Thursday, August 30, 2012


As a kid, I was the man,
I think, whose I can’t say;
Routine or role-play made me sure.
It was love, they say. I didn’t care.

The cycle of follies started soon after.
How foolishly I tried to be on top.
How bitterly I crashed down.
I picked myself up to be my own.

Then came love, a brief hope doomed
Against past’s blinkers and fickle fate;
Hope came again alone in a horror sequel,
God! I escaped that B-grade villain, just.

I never tried again,
Not even hoped,
Not even my own
Top priority.

On The Beach

The grey sea heaved and crashed,
So did memories and sadness;
The rain clouds parted, to let dusk glow,
So did heaviness, to let her be

             With me. With me? With me…

Once, on foreign sands, with icy wind
And buried hands in empty pockets,
I could still smile after the tears
Waiting for the end of separation.

Now, on backyard beach, with cool rain
And careless hands empty out pockets,
I still cry but can I smile
Waiting for the end?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Hate Love

Next Wednesday, it will be the third anniversary of my last visit to the clinical psychologist. I should not have lost my cool with him.
After weeks and weeks of pointless talking, he told me ‘You are depressed…’
I had to reply, ‘Of course, I am depressed. Am I paying you thousands by the hour to hear that? What the…’
I had stormed out of his office, deciding to treat myself.
I pulled out of life. I quit my job. I stayed in my room. Not completely, I did go to the stores and all that, but more or less so. I cut off connections with kith and kin, quite gladly I should admit. It worked. As the weeks stretched into months, I could feel the power of non-existence. She stopped stalking me. Three months back, I started to make forays into the outside world, testing out old haunts, checking if I am ready for the normal. Then, after a month or so of that, I tried out day long trips she and I had loved – the long rides to the countryside, the hill-station nearby – just trying to be sure.
Yesterday, I boarded the train to Kochi at 6 am. I had reserved a seat in the a/c chair car. Without the office-rush, because of Independence Day, there were few in the compartment. I took my reserved aisle-seat. There was a lady next to me. She sat half-turned away, staring out.
I felt like joking, ‘It is really interesting, isn’t it? The railway track, I mean…one can just keep on staring at it....’
But I was not yet ready to touch the world without. First I had to deal with that within.
I waited for her. She did not come. For years, I had gone around with her as my shadow. When I talked or wrote to a friend, she came in between, reminding me that I was wasting time without the affection or the care. In lovely places, she would vanish along with the ephemeral loveliness without even a lingering caress or a swiftly snatched kiss. At a movie-hall, alone or with some acquaintance, I would be distracted by the emptiness next to me and I would wait for the end of the movie, unable to bear those moments without her hand in mine or my fingers on her thigh, without her breast pressing against my arm when she leaned closer. But there, in that compartment, she did not come.
I looked at the lady next to me. She has premature grey hair. The face too has aged early. I knew that I was being rude, staring nearly lecherously at her face, at her lips, at her eyes. I think I made her uncomfortable. She looked at the empty seats around, possibly pointing out to me that I should move there or that she would. Then, she turned towards me and I realized that she was going to give me an earful. I should have turned away. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I kept looking at her. She too stared back, just for a few moments, and then turned and looked down at her hands.
We slowly talked the talk of fellow-passengers. We were both going to Kochi. She was going for a family friend’s engagement. I told her that I had no plans and that I just wanted to walk around in an unfamiliar place. We talked about the weather, then the books we read, the movies we have seen, that we have been out of touch with the latest. With the boldness of those that promise to disappear, we confided to each other that we were recovering. Her husband had died in an accident and my girl had died of an illness. Long back, we told each other. More than a decade now, we said. She asked me about what I do. I said that I do nothing. Then, hesitantly, I told her that I am trying to write. Show me yours, she said. I laughed. She blushed and then put on an air as if she was offended. I opened the eReader I had in my backpack. I searched for something suitable. I could feel her staring at the screen, leaning towards me. Then, she grabbed the eReader from me, chose a story, probably a random choice, and then pulled up her legs onto the seat, cross-legged, crouched over my eReader, hair hiding her face. To me, her years slipped away. I felt young too.
She finished a story, switched off the eReader and turned towards me.
‘Needs editing…’ she said.
‘You are supposed to say that it is great.’
She refused to yield. I shrugged and pouted, inwardly smiling at her seriousness. She looked at me, uncertain, wondering if she had offended me. I shook my head and smiled at her. She smiled back.
 I think I fell in love with her at that point. I do not know if I would have felt that way if she had been lukewarm towards my writing. I admit that I am not sure what it really means. If you accuse me of feeling that way because I am sex-starved, I would agree that that probably has a big role. Oh yes, I wanted to grab and crush her against me, kissing and feeling her. But I knew that I wanted to be there after that. I wanted to talk and share. I also got this feeling of reciprocation that I am not far down in her list of priorities, maybe not on top but somewhere there. Isn’t that when love gets a foothold in that craggy surface of relationships, when one is half-sure that the other will be there, in body and in thought?
When we were at the outskirts of Kochi, I asked her, ‘When will the engagement party end?’
‘Around half past one, I think.’
‘Can you meet me after that?’
‘At the coffee-shop of the Taj…on Marine Drive…?’
‘At two…?’
She nodded.
I was there at half past one. I walked past the indoor garden in the lounge. I looked at the empty seats there, each neatly and nearly hidden by foliage. I wondered if I should wait there on one of those love-seats. Instead, I decided to take my position in the coffee-shop. I didn’t want to miss her.
At half past two, I was still waiting and there was no sign of her. At three, I asked for the bill. I should mention that I had also waited for my old one. She did not come either. I was half-glad, or is that half-sad?
I walked out of the coffee-house. I nearly walked past the seats in the lounge without looking. But something caught my eye and I spotted her sitting there, hiding, with her head in her hands.
I went up to her, knelt on the floor and took her hands in mine. It must have looked to any onlooker as if we were praying together.
‘He wouldn’t let me,’ she tried to explain, breaking down with anguish and frustration.
I held her, trying to comfort her. I didn’t know what to say. All I could say was, ‘I understand.’
‘Oh God, I hate love,’ she said or maybe I did.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Waiting At Woody's

