Train to Banaras

I came here on a train that could not contain us. The aisle of which was witness to a lot many card games. The seats of which trembled at the sights of us gushing in during the night. The handrails of which that I grabbed on to with my sweaty palms as I stepped out.

There is something in the air of Banaras, it is salt mostly but there is a strange sweetness begging for acknowledgement. The beggars snore on the footpaths as if they have been here for more than one lifetime. There is no plan; no intellectual thought flooding into my mind, the people are walking as if they have no hurry of getting somewhere, or anywhere! Dirty trucks hold too many people, taxis hail through the streets like chariots into a battleship, I wonder if they are going towards Kurukshetra, I wonder if Lord Krishna is still leading.

One could almost taste the tea spice in the air of the lane-corners, where short men chew betel and the old wives fan the roasted corn sitting on bricks in the steamy August. I let a frail man pedal me on his bicycle rickshaw towards the Munshi Ghat. I am here to learn something. I wonder if I could ever master the art of crossing the streets in India.

The Ghat boasts of ancient stories, whoever named it after Munshi Premchand was a genius to be sure. The water is quiet but the place is not. The wind whispers through my hair gently like an old lover, I never knew solace you could be found in a place full of so many people. The architecture stands steadily like an old tale smiling in nostalgia. There are too many monkeys, not the most extraordinary fact but quite intriguing!

The river is bold enough to swallow the sun as the orange in the sky turns darker, I wonder if there is Henna in the clouds. I sit on the steps as the river glows in her dusky beauty. Too many souls trying to wash away their sins. I think of stepping into a boat but sit there in silence instead, watching it leave. There are innumerable metaphors in the water and the flecks of stars try hard to make us notice their existence. At a distance I see a Sadhu draped in Ochre robe chanting something auspicious as he dips his mud-coated, rope-like hair in the holy Ganga multiple times.

Peace of mind could be reached. All we need is to take a train that could not contain us.Uttar-Pradesh_Varanasi_Munshi-Ghat-at-Varanasi

Taking notes

The smoke softly enters my cotton dress,
My dirt-soaked attempt to feminity,
As I walk down the monotony of the street,
potholes? Enormous! pebbles? Stubborn as ever!
Paperboats? Missing.
I float through the river of begging hands and broken limbs,
heart breaking every time my empty pockets sneeze at the plaintive footpaths
As I bypass the wreckage – got a long day to start.
I catch a bus that is all too well versed in her routes,
Sweaty palms and oiled plaits, a common sight to behold
Grey hair dusting off endless memoirs,
I sit by the side of an old wrinkled story
Who is draped in yellow and smells like Vicks.
I jumped back on the road again
as the old wives fan the roasted corn
And I walk down to the train station
amidst the catcalls of a man who is double my age,
And whistling boys still in their school pants.
I do not stop to ask the man if he dyed his hair with henna or colour
And do not stop to tell the boys they resemble my younger brothers,
I somehow reach my office building
I do not really know how it looks like from the front,
I pass through plastic plants and shrink in myself
as I take the chair drenched in fluorescent lights – got a long day to start
and my mind is taking notes.


The question still hangs around my room
whenever your name echoes there

The butterflies in my stomach are quiet now

They don’t flutter anymore,

They don’t remember the first times,
nor do they crave for more.

The question still hangs and my lungs
are full of bad breath slurs

My eyes never search for you
but my fingers have yet not forgotten,

What I mean to say is the fire never escaped my heart
but it swallowed me whole

The burning marks reside on the skin I had yet to discover.

Maybe it was too soon

Or maybe it was too late

Maybe the Firefly had to learn
that she was meant to burn away.

You see, unrequited love is difficult

And I have been doing difficult for quite some time now,

You should have at least given me some credit

when you asked me for the saddest story ever

And I showed my unloved palms
with ‘I love you’ scribbled all over them.


Art work by Naved Warsi

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Dear Jon Snow

“Dear Jon Snow,
I like your hair. like forsaken rain drops they fall, like a broken pavement, they seem lost.
They wander, silly hair! They aspire! They carry secrets and tornadoes, they are a haven for a dire wolf’s cry.

Dear Jon Snow,
I know you have touched love. You have tasted it with your own tongue, inhaled it in, filled it in your lungs, tell me, wasn’t it like swallowing an entire ocean in one go? Like sipping on starlight and smoking out heartache over and over till your soul gives up on you?

Dear Jon Snow,
I know that you are a dragon. So I guess it’s safe to assume that I will fall in love with you. Your untamed wilderness and noble-born blood, your heart makes it up for all the void. Your soul breathes fire, I know your lips taste like gasoline, even in the snow. Especially in the snow, Jon Snow!

