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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Child abuse- Stop the deafening silence!

He came with tweezers and it still hurts at the wrong places.
There were candy wrappers lying unnoticed, there were mouths that were dry, there were hair at the foot of the bed, there were hair burning inside my palms, there was scratched cement in the insides of the nails, there were confusion and shame that made me question my existence, that made my heart break like pencil nibs, there wasn’t enough graphite to draw the darkness.
They must have thought that I would not remember but how can I ever forget?
He came with tweezers but my heart wasn’t so tiny to be plucked by one.
So he pinched and plucked parts of it, took bites and spat them out half chewed and I, at the back of the desk in my classroom, never covered the holes in my uniform stockings.

The clouds were so close to my eyes, they made my thoughts blurry. I might never figure out how no one saw them but me. The claws were made of sweet chocolates and how it never tasted any good to me again, Seven is not the best age to be thinking about dying.
‘Child Sexual Abuse’
Now say it again, this time you need to spit out the shame along with it.
“Child Sexual Abuse”
Now say it again, while spewing out the miasma of guilt along with it.
“Child Sexual Abuse”
Now say it again for the ones in the back.

Not pleasant, was it? To finally disgorge out the words, full of hatred to its brim but not loud enough to let your child hear it. Trust me, my dear, responsible, adult friend, it’s easier to say it out loud for the children to hear than to see them twenty years later purging out the questions in the eulogy of their last letter wondering what might have happened if the parents taught them the lessons of Good-touch-bad-touch basics, drenched with the prayers behind their names.
So go and save the soul before it gets too late because there are predators standing at your doorsteps or lurking in your family photos, with the tweezers.

Educate them:
Teach them the basic rules. How no one should be touching them in any way they feel odd or uncomfortable. How their bodies are fully theirs and no one else is supposed to be making their innocence at the finger-points. Teach them the correct anatomy. Give them the correct language of a  full and honest disclosure.

I was nine when my eight-year-old friend told me that the tall boys slid their hands down her skirt when she was trying to go home from school, so we must leave from a different gate from that day on. She said they hurt her ‘tummy’.
We would have told someone only if we knew that it was abuse, only if we knew that no one was allowed to touch the body parts we did not know the names of, only if we knew what exactly to tell and why.

Educate yourself:
Realise that a child telling you that they are being abused is far from reality in the majority of the cases. Never assume that the child will yell NO and come running towards you when someone tries to silence them. The abuser, most of the times, is an adult who will be an important figure the child was supposed to be looking up to. Predators spend a great deal of time grooming your child into accepting the abuse, even blaming it all on them. You need not only to create a friendly environment for the child to speak up freely but also to look for signs of abuse and even the signs of predatory behaviours in the person spending time with the children.

My aggressive tantrums and my aberrantly quiet behaviour were labelled as ‘weird’ and ‘childish’ when I was clouded by darkness. The shame and guilt shaped my personality and I found myself in depression after all these years. Only if someone looked for the signs, I might have been a stronger person today.

Know that it’s important:
It’s important to educate yourself and your child about these things because it shapes their future, their personality as well as their health. Any kind of childhood trauma not only stays at the back of the mind of a human being, but it haunts them forever. It leads to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, slim health, mental illness and lesser years of life expectancy.

My own health has always been in question. The bent shoulders, bony fingers, unsteady hands, anxiety sitting at the back of my spine and the chewed insides of my mouth tells my story anyway. The stress hormones punctured my body so many times, like the tweezers that were used when I stood four feet high from the ground. My will may be strong but the body grew up to be so weak that art and poetry might be the only thing I could create by now.

Yes, It does matter.
Because they come with tweezers and it hurts at the wrong places. 923591493_1382370827-1024x460

Ocean met the ocean

It was my first time at the beach and I already had been crying,
I sat on the sand like an astronaut gliding through space, like a misfit toy finally finding its museum to
let sit in the distance and see which child would reach his hand first, almost galloping through his way from the “Do Not Touch” signs in the corridor.

