Roots

Guest Post By Supriya Javalgekar

I’m a rooted animal,

Almost a plant, one might say.

Watch others taking flight,

Feel a tinge of envy

Long for the skies unknown

For lands farther and greener

Admire their soaring glide,

Bird-souls fluttering from tree to tree,

Unfettered.

 

Weathering storms or the scorching sun

Sea breeze or the mountain wind

Dusty arid or the cover of green

Their wings don’t tire.

Searching for something new –

New nests, new feed, greener pastures or merely

the joy of flight.

I look up at the venturers,

The migratory folk.

I tried on their wings once.

Every flight, felt a burn.

A twinge of regret.

Yearning for home. A sense of loss.

The desire to return.

Then slowly, I grew new roots

(the plant that I am)

In a careless pause for solace,

Ah! The disunion within.

Roots here, roots there…

Uproot from where?

 

Where is home now?

I miss them. All the nests I lived in.

All the little roots I grew every-where.

All my divided selves

Will feel one.

Only when I’m back, finally back

To where I was

Planted, as a seed.

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Coloured Stones

This path of the past

Strewn with rocks and stones

Reminders of past hurts

Bloodied and discarded.

I’ll collect these rocks one by one

Walk back the path whole

And paint the stones afresh

With blues and greens and gold.

I’ll bring these stones with me on the journey I undertake

Not as baggage of a haunting past

But as souvenirs for the time ahead

Like travellers have keepsakes – to remind

Them of places they have been,

I’ll keep these painted stones –

Reminders of what was and what could’ve been.

And when I encounter another traveller,

With stones marking their path,

I’ll help them repaint their past,

Just like I did my own.

No

He asked me to dance today and I said no.

I used to dance with agility, dance with grace,

But now my bones have started to ache.

Icy heart and creaky limbs,

Won’t shake the darkness away.

So I won’t move my body today.

Today is not a dancing day.

 

He asked me to sing today and I said no.

My voice is sweet and my throat is warm,

But I refuse to sing ‘cause something’s wrong.

My throat is gulping down a ball of hate

And my tongue leaves me with a bitter aftertaste.

So I won’t open my mouth today.

Today is not a singing day.

 

He asked me to love today and I said no.

Love needs giving, and I had nothing to offer.

So I offered him my body instead.

He said it wasn’t enough,

He said he wanted more.

But my heart refuses to feel today.

Today is not a loving day.

 

He asked me to leave today,

I had a bag packed the whole way.

 

Image Credit: All my bags are packed by Conceptual Miracles

Ode to Bra

An Ode to my Bra

You padded black beauty, my fashionable friend du jour,
My prison of choice,
You black lace beauty, my object of pillowy comfort,
No underwire, criss-crossing straps, and a velvet touch,
Just seductive enough, but not too much,
Protecting the two brown circles of my modesty,
Black cloth hiding scars and marks of the past.
“Keep the bra on” I tell them,
Hiding my vulnerability behind the lacy flowers of sexuality.

Then C cup became D cup, and I thought I’d lost you.
Lost you to the unrelenting passage of time and my growing body.
You would no longer be my friend in need, my comfy confidante,
You would become an object of desire, of envy,
Hiding in plain sight in my closet, a mocking motivation to reduce my size.
So I avoided you for months, as one does in friendships and relationships,
Postponing the inevitable breakup.
Until one day, I could wait no more.
And so I took you out, with tragedy seeping into my fleshy arms, and cupped you against me. One last time.
Until I realized you still fit. You would always fit.

Tired of being a poet

Tired of being a poet

Tired of being a poet,

I want to be a poem.

Be someone’s prized possession,

An object of affection,

Not an artist, but a muse.

To be immortalized through someone else’s eyes,

For once I want to be the prize.

 

Tired of being a thinker,

For once, I want to be the thought.

To not think and reflect,

Ponder and brood,

Just flit carelessly through a brain,

Maybe get lost down the shower drain.

 

Tired of being a lover,

Now I just want to be loved.

No long nights and days

Spent in someone else’s name,

I want to rid myself of emotion,

Numbly go through life’s motions.

