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


Broken Petals


Broken Petals_2.jpg

There were shreds of petals all over the floor. Of roses with fragrance. The bunch scattered after it fell from the table. The vase might have rolled under the bed, it was no where in sight. Red spots dotted the ground and white feet stood surrounded by them. Black eyes surveyed; confusion did not satisfy curiosity and they searched for answers in the mess. The mind was focused, or stagnant with stale perception.

Raahil heard the fall from his bedroom and ran towards her, Maya, where she stood on bloody roses. He stood at the door, hands on its frame, confirming his thoughts and then hurried towards her trying to avoid the shards of glass. “Don’t move,” he shouted but he didn’t need to, she was standing very still. He got to her and picked her up. They both held each other tight. Raahil was annoyed – “I told her not to. That damn vase. Should’ve filled it and weighed it down.”. Maya felt safe touching something she understood – her brother. An observation – they’d discover so much of themselves if they’d exchange and embrace each others’ names. It would be an uncovering, a turning to light of a part of self that they had no mind about, and all because they gave it a chance to be. It – themselves. 

“Why did you walk into this mess?” unbothered about who created it in the first place because it was an inevitable accident – that rose studded vase wouldn’t last. Obviously, it was her. Or the wind, it could’ve whipped the curtain or shaken the table. Or it was her. “How did the petals break?” her voice was inaudible, but he was close enough to hear her. “I told you they were delicate,” he spoke mindlessly, naturally, as he carried her to the bathroom. They were both present to their own thoughts, only hers were questions. “But how can petals break?” she asked after a while. “The whole vase is made of glass, Maya,” he said gently washing her feet. “Shit,” again mindlessly. 

She had stood before, in the corner of the room where the vase was safe and ignored and the petals fresh and soft, looking for answers with her touch. The painted details felt velvety.

“The closer I get, the more I’ll know.”
“These flowers, they’re so different, so beautiful.”
“Why does Raahil not notice these flowers? Why doesn’t he realise how pure they look and how beautiful they are? I can’t stay away from them anymore, who cares what he says.”

She treated them like they were too real; like they could welcome her to the force of nature that they brought with them. He treated them like they were too fragile to handle its purpose. Her feet hurt, the petal ruins lay in a bin and two minds perceived the same thing differently.



*Raahil, an Islamic name meaning ‘path guider’
Maya means illusion.


Home To

I love her for her oblivion. The last thing I want is to carry work home. My bad days crave her company because she overlooks their power to persist through the night; gloom is disarmed and forced to fade. So when I do get home, I go to a different world where I get to actually forget about little annoyances that I can effortlessly magnify.
It’s easy with her. She makes it easy without trivialising things.

“Exams begin next week, right? Yeah, work was good. Still refining the Happy Creeks project,” I reply.

Her name is Sharadini, it means autumn and she feels like it. If you had the honour of holding her in your arms, you’d agree with me. She’s a teacher and her kids adore her. We all do.
Our backs are to each other, I’m folding clean laundry, she’s checking our bills. As I finish speaking I turn around to love her from five feet away, her silk blouse is in my hands.

I can see her concentrating. She snaps out in a second, looks at me and smiles. I die again. It’s like a wave throwing me down, drowning my heart. She’s mundane now, how can she kill me over and over with a flood like that.

“Speaking of projects, check this out,” she walks to me and grabs my hand knowing that I won’t follow her without her coaxing. She knows me and she doesn’t have time for that. I drop the blouse on the bed and we walk to the living room.

“Woah! What’s all this?”

“Our project.”

“Our project?”

She had opened the balcony door to almost fifteen different potted plants, a pebbled path to the center of them, and a ridiculous electrical fountain about a foot high in a corner near the switch board – a garden, our project.

We carve out a life together. It’s exciting.


For the Love of Curd


(Part I)



For Kay

The world cannot offer you what you’re worth.

Happy Birthday.




The lassi swirled through the streets – the flyovers, the bridge, the main roads, the gallis – again and again, around and around. The taxi sped from location to location but the lassi only made its way from madhka to lips, because in the hands of Gurbin Preet Panwar, it was safe.


