There is one tube light in the hall
and the windows, whose glasses
are either broken or sold off,
give away more than they should.
I am studying the adjective clause
but can’t find one to describe my father.
What is it that he will blame my mother for tonight
before thrashing her against the wall?
I taper through the scissors of possibilities.
A private fear frosts my mind.
The cheerful poetry in the English textbook
against the bhenchods in the bedroom.
The god on one-half of the clock unsells himself.
Injustice rotates on my face with the minute hand.
Under the squeaky sound of the Usha fan
death promises to be a safer house.
The door clicks and wobbles my pause.
I miss a comma in the adjective clause.
Ghazal for Goregaon
Someone’s going astray in Goregaon.
We’re all lost halfway in Goregaon.
A junkie writes a song of despair
and then listens to reggae in Goregaon.
Varun could have played for India someday.
His failure’s a bloody cliché in Goregaon.
He who drowned at the Ganpati Visarjan
was declared lucky next Monday in Goregaon.
A woman is eager at the Westin lobby.
Who is she about to betray in Goregaon?
Carbon’s forming compounds in the air.
And we will destroy Aarey in Goregaon.
What is upsetting mothers these days?
So many died last May in Goregaon.
Flyovers disagree with my life’s path.
But Mihir is here to stay in Goregaon.
One Thousand and One Nights
I bet he wouldn’t give it another night
had Shahriyar heard the first story
from someone else. And who knows,
someone may have tried it before.
It was her wit slashing through his mind.
The courage to put her life on the line
for an idea and the faith to pull it off,
which have escaped the long passages
of One Thousand and One Nights,
are what changed the king’s mind. Patriarchy
reduces a woman to a heart and a man
to heartlessness. But show me a man,
who in private, wouldn’t fall for a Shahrazad,
for the eternal light of her words.
We talk about the power of stories
but, in fact, we talk about the power
of people in the form of stories.
Because people are too difficult
to talk about as themselves.
Similarities & Differences
You invade my English like Old Norse.
October destroys like a drunk horse.
In fact, everything is “like” everything else
to some extent. And nothing is completely like anything
but itself. A novel is similar to a novella,
you think, and different from, say, a dog
or a star or suicidal eyes. It’s the way you see it.
Both a novel and a dog bark occasionally,
in their own ways. A novel and a star can both
illuminate you, can’t they? And haven’t you ever read
a novel with suicidal eyes? Even Hiroshima is like a comb
in, at least, that both exist. You might still
take a novel to be “more” similar to a novella.
The register of your mind is an exclusivity
eager to transcend. You might say there’s nothing
quite like the Taj Mahal or like old stationery.
But in fact, there’s nothing quite like Agra either
or like India, Asia, the earth or the sorrows it nurtures.
Even a sorrow is not exactly like another sorrow.
The word sorrow, like all words, is a metaphor
to sorrow and not what it really is. We think that poetry
exposes, that language undresses the universe. Though
language is the fashion brand our thoughts walk the ramp for.
The way hope leaves the soul and the way it does it again,
a few years later, are both unique like the word unique,
like the elongated curve of her handwritten ‘c’
which helped you place the idea of unique.
(With a last line by Ingeborg Bachmann)
I have scored more points than both
of them combined. But wisdom
is knowing how little it means to win
a general knowledge game in Dapoli.
The night wrestles the summer away
from the singularity of a Surmai Fry.
We chuckle at the possibility of murder
and robbery by the sea’s lonesome wheezing.
Interesting are the stories that you don’t become.
Ameya probes me about general geography
and the capital of Estonia. I speak
about a Finnish friend who spends
his weekends in Tallinn to party cheap.
We’re such slaves of anecdotes.
And all memory is co-creation.
Serena and I haven’t reduced
to the pragmatism of sexual attraction.
Every time she laughs,
some Newtonian ether fills the room.
There’s no greater bond than humour
in the soporific joke of life.
The sea sets its own rules as we drive
drunk through the velvety dark,
past the houses folded in light.
Mindful bickering of a mindless species.
Where we are, there is night.
Trivenis for Cote D’Azure
9 pm and the sun cannot take no for an answer;
two women laugh their age off.
I smile in French, wide as Russia.
A drizzle strikes us on the way to the top;
in minutes, changes our idea of “the top”.
The more you cover, the more you uncover.
I remembered a doha on the white steps,
which I don’t remember at the moment.
Like death, Èze can only be felt first-hand.
Saint Paul: “Present”, Chagall: “Present”,
High art: “Present”, Her joke about my paunch: ?
The class of 2018 in Saint Paul de Vence.
Smell is the closest to memory of all senses;
Grasse hijacks you like love and fear.
Like a childhood, the perfume lasts longer than you can endure.
She could have said, “It’s Nice to meet you.”
A pun, like me, works with low standards.
But language is only a trick in the magic of us.
A man surfs away into the horizon,
dwindling into the sun’s tusk.
“Bonjour,” says dawn, “they call me dusk.”
“Koi yeh kaise bataye ke woh tanha kyun hai
Woh jo apna tha wohi aur kisi ka kyun hai
Yehi duniya hai toh phir aisi yeh duniya kyun hai
Yehi hota hai toh aakhir yehi hota kyun hai”
- Kaifi Azmi
A balloon-seller at Juhu beach
sneezes onto an owl from Aahat
as the guy from school, who replaced
someone’s Phantom cigarette with a Bristol
and bullied the whole class
till his girlfriend’s pregnancy
turned into corridor conversation,
merges seamlessly with the lover,
of yours, years later, kissing someone else
the night that ensured you will never again
be able to trust a pair of eyes
and left you dismantled like the Lego house
you wanted to escape to when your parents
probably killed each other in the living room
as Sachin Tendulkar batted himself
into saving your childhood and there emerges
a picture at Band Stand turning sepia
with the dust of years and the thought of a boss
stealing your credit acts as schezwan sauce
to the thirty-rupee chicken fried rice
your mother had to rummage
through her cupboard to buy you
and the afterthought that on 5th September of 2011
you should have just left before she arrived
and how you could have behaved differently,
every moment of your life
so that you wouldn’t be here today – clutching
the noodles of equanimity as Carl Jung
examines Zee Horror Show – at a therapist’s
who’s helping you understand more problems
and problems more
without solving one of them
till you realise all that is understood
isn’t solved and that probably,
it is, once again, too late in the night to be alive.
All It Takes
It takes about two drinks
to decide you’d like four more
and those four decide
that you don’t decide a thing
for the rest of the night
as you slur away into embarrassment
to be found by someone else
lying down on the floor of the bar.
Your subconscious puking
like the stranger next to you.
Years ago, when this happened for the first time,
your friend gave you a high-five, saying
“Fuck man, what a crazy night it was!”
That friend is no more
a friend but you are still drunk.
It’s taken you too long to forget
the shirt she hasn’t given back.
And to forget one shirt, you’ve forgotten
yourself. Joking about a drunken night
is a pop cultural masterstroke
and pop culture, like an alcoholic, isn’t self-aware.
A famous print ad once said,
“Everybody likes a drink, nobody likes a drunk.”
You think you understand words
But in fact, you can only write them.
You’ve avoided confrontation like the memory
of a hungry afternoon in Juhu.
Suddenly, all your behaviour is misbehaviour.
You take to serious love to avoid the loneliness problem.
Then you take to alcohol to avoid the love problem.
Soon, the alcohol becomes the problem.
They say, one drink doesn’t harm anyone
but no one ever tells you which one.
Excerpted with permission from School of Age, Mihit Chitre, Dhauli Books.