Hopper

Wrench after wrench, we clear the
debris of our choices from our
path. It used to be pitch-paved many
summers back, but now, it is just
marred with potholes of the past.

Yet, it goes somewhere we do not know,
and we must go on – with shovels in
hand, and a wry smile on our faces, as
we apply bandages to wounds old and
present.

We are Hopper’s nighthawks, sipping
coffee somewhere, whispering to
each other.

Stray

We are accustomed to stray afternoons. Our
conversations are mostly circular, hovering around
Money
Sex
Food

and maybe, just maybe – human plight.
A dead sunlight lingers for a while and then gives
way to the evening. You want it to be cooler, but
the shades bring out a humid air
from the gray waters of the river.

We are accustomed to stray relationships. Our
expectations are built around
body
looks
future

sometimes calculating and backtracking our steps.
The refuge we often seek turns to cacti, pricking
our senses into a dull overdrive. We reserve scorn
for the ones we love the most, only changing
the poison from person to person.

City non grata

“Have you noticed?” D, walking beside me, asks. “What?” I look at her, struck out of my focus on the idiosyncrasies of the road we’re currently walking on.

“Your shirt has the same colour as today’s sky.” I am wearing a loose, grey, flannel, oversized shirt. Is the sky flannel too? I look at the sky and the refraction of an Indian summer sun almost robs me of my sight. It irks me, as does most people.

“Lumos extremis” the sky seems to scream. “Shut up!” I mumble, as we go past beautiful houses, looking at their intricate doors and windows and balconies and patterns and bricks and stones.

We are walking through a busy part of town. People here are hoppy, not happy. Many are wearing masks – some are visible. “This is nice,” D quips, “this afternoon”, and I smirk. Moments between us freeze into ether, and the city has NOTHING to do with it.

Old woes are best left behind

Flawed as it may be, experiences find their way
into this vessel shaped like a man, and form
a well of conscience within.

You learn to survive mornings and nights
while living inside this shell. Every bad thing is
war. Everything good armistice.

Life gives you lemons to sow into gardens. Some
are only content drinking lemonade.

Giverny

Your labyrinth of labour that a country calls
love, is a cup of tea with two biscuits on
a primetime news hour to everybody else.

Summer flowers sunbathing on arches are witness
to these bouts of callousness that you
think of as longing, lust, fervent
phases of creativity.

You made a siren out of a sea-cow, but then
your glasses arrived. Now, fooled a destiny’s worth
of purchase, like Davy Jones, you meander
from one afternoon to another.

Reading words, finding holes in them often led
you into wrong bus-stops, yet you’re still sipping
from your cauldron of despair.

There are countries for the likes of you too,
like the ones Monet found – an elysium
of beauty trapped in time, waiting
to be bottled and packaged into
poetry.

Axium Waves

Farther away into the sky, in a different andromeda, you are looking at the stars like I am now. We are not alike, you – a being from another civilisation, me, a biped ape pretending to be the smartest of its species – yet we are both desynced from our own nebula, floating in this ethereum of nothingness without solid purpose or goals, listening to LoFi, wishing this universe was traversable by mind-waves.

Our cosmic desperation rides with us, our anxieties our dresses, our brains addled with drugs of mediocre living. Blending layers upon layers of laws that old texts have thrust on us, we fly by in our jets of synthwave, through the cracks between bricks of a fortress as old as this earth.

Salvation

Lucian Freud – Self portrait

The temperature outside is a quaint 40 degrees. Our subcontinent sun is content pouring all its rays of fervent heat upon us mortal souls. We being the callous souls born from the seeds of nonchalant creation ignore this ocean of lava in front of us and go out in it with our dinghies of responsibilities, each with a different layer of rubber attached at the bottom. Some wear out very quickly, their burning, heavy smells filling the air. Others trundle on with thicker skins – grinding in this Sahara of a city that they occasionally refer to as home.

Breathing in this cornucopia of non-ease, a character sits in an airconditioned room, giving structure to gibberish and calling them poetry. She too, is a creature of this burning desert, married to someone she doesn’t want and wanting someone she’s not married to. Every night, she fakes orgasms in the bedroom and brings them out in her bathroom over a pack of cigarettes and a toy that she has named after her amour. In office she gives replies that are non sequiturs – each forming an elaborate wall of lies and non-information that is her identity.

She is happy otherwise, like the city is also safe for earthlings.

Holi

Another Holi. Another horde of color-bathed Instagrammers in a city that has drained all colors out of its palette, save for a shade that old dresses look like when parched in the sun for eons (remember the ones that are forgotten in a corner of your roof, the ones possibly given to your raaj-mistry for cleaning?). We take pride in eating bitter things while starting a meal. No wonder our diaries start with nostalgia, our lives with the past. We never learn.