Today he wore a red turban, it was five forty and he drank his lassi from an unusually tall earthen tumbler rather slowly. Lassi had to be drunk quickly like every other milk concoction but he savoured the whole ceremony for far too long, swirling it in the glass and prolonging his gulps. Every drop was accounted for, even those that creamed his moustache.


The driver manoeuvred the car swiftly over potholes, missing none of them. Both, passenger and driver ungracefully swayed. Gurbin kept his eye on the green plastic grapes that hung from the rear view mirror by a thick thread. It bounced around violently trying to break free. But no milk escaped the madhka because each bump was compensated by a skilled undulating hand. To have that level of control over liquid while traversing a city in India, takes experience and skill. It’s about knowing your car, its driver and your glass; the road it takes, his occupation and what it holds. An old Premier Padmini is only too different from a new anything. The highway is not a galli. A doctor cruises, a student speeds and a taxi driver doesn’t care. And lassi has it’s own consistency.

Gurbin was in an old Padmini, its driver didn’t care, the cab was about to enter into another galli and milk does not get wasted.


He sipped the lassi. Ma’s lassi was thicker and richer, and you’d be capable drinking it without difficulty through any potholed street. He sipped again. Masum Panwar had a technique no one knew about. Once when he was eleven, he had watched her make lassi in the kitchen. She added a pinch of something. Cardamom? Saffron? No one knew. When Gurbin asked her, she replied, “Love”. He never believed her even for a second though he loved her. He accepted her secret pinch of something to be a secret left unshared forever. He took a sip. He wished he had pressed for it then, now that getting good lassi isn’t as easy as tugging the border of your Ma’s salwar and complaining about how hot the day was. Getting to Saab Sindh was a task because it was off his usual route to and from work. He sipped and compared. Ma’s lassi was good. Saab Sindh came close. Heck, it was good too. He couldn’t be that biased. Gurbin looked down into the madhka. Ma filled his childhood with this drink. One glass every day was what toughened his body and kneaded his heart. One glass every day was what made him.

It swirled again in an over inhabited lane. Gurbin concentrated hard on the coldness of the liquid as it moved down his throat. This displaced focus almost made him miss his stop. But the driver had not a sip. The cab halted and snapped Gurbin back to mindfulness.


“Saab, yaha theek hoga?”


“Haan, baas.”


He got off and picked his pockets for cash, but there wasn’t any. Still holding his drink, with his free hand he dug around in his dark brown leather shoulder bag looking for money.


Sana, on the other hand, had plenty in both her pockets but wanted to save her money and time in a five forty-nine Bandra Local. She stepped out of the building mentally planning her course before she routed herself. An evening pleasantry was exchanged between her and the watchman and he proceeded to ask her if he could halt a cab for her, to which she kindly declined. This piqued him because there was an emptying taxi right in front of him. These opportunities to appear great sitting and escaping from right under his nose; his smile disappeared. Sana noticed the cab too. It was the bright red turban wrapped tightly around Gurbin’s head that caught her attention and the madhka in his hand that kept it there. Lassi poured almost instantly through her mind and deluged her map to the train station. Her mind changed courses. How did she know it was lassi in the earthenware? Because there was only one place in South Bombay that sold lassi like that and there is always a prohibited U-turn everywhere in the city. To the annoyance of the watchman, she approached the taxi.


“Bandra?” she asked the driver.


Baito, he replied without looking at her. He was looking for change to break the heavy note Gurbin gave him.


Gurbin stepped aside to allow Sana into the taxi, but she didn’t move. Sana had her feet planted on the ground and her eyes glued to the lassi. She couldn’t help but peek into the madhka in search of true love. So she did. This, Gurbin noticed and followed her eyes. For one brief moment two pairs of eyes focused on Punjab’s pride – one violated the milk, the other tried to protect it. Gurbin tightened his grip around the madhka and slowly retreated his arm in safety. Not that it was extended in the first place. Sana looked up at him, he was already looking at her. His stare accused her guilty gaze.

You think two people who have so much in common would be caught in a moment so awkward. But sharing information about food is very different from actually sharing the food. People don’t do that, just order two.


