Happy Birthday, Ross Papa.

Just because we’ve never met, doesn’t make our relationship an ‘if’. It is. 

Before I existed, you knew the impact you’d have on my life. You knew you’d help me and in your love I’d find comfort and from you I’d grow. This is how we continue to live. In each other. 

I’m here because I’m carrying on what you started. I’m giving them what they’ve lost, just like you have for me. 

Your heart never stopped beating because I’m not new, I’m old mud.

I love you. Happy Birthday, Ross Papa.

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Starbright

Oh my
One eye
Magnified
Through glass
From all the farce
This was something true
Who are you, my precious?
Why a gem lay in this crevice?
“Me? I know not half of what you do
I am nothing much but less than a few”
Ah and who did speak such to enlighten you?
All the built theories came tumbling down
Emptied from the rush without a sound
And words for a moment left her
“I keep to my place always
I stay and plainly blaze”
And that is simply it
Of you to us give
So stay still
Smile
Live

This is the finding of yourself

On a mat as your workbench

Your hand steadied your heart with a pencil

And everyone around you saw it.

You uncovered a part.

 

When the birds flew away

You held one back and

Put yourself in its cage

To grow a heavy feather.

 

Heap of flesh

Back bended

Heart pulling you down because you refuse to let go of anything bad.

Hanging alive.

 

You are searching

Not looking

But finding,

On a mat alone when no one knows you,

Yourself.

On love and loss

Different things at different times provoke different degrees of an emotion from me. But never at any point do they mean nothing at all. 
If I loved you once, I will love for all time. 

Like the angles sunlight falls at, it’s intensity varing noticeably every hour. I am the day that hopes to last forever. The relentless afternoon unfortunately, the 6 o’clock evening softness, the dawn. I am also the illusion of dusk falling, because I am only human. But you know, the sun still shines behind the mountains. Would you call that unfortunate?

Phases of the Moon

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There are refreshments other than tea that Indians enjoy. Thank goodness for that because Rao needed a change. His tea stall was sold, the removables packed up and the customers left unsettled and a little lethargic. Although he was grey and old, his tastes kept him from feeling his age. They dictated his way of life, kept him working hard even at 64 and took him on a cycle to the beaches of Calicut, selling ice-cream.

 

The sound of the cycle’s bell beckoned everyone whiling away their time to stop and have an ice-cream. Or two.
Every afternoon just before lunch when Kozhikode was most crowded, Rao would ride its sands, ruining good appetites. Despite the sun’s peak the beach was filled with people. What people do for pleasure and how they vacation are not for us to question. Rao certainly didn’t, he was happy that it all fell in line for him.

 

Aadhira was on vacation too, spending more time at the beach than with her grandmother whose house overlooked it. Typically nine years old, she was indistinguishable from any other. After cooling herself in the water and when the findings in the sand lost its novelty for the day, she would wait for Rao at the spot she knew he’d stop. She’d have two ice-creams despite being given money sufficient for just one. The second one was free. You see, summer vacations last long enough to build friendships and set routines. Rao loved watching her, as he approached, patiently waiting. Even from a far distance he could see her smiling. It was another reason he made a shift to ice-cream – the faces that need tea are much different from those that want ice-cream. That and the conversations – discussions over tea include such unsubstantial assessing of life. And Rao had been exposed to enough.

 

She was the first and last customer of his afternoon shift. While he worked, Aadhira would sit on the sand just in front of the cycle looking out at the infinite stretch of water eating ice-creams. The beach was hers, as we feel is every place with a view. He would join her later when everyone finally retreated for shade, and they would speak. About just the beach. And although they knew nothing about the other’s life, they knew each other. Aadhira understood Rao in the way a nine year old would. This is how he enjoyed her company, and she his. There’s a certain type of acceptance that only a child can give. It’s because they accept themselves first.

 

He handed her her second ice-cream and sat two feet away from her.

“It’s so bright but I can’t see the sun only,” she arched her back and looked up far behind to find it.

“It burst,” he replied nonchalantly. She immediately looked at him suspicious of a lie. He avoided her eyes afraid of giving in to them. But they persisted, and conquered him.

