House of Grief

The grass is always green on the other side of the glass. Your side is a trap, a greenhouse – it traps you in with the heat, with the helplessness, and it chokes you. The glass is soundproof, and you, like a caged animal in a zoo –  they can all see you, no less as a spectacle, but none can help. None want to, either, for it’s too risky a business – these animals are known to have a sharp bite.

Your house is a funny place, full and empty at the same time – you crave company but won’t wish for anyone to go in, or through, it. You find a new door every time you go looking for the key out of another. It isn’t your house anymore. The house renovates itself. The house owns you, just you – one rentier, one tenant, no boarders allowed.

Maybe a distant lover is your best bet.

So, when the moon peeks through your window at night, you get used to it. You wait for it – the guest knocking on the sill – without even knowing, not aware that your own vacancy signs are alight.

But it knows. It sees, it hears, and one can see the ghost of recognition on its greying face. It suffers, too, silently telling the story of its own plight.

The moon gets smaller and smaller as it consumes itself to satiate an inherent appetite for self-destruction. It takes a holiday ever so often, trying to digest the meaning of its own being. It disappears. The world – your world – is plunged into darkness. The harsh daylight hurts your eyes. The never-ending blackness numbs you down. You wait. It’s cold in here.

The moon reappears, vomiting itself out, forcing growth; all because you’re alone with the night. It walks with borrowed light, always beside you even as you try to run away from the house – especially when you try to run away from the house.

The winds tell you that the moon is in love. You do not believe them, for they do not exist in your world – the window is shut, and nothing comes in or out of it.

Wolves wail at the sight of your white-faced lover at his prime, they say that the shadow on his face is beautiful too. If you listen carefully, you see that the sounds of laughter and wailing are indistinguishable without the emotion. You know how to tell them apart, for you’ve been roommates with grief for a long time. Some say that the moon is friends with her.

You’ve lived together for so long that you think you are friends with her, too.

And how it hurts.

On some day suspended in the time after you stepped inside; the floorboards creak under your careful – but unsuspecting – footsteps as you go looking for the feeling you have been living with, but she is gone. Your lover has wished her away. Your lover, a mere reflection – of your worshipped suitor, of its own daring enemy, the Sun – lacks the heat which makes its competitor dangerous. But he has wished grief away. He has pushed her out, and in her place, there is nothing. Nothing.

The moon never decided to come in himself, either. It stood on its perch in the sky, your lover from far away.

Grief packed up well. She left without a trace, like she was never there. Like she never set foot in a place you verily named after her. And now there’s no reason for your sadness. Now, you’re just alone in a house with no name, waiting.

The grass is always green on the other side of the glass. Your side, it is but a memory.

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An Apology 

If I could turn back time 

And undo all the mistakes 

that I have made with you 

I would –

And time 

would keep on turning 

And turning 

And turning 

And we would both disappear behind it 

being another mistake.

 

If I could turn back time 

And save you from the heartache 

that I washed on your shores 

I would – 

And time 

Would watch me work 

With sorrow 

And regret 

And more sorrow 

As I destroy your memories, the very thing 

That I have been 

Trying to save.

 
If I could turn back time 

And see you just once again 

I would 

apologise

For every single tear you shed 

And every wound I scratched 

With every breath I have

In me 

And maybe 

Just maybe 

Time will let you forgive me. 

 
– I can not rhyme but I mean what I say 

Barriers 

The writer’s block. 

It’s a big room that reeks of solitude. The door is open just a crack, a suspended beam of sunlight filtering through and making dust motes look like trembling stars. A boy sits by his typewriter, his fingers lusting to stroke the keys. He taps his nervous feet against the linoleum floor, trying to imitate the drum pattern of an old favourite song that he had long since discarded from memory; but which mysteriously reappeared in his conscousness in moments of despair. A dot of light comes to rest on his nose, making him wonder why he cannot absorb its energy. The memory of what he had meant to write eludes him.

The boy flails his right arm in frustration, but the words still hang on to the inside of his sleeve. His gaze runs out the windows and into the vast blue skies, naming the faces he sees in the clouds. He wishes that they would talk back to him.


Introversion.

The street is wide and curves out of sight over a hill. A girl stands on the sidewalk, counting the number of cars that rush by. She listens to the noise of their horns and screeching tires as if it were musical, and lets her eyes follow a certain red Chevy till it can’t possibly continue to. Every once in a while, she focuses her eyes on one of the cars, and loses track of the numbers. Then she starts to count again, from scratch. When the traffic slows, she snaps out of her passive trance, and tries to raise her hand up to signal for a ride. In her mind, someone sees her waving and stops.

