
It is lonely hands,
Clutching fistfuls of empty air
And inter-locking fingers with Loss.


The opposite of a kiss,
Is too much love.
Tainted, sullied and broken,
By majestic betrayal
Bleeding all over the carpet,
But still daring to stand.

The opposite of a kiss holding on,
Is an embrace letting go.
People walking away,
Alone and tattooed
With imprints of hugs from a year ago.
A sci-fi movie with a plot gone wrong.


The opposite of a kiss,
Is a rabid crush.
A stomach full of butterflies,
With wings made of feathers.
The flapping of which,
Alternatively tickled
And nauseated you.

The opposite of a kiss
Is heady longing dipped in hope,
That when you finally reach
Her soft lips,
There will be remembering
And forgetting
Feathered butterflies
Fistfuls of empty air
And too much love
All tangled between tongues
That instinctively knew-
Actual speaking
Always ruined everything.

                                (From the top:  Henri de Toulouse Lautrec's "In Bed: The Kiss"                                 
                                                                 Gustav Klimt's masterpiece "The Kiss"                                 
                                         my personal favourite: Rene Magritte's  "The Lovers")