Saturday, June 10, 2017

Writing Days

On writing days,
each word is a blanket
each sentence - uninvited,
and has
overstayed it's welcome.
This is not
poetry, where
phraseology dissipates, conversations
peel off and scatter, and
paragraphs are lambent with

On writing days -
how do you measure your
irony, how do you
ration out a little of
yourself in 160 (or less) characters? How
do you transcribe each voice
in your head, at alarming speed?
How do you provision
for the scanty days,
the landscape is ugly, the june air
humid and offensive?

When I write, I
imagine you, reticent, in your city -
lush with cherry blossoms, March
sunlight on pedantic columns, a book in
hand. And when the crescendo -
(Beethoven, if you're interested) at the end,
does ethereal things: my eyes
squeezed shut, toes curled down, waves of goosebumps -
I put down my pen and
consume you whole. Your deliquescent words -
iambic pentameter intact -
assimilate into the world.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


June is no time to saunter in,
with your unkempt hair and your
glasses titled away from your smile. You've
replaced your rum, your bourbon,
your brooding poesy
smoke, walls and bier.
Your incandescent tongue, which
I've never kissed,
has a foreign lisp. Your gait
speaks of staggering through
an east coast winter. Your written fiction
invisibilized by your equivocation.

June is no time to leave,
when you've come this far -
the mornings are
uninteresting - bereft of dreams;
the afternoons feel unfinished in the
city (of your old lover) of concrete matrices.
The evenings slice through
the ferocity of the mundane, and
at once, three quarters of
an imperfect weekend
have shot past us.

When you descend on me like age, like
time in bookends; when you close the door behind
be sure to remind me that muses don't vanish
into nothingness.
That every June, their godheads are dismantled,
their cities delirious, their demons liberated -
and they walk amongst us like people. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reduce your resistance slowly...

... make it zero.

The year is 2013 and I'm waiting at the Örs vezér tere bus-stand for the 276E. The 44 or the 45 would do too, but they have three stops and I'm looking at reaching my room faster. A brown girl dragging a Spar plastic bag full of groceries, and without galoshes in this weather is commonplace, but my monthly pass has expired and I don't get my stipend until the 3rd so I absolutely have to avoid the ticket-lady. The 276E is definitely faster... the November chill cuts through my cotton shoes.

Who wears cotton in this weather, S asks me later. I smile, and get back to Einaudi and writing. Later it rains furiously.

November 2014 I'm in and around Bandipora, and we've just passed the Wular, when I realise that I have the wrong shoes on. Useless, cotton shoes. But they lasted me during the floods - how can I question their tenacity?

Parzana Begum* has come all the way from Srinagar to return the money I had given her. In September, I had withdrawn cash from an almost-floating atm near Bemina bypass. Bemina is no more, Parzana tells me. The flood has washed away our homes, she says - but do you want to interview me? I am not a half-widow but I can be, if you want.

I don't accept the money. I interview her anyway, I tell her real story is important to me - she does not have to be a half-widow. Later I call VS and cry. What am I even doing here, I ask her.

If the science of qualitative analysis is keeping score, Parzana was not a part of the sample population.

November 2005 is about subtext, subtext, subtext. The curling of my hair at my clavicles, the alcove where I spent many months tasting an unfamiliar tongue would begin at this November, the finality of cleavages, N's left-handed letters where grammatical mnemonics died.

I took to Sylvia Plath - je suis, je suis, je suis. N was an ephemeral Ted Hughes, I discovered many moons later.
My jagged, complicated edges have smoothed out, Novembers are no longer maudlin, and my poetry has dwindled...
November 2016 is like no other. My calves are stretched out, my hamstrings tight, this is a Friday - it's a high intensity spin. Deafening music, cadence, and synchronised forgetting. I'm asked to do sprints, but I'm running with resistance. Every November is flashing before my eyes...

Suddenly my flywheel is adjusted.
It's time for recovery, says V. Recovery, he cheers... breathe in, breathe out. Hydrate...

Reduce your resistance slowly, make it zero. 