The cars keep driving past the girl, seeing nothing. The wind blows her hair over her face, and they are streaked wet with her tears. Her hands are still by her side, for her strings are pulled by something entirely different from her mind. The puppeteer is not her friend.


Love. 

The old brick house stands in stark contrast to its lush surroundings at the edge of a teak forest. It is the solitary red structure in the otherwise unbroken plane of green. A woman sits inside, her wooden chair rocking in sync with the ticking clock. Her breathing resonates in the silence like the heartbeat of the house. Her hands shake as she muses over the past with her eyes open, memories projected in technicolor onto her cataract-ridden irises. A fly buzzes past her arthritic shoulder and lands lazily on a covered dish of food. The people in her dream never let the food sit long enough for the flies to appear. The people in her dream resemble those in the dust-covered picture frame which rests in her lap.

The woman calls out her sons’ names, and is met by the creak of her chair in response. She sighs and closes her unseeing eyes. The people in her dream come home to her.


Death. 

The air is bursting with the sobs of a little boy. He stumbles around, a single syllable fumbling on his virgin tongue.Tears flow down his reddened cheeks and streak his white clothing a wet, salty grey. The faces around him weep for his sorrow, but the sounds he makes are the loudest. Many arms reach out to console him but he doesn’t care for their affections, for the warmth that he seeks is amiss. He moves about, heading for the bright yellow blaze a little ahead of him; but the tall legs of strangers who stand in his way appear like prison bars holding him back. The boy slumps onto the dirt ground, his tiny hands falling to his sides. His sleepy eyes close for a second. When they flutter back open again, they resemble a bursting dam giving way to the beginnings of a flood.

A yellowing leaf performs somersaults with the wind and comes to rest on a stack of neatly piled sandalwood. As the toddler’s wail of ‘Maa’ breaks the pregnant silence yet again, the burning corpse wishes it were alive.

Ashes to Ashes

The battlefield was bordered by a manicured hedge ,

And all the violence which seduced men into abandon 

Took place outside it where the fallen

leaves had blown to with a gust of hot wind.

Most warriors would choose a battle ground clear of trees, but ours was oak-panelled with marble flooring that wouldn’t let the blood of the brave and broken soak through. We lit the torches and the bedroom candles, and watched the flames dance on our skin. Lamps dripped oil into puddles on the floor as we looked on and breathed in the heavy scents of ambrosial sconces that crystallised in our lungs — naïve little soldiers, we didn’t know that armour was supposed to be worn on the outside.

The light from the scented candles cast shadows on the wall behind it — the wall offered no protection, with the offender and defender on the same side. The hungrier twin of candlelight rose higher, uncaring for the velvet curtains which protected themselves from the fragrant flames with help from the winds. The curtains rose and fluttered with their benefactor, and from the doorway they looked like war flags, waiting to be dyed red with violence and to be trampled upon.

By us.

 

Weapons sanctioned by the office of wrath were invisible 

To the onlookers, who wondered why there were

hints of a smile on our dirt-streaked faces even though 

We were being drafted to the army of the enemy.

 

We were knights-in-training and we thought that our wooden swords were harmless, but splinters from wood could hurt almost as much as rusted blades buried in one’s back. Our naked backs were smooth, except for the welts where realisation had struck us hard. We wanted to survive the onslaught and so we encased our hearts in iron cages and called it an armour; we donned heavy helmets so that our minds were actually prisons. Canons were loaded as our fingers caressed each other and found only cold, hard metal where a heartbeat once was. We were knights-in-training, and so, we mounted our high-horses, not caring that all of it would crumble to dust when we really went to war.

The candles had reached their last drip of wax and in some parallel universe — some other battle — we would be smearing it over the slightly sweaty contours of each other’s backs, because the wax never left welts like those whispered lies did. The sweet fragrance was turning pungent and we couldn’t help but wonder if this was supposed to happen as the candles burned out and the wicks turned black. The fire in our eyes wasn’t a reflection of the sputtering flames in front of us. It was almost cruel how the torch burned brighter as the candlelight was eclipsed.

The cry for battle clung to us like icicles in the cold 

which remind one that touching ice often feels like burning

And as it, perhaps involuntarily, escaped our throats 

We were anything but we, with you against me

Offences were many, and our perceptions pierced by the shards of broken glass behind which we were each other’s attackers. We could crush the shards underfoot, if not for the candles we had lighted that smelled like death in retrospect. The whispers, which escaped us while we were against each other and the oak panelling, had now escaped their wooden sanctuary to haunt us. Our union boiled over us till it was just invisible vapour weighing down our breaths — it was here that I understood the fact that I couldn’t vouch for you any more, for gaseous particles drift apart to infinity.

