Eighty Nine

Tell me things I don’t know.
Tell me things I haven’t heard.

Don’t tell me sins come in sevens,
Or that pain is a travesty called heartbreak.

Don’t tell me
I have hours to kill,
But only seconds to count,
Or that the early bird gets the worm,
And the second mouse gets the cheese.
And no,
You still can’t take my picture.

I know,
Skies are azure,
Sobs can be gut-wrenching,
Songs can be soulful,
Silence, deafening,
Prince Charming, a frog.

Tell me, instead,
That I may not, after all,
Have a befitting happily ever after,
Because of an ill-fitting glass slipper;
That when I wake from my slumber,
I will see what I saw last night –
And that it’s quite all right
for things to turn out like that.

Don’t tell me,
My boyfriend is bespectacled
because it hides his intelligent eyes,
But because he is quite myopic
(even about our future).
Don’t tell me,
My grandmother oiled my long hair.
Tell me, instead,
That she would knot peppermints and candies
in the edges of her sarees,
So she could bribe my love.

Don’t tell me a cat is non-commital,
Or cold,
Write me a word to call
that wordless call
that comes from its gut –
When I spoil it
with affection.
Please, a word
stronger than purr,
But softer than growl,
A word that probably runs like:

Tell me how to love differently,
And how the attempt
is not to show me how to love differently,
But how to love
as only I can.

Don’t tell me passion burns.
Actually, please don’t call it passion.
A crucifixion, a debate, lust, love and anger –
Cannot all be the same unit of language.

Don’t tell me skin is as smooth as silk,
Or hot as a furnace,
Or white as snow,
Or that I burst into insipid gooseflesh.
(can you imagine how repulsive that is for a vegetarian?)
I’m not chocolatey, dusky, or the colour of mocha,
I’m dark brown.
I’m not arithmetically challenged,
I’m awful at maths.

Tell me things no one has told me before.

Tell me new places to go with my mind,
That magic can be trapped
With just an old jam bottle,
And a wandering glow worm.
That on my post-it notes
Are things I don’t really want to do,
And things I’d rather forget.

Tell me what else to do with ketchup,
Other than draw smileys on plates for grumpy waiters,
What else to do with an idle pin,
than probe the thick skin around my thumb’s nail,
Tell me what to collect,
Apart from smooth stones, tickets, twigs, corks, crowns, coins,
Dots, debts, grudges, garbage, affairs, aphrodisiacs, addictions.

Tell me what rhymes with “month” and “rhythm”,
Tell me whether it’s good to be alive, or to be a celebrated fossil,
Tell me why it doesn’t matter why we’re here.

But first,
Tell me where to submit a few ideas I have
For a few new words
The vocabulary could do with.

Eighty Eight

If I were a boy,
I’d save the world like Superman,
My superpower would be
An actual attention span,
I’d start with a bath and clean underwear,
And I’d iron my own button downs –
For me to later tear.
I’d rescue leftovers
From eternal refrigeration,
And if not earn, I’d at least buy myself
A great reputation.

If I were a boy,
I’d spend time on my toenails,
Invest in a good deodorant,
And save me from myself.
I’d think before I talk,
About an ex, a fantasy, a fling,
My pinups, their push ups, her hang ups…
Well, just about everything.

If I were a boy,
I’d major in a language and learn communication,
I’d invent a chemical for my brotherhood –
An automatic injection
Of grace, empathy, profundity and kissing skills,
And the bestselling liquefied edition
Of How to Handle Tears.

If I were a boy,
I’d take the condescension out of my voice,
When I explain the difference between
Dot ball, no ball; soccer and football.
I wouldn’t probe my nose in public.
I’d keep my parts private,
And I’d wolf the whistles out of me.

If I were a boy,
I’d wear glasses
Just for the heck of it,
Write my own pickup lines,
Pull my pants up, a wee bit,
And I’d play a sport,
Not hard to get.
I’d learn, that life isn’t just my t-shirt’s black,
Or white,
But unfortunately, countless shades in between
(At last count, there were at least seventeen
Shades of green
Known to man.
Or was that woman?)

If I were a boy,
I’d snip off my sacred thread,
File a petition
Against circumcision,
And take a loan to clear my parents’ loans,
I’d buy all five of my iPhones.

If I were a boy,
I’d know size doesn’t matter,
The hair on my arms, underarms don’t matter,
My tactfully torn jeans don’t matter,
I’d know –
I don’t need a sixth sense,
I’m safe after seven,
(So what if the concert starts at eight?)

If I were a boy,
I would hitchhike across the galaxy
With just a towel,
Without the need for a sanitary napkin, Ibuprofen,
Hygiene or pepper spray,
I’d count to a billion stars,
Get lost countless times more,
And of course,
I’d never ask for the way.

Eighty One

I held the story in my hand,
Held it up to the light.

It scattered, like anti-mercury.
It scattered, into a million shafts of colour.

