Sunday, August 23, 2009

For you.

"The emperor reached for the jade bird
with glittering golden eyes,
he pleaded for it to sing,
his eyes glittered with tears.
The potter looked down at broken fragments
of an urn
too shattered to be kept,
yet too precious to be thrown.
The seagulls rose, they flew and dived
into the winds
across the oceans of eternity...
they mocked the passing clouds
and soared to the top of the sky.
Solomon walked on the gold dust
of the scattered sand of the desert
restless and shifting...
A treasure trove of mirages and oases.
Ask me why the nightingale sang?
Ask me why the potter stared?
Ask me where seagulls go?
Ask me where the desert water lies?
These are but unknown words
for unknown emotions.
Ask me why I write."

Read this poem when I was in school and liked it enough to save it all these years. No clue as to who wrote it....Anyway, why do I write? Raneedi declared "I write because I can." I admire the confidence but I lack such conviction, I do not have such lien over my words tumble out, at times sloppily, at times smoothly until I gather them up and make them stand like soldiers in the dark...quiet and still...waiting for opportunities such as this!
I write because I like to. You, dear reader, may not like my words but then I enjoy the process, my words melting and molting onto my page.
My father never read any of my poetry. So my favourite critic has never been there to share my you think he'd approve? Thing is, by the time I found refuge in poetry, actually fancied my verse, he was already gone....
They say people come into our lives for a reason. Manish was there to make me write poetry...he studied in AFMC, I met him through common friends. He had this habit of constantly scribbling bits of blank verse on bits of paper and a small notebook he carried around with him.... I was fascinated and impressed...later I found a lot of the verses were "borrowed" from Vikram Seth but at the time it was irrelevant...a whole new dimension had opened up for me! This Manish started me onto writing and thinking in verse...It came easy....the words just fell into place and there you go...another thought taking wing!
I knew Manish for a very short time, he wasn't the military type and paid his way out of the army and disappeared back into oblivion....But sometime after college was over and I was working and trying to live a routine disciplined life, I wrote a poem for him...which of course it never found its way to him. And today, I think this poem is not just for Manish, it's for every friend who has ever liked a word of what I've written, ever shared their comments or ever encouraged me. So.... to Vani and Re...for the first faltering steps....Vaishali, my constant reader...Ted, for sharing the hurt....Raka, my second favourite critic.....Rini, for weathering the storms.... Isha for the tears that roll down her cheeks when I read out some of my poems....for Aimee who likes to be part of everything, whether she figures it out or not...Amitesh who doesn't always understand my strangeness but plays along...for my inconstant muse, you know who you are.......for every follower on this blog all the kind friends and strangers who have ever bothered to leave a comment....and for everyone in my life who have helped me become the person I am today!Cheers!

Digging through the rubble
of the disaster I call my life,
I chance upon poems 'for Ipsi'
only you spell it with an 'i'.
Wishing back all the days
of RCs and watermelon juice
those long drives and longer nights
searching for our lives' muse...
Wonder what you're doing now
wonder where life's taken you,
if you're content with why you are
or doing like I do.
Yes, I'm doing what I wanted to,
or so I say, law keeps me happy
occupied and beyond reach
at least I pretend its that way.
Court and chamber, chamber and court
did i say I was happy? I lied
I try so hard not to hear
the familiar music of the night.
Poetry is out, dying but not quite so
lame excuses suffice for the lack of verse
still there are times I can't think in prose
yes, you could say it is a curse.

Enough of this self indulgence though,
I shall not take more time,
suitably chastised, yes I'm broken
sometimes life ceases to rhyme
if there is anything at all
I have done to cause you hurt,
some silly joke or ridicule,
or maybe something worse...
I apologise, yes I do and
yes, even I do cry sometimes
Would love to hear from you...
so please won't you write?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