In all the wars we had waged in our heads, we had only been two sides of a coin, the tip and hold of a spear, but now they were two separate weapons — a dagger and a stick. We were two separate weapons, pointed at each other, like busts of Caesar and Brutus carved out of the same stone. I could only find myself choking on my own destruction, while you were building a bunker with your pillows and closing off the gates to trust. Like a deer in the headlights, I was caught off guard, denied access to both your doors and my own. My ammunition and the strength to use it was locked behind my mistrust of myself — and surprisingly, after all the drills, not of you.

Surprise and cowardice had me taken aback, but terms of war 

were clear as day: the battle would start irrespective of how I

had prepared, for unlike more pleasant things 

It didn’t take two to declare.

 

You kept on building bunkers apprehending a devastating fat man or little boy to drop whenever I flew over you in vain, for I didn’t bother getting into the aircraft at all. I was a failed soldier, a sham warrior, and while you settled on a fight for survival, I only wished I could do the same — wished, but never acted. I was sucked into a hurricane-like dilemma and swirled inside with the hope for it to end in a black hole.

Every night that I had pulled away from the kiss first was not a preparation for a possible coup d’êtat , but a declaration of my inability to train for war. The arrows we had aimed at each other in smaller skirmishes came back as missiles — launched, as if, by mischief rather than purpose. You decided to fight against what you could see approaching for afar, the several crushing tonnes of heartbreak and rust. I let it go through me — ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Helium

When I was a little girl far newer to the world than I am now, I was given to my mother as a bundle washed and clothed; and, for the first time, she held me on the outside. My tiny hands kept themselves in fists for a long time after I was born, she tells me. She tells me it’s something all babies do till they gain control of their hands.

I know I did it for a long time after.

When I grew up a little and made a few friends in school whose names and faces I have long since forgotten, I thought that I was happy. I was told to draw smiling faces and sing happy rhymes in class, and I assumed that since it was the only emotion I was surrounded with, it was the only emotion at all. I had no reason to feel otherwise, none that I could catch on to at that age.

A few years later, I learnt that my heart was about the same size as my fist, and I wondered if other people could see how tiny my clenched fists were. I decided that day, subconsciously now that I think of it, that it will be bigger in all other ways that were possible. I had to believe that it could stretch to accommodate important things.

Important things, like promises, memories, and the hope of a share in something beautiful.

Important things, like people.

Many a wind passed, many a solstice I saw, and when the grass was yellowing yet again did I finally get hit. My fists were bigger now, and I had started to feel the beginnings of what they now call loneliness. I breathed in and let it out, and let my heart open to whatever – and whoever – could find it. And so, it stretched a little, and it filled me up. Unable to stop, ignorant of the dangers of going on, it stretched and stretched and stretched, till the pressing weight of others was all my heart was – it had become a fist, it hit me hard and again, and I couldn’t escape.

But fists break too, and things leak out of them. Then they lie by your side, cut open and damaged beyond the point of healing completely.

And so did I.

My illusion broke all at once. There was so much more to the world than happiness, and now, with my eyes wide open and refusing to shut, I could see them all. I was forced to see them all. I saw them right back to the nursery rhymes and the drawings of smiling faces taped onto windowpanes, behind which were faces contorted with hatred.

Hatred existed. Sadness was there – sometimes at first, and later, always. The people  I held close had let themselves out, leaving behind the shell made of my arms. It wasn’t just a prison break, but a breaking of the prison itself. Funnily enough, I was the only one left behind, stuck in a rut. I was hearing the departing footsteps of people who had never really arrived, at least not on my door; and the more I realised this, the more I withdrew. I still wanted to reach out, but my hands were clasped into fists and my nails were biting into the flesh of my palms.

Who knew who I was? I wasn’t sure of it myself. I wasn’t sure if I existed beyond the dying meadow full of withering leaves of solitude that were crumpled underfoot as lightly-packed travellers passed by. Sometimes they stopped to take pictures, other times a relic; and sometimes they left a small token I could hide in a coffer crafted with my fingers – I thought I could never really call them fists again, not allowing them the ability to throw punches and cause hurt. A few people noticed that the meadow was singing, and they often deemed me human enough to ask me about the song.  On days when the wounds in my buried heart would be singing too, I would tell them.

I would tell them, filling them up with my whys and hows like balloons with helium, and whenever they found themselves full enough they would tie the ends and float away. Maybe they let the air out somewhere far and distant, but I – still rooted to my old spot – will never get to know.

Who knew who I was? I am still not sure of it myself.

