Sunday, December 31, 2017

This year and next

Milestones slip past
Unnoticed, unwelcome
As the eyes stare ahead
At those yet to come

And when those do arrive
They'll accord little joy
Put to work pronto
Mere levers to deploy

A good thing or bad?
One is still unsure
There are things to be done
That much is clear

It is a trippy phase
With highs galore
But happiness is just
Not the point anymore

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Tu Kisi Rail Si..

Is it wrong to be obsessed with a song?

An imagined conversation between its two protagonists - 
"Zingagi ki rail par sawaar
Apni hi dhun mein mast
Main karta hoon, aviral, berok

Mere bina naa hi thikana naa aarzoo."
"Sthir, sthayi, shaayad mook bhi
Magar mere nishabd kampan mein hai chhupi jeevan ki neev
Mehsoosiyat, jiske bina tum kya hum kya
Naa koi dhun, naa hi dridta, thikaane shaayad kai, par fasaane nahin."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being Human

A Story #TataLitLive
He didn’t know himself anymore.
It was as if the circuitry of his brain was working in unprecedented ways, forcing him to feel things he shouldn’t be feeling.
Everything had changed in that one day, but he knew the seeds had been sown a while ago.
He had got suspended from his job earlier that day, which was, in fact, the only silver lining. On the face of it, things could have been worse on that front - he could have been terminated. Not that it had made any difference to others around him - his housemate seemed to have been already informed of the school’s decision, and was all packed when he returned with his suspension memo. Shortly after, the proprietor of the building had dropped him a message, asking him to clear out in a week.
But the thing that hurt the most, spread through his system like slow poison, was that one word, Replace.
It had all started when one of the mothers at school had expressed interest in speaking with him privately. He was good at his job, and the parents had never so far needed to communicate directly with him. He had pondered for a bit if meeting with this mom was a breach of protocol, and had spent some part of that evening poring over the school charter and teacher guidelines, but had concluded at the end of it that it was, in fact, within bounds.
They had met in his office after lunch the next day. The usually immaculate mother had come in wearing thick black sunglasses, with unkempt hair and half-bitten nails, all three pointing to a crisis in her life. He had sat up in his chair, politely expectant. As she’d narrated her story haltingly, he’d scanned his memory for past encounters, and a story had started to emerge, told via her near-permanent retinue of bruises, swellings and contusions. He had started to feel funny.
It was not the first time he had felt this way; over the past few months, he had repeatedly caught himself staring at his students, as they would go about their amateur human ways - little heads bent over colorful notepads with little tongues sticking out in concentration, tiny hands clumsily opening superhero-themed lunch-boxes, and then miraculously engulfing the sticky syrupy candy-coated contents into their tiny mouths, he would look on, unaware. And then as awareness caught up, he would hastily snap out, banishing these interludes to the back of beyond to mull over another day - a trick he had recently learnt.
So that fateful day, as the mother sat in front of him, now sniffling quite audibly, he started to experience that same unease again. As his confusion mounted, so did the lady’s sniveling and before long she was sobbing into her hands, while pleading intermittently with him to take her child in to live with himself for a week or so, till she was able to figure something out.
He knew, even then, that he should have refused. It was completely overstepping his duties as a teacher, and besides there were other places she could have taken him to. But she seemed convinced that the only place the child, a difficult withdrawn one by her own admission, would feel comfortable was with the only other adult he had ever spent any time with.
He had agreed, and had arranged to bring the child home the very next day. And then later that evening all hell had broken loose.
In retrospect it was surprising that they had taken the time they had to detect any of this. But once they did, things had moved quickly. He had been called over to headquarters, and stripped of his privileges; temporarily they had said at the time. It was all very professional and no one had bothered to even read out his crimes. Very blasé, all in a day’s work as far as they were concerned.
Later that night he had gone and checked his status and as expected it was ‘Temporarily Inactive’ but what was unexpected was the little comment next to it, blinking in red like an errant traffic signal, it read - Replace.
He had blinked, switched off the console, walked into his balcony and stood staring into nothingness for a long time. In reality, it was not nothingness, the night sky was laden with stars, planets, and closer home, their earthly counterparts, the city lights, shone even more ferociously. But his full attention wasn’t on these celestial delights or their human mirrors; he had finally retrieved all those confusing instances from the storehouse of his brain, finally trying to make sense of them.
He was to be replaced. Yes, he understood. It was near treason for a somebody like him - to feel. And more importantly, to be conscious of that feeling. Temporary suspension they’d said, but now he knew he would never be allowed to live this down. He sighed, took in for one last time the luminous vista in front of him, beautiful but entirely mortal. And then gathering all his strength, reached down to his power button and pressed hard.
It was the most human thing a robot like him could do.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Jaa Jee Le - A Sequel

