The Remains

Sitting on the steps of the backdoor
I look at the sun gliding into the horizon
The waning blob of the reddish tinge
The tinge which I remember
Also adorned your lips so often
The memory of which
I immediately regret
It doesn’t hurt anymore, frankly
The thought of you, I mean
But I can’t help rue
The possibilities
The would-have-beens and could-have-beens
The childish sorrow of the biscuit
Melted in a hot cup of tea
Or the grief of the flower
Plucked before it had the chance
To grow fully
All that remains now is the memory
Of moments we inhaled and exhaled together
Locking our secrets to the wind
Secrets of passion, and dreamy merryland
Which get recycled now
Sitting here on the steps of the backdoor
As each wave of Southwest breeze hits my body
And also that peculiar word
Called Nostalgia!
The sun has gone into oblivion now
But not quite
In the form of moonlight
It’s presence is to be felt again

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You

The evening breeze tries to flip the pages of the daily
As I sit near the window
Crossword puzzle on my lap
I still have that pen you had given me
As a return gift
For the poem I had written for you
And which you had liked a lot
“Damn! What’s the word for this?”
I suddenly feel the urge to shout your name
I am sure you’d have had the answer to this damn clue
As you had
To every question of mine
Answers
Not perfect, but always reassuring!

I still feel you in this empty house
In the pillows you’d hit me with to show your appreciation
For my lame jokes
In the nail-paint I had gifted you
To go with your tunic
Or in the dazzling aroma of your perfume wafting
Through my imagination as I enter the bedroom every time

I try to find traces of you
In the books we’d read together
The Calvin and Hobbes coffee mugs we occasionally sat with
The corner seats of our favourite movie theatre
Old, decrepit bookshops; the dingy bars and quaint coffee-shops
But never the graveyard!

Courage — Short Story

I had just moved to a new suburb from the main city. My new job was in town. I used to leave office by 7-7.30 in the evening. It was fairly dark by the time I reached my suburban train station. From there, I used to walk to my apartment. There was a long bridge which I had to cross before I reached my locality and then home. At a distance from the bridge, there was a parallel footpath. Very few people used that footpath. It didn’t have lights, but moonlight and lights from the bridge shone on it. Halfway through that path there was a slight bend where a few women would stand every day. They stood there as if waiting for someone. But looking at their clothes and careless way of standing, I realised they were actually prostitutes. It took me at least a week to reach that conclusion though, as I had never ‘seen’ prostitutes, only heard about them.

I would observe those women every evening while crossing the bridge. They would stand there: sometimes chatting, sometimes quiet, but always swaying their bodies in a particular way; and always clad in sarees. If I were lucky I would get to see one of them walking with a customer, away from the footpath and bridge. I do not know if those prostitutes had rooms of their own or it was the customers’ responsibility to take care of a place. I have no idea how the whole thing worked. I had never visited a brothel or had sex with a sex worker (or anyone for that matter), or ever talked to anyone who had. It intrigued me to think about those sex workers and their customers. How did a customer approach them? What conversation transpired between them? For how long? I never got to see the exact encounter (not that I would have been able to hear anything but I would at least have gotten to see their gestures); whenever I saw the sex worker-customer pair, they were already walking away from the footpath.

I was in my 20s and a virgin, and so I used to think about sex a lot. There used to be oestrus-like periods when I used to think about it even more. While crossing the bridge, whenever I spotted the sex worker-customer pair walking together, it would mildly arouse me. Gradually, I had warmed up to the idea of fantasizing about the sex workers. I wondered what it would be like to have sex with one of them. Would I be able to do it at all? What would her hut be like? Would she patronize me? Would the flesh of a woman who was not only a stranger but a few years older than me, was overly decked up, seemed sort of unkempt even with that extra make-up — would it repulse me? I obviously didn’t have the answers, nor was I very keen to find them. It was just a sort of game I used to play while crossing the bridge. But one day I thought — what if I actually did it? What if I took that footpath, approached the prostitutes, and took one of them with me? I was new in the suburb; no one knew me, so there was no chance of someone identifying me from the bridge.

One day, I decided to take the plunge. I am generally very shy, and utterly at loss for words while talking to strangers. But that day I don’t know how but I was feeling very courageous. I was in a sort of daze. My mind was working in a mysterious way. I was feeling quite concupiscent too. My mind had started working on the fantasies in the office itself. All through the train journey back home, I was imagining stuff I would do to the prostitute once we had reached her hut. It was giving me mild sensations. I had gone in a reverie. I wasn’t aware of anyone around me. I was slightly wet too.

But as my stop came closer, I started to think about the preliminary stuff: how to approach the prostitutes and what to say, etc. I started to imagine scenarios in my mind. I couldn’t come up with a single workable one. I started to become a little worried. How to strike up a conversation? What to say? I decided not to panic, hoping that the plan would work somehow.

It was around 9.30 pm when I got down on the station platform. The station wasn’t crowded. I started walking towards the exit. I took the bridge which led me right outside the station towards the footpath. I had set off on my adventure after all.

I think my mental state was surprisingly normal: I was breathing normally, my steps were steady. I don’t remember what my thoughts were though. I don’t think I was thinking anything anymore. I guess I had given up on coming up with any workable scenario. I was hoping I would come up with something on the spot. But as I started to approach the spot where the prostitutes were standing, I started to shake a little and my heartbeats increased. As I became aware of my perturbation, the pace of my steps increased too. I decided that I couldn’t do it after all. I had taken a glance at the women when I left the station. There were four. I had not even decided which one to choose. But now that question was redundant. I had lost my confidence. I was feeling slightly frightened too. I had given up at the last moment.

But I kept walking on that footpath, a little faster now. When I came closer to the spot where the prostitutes were standing, my heartbeats increased. I started breathing heavily, and when I reached the spot, I almost skipped a few beats. I didn’t have the courage to even slightly tilt my gaze. The pace of my footsteps had now tripled; and as I just passed the prostitutes, one of them yelled in a slightly husky rhythmic voice, “Aye chikane.” God, I had a such terrible impulse to run; run as if I was chased by a tiger. And I did run, eventually, when I was out of their view… I reached my apartment panting heavily.

Obviously, I didn’t take that footpath ever again. And after a few months I left the suburb too.

A Faraway Land

I once rode in the sky
on the wings of an angel
she took me to a land which
was quite unlike ours
where cars didn’t honk
for an inch or two of space
or dogs bark at each other
for no reason whatsoever
or rats play hide and seek
in the dead of the night
on the pavements
the filthy pavements
garbaged with people’s half-eaten food

No, no
it was a beautiful land
oh so beautiful
with high hills and wide lakes
flowered gardens and breezy wind

A land of plenty, truly
where no one starved
nor for food, or love
where no one felt the need to
invent swords,
guns, or bombs
where there were no concepts
of rich and poor
or distant and dear

My angel
who took me to a faraway land
a land of plenty
and a land of beauty
I wonder which child
she is carrying on her wings now

A Cold-Blooded Murder

I squeezed the flower
Made dents in its corolla
Dismembered it
One petal at a time
Only the stem remained now
I threw that away too
In the gutter…

I loved that flower
I swear I did
Its gorgeous body
And the intoxicating fragrance

But I killed it
Just like that
For the kicks
For it couldn’t speak
Or go to the courts
Or call the army on me

Murder, yes, it was
A cold-blooded one