I sat on the sand and looked at the vast blue nothingness mixing so gracefully with the sky as if hugging their love out for me to see, sun bestowing its honey-coated blessings dripping on my shoulders and the water in front of me. I stretched my legs out and waited for the water to come to the shore, gratification comes easy when you welcome it with a smile.

It was my first time at the beach and the ocean had a surprise for me,
I sat on the sand, legs stretched wide, waiting with jitters in my toes, I can explain the tingling sensation but it calls for another poem.
The water came, touched me so gently that I forgot what century I was in, the salt left letters between my toe-nails, unfathomable, It instantly became a story worth telling.

It was my first time at the beach and my feet were already drenched, my clothes were damp and I did not know what era I was in. The water kept touching me as it kissed the shore again and again.
Ocean met the ocean.
One dimension met another and its salt mingled with mine.  You gotta mix it well so it doesn’t scratch the throat from the inside and it was my first time at the beach and the first time the ocean touched me and this is how it felt when you kissed me for the very first time.

Ocean met the ocean.

Maybe the secret to Shakespeare’s love sonnets was that he fell in love with the water as well
and his soul sipped it for long when it was thirsty, have you ever felt loved by the air when it fills your lungs and leaves in an instant?

I have already fallen in love with you for so many times that your salt is intermixed with mine and the forget-me-nots are planted on every molecule of my body but my blood is made up of ink and the creamy sheets of paper are waiting for me to spill all of myself on them as if to tell a legend and you slither in so quietly in every poem like the water coming back to touch the shore again and again.

It was my first time at the beach and so was my first time in love.
My feet were drenched in ocean salt and my heart was stained with first-base romances.
I did not know what century I was in,
but you were there and so was the water
and I already had been crying
because my heart could not contain the story.

Ocean met the oceanocean
so we went swimming.


Lurking now and then to its oldest haunts,
there’s a ghost inside of me,
sending shivers like lightning and thunder
to the sanctuary of my mind where
I store my stories in.
There’s a moorland residing inside,
with shadows of the past spinning my demons
into the wildest desire of an infinite dance,
playing plaintive notes never meant to be memorised,
in which I can weep for a lifetime,
and a familiar wind whispers through my hair so gently,
like an old lover whose
intentions I may not recognise.
I call my body a battleground where
I have been defeated by myself several times,
and I rise every time, from the ashes, like a baby phoenix
my tail twitching at the sights of the demons
still spiralling around the moor sights.
My dresses are sewn by strong women,
so I don’t need an armour anymore
but the war continues at the cost of my body
as the old wounds whisper curses,
like an echo in the empty mansions still
inside of your horizons, ready to crumble yet
standing patiently, knowing well
that one can only get past the darkness
by entering the fire.shadow

Passing by

Was I even alive?
What if I was just passing by
this phase of humanity,
almost galloping my way towards another galaxy. What if
we all were nothing but droplets of a time that is passing
but never passes by,
Not completely
Would that be a legend, if I were to question
this inhibition for once? If I were to question the inexplicable?
Not to ignore what tingles between the toes, itches the mind?
Would that be a story worth knowing?
For once, we all were just stories,
And we begin and never end.
maybe the greatest prophesy of all was a lie
that the end is actually nigh.

Date a girl who paints

Date a girl who paints.
Date the artist that does not even know that she is an artist, date the girl who paints. Date the girl who holds her brushes like an amulet and draws in all the colours she could pour out of her heart. Date the girl who mixes extremes of shades to figure what her soul must look like. Date that girl.

Date a girl whose heart tends to flutter at the sights of a rainbow, or a rainy window, rusty at places, she would know exactly what to do to make the cracks look right. Date the girl who makes broken look beautiful, who dwell on morning milkshakes and devour the dusks and dawns at her cheekbones for some reason you could not fathom. Find the girl who paints and fall in love with her, because that’s what you always do, you always fall in love with a painting, and you will always fall in love when the painting is alive. Find the girl who paints, she will be there, smelling like ball-point pens, broken showers, stale coffee beans and acrylic paint. That’s how you will know she‘s the one.