Dear Jon Snow,
I saw how you held your own heart in your arms when it froze. Crimson red, cherry stained lips, her vacant eyes, there were wolves howling in the whispers of your dishevelled hair when she was gone. Tell me, wasn’t it like slicing your own self into pieces? Like laughing on your own destruction yet waiting for a punchline?

Dear Jon Snow,
How did you survive? This cage that is not even yours, this neglect that is as cold as the winter cold heart, this life that is empty. How do you wake up in the burning, in the screaming silence of the blood-soaked nights? Tell me, does the pain still enters the parts that you lost away in your slumber?

Dear Jon Snow,
I know that you know nothing, but at least you know how it’s like to die, again and again.”82639965_game-of-thrones-season-2-jon-snow


It is monsoon
and I haven’t tasted any mangoes yet
they must be sweeter than ever
but I have been surviving on popsicles
this city is hot, I am water most of the times
but when the raindrops fall on my window
it seems as if the sky is falling in love with the wind,
my legs are aching, it must have something to do with my flying.
Lately, I have grown fangs
discreetly, I have been nurturing dandelions on my fingertips
I wept when the sky fell down one night
on the pavement, and the water was so sweet yet forsaken.
I have been walking a lot
the sunsets are a bliss but the potholes are enormous
I always wanted to live by the side of a river
and the corridors of my city are finally catching up with that.
The noise is deafening here
and the constellations are hiding in my bathroom mirror
I like how my hair does not smell like shampoo
I have given myself a haircut, people keep asking me why
I tell them it’s because I’m going North of the North
as I hide my fangs buried under curled tongue.
The sky last evening made me a grasshopper
I leapt and pranced as if I was barefoot and flying
and amidst the noise of our hearts beating louder than the city
in the memory of all the twilights we have been bleeding in
there was music in the distance and I had to stop and look back
the peace came flooding and the wind was stomping on my holy feet
the street was begging for acknowledgement
and I kept standing
taking my teeth back inside, giving the ache in my legs a rest
and the rain washed away the scarlet off my skin,
the street lamps were resisting the urge to dance
and so was I.
But I’m not saying that I hope and dream a little too much
for I’m only human
but as I kept standing there in the music
I said the word ‘Living’ over and over
until it became a poem with the word ‘Thank you’
in each and every line.
artwork by Preeti Pandya.
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Artwork by Preeti Pandya



We had a family house in the city of Pune
and it smelled of vacations and childhood summers.
we used to tip-toe a weekend or two there
far away from the grey skies, the trees were greener and the air was saltier.
It was the time before selfies and skype
so we used to play with pebbles and our laughter
used to elate like the helium balloons we used to leave behind on the ceiling.
Time used to laze around,
all the homework assignments forgotten
and a certain carrom board was our battleship after scraping our skinny elbows
while climbing the trees picking all the mulberries.

I, three years chubby in my carefree knickers,
learns climbing like I learn alphabets back at home.
My cousin, three and a half, braids all of my hair and we beam
like  movie stars as the braids unravel curls that look like telephone cords
and in the evening, we stuff our mouths
with strawberries as we memorise all the songs
from the only cassette, we have brought along.

I, eight years skinny in my bell-bottom pants,
learns to chase grasshoppers on a pedalling bike.
My brother, nine, complains that his sisters never play cricket
as we run from the backyard to the front of the house
with dolls in our hands blaming unknown accusations as someone falls
on the wet ground. Mothers peel mangoes happily
as we consider climbing the fence to pet the dogs on the other side.

I, twelve years shy, in my overalls,
writes another poem on a rough sheet of paper,
My cousin, twelve and a half, teasingly ties it with a thread
on the highest branch of the mulberry tree in the front lawn while
I threaten her to drench her frock with a water pipe in my hand
which does not terrify her at all. Brother learns to ride a scooter
from the trusted elder teenager who lives next door.

We had a family house in the city of Pune
which was home to many first-time’s and cheerful injuries.
There, we were not just children on vacations
but proud owners of walkmans, marbles and pebbles.
We played games that never made it to mobile phone apps
and we danced on songs that we would never understand
and plucked berries and poems from the trees
as we danced barefoot in the showers of the waterpipe.

Love lessons with Rumi

Dear Rumi,

You have been here before. Many moons ago, conspiring against the venomous bitterness of the world by splashing love all over it.
And yet, you are still here, peeking through the crisp pages of the tiny furnaces of the inked books that lonely hearts like to sit around.
You are still here, tugging at the corners of the cream coloured pillowcases as we rest our bobby-pinned heads pondering over life.
You are still here, hiding behind dusty bookshelves, inspiring all the souls who have ever touched love.