Through this ordeal, the driver looked on, amused and confused. Sana quickly opened the door and seated herself inside the cab. The driver had only one party to scrutinise now. Gurbin didn’t allow him that privilege. He took his change from the driver’s hand, resting lazily on the door through the window, and was on his way.


The taxi driver ignited the engine. What he didn’t realise was that quite a few (most) people in India can be easily distracted by lassi. He wasn’t one of them.


“Bandra kaha?” he enquired without looking behind.


“Bandra ke phele, aage U-turn lena aur do minute ke liye Saab Sindh ke pas rok dena”, her tone asked more than instructed.


The same thought flitted past their minds. After a concerting moment through the rear view mirror, the taxi driver took his taxi and Sana back to where he had just been. After he parked outside Saab Sindh, he stepped out and bought himself a full lassi also. He drank his lassi leaning against the door of his cab; Sana, in the comfort of its dark interiors.


As he drank the lassi without allowing the rim to touch his lips, he understood; lassi never calls, but you answer anyway.


Sunny Flowers


The florist noticed the newlings. They were the shade that green is born with before it meets the wind and fades or the sun and deepens. He kept his eyes on them as he walked, balancing the four small flowerpots in his arms, towards a makeshift table of bricks in his shop. His shop flourished alongside the road in a broad galli. It lacked walls and a roof. It had a boundary though, one that was defined by potted Sadabahar flowers, Periwinkles.

“Good Morning, Soldiers. Brave the heat and the dust today and tomorrow, and soon you’ll be strong enough to brave the hearts you’ll be given to.”

Take this,” he cupped a hand and downed it in a mug of water, sprinkled the babies with what he expertly managed to collect, “and give it to them. This is what you’re made of – water, sun and air. Of the earth.” He looked at the nodes of his plantlings cupped between two fingers, tender like the skin on the belly of a baby squirrel. “This is what they’re made of also. Give them what they’ve….

A presence distracted him. He looked over his shoulder and followed his eyes till they held the intruder. Errr customer. Yes, the shop was open.

“Ha beta, what can I help you with?” he looked at her lovingly. But she didn’t answer him, she only looked at him softly. He couldn’t let his gaze leave hers. That would be rude. So he waited till her eyes slowly shifted to the saplings. That was when he realised, he was in the company of his children – ones with leaves, and limbs.

“Sunny, what about this?” a man appeared from behind some larger ferns with a small potted ghaneri between his palms. “Kitna?” How much?

Her name is Sunny, it seems; this must be her father – the florist quickly deduced before he answered 45. It was a small plant.

“We’ll take it? I think he’ll like this, no?” he looked at Sunita.

“I like it, so he’ll like it,” she replied confidently.

“Bhai saab,” Sunny’s dad looked at the florist and nodded, taking out a 50.

As they crossed the boundary of the flower shop Sunny did not look back at the man and her sapling siblings but she thought about them. The florist did not look at Sunny as she walked away with her father and went back to his morning conversation with his potted children. “Give them what they’ve lost,” he said.



Although she was skinny, there was something very wholesome about her body. At such a young age she loved wholly but was shy and quiet in front of someone new. She would abandon herself in the arms of those she chose to rest in and allow them to be her security. She, knowingly, offered herself to be theirs. Love like that didn’t seem to take, only give. Her father saw her reach the zenith of love in a few different forms. She held her toys close to her, a four year old expert at mothering. How did she know what to do and how to hold them considering the lack of a female presence in her life so far. She knew that a kiss, so light it felt like air, on his own lips or hand or forehead or cheek would instantly bring her dad back to the safety of his family and home – her. She hugged him in a way a four year old daughter would, but she was a four year old that gave more to her hugs, though he hadn’t anything to compare it to. It was the most marvellous amount of love anyone was capable of giving. That, he knew. Her palm resting on his head, her runny nose on his sleeve, her eyes on him as she slowly gave herself to slumber. She wasn’t like this with anyone else, except him, her grandfather and her dog. He never knew how to respond to her love but to accept it. But she, she knew how to love him and how to be loved by him. What he thought were attempts, she recognised as the core of his heart bared. Children know what is genuine. Maybe because it’s the only thing they know. Sincerity. There was love inside her that was untouched by the world’s definition of it. And she used all of it, all the time and there was always more to give, even when she was very sleepy. Hunger, however, was a different story.

