Jason 

Jason was like multiple paintballs splattering on someone’s clothes. He would rush into your life and make an impact before you could even twitch a muscle. He was more like an oil film on a road. When it gets wet, it’s almost like a mini-rainbow hiding in plain sight. 

Jason was that mini-rainbow. It took a while to notice him because he had this unique way of completely belonging to his surroundings. Becoming one with the space he inhabited. 

He was like that ancient couch in an inconspicuous corner of the room. It sits there, forgotten in the crevices of undocumented wars. But the couch observes everything. With moth balls curling in its arms, the couch probably knows more about us than we do. Jason was that couch. He was like a science student observing a crustacean shell in the lab. Only difference being, he wouldn’t need to cut you apart to know you. 

And that’s precisely why people were afraid of him. Maybe they didn’t want to be exposed like a quivering butterfly under his watchful eyes. He didn’t scrutinize. He just knew how things were and that was it. He wouldn’t call out your bluff. He would rub his chin and be on his way.

I could probably use a dozen metaphors to describe Jason but the plain, hard truth is that it still won’t be enough. It won’t matter because all that is left now is a carton of hand-picked vinyl records. He is gone and he is not coming back. Here I am, trying to find him in coffee beans and distant winds. The pathetic part is that I don’t get the luxury of speckled skies that rain for me. I don’t get the luxury of moving on because frankly, no one ever does. You just learn to go on with a cloak of thorns pricking your throat. And eventually, the blood congeals to keep you alive. 

It’s time to prise open old wounds. 

*

It was a hot day with the professor talking about anti-matter in her characteristic monotone. With half the class twiddling its thumbs, and the other half drooling over smelly desks, I was busy sketching on my classmate’s backpack. And then the teacher changed her pitch, breaking the reverie. 

“So when matter and anti-matter collide, a huge explosion occurs depending on the number of particles involved in the reaction. It’s known as Annihilation.”

And it was then that he spoke 

“But Ma’am, you say it as if entropy is frightening.” he raised his left eyebrow. 

“That’s a dead man over there.” hissed a voice at the back. 

“Well what is your point, Mr. Black?”

“I think chaos is beautiful. It breaks the facade of normalcy and you realise that all it took was a chain reaction to wreck the world as you know it.” he replied, looking out of the window. 

The chain reaction had begun. 

*

Jason and I were walking to the library. We walked a little apart which to me, felt like a million light years for an astronaut running out of oxygen. But then he would playfully shove me aside and I would get my precious moments of banter. We came across a gorgeous Golden Retriever, tightly bound with a noose. 

“Oh boy. Do they ever walk him?” Jason said while running his hands across the dog’s coat. 

“Not really. I haven’t seem him out ever since they bought him.” The dog was sprawled on the grass, visibly dejected. 

Jason took the noose off, gesticulating to keep quiet. Holding the leash, he made a run for the nearest park. 

The owner was a war veteran who, grapevine suggested had gone a little “barmy” owing to a shrapnel wound in his head. I saw him peering out the window. 

Oh Jason. You’re a dead man. 

But I ran after him. His hair fluttering wildly against the wind, his sweat trickling down his brow and his hands flapping wildly like an upturned penguin, he raced the dog around in unorganized circles. 

“Is this a death wish?” I screamed breathlessly. 

Looking at the dog with his tongue out, Jason screamed back “TOTALLY WORTH IT!” 

The Universe purred with satisfaction. 

*
College was about to end. And the end of the beginning had made us foolishly brave. Jason had this ability to make you his accomplice. His gullible partner that had no clue what the plan entailed. 

And so, he sneaked us in the campus after hours. Crouching in the shadows like nocturnal reptiles, we made our way to the rooftop. Adrenaline and infatuation with handsome boys makes one do stupid things. He athletically climbed the stairs, as if his body had no lactic acid to cramp his limbs. I, on the other hand, was a bit out of shape. Let’s just say someone had been skulking around the gym’s doors. 

We finally made it all the way, with my cheeks splotchy and stained with sweat. Obviously, I was unhappy with the situation. 

“Patience, grasshopper. This is one adventure you’ll never forget.” I could faintly make out his lips curling in a smile. I followed him up to the water tank, the moonlight illuminating it’s huge frame. After what felt like a million steps and ladders, we found ourselves propped over the edge. Our shadows dancing across the floor – completely oblivious to our inhibitions. 

“Now what?” I asked. 

“This is it. The highest point where no mortal dares to venture come midnight.” he grinned. 

“….. ”

“…..” 

“…..” 

“Apart from the tension between us, I say this is going to be a fun night.”

“What if we get caught? I don’t wish to be associated with shady characters like you” I sputtered ingraciously. 

