A Report of My New Blue Dress

My new blue dress bleeds colour.

It bleeds without provocation. It has no hesitation, discretion, intent nor prejudice. It is a dress with a lot on its mind, and with nothing to lose.

I have never—deliberately, at least—owned anything that has the potential to cause so much trouble. I love my dress. But it is dangerous. I’m terrified of what it, in a machine, would do to my clothes and my flatmate’s. So I wear it a lot, my patience in ready competition with the dye, waiting for the bleed to get better.

It is a dress, but I treat it like a disease that I’d rather treat like an inconvenience. Not something as face-splittingly painful as a rotten tooth. But maybe more like a corn in the crook of an unimportant toe, or a mysterious, highly specific ache in my shoulder.

Whenever I wear my dress, I sit exclusively on dark coloured sofas and granite slabs, stand despite the rare fortune of seats in the gleaming metro, and when I forget, I lean against a wall. Once, I caught myself sitting in a paper white chair. I didn’t know how to bring it up with my host. So I left, a little giddy with a secret that she would only uncover when (if) she washed the chairs and lined them up in the sun. My chair would be that frustrating white sock sacrificed to liquid blue.

My dress fits me well. It fits my chest with a snug, grown-woman fullness. It hugs my waist and flares at exactly where my self-consciousness begins. It’s a heavy dress, batik in technique, contemporary in motif, anarkali in inspiration. In temperament, it is an indulgent craftsperson summoning an extravagance of fabric to put to employ in making me look beautiful.

The first time I’d worn the dress and taken it off, I had noticed that my white panties (my favourite with blue lace trimming) had been dusted blue by contact. The blue folds against the white cotton had looked like the stretchmarks along my sides. When I bathed that evening, blue rivulets had run from my feet to the drain.

Yesterday, when I drew my hand out of my pocket, I found blue grit under my fingernails.

My dress is the blue of night. Not nights of stolen, sodium-vapour-lit, shawl-swaddled walks through Hanumanthnagar. But of a night on my back on Surathkal beach, watching the star-stippled sky and the lighthouse cutting slow ribbons through it.

I match my dress with serious-seeming earrings and feminine-enough sandals. When I walk, my dress swishes as is appropriate for my age (not like a synthetic sun-dress on holiday). It is reluctant to play with passing drafts, and it rustles like I have important business to do.

In my dress, I’m daubing my city in a blue carbon-copy-paper patina. I am a vandal, leaving imperceptible blue graffiti in the shape of my seat.

I am guilty of laundry discourtesy. And theft of a slice of sky.

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Habitat:

A billowing of curtain
A bloom of tissues
A breeze of newspapers
A dock of dishes

The babble of kettle
A whistle of window pane
Eddies of fallen hair
A gurgling washing machine

A clap of laughter
A meadow of books
Crags of peeling paint
A thicket of socks

A tree of tired jackets
A sunset of dust
A marsh of spent tea-leaves
An autumn of pizza crust.

A Hundred and Nine

Cotton candy aftermaths.

Slippery notes of 10.

The prickle of stranger on a bus.

Inevitability between man and woman.

Static of silk and belly.

The vase that got away.

Etchings of brassiere straps.

Calluses for absent play.

11AM sun of winter mornings.

Bites of new E-string.

The lure of knife’s edge.

Wetness inside a ring.

Found an interesting theme on this blog that compiles 55-word stories, called “Touch”. This is what came of it.

A Hundred and Eight

In the season of presidential nominations,
I’m running for a few designations –

Writer. Poet. Photographer.
Professional describer of feelings.
High-intensity leer-evaporator.
Smasher of nonsense ceilings.

DF Wallace Quote Generator.
Multiple bell-jar defeatist.
The Antoinette of Drama Queenery.
The Nilgiri winds of eye-mist.

The atlas of all the right spots.
Perpetual leaver of aunties aghast.
Shaadi.com’s SEO Nightmare.
Wit like the Virar Fast.

Lethal sashayer of saree pleats.
Visual crime police.
Khadi-wearing activist
Of “thank you, hello, please?”

Part-time mood re-decorator.
Marmalade evangelist.
Slice of chilled watermelon.
Male-throat dehydrist.

Sr. Executive Puppy-face.
Tantric caller of cat.
Compliment-netting fisher-woman.
Serial thwarter of fat.

Zero-contact gut-puncher.
Saviour at the ninth-stitch.
Hidden memories detonator.
High priestess of bitch.

A Hundred and Four

Clad in gossamer salwaars,
Ponytailed hair tumbling in ghosts of school-plait cascades,
Dupattas folded with indecision –
A stiff V, like in the heart of conservative?
An elaborate arrangement to shade modesty?
Wound around the neck, an emulation of favourite liberal aunts?
Or an incidental billowing sail, that, who knows, will steer to first and true love?

