Without Your Arms

Your voice sounded like home

All at once, I remembered hugs

In which I was completely folded

In you, your arms holding me so tightly

I almost believed that cliched love stories

Existed, and that I was the lucky one.

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If you are here, I would easily fall

Once again, into the comfort of your arms

And believe I can live free of my thoughts

As long as I can turn and see you looking at me.

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But you are not here now –

And there are no arms to keep me from my thoughts

I think of how long it has been since I saw your eyes

Shining, when you saw me smiling at you

When we last had a conversation where the I love you

Stressed more on the love than the pronouns.

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You are not here now, and I feel

Maybe  can teach myself to love myself

When I don’t have your arms around me.

It rained today, the water dropped gently

On my skin, I felt my heart leap.

The waters caressed my skin –

I felt I could learn to love my body

Without needing your warm arms

Today, I felt I might love myself again

The way the rain does –

Slowly, silently and utterly.

 

Don’t Call Me at 4 AM

Don’t call me at 4 AM

The thirty seconds of that call

Will fill up the hours of today,

And I will think of you more often

At a time I’m trying to forget.

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You’re friends with strangers now –

They don’t call me when you want help.

Or maybe these friends aren’t to blame –

Maybe I am not the one you think of

When you are drunk, or want when sick.

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I had turned invisible, I know that now.

You found pleasure in white and blue lights

On your lap that reflected in your eyes

While I sat next to you, hoping

My smile could light up your eyes again.

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Don’t call me at 4 AM.

I used to draw a list of things

To tell you about – little events

That would be consequential

When I shared them with you.

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The lists lie unopened –

It doesn’t matter.

I cannot read their contents anymore.

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Your number stopped lighting up

My phone’s screen or my face

A long time ago.

It was more of an emergency number:

Call when sick, suicidal or dying;

Expect a response only when my tears

Can hold you hostage before they dry up.

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Don’t call me at 4 AM

When you couldn’t call me every day

Or at 9 PM twice a week.

The phone didn’t ring, your voice

Never told me to stop waiting.

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I don’t wait any longer.

Thirty seconds should not fill

The hours of today with regret

When an entire year lies naked –

Covered only with memories

I had to stretch to every corner.

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Don’t call me at 4 AM

My sleepy voice isn’t for your ears

You cannot fill up today’s hours

Before you cover up for an entire year

That lies too cold, clinging to a past

Which no longer means anything.

Creation

It’s been a while since I wrote. So far, I hadn’t thought about it. But when I found myself at the centre of a universe of books – the sort of stuff my dreams are made of – I felt a twinge of regret. Where had my urgency to write gone? Was my writing only fuelled by excessive emotion, a hot outpouring of rage, my heartbeat that refused to slow down until I had feverishly scribbled feelings I never even knew I possessed?

Other things have been claiming my time though. A one hour metro ride, for one, where I try my best to flip pages without finding my face slamming into the armpit of the person next to me, who is simultaneously holding his bag between his legs and glaring at me. Then there’s the hours at the office, which pass faster than office hours are supposed to. And then, there’s my new passion – cooking.

I’ve always known to cook. In a spacious kitchen shaded by mango trees, I’ve watched my mother gently rub an electric red paste into gleaming, silver fish. I began with washing her dishes. Slowly, from cookies that left soft sugary powder on your fingertips to chicken drowned in gravy thickened with silky coconut milk, I grew to love my time amidst the granite tabletops and sober grey tiles, with my mother’s expert fingers ever ready to fix any mistake.

It’s been a year since I’ve moved to a flat. A kitchen that fills when the three of us occupy it, my roommates and I divided cooking into three neat columns – breakfast, lunch and dinner – spanning from week to week. Sometimes, I lost the happiness I felt at home, when cooking was an indulgence, not a necessity.

Now, with my two months of staying alone coming to an end, cooking once again relaxes me. Coming back from work, strangely exhausted, I peel and slice. My hands are swift and purposeful. In the kitchen, I realize more than ever that I am becoming like my mother. It isn’t a realization that frightens me.

The oil here is a sunshine yellow, not the amber of the coconut oil Amma uses. It feels less heavy, like the teaspoon of coffee Amma used to mix with my milk when I’d told her I was too old to drink plain milk anymore. I feel strangely cheated. However, the onions quench their stinging nature in the sunshine yellow oil, seething in delight they lap up the burning liquid.

The onions are soft now. They’d taste sweet, if I took them out now. I put in the crushed garlic and ginger. The overwhelming aroma of the garlic eager to burn and stick on the pan’s surface never fails to bring a smile to my face. I inhale deeply, the smell filling my stomach more than my nose. The scent changes every few seconds, the onions are rimmed in gold, the garlic and ginger have slipped their way through every corner.