.....if you do not understand my silence how will you understand my language?
I speak volumes when I am silent. Even when my hours are filled with idle chatter, it is the words I do not say that say the most, take wing and go on to discover new worlds...unchartered territories.
Only, rarely does anyone care to listen.
Oh my words fall smooth and strong, all at once ruinous, tactless and volatile and yet my silence stutters like the candle that the wind cannot blow out...Can anyone ever claim to know another person...inside out? Does anyone really dare? For rarely does anyone plummet their own depths, forget about anyone else's....who has the time? We are all too busy to listen to our own silences...or we think we are bored and cover up our own voices with music and flurries of activity....Once, stop and your true self, with no pretensions or delusions, be honest with yourself, say what you really want...and who knows, one day you can hear the song of the mermaid and the rustle of the flower as it breaks into bloom!
I love being alone...I like my own company. I enjoy the silence when I paint long into the night and my mind stretches out on the canvas in front of me. Sometimes I like to paint over and over, changing night into day, clouds into moonlight and whirls of light where there should be only darkness....
When I am hurt or disillusioned, silence is that which comforts....the words of well meaning friends are like raindrops....soothing and comforting but one also needs to hear the silence to listen to the rain!
coming back
to haunt again
ominous silence
among music, noise,
and day is night
is day again
and there is nothing
in the moon and stars
for all this
without you
is nothing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

15th August has always been special because it is my father’s birthday. I used to love that day more than any other. Even my own birthday paled in comparison…we always got gifts on 15th August, usually there would be a neatly gift-wrapped new box of paints for me waiting at the breakfast table….. in myriad colours….and I would set about painting with gusto for the only man who really mattered. When I learnt about my dad’s illness that would take him away from us I first went into denial. Then I was angry…..later there were times I just wanted to hold him and cry my heart out in his arms but never found the courage to do it…preferring to be brave and “take it like a man”. When I used to sit quietly by his side while he slept, when he could, though the pain, in his last days, I realized I could never have enough of Baba. I would always want more. Today I yearn for those arms more than ever and I need to feel his strength and listen to his answers. I find some comfort in words and paintings which someone said are always lonely…like I’m looking for something and cannot reach out to it. It’s like there’s a strong current and the water is dark and deep but I know he waits for me on the other side… take me home when my journey is done. I wish he had been around for my daughters who never met him. For my husband who tries to understand why a song can surprise me into tears….Sometimes I blame him…why didn’t he take better care of his health? Why didn’t he tell us he was this ill? But then I realize Baba always had more time for us than he did for himself. The illness had been growing inside for years but he had pushed it aside, for everything else he thought was important.
My father was just a man. And he was just being himself.
I always used to say I would never get married…because my dad would shoot anyone who ever came close, no man was ever good enough for his little princess…but then suddenly now here I was, free of paternal judgement…but without paternal love as well.
After I finally decided to marry, I suddenly felt more lost than ever before. There was no way I could talk to Baba or seek his approval, was I making the mistake of my life or was this just what I needed? Does anyone really NEED marriage? What if I tired of it all or, worse still, got bored? What if I just didn’t measure up? The list was endless, the questions coming thick and fast….and then there was some comfort for everyone agreed 15th August was a good date for a wedding…I was eased… an extent…… and then came the poem; for the best father a girl could ever have:

Your arms were my refuge in every storm
Each step I took guided by your love
You watched over me, helped me grow
And suddenly – silently, you had to go.
Years passed. An emptiness no one still
can fill; time flew, venues changed, life held
surprises new, which never ceased to test
the courage you taught me as a child.
Now it’s come. The day you told me of
A day in my life you’d be proud to be
here. I’ll miss you – and I can still see
those meetings you cancelled, the work
you left to be one indulgent smile in the audience-
When the lights went low and the house
was dark and the theatre waited (bated breath)
for that momentary spark. You gave me the guts
to act that solo part….It’s like that now
too. I’m getting married. True,
this is not a school production and I know
you’d love him well. Still I need you here, I need
your consent. 15th of August, isn’t it ironic
I never asked you but I feel it couldn’t have been
without your approval. Do you recall those long walks
together with the sun barely out. Stopping
to look at the trees, to smile at the pups
each morning was new – it’s like that now
I’m a little apprehensive, a little scared
I wish there was your hand to hold on to.