The sound of the waves drowned their giggles.

 

The days of Aadhira’s vacation rolled by and soon, away.
It was a new week, Rao cycled to an empty spot. He wondered. Seemingly, she had vanished, like a new moon. Illiterate and ignorant in such matters, it didn’t strike him to think about her schooling in another city, he had simply assumed she shifted or some other such alternative, or she was just late. And she didn’t think a goodbye would be required – he would be there next summer. Things are quite inconsequential at nine and sixty-five; at one you’re oblivious, at the other you’re lenient with life.

 

He kept an eye out for her through his day. Patrons came and went but none of them were regulars. He even waited beyond his usual hours, not with the hope that she might turn up but with the fear that she will. He went over his thoughts of asking around about Aadhira’s absence, but decided against it. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t, because while their conversations included the spotting of birds and the intruding crabs and the chipped shells, they were too shy to enquire about names.
But had they, he would later come to realise how apt hers is.

 

***

 

Picture Credits: Nitish Singh

 

Yours


Since Your breath kindled my fingers to move

As it does everyday

I have come not far, not an inch

I have nothing to offer You.

Returned with Your gifts untouched

My hands held them steady

And the work You asked of me

Busied someone else.

Nothing to my name

I am no writer

The love in me, is but Yours

The light I rode to get here is Yours

I am nothing, but Yours.

In the midnight hour

​I know it too. 

To be scared of losing something before it begins.

Of never knowing the warmth of a touch upon yours. 

Of missing out on what could have been your best.

Come, let the night pass, the worry will too. And the light of the sun, when it comes, will tear at your distress and the ruling of the day will belittle these nocturnal thoughts. 

Let’s not heed to the call of the midnight hour any more. 

Let’s not be part-time poets and philosophers musing over thoughts that invite themselves upon the drop of silence. 

Let’s go to sleep. You won’t lose me overnight. 

Strong Woman, the song.

I wrote this a year back.

Mizael DeRosario composed the melody and lent his voice to these words. Thank you, Miz. Will always love you.

Posting this now isn’t a result of delay, it’s just perfect timing.

 

STRONG WOMAN

You know where your hair ends. And you know where your back begins
Under its horizons, where your blades sing
But only I know you
Were made for love
Parts and pieces I’ve seen as you show
Strong strong woman
Hand held out for me, because your touch heals
Wiping away hurt, you’ve stained my shirt. And I know you’ve been here before
Won’t you come here
I’ve written songs for you
Come like you always do
Strong strong woman
You don’t dance or sing
But I’ve seen your soul
And you’re beautiful
For a while and longer
Hold me and don’t be strong
Strong strong woman
And steal my eyes, take them with you
And show me perspective, a new world where I’ve always lived
And we’ll scratch our names everywhere
And on walls, I’ll paint your picture
And now, I’ve seen your core
And now, I know more of you today
Strong strong woman.
Body shaped to hold
Sold! I’m yours.

Leave it under the mat

​You can’t go back in time to place a hand on the shoulder of your younger self, but you can consciously leave something to help the future you breathe a little more easily. Like a key under the mat. Leave a piece of advice, leave a memory, a reminder. I did. I told myself to remind me this: it will be hard but it will be alright. I sat myself down and said, “She’s gonna want to stop and turn around and run in the opposite direction. Don’t let her. Remind her how strong she was in this moment we sit here, and tell her how smart she was in this moment we sit here. Tell her that she still is.”

I’m leaving love under the mat. Use it to open your mind. Maybe give it to someone after you’ve filled your heart and bones. Yea, give it to someone after you’ve filled your heart and bones. 

Happy Birthday, Papa.

It’s where we come from that makes us, no? I’ve come from the balcony where we sat and shared food and counted planes; from your bedside where we played cards and helped each other cheat, and from the kitchen where you had cut fruit for me. I have so many memories of you, and I have to thank you for them because through them you remain close. Because of them, I still feel the warmth of the days only we shared. Happy Birthday, Papa. I love you. 

25th September 2016