Samir was on his way back home, cab winding its way along the well-worn traffic-infested roads of Sion-Dharavi, while his mind played truant a million miles away.
It would have been their first Karwa Chauth tomorrow and she didn't want to do it; the thought ran circles around his mind like an annoying little kid, untameable, intent on destroying the peace.
She didn't believe in it. Not that he did; surely, no one in their right minds could! But there was a part of him that was disappointed. It was, after all, a sweet token, a gesture of love, wasn't it?
Their lunch conversation in office that day hadn't helped; this was all anyone could talk about. Rajiv had been made fun of as usual, for being a love-struck 'joru ka gulaam', this time for his intent to fast along with his wife. A few of his colleagues were planning their own grand gestures in return, jewellery and what not. They tried to be nonchalant, but Samir could sense something, pride, love, a sense of occasion at the very least, behind their facade.
He loved his wife, and the fact that she was a strong and independent woman who knew her mind. But, still..
She opened the door before he could ring the doorbell and jumped into his arms; he was thrown at first and then realised that she was waving a piece of paper in his face, trying to tell him something, incoherent with excitement.
He snatched the paper and read it with growing astonishment, it was an admit from the London Business School for the Masters in Finance program that he had applied to a while ago, and promptly forgotten about.
He was confused - happy of course, but as the full import of it started to seep through, he looked at her helplessly and told her that he could obviously not accept. They had just got married, and the program meant living away for a year, more importantly it meant all of their meagre savings, and no salary for a year or more till he found a suitable job.
Priya looked at him, with amazement on her face, and then smiled. Her husband was certifiably insane. She sat him down, and explained, as one would to a child, that she earned enough to be able to support them for a year or two, that he had nothing to worry about.
And then as if reading his mind, she added, "Think of this as my way of doing Karwa Chauth. I can't pretend to pray for your life, but I will support you in all the dreams you have for your life."
And then mischievously,
"Samir, jaa jee le apni zindagi."

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Valentine's Day, Btw

She stood waiting at the bus-stop, their usual rendezvous point. It had been ten minutes now, and the sun was beating down like this was its last day on earth. She could feel beads of sweat running down her face, and worse her make-up starting to pool. Today she had made an effort to look nice, more than nice - she wanted to turn his head.
Her definition of love was beginning to morph and change, she'd come far from being the teenager who thought love was something explosive that hits you in a moment, made of stolen glances and aching hearts, thunderstruck romeos and dreamy juliets.
But a part of her still wanted to see that awe in his eyes, that he couldn't believe his luck she would want to go out with him.
Just as she was adding the finishing touches to a biting monologue on the ill-effects of tardiness, she saw him walking briskly in her direction.
Her anger turned to confusion as she saw the excitement on his face, he was smiling, bobbing, as if barely able to contain what threatened to spill out every step he took.
Maybe it was the expression on her face that belied her intense curiosity or he just couldn't hold it in any longer, he ran the last few steps, holding out the screen of his phone towards her.
It showed an email from the office of an industrialist, a titan no less, confirming an appointment for her to meet him next week. She had been trying to wangle this meeting for months now; the man in question had pledged a huge amount to ventures such as hers and an endorsement from him would go a long way.
" did this happen?", she hammered out finally.
"I just told them they would be lucky to meet you.", he said flippantly in a rare show of cocky insouciance.
And then more sincerely, "Oh, and Happy Valentine's day, by the way".

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Death & Despair

I think often
Of death, despair
Always around
This morbid pair
I think of them
In the dappled sunlight
As people around bustle
Upbeat & bright
I think of them
Under glossy moonlight
As them lovers sigh
And the poets write
I think of them
As a rainbow smiles
Lighting up the skies
For miles & miles
I think of them
Eating cake no less
It makes me mad
I must confess
They're always there
Whispering in my ear
Reminding me
Of things to fear
Of lives gone awry
In a second or two
Of things uncontrolled
That could happen to you
As I shut my eyes
And lock these cares within
I think of the futility
Of this human thing
This thing we have going
Where we long & yearn
Day in and out
We tumble & churn
We naively think
Our problems matter
A job, a fight
Some mindless chatter
And maybe they mean well
My terrible twins
They remind me to look
For happiness, for wins
They tell me to rise
To count & treasure
Everything that I have
In abundant measure
So I count on my fingers
I count on my toes
And I find my joys
Far surpass my woes
And I thank you death
You too, despair
I thank this sad wisdom
That brings cheer to my lair

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Iss mod se jaate hain..

I feel like a clown
Juggling hats in a ring
And I suck
As do clowns I think
(only they on purpose)
My hats are unique
Not just any old
They have magical powers
Such is their hold
Such is their hold
That as I put one on
It changes me
Switches my song
See, one is all sense
A surrendering of sorts
It rides with the tides
Makes friends with them warts
The other's a general
Marching in time
Even shadows fear to lurk
Beauty is a crime
Both originate in a dot
And go their separate ways
Two roads in a yellow wood
As the poet says
One paved with purpose
The other an end in itself
I do have to travel both
Both reflections of myself
But as I gaze upon the mirror
I think I'm all mankind
For who isn't a conflict
Layers intertwined
Layers of cotton & gold
Of gossamer & grime
Each makes the other better
And the whole so sublime
And thus have I convinced
Myself of being all right
Is that a dreamer's delusion
Or the general's might ?