Late Night Vibes

Coffee kissing your lips, and

old Jazz making love to aural senses;  the 3am thoughts

I see and write. Holding hands,

stealing kisses on necks,

the smell of a whole day of mundaneness

washed away by a late night rain.

The roads are empty, emotionless,

surreal.

Neon signs are sleeping.

It’s just you and me, and a thought of a city,

roaming around like nomads, drinking the leftovers

with passion.

 

[Photo by Masashi Wakui]

 

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Asexual.

The first time you feel two arms tangling you

like an ivy, and moist breaths lashing

onto your face in steady intervals, you

panic. Fear runs through your brain

as your loin catches fire, then ice,

and then screams with emotions

you’ve never felt before.

Ten years later, you look

at naked bodies like they are invisible

stories at an overpopulated wall of

bad posters, and preach

abstinence.

Finite spoils of war

Smelling love on a day when the yellow cabs were on a strike,

she had bared herself out, naked

in the streets of passion;

Twenty minutes of sweat had turned into war.

Bearing shell scars between her legs

she had dug herself out of a grave

and jumped right back into

the madness.

 

drawing by Ariane Mayumi

Entitled Dreams 101

Your body sweating,

hands sliding down south, mouth following, breaths drowning ~

The radio had stopped long back, and

the static had mixed with

moans.

All in a dream, I wake up with

lingering smell of your

breasts. If the windows could open,

a thesis could have been written

on desperation;

But the world is saved, for now.

Holiday Cheer

We reached the church rather early, in time to see the choir practice. This was my first time attending a Christmas service, my wife having done it during her school days (she used to be a choir singer in her Diocese days). We were greeted by the charming Pastor and also by a little boy who was trying his best not to smile, only to break into toothless laughter the moment he saw someone, including my wife, who came back with a glee in her eyes after she spent two minutes adoring him.

With freezing, howling winds outside, the Christmas eve was certain to be one to be indoors. Two hours later, we were coming out of the church with smiles, meeting new people, yet my memory was already painting a different picture.

My end-year memories are all over the place. They have the joyfulness of a first kiss, yet there are pangs of heartbreak as well; calm ripples of a gray sea are there, with the remnants a tsunami had left dead corals on the beach – you are bound to land on one of two extremes. I met my wife in one of such highs more than ten years ago (feels like an eternity, or yesterday!). I distinctly remember calling her during the end of my engineering exams, since there was a change in the schedule and all of a sudden I had three days’ to spare – I wanted to check if she could meet me. In my excitement I had worn a particularly choice, hideous florescent orange t-shirt for the occasion, sure to turn off any prospective gazes from opposite sex. There I was, standing in a popular destination for the lovebirds (how cliched!), looking like a scarecrow, waiting for a disaster to happen.

We had gone to the Cathedral. Not because we wanted to pray, but because it was silent, detached from the crowstorms of a clunky city. That winter morning had painted a spectacular picture in my mind. My mother thought I looked particularly giddy that night when I returned home, though it didn’t take her long enough to figure out what had happened to her son. I was on cloud nine, and for good reason.

But there was a winter when I had told someone to forget me, that ‘we’ couldn’t happen, that ‘it’ was going nowhere. Sitting on my balcony, listening to her quivering voice at the other end, I had cried for the very first time on the account of heartbreak. For this was the very first time. Umpteen years later, that forgotten chapter had found its way to the same city, and on a rainy afternoon, we were standing in front of each other, eons between us, two people who had lost parts of their soul on that fateful wintry night, thinking about how awkward it was.

In Bengal, the suburb winters are different than city winters. Suburb winter afternoons are spent in typical laziness, rolling around on warm blankets and pillows, catching up on Sunday potpourri. In the city, the smell of jaggery is masked by aroma of cakes. A particular nostalgic favorite, Nahoum’s, brought out Parsee goodness every winter from its unending stash. A favorite of my father’s, the love-shaped cake, or paan-cake, as he calls it, is still smeared all over my childhood memories.

