An afternoon, last year.

We had the thick curtains strung up that made the room red.
The afternoon blaze snuck in through under the door to the veranda and the last wisps of sandalwood incense coloured the room of wooden desks and bookshelves orange.

Through the haze I’d hear your guitar strum and hear your torn voice and I run my fingers over the raised pattern on he kalamkari bed sheet we spread.

Nothing else could fill me and this once, I let myself smile.

 

Fuck the notions of set-poetry. Under the banner of post-modernism I can do jack shit.

 

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4/8

Our college lost at the final round at Jessup last night.

The fifth years were drunk, exclaiming and swearing at the live stream from the back of our exam hall, and just before the results were announced the fourth years had to shut them up so we could hear who won. From then on, there was just silence.

 

We won best speaker at the finals, but I know she’ll be torn up about it in a not un-familiar way.

 

Our second and third years win their moot. Having this many achievers on the same committee is too much for me, who has never known anything but mediocrity.

I try, I do. But really, the hardest thing is to keep going.

 

I panicked for four hours, and only got it to end with four cuts and an hour of sleep.

 

I feel my hands and my chin turn into my mothers’, and soon I will be her. With that thought, I wish to puke.

 

Spring isn’t here yet, but the summer heat has come. We gather in my room and take off our tops – all of us are wearing black bras.

 

They say law school is five years, but day zero was last week and our fourth years say, really, that there’s only three.

I’m done with one and I have nothing to show for it – maybe that’s why I panic.

 

It’s not easy when you’re not as bright as the rest. Something in my head doesn’t forgive me when I stop trying. So I give up trying to write poetry, but I can’t give up trying.

Not-poetry

Today, I’m not gonna write poetry. I don’t want to write poetry. I want to write prose but I can’t not label it NaPoWriMo because I want to keep up a streak.

So instead, today I will write prose and let it be marked low because in one paradigm prose can just be terrible poetry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s two minutes past ten, here we go ago again.

The gnawing is back. Today I have three packets of soup and four packets of mac n cheese left. I tell myself I skip lunch because I cant afford it – well, I can, but the problem is I can’t stop eating until I feel nothing but food fill me till my throat and really, I don’t have money for that everyday.

Problem is, the pre-bought food is running out but this this thing, this gnawing lasts.

I need to do something when I’m anxious. Till now, everything I’ve done is bad. Procrastinate, binge or cut.

Everyone who knows has said the last is the worst, so today I decided not to want it. And I didn’t – till now.

So if I don’t cut then I have binging and procrastinating left. I try binging but then I remember I spent 70 bucks yesterday and the day before so I really can’t afford a third consecutive day of splurging. I make one packet of hot chocolate from the stash and officially start Procrastinatingtm by watching a second episode of Greys, halfway into which I realise I’m done with the drink and the feeling still hasn’t gone.

I feel like I’m crazy and I can’t help but cry because this shit isn’t going and what if it fucking never ends.

So I text the one friend who still hasn’t told me they’ve had enough of me and I tell her I’m crying because the urge to cut is driving me insane, and through the mess I see her text, saying she wants to call me and talk to me to get my mind off of it but fuck her I don’t want that, I only want to cut and so I do –

Oh.

I lied and told her I was going for a walk but instead I just cut.

 

 

This isn’t failure because I don’t think I want to get any better.

Maybe this is why I have no friends.

Thing is, its made me feel so much better, and if something can help to such an extent then why the fuck do people not want for me to do it?

What about it is really so bad?

Glut

At half-past midnight

two packets of chips is what it takes to make the anxiety go.

It tastes like sand in my mouth and the gravel rubbing against my sweaty my toes on the stone floor.

Slowly the heat of the summer builds and I realise it did not help.

I gulp down water and then some more until there is a swirling pool of oil and corn in me.

 

I want to puke.

 

But at least the gnawing in my head is soft.

All we have left is words #rehash

At half past midnight, the veena sounds.

I try and tune the radio, but we are too far south to hear anything but white noise. I heave and pant and soon enough I’m crying, because the last time I heard those strings it was in the car on the way back home, dusk falling over New Town and the chants from the temple drowning any thoughts I could have. The dusty orange of Aruna Maam’s home and the pungent smell of her filter coffee are ghosts in the hostel rooms of bare white walls.

Do you remember the sky that night?

