Thursday, October 31, 2013

The squeeze

She had been married for 2 days. He hadn’t touched her yet.
The marriage, like all arranged Indian marriages, was an exercise in organized confusion. Collective hysteria. Mass pranaams. Deafening music and inscrutable Sanskrit. She remembers catching glimpses of his face while the marriage ceremony was being performed. The time he tied the mangalsutra around her neck, and when he smeared the vermilion-dipped ring on the parting of her hair. On other occasions, she was too lost being herded by her mother and aunts from one ritual to another. Too exhausted to express irritation. Anger doused by an overwhelming sense of change.
But when she did steal those looks at him, a mixed emotion of love and shyness flushed her. Forcing her to bite her lips and suppress her smile. She could not believe her luck. A boy she had loved since her girlhood days was now being given to her in marriage! He would be her man…a distinction too great to be digested in a day. In her honest opinion, four, even five women like her could not collectively deserve him! She thanked her babuji from her all of her soul.
Son of a family friend, he was among the first few males she had an acquaintance with. Even before the families had perceived the possibility of their marriage, she had started seeing him as an ideal partner. Always measured in his words, generous in his manners, soft with children, respectful with elders…he became her bespectacled hero. In a time when boys of his age busied themselves with video games and spiky hair, he remained comfortably old fashioned. Sticking to his loafers and khakis. Not even bothering to shave, or try different haircuts. Distant and sober with girls. Usually found with a book pressed under his arm. Helpful with chores.
They’d not exchanged more than a few lines in all their growing up years, usually meeting in family gatherings, but she could sense her heart going flip-flop whenever the time of his coming came. She engineered excuses to be around him, only to hear him talk to others. His deep, confident voice stirring the chords of her body. She didn’t breathe a word about it to anyone, but she often berated herself for not behaving this way or that when he was around. It was as if his presence dissolved her idea of balance. Did he figure out what she felt for him? How she sized up every centimeter of his 5 feet and 8 inches? Did he notice that she stared at his lips, or his eyes, a trifle too long? The attraction left her weak and fidgety; his lips melted her skin, his eyes drew her breath.
And now, after all these years of idolizing him, she was getting married. To HIM! It went by like a dream. She didn’t know for what joy, but she couldn’t spend the first night with him. In any case, she was too tired to enquire. She slept and slept till she was shaken awake, refreshed, trussed up in sari and gold, and sat on a bed to be shown. A part of her cursed herself for allowing this. Another part of her, flared by exasperation, wondered how he could be so detached. Luck is one thing, but she was now her wife! Where was he?
He met her in the privacy of their room in the night. Thankfully, the relatives had dispersed. It was then that she realized that he was as nervous as her, if not more. He muttered some clumsy words to make her feel home, implying she could ‘get more comfortable’. Not realizing, that the only comfort she had been seeking, every damn second of her life, was the snug comfort of his arms. Head facing down, she listened gracefully, not once revealing the hunger within. He slept on one side of the bed that night, giving her more space than she needed.
Two days of her marriage felt like two decades of deprivation. On the third day, yet another feast was organized and the house was swarming with familiar faces. But there was an interesting change. He had begun meeting her eyes with a look of understanding, of partnership. Over breakfast table, he offered her the menu with his eyes, and she responded with a nod, a shake, a smile, a blush. Romance was seeping in. And she had to try hard to look composed.
Their bedroom was on the first floor of the duplex apartment. The ground floor was where she was generally placed on display, and often ferried upstairs to the puja room for countless offerings. It had become a drill; soon she would be able to do it with her eyes closed. The day smothered along, different sets of people asking her the same questions, well-meaning people asking her to pose for their mobile camera a few hundred times, young in-laws trying to make small talk, almost everyone having an opinion on her sari and jewelry. It was such a constant drone, she thought she could doze off on its very rhythm.
Evening drew in. Golden rays of November sun came in through the slats of window, casting a fiery glow on her orange sari, reminding her of yet another day gone. She was beginning to miss home. The ceaseless clamour was getting on her nerves, and the only person she longed to be with, was engulfed himself. Once more, she was called upstairs. But this time, he came to fetch her. Her husband. Pleased, but tired, she gave a weak smile on seeing him. It was a short flight of stairs, sharply curving to another flight, before leading to the first floor. He went before her, to her right, offering his hand to help her find balance in the heavy banarasi silk sari. She managed herself, taking one step at a time, moving like a zombie.
At the curve of the stairs, when they reached the part which was blind to both the ground and first floor, unexpectedly, he extended his left arm to pull her close by her waist, gently squeezing her side as he drew her body close. It was a brief side-hug, made intimate by his pressing fingers on her bare waist, momentarily taking the breath out of her. He looked in her face as he did it, smiling, showing the first sign of ‘owning’ her. It was a touch bereft of desire, a touch not so much to convey that she belonged to him, as to assert that he belonged to her. She was so thrilled with the gesture, she blushed till her ears, and dug her chin in her chest. Smiling ear to ear. Unable to respond in action or in words. All other emotions washed out from her body, only a lingering sense of sweetness prevailed. The commotion, the crowd…all seemed to fade in at a distance, filtered through layers of atmosphere, the body of the man standing next to her as the only real thing. Overtaken by a sense of deep gratitude. Feeling, for the first time, as his wife.
Decades passed; children were born, raised. Life returned to the pace of normal, with regular troughs and crests in between. The early years of romance gave way to a subdued and stable companionship, laced with issues to be sorted, matters to be argued, happiness to be shared. An entire life transpired in between. But that one evening, on the third day of her marriage, that evening remained the most special evening of her life. Not even in the breathless post-coital panting, or the throes of child-birth, or the collectively hosted parties, did she feel so intimately attached to him as she did that day. When, in a house full of new people, he had stolen that moment of closeness with her. When he had first exercised his authority over her, when he had hauled her with love, in open defiance to the norm of the society. She had never felt so much his, as she had felt in that brief life-packed moment.