They say dreaming of fathers is an ill omen
Little do they know; those are the dreams
that sustain me. Keep me sheltered
from the storm. The world outside is dusty
the winds blow my dreams asunder
but I have you to cling to when the morning
comes to thunder; into my haven
of sleep. Those moments with you I cherish,
unreal as they may be. I’m not sure
if I’m where I belong but this much is true
when I smile and the world thinks all is well,
it’s a smile that comes from you.

There’s so much going on these days
what with the big day drawing near
there’s all the joy, the excitement, the pain
and also an insurmountable fear
that comes from knowing you won’t be there
to guide me or help me on my way –
but Baba, I had to write all this
talking to you eases my mind, and yes,
help me please that I may be worthy
of all the trust and love you showed
help me be strong, courageous and kind
a worthy tribute to your generous mind.
It’s confusing here, I know I’m disjointed
I need your love to help me. Since I cannot
ask for your consent let me at least
take your blessings. Let me carry you in my heart
in every action, every dealing. Give me
your integrity, your values, your strength
bless me so I can be brave. Let me not stumble
in my duties, let me not crumble
or be vain. When I fall, help me stand
let me not break or be broken
give me the strength to be your daughter
give me the strength to remember your name.

I do not know who regrets it more.
You, for not being here, or I because
you’re not. But when they take me away
I know I’ll see you standing around
There by the door, a tear in your eye
A heavy heart but full of joy and pride…
I know somewhere you listen. And you watch.
I know you’ll be near when I’m a bride.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


8.8.90. I was in Pune about a year when I was adopted by a white furry little ball of fur that allowed me to call her Dabish. Dabish means a small stone in Arabic and that’s how tiny she was, so I conveniently carried her home in my pocket. I never fancied myself as a cat person, always imagining myself with a big dog by my side so no one was more surprised when this little waif kitten trained me pretty well…..soon I was running circles around her every whim…I’d buy milk and fish even when I was broke, I cleaned and cleared out her litter box, turned a blind eye when she killed a sparrow, made trips to the vet and even took her to class on occasion, hidden in my jacket pocket! She looked at me balefully when it was bath time and had such a pained expression that I took to bundling her against my tummy till she was warm and dry again…Dabish accompanied me on my walks in the wee hours of morning, using me as a safety pole whenever a dog barked…she shared food from my plate, patiently waiting when she was done, never intruding on my corner and when I was sad or lonely she curled up on my lap and purred her way into my heart. Dabish kept me for four years, happily adapting herself to my changes in address from a flat to the hostel to a one room out house in somebody’s garden…she slept curled up near my face, turning when I turned, moving herself to adjust so she could rub her face on my cheek. When I lived in a second floor apartment she used the neighbour’s balconies on the way down but always took the stairs back. So often the bell would ring (thanks to some kindly neighbour) and I would open the door to have her walking in complaining about the delay….One time, Dabish climbed a tree and couldn’t get down. So I climbed upon a garbage vat under the tree, red bucket in hand and waited patiently till she finally decided my positioning was right and she could jump into the bucket. My friends were, in turn, indulgent, impatient and affectionate with Dabish but all in all they put up with me and my nonsense! When Dabish had kittens, I sat next to her and shared her birthing pains….we had tiny kittens blundering about all over the place…and when her kittens later left, one by one, she was the one who consoled me. When I went home for the holidays, I once left her with a friend in the Army, a doctor stationed in Khadki…he and his friends spoiled her silly and I came to be known as the “cat’s mother”! But she unfailingly ran to my kinetic whenever she heard me coming…leaping into my arms with a loud purr!
One morning, four years later, the neighbours called me and I found Dabish….run over by a passing vehicle…..she had outlived her nine. I buried her in a park near the Film Institute, close to where I was living at the time. And each time I’ve been to Pune thereafter, I’ve made it a point t visit that park….the last time I was there the grass grew wild in her corner and the sunlight danced on the trees and I did not have to shut my eyes to imagine Dabish running about chasing mice and butterflies! But my most enduring image is of Dabish at the foot of my kinetic, sitting straight up at my feet…ears pinned back by the wind!