Winter is a difficult season to endure at times. Here, at times the temperature goes beyond zero, sending a chill through the body with every gush of wind. Bengal winters, in comparison, are much more spring-like than we want to admit; there are hardly a week of sweater-wearing cold. More often than not, it’s the zeal of the Bong parents that makes us wear monkey-caps and scarfs. Those memories, childish and joyous, have no fixed places in my brain. They come and go as they please.

This Christmas, two benches before us was sitting a guy with mental disability. While the entire church was filled to the brim, no one sat by him. We sat alone too, our bench a stark contrast to others. It left a drop of disjointed, unwelcome cold in my otherwise warm evening. Were we to be judged based on how we dressed and talked and in certain cases, behaved? I don’t know the rules of the world, I must say. Differences are not considered necessary for society; for everyone must wear the same mask.

I am no one to judge. I cannot even judge my memories. People I chose to be my close compatriots have often abandoned me. But I don’t turn a blind eye on things that happen around me, be it the nauseating stiffness in acceptance, or warm embrace of love.

A winter always has two sides.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Spotless mind

When the color of the sky is like a dying tip of a cigarette, a soul is seen wandering around the city in search of memories. His gait meanders around spots that are too trivial for novella couples, so out goes the gray river, the ruins of the bridge, the dusty green park…

And enters the sneaky alleys, the paan-spit smeared walls containing seedy advertisements, both political and personal; enters the road by the tram depot that has not yet fully decided where to start and where to end, splitting in every nature of path possible; enters the Pripyat of  railway stations where trains hardly stop – and the lonely cha shop on it.

Eons apart, another soul emerges on the window of a highrise, with pen in tow, waiting to write a future. But the past poisons her thought with pangs of nostalgia.

As if she has seen Medusa, her movement freezes. Somewhere down below, five million people scamper around a city like stray cats on a mission. Only there are never stray cats.

The world forgets how to smile, only to retrieve it from an ashpile of deadbodies, and then chooses to ampute that thought. A vicious cycle ensues, aided by psychedelic advertisement boards where skimpily clad women hail a man who has clearly still dreaming.

He and she, they both carry a similar card on their hands. ‘Lacuna’, it reads, ‘The finest memory-erasers at your service’.

“What if you stayed this time?” the Durga-Pooja time text reads.

“I can’t,” the reply on Facebook Messenger, neatly archived between thirty chatboxes, “I walked away.” Between curry colored sarees and bottle green kurtas, the festive songs are a heartbreak.

Rolling of seasons is the only thing that keeps people sane.

Type F for Faith

During Thanksgiving, the glaring headline of papers worldwide was of yet another fate-fueled attack on the general populi, killing more than three hundred people in the process. Two sides of faith, with two different outcomes in mind; one celebrates homecoming; the other: ruin.

There was a story that I grew up reading. A Hindu scholar, having read in the ancient texts that God is both with a form and without, decided to test the theory by himself. Upon visiting the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri, he asked this question to the grand priest – who answered in the same way as the texts prescribed. Annoyed, the academic took a stick and decided to walk by the idol – declaring that if the stick touches the wooden idol it would prove that the omnipresent has a form; if not, then the opposite will be proven.

To his surprise, the stick touched the idol in one of his two passes; while he was coming back, the stick remained as is. Baffled, he stood there, until the grand priest, who was watching it all from a distance, decided to come in. He smiled, and said that the one you and I – all of us seek, is formative and formless. Was he talking about God? I think now that he was talking about faith as well. For us, faith can be a book, or a man’s quotes, even a worn-out dozen shoeboxes where we preserve our memories. Or it can be promises of freedom, of the grandiose life in heaven.

Or at times, it can simply manifest itself to be something simple. Like a shoulder to cry upon, a body to blame, an abyss for all of our tears to go. For centuries, widows have been shunned in the Hindu culture and banished to the corners, be it in one’s house or in ravenous sanctuaries like Kashi, Vrindavan and the ilks. There were rules made, terrible and inhuman rules, to break their minds and their bodies. It is not one of the greatest mysteries of the world why a chauvinistic society took whatever means necessary to drown the women in misery – both married and unmarried, and post-married in particular. To these widowed souls, the only way to live the rest of their lives was to cling to the only thing they had left, willingly or unwillingly : faith. Thus generations after generations, we saw grandmothers who spent their time in the deity-room, being particularly excessive when it came to spirituality. It was often not their choice, but they accepted it and made it their own. Faith works in mysterious ways.