In all their after-years, she continued to smile inwardly, flooded with a gratefulness towards him, feeling time and again like his new bride, every time she thought of that squeeze.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Literature

Mornings. That’s when you kill me most.
On many nights, I dream of you. On many other, I can’t recall my dreams. Irrespective of the night, I wake up CRAVING for you. It’s almost as if the need to see you is compulsive. Biological. Physical. I keep thinking about you, often wet and wild thoughts, till I can think no more. Till my head is all choc-a-bloc with mosaic of your photos. Your lips, eyes, face, neck, chest….. Looking at the world through the darting eyes of a hunted animal. Desperately searching for the only sign of hope. You.
Sweetheart, it’s not fair to unleash all the assault, with such ruthlessness, right at the beginning of each day. I know, wherever you are, it must be giving you some pleasure to watch me squirm for your touch. I know you know, how badly I need you to squeeze me in your hug. How elaborately I want you to love me. Kiss me to the point of suffocation. How you occupy every available space of my consciousness.
Pray, why don’t you help me then?
For starters, ration your thoughts equally throughout the day. The morning dosage is too heavy to be borne without inviting suspicion. Also, it leaves me in a suspended state of animation for the rest of the day. As if I belong nowhere. And all I can see is the curve of your neck, right above your collar, where I like to nestle my face and breathe in your skin.
Further, ask your memories to behave. They have a way of breaching all boundaries of experience and comfort, often leaving me breathless and flushed in their wake.
So what do I do with you?
Mark Twain said, “There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer them, or turn them into literature.” If he was a woman, he’d have known it’s equally true the other way round.
I however, replace the OR with AND.

I love you, I suffer you, I bathe you, I wear you, I spread you, I immerse in you, I cry you, I apply you, I see you, I eat you, I drink you, I breathe you, AND I turn you into literature.