It was love that originated from the purest unknowing heart. Love that was so simple, it was genius, like the way love was created to be. It was love that came from the mind. It was the answer people were looking. Why hadn’t people loved like this before?

“Papa,” said a twenty-five year old Sunny.



“I’m listening,” her grandfather said. He was trying to fix batteries to the television remote.

“Look at me,” she was crying.

“Sunny?” Her grandfather put down the metal and plastic parts of the remote and held her hands in his, passed the warmth his body had been building up unconsciously for this very reason. He lived for her. They sat like that for every second of 10 minutes, holding hands, crying; both of them.

Sunny’s demeanour felt limp in his hands. She was sad but quietly. And that’s the worst kind of sad. It looks defeated.

“Sunny,” he said again. “Look at me, my girl.”

She raised her head and from there her arms as well, and wrapped them around her grandfather.

“Sunny, tell me what’s wrong,” he said as he peeled her from himself. As much as he wanted to hold her tightly, he couldn’t protect her if he didn’t know what he was protecting her from.


“When you’re drained, draw from the earth you’re always rooted to.”


Sunny’s grandfather was Rojan. His body held a calm soul. He could be described the same at every age. His face was broad and thick but deep and caring. As a father, lover and friend he allowed space that wasn’t void between the other and himself. He tried to not shield his son from life, as bad as it came, only to help him understand the transitional nature of it, to be sanguine as he, Rojan, had aimed all his life to be. His wife had time to find herself even after marriage. He watched her plump into the person she was meant to be. He was always there for her. Even when his presence, to him, felt unnecessary, he stayed.

He had this in him, this tendency to ensure people’s growth by merely loving them. It laid innate till he fully acknowledged it.

His twenties were a set of mistakes that took him from one low to another. Friends stood by him and put up with his frivolous living, girls came, came and left, and family he knew nothing of – he was an orphan till 19 when he took employment and found roommates to get him out of the State’s care. When he had finally gotten out, he lived the way he had dreamt all his teenage life but in the process he lied, betrayed trust and hurt everyone and himself. He was aware of the genuine individual he was capable of being but never really tapped into it until later. It wasn’t too late when he consciously started paying mind to his decisions but it certainly was delayed. He thought about the years he spent “trying to be free” and thought of them as clearly wasted.

If anything, the course his life took helped him realise the weight he was able to gain from the sheer presence of people around him, who stayed.

He came through, others would too. He carried this thought with him through his encounters and so, gave support just as he received it.

Sunny, however, was different. According to him, the world had to be perfect for her, nothing could hurt her. As she grew up, he experienced the quintessence of the person she was and realised the futility in protecting her. Her mind was strong and she chose to love. But he was her grandfather and her love seemed, though it wasn’t, delicate.


He looked at her as she tiredly tried to reason out her tears. She looked at him desperately trying to help her. He didn’t know that he already had.


“It, the earth, has moved through seasons. As it turned, it changed. Lands moved apart and closer. Its disparate people ate its disparate fruit. You, younglings, carry the changes of the mud. You will grow tasting the future, seasoned with history.”


The saplings, made of the earth, grew and gave people breath. Sunny, made of older skin, was love with limbs and eyes; love encased in a skinny body.


Under Construction – Sunny Flowers

The story I posted, Sunny Flowers, I noticed, was flawed. A problem I thought I would fix in a few hours and update the blog with the edited narrative. But it seems to be taking a while so I pulled down the original. I won’t delay and I won’t rush but I’ll work on it till it meets my satisfaction. Till then, have a look at my (Tanishka D’lyma and Hues and Words) wall/page on FaceBook for some more reading 🙂

I must say this,
thank you for the support.


Taken by one, had by another

Photographs are an experience to be had.

The photographs in these photographs hold single moments in time, forever. In my hands almost 50 years later, I get to peek into these moments.

