No Name

I’m desperately trying to cock my ears to figure out what’s playing down the corridor. Sadly, we lost that ability generations ago. My right leg is involuntarily shaking, not even to a beat. Pfft! Splatter and crackle. One turn of the head, and you are in one shady dim-lit room. Sandals with one strap stylishly jutting out slanted onto the floor, the clothesline with a white shirt that was to be laundered weeks ago, but doesn’t want to. There’s jars of sandwich spread, rotten or not. Wires hang out off the sides of the table, limbs round each other’s shoulders. It’s been years of togetherness now, through thick and thin. A few books on the table make me seem deep when someone walks in, yet no one stays. The bed isn’t made. I like it that way because it’s warmer when you tuck in. Also, it curtails growth of microbes.

Oh, it was Bollywood speaking about new-found love. Vanguard stuff, absolutely.

A Crunched Meal

The glass doors muffle the thunder outside,
Rain falls like thick blood on the stony streets.
Biting into a burger-full of despair, chewing on the confusion,
With a sip of hope to wash it down with.
The night of my thoughts dims the lightbulbs,
Steel clanging makes me uneasy.
The bright cheeks divert from the pallor of the eyes,
Her face divided among bright and night.
My chair cannot contain the horror,
The door clicks, the splashing gets louder.
She holds her gown, her hair bob like toy-ducks in a bath-tub.
My panting cannot exhale my fervour, I chase the helplessness,
Puddles of mud, unperturbed as yet.
An umbrella lies upturned, slave to the gale’s whims,
Gathering all the sanity the storm has to offer.

We Like Things

We like things cold. It strikes out the risk of burning the tongue, leaving the palate open for all the pleasures lined up. In the staircase leading up to an abandoned home, a wanderer seeks solace under the shadow of a broken wall.  A car parked hides him from view, at the same time allowing him to examine himself in the partially reflective windscreen. He rolls a piece of paper and thrusts it into his ear. Ahh!

Of what other use would that shred of newspaper be anyway? For our useless things there’s always the dustbin. Chocolate wrappers, flakes of dead skin, shredded paper all get together in that small container of happiness, and let their hair down till the wee hours of the morning, until they finally find themselves in the dumpster amongst other discard. Waving away the flies that hovered about him, he had woken up with a rotten-sour taste in his mouth, wiped off the drool off the side of his lips and with a clearing of his throat announced his presence into the the world of the awake. Ruffling his hair to make sure there were no fruit skins or other sticky material in there, he had helped himself up with his feet, which made a loud rustle against the morning air when they brushed against the footpath. Millions of feet had gone over it. People of age, people of youth, people well-kept, people uncouth. Most of them had had footwear. The world isn’t covered with leather, so. What a comfortable bed leather would make!

The squarish shutter had gone up, and the owner shouted gibberish at him, indicating him to go away. He fished out three rupees from his pocket, enough to get him a flaccid filled cup. He hates things cold.

Eyes Breaking

The train pulls in. I hurriedly get inside whilst getting pushed around by the crowd behind me. I snugly position myself near the railing that runs parallel to the gangway, not caring for anyone else’s comfort. I see a lot of skull-capped men and burqa-clad women around, which reminds me it’s a Friday. The announcement for the next station has come in. Phew, it’ll be a relief after this one goes by.

There’s space to breathe now but still nowhere to sit down. I stare into a void. I sense someone looking at me from some three compartments away. There’s this pretty thing, hair pulled back like Elvis, who’s sitting by the window. Seemingly, the outside does not have much to offer. We have unknowingly entered ourselves into a gander-game. She’s got beautiful, mascara-lined eyes and she’s two shades off fair. My stubble really seems to be doing the trick for me, I flatter myself. Although she isn’t the best I’ve seen all day, it’s hard for me to draw my eyes away. Our gander-game continues. I camouflage my glances as a general look-around, she tries to make it seem she’s looking at the dotted screen that displays the next station.

This is so stupid and pointless, I think. She seems to have heard me and is now doing something on her phone. She wants to be distracted, but I stick to her mind like a lizard on a wall. I half expect her to undo her hair, to make all of this very movie-like but that is not happening. Confirmed corner-eye steals are recorded.

She taps the lap of the girl sitting opposite her, and jerks her thumb. Seems like they’re about to alight. The girl she’s with isn’t bad either, but her face is lost in the crowd and I refocus my attention. Another sly look. The train’s halted and there’s a rush of people coming in and getting out. I spot a pair of eyes that look at me from the mesh near the door, but they disappear almost as soon as I see them. Did I just imagine them?

I crane to get a last glimpse of her, but I can only see pairs of legs that seem to be moving around on their own. I curse these trains for not having larger windows. This results in it hitting me that I’m on a train and I’m supposed to get off somewhere too. I ask around. Not surprisingly, my destination went by three stops ago.

