Friday, October 24, 2014


I held nani's hand as her soul slowly withdrew away. Away from her. Away from us. Leaving me holding desperately onto shell of wrinkled skin, grey hair and grandmotherly softness. Did I feel her life slip away? Did I feel the blood freeze in its tracks or that last heart beat that would never complete its neat, predictable rhythm? I'm not sure. All I know is that a thud of celebration and green sparkles in the sky marked the realisation that my nani has left for good. A less-macabre thunderclap; a garish flash of colourful lightning. She’d literally gone out with a bang. While we mourned her loss, the world celebrated with blasts of cracker that echoed one another and ephemeral, neon-hued stars. Every bang, giving sonic form to the end of a certain world for us. Of stories, of family traditions, of soft, starch-scented sarees, of painstakingly fried savouries, of indulgent love. A festive gun salute to the valiant force of nature my nani was. Maybe in retrospect, we might see the poetry in the situation. To have been the eye of mourning in this storm of festive frenzies. But right now, it's just awfully lonely.

**Written for my friend Roop, who lost her grandmother while the rest of the world celebrated Diwali. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

last laugh

The fuss died down. It would. It must. It was the principle that this world moved in. Nothing was forever. Everything must die. Even fusses born out of events that were blown out of proportion. People eventually got bored. The interest waned. Until it became a shriveled, muted version of its booming, turgid former self. The projector flickered and the shadows that once towered and danced on the walls, deflated like black balloons. The last ripple had smoothed in a calming sea, a sea that claimed much. A sea that stirred and waltzed with many a personal storm. But no storms today. Just a dying sea.
Then it came. Loud and clear. A gunshot in a prairie afternoon. A crack of thunder and a sudden whiplash of lightning. A chuckle. No one was supposed to laugh now. The joke was over. Every one nursed spent lungs and hoarse throats. Who had breath to spare? The chuckle grew. A sapling that quickly grew a wider stump, branches that reached out to the sky, leaves popped verdant with a vengeance, flowers bloomed ripe and suggestive of deep secrets. It grew strong. It claimed a life of its own. The chuckle took on the form of a peal of laughter. Echoing through the valley of amazed silences. It was her. The one that was supposed to be the joke. The supposed fallen angel. Where was the penance? Where was the repentance? There was nothing, but this report of apologetic insolence. The last laugh. That amazing twister of roles. That outright ridicule of everything that reduced it to a joke.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Arion Salazar is following me on Twitter. Why is that such a big deal?
a. He is part of the Third Eye Blind of my dreams
b. He is hot as hell's summer
c. a and b are reasons enough to have it recorded here for posterity.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


She'd had it. She was sick and tired how they ruled over her. Of how they mocked her plans and imposed without apology. They overstepped boundaries and clomped all over her with their dirty boots. They told her what to do and didn't allow her an opinion. They ridiculed her and left her open to ridicule. They humiliated her and took advantage of her weakness. They deformed her beauty into something ugly and degenerate. They took her dignity and made silly games out of it. They broke her resolve and reduced her to a puppet that dangled onto their whims. They made her their slave and had their way with her. They slapped her around and spread her secrets. If only she could stand up to them. If only she could learn to say no. Food. If only she had the will to fight it.  She'd be able to stick to that damn diet and reclaim that body of hers. But she caved in every time. Every single time. She'd had it. She was sick of it. But she was too weak. "Tomorrow," she promised herself uselessly for the millionth time, as she reached for a fourth helping "I'll diet."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The air was free back then. Laboured, but free. So was the sunlight. The very dancing beams that stand rationed now, I blotted with a thick curtain of make-believe despair. A grey castle I had constructed from the debris of things I thought were broken. There I surrendered myself as prisoner. There I flogged myself, believing I was unworthy. Believing I was cursed.  I thought that was the passage of hell. I thought that was the night that swallowed the sun for good. I was so wrong.
Hope came at a reasonable price. I could have traded my wounded pride for some hope. But I was too miserly to part with my plastic convictions. My fool's gold, that I treasured as a former world champion treasures his medals. My testament, my walk down the vale of thorns. What I thought was sacred, was a masterpiece of pure idiocy.
I thought that was suffering. I believed that was the truest cup of pain. I thought that was the death of laughter. I thought I was a Martyr. While all I was, in truth was stupid.
I now know that this is pain. I now know that this is the deepest end of fear. I now know there is no shadow thicker and darker and more impenetrable than this. I now know that every other tribulation bends a meek knee and folds its hand into a respectful salute in its presence. I now know that this is misery's unmerciful whip. I now know this is the definition of fear. Death's breath, hot on our cheeks. Praying for a brighter day and yet, afraid of the dawn - cowering from what it might bring. I now know that this suffering has no equal. Cancer laying claim on a precious one. Taking them away without your permission. While the angels stand beside you as you protest, rage, fight, claw, crawl, beg, bleed, bargain away your sleep, your dreams, your soul and you sanity - just to have something you always took for granted. More time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happy Anniversary

