The art of lying

I love you.

 You looked away.

Was I joking? You ask.

Yes. Of course. Love is for mermaids and barbies. Love is not for me. It is an incomprehensible mystery that doesn’t interest me. I have watched too many backs walk into the distance. I know, forever is a mythical three eyed beast.

 Yes you say. You deny its existence and put off meeting it till eternity.

You call me your friend. Do you want the title? You mock me with those uncertain eyes.

 No I don’t! Because I love an empty bed in the mornings. I never think of fooling around in the kitchen on a Sunday. Just us. Never. I don’t want to run my fingers through your hair and watch you smile in your sleep. The thought of you reading me a poem as I drift into a dream. With your voice rolling in the distance amongst the threads of my imagination. Why would I want those things?

Nobody in your life knows I exist. You never said it. But I knew. You were always holding back. I take time letting people in. You said.

You were always hidden. Like that garden guarded by walls I could not scale. I have a wall too, every brick is a scar. I was that girl who had her heart put back together so many times, she didn’t know it could work again. But I had a back door because I had hope. And through that I let you in. To you I must be a monster because I never found yours.

  
But there were gaps you couldn’t seal. I saw that lonely heart through your timid gaze. When I looked away and felt your eyes on me I saw a yearning. When you thought I was drunk and won’t remember you told me you didn’t trust easily, I knew you were fighting to keep me out and let me in. When you called me because we hadn’t seen each other in days, I knew my voice made you smile. You were my secret garden. 

Does it bother you? You asked one day. Not knowing me well enough?

No. I am not inquisitive. I saw glimpses of you and created the rest. But knowing will ruin it. Knowing you are flawed like me. Knowing you run wild like overgrown weeds. Knowing you dream of ridiculous things. Knowing you are capable of love. But incapable of loving me.

So I lied.

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Unfinished conversations

“There is flattery in friendship” – William Shakespeare.

I don’t know if you remember, but the first time we talked it was about literature. You said you love Shakespeare’s comedy plays. And all I could do was smile.

You seemed to like Indian ghazals. I did not tell you I cry every time I listen to “kagaz ki kashti”. Or that sometimes i dream of that unknown silhouette and a midnight seranade with an old Hindi song I heard over the radio.

You are the only person (without dentures or wrinkles) who knows a perfect cup of tea is a work of art.

I know you have your own version of literary characters. I often wonder how different your Anna Karenin is from mine. Every time someone mentions Sherlock Holmes do you conjure him out of thin air and does it remind you of the smell of pipe tobacco?

Sometimes I wish I didn’t hide behind a veil of *everything blonde*! I will never find out if you like moments of silent meditation.

Paris in the rain or the sound of hoofs on paved London streets? Lonely passes in the Himalayas or the parathewali galli in Chandni Chowk?

You know the subtle beauty of old age. It is not the profound wisdom but the toothless smile of innocence. That is why our grandparents are our best friends.

I met a dreamer and did not ask if his dreams ever came true.

These unfinished conversations will haunt me forever. Of Philosophical discussions, of favourite Rusty stories, of tea on a rainy day, of sunsets and valleys.

Goodbye and good luck.

B



The scarlet letter

Shards of glass all around me,

An eye streaked with tears,

Dark mascara staining the bloodless cheek

Bright red lips silently trembling.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free.

 

 

A heart that beats woefully,

Betrayal and incomprehension weighing it down.

A mind lost to a hurricane of thoughts,

Fragmented memories and frightening scenes.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

Voices outside my head talk to those inside,

Caught in the crossfire I lie unable to move.

My lifeless hand with that scarlet A looks up at me,

A pool of blood and the ravings of a madwoman.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

The whiskey bottle and my pen, beacons through the fading vision,

And I write on that paper. Ink. Blood. Tears.

Your scornful words, your despising words,

They find my language incomprehensible.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free.

 

 

It was base of me to have lived my youth,

When it is honourable for you to overlook heinous crimes?

It was selfish of me to have danced in merriment and give in to hopeless abandon,

When you scared innocence out of your heart?

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

I blame you not! In my letter, I write of my soul

The endless ocean, the crashing waves,

The unyielding desert, stillness and silence.