I was killing time at Woody’s on C. Street. After a lazy coffee, I had slowly taken in a dosa. When the waiter irritated me with the second bill, without me asking for it either time, I repaid in kind with an order for a second coffee. I saw him talking to the cashier-cum-manager near the door, probably putting their heads together on how to evict me from the table for four at that rush hour. They gave me dirty looks but left me alone after the waiter deposited my coffee, quite obviously noisy and clumsy with his task.
I was sitting at the third table on the right, facing the door. I kept looking outside every now and then. I had noticed that the guy in front of me at the second table, with his back to me, did the same. He had taken that seat before me. He must be waiting for someone, I had thought – a date, a pretty woman, or maybe a good friend. He looks that type. I could make that out from his crisply ironed shirt, neat haircut and cool relaxed posture.
His companion joined him when I was midway through the dosa. I was surprised to see the rough unkempt guy shuffling in, looking tense, eyes darting around like that of a prey sensing a predator, his large hairy hands stuffed  in the front pockets of a scruffy jacket. He took the seat opposite his companion, facing me. I leaned forward, hunched over my table, listening to their conversation, trying to understand how I had got it wrong.
 They didn’t speak much. The smooth guy spoke with an educated diction and the rough guy mumbled or muttered in a hoarse dialect.
‘What took you so long?’ the smooth guy asked.
‘Police...for that big a-hole coming here…I got stuck on the other side for some time,’ the other mumbled.
‘It is the 21st century and we still have such feudal nonsense. Why can’t Ministers or bureaucrats move around like us and, that too, in a democracy?’
‘And all this security, Z or A grade or whatever…in a country with a billion, why do we bother if one of those is killed…tens or hundreds die on trains, burnt to a crisp…they did not get even B-grade security?’ the smooth guy sounded agitated.
‘Hmm…’ the rough’s disinterested contribution.
Like me, they placed lazy orders. They too were wasting time. They were mostly silent and it seemed like a fidgety silence to me, like that with lovers between fights. Maybe, they are lovers after all, I thought, the butch and femme kind.
‘Why are we waiting?’ the rough asked the other when I was about to start on my second coffee.
‘Not yet,’ the smooth guy replied, unnaturally reticent.
The rough turned around and looked out. He then stared blankly at the TV, placed above the cashier’s counter. His companion and I also turned our attention to the news show. Some guy was saying that he is not trying to commit suicide.
‘It is not a fast unto death then, is it?’ the smooth guy asked.
The rough did not respond to that rhetorical question. The news shifted to the results from the Olympics and then about the disqualification of badminton teams.
‘Crazy officials…’ the rough muttered.
‘Crazy? People who try to fix like that should be shot,’ the smooth guy objected.
‘It’s to get a medal, right?’
‘But, it is just not right.’
‘Why not…? All that matters is the medal.’
‘It is the Olympics. What about the spirit of the game?’
‘Bullshit! Not bloody gladiators out there to please the crowd.’
‘I think you are wrong.’
‘Oh yeah? When football teams rest their best and save them for a more crucial match, should they be disqualified?’
‘It is not the same.’
‘Bullshit! And…those wimps crying because teams were not disqualified in their group…they should be shot!’
‘You are so wrong.’
‘Bullshit! Only the stupid media and idiotic masses think it is wrong.’
After that, there was a prolonged silence at their table. Maybe, the smooth guy was peeved. The rough looked disgruntled as ever.
I had finished my second coffee and was wondering whether I should order a vada. I saw the rough turn around and look outside once again.
‘Come on, it is peak time, right?’ the rough asked.
‘Yeah, it is time.’ The smooth guy replied, sounding strangely tense.
They asked for their bill and paid it at the counter. The waiter looked at me pointedly. I ignored him. I watched the two walk out. They were carrying identical bags. Maybe, the smooth guy had brought those with him. Maybe, the bags contain clothes for a night together. Or bombs, I thought.