It was painted a dusty maroon and yellow at the horizon, and the eucalyptus trees were silhouetted inky black like in the Mughal miniatures on your room’s walls. I never believed that an evening could be so surreal, forever born and trapped in paintings from five hundred years ago. Then again, I never believed in many things being real, like the pain in your throat you kept complaining about. You should have seen it, the way the lake shimmered saffron and blue in the dying moments of the day and how the mosque’s lights lit up next to it. The drums from a temple behind the building broke the stillness of the night. There were no winds and no clouds in the sky, except for the gradients of grey rising from above the trees. The crescent moon was perfectly aligned with Venus, gleaming white together in a water-washed background.

Only then did I accept it was all real, because such a sight would have had to have been real to be painted so exquisitely. It was pathetically real, the way you were being swallowed into the depths of your own hell. Suddenly, words written in text messages every evening were hard to read, not without my stomach curling at the thought of yours eating away at the rest of you. It takes so much not to scream and want to shake you back into normalcy because its killing you and I cannot do anything but watch.
I can’t watch.
I was in the car on my way back, listening to the first programme on the government classical music station – a Tyagarajada-kruti again. The town centre was bustling below the many textile stores, sarees draped over mannequins caged in glass, sarees which would look sublime on you regardless of whether you can feel your hip bones or your 53 kgs, but I know its not about your weight or frame, its about something else, something more putrid and like ash. It is something I can’t fix as easily as I turn away from the shops’ blinking lights and clothes of silk.

You are one of the watercolour wonders of the world and more precious than the dusk today. Sometime last December we realised that wanting to die so young was not okay. Maybe this December we’ll believe it.

I heave and cry because only now when the veena sounds do I see that I am made of memories from current-homes and once-homes where my parents argued about how the door got jammed, and how my mother couldn’t lock it. It ended as all arguments end – that one of us wasn’t trying hard enough.

My voice is always loud and nasal, like background noise as people’es eyes roam to more important things, but it is not loud enough when they ask for me to say it again. I can’t see anything through this mask in which my face grows hot and my head pounds, the sound of my breathing and gasping roaring loud against cardboard.

(They said that this place would make me more, instead, I find that I am nothing at all.)

Tonight there are no red lines on my arms. It is too dark for it to seem right, but you tell me to wait till when the light comes in the morning.

It rains a little later.

They tell me not to lose myself, to hold on to what makes me, me. They speak as though I ever was anything at all.

But they don’t know, so I let them make the mistake.

Suddenly, we are all not trying hard enough when it becomes only about the best.

7 is when I don’t feel. 8 is when I feel too much.

My hair is falling. Pulling the strands and coiling them around my finger in the shower, I think that if I wash my hair long enough this afternoon I won’t have any left.

In the rain hitting the earth I couldn’t hear the voice in my head change to the voice screaming – Sanjana is going to Berkley and a ghost of her sits here – here open this flap behind my ear and you will find it.

Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. Yet, today I write the last end-term paper for Torts-I and head north before I can feel like I have. I tell myself that this is the end of term, that people do go home after law school – there – your seniors are in the next car.

It feels too much like running away again.

The city was to treat us the way it had two years ago- with China rose hanging over ladies in the street with jasmine in their hair. The white Indica taxis were supposed to be familiar, but the car smells of something between coffee and cigarettes. So then, I think my memory is failing because the city is the calcium in our bones now and the life throbbing in it is bitter behind the teeth. With the sick cold of pretty mornings, they seem to be all the city is anymore.

It is still raining when I pull into our old neighbourhood. Bangalore has changed as we have. The airport is too far away from law school, so I stop over at your place for the night. None of the old suspects can be found on the streets. You’re driving down for the long weekend tomorrow but really, between morning flights and traffic jams at Mekhri circle, the city doesn’t leave us with much left.

There’s something about here that feels dead now. I almost laugh when I name it ‘adulthood’.

At times in the mirror I stumble across short, stocky eyelashes projecting from a rim and a soft white ball with brown and black circles in it.
Near it I find a round lump with two smaller casings moulded on either side, and below it soft, thick flaps-
ah.
This must be the face.
I pull on the lower lid of the eye and see red underneath.

It’s been seven years and that little tint of disgust on your mother’s face hasn’t gone.
Just like that I’m twelve again and the sun is beating down on my face while we wait for you in the bus yard.

Maybe its me who smells.

Your house is white and green, decorated like an IKEA catalogue left open.

So I think- ah, this is where you come from.

You have always walked with stars girdled around your waist and eternity crowning your temples, and from my seat in the third row I have only ever clapped you in and clapped you out again. The ink I was meant to scribble down the astronomical equations of my future with slips through my fingers and leaves a trail on the runway behind the clicking of your heels.