Rumi, you were the sunlit blessing to those who thought the dawn will never arrive. You still are the first light at daybreak when our lonely waits around at empty city squares for a hummingbird to remind us that love still matters, and love still happens. You are the Hummingbird.

As for me, you are that person who once distorted reality and lead me to that alternate universe where I drenched myself with self-love and the ecstasy that one could only feel after swallowing the milky way,
Or a poem whichever is more believable.
And the houses had hidden encryptions in the words that I somehow managed to decode. The air tasted delicious in that alternate universe as I kept reading the words and had my own little escapade.

1.  “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Lightning flashed. All the walls inside of me crumbled, brick by brick, I didn’t mind.
The soft rain produced music so melancholic that I lost parts of myself with it on the street. Rumi told me that love is there wherever you are looking for only that one was choosing not to look. I, who learnt love like learning to speak out of a stutter, found my way out of it.

2.  “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
If I remember clearly then I was walking, but if I remember only half-vividly through blurred visions of dewy binoculars, then I was dancing. I was dancing in the loop of eternity there in the middle of the road, shying away from the clocks wearing roman numerals and the street-lamps guarding me against the dizziness and keeping me awake. My heart felt so full and the complete sense of ‘Sufiana love’ engulfed me.

3. “Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear, but love unexplained is clearer.”

As I danced my way through the streets, I entered the fog which was the clear embodiment of love. The crickets watched me closely as I made out with the presence of what I still remember tasted a lot like iron bullets soaked in cinnamon. I felt brave.

4.  “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”

There was something about that architecture in that place I was in which made me let go of all the heartburns. I found the pieces that I lost lying on the sidewalk, unarmed yet unharmed. I picked them and fixed them; put them on as I unjinxed them. It was okay. I felt okay.

5. “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

Love came to me when I was asleep and love has escaped when I was wide awake. But maybe love has always been nothing but energy which can neither be created nor be destroyed and can only be transferred from one being to another. Maybe love never was lost. Rumi, you taught me how love is the path that one needs to walk while resisting the strong urges to pluck all the daisies on the sides of it. That path leads you home.

I lost myself in that universe of poetry. Came back into my own reality, ecstatic, elated and breathing so delicately, I could melt on my knees.
Dearest Rumi, you taught, you preached and you inspired.
So I have my own little poem inside of me that is called ‘Thank you’ that I want to share with you.
You were there many moons ago and you are still here in this moon that I recognise.
You asked us, lovers, to meet you in the field beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.
And in that alternate reality, finally found the field that had always been inside of us all.

So, thank you.
Your yet another student in the matters of love,

College Diaries.

We were like freshly mowed grass’ hoppers,
heart-throbbers, public school’s essay toppers,
we gently swished through the front gates,
like the scholars of our dictionary,
like the bubble pop poppers,
you see, we popped every bubble that we came across
and we held every love we received,
at times, we dropped the love from our sacred hands
but never spilt the bubble soap water at least.

We once drenched our summer in a rain shower
and ran through the corridors pretending to be swallowed
in a narrow lane city,
winters were cosy and were soaked with evening dew
of laughter that echoed through the wooden desks
and peeped through the pockets,
firecrackers were not allowed on the campus,
but fireflies were so we became the perfect dragons of our imagination,
That’s how we had fun, that’s how we were our own becoming.

I once picked daisies that were already fallen
and pinned them in the curls of this girl that I know,
for the friendships we had, bloomed in its time
and we wished to be nowhere else but there,
in the campfire of each other’s warm embrace
that we let our cold hearts to sit around to,
we were rose water and puddles and paper boats
all together we were there, at the right moment,
at the right time too.

College days were mostly hot,
for the warmth in hugs and selfie-kissed kisses
made a perfect metaphor for rare happiness.
The street lamps tossed us winks on the way home
the sun was never vexed with us when we presented traces of our childhood
and baked stories of first romances to each other
on the peak of the semester.
The grounds were big enough to hold us together
and the railway tracks that kissed the outskirts of its back
always intermingled with our tip-toed slow dancing.

I met a bunch of people who smiled wider than the sky
and roared louder than the thunder.
Some made the beginning and remained to adorn the end,
Some evoked surreal emotions, one even became my best friend.
Some fought, some lied, some drifted away, some cried,
some were poems, some charcoal sketches, some tapped their love on guitar strings,
a few kept quiet, some hugged the pain away as they unjinxed
all my searches of partners in crime.
some of them could capture stories in a single frame
of what we were- scraped knees and soda pop laughter,
And they all let me watch
and learn passion and love and the value of what matters.
We ran so fast we flew when the clouds outshone the skies with lightning,
they made me live more or should I rephrase,
they made me love more,
they made me write more.