They gingerly ring the doorbell,
Always underestimating the pressure required for the button,
Always sheepish of the loudness their efforts produce.
They come armed,
With first names and surnames,
Door numbers and invitations,
The Barbie peace-makers,
Negotiating neighbourhoods in currencies of cuteness, comeliness and camaraderie.
Freshly powdered faces,
Light hairs on still-baby cheeks aglow,
Shaky-handed-kohl-lined eyes shining,
Security, manners, and social lessons all clutched
With handkerchiefs folded to sixteenths.

They always come in pairs,
Bearing with them, if not words for exchange,
Well-shorn coconuts,
A few rupees and betelnuts,
Snug in an offering of heart-shaped betel leaves.
They come armed,
With neatly arranged wire-baskets,
Covered with erstwhile sofa doilies,
Both, topics for your mother,
Who they will call, “Aunty”.

Aunty will offer them coffee or tea,
But they will both exchange looks and say, “We drink only Horlicks.”

Aunty’s husband will then ask what their parents do,
Where they’re from, who their siblings are,
What they want to be when they grow up.
Aunty’s husband will then nod gravely, and say, “Good, good.”

And Aunty’s husband will promptly forget.

They will hurriedly cool their evening’s fifth Horlicks with their breaths,
And gulp, careful to not seem indiscriminate,
Or unladylike,
Consciously licking the corners of their lips.
The first to finish will fidget
With the yellow string around her wrist.

Then Aunty, or maybe you,
Will then bring them their own coconuts/bananas/bangles,
Vermillion and turmeric.
The lesser experienced of the two,
Or the one with her guard down,
Will briefly fuss over which finger – ring or index –
She must ply.

They slowly get up,
Tugging at and ironing the bottoms of their kurtas,
And studiously slip on their sandals,
Teetering on one foot while adjusting the straps.

Their goodbyes sounding
Comically adultlike in their plurality:
“We will be back soon”.

They leave,
In their wake, the alien smells of the spoils
Of a visit to the fancy store,
Where they flirted with the henna-fingered “Bhaiyya”
To buy four hairclips at the price of two,
Where they found the bindi stickers they wore today,
The mehendi that they’ve stashed for later this week,
And even the bangles whose glitter
Twinkles like indoor starlight, on our sofa.

Ariel View

I’m not half a woman,
I’m mostly sea.
I’m not half a woman,
I don’t need legs to complete me.

I’m not an almost-whole Marilyn,
Underground rails billowing my dresses,
Haute couture of where I come from
Is mostly sea-shell bras, and floating tresses.

Come, live below sea-
Level with me,
Where there’s no doing the dishes
Or laundry,
We’ll pop oysters,
Smoke sea-weed,
And what we spark between us,
Is the only fire we’ll need.

Here,
There’s enough bubbles
For champagne the whole year round.
Here,
Gargling composes
Trumpet and saxophone sound.

Here,
There’s enough clay,
To be a water-work Michelangelo,
Here,
Where it makes sense to say,
Let’s take it easy, let’s go with the flow.

Our fingertips will forever be wrinkled,
Your money and maps, forever wet,
And should you ever get homesick,
We’ll visit the nearest shipwreck.

I’m not half a woman,
Sure, I’m almost always at sea.
I’m not half a woman,
I don’t need legs to complete me.

I’m sorry, I’m just not into flesh-trade,
Cutting in love’s name, is such a cheap charade.

I’m not parting with my second-half,
To be named your better-half.
I won’t burn hours at the treadmill,
To account for shapely calves.

So, Mister Prince Charming,
Mister Smile Disarming,
Take a deep breath,
Take the plunge,
Don’t open your mouth to say hello,
Just wave at the pants-wearing sponge.

Travel

Our meeting begins
At the valleys of your fingers.

I squint,
At the sunlight that squeezes
between them.

I look at the map,
And find no way around the lines
of your palms.

Of course,
I’m too proud to ask for directions.

I trudge on,
Dodging your fault lines,
Climbing,
Conquering,
Your mound of Venus.

The eddies of your fingerprints,
Are too many to unravel.

The air sings
of your musk.
My footprints
are your rash of tiny, pulsing gooseflesh.
The glade that I run along –
your rapt-to-attention follicles.

The sand of your skin,
Ripples in fractals.

So sharp the stalactites
of your upper lip
and tongue.

I snowball down the smooth
heights
of your arms,
And hang by the outcrops
of your blades.

Your throbbing rivers
pulse red.

I am caught in your rapids,
And rescued
by the mesmerising fissures
that crowd around your eyes,
Flirt at your cheek,
Cut your chin,
Chisel the dip of your back,
And punctuate
The neglect behind your knees.

What etched
the canyons between your toes?
How shall I escape
the quicksand
that knots your elbows?
What shall I read
in the braille of scars
on the walls of your shins?

I’m lost.
Wandering, wondering,
At the Geography
of touch.

The plateau of your chest.
The plains of your abdomen.
The pit of your navel.

And beneath –
a glistening pool
of a place I’ve been a hundred times,
And yet,
Never.
The mounting confusion
between a rise
and a fall.

A blackwater
of full moon tides.

Your breath
is the gale I brave.