Sunday, February 21, 2010

When old friends set on me allusions free of the stain of you, I turn back and look for you among lost years. I realize there was a time when river maps were only blue leafless branches on a white sheet that rendered the sea colourless as well, that the map would never change no matter how many rivers died on their way to a sea of vengeful hue.

At ten years, I was allowed to swap my pencil for a fountain pen. I was tired of dreams vanishing in clouds of eraser dust, and in the bloodshed of spilled ink and struck out words I made sense of them.

Were you the last blank page at the end of a story book, the page left intentionally blank as if inviting an alien pen to a happier ending? Were you waiting for that final flip of the page, the fingerprint of a goodbye kiss, the kiss that is the beginning of a yellow and musty end din a dusty glass prison?
Were you that extra drop water that caused the paint off my brushstrokes to seep outside pencilled edges?
Were you the unfamiliar word that worked slowly out of a tunnel in the slow-descending light of adulthood and meanings?
Were you among the feet that rubbed the finish line out of when mine was the second last pair of legs to heed the whistle?
Where were you till the day I finally remembered to turn my pockets out before my clothes disappeared into a tumble-dry ordeal only to find it empty? Not one candy wrapper whizzes out of invisible dustbin, not a single stolen coin, secrets have given up n me.
What were you doing before you led me up hilltops in strange lands where sunsets forced down love upon me, another credulous traveller?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Open Secret

Gone are my faint faltering sentences, yours is a story I tell with deliberation, my eyes turned resolutely away from my confidant as if you were a falsehood and my words a signboard artist nailing letters of fraudulent promise in straight effortless lines.

Maybe you should have stayed bitten back, sulking in the corners of my lips but utterance is irresistible. I delight in you as much as in a beautiful word that swims into speech unthinkingly and fits into sentences perfectly with the self-possession of rhyming poetry. I delight in you as I do in wisdom that is hoarded for long and in silence like a breath and then wasted in a solitary scream against the injustice that pitts the invisible flower against a yet unopened one. I delight in you as freely as my despotic impulse for truth stops my words short and curves my mouth into a smile of defeat.

I used to take an uneasy pride in concealment, uneasy because it drips like a tear down the cheeks of a weeping child in the midst of an insensible throng. Uneasy because it reddens like a face that has passed notice under an unsmiling unseeing friend. Uneasy because long silences don’t flutter like standards that cut through battle lines.

At the end, I say “Don’t tell anybody.” And I know that the lamp has been rubbed and the genie summoned and that veils can’t buy you beauty any longer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just as time strings cobwebbed garlands around my house faster than it does in others, love slips soon into my dreams of longing sooner than for most. My mother used to say that waking dreams come true.

Even when I rub my eyes open, he stays behind like the memory of a Sunday fair on a Monday morning, a dream that dreams on in the corners of my eyes till sunlight shoos him away.

“Rewrite” - the red marks fill my notebooks but the writing is not of my hand, grown fickle and fake with cursive copy writing impositions but the shapely strokes and parallel lines of his own steady hand.

Language forfeited, he sinks fast like foam following scuttling crabs into sand secrets. His face has sworn to taunt me namelessly like the waves that punish my feet for not having stayed longer for one more wave. And when I want to call him back to me when he’s at the water’s edge, I will forget his name and one more dream will have banished him to anonymity.

In the balcony of my childhood home, I can hear the temple drums again; the dream drums out the hymn note-perfect as Ganesh leaves one sanctum for another in a palanquin. It might be hymn to him for he too has leapt from dream to dream braving sphinxes at the mouth of a labyrinthine sleep, not in a palanquin but in a pall, his name dying on my lips. People who die in your dreams live forever, my mother used to say but people who never die swap their mortality for memory. He will not remember my dreams, remember that he has crept into each of my pubescent peephole tears only to turn his face away from a past where pain has been spray dried over walls of time like the afterthought of a vandal.

The stream wouldn’t glisten with fallen sunbeams the way it did if the wind didn’t send the swan’s wings aflutter and if the swans didn’t make rippling silver stripes in the lake.
Soon, the rains will scrub names off epitaphs and tipple flowers off gravestones - when he refuses to leave at the clang of the school bell, before the door bolt jams, prior to the first word of a confession, he won’t leave when the eye of my sorrow is still wet. And will they have leave to die if he dreams with me only to unearth the ruins of a love long-deceased?