The sliced tomatoes that fall into the pan now aren’t the fiery red I’d like them to be, but the flaming green of the chopped chillis contrast with the paleness of the onion. I stir as the tomatoes shudder as they release the water in them and lose their colour. The salt goes in, and the flaming chilli powder rushes its hue throughout the pan. The paneer, white and soft, slices easily under my knife. It’s delicacy protests the spicy red gravy it’s going to be soaked in. I watch as the paneer rapidly absorbs the gravy, the surrender complete as the white leaps into shades of yellow and a sombre orange.

My mouth waters as the tip of my tongue tastes the gravy, and then swiftly licks the spoon, burning it in the process, as usual. My hands have already been marked with burgundy souvenirs from previous culinary expeditions, which unhurriedly fade into beige.

The spiciness is tempting, and for a moment I re-consider the final step. But finally, I pour in the fresh cream, and its thick, creamy whiteness gently invites the scorching red to gentler shades.

Am I not the author of this? This fills my heart too, in a very similar way to what writing does. But it leaves me full, contented, sober. Masochist that I am, I want what leaves me exhausted, panting, restless. And so, I pick up my pen again. I don’t know how quickly I’ll place it down, shuddering, but for now, I pick it up.

My Bible

Writing 201: Poetry

Day#8 Prompt: Drawer, Form: Ode, Device: Apostrophe

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You have travelled with me, you thick worn out text littered

With bookmarks and letters and dry flowers to commemorate

Some memory of some vague day spent with some person

Whose smile is already blurred, a part of another life, another me.

You’ve find your place in different spaces – the bookshelf on the corner,

Stuffed in a bag of things which didn’t fit anywhere else,

Locked inside a cupboard, in a box of sentimental yesterdays.

And now, you rest on the drawer next to my bed, closer

To me than you’ve probably ever been in your younger days.

.

I didn’t realize how much my life was linked with yours –

How your place changed according to the battle I was waging.

Your words were beautiful, rigid utopias which could never

Neatly be fixed into the sheer irredeemable mess of the everyday.

I held you at arm’s length: sometimes deriving comfort,

Sometimes agony at the distance between what you proposed

And how life actually was, sometimes an intoxicating joy

In being momentarily blinded from the world. Mostly, I was

Weary of you and everything you promised.

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Now, after the repeated amens and endless recited

Rosaries and routine masses and alienating sermons

And the agony of my soul at the distance, the

Gigantic gap between what you contained and the hole,

The emptiness and death and stupor I saw my life as,

You rest on the drawer next to my bed, closer

To me than you’ve probably ever been in my younger days.

Moulds and Shapes

Writing 201: Poetry

Day#3 Prompt: Trust, Form: Acrostic, Device: Internal rhyme

Deliberating, her eyes raised and hand stretched, she waits

I grab hold firmly. I don’t want her to let go now.

Shakily she stands, her quivering hands, my heart wearily pants

The anticipation of what will come, the weight of what is done.

Rotten memories cloud us both, they will mould us

Unwilling we are to let them shape us, we tighten our hold

Striving to change our shapes, to be what we want to be instead of what we must

Till at last we can learn to trust ourselves not to let the world shape us.

How to be a Great Father

BlogHer prompt for Monday, November 10: What knowledge do you have that others don’t? Write a “how to” post about anything you’ve got skills for, small or large.

Dedicated to my father. “Appa”, whose birthday is tomorrow.

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Turn off the internet and confiscate the laptops

Switch the lights off and tuck your girls in

And in the darkness, smile at the invisible sulks

Your daughters make while half-asleep.

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Wake them up in the morning

Be useful by panicking about time

And asking repeatedly, “Have you forgotten..?”

Ignore their rolling eyes, and look around for what they’ve missed.

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Miss them while they’re gone

All those hours in school

Which turn to months in college

Kiss them when they’re back

They secretly like it, though they say stop,

Their eyes will shine with home.

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Complain about not having a boy around

Buy a football in vain to get them interested

Make them stay awake at night for World Cups,

But sit through their makeover-daddy sessions

And smile wickedly for a selfie with them.

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Fight with them, make them run to mama

Be the baby, let them pet and pamper you

Pretend to sleep and wake up with a roar,

Enjoy their frustrated, “appa, stop!”

As much as their “miss you appa” over the phone.

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Love them with all of your heart

And watch them break it over and over

Knowing without a doubt that

They’ll always come back,

Cos they’re appa’s girls.