Give them your time and listen to them. Can you hear what they’re saying? I want my pictures to say the same thing. It’s what I strive for in photography – for my work to converse with your eyes and lend you your own stories.

No professional hand took these photographs; they were taken by family and they’re perfect. I wish I’d clicked them.

Picture-in-Picture Credits: Unknown

Picture Credits: Tanishka D’lyma









I know you’ve got stories from these photographs. Tell them to me.



Arbour, Above HDFC Bank

The touch of the metal seat against my skin through my clothes was cold. It wasn’t a particularly hot morning; the day was bright and pleasant. I was made to wait and it seemed appropriate to engage myself in some sort of activity to pass time but before me was no more than a whitewashed wall, a clean whitewashed wall probably whitewashed several times over. Why would anyone arrange for seating facing a blank wall? No texture, no art, no dirt even. There was a lone nail in the wall but it bore no clock. Maybe it needed winding or repairs or management wanted a new look. I always wear a watch. It was a quarter to eleven. I stopped counting the seconds and started counting the dust bits that almost slowly moved, waltzing with one another in the single strong beam of ray that slanted in through the window from behind me. Why couldn’t it be in front of me? The day was pleasant and it would’ve made mine so too. After a while of straining my eyes, my mind started to wander. The gentle artistry of the dusty bits’ spectacle drifted me into my thoughts and I began to fine comb through them to see what filament I could find caught between the bristles; what pesky bug I could conquer or dandruff I could pick at. A few little knots tied ever so loosely on big bundles of past memory, experience and knowledge came undone. These were the fun ones. I eyed it no more than a few seconds before leaping head first into it. I played with its intricate inviting strings. I looped myself under and over and very soon lost track of everything physical. I trailed far down memory lane and stopped at a forming structure. I completed it, not with my hands but with every fragment of memory I held. It was a house, one that I knew very well. Houses are not like people, they’re easier to remember. It’s because people are flaky and change their minds too often. Houses don’t shift in any physical manner, let alone their mental frames of mind. People grow, move to new places and think it good; they call it an upgrade. But houses collect and store the lives you lived without taking it away from you. They have a heart. They have your heart. Its defined allotment inside and out, the complete fit, and the emotions you live in it, Form an equation that sticks its hand in your brain and leaves fingerprints of sand, For you to find when the home is what you leave behind. It was big and awkward. Left unpainted the bare cement smiled at me. The huge tree in front of it (The perfect toilet for street dogs) shaded its face from the bold sun. I climbed the stairs to the front door. It smelled like what a house would when you return to it after a long vacation. I had my hand on the doorknob. “Number 180”, shouted the clerk. Back to the time, I got up and proceeded towards the studio of the certified.

A Short Story: Pretty Sarvi

Pretty Sarvi

Sarvi smiled as she sat down. She slipped off her shoes and her feet positioned them into place under the cushioned chair that the café offered. She tossed her head back and started, her smile never leaving her face, “Do you know who I am?” she asked.

Her smile never leaving hers, she said, “Oh my Sarvi, should I take out my notepad and a pen before you start?”

“Am I the pullover of skin covering my bones; a not-flawed-in-my-eyes temporary covering made from dust? Am I the smooth lines that run along the inside of my dark brown hands? If you heed to the sense of your fingertip as it runs down my neck, you’ll trace the lines there too. But is that who I am? No. May I introduce myself to you; I just got to know her.”

“Sarvi, become a poet na,” Khush replied thoroughly enjoying her companion’s autobiography. The girls giggled.

Sarvi raised her hands to her head and ran them through the length of her hair. She brought the ends close to her cheeks and said, “My hair waves like the ocean waves but it starts calm and neat like the horizon of the sea. My fingers cut through it unbridled and gently like it does to the wind. Do you like my hair, Khush? Tell me how it looks?”

“It’s left open. It’s wavy and black and the right side is tucked behind your ear,” Khush said.

Sarvi nodded “That’s right. And look at me,” her arms crossed each other to hug herself, “Layers and layers give shape to my bones to make me and how can I detest any part of me?”

