I have nearly forgotten what you look like
but distance does make the heart grow fonder
and I realise that one does not need
to look at the sun to feel its heat.
After all this time
I am still in love with you
and there is nothing more humiliating.
So I paint my nails green to match
your ONLINE icon.
I steal packets of ketchup from McDonald’s
I’m your loyal Robin Hood.
I write throw my poems into the world
thinking you’ll notice the ripples.
This is ridiculous –
you’re supposed to be the bicycle
to my fish.
There is a wet smell in the air;
it has been raining while I slept.
The sulphurous autumn skies burst
drizzling over lonely roads,
making them gleam in the dusk.
The mynahs chatter, shaking out their wet feathers.
It is colder now, the wind nips at my fingers
It is not long till night falls.
I lie in wait
suspended in uncertainty;
The wet smell is in my being
dampening my heart as I lie still.
A parrot shrieks; it is time to fly home.
It is time. Time to fly home.
The mountains are calling.
Old wrinkle in the cheek of Time;
the Himalaya is the spine of the land –
A vein outstanding on a clenched fist,
a thread unravelled from the Pamir Knot.
Cracks spread down from the sides of hills
like rocky strands of spider-webs.
High in the deodars, the sun swings
from branch to branch like a langur.
It holds me in its claws, the Mountain
looking unbearably at me with its old eyes.
Cold streams like knives slice open
my back and let the birds out.
Drown me here; let me flow out to the sea
with glacier-melt and stones.
Pinewood sap, marrow of mountain-bones.
Torch the peaks with rhododendron blooms
that blaze red from under their leaves.
This place, this wheeling wind and sky,
spins and yet is still – like a pinwheel’s pin.
The deeper I delve; more space expands
hills open behind hills like a shadow-play
and tiny strawberries growing beside rocks.
Lay me here when I am old
let me grow into the skin of the mountain –
a boulder licked by the howling wind
ossified and content on the lap of the hills.
The hills have been a huge subconscious influence on me. I can’t explain it, yet I have attempted to.
I grew up on a steady diet of books, and cheap, sudden holidays to the hills. My family owned a battered, second-hand red Maruti 800 that I loved with a passion (I once began to cry after our car was threatened to be towed away outside a market, but that is another story), and which both my mum and dad drove with considerable skill. Being a middle-class Bengali family living in Delhi, we had a few *essential* stipulations: 1. Vacationing somewhere close by (hence, the hills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh), 2. Not staying in resorts (hence ferreting out obscure hill stations with government hotels that charged merely 500-700 bucks a room) and 3. having our own transport.
My family has travelled across the length and breadth of India, yet I always beg to go back to the hills. Its like a security blanket, a drink of water. What draws me back time after time is the sense of ancientness – mountains older than human thought, solemn, alien, forbidding. And the open spaces that yawn between hills. They represent something unnameable to me; I will always love the mountains deeply.
A/N: This poem was born out of bitterness. I wrote a poem about fireworks, after being completely caught up in the usual feeling of childish glee and heart-is-soaring-in-the-wind feeling that fireworks always give me. I wrote it in a rush, and went to read it out to my mother; my only willing audience.
She made a face at it. She said it was an “O.K poem, not really my usual type”.
I was indignant and affronted; not just at the slight to my poem (which I never thought was brilliant, anyway), but the slight to my courage. I mean the courage it takes to share your poetry and risk criticism. (I was an arrogant little thing) And apparently I had a ‘type’?? Self-loathing comes with writing, I know. I hate what I write, more often than not, but being my writing, I can’t help but feel a sense of responsibility for it. Insulting my writing is like insulting a disappointing child of mine, I may hate it, but its MINE to hate. Thus I stomped off to write another poem.