Lovely bones

A red post box growing out of a yellow wall, a blue pipe — an opiate connection to the sky — ran all the way up. Or maybe it just led to the floor above where a woman leaned out her window, watching the rare quietness of the street below. There wasn’t much to say, leave alone anyone to say it to and yet her mouth moved. From the street below, if anyone was there and if anyone bothered to look up, they’d see her mouth moving rhythmically, as if she was singing a chorus. It was the same movement over and over again.
In one dusty corner of the street, as far as my eyes would go, was a plastic bag swirling in the wind; some mad dance set to music that only the light of body and transparent of mind could hear. Even cats and dogs that usually hung around on quiet, heavy afternoons seemed to have deserted this street. Khoday Steel Industries said the board right across my window. A small grey, two-storied house that had defeated-looking people go in and out of it at all times. Imagining their lives was a great hobby of mine as I sat in my chair, or in my bed — when I was too tired of the chair — looking out the window.
I have been at home for two years now and this has given me much time to think about things that I don’t usually think about. Like the joining of the wall and ceiling, and how it is a metaphor for all of life. But that’s not what I want to write about today. Today, it is so quiet that my body is speaking to me. My ankles are crossed and I see the bones sticking out of them; in a body that is not used to bones making themselves visible, the bones on the inside of my ankles stick out like sails on a murky sea. I shift them a little — my ankles, not my bones — and the bones stick into my calf, reminding me of my calf, and of my bones. And how my bones have borne me into my thirties. Through the first time I fell in love and the time I graduated, my bones dissolved and I was all heart. I didn’t even remember I had bones. The first time I had a baby and my bones expanded like lungs breathing when you’ve been underwater too long. The first time I felt the sickly punch of a man’s big fist in my stomach, a kick, a slap across my cheek, a hard whack across my back, my bones stood still and leapt, enmeshed with my blood, to strike back in defence. The same bones folded up and covered my head believing the bones of my skull may not be as strong as those on my hands.
The first time I hit a man across his face for breaking my heart and how everything within me stood still after that contact was made, my bones developed the memory of betrayal. My hand still stings from it. My bones still remember. My bones saw me fly across continents and countries, holding my fears and my presence together; bones that struggle to be seen through the soft flesh of my body. Bones that are covered in fat and muscle and skin that are hated and accepted in turns, bones that stoically stay with me and don’t move. Bones that don’t let me down. Uncracked bones, misaligned bones. Bones of friendships and bones of pain. Bones of disdain and beauty, bones that soak in everything and feed the marrow. Bones that I do not love because I do not know how to love things that hold me up.

Walking around Agara Lake

Yesterday, I walked around Agara Lake, when the sun set
Trying to retrace my footsteps
As you walked by my side on another day like this. 

We talked about… what was it, exactly?
About how we will be friends forever.
And we made fun of disapproving old men
Who looked at us as if we were about to kiss;
We laughed because we should have.

We called other people conservative,
Walking dreams trapped by the enslaving of their lifegivers.
We made excuses for their bad behaviour.

How beautiful it all was.
The full trees, the shattered-glass shroud of the lake
And the complete lack of birds. The ability to sit
Still and feel nothing, except oneness with
The dusty-pink flower that swooned as it fell from the tree.

 

Dancing on graves

 

I know a grave dancer, (by no means grave)
A man with a child’s smile
And a tongue of fish scales,
Glinting, silver, alive all the while

He steps light on the gifts
Of people’s insides
With cold horned feet,
And poison-tipped besides.

He wears a jester’s three-pointed hat
A ready joke, an even readier lie;
Has a bag of tricks, a sleight of hand
Promises to love you till you die.

The last I saw him
He was a deranged sun
Burning up several worlds. I don’t know if it was
From fear, cowardice or for maybe some fun.

Dancing on the grave
Of a microcosm that was a trick
Of light. His eyes dead, his voice
The cold of winter, sharp and thick.

I walked up to him
To ask about his terrible dance.
Between steps of murder, he asked instead,
“This is your grave, have you noticed, by chance?”

*****

 

 

Komorebi

I start work by 7.15 a.m. It is a glorious time to start work. No one is in the office, not even the housekeeping staff. I get a good half an hour to myself, before everyone else comes in and ruins the atmosphere with their AC preferences.

The past few days have been tough: my PMS has been off the charts. I regularly have some level of mental and emotional discomfort during my PMS. Quick to lose my temper, a little tension and anxiousness, sometimes even a little weepiness. But this time around, I felt like a pressure cooker. If I didn’t call or get in touch with someone every few hours, the pressure would build in me till I couldn’t focus on anything else, till I felt like I was going just a little crazier.

This morning, I came into work, did a 10-minute meditation session (I use a guided meditation app that is working for a complete novice like me.), and when I opened my eyes, there was the most beautiful sight to see. I want to share this with you.