Leaning forward on the verandah, Nobu hums a tune he had heard somewhere. Was it the latest Coke Studio? Not likely. Was it something he had heard from Rudrani? Maybe. A blustery warm wind carries his confusion to the trees in front of the house. Some of them are already blooming in this putridly hot spring. The trees have started to mimic the people.

A group of urchins is still at it with colors and water balloons below. Nobu looks at them with nonchalance and then looks away. His childhood memories of Holi are not as colorful as others, and he’s in no mood for bitterness today. Instead, he looks at the phone and sees his old flame (they’re friends now) messaging him about how she couldn’t quite go through with a pre-Holi drinking spree last night. “Who mixes sake and beer?” Nobu replies to her and then proceeds to look at tens of other messages carrying forwarded images.

Can emotions be forwarded too? Say I send you something and you forward it to another person. Does my warmth, my desperation, my open laundry, my intentions get carried over to that other person (whom I may or may not know)?

The Swiggy guy is here with food. Maa thinks all outside food is garbage. “People are garbage,” Nobu tells her, “It’s not the food.”. The octagenarian descends back to her bastion that has a cooking room and a worshipping nook, grumbling.

Later, as Nobu is eating fried rice and cauliflower roast (his mom doesn’t allow non-veg food during a full moon), his phone buzzes again. Rudrani is in Scotland, sending him Holi wishes. Nobu wishes for a moment that this discoloration that this crazy hot summer and god-knows-what gets transferred to the Isle of Sky. Then he takes a sip of Coca-Cola, and everything is back to normal again. It is Holi, and sake might taste nice with beer after all.

Movie Reviews : The King’s Man, Spider Man : No Way Home, and Belfast

My movie watching experience, off late, has been largely confined to skimming through the ones available on Netflix and other streaming platforms. Seasonal potboilers are no longer the brainless fun they used to be. Far too many movies are now politically correct, zombified versions of their former selves, which deters me even more. In the course of the last few days, however, I watched a couple of movies, and here’s my honest take on each:

The Kings’ Man is a fun prequel to the two Kingsman movies, sans Colin Firth – talking about how it all began. It is a movie that, once again, is a part of a larger effort to show the UK in a positive light around the Great War (something that they clearly weren’t), and gentrifying the sacrifices of colonial soldiers. But I digress – this movie is hardly serious. The King’s Man, in its two-and-a-half hour journey is fun when it jumps to manic action. Immensely watchable due to a Ralph Fiennes-led terrific ensemble cast, with Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Harris Dickinson and Matthew Goode providing additional acting firepower. The standout performance, however, comes from Rhys Evans, playing Grigory Rasputin with such comical yet devilish intent that it made my skin squirm at times. In all, I’d give this movie a solid 7.5 out of 10. It could have been better if served about 30-45 minutes short. Watch it for the action sequences, for Rhys Evans and Ralph Fiennes (oh, and for the impeccable suits!).

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie that had a lot of hype around it, and one that left me the most disappointed of the three. While I loved the nostalgia, of seeing Toby Maguire, Alfred Molina and Willem Defoe (he remains my favourite on-screen spidey villain of all time, and here he proves why) – the story never really appealed to me. It lacked major substance, no characters were fully fleshed out and everything felt – rushed. Even the action sequences were ‘meh’ – and yes, I am counting the final encounter between the good and bad guys. I think it would have made much more sense if – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man could travel between universes to fight the altered bosses there, as we have seen Flash do. 5/10 for me.

I’ve saved the best for last. Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical, ‘Belfast’ is my favourite movie of this year yet, a black and white homage to the world we all left in our pursuit of better nesting grounds. Branagh’s painting of Belfast is done through a child’s eyes, and here is where the movie wins. Jude Hill as ‘Buddy’ is a revelation, and so are others, especially Ciaran Hinds as his grandfather – giving him useful tidbits of life lessons, just like our grandpas and grandmas do. By introducing us to a child’s-eye-view of ‘The Troubles’ – an ethno-social conflict that tore Northern Ireland for almost four decades between 1960-1998 – Branagh shies away from political intricacies, and delves into personal losses. The withering as a result looks too personal, and hits home hard. 9/10 for me.

Deluge

Uneasiness thrusting through the oesophagus makes me
queasy – it feels like floodwater running through stiff dominos,
pushing air out of a closed room. But there are only
finite memories, mostly bloody, charred
ruinous. What were you expecting to find
in my reports?

A plant beside the house that I’m in is shedding leaves. You
once shed your clothes and slipped in by my side for
an afternoon of passionate love. The riot between us
has burnt those effigies of us in the city square.

In not too distant future, maybe our paths will cross again.
We will finally be confined within our formalities, like coffee-shops
on weekends, and discuss marriage, job, kids, retirement.
Outside, every year, trees will put on new leaves to deluge poets
into thinking love may be a real thing.