A modern dilemma
You blankly stare
a halted scroll
pretend that your disbelief is suspended
but it will be a punch in your gut
and it will travel upwards
and you will choke.
You blankly stare
you know what is there
you know – you feel invisible
you feel you’re not there anymore
you suddenly feel empty
hollowed out – your own voice
ringing inside your head
no, not even that – it’s dead silent,
and you are harrowed.
But, but, it was nothing serious
she, he and she, those three
she was just showing affection
he was just having a quality time
it was just a birthday she was attending.
and it was all public.
but you weren’t there
at any of the places.
You are forgotten
Maybe being forgotten
being buried away
in the interstices of time
has its own crooked beauty
awaiting a moment of poignant nostalgia
of discovery when it eventually comes
a face erupting with a smile of recognition.
I’d like to be buried away
in the pages of space and time
and then be revived
years later. Dead in India,
Reborn in Bolivia, Papua New Guinea,
I do not wish to sway
to the tune of the incoming flood
and oh, the flood
is right on the brink
the swathes of memory
the swerves of infinite empty existence
the fear of being submerged
and being invisible
I do not wish to relinquish myself
to be rooted out
– like a weed.
I must escape, and disappear
into the city alleyways,
garbage bins, brothels,
wherever it is safe,
the flood waits at the horizon
To think of, things haven’t changed much
I’m still the mirror cracked from side to side,
you still conceal those rusted gears of life beneath your blithe
The only change is that we aren’t holding hands anymore.
The only change is that you aren’t the constant in my life anymore.
And I’m probably not in yours anymore.
It does not matter.
मैं हुँ एक चौकीदार
साल के सारे दिन समान ही होंते हैं
मेरे लिए ।
हर दिन इस खेल परिसर में आता हूँ
निगरानी रखता हूँ लोगों और बच्चों पर
फिर चला जाता हूँ ।
ज्यादा सोचना नहीं पड़ता, और ज्यादा सोचना है भी नहीं।
घर पर परिवार का पेट जो भरना है
सोचने से तो भरेगा नहीं वो।
पर आज – आज कुछ हुआ
हवा में सरसराती हुई आइ एक पतंग मेरे पास
काम पर ही था मैं तब।
वह पतंग बैंगनी रंग की थी
और गोले थे उसपर पीले
– वह मेरे हाथों में आकर गिरी
या फिर वो मैं ही था जो उसको गले लगा लिया था।
कोई और मुझे देखता इस समय, तो सोचने लगा होगा
कि क्यों पकड़ कर खड़ा है, देखे जा रहा है,
इस पतंग को यह।
पर जो ख्वाब, जो यादें और जो ख्वाब यादें बन कर रह गए थे
वों तो इस दिल में उमड़ रहे थे ना।
मैं पतंग को देखता रहा, और पतंग मुझे।
और मैं खो गया अपने बचपन में
और खो गया था मेरा बचपन।
कहते हैं पतंगें उची उड़ती स्वतंत्रता हैं, आजादी हैं, सपने हैं
पर कहाँ उड़ चुकी है आज़ादी हमारे लिए
मैं और मेरे जैसों के लिए।
मैं आज़ाद नहीं हूँ अब
बस हूँ एक चौकीदार
साल के सब दिन समान होते हैं मेरे लिए।
On a winter night my thoughts
are sewing together images and words
to form a warm mosaic
of places I’d like to be at tomorrow
when instead I’d be buried under the blanket buried under the fog
Scene 1. The steam of freshly brewed espresso fills the spaces between us, while the fog obscures what is outside the café. As we converse, we can listen to the homogeneous murmur of the overcrowded building; to a middle aged man in a red sweater balancing himself as he carries his tray past the miniscule distance between our and the adjacent table; to the bevy of boots that support the nebulous figures outside, making their ways to workplaces, studios, gardens, monuments, other coffeehouses and definitely, homes.
Scene 2: As our car drives past the road in the morning, we can only make out some features of the monuments and buildings that stand on either side of us. Only a semblance of an iron fence is seen on the left, while a huge monument is towering silently on the right, its details reduced to a lurking presence. The wiper blades of the car are in furious motion, and reveal other vehicles in the distance, their red backlights accentuated in the fog. A man is tottering on the footpath.
Scene 3: With four layers of clothes including a fur coat, and a muffler separating me from the cold, I am walking on the pavement through the busy street, hands sunk in pockets, my sighs patterns of fog I can’t understand. Through the white windows of the café, I can barely make out two figures conversing adjacent to me, probably one of the myriads whose confessions, whispers, excitements, love, business, have coalesced into a collective murmur and redistributed between all of them.
The traveler is miles away from reaching the White City of Deliria, as it is called, but the dull thumping of its wooden drums is already ringing gently in his ears, as he once again lays down to rest at one of those innumerable inns with haystacks and maidens. He props his head with his arms and listens to it intently, dazed; sometimes confusing his own heartbeat with the distance reverberation. Later, in his dreams, he is holding a glass of wine and ecstatically admiring the wedding of the youngest princess of the Jungle City, and he wonders why it is called the White City of Deliria: the significance of the latter he has already known, the faint medley of faraway drums had made it clear to him long before his foot set upon the damp grounds of the city; but the White has eluded him, for this is a city of creepers and climbers and bamboo, and oases which sparkle at night, but never ever are white. And he wakes up from the ecstasy in sweat; it had been a summer night and now it is morning. He bids farewell to the innkeeper, and leaves for the city of Deliria, which he will never reach but in his dreams, each time revisiting a different event, a different place in the jungle, a different festivity; with the drums rolling; and he’ll know Deliria, but not the White, as he’d stop by to rest the night at one of those innumerable inns with haystacks and maidens.