Colours that didn’t have names to them.
Or maybe they did have names,
I mean, who remembers colours with names
like Fuchsia,
or Beige, or Burnt Sienna,
I don’t mean remember the names,
oh those – they’re enchanting,
I mean, who remembers what the names stand for?

What comes to your mind, if I say Ochre or Cinnabar?

Why can’t they name colours insightfully?
With a little more care?

Call it the inside of a pumpkin when it’s ripe enough,
The bright, jarring pink of moist cotton candy?
How about the three thick ashen lines on a pujari’s forehead?
Or the hue of his erstwhile white lungi, that’s been washed over and over with four drops of liquid blue,
with the intention of keeping it white?

Maybe they can be named after
the bright green leaves of the sugar rose on a birthday cake,
Or the yellow of the wax
that drips and trails on praying fingers at Church.

Maybe even the diaphanous black of how a woman in an Abaya sees
The creamy face of a full moon,
The colour of the Pole star,
The opaque, ominous gray of rainclouds,
And the universal brown of puddles.

But what is the colour of the universe, then?
Monochrome white, in keeping with the Physics of light?
Or is it black, as dreamless sleep?

Or can it be the mossy green-black that comes from a painting
that’s a fine mess of colours?

True. The last is a problem
of the chemistry of dyes and colours made by tribes.
Or is the problem really,
the chemistry of tribes, made by colour?

Aren’t the lines of fate,
And the henna of every new bride,
the same confused orange-brown?

Isn’t every dark night,
a blanket of velvet blue-black?
Every happy spring morning,
beams of sunny golden yellow?
Isn’t every fairy’s magic wand,
touched with silver-white starlight?

If stories can bleed colours,
Why can’t colours, bleed stories?


Seventy Six

The wind is billowing my blue curtains,
and messing with my mind.

It smells of rain.
It sounds of palm tree fronds tossing their tresses to the tunes of tinkling wind chimes.
It giggles. It twinkles. The stars, they simply obey.

It tugs at my fingers, the tips of my ears, my skin.
The roots of my hair.

It promises to find in me strength –
to tear, claw and carve out from deep within, throbbing, full-bodied, gasping words. Words so tender, that I cup them in my palms. Words so fleeting, that I fear losing them. Words, like delicate drizzle that I hungrily savour. Words, sweetened by patience, perfect by persistence.

Words that I kneel before, utterly humbled.

And suddenly,
the curtains are still.
It is quiet.

Sixty Nine

Weariness lines her eyes, like kohl,
A gem burns bright in each.
Each blink takes its due luxury,
buoyant, back-floating on the surface of time.
With her, rustles her listless skirt,
tinkling sighs.
A smile that blossoms quietly within
Lips settled in the grooves of habit.
Crumpled locks brush her soft shoulders,
and whisper kisses and promises in her ear.
Limp fingers that ache
to lace with elusive healing.
The woman with dreams
of dreaming.

Fifty Seven

I am poetry.

Glassy surfaced,
prettily decked in rhyme,
occasionally tangential,
otherwise, free verse however jagged
in flow.

I hide,
in an ocean of words,
my meaning –
obscured by the million eyes that
look close, skim through,
glance at, glassy-eyed,
or even read between the lines.

i’m just a rant.
i am the answer to the purpose of life.

I have the cheek to say
that i am Art,
i am abstract,
i chronicle your truth – not mine,
i will bestow upon you, the privilege of intellect,
there’s more to me than what meets your eye.

I tease you,
gratify you,
and just when you think you’ve figured me out,
you realize,
i’m a million right answers.
I’m anybody’s guess.

I’ve always been my maker’s secret.
I’m full of literary devices,
and defenses,
With that deliberate, misplaced comma,
that begs you, to reread, what you think you read.

I’ve always been my maker’s secret –
one that is not meant to be found out.

And funnily,
that joke is on me.


i watch sunlight.
golden embers of the dying sun.

i squint. i smile.
pleasant warmth that gently wakes me from my lull.
seeking out weariness from every dark trench
with great tenderness.

red afterimages with white-hot cores line my closed eyelids.

i inhale, smile. deeply.
fill my being up.
with light.


i am an appendix.
the harvester of your corruption. the conduit that collects your poison.

you notice me when i cause you pain.

you cut, tear, wench, clinically saw me away. with local anasthesia. and plenty relief.
discard me, like the vestigial organ i am.
and tell me, i have the gall to call myself an organ.

you sit alone.
nursing the diminutive, pathetic wound i’ve left behind.

you heal.
all that’s vile, black, toxic,
gone for good.

a whole human being, with just an appendix missing.

and yet, i remain an appendix.
an addage.
to you.

there are no profundities to spout today.

no lights, or shadow play.
but bright, white lights that force wakening.
wide-eyed wakening.
it’s the loud voices. the excruciating pain between shoulder-blades. the ringing phones. the foreign tongue that lashes around. the ever-present something-to-do, like an impending cold scratching, knocking, nagging, ever so slightly, at the back of the throat.

everything here forces wakening.

the auto-pilot has gone wrong.
we’re crash-landing, folks.