(P.S. - I threw away my grubby cotton shoes in January, 2016)

Saturday, June 4, 2016


I distance myself
from the psychedelia
that comes
guitar strings,
neon lights; I sit
in a corner, unfazed by your
new religion. My
rebellion is not in ink, body,
It is in my anthology of unwillingness.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ramblings about dying cities

News of current city's potential demise reminded me of cityscapes. And how you and I on a wintry morning in another city, colder than this and much more treacherous, discussed cityscapes in literature. I have passed through cities like a ghost, abandoned them when memories flooded into buildings, alleyways and staircases. I have loved some cities, but promised myself that I'd never go back. But the prospect of a dying city is exhilarating. In the passport of life, for the first time in history, this city will outlive me before I would it.

Data analyses scares us in such strange ways. We are not talking of the cities in Syria. Hollow and dead Aleppo. Nothing remains. Lolab valley --- a town left dead because of erstwhile terrorist activities, nature is intact, but human trust isn't. The gujjar towns in various districts of Kashmir --- completely cut off from modernity, and invisible to laymen, journalists and politicians. A flurry of articles chant the same routine about current city --- "xx will be unliveable in five years... xx will be a dead city by 2023..." --- my world spins; didn't I JUST settle down? Didn't I just blow past every uncertainty that this city had to offer? Didn't my anxiety-ridden mind just organise every bit of my panic-stricken life into neat boxes? 

.... well, while the city dies, I get a little more entangled in public health (sheesh!), violence and numbers! Did I imagine this a year ago? I REALLY did not. My life of conflict/peace has been boxed and on a shelf, kept safely for composting while I run from pillar (ha!) to post in a humdrum, uncomfortable but hectic life. Within five years, our lives might change. We might be packing a bit of this city, with ourselves wherever we go. Like refugees, we would slip away; the city dwindling behind us, buildings crumbling, concrete confetti, the city's lakes frothing feverishly to see us leave.   

We are a tragedy waiting to happen, we are waves waiting to break and crash at the shore. And every cityscape starts along the same lines ---- "Didn't we just settle down...?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Shifting Gears?

Last month, I devoured Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones like my life depended on it. I read the book like I was gulping down strong, potent alcohol - like I had to have it! I read on Ola shared rides, on buses, during chores in the kitchen. Goldberg's words were slowly taming the writer in me - that creature I'm so ashamed of, yet cannot do without. Goldberg seemed to make writing easy, like it's an everyday thing like food or sleep. I began a journal after this, which I promised to fill every few days, if not everyday. As you can expect, this did not happen. That journal now lies on the floor as I write this blogpost.

Recently, I started working with some people - very humble, immensely amazing, and so inspiring - but the cause has not yet become a part of me. And I am afraid I won't have as much passion for it as I do for conflict, peace-building and gender. Along with this, comes the idea of shifting gears - I want to be a part of big causes; I want to do my part. But I also want to free the writer that lives inside me. That horrendous creature that consumes the world and spews intelligible words once every fifteen days. That creature needs to be disciplined. I also want to travel the world in pursuit of research. I want to be a Victoria Fontan or a Fionnuala Ni Aolain. And perhaps somewhere down the line, I also want to teach.

So clearly, I want to do a lot. And perform many roles.

I cannot do one role, leave and then, do another - that just doesn't cut it. I won't live that long anyway. So the next best thing to that is to shift gears - writer for three hours on sunday, research for eight hours, thirteen minutes on tuesday, become a coordinator on mondays... and so on.

But how does one do that?

Several people I know have their lives figured out and I am still grappling with the fundamental question: what do I want to become?  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Research Methodology

You'd think that
I drank poetry like wine
in the past few months, or
smoked up words in billowy
cigarette rings. That
all my sentences will be uncomplicated,
that all those months of research
and objectivity
have made me responsible.

Your large bevy of data
is now smoothening out my jagged edges.
My storyteller instincts so removed from
your pivot-tables, your bar graphs, your multi-coloured columns;
my anecdata under your scalpel, everyday,
between 10 to 5
mondays through saturdays.

I take two portions of triangulation
with my afternoon coffee; I eat numbers for breakfast.
I drape dependent variables like a shawl to keep warm.

Your baseline cuts through me like a knife,
sharp, quick,
like the cold November rain.

After dinner, however,
the numbers begin to dwindle.
Poetry - untested, unexplored, uncharted -
comes in waves, it does not stop.

I won't sleep tonight.