 

Tired of living fully,

For once I just want to exist,

To not swim or sink,

But float effortlessly

Through space and time, you see,

I’m tired of survival,

I’m afraid of death,

Yet somehow I’m always out of breath.

 

Image courtesy: The Whim of Time by Melinda Cootsona

How would I describe myself?

How would I describe myself?

A person, that’s obvious, but what kind?

A woman, an atheist, a lover, a feminist?

Those are just labels, and labels are no fun.

I’m much more than labels, much more than a person.

I’m a wall screaming ‘post no bills’

Covered with stickers and the occasional drops of piss.

I’m a rope strung on two poles,

Carelessly bent under the weight of white cloth.

I’m the pretty little pink kettle,

Placed high out of reach, all flash no utility.

I’m the servant in a castle,

Fending off attackers with my iron spoon.

I’m both the spider and fly in this web of lies.

A mirage that changes with every mirror.

I’m the victim, the survivor, the oppressor,

Good and evil jumbled in a ball of yarn.

But imagine I met another ball of yarn tomorrow,

As convoluted an imagery as my own.

Do we both become spiders or flies?

Do we finally break free from all the lies?

The Princess and the Frog

He comes, he goes, like a gentle breeze,

He waltzes in and out of my life.

Leaving in his wake a crumbling mess;

The remains of my will and pride.

 

What fantastic strength must I muster

From my body, mind and soul,

To throw him out of my life

And will myself to grow whole.

 

Once upon a time life was a dream,

Soft voices under the moon so bright,

No false promises made and broken,

No promises made at all.

 

Yes I can see him for what he is,

Not a prince, just a frog in disguise,

A fantasy of ‘what could’ve been’

Dancing before my wistful eyes.

 

Yet I leave the doors open for him,

As I bid him hello and goodbye.

I keep hoping my frog turns into a prince,

I keep waiting for the moonlight kiss.

Blue

Evenings of silent contemplation

Nights filled with remorse

Staring up at the starry lights

Stuck on my bedroom walls.

This world seems dull and colourless

But painted walls surround me

Maybe it’s not the city that’s dull, but me.

Maybe it’s my heart that paints the walls blue.

And yet I long to get out, to go outside.

But I open my window only to be greeted

By honking ghosts passing swiftly by

Their yellow eyes glittering in the moonlight.

The people have long retired

To their own multi-coloured cells.

Trapped in their own world

Of silent contemplations and remorse.

If only I could reach out to them somehow

Connect with their hearts, not just their profiles,

Maybe I would see something hidden and true,

Maybe they also paint their bedroom walls blue.

 

Illustrated by Alice in the Slumberland

Human Doings

Ring. Snooze. Ring again.

Time to get up, it’s almost ten.

Well that’s okay, ‘cause you were up till three,

Four cups of coffee, you were on a working spree.

Rub the sleep from your eyes,

Chase it away with whiskey and ice.

Sip sip. Open your laptop once more.

Pop. There’s your list of today’s chores.

Work that earns money is priority number one.

Something that’s meaningful but also kinda fun.

Then there’s the hobbies – one, two and three.

Not doing them would make you feel crappy.

Let’s not forget the social life,

Crowded bars, loud music and cheap wine.

Remember to take care of body, mind and soul,

No one’s ever too busy to go out for a stroll!

Feeling a little stressed out? Relaxation’s the key.

Read a book, play the djembe, develop your chi.

New inspirational posters for you to mount.

“Live your life to the fullest”, “Make every moment count”

Pictures of you working, reading, eating, breathing,

Snap snap. Count the number of likes you get.

Human beings becoming human doings,

Only achieving, barely living.

Pieces

We’re both in pieces, you and I.

We’ve been shattered a few times.

Sharp corners and jagged ends

Drawing blood from well-meaning hands.

 

But when I touch you, I don’t bleed,

For when our crooked angles meet,

Sparks fly, hot and bright,

The world is more than alright.

 

Oh yes, you know very well,

How you make my metal heart swell.

And though you and I hate to cuddle,

We’re two pieces of the same puzzle.

Reprieve

Away from the world of lights and concrete,

I hide in the original jungle.

More bark than walls, more green than grey,

In this fair land I’ll stay.

 

For in the bright city

My bones grow weak and weary.