Yesterday, my wife and I were to attend a market that happened to be inside a Cathedral, and we ended up reaching the place two hours late; the empty parking lot should’ve been the spoiler alert, but we carried on, only to be informed by the last car that was loading up that it was over. Bummed out, we decided to go inside anyway, just to see the main hall and offer our prayers, only to offer them standing on the other side of a closed door (The cathedral was closed). While we were on our way out, my wife suggested to go inside the bookstore, and we went in.

The Christmas decorations were in full swing, spearheaded by three women, all past their prime, one a little older than the other two, but the most energetic and talkative. She took a particular liking to my wife, telling her stories about her visits to Jerusalem, driving in the highways around Atlanta, and about her husband who had passed away. I was following them, listening to her cheerful banter, and picking up and looking at trinkets, photo frames, music CDs  – as the wintry afternoon was slowly coming down with a chill, painting the sky a melange of orange, ochre yellow and crimson, tugging at the handful of leaves that remained, brightly colored – before they fell too, making me wonder at the simplicity of it all. There was something remarkably simple in this design, yet so marvelously complex. To a naked eye, it was overwhelming. But you needed to sit down and let your mind do the math; then it wasn’t as boggling at all.

“Isn’t this the cutest thing?” The old lady asked, pulling out a wooden replica of a mouse, complete with beady eyes and all, a Christmas decor obviously. My wife nodded, and expressed her chirpy mirth, to which the lady continued while putting it back on the Christmas Tree that it came from, “I don’t have trees in my house anymore. Not after he’s gone. But I keep these things with me. Like the mouse, I’ve hung it in my kitchen cupboard. Every time I see it, I laugh.”

There was something on both me and my wife’s faces at that moment, a similarity in emotion that pulsated in both our hearts. Faith, in its simplest manifestation, was a powerful tool. Even thousands of miles apart, I saw a woman who was like my grandmother, displaying the same emotions, resting her head on the same shoulders of faith. “It’s a way of touching God with your own hands, when your hands are empty,” she said while showing my wife the intricate rosaries, “people buy these things as jewelry these days. But these are not just things to wear. These are tools of faith. These are what keeps faith to yourself, personal.” This wasn’t simply a perceived way to offer prayers to a being of higher conscience, but it was a mean to cling on to something that offered a sentience of a greater acceptance, something that our society had so miserably failed to provide.

While we were on our way out, she asked us to come back again, like any loving grandmother would do (though she thought we were Spanish, judging by our dialogues in Bengali), and we came back with smiles on our faces.

My faith has its days. At times it is strong; and at times my existential crisis makes it harder to cling on to any hope, any faith at all. There are gaps, and the woes of the world and the surrounding make it that much worse to rest my thoughts on any shoulders, let alone be it on faith. I grew up amidst spirituality and faith, but my conscience had pulled me away at times from it. I discern faith for what it is; an instrument of creation and destruction; of putting one’s life through it in expectation of something grandiose and then something simple; more often than not, faith is the belief that there is something inside us that may someday take the shape of something good. Be it a windfall or a phone call from a grandson that lives seven oceans away (A common proverb : seven oceans and thirteen rivers, quoted to denote great lengths), or a yearly Thanksgiving, playing the strings of the heart, cherishing the living, remembering the dead and the gone.

As I was writing this, soundtracks from Miyazaki’s movies were playing. Piano for me is faith too, in its simplest form, yet again, since it evokes tendencies in me that I keep on reserve for special occasions. Anime and its wonderful music are part of a feel-good society, a utopia that we have forgotten, especially the great animes that graced the world during the 80’s and early 90’s. The piano playing classical tunes is bound to make a believer out of a skeptic.

What is faith but the simplest form of belief. At times, it takes the form of something monstrous if you let it grow uncontrolled. At times, it grows into a beautiful garden of memories.