Friday, October 11, 2013

the Void within

There is a part of me that is made of wax.
It lies between my ribs. Somewhere between the throat and the stomach. Right at the centre. A fist-sized portion maybe, its size varying with time.
In tender moments of love, fear or anxiety, the wax melts. Giving way to a space that is void. An aching vacuum of nothing. Life keeps happenings on the sidelines, the mind witnessing it with the detached patience of a disinterested audience.
Tears don’t sting the eyes. They flow without pause or permission, quenching the pillow that has smelt only oil and shampoo. The voice remains placid, speech tempered. The quiet of a death fills that empty space between my bosom.
There are times when the void cracks, the crevices going up and down, tearing skull and toes. It pains. A wincing sort of physical pain that forces me to seize it with the flat of my palm and press it hard. Breathing returns to normal, but that deafening silence remains. That high-pitched siren in the ears never quite ending. Consciousness floats on the puddle of existence like the discarded foil floating in rain-drains. Direction-less.
Tell me, won’t you allow me to hold you face at that centre and fill it back with life? And will you stay there…for as long as I ask? Won’t you allow my marrow and bones and blood and veins to be reformed? You are the agent of my life, you know. Won’t you return it to me?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Distinguished, ain't I?

I see a hapless little squirrel chasing its tail with hysterical speed bang in the middle of a driveway.
I go close, hoping to scurry it off to a safe corner. It doesn't budge.
I bend down, run my fingers over its delicate, smooth back. It becomes still. I take silence as assent.
I try to lift it, to move it to the grass, a safe haven.
In a split second of ferocious intensity, it bites my finger and blood spurts out. I lose the grip. I have to borrow tissues to staunch the oozing blood. When I turn back to look at my attacker, it's doing the same ridiculous stunt...before gradually coming to a final halt. A few seconds, and it's dead.
In coup de grace, an Innova runs over it.

The legacy comprises a nasty finger, one tetanus injection and 6-dose anti-rabies vaccine. Friends express concern - for the poor little thing that died after biting me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I’m no addict. The only knowledge I have of dope is through Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and its sequel novel River of Smoke. In the former book, where a great deal is written about opium, I particularly remember one sequence. It depicts a scene where an addict is forced to undergo de-addiction.
No, don’t ask me who that character is. But what I can tell you, in good detail, is how he craves for his drug. There is a reason why I can recall the scene so vividly.
So this addict begs for his cake till he faces a near black-out. He wakes up with immense pain in his limbs. It’s a peculiar pain. He feels that his innards are being twisted with iron hands till he can’t breathe. And multiple claws are gouging out his eyes, gagging his mouth…and suffocating the life out of him. He thrashes, he kicks, he shouts, he salivates, he implores. He’s garrulous with deprivation. All he needs is one sniff of his wonder drug for everything in the distorted world to return back to a silken state of normalcy. Of bliss. Until then, it’s haunting chaos in a sea of debris.
The reason why I remember this is because that is how I long for her. MY wonder-drug. Only, she is a beautiful addiction. The health-giving one. Truth be told, even though my insides bruise without her, and every part of me aches to touch her and hold her again…her love never allows me to do a wrong. In that sense, she’s the exact opposite of opium. Addictive in a purifying way.
All of us give in. I did so today. Breaking my resolve, not hers. I smsed her. What the world calls a blank message. But I know she knows better.
She had once forwarded me a mail. Of a little girl who gifts an empty box to her dad on his birthday. Angry, the dad blasts her. The girl breaks into tears, and tells him how she had blown kisses in the box all night until it was brimming with love.
In this case, I am the daughter. Our relationship is such, we keep exchanging roles, and fit them all like missing blocks of a puzzle. Gap-less. So, I know. I am confident. She would have understood the meaning of that ‘blank’ message.
It meant nothing, yet everything. It meant a relationship of no expectations, yet bursting love. Of no ego, yet total sublimation. Of no claims, yet hundred percent surrender. Of no words, yet complete understanding. Of no definitions, yet perfect balance. Of no interference, yet eternal involvement. Of zero, yet infinity.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


sadden not those sweetheart eyes
nor burden that lovely heart
in each second, i am with you
for there's nothing to do us apart

your lashes are laced with my scent
in your breast-pocket lies my strand
pressed against the cushion of your palm
is my committed steady hand

pages of your book hold my voice
my fingertips are alive in your hair
find me present, oh! beloved!
in your every song 'n prayer

my taste still lingers on your neck
your eyes can paint my face
a part of me will throb in your arms
whoever with love you embrace

know i watch you in all your moods
as i stand against your fear
you are of me, and i of you
the ring in your laughter, the salt in your tear