The noises don’t let me sleep at night,

The bright lights hurt my eyes.

 

But here there’s just silence

Infinite and unnerving, at times.

Here I can find all my bruises,

I can heal them in the night.

 

The night, when the city churns papers

Of ink black and white.

I wake up to piping hot tea,

With horror stories on the side.

 

Poets before me have sung

High praises of the tropical sun.

The lush green trees, the tempestuous breeze,

Are my reprieve from the city.

 

Yes here I lie, and here I’ll stay

As the world threatens to burn away.

Away from the cruelties of mankind

I’ll stay safe in my fantasy land.

Seaside Musings

Here I sit on uneven land, sand sticking to my thighs,

Hair blowing back in the forceful wind, something stirring deep within.

The sand lies white and warm, lazily stretching out for miles,

Impervious to the periodical whipping of water cold as ice.

I look far out into the sea, look as far as my eyes can go,

And count the waves as they come nearer, threatening to swallow me whole.

The sun is shining a little too bright, burning with white hot fury,

And in the tumultuous sea I see, the rage burning inside of me.

You see, the sea is me, with its depth and chaos and uncertainty,

Crashing itself upon shores unknown.

Forever still, never at home.

People Ruin Beautiful Things

Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.

– Khalil Gibran

She wore her pink earrings. The bright pink ones, that looked like tic-tac clips hanging from her ears. She wore her yellow kurta and her white leggings, her blue eyeliner and her red lipstick. And after she was done wearing everything she wanted to wear, she examined herself in the mirror.

Not bad, she thought, proud of her new creation. She enjoyed it, this intuitive mixing and matching of parts to create a new whole. It was the reason she enjoyed cooking; throwing ingredients together to create something unexpected.

She twirled in front of the mirror, appreciating how the clothes fit on her curves. Her mother would say she’s not conventionally pretty. But then Meera never wanted to be conventional.

“Are you done?” Mother had popped her head into the room. “They’ll be here any second!” She paused to give Meera a disapproving look, before rushing back to the kitchen. She had asked her stubborn daughter to wear something nice, something that would make her look beautiful and feminine. But Meera insisted on being her usual flamboyant self. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, her maternal instinct reared to protect her daughter from her own criticism. “They should like her for who she is.” The mother just wanted her odd child to be happy.

Meera was still admiring herself in the mirror when mother called her outside. She burst into the living room like a blast of air, to find a roomful of people staring at her. Taken aback a little by the sheer number of people (she’d expected 2-3) and the silence that followed, she tiptoed to the only empty seat in the room, right next to her mother.

Once she had settled herself comfortably, the questions began. How old was she? What was her plan for the future? (This one was asked by the boy) She turned to him with glittering eyes and a passionate voice and began talking about her hopes and dreams. By her third sentence she saw his eyes glaze over; a blank expression now stood in those intelligent brown eyes.

Meera’s voice faltered, unsure of what she’d seen. The woman to his right, presumably his mother, took this opportunity to ask the next question, cutting Meera off mid-sentence. “All that is fine beta. But you’ll be taking care of our son as well. We’re a modern family, so you can work part time if you want.”

Meera turned to the woman with creased eyebrows. “You can cook, right?” the woman persisted.

“No.” Meera stared defiantly into the woman’s eyes. Her mother suppressed a smile. Meera had made her decision.

Every question after that was met by staunch opposition, and obstinate denials for things that Meera could do, and did in her own house. And when that intelligent brown eyed boy tried to sneak in a question of his own, her eyes bore into his with a blazing defiance, causing him to stutter. Her mother observed the growing tension in the room with growing amusement, making no efforts to diffuse the situation. Her daughter seemed to have inherited her knack for making people uncomfortable and watching them squirm.

The outsiders could finally take no more, and politely announced the end of the meeting. Finally! Meera sighed as the guests headed for the door. “This is a good thing.” she heard an uncle whisper reassuringly to the boy’s mother. “She’s a bit fat for him, don’t you think?”

Meera headed for her room, and positioned herself in front of the mirror again. She took a long look at herself as she began to wipe the color off her lips.Her cheeks were a little too chubby, her kurta a little too bright, her body a little too big, her breasts a little too small. She smiled, as her critical eyes found fault in every part of her body. “People ruin beautiful things.”