I sit with my back to the window, one which has a view that I wouldn’t write home about. It’s a ground-floor office and my window faces a road just ahead of a traffic light. It isn’t a pretty view, as I said. Except, there’s a tree. Just one tree about 10 feet away from my window. This tree, I do not know its name, catches the morning sun, now and then, much in the way my soul catches love, with no defence, almost like an illness.

Mind you, it’s only in that magical hour in the morning when I am alone in the office and ablaze with plans for the day. After that, the tree is just a tree. And the sun is wandering about where it should. But for a good part of that one hour in the morning, the light that sets a gentle fire to my desk is diffused by this tree, and its dancing leaves. All around me, as the blinds in the window slice the light, the tree is tangles itself gentle around the light. It is soft, the light, like stones from a rock tumbler, or perhaps the bed of an ageing, shallow stream. The light that would otherwise come in slats, in stiff ribbons from the window, comes in like drops of paint mixing in water: soundless, seemingly inconsequential but so definitely, obviously present, changing the very nature of what existed  before it.


I sit here in that light, and for a moment, just for one moment, I am here. I am aware that the shimmering, musical light that dazzles gently around me, bathing me in soft luminescence of a naive morning, is also dancing on my back, wondering idly as it loses itself in a feather-light choreography, if it can seep through my clothes, touch my skin, go past it and enter my blood, my very bones. How I wish I could turn around and let all that soft, lithe light in: open up my blood vessels in the gentlest way possible and meld it with the light, so there would always be gold in my veins. I know if I turn around, this dancing light, this… the Japanese call it komorebi, I am told … will take over my neck, my chin, my breasts, and then creep up to my eyes and enter the black of my irises. The deep, endless, velvety tunnel that I know exists in my eyes but don’t know where it leads. And what happens when light enters the darkness of your eyes? I do not know. For now, I sit peacefully with my back turned to the window, letting the symphony of light, wind and leaves play on my back, create an aura around the fluid borders of my body. For now, a phantasm is enough.

Listening to myself

I can't find my voice, I can't find my voice, 
I cried. 

A loud sound I hear, a keening, a song
An insecure blowing of a horn 
But I can't find my voice, I can't find my voice. 

The virulent music of raindrops, a yelp, a din
Three loud wishes for a somewhat depressed djinn
But I can't find my voice, I can't find my voice. 

Incantations of hate, a hummed song, a plea
A jigsaw of footsteps; they flee, they flee
But I can't find my voice, I can't find my voice. 

Nothing is quiet, a whistle, a roar 
The sounds of Hokusai's waves crashing ashore 
And I can't find my voice, I can't find my voice
I cried. 


27 Oct 2016

About my boy

This time, next week, my little one, you will turn seven. That’s officially the age, in my head, when kids stop being cute and move on to being hyper annoying. Actually, till I had you and your sister, it was age five, but you’ve disproved that. You’ve managed to remain cute a year longer.

When I had you, you weren’t pretty. To be honest, I didn’t even want you. You were a surprise, one I couldn’t get used to or enjoy. Your lactose allergy meant you cried every time you were fed, and we didn’t know. So you cried some more. That didn’t endear you to the postpartum depressive mother that I was. A child who would only feel comfortable if I carried him, or soothed him or fed him. No one else would do. When you were six months old, and beautiful as a rising sun, I watched you watch me wherever I went, while your grandfather held you. In your limpid eyes, I saw a yearning that I had never seen before. You watched as I gathered your sister in my arms, the light from the window turning your wispy hair into a softly-glowing halo, your mouth just a little open, cheeks begging to be kissed. Your eyes followed me every where. That day, I found your mother. Till then, I was your caregiver; you just happened to be born in my womb. But that day, your little six-month-old being, waiting mutely patient to be given the same love I was showering on your sister, chiselled past the barricades my mind had built around your presence. Like a dawn wiping away a night, and taking over a sleeping land, your hunger for love, your quietly powerful insistence that you were my child too, woke me up. You had walked in and turned on the sun.

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Since then, I haven’t been able to stop wanting to cuddle you till you rub off on my skin, and keep you safe in my physical heart, forever. With each growing year, you present to me astonishing gifts of and from yourself. Your utter and complete joy, your immense and gobsmacking ability to be the bigger person when there’s a conflict, to say, “It’s okay, Amma, let Shyama have it,” to understand instinctively that illness needs care. Where do you come from, my little man? Where did you learn to listen, and consider what the other person is saying? Like when I said a particularly difficult child in your class might be a bully because he has no friends, and you insisted, crying, that no, he had no friends because he was a bully; but you went back the next day to make friends with him. You came back and said, “You might be right. Maybe he’s lonely and that’s why he bullies us.”

