Memories- A Photo story

1. One of the most enduring memories of my childhood were of the streets.
A typical mohalla, where my stories were being spun and weaved through time, defying all the odds. I can still remember the narrow lanes, a sad woman living at the end of the street, happy housewives and their oil-stained aprons and we, the children folding paper boats and aeroplanes, laughing around.

Things changed with time, we moved from the home, that town and those streets.
So when I reached the 24th year of my life, I decided to look back to those streets I left behind with my younger sister, who was 18 years beautiful and did not get to grow up with the perfect abuses curled under her tongue, who never stuck a pencil into the spool of a cassette when things got tangled and chaotic. So I took her to board a train with me.
“let me tell you a story.”- I said to her,
“Let’s board a train to that story.”- I added.

As we boarded the train of nostalgia and were prepared to breathe in the dust and pollution my body was soaked in when I came into this world crying and kicking, all the faded pictures outshone with clarity.
We walked from street to street, through the same narrow lanes, the old stories that were somehow etched at the back of my mind stood still in their real-life embodiment and new stories were hand-picked by my sister to keep safely in our backpack.

2. We reached a house which used to be a dispensary. Well, not anymore.

The place once used to be full of all kinds of people, old and young, short and tall, rich as well as the poor. Long queues of men and women waiting for their turn to get their medicines and tablets, powdered in small paper envelopes and absolutely free of any cost.
It was at a comfortable distance from home for me to run and get my cough syrups. There used to be a man at the counter that I never saw anywhere else but that dispensary, maybe he didn’t live in that area after all. The place that used to be so busy, especially on Sunday afternoons was sitting there quiet, locked and lonely. There was a little girl sitting on its stairs, I wondered if she would know what happened to the place but she stood up to walk away before I could ask.

3. We followed the little girl’s footsteps and my sister finally spoke to her.

My little sister has always been sweet and friendly with children. She asked the little girl her name and if she could tell us a way that would lead us to some good tea.
a minute later we were walking with the 9 years old Kavita who was glad to take us to the tea corner just a few minutes away. Kavita was chatty and had a smile to remember. She went to a government elementary school and expressed her wish to become a ma’am at a school when she’d grow up. Playing with marbles was her major hobby and she boasted about beating up an older boy at school the other day because he said mean things to her.
She laughed as I asked the meaning behind her name.
“A Poem.”- she said as she pointed towards the tea corner at the end of the road.

4. The tea stall was a familiar face to me, but the lad brewing the tea wasn’t. That’s when I saw him, an old friend in his wrinkled skin.
He was sitting there, at the stall he used to work as a middle-aged man, oblivious of all those who were passing by, smoking his cheap cigarettes, watching his son brewing tea for the customers.
We sat on the plastic stools. My sister ordered tea and biscuits and I gave this old man a long look before he shot me a glance. “I used to come to your stall as a kid.” I told him with an uneasy smile as he shook his head.
Kundan Kumar started this stall when he was 17 and was known for his strong masala-chai. He once was married to a very short woman who had long hair and skin as dark as the tea her husband was famous for in their neighbourhood. She brought a boy into this world before bidding goodbye to it. Kundan never went to school and neither did his boy. He remained god-fearing most of his life and never smoked or drank on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
5.The day melted into an evening which was finally gulped down by the night.

As we talked, walked and gathered stories from the lazy streets and the busy roads, the sun dissolved into oblivion and we sat near an old tobacco shop with a street lamp hanging outside of it.
In its pale yellow light, I looked at the dimpled face of my sister who gave me a tired smile. In her smile I could see how much she wished to be me, to be the one who grew up with these souvenirs safely kept in my heart, to be the one who ran through the narrow lanes with paper boats and marbles, to be the boy who once took the 30 foot cord of the telephone in the living room and walked towards the kitchen just to check how much the wire would stretch, to be the one who used to be proud owner of a walkman.
I smiled back.
And in my smile, she could see so clearly, how much I wished to be that boy as well.

Beautiful photography by Iris photography club, Delhi University
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She was magic

The dragonflies around the campfire,  the branches drenched with starlight,
the moon drizzling down the moonlight and me,
we all noticed when she blushed in the light of the night.
I dreamed of her just an afternoon before, she did not say a word
but she was magic.

She, like the wildflowers she picks on her way home,
she, like the river that she spent the summers of 99 in,
she, like soap bubbles, she like rosewater,
She has always been my happiest season.

And by season  I mean a storm,
and by storm I mean her lips always tasted like storms,
her hands, the lightning
and her whispers, the thunder.
I swear there were rainbows on my pillow after spending a night in the shade of her tornado.

She talked to the moon on the 1st of December
and she invited the stars over for dinner on the 3rd.
she picked all the pebbles on the beach and she cried when she saw the ocean,
I always tried to match my skirts with her shirts in the hope that she would notice,
She smiled crimson when we danced on The Beatles in the living room,
for no reason at all.

She, like the shotgun that she smells like in her moon-goddess phase,
She, like the pocket-knife she keeps in her purse,
she, like the metal music, she like the dark shade of lipstick,
She has always been my favourite warrior.

And by warrior, I mean a dragon,
and by dragon I mean she has a soul like that of a dragon,
her soul, the fiery breaths
and her spirit, the red flowery flame.
I swear there is more fire in her than a forest drizzling with gasoline.

The summer curled in her rain-soaked pyjamas,
the waterbeds bubbling up with elated midnight wishes, the stars shimmering and winking on the dinner table and me,
we all noticed when she blushed when I told her that I loved her.
I dreamed of her for a lifetime, she did not say a word,
but she was magic.


Artwork by Naved Warsi.

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There is a fire inside my dragon dungeons
and water sprinklers hushing it down.
I sleep on the edge of the bed at nights and the rest of the bed remains uncreased,
maybe I imagine myself to be a lone wolf too much but that does not make me any less lonely.
I try not to wake the darkness up while flipping my pillow to the colder side.

There are certain names stained in my songs
and scarlet forget-me-nots adorning them.
I repeat them under the silent breaths over and over and over again when I listen to the music
or the noise of traffic or the sound of the coffee maker when my brother sneaks into the kitchen
to prepare his midnight beverage, a common ritual of his.

There is a boy who smells like rain-soaked grass
and his fingers are soft like gentle wind whispering through my hair.
I try to find all of his laughter in my older poems to see if it was meant to be but I always end up
looking at the North star and wonder if someone from another dimension is writing our story.
I sometimes leave anonymous notes on leaves blowing away with the wind in the hope that they might seek his window out and knock on it.

There is a sea-shell sitting innocently in my drawer
size of my fingernail with the hues of the whole evening sky on it.
I sometimes put it to my ears and listen to ocean waves through it and it whispers back sweet nothings
and at times there’s music as well and one could lose themselves in an infinite dance in the music of the ocean waves.
I dreamt of him when I was near the ocean and I dream of the ocean when I am with him.

There is a poem inside my mind waiting to be born
and words that I gulped down along with the sunlight.
I swear there are more scriptures in a human heart than there are on paper and there is more ink running through my human veins than there is in those worldly pens.
I sometimes scribble my heart on a paper, I sometimes pour myself on the page.


Artwork by Naved Warsi 

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