For the gorgeous journey of college and the people who made everything better, XoXo


First date conversation


Cranberry sweetness, lime smiles and a shot of vodka,
cheesy glances and a bubbling laughter,
slipping down inside jokes and handing out disclaimer cards.

You know what terrifies me?
And by love I mean the kind of human interaction that comes with a complimentary exchange of the saliva and endless words but where no one really talks.
The kind of love that makes priority lists and sends eggplant emojis in the text messages.
the kind of love that starts with a table cloth and ends with my bedsheets, where my plans don’t matter and your plans are already under the rug, where one is scared of other’s feminist opinions.
Where there is no bridge to meet at the end of the fortnight and midnight kisses leaves footmarks that need covering.

Don’t pretend to not see it, my issues with commitment.
it’s there but I like to get high sometimes.
And by high I mean the kind of intoxication where I don’t remember what century I belong to. Where I feel the love when I get some, where I see your smoke rings and confuse it with the most magical proposal ever.
Where I dance all night on a song that I’ve never even heard before, where my feet looks beautiful and the air tastes delicious when we run so fast we could fly and by flying I mean we make out in streets as empty as our chests and the street lamps are the only ones that could see us, barefoot, unashamed, unwavering.

likes, dislikes, favourites and pet peeves?
A single answer to everything but I like to remember everything.
And by remembering I mean the kind of sticky notes that I leave on my nightstand when I wake all night up writing them.
Pornography, ugh!
Fake kind of love where no one spells anything correctly.
And by no spells I mean there are no magical enchantments, no hazy kind of merriment and no one talks between kisses. I do not like it when the clouds do not create halos around the love that is not even in the air.
Dragons may be fiction but these fulfil my need for documentation.
And by documentation I mean I’ve seen the magic happening and the world’s got to see.
Side hugs.
What the hell is a side hug and why do they even exist?
Because by side hugs I mean the kind of broken souls that do not know what warmth tastes like.

Do not bring me flowers, I say, never bring me flowers.
They say you love me but they remind me of what is wrong in this world.
And by wrong, I mean the kind of life where daisies are buried with a lover’s expectations.
where the architecture reminds us of colonialism and tragedy is showcased in the museums.
I am a sucker for art, I’ll tell you but I’ll cry anyway.
And by crying I mean I’ll take long walks in the rains and give a piece of the cold that I’d eventually catch.

You know what does not terrify me?
And by love, I mean the happy childhood days where we scraped our knees tumbling down on each other’s metaphors.
Where we talk till the end of the night and till the wake of the morning and call it making love, where you need three albums to describe your relationship status and where no one needs to build a home together, where love is enough, for what is enough if love isn’t.
The kind of love that starts with a glance and ends when the world ends with it, the love that’s unpredictable, that’s abominable, which creates a havoc, a riot in the society, that ruins you in the best way possible. The kind of love that can never be explained in a poem


Photography by Vansh Sabharwal

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The sighing of the stardust

I didn’t want to think about her
yet here I am, in the embrace of what could have been.
we were shooting stars and the stardust all together
We were always in each other yet never together,
we were the continuum of the universe and
we never came close in the fear of crumbling apart.

Bet that dingy old room still smells the same,
with windows tainted with more than one colour
and the old chestnut tree whispering sweet-nothings
while brushing its lullaby against the balcony.
I once kissed her when the winds were in our favour,
or was it nothing but a dream?

Bet the sweet Gin remembers
even if it was a dream
I swear I could trace her tip-toeing
when I was stuck in the roundabout
looking for the bridge, our bridge.
I wonder if she looks for it too.

Bet it was trouble for her too
to stand there surrounded by lilies,
or were they lilacs? Anyway,
It ached me so hard when I stood there
surrounded by lilies/lilacs
and not dance with her ghosts,
and not kiss away her demons,
It was the perfect mood, but not the time for us.

Bet Gin never woke up from our dream
because how could she when neither have I,
from the yearning, from the itch to write down her name
on every wall of every dingy room out there.
From the burning ache to figure out her coyness
and to scribble out our aesthetic poem on her every breath,
her every molecule, I wished to turn her inside out to touch
But I didn’t, almost.

I didn’t want to think about her,
But here I am, speaking in old lyrics
of the dingy room hauntings, whispering chestnut tree,
the lilies and the lilacs
and the bridge I never got to find
and the love I never got to make
and the woman who was mine but never mine to take
I wish we were not stardust  but humans
who could love without a noose around the collarbones
and wildfire on the lips,
ready to burn them away.


Artwork by Nipun Bhalla

Artwork (a digital painting) by Nipun Bhalla.
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