How did you learn, tell me, to forgive so easily? And so wholeheartedly? And how does your heart break so badly, that when you cry, I want to give you the world? I wonder if you  know how much I cherish that you want to hold my hand when we walk, whether it’s up the stairs at home or walking down a street. I wonder if you know, that the first time I saw you run a race, you waited for the people you left behind to catch up with you. That for an entire two weeks, when you were a chubby, incredible cuddly three-year old, you spent frantic amounts of time collecting dried leaves because you hated that they fell from trees. And then you refused to step out because fallen leaves would make you cry. Where does this heart of the tenderest flowers come from, my little one? And more importantly, how do I send you out in the world like this? How do I let you go be with people who do not know compassion from a compass? And now that I do have to send you out, how do I make sure your light shines, your compassion, your heart and your infinite kindness are not lost? How do I ensure that you  know those are good things to hold on to, to wear as a badge, to share and to teach? How do I teach  you that those are not weakness, but magical strengths that will be your biggest allies when life gets tough?

When you cry, my darling, and go  limp in my arms when I gather you up, it is the most heartbreaking thing I have experienced. I am engulfed by the pain you are in, even if the pain is of having to bathe first, before your sister. Or the pain of not getting to sit by the window seat in the bus. I hope things that hurt will always be so small; and that if they are big, as you grow bigger yourself, I hope you will always knows that a good, hard cry will always clear things up inside you. The outside mess always clears up on its own.

Two weeks ago you told me about your … erm… girlfriend. I asked you how you knew she liked you. You said because she said so. I hope you will remember for the rest of your life that that is the only way to tell whether a girl likes you: that she explicitly said so. Not because she smiled at you, not because she chatted with you, not because she let you borrow her water bottle. But because she said so. And I hope you’ll always notice the little things about her, like you do now. What do you like about her, I asked. You said, “Her voice. It is so delicate.” For a six year old, you’re pretty darned sweet. I hope you’ll always enjoy shopping for saris, or noticing how a girl looks. “That lipstick really matches your teeth, Amma,” will be the best compliment I’ve never fully understood. If you’re into girls, little one, they like this stuff. And if you are into boys, I am pretty sure they like being noticed and complimented too.

I am very little of the mother you deserve. You are much, much more than the son I deserve. Thank you for making my life easy, when everything else around me is difficult. Thank you for ridiculous jokes, your joy, your utter and complete adorableness. Thank you for being a grown up, even though you shouldn’t have to be. Thank you for coming into my life, and turning on the lights. Without you, I would only be half the person I am.

 

Happy 7th, my little one.

Love,

Your Big One.

On the process of removal

There’s a very systematic process with which people remove you from their lives. Especially those who couldn’t wait to connect with you as each day begun. Friends who updated you on their day religiously; lovers who couldn’t wait to bask in your warmth every day. That process starts with them denying that they are removing you from their lives.

You, who are being removed, see it right at the beginning of this process. You, who are being removed, watch quietly knowing the inevitable end. You, who are being removed, feel the cleaving and say nothing because there is no real thing to talk about. You, who are being removed, are a victim of your own pride.

It all starts out with an insistence that they, who are doing the removal, are being themselves. They, who are doing the removal, hold you within them and isn’t that enough. They, who are doing the removal, have no problems with you — if you dare swallow your pride and ask. It’s them, not you, say they, who are doing the removal. And maybe it is. And yet, it is not.

You, who are being removed, are now inconvenient. You, who are being removed, are now not needed. You might be wanted, and sometimes even welcome, but you are now being removed. You, who are being removed, are someone that can be done away with because more meaningful things in life need the space you occupy. You, who are being removed, occupy too much space. You, who are being removed, my dear, are *in* the way of things that are more meaningful. So not only do you need to vacate the room because you occupy too much space, you are also slap bang messy splatter obstacle high slippery dark in the path of the things that more meaningful for them who are doing the removal.

They, who are doing the removal, have not yet opened their eyes and seen that you, who are being removed, can see this. Like when you are asleep and hear the sounds of a quiet morning around you, groggy, needy for more sleep, the comfort of forgetting, and you wonder if it’s just some movement in the night of your mind or is it morning yet. Can it please not be morning? They, who are doing the removal, that is how they remove you. By closing their eyes and chipping at bonds, they, who are doing the removal, start in their dreams. The truth of their promises, their declarations of love, the promises that they expected to keep when they pressed your hand and looked into your eyes: they, who are doing the removal, cannot take the truth of that. For who are they without the promises that they deeply believed in, even if it was just for that minute when you made it real with your trust?

And you, who are being removed, have new spaces for things. Crevices, shelves, rooms you drift in and out of, hell, entire galaxies to fill up with the things that aren’t there now that you are being removed. You, who are being removed, cling, cry, fight because having galaxies to fill means you are lost again. Unmoored, and unnecessary. You, who are being removed, plot and plan pathetically to see in what ways you can tell yourself that you are needed. You, who are being removed, find ways to creep back in. All of them tight spaces, entries so narrow you can’t breathe. You, who are being removed, unleash all your smallness on them, who are doing the removal. Where there was a gentle eddy, you, who are being removed, have managed to suck things into a whirlpool. Poor them, who are doing the removal. Poor you, removed.