What Lies Beneath

It’s a silent field, where the crops sway to the whims of the wind, and yet do not reveal that which lies amongst them, a silent desire to topple the very corridors of red tape that have left them like this. It hides away soaring adrenaline, misdirected passion and a fraternity based on ideals that will wash away like the soap on a greasy hand. One scarred being, one uniting cause, will bring together a potentially fruitful bunch of young turks, who will dance to the boding of impending victory and slurp the water that drips from the ice of cold revenge. Share their histories they will, and indeed shall they find a uniting theme, a reason to call the other one a brother. A mother will wipe off the sweat from the the corner of her brow, as she stirs the cauldron, cooking everyday, a little more than necessary, lest he return unannounced. He carries around with him the sparkle of his mother’s eye, the hope of a sister’s bosom.

Image

It has set him free, for his angst has new-found direction. It is here that he is respected, revered, seen as a the harbinger for the change that has been looming large over the land. For on his shoulders rest the visions of the generation that now sips chai on wicker chairs, and talk of days when it used to be different. He is giving himself up, that he may be worshipped, but those that shall worship him may never be born.

There may never be a new day. The dark of the night may just be cover for the blindness that would slowly creep in. Surreptitiously, it would tread, and cover the mind with a veil impregnable, that would seem only as dark as the skin of the eyelids. And then the wait would begin, and everyone would be on their feet, faced east. They would simply wonder, and think it was only winter. And the chirps of the waking birds and the clinks of wielded swords would march through the air, and they would sink to their knees, earthworms crawling across the black mud, toes drowned deep in the dewy loam. With outstretched hands they would grope for their brothers, and with cries of help beg for mercy, all the while the doubt would eat away what remained of the curious heads. Years of preaching, along with dreams encased in castings of crude metal, would be hacked off with no mercy in sight. And the birds would chirp away, the sunlight would sieve through the canopies of the wild woods, and crops would part like the oiled hair on his head, the day his mother last saw him.

(Image credits: panoramio.com)

Seafood

The ship has sailed,
The ripples it leaves behind
break on the hearts
of those that wave.
It glides over the sparkling carpet,
Sky’s saffron mouth,
open wide to swallow this
delicacy, whole.
Hot defeat does It taste, tangy
longing, a tinge of bitter.
Two men on a wooden raft
sail across the vermilion horizon.
They are glad for their hearts
beat healthy, and the sight of land
promises hope.
The current is the butler,
Sky’s dessert is here.

The Vote That Counts

Saraswati sat on the threshold of the small enclosure she called home. Palms clasped next to her cheek, she chewed on some betel-nut and stared into the littered little alley that squeezed through the dense collection of tin-roofed homes. It was afternoon, post lunch. She had just finished her meal and washed her sparse utensils, and she sat there, patiently awaiting for the clock to strike three.
Her husband had been a brave man, and had died at the hands of the possessed Muslim rioters, trying to guard his family. He was known through the community as an honest man with his leanings towards Hindutva ideals. Her only son had gone off to Bombay, in search of brighter prospects, leaving his mother to herself. He did not earn much, but the money he sent home coupled with some money her husband had left behind helped her survive.
Saraswati had been an obedient wife and a doting mother all her life. Her husband had been a freedom fighter, and Gandhi had even visited their small abode in the turbulent forties. Her hands were wrinkled and rough with all the cooking and cleaning over all the years, but in her heart, the patriotism still throbbed like the engines of the motor-run vehicles that she had recently been seeing on the streets. She was seventy-five, and walked with a limp. Saraswati had always wanted to contribute to her motherland, to make a difference to this land that she felt such pride, but she had been the home-maker while her husband was one of the many who had participated in freedom rallies and campaigns. The fight was over, the British had left, and Indians were kings in their homeland, but her desire to make a difference still remained.
And this thought made her smile, because today was the day. It was the day she had waited for. After all the painted cows in the dumpsters, all the huge rallies with those loud megaphones and those colourful ads she saw in the newspapers. “We will decide our own fates.” “Every Indian will have a say in charting the future of this great nation.” 1951 had been hailed the year of the world’s largest social experiment.
Gopal, the milkman, rode up to her, and jerked to a halt. He held her by the hand and helped her up to the cycle-rickshaw. Saraswati made herself comfortable and adjusted her saree. It was old, yet washed speck-less.
As they drove to the election-booth, Saraswati felt the joy of a thousand lifetimes. Here she was, being ridden to the poll-booth, in a cycle-rickshaw, the breeze ruffling her scanty hair. She was on the journey she had been looking forward to. The journey where she was out to make her presence felt. She felt the fate of millions of people rested in that wizened palm of hers.
“We’ve reached!”, cried Gopal, unable to contain his excitement for he too was voting for the first time. like his countrymen. He helped Saraswati out of the rickshaw. “I don’t need a walking stick, my Gopala, for I have you.” Saraswati had reached her destination. She began her long walk towards the poll-booth. It was a walk of victory, a walk of pride, to commemorate her husband’s sacrifice. To pay homage. To vote.