Date the girl at the back of the bus, too engrossed with the world outside the window, too busy figuring out the afternoon chaos, too busy doodling on the back of her notebook. Try to find her heart behind her flannel, she knows how wrecked she looks, and yet how beautiful that is to be.
Find her before she flounces out. And trust me, honey, she will tell you how she does not need your love, because she really doesn’t, see if you could make some place in her heart anyway.

Fall for the artist, and make the artist fall for you like one would fall for the streets bathed in moonshine, or a dungeon of a dragon who looks just like her. She will make you her muse, and form stories around you, mould stories about you. She will be patient, she knows how beauty always unravel when it takes a little time. She will be stubborn, she has seen how evanescent this world could be so she would paint it all on a canvas to hold for the night. She will be there because her art is there, she will be there forever.

When you find the girl who paints, do not tell her nice things, or call her pretty, for art is neither nice nor pretty, art is an experience to behold, a memory to cherish, something reminiscent of a forgotten era, or an un-penned story or a heart, that does not beat for merely nice and pretty.
Keep her close, and she will show you a whole new world to witness. Give her love and she will create storms and thunder of fondness just for you. Make a home with her and she will let kingdoms emerge from the abyss of her mind, with french windows and vintage lamps.

Do not date a painter if you could not let her catch all the stardust in her sheets; if you could not let her swim in the endless moors to become a droplet of her own when she wishes to; if you’re going to leave her without love anyway, date a painter and fall for her, completely,

Life would be a never-ending roller coaster of adventure, an inspiration worth living for. All you need to do is date a girl who paints.

(Ps- This write-up is written after the idea of Rosemarie Urquico: “You should date a girl who reads.”)


Artwork by a beautiful painter who is my muse for this write-up

If I should

If I should have a dream
Instead of wings, I’d give it storms,
and see if it survives, wait for a rainbow to emerge from the wreckage,
a little rain to wash away the open battle ground.

If I should have a book
I would make it purple, for I believe that purple
flows out of my heart, and it only becomes red when it is exposed to the world,
because my purple is shy, just like me.

If I should have a poem
I would name it ‘dragon’, since it is what my soul must be like,
with glowing embers among the debris, colossal fireworks dripping from the tongue,
wrecking fists and a twitching tail.

If I should have a daughter
I would give all my words to her, spin them together
to form stories that I’ve grown inside my heart for her to feed upon,
I would give her my coins of wisdom and equality; and a heart, full of love, big enough for her to grow, stretch to fill all the space that she might need.

If I should have a home
I would fill it with stars and dreams, so that no matter
what storm tries to churn my dreams into ash, there would be a starry night anyway.
I would tape photographs on every wall of it, and it will smell like memories.

If I should have a son
I would give him a part of my flame, for him to burn down
any injustice he would see. I would gift him my stories for him
to latch his hopes, ambitions or even fear upon, and a home where love would be the only thing that’s supposed to be done loudly.

If I should have a farewell
I would give my shadow to the world to see,
my salty feet to the ocean to drink,
my bony fingers to Pappa to hold, my hands to the boy who held them,
An ear to my brother, another to my best friend- tell them I would still be listening. I would give the womb to broken sisters, tongue to silent dreamers,  eyes to walking paradoxes, and the face to my mother, it has always been hers,
they tell


She stands there
and speaks her share of words.
I do not understand what’s going on but her tongue drips out my heartaches,
I do not understand but it’s my life rolling out of her lips and I do not understand.
Her words create ripples down my spine and puncture through the skin,
her words make their way through me and a deep echo of resemblance grows out like the unwashed weed from my chest, they resonate with me like they were my lullaby since forever.
An inexplicable feeling gushes out of my pumping heart and she?
She just stands there and speaks her share of words.
Sometimes there are rhythmic reactions,
tingling my veins like they have all the answers that were being sought
and at times, there are free verses, exhilarating my soul, like burning volcanoes
churning my demons, swallowing my doubts, enlightening my soul,
I do not understand, but she just stands there
and speaks her share of words.

Isn’t this what poetry is? poetry-image