“I’ve got it covered. Relax and just look above.”

And there it was. The black expanse of the sky embellished with hundreds of stars. I didn’t remember the last time I had seen that many stars. My breath hitched in my throat. 

“This is the first time I’ve brought anyone up with me. I reckoned with you being this covert skywatcher, we could philosophise about anything and everything till one of us is forced to jump over.”

Our happy place. 

“Oh Jason. You would be the death of me someday.” I said, holding back tears. 

“I should hope not.” he replied, gazing at the moon. 

Matter and anti-matter had now decided to collide. 

*

It was 2.45 am. I remember the exact time because it was then that The Universe decided to actively intervene in our lives. It can’t stay out of action for too long, you know. We were walking on the highway, slightly tipsy with the starlight. This was it. We were about to graduate and it was uncertain when we would see each other again. The Placement Week would decide if we would ever be more. But that was the last thing on my mind. A solitary owl hooted in the distance, persistent. It was then that Jason said, “Annihilation. What do you think about it?” “Catastrophes are a little unpleasant, to be honest.” 

“I will miss your brand of sarcasm. But that’s not what I’m getting at.” he chuckled. 

“Care to explain?” I kicked a pebble to the side. Ouch. Bad decision. My toe felt impaled by a pitchfork. 

“Ostensibly it is scary. The very idea that the world may explode just because some antagonistic particles met. But, there’s more. I like to think of Annihilation as a metaphor for humans. And by extrapolation, the chaos ensued when polar opposites meet. Both the entities are aware of their fate, and then like irreverent anarchists in a politically skewed world- they go on and destroy each other anyway.” he said. Every word ringing with sincerity and thought. I could see he had spent time on this philosophy. 

“And you find destruction intriguing? Just a puzzle that caught your eye?” I asked. 

“I find the whole exercise in self destruction endearing. And don’t mistake me for advocating martyrdom. I’m not. I’m just saying that in a way, you decide your fate. There’s no uncertainty in the back of your head. You know the tunnel is coming, and you drive through regardless of whether you’ll see the light at the end.” he said, his hands shoved in his pockets. 

I was quiet for a few moments. 

“It’s a beautiful death.” he murmured. 

It was then that a jeep appeared out of nowhere. Clearly out of control, the driver was rapidly changing gears. I stood rooted to the spot, paralysed by fear. Jason pushed me aside and before I could know it, the jeep rammed him into a wall. Everything went black and I was sure I would pass out. Crawling on my knees, I reached his mangled body and took his face in my hands. He wasn’t breathing. 

“Jason! Look at me. JASON!”

No response. 

And then his eyes opened. 

“Why?” I whispered, tears bubbling up in my eyes. 

“Totally worth it.” 

Matter and Anti-matter can never coexist. But when did that ever stop us. 

Annihilation. You wicked bitch. 

– A

Unlove 

To my old lover, 

You showed up last night at my porch. Soaked to your sunken bones convinced in your head that we can make this work. But we can’t. And even if we could, what made you think that I would want to. Because I don’t and your shivering lips on my lips don’t change anything. Your sighs settle on my skin and refuse to leave, and now I’m covered with wounds that bleed down to my ankle. 

Don’t go drinking dew drops from leaf blades and convince yourself that I would approve. Don’t go jumping in puddles thinking I would have laced your fingers in mine and gasped. Don’t you fucking dare shove me against the door and kiss me like everything is all right. And don’t you take my treacherous moans to be white flags fluttering against your breaths. 

We can’t even look at each other without running back to our rooms only to fall down like dirty laundry. And now it’s so goddamn hard to walk the way one does, because all we do is crawl to stop our spines from crushing on our souls. I have heard your back hurts so much that you scream in your pillow and they see fingernail marks in your wrists that appear every night. You have to tug me out of your skin or we may never learn to walk again. You have to extract me and cast me aside for your spine groans under our collective weight. 

If you smoke these nights waiting for me to see you at the end, then smoke away. I have learnt to collapse in arms with no promises of tomorrow. I have learnt to not drown everytime my friend plays “Sing me to sleep” just because you used to sing it to me in that ridiculous falsetto. I have learnt to not call you completely wasted and out of my senses, my shoes tied around my neck. Because now my skin doesn’t remember your musk and I’m glad. I’m glad I no longer have to be numb waist down to override that pain in my chest. I’m glad I don’t need to cut my nails lest I scratch my skin off in my sleep. I’m glad I don’t have to starve myself because my brain refuses to allow my body to function. 