Plastic

Dark and cold, the city awaits

For a gentle touch of the sun.

And trapped within its concrete walls, I wait

For redemption, yet to come.

 

The buildings cast long shadows,

Blacker and deeper than trees ever could.

And yet my plastic mask threatens to melt

From the heat of the elusive sun.

 

Is this what I seek? A reprieve from the dark?

A rendezvous with the sun, to dance among the stars?

To shed all my veils, like leaves from a tree,

And reveal my true self, for you to finally see?

 

But here’s the catch, the clincher of it all,

The fear that keeps me locked within these concrete walls.

In my mind every day this question does stick

What if, in the end, all I am is plastic?

Heartbreak Hotel

Come spend the night

With me at Heartbreak Hotel.

A destination date, if you will,

Into the recesses of my heart.

 

Take my hand in yours,

We’ll enter the beast together.

This house built on bad memories,

With shabby furniture and faded walls.

 

But before you say yes, my love,

I must warn you of what lies ahead.

Of the scars you might see,

The screams you might hear,

Or the feelings you might feel

If you come too near.

 

For this hotel is haunted

By the paintings that adorn its halls

Forgiven but not forgotten,

Or maybe not forgiven at all.

 

And don’t be scared if you hear

The floors and walls creak at night,

I’ll give you fair warning, dear,

Before the roof comes crashing down.

Magic

I met you that night,

When my head spun,

And the moon shone bright.

The night I cannot recall.

But for the rushed images in my head

And the swirl of emotions in my heart.

 

I remember walking with you

Somewhere between land and sea,

Sand crunching beneath my wet toes.

Shaky limbs, blurred vision

Yet clarity, for I was sure

I had never felt this alive before.

 

As the wind gathered my hair

And whistled in my ears,

Us, our conversation

It all seemed so familiar.

As if we had met like this,

Laughed like this earlier.

 

There are so many places

Our paths could’ve crossed

Briefly met, to part ways again

But they had to merge that night

In the soft glow of moonlight

‘Cause that night was magic.

An Eyewitness Account

It was a coincidence.

That’s how these stories start, don’t they?

It was just a coincidence.

She just happened to be sitting there; at the right place at the right time. Or was it wrong place, wrong time? One can never tell in these situations. But she hadn’t meant to see it, to witness any wrongdoing. On any other day, she’d be thrilled about an opportunity like this. She was the type to press her nose against the window and spy on the neighbours. It was a childhood trait of hers. That’s why she had a flat nose, her mother would explain.

But that day was different. Tragedy had struck the Singhvi household, when the patriarch of the house refused to wake up that morning. And our Aneesha, dazed and heartbroken, had been staring out her favourite window. As you might have guessed, this is when she happened to see something that would make her such an important character in this story. But she didn’t know it back then. She didn’t care.

The mist floated, an opaque white, taking up half the view from her window. The other half seemed to have been painted in a grey palette, buildings and roads alike. And they were turning blacker by the minute, due to the incessant rainfall.

A man emerged from a building. This building was no different from the others, a cluster of mass-produced structures, except that a man emerged from it and ran across the road, trying to protect himself from the downpour with his flimsy little handkerchief. The handkerchief was pink. She remembered that because it had caught her eye, this sudden burst of colour in the monochrome of her view. Of course, she thought nothing about it then. She didn’t care.

But later, when questioned about what she saw from her optimal spying position, that’s all she could remember. A flash of pink floating among all the grey. It had seemed like a sign, she said. If that tiny little thing could survive the rain, she could survive this tragedy.

The policeman questioning her put on his best sympathetic face, his hands clenched tight, his foot tapping nervously on the tiled floor. He asked about the man’s face, his clothes, or any other feature that could help them recognize him. No, she said. Just the pink handkerchief. And wasn’t that enough, she wondered, as the policeman repeated these questions again and again. He wouldn’t even tell her what the crime was. And which man carried a pink handkerchief around anyways?

The policeman sighed. It wasn’t a pink handkerchief. It was a white handkerchief soaked in the blood of a dead woman from the building across the street.