The night sky, each light, a smile, a tear from my lonely life flicker.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

For my soul is untouched like a new born babe.

The dignity of my body, lost to your talk.

Enslaved my freedom, chained to that look of disdain.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

You see me for who I am but don’t comprehend,

I am freer than a bird, I soar higher than an eagle.

My story, not scandalous as you claim, it is but like the sky.

warmth of a sunny day, cloaked in darkness of a moonless night.

 

 

I can’t sit still, for soon I die;

In my ashes I shall be free

 

 

One sheet of paper, smudged at places,

All there will be, this is my memory.

 

 

To the girl who believes in happy endings

Dear little me,

I wish I got this letter growing up, I wish time travel existed. You are only fifteen, and I may be only twenty three but I have so much to say.

You dream of that stranger on a white horse and imagine you are being held captive in your home. That wistful look is one of innocence and ignorance. You don’t know what a heartbreak is. You have not spent hours, days even weeks trying to shut out the world. You have never experienced the free fall when that hand holding yours just disappears.

Turrets and rainbows turn into faded pictures and monsters in your closet. You think after half a dozen not-so-happy-endings you would be numb to happiness or pain. But that doesn’t happen. You meet the seventh prince (they dress in tee shirts and don’t call you darling), and your heart skips a beat and you blush like you did when your crush talked to you during recess. It truly is the you could have danced all night and still have begged for more kind of a feeling. Until the day it isn’t.

But scaring you into a life of loneliness is not what I want. There may be no happy ending but there is happiness. To know what it feels like when he reads the owl and the pussycat under that old elm tree. To know how the thought of him smiling makes you feel loved even though he is miles away. To have that one picture where he is not looking at the camera but at you and his eyes say more than words ever will. To forever cherish that night he cooked dinner (yes, rocks taste better) and you danced….your shadows intertwined in the candlelight. To have that one song that reminds you all at once about how he made you feel. And yes the fights hurling the first thing you find at him over losing a game of scrabble or is-that-lipstick-on-your-collar? Making up after the fights because it really was just tomato sauce(yes the tests confirmed it, not a false negative, yes I am sure).

Sometimes it will not be about love. You will make choices that end in a 7 AM taxi ride (messy hair and heels in your hand) or an empty bed and an almost illegible note. They may be stupid decisions (like the last whiskey shot) but you get to decide if they are right or wrong.

There will be a time when love will take a backseat. You will want to change the world, to grow wings and fly. Don’t dismiss that person who made you laugh. Don’t give up on someone who can hold his end of the conversation. Yes it will end and yes it will hurt. But if you do, someday you will look back you will regret letting him go without a fight. Because love that doesn’t last is just as true as the love that does.

I will not tell you to love yourself because what’s not to love?!

So promise me you will never give up. He will never be what you expected, maybe you meet six guys before you meet him maybe sixty. Maybe you meet someone else after you meet him and maybe he turns out to be Harry to your Sally. Maybe you meet him in high school and he is your prom date or maybe when you are in an old age home half demented and losing bladder control. Just promise me you will never give up on love.

Your so-very-messed-up-23-year-old-self

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The veiled feminist.

When I walk down the markets you see an oppressed woman all I see are feet and blurred outlines. Do I like not being able to look up at the clear blue sky except from the window of my room? Is it my life’s dream to follow a man on a path that isn’t mine mine? Do I not crave adventure? I am just like you. But to the child born and raised in a dungeon the sunlight is blinding.

You say let go of your chains. Walk free. All I can think of is my family. My mother who spent her life being my living shield. My grandmother who couldn’t hope and lived her life cloaked in fear. My sisters who deflect this question by “the veil? What do you mean? I am ravishing in black!”

We are in awe of your confidence and long legs. But we don’t aspire to be you. We want to be invisible but seen, to be loved not coveted, to get drunk on freedom but not lose our senses. “So change. Drop that veil. Fight.” You have not watched your daughter tortured for your mistakes. To fear for your life and that ones you love. So don’t judge me if I keep the veil. If you have only known the familiarity of a cage the skies are daunting. I do not make excuses for living my life, I just live it.

