Death of a Language

Your death was the last breath of a language

Our language.

Now when we laugh, it is

In a foreign tongue.

Many of us have been rendered

Mute

Some of us hunt for words

To capture your peace.

But the script has changed;

We cannot read these signs yet,

And we’ve already forgotten

The way our mouths used to move.

.

We know we have lost our language

We sit on your green bamboo chair

Stare at the trees you had planned

And squint to see your smile

Dancing with the swaying branches

.

Sometimes we remember

A stray phrase

The edge of a word

Or a whole syllable.

And for a flash your face lights up

Again.

.

But who can we tell, of

Our flashes of happiness

When you took its language

Away with you, smiling

All the way?

 

Sisters

Day#2 of IntrotoPoetry

Prompt: Face

Device: Alliteration

 I think I used alliteration a bit too much, but, whatever.

 

Giggling, getting in the way

Treading on my temples

Without worry. Never weary –

Tempted to tranquilize you every day.

.

Now when I think of beauty,

The two of you march into my mind

Comfortable in the confidence

I cannot cut you into two –

Not when you’re just in my head.

.

Your backs bent

And smiles solemn

Creating imaginary worlds

On papers pressed with love

.

Loquacious and laughing

Long car rides blasting the bass

Our singing never spectacular,

Amma thought otherwise.

.

In sleep you bordered on sweet

Deceptive angels entangling arms

The softness would fade when you woke

For now, silence sighed in the house.

.

When I think of beauty

The both of you come to mind

Sweet, smiling, snakelike.

The debate to love or kill

Will regularly ruin my mind

There’s no denying

Your faces show a beauty and maturity

I have forever failed to grasp.

 

Home

When you are away from home, there is this unshakable feeling of being exiled. Everything feels makeshift, temporary, like an adjustment until something permanent takes its place.

I’ve been living in a flat for the past year (The one year anniversary passed by, unnoticed, as all dates tend to do in a mind that just can’t hold on to numbers). In many ways, it feels like home. I love drinking tea on the terrace steps every evening, when a slight wind blows faithfully, never failing to bring all my hair to my face. Sometimes, we go up to our terrace much after midnight, and have our deepest conversations. I feel relieved when I return from somewhere, and it feels like I am coming back “home”.

But this is temporary. The clothes hanger that dangles from a wall, collapsing from holding too much weight, the paint that scrapes from the ceiling every time it rains, the windows that don’t shut properly, the stove which stands on three legs – these don’t faze me.I am convinced this is temporary. This home is mine, for now. Next year, there will be another name on that lease.

I think of words a lot. Sunset, chocolate, love, pain, biriyani, loneliness, trees, stars – these are some of my favourites. Then I develop images around them, and watch them all pass me by, as I sit still, like a passenger in a train.. .

With the word ‘home’, the breeze immediately begins blowing. Sometimes there is a slight drizzle, sometimes not. Everything is a lush green. The guava and sapota trees are there, though they’ve been cut years ago. The neem is taller, though still slender. And the water… I can’t see the river bed, there are no plastic bags. It’s a rush of waves. I can hear wind-chimes in the distance. Then Amma places her plump, soft hands on me. As usual, they feel heavy and light at the same time. I sink into her touch. Appa is there. His smile shows teeth just like mine.  I smile back, and his eyes shine. The scene seems to last forever, like a badly directed Hindi movie. Except, even in my fantasy, the wind gets hair in my eyes.

This is my picture of home. My sisters aren’t there. Maybe it’s because now they’re exiled too, just like me.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

Those Christmas Eves

BlogHer prompt for November 4: What is your favorite holiday memory? (And yes, you can pick any holiday, including your birthday.)

Those nights in late December

All the eves before Christmas

The yearly 11:30 PMs on December 24th,

When we stepped out silently

In blue and white polka dotted dresses,

Pearl earrings and soft white shoes,

Stealing a glimpse at the glittering tree

And the shadows on Mary’s face.

.

Those Christmas Eves

When we went to the midnight mass

The church decorated and clean,

The people hushed in expectation

Waiting for the Sacred Hour.

.

Those breezy rides after the mass

When the city was still sleeping

The shops kissed by fairy lights

And wide-eyed smiling Santa Clauses

The chill on our cheeks

As the wind flew in,

Carrying with it something new,

Yet so old that you always knew it was there.

.

Those Christmas Eves

That hour of breathless anticipation

Before the world wakes up

To the glorious noise of Christ’s birth.

The Photograph from Another Life

I stumble upon a photograph of you and me

You’re younger than I can recollect, and I am barely three

Your arms are around my brother, and around me

How deftly you hold us both, and how sweetly my brother smiles!

….

But why does my face freeze like I’ve been caught by surprise,

As if I was submerged in ice cold water?

Why do my eyes, which shone with such a childish happiness

Suddenly seem dull and sucked of reasons to smile?

Had it already started by then?

I don’t remember, I can’t remember

When, where, why, what I felt, why you did it

All I can see are your hands finding their way

Beneath, under, down, below

All I have are frustrating fragments of doors closing

And recurrent dreams of hands roving.

Now you see me, you smile.

I wonder, do my eyes still lose its glow

And my smile choke short

When I reply to your questions,

When I play the part of the perfect girl child?

I wonder why your hands couldn’t stop moving

Why they found rest

Only in places no one else visited.

I don’t know how I’ll feel the next time I see you

Now that I have realized

What happened behind those doors

When my mind was too young to form into memory

All that you did to me.

Will I be angry? Will I cry?

Or will I just feel tired,

So tired that all I want to do

Is curl up and sleep,

Like I did after those long afternoons

When I was three?

Phone Call

Phone Call

Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright. 

Dedication: To my father, who always wanted me to write a poem about him, which I kept refusing, saying I can write only depressing stuff. Here’s your poem:

I thought I liked silences.

I thought I liked being alone.

These days seem determined

To prove me quite wrong.

With lots of work to do,

I find myself unable to enjoy

The serenity of the place, and

Instead, concentrate only on 

The all-enveloping loneliness.

 

Some days, it’s easy to be strong

And to put on a brave face and smile.

But what do you do on days, when

There’s no one to see you’ve tried?

Do you finally weep and cry, or keep

Holding on, hoping someone’s still watching?

 

After a day of feeling empty, 

With my tears threatening to flow,

My phone suddenly rings, and when

I pick up, my father’s cheerful voice

Answers, shattering the silence,

Shattering the loneliness,

And letting me know I was loved.