And as for you, you have to shrug me off of you, and gently nudge me away like the letters from the summer of ’99 you refuse to open. You have to let me fall like the black ink pot in your room that always finds a way to break no matter what. You have to let me go because love is part holding on, and part letting go. Let me fall like the feather you collected in the woods. Let me fall like that orange kite you lost to a stray gust of wind. Let me fall like baby tears. Please, let me fall not like a backpack you took for a hiking trip; but like the cashmere scarf your mother tied around your bleeding elbow when you tripped in that Bougainvillea garden. 

Please don’t weep at the altar thinking your Lord would intervene. Please don’t sit in your car after office hours thinking where did we go wrong. Please don’t crush the Styrofoam cup as if it’s my wrist writhing beneath your fingers. Please don’t stay up with a crate and the flickering bulb as your witnesses. 

It’s time to stop walking on all fours. You hear me? 

– A

Coping 


​I was 4 when she came in,

A glorious whirlwind of chaos. 

The kind of a person you could grow metaphors out of, 

And it was inevitable that I should grow to love her. 
Yes, love. 

Not admiration or adoration or affection. 

Or any of those words people use to circumvent love 

Not that I didn’t admire or adore her. I did. 

Very much so. 
She was a helper at our place. But in reality, a substitute for my mother who was never really there. 

I never wondered though, in retrospect. 

It was only natural that Stacey was the best mother one could have. 
Now they ask me to eulogise her and I’m at a loss for words 

Which is absurd because 

i) I have so much to say, and then nothing to say. 

ii) Stacey wouldn’t have wanted a huge show out of her death. “Pooh. These after-death ceremonies and rituals are hokum. Hokum, I tell you.” 

iii) I was suffering from PTSD according to the venerable family physician. Or pure shock, in layman terms. 
All these reasons were compelling, 

But the reason as to why I couldn’t string together some words in her memory? 

It’s because those words were personal to us both,

And no outsider could be allowed to infringe upon them

And the meaning they had for us. 

So here goes – 
Day#12 after Stacey 

I saw the sky today, 

The clouds look ready to be bottled up in mason jars, 

To be inhaled when one feels lonely. 

I wish I could pluck them all, 

I’m not greedy. Just lonely. 
Day#15 after Stacey 

A spider crawled up my back, 

When I was sitting in the garden 

I didn’t scream. 

Somehow the little arachnid was the least of my worries, 

Stacey isn’t here to save me anymore. 
Day#36 after Stacey 

I was in the washroom for more than a couple of hours, 

And no one seems to have noticed. 

I stood looking at myself in the mirror

“You are going to break a lot of hearts one day, dear.”

Stacey had said so that day. 

Then how come it’s my heart that feels broken. 
Day #56 after Stacey

A relative asked my father about the cause of Stacey’s death, 

“Oh well, it was a most unfortunate incident. How is the weather this time of the year in Philly, Jack?”

And that was it. 

But I remember her, and I always will. 
– A

Buffalo Bill

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Little Billy is a simpleton,
They say he’s a 5 year steak eating champ – and they are seldom wrong
For the folks down here are very solemn and factual
But he’s a bit alone, you see
All the steak in the world can’t make up for a partner(in crime)

Orphaned at 6, Billy never made it to college
But Billy is a fiesty ol’ chap,
With a belt of soda bottle tops and a frazzled beard
The beard is a hit at Joe’s salon with aspiring young men queuing up to get Billy’s look
But he’s a natural.
They say he trims his beard with stones and wooden splinters.

Legend has it that Billy was born laughing
His mother made a sharp whistling noise, and away she went
Dying of horror at her creation
They say she inspected carefully to confirm whether the beast sprung out of her own loins
Hers is a cry Billy replays in his head.

Our Billy mints counterfeit money but only as a pastime
Immolating the wads while clapping like a deranged madman
Billy is a paragon of virtue, never a mercenary in his actions
But his madness is a town secret
It reverberates inside the chapel’s basement, where future Billys receive their training
Because Billy was never a first generation, just another side effect of Religion and Faith.

Billy slashes pigs for money,
And humans for their delicious cries
There’s a commonality to both – the look of terror preceding the first cut
The furtive caress of his blade
The perspiration.
The pleading eyes.
The flapping of limbs like a beheaded frog.

Billy is kind. He doesn’t prolong their suffering.
A quick cut and their souls transcend the horrors of this earth,
Billy sometimes envies their easy escape
He’s a bit alone, you see.

Billy has no friends to quibble with,
No girlfriends to take out for his favourite MonsterBite burger – with garlic bread and cheese dip on the side
Billy skins his victims, nay, his ‘companions of darkness’ sometimes
He peels off their skins before they decompose and are rendered useless
Billy wears the skins, chuckling like a kid chasing an ice-cream truck.