“Continue,” Khush said as she watched her every move and her ears caught nothing but Sarvi’s voice. She fell so silent that her body too stopped speaking, it only felt the description of Sarvi’s words.

Taking her chance, she spoke and filled her world with colours. Sarvi told Khush everything she already knew, again. She swiveled her chair and continued.

“Do you know, uncontrollably, I spend hours living the seconds inside my flesh but I don’t feel trapped. I feel the soft perky kisses of the wind on my lips. They swell with this acknowledgment as if reveling in the attention and liking it.

“I am inside my flesh, inside the stretched covering of skin over the length of my body. I am not my body, I am more. But how I love it. Over and over, I enlighten the touch and stretch my lips.

“My ears greedily curve and widen to catch every draw of breath I take captive for small seconds and at its release my lips curl with the warmth of labored air. It’s like my soul telling me my own secrets.

Khush knew no one else but Sarvi who could notice things like these. She herself couldn’t but so badly wanted to. Sarvi trained her. “Close your eyes and you’ll know,” She would say. But Khush couldn’t peel her eyes off of Sarvi. Dressed in skintight jeans and a kurta, her broad humble smile held everyone’s gaze.

“It is now that I am being told that I brighten days and places. It is because I carry the sun with me. The sun is more than acquainted with the first touch of my skin, I bear its brilliance and within, my bones feel its embrace.

“Do you know I used to influence my form till it tore and then bury the rips further; (Oh concealer, how we worked on gashes together.) manipulate and falsify my appearance? I couldn’t consider myself when I crossed my own reflection without a proper deceit of looks. I wish I had because I cannot now.

“And I, for no fault of others but my own, hated my nose for its large occupancy of my face. My eyes fell short of the desired curve. My skin was not the shade it had to be. I blamed my features for the quiet kind souls who didn’t say much because I needed to be assured that I was pretty because pretty was accepted. I did not realize that acceptance wasn’t theirs to give; it is my own.

“Then one year and seven months ago, I was moving fast on the street, the usual.”

“Late again, as always,” Khush keenly interrupted, knowing each element of the story and wanting to be a part of the telling of it.

“If only they’d invent a less scary way to put on fake eyelashes. I felt the weight of my clothes against my body secure me. I felt my flaws hidden and I delighted in its cold interiors. I never wanted to come out, Khush. The encumbrance slowed me down; I was terribly late for work. My blue heels couldn’t stop time, time passed us by long before, it was my gait they controlled. Nothing walks better than the perfect pair. Right swung shoulder over left accented hip, beautifully lengthened legs. I drove my body with altitude and I drove it straight into an eye opener. Don’t you just love irony?

“Ruk! Machine theek se nahi…. Madamji!” Sarvi imitated the worker. Action, accent and all.

“You see just minutes before on that street – the usual, five construction repair workers had gathered together to scratch their heads about a perfectly harmless and safe to use machine that had stopped working whilst their reparations. From them, was one man whose daughter finding strength in her feet had started to use them as much as possible, awake or asleep.

The mutilation that was unfamiliar to them had caused the men to unsurely back away to make calls, reach for those lost uncounselled manuals and overlook my trespassing, except for Ashok whose recently developed sensitivity to anything slight.

‘Madamji! Ruko!’ his screams irritated me but the sense of concern and firmness in his voice compelled me to answer his shouts. Not even did I turn to face them than the machine sparked to combustion, not inconsequentially.

It enflamed ravenously for a moment before it lessened itself to a small conquerable fire. It hit me, my eyes were whitewashed and I felt the heat for only a second. I stumbled back and tripped over my blue heels. I could hear everything clearly but the words mashed into one another. I felt arms steady me. I sat firmly waiting to be okay enough before my feet could take to the ground but it took a while because my vision had cleared itself into complete darkness.

“I never thought I looked pretty because I had to learn how to feel it first,” she said.

Sarvi felt for her shoes with her feet. She slipped them back on. She had had the shopkeeper describe them for her before she bought them; brown chappals with a pink outline.


(Special thanks to my mama for checking and re-checking and re-re-checking my story and dealing with my haste and to Pepin for translating sentences into Hindi for me. ^_^ )