I am your comrade in war but for now I will keep my veil. You might lose a job over an angry outburst I might lose my life. Don’t pity me, don’t judge me, don’t help me. There may be times when you have my back and there will be days when I have yours. For an idea to take life it must be accepted with open arms not forced. So the revolution is silent, it is slow, but it will keep humanity going.

I try. I may not have wings but I wish them for my daughters. I teach my sons what it means to be born equal. And I know the day I will be buried the white clouds will roll by silently, the birds will sing of love, the flowers will bloom and the bees will hum. And there from that grave my soul will rise towards the clear blue sky.

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Hauntings

A face, her face,
Strains of a song,
Wafting into the room,
And a bleeding heart.

My heavy heart,
My bitter tears,
Her arms around me,
And her lips on mine.

Our bed? Our space?
Her raggedy doll,
And her peaceful face,
Her tiny hands holding mine,
Dreams cloaked by sleepy eyes.

Her laugh like a wave,
So innocent, so soothing,
Watching her sleep, amused,
Head on the pillow feet in the air.

If she had loved I couldn’t ask,
If she had asked I wouldn’t tell,
If she had felt that way,
I wouldn’t be writing this today.

A thunderstorm in my chest,
She stands there in white,
Oh how Cupid mocks!
As I watch him take her arm.

She looks at me,
Standing at the door
Suddenly the shadows shift ,
My eyes had so much to say.

She couldn’t understand.
Should I tell her I loved her?
an inaudible whisper escaped.
Betrayal and hurt in her eyes,
metal doors close,
a conversation unfinished.

On the island of my heart,
wind whistled, palm trees swayed,
Crusoe on that raft drifting away,
days got longer, nights colder,
My eye on the horizon,
It grows weary each day.

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Life lessons from my grandmother

She is 86 a surgeon in retirement and a real badass.

#1 the pubertal,hormonal, immature kind of love happens. And then one day it leaves you lying flat on the pavement with your nose touching the ground.
When it was my turn and I was 17 she called me to her room. Asked me to sit down. And said “it will hurt and you will bleed. But you will live through it. And you will never fall head over heels again. Because whenever love truly is
it is forever. It is not the excitement of youth but the comfort of old age.”

#2 karma is THE bitch. No one is a goody two shoes and when you mess with someone you get your ass kicked.
I was not quite the devil in prada (those girls are in for major ass kicking). I was the girl in dirty sneakers who one day decided to fight back. The teacher called home to tell my parents what I did to miss prissy.
My grandmother heard about it and next day on the phone all she said to me was “young lady, don’t get your hands dirty. You will always have an assassin to do it for you she is called karma.”

#3 DIY.
Be it a card or a cake it is best when you do it yourself. The fun of the process, the glue and glitter on your hands, the ruined kitchen table, the messy apron, the hours of admiring that ‘masterpiece’. All of it, immensely satisfying.

#4 Over achieve
She always says she is a woman of average intelligence and almost pleasant to look at. When she was down and out she imagined her most difficult case and said tomorrow it could be a patient with acreeta (a condition where the placenta that attaches the baby’s cord to the mothers uterus invades into her abdomen) with twins and i have to keep standing if they will ever have a shot at life.

#5 Family is everything.
You have friends and then you don’t. But the one thing as constant as the sun is your family. She (whom her father did not leave much in his will) fed and clothed the children of her almost royal step sister(who squandered the wealth that comes with being the first child of a very competent judge and counsellor to a king). When I asked why she looked at me with those all knowing eyes, “the cinders and soot from the kitchens blackened my skin and clothes but it couldn’t touch my heart.”

#6Treasure. “Some people covet gold and diamonds. But they forget about that old box of precious things, a broken pencil from the first time you spoke to your crush, the sweater you knit for your child, the letters from your mom when you were at medical school, the trinket the love of your life got you during that walk through the local market. They are the gems of a life full of love.”

#7 make up is a face devoid of beauty. “The colour in your cheeks should be that which comes with a good haemoglobin level and a long walk through the moors. Never forget, the twinkle in your eyes and the smile on your lips and the tousled hair every morning will be beautiful till the end of time.”

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