Billy feels responsible for their lives and fortunate deaths
He believes he can feel every emotion they have ever experienced by wearing their skins
His own spectrum is all monochrome
Billy sleeps peacefully in the skins
But on normal days, he can’t sleep.

Billy still thinks about the day a man with a crucifix dangling on his hairy chest,
Gave him some very private sermons
Now he has black holes of vacuity for dreams
Billy tries to end the misery that is life, for his ‘companions of darkness’

The folks here say Billy is a helpful fella – and they are seldom wrong.

Post script : Normally I don’t like giving descriptions of my poems because art is completely subjective for me. The reader is free to interpret as he/she likes. However, a little background was essential for ‘Buffalo Bill’. Inspired by Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence Of The Lambs (1988), the character undergoes severe trauma prior to becoming a serial killer. Taking artistic liberty, I have altered the reasons for the trauma. Child sex abuse was rampant within the clergy at the time, and the psychological ramifications manifest themselves in the adulthood of our protagonist.

– A

How to screw up an interview. Royally.

Following is an account of a hell portal that I uncovered during the excruciating process of landing a decent internship. This can happen to you if you are –

1. Socially awkward. We are talking Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura impersonations at weddings to camouflage your nervousness.

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2. A devout worshipper of Chandler Bing from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. with an all-consuming love for witticisms and comebacks.

image

3. The possessor of a smile that is a cross between a snigger and a grunt.

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Be scared. Be VERY scared. I lived to tell the tale, you might not.

So after getting an unexpected interview call for a major publishing house, I landed in its office located at the Siberian end of West Delhi. Exceptional ambience, tasteful teakwood flooring and a citrus scent emanating from an unknown source. So far, so good.

The interviewer calls me in. I enter and prop myself heavily on a chair. The room is stuffy and humid. The AC groans from neglect. But the interviewer has a pleasant face. He eyes me quizzically. Guess he isn’t well acquainted with potato faces. “Are you okay? Would you like something?” he asks, cocking his rather small head to a side.
I’m okay, that’s just my face. Could I have a box of glazed donuts and some self-esteem? I think it won’t be an appropriate reply. I go with the standard “Yes I’m fine. Thank you.”

“So I have noticed your CV is rather brief… ”
That’s because this is my first internship and I’m freshly out of high school. I couldn’t obviously add things like ‘Can write badly punctuated poetry’ or ‘Can drive a bike for 100 metres without crashing in a tree or a human’ to my achievements.

“Yes. I realise that. Umm.. Uhh…”  *garbled speech*
“Never mind. How much of a team player are you?”
Oh well. I’m very argumentative and unrelenting at times. Also, I have serious homicidal tendencies that I may need to get checked.
“I get along easily with people. I believe in joint efforts that stem from mutual understanding and respect. So yes, I do think of myself as a team player”

By this time I can’t believe the word vomit gushing out of my mouth. He looks unconvinced, thanks to the creepy smile I flash every nanosecond.

“Look, I’ll cut straight to the chase. Give me a reason as to why we should hire you.”
Because my pesky relatives will hound me as soon as I enter my home. Because I need a relevant line in my CV that is just downright tragic.

“Well.. Umm… I am really passionate about things…” yada yada. Uninspired grammatically incorrect soliloquy.
“That will be all. Thank you for your time.”

Its over. But there’s a sense of freedom as I make my way out of the office. The air seems fresh. There will always be another interview, I suppose.

Until next time.

– A

A Sad Child

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You’re sad because you’re sad.
It’s psychic. It’s the age. It’s chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you’re trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside your head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

~Margaret Atwood, 1995

A stranger to love

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Dear stranger
I love you
I have loved you from the moment I set my eyes on you
Well I agree this sounds ridiculously old school
But I have been in love with you for the following reasons –

Reason #1
You probably won’t see me again
You won’t see me chasing centipedes from a safe distance,
You won’t see me mouthing profanities amidst stuffy subways and stuffier mindsets
You won’t see me hugging the life out of people I barely know
And because you won’t see me again, I’m filled with this longing and ache
I have lost you too soon to get over you.

Reason #2
You don’t judge me. Even if you do,
You keep it bottled up till I’m out of your visual field.
That’s real sweet of you,
Because people here are big fans of innuendos and implications and insinuations.
You look at me once, sometimes twice
And in that we have been connected by red threads that you can’t see.
I don’t too. But I trip over them.

Reason #3
You don’t come with a baggage. Just like me.
We could be anyone in that one moment,
And we are comfortable with not knowing our stories.
We could we walking with blank slates, or the ones which have been sullied beyond repair
We don’t need to scan, censure, manipulate and break
We just have to be.

So believe me when I say I truly love you
And that’s all there is to it.

– A