The masked glass is splattered with the stardust of the first monsoon showers. The sculptor’s urban hut of blue plastic and brick on the highway is close to collapsing, straw and jute left unmoved at the feet of a clay woman, hands raised in position.
“Food?”
“Raagi dosa, you want?”
“S’okay.”

Your mother hands me a plate of toast and a cup of tea. Looking at the trunk of the almond tree outside your window, she says,” the barbed wire really takes the charm away.”

I lived two storeys above your ground floor flat, and when the robbers came one night in the summer we went up to my balcony to see their footprints on the ledge above your window. Now, the vines of the money plant crawl over the new paint and into your neighbours’ house, neighbours who know nothing of when the white paint was still the first coat on these buildings and when the fences didn’t have barbed wire over them.

I’ve told your mother she doesn’t have to worry herself with tea, that I had lunch at college, but she insists I eat. As always, she has her way.

Sometimes I wonder how far two floors could be, when every two years we throw out our things and fold memories and sobs caught in our throats into cardboard boxes.

Its the small things, like how the floor to ceiling nets don’t fringe and stick out of their frames and how the books run in series along the walls of your house.

There’s a peace in the silence here, and I wonder how many times in that silence you would have heard the shouting from two floors above.

When it rains your mother makes tea and sits me down on the white canvas chair, and hopes I enjoy it.

I’ve never enjoyed the rain before, but I’m willing to try.

All we have is words, and for once, I have the prerogative to choose what they will be. Today, I write words which don’t have to mean anything in this world. In that, I think, we are allowed freedom. In that, I think, we might find something we like.

Somewhere else, the flowers in my grandmother’s balcony bloom, and she can’t contain herself. She limps into the room and reverentially places the three small flowers before the framed pictures of her blue god.

All we have is words, and with these whispers I sing my prayers.

 

while

It rains here, and when it doesn’t it threatens to.

Throwing away Old Things, I find your letter signed ‘You Know Who’. You apologize in two pages and full lines of ‘sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry’, that you missed me now that I was not there and all my boring talk of the one thing I loved.

In the last line you tell me not to tell Aditi, and somehow it has been raining for seven years because now I still have apologies and promises whispered into my ear, hiding, hiding, hiding away from Aditi.

You are no longer here and there are others, there are more of you taking and folding sorrys into envelopes, but Aditi is still here.

In the rain hitting the earth I couldn’t hear the voice in my head change to the voice of her, but now Aditi is going to Berkley and a ghost of her sits here – here open this flap behind my ear and you will find it.

 

 

The rain has stopped so I fold the creased sheet another time and leave it next to the bushes. Maybe someone will find it and take it.

They might even read it, but there’s no harm in it. There are no names but of the thing I loved, not of you who so loved me and not of me, who had forgotten loving you.

homecoming

There are things more important than a silly sadness that comes at night. Things more real than this.
Men cut through mountains and men move them. My aunt drives on the roads in Sikkim and my uncle here next to me says the mountains are soft and its cliffs will give way.

Men and Woman are real, so they talk at dawn how they will change the world.

My feet walks but I am not here.

I try weakly to collect these scrambled thoughts and memories, but I find nothing but the cold sun rising. I remind myself I am in Bangalore, that Sikkim is someplace else.

This once, we travel south.

The hills will fall, he says. The hills will fall when the seismic plates shift and no man can stop the earth from raining.

The dust spells out a language, but I do not understand it.
So none of us speak.

It is too quiet here.

The cold sun makes for cold walls at six-thirty, when you can only hear the rustling of the avocado tree and father’s footsteps drawing a picture for what he will be today.

The rain from last night comes from the metal tap and makes a loud splatter in the sink. The iron pipes are rusting and the ceiling is high. The houses here are old in Cook Town, the trees are even older and only the first of the many have started to die.
We don’t know how it will fall so my uncle parks the car further down the road.

There’s a red cut on my palm from two days after that. Only the jutting stone slabs on Davis road saw me fall, so I turn it into a party joke –
“ and I heard the perplexed auto driver gasp as I went down-”

Only Davis road saw me fall in the rain before I could panic.

I see the cut on my palm and red skin at the Investiture Ceremony, hidden to all who do not want to see, and think it is better than having cried. The small gash hurts and numbs too much with pain to want more, so I forgive myself for not pressing it. No leader with the badge I wear cries in these streets.

(No leader forgets the two streets he was to cross. No leader forgets the right turn onto Hutchins road. No leader forgets where he was. No leader forgets he was ever walking.

 

 

 

 

 

But they don’t need to know that I did.

 

In the wetness I could see everything-)