Oh, she said, and would say nothing more. He sighed again, this time just for effect, and walked away. She turned back to the window, looking at the black and white view outside. After sometime she saw him cross the road, his pink handkerchief fluttering in the wind.

The Date

There it is again; the fluttering in my stomach. As if a thousand caterpillars have chosen this very instant to break through their cocoons and spread their beautiful butterfly wings, and are now trying to find a way out of my dark insides. My hand moves towards my stomach and lingers for a few moments, as if to soothe my body, which is buzzing with nervous anticipation. It’s a mechanical gesture, one that I’ve been doing since many years to calm myself down. Today it doesn’t work.

I look at the wall with the patterned wallpaper. An ornate clock hangs from a nail, tilting to its left. The imperfection fascinates me. I listen to the clock’s periodic clicks. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time seems to be moving slower than usual. I will it to move faster, it refuses. I sit back with a sigh.

I have intentionally chosen a table at the back, with my seat facing the glass door of the tiny café. This way, I’ll see him when he enters. I’ll be physically and mentally prepared. I realize I’m in my head too much. I’m overthinking this.

The waiter places a tray on my table. With a shaky hand, I take a few sips of the iced coffee I have ordered. It’s probably a bad idea to order before the other person arrives. But I needed to calm myself down. The cool glass feels slippery against my palm, which has become slimy with sweat. What if he tries to hold my hand, and thinks it’s cold and reptilian? I quickly wipe the sweat away with tissues. I want to hold the glass up against my forehead, which seems to be burning hot. Maybe I have a fever. I wonder if I should use this as an excuse to cancel. I don’t. The cold glass beckons, tiny droplets of condensed water forming along its outer later. But I’m conscious of the other people in the café, huddled around their tables, deep in conversation.  What if he walks in right now and sees me holding a glass against my face? That could happen to me. I have bad timing.

I push the glass away, and my heart begins to pound. I glance at my phone to see the time. Five minutes late. ‘Why am I getting so nervous? It’s just a date. It’s no big deal.’ I repeat this in my head a few times, till I feel my throat constricting. “I know why you’re so nervous.” I hear my bestie’s voice in my head. “You like Ethan! You like Ethan!” In my mind’s eye, I see myself blushing.

I catch the waiter’s eye, signal for a glass of water and gulp it down with growing urgency. The phone buzzes. I snatch it and read Ethan’s message.

Sorry, can’t make it tonight.

As I take a deep breath, I feel my throat clearing. Must be all the water I drank.

No problem. I was running late anyways.

His message also says some other things. I ignore them, deciding to read it properly later. As my heartbeat slowly returns to normal, I feel my body relaxing.

‘What should I do now?’ I wonder, looking around the tiny café. Going home doesn’t seem very appealing. And I like it here. Suddenly I grin. I whip my phone out, and type rapidly.

Are you nearby? Are you free?

The phone buzzes back in equal haste. Within minutes, Jake is here, sitting right across me. We talk, we laugh, we binge on fries. He asks me about Ethan. I feel the familiar tightening of my muscles, and I blush. He smiles. I feel a warmth spreading through my body; the warmth of friendship, of familiarity, of Jake.

I reach home and check my phone to see Ethan’s messages. I wonder if I should be offended that he cancelled our date, but his reason seems valid enough, so I decide to play it cool. “But he cancelled on you, so let him text you first.” There’s my bestie’s voice again. I roll my eyes and keep the phone aside. It buzzes and I grab it.

You forgot your scarf in my car again, moron.

It’s Jake.

Meet me tomorrow and take it.

I smile, feeling the warmth in my body again. Looks like I’m meeting Jake tomorrow.

The Smiling Face

She awoke to the shining sun;

A day of wordless beauty,

Where birds chirped, and cars

Honked their happy melodies.

 

She smiled at herself in the mirror,

Smiled at her blinking phone,

She smiled at passers-by,

Brightening their day some more.

 

They responded to her kindness,

Grateful lips and nervous teeth,

Marvelling at the warmth radiated

By the girl with the smiling face.

 

And this warmth would never fill

The hollowness she felt within.

But her face could very well hide,

How blue she felt inside.

 

As her insides began to crumble,

She prepared for another day.

Because she wanted to be

The girl with the smiling face.