I took to wearing gloves a while ago. In the cold. In the summer. When the rain would soak through. Even then. They don’t last too long, but they always keep my heart warm. The red wool is comforting. It is like second skin in some places, and bandages in others. Maybe someday my hands won’t be balled up, and a gust of changing winds will take them off. One thing is for sure, though – the day those fists beat again, the heart will not.

How Dare I Be Born with Ambitions and a Vagina 

​I was born of the womb of another like me 

They looked at me and said there is no jewel finer 

But I was sacrilegious and blasphemous, they soon realised 

For how dare I house within me ambitions when I have a vagina?

You see, it is antithetical, for my voice is redundant 

Meant to be kept low, to remain unheard and unimportant 

For I am an accessory, not my own person independent 

but wife of, daughter of, mother of – always defined by a man. 

They tell me my body is a temple when temples do not let women pray 

They tell me my sight is a temptation that can lead men astray 

That compromising my modesty will name me a whore 

They tell me some things, they tell me some more.

And who are they, may you ask, and why this they say 

And why not let me find my own way – well, see,

It will make the patriarchy curse, make blood curdle in its veins

For I may get a mind of my own if they loosen the reins.

On streets I collide with men whose paths I allegedly stand in 

For I may be invisible to them out in the public sphere, in a man’s world 

For they may see me as domesticated and expect me 

to step out of their way, and not the other way round. 

Like birds who never left cages thinking of flight to be an illness 

The victims of generations of internalisation of weakness 

Some old women, they tell me to speak no ill of the men who protect me

While these so called protectors spew swear words degrading my anatomy and identity.

I was born of the womb of another like me 

But now I seek to break free of my gender’s perceived infirmity

The shackles will lay broken soon enough if we try 

To educate and empower, to listen to what speaks the cry.

And to the men and women who look down on me I say 

These aspirations won’t be a part of me if it weren’t meant to be this way 

Just like the goddesses we put on pedestals to bestow respect and  honour 

I was born with ambition, and it doesn’t have to go away because I have a vagina. 

This Is Not A Cry For Help

 

Since the lone wolf has been glamourized beyond realistic boundaries, I thought I’d bring to light what it really is like to be alone and lonely.

 

It isn’t being a sharp-mouthed, black-toting, misanthropic, mysterious creature of the night.

 

It’s breaking piggy banks as a five year old to buy friendship bracelets to hand out at school, and returning with empty wrists. It is feigning illness as a child to avoid going to the park, because you can’t tell your mother that nobody would play with you.

It’s inviting people to your tenth birthday and having nobody show up at all. It’s sleeping through the rest of your birthdays because there’s nothing special about them.

 

It’s being in a group but feeling left out, as if you’re not really a part.  It is having so much on your mind but nobody to discuss it with.

It’s busying yourself with chores and schoolwork and art and music, because there is nobody to hang out with. It’s  knowing that your talents are a by-product of your loneliness.

 

It’s going days, even weeks, without having any interaction with people other than your family. It is the nagging reminder that even your family is stuck with you without an option to bail.

It’s going through preschool to graduation without having any real or lasting friendships. It’s telling yourself that all of it will change in college.

 

It’s watching people enjoy with their friends and wondering what it is about you that repels friendships and close relations. It’s seeing the relationships between friends in books and movies and wondering why you can’t have any even half as good.

It’s an everpresent anxiety about your appearance, the thought that maybe there is something wrong about the first impressions you put across. 

It is having regular breakdowns and crying into your pillow, wondering what is wrong with you.

 

It’s putting other people before you, only to watch them leave and accuse you of indifference. It’s believing people when they tell you you’re toxic. It’s pretending like you prefer being left alone because you don’t want people to pity you.

It’s typing out texts to the people on your contacts list but not sending them because you don’t want to seem too desperate or needy. It’s waiting for people to want to talk to you, in vain.

It’s remaining forgotten till someone needs a favour. It’s never being able to ask for favours because there is nobody you can ask who would be willing to help.

 

It’s constantly feeling like a black sheep, an outsider, a misfit and an imposter. It’s the inability to share your secrets and the musings of your mind. It’s being flippant and making jokes to cover up how you really feel.

It’s brushing off any attention you might get, for fear of getting used to it.

 

It’s making long internet searches on mental illnesses, begging for an explanation as to why you are as sad as you are. It’s the crushing amount of courage it takes to keep yourself from giving up.

 

It’s the inability to get a load off your chest. It’s nothing like you’ve been led to believe. It is just you ending up putting down the things you feel onto paper, reminding and convincing  yourself that this is not a cry for help.