She was never big on anniversaries. She called them expiry dates. Dates that marked how much closer and older they were to becoming stale. But she kept track of them nevertheless. On their first, she was in denial about it, even as she put on a brightening face mask. She wouldn't admit to herself that all this fuss was in honour of 365 days of togetherness as she painted her nails coral pink - a shade that was chosen after careful deliberation. She smiled secretly at the roses he'd brought her in the morning. "He remembered" She thought proudly before censoring herself for being a sentimental fool. She tried to look bored at dinner. No small feat, given her freshly washed hair that shone with the strength and vigor of a beer and vinegar rinse, her perfume that punctuated the soft cups of her collarbones with the delicate notes of a floral bouquet, her coral-pink nails that jittered self-consciously like shy five-year-old ballerinas. They gave her away. They told on her. They rendered her efforts futile. She radiated joy. A little star that pulsated, albeit involuntarily, with a sentimental variety of happiness laced with a shade of self-satisfaction. Exactly the kind that the gods fed off. Exactly the kind she was afraid of showing. She tried so hard. But failed. Miserably.
On their second, she was a little more successful in her attempts to stash her happiness into a impregnable lightproof box. The box wasn't exactly lightproof. But it was a box. A cardboard one. No fancy trimmings. A little thing so nondescript that no one would guess at its precious cargo.  She beamed weakly enough to escape detection by the ever-sniffing, ever-hungry gods. Her heart would have betrayed nothing even at a lie detection test. She was proud.
She got better at it with every passing year. Till she could convince herself that she wasn't too big on anniversaries. They would stumble clumsily on the date, finding themselves at the fag end of their anniversary.
"Shall we order Chinese?"
"No, there are some leftovers in the fridge."
Berating themselves for a precious minute before shrugging all vestiges of anything remotely romantic. Sometimes they'd realise, with the distress of an alarm that went off belatedly, that they'd completely forgotten the anniversary. And then conveniently forget that they forgot. That's the way they liked it. Not acknowledging it. There would always be one next year.

Until he left. And the day ceased to have any meaning. Then, the day seared into her heart with the red fierceness of an iron brand. Then, the day dropped into a significant giant black-hole. Then she remembered their anniversary. The bitterness, a sort of perverse celebration of a day that now made obvious the absence of all the things she once called hers. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


There’s definitely no Santa Claus in here. But there’s hope.

More hope and more prayer than all the midnight masses in the world.

There are no Christmas carols here.

But the voices of nurses, chime with a sweetness no heavenly host could compare with.

Stringy festoons of tinsel and stars that quiver in the draft of the air conditioner, glitter into a mirage of next Christmas.

Tomorrow we will wear silly Santa hats and drink wine.

We will forget about this poison that courses our veins.

We will live in the Lord’s birthday.

We will smile for cameras. We will try.

But today we hold our breaths, afraid.

We'll look around and take stock

Comparing sizes of misfortune or fortune.

We listen to valorous stories, of wise men and women following stars of hope

Survivors who battle an enemy that inches closer. 

Rosary beads mark time as an expensive packet of hope, dispenses a steady trickle of chance.

We wonder how did we ever get here,

Who decides whose name gets picked in these things,

We lock horns with fate and pitifully rage.

We grapple with this betrayal from a god we trusted

We reel every time, as if punched in the guts.

We fight tears and our misplaced sense of injustice

We take a deep breath and hold on to dear life.

Suddenly dearer than it ever was.

When we spend Christmas Eve in a chemo ward.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dear Dada

On the 8th of January, after a brief illness, my dad succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in November and after the hardest one and half months my family has ever lived through, he was taken away from us. I'm still coming to terms with it. But even in his illness, my dad taught me a lot. About the value of life. About courage. About taking each day as it comes and making it count like it was your last. We had our differences, and yet we were the same. He was a strong man. A fighter. And he loved me more than I believed.

The picture below is his broken thumbnail. A physical testament to his love for me. He used to be a technical supervisor in Kuwait, while my mum, sister and I lived in Kerala. He spent a good part of his life away from his family. It wasn't until he retired that we got to live together as a family. So long-distance was the way it was. And like all things long-distance, everything was amplified..the worry, the fondness, the growing pains, the absence, and yes, the distance. So once when I'd fallen really ill as an infant, my dada got so distracted that his thumb got wedged in some heavy machinery. And left a permanent mark that announced to the world that he had this difficult daughter who always worried him. This difficult daughter who can't believe just how much she misses him, now that he isn't there.
This is my tribute to him.

When a strong man dies
He leaves behind a space,
A vaccum of things, routines and commonalities
He takes with him a sense of security
That he provided by just being present.
The assurance of seeing him around.
The knowledge that there's always him to go to.
He takes with him the hands that worked -
the calluses that marked the toil of his existence.
He takes with him the voice that once soothed,
yelled, advised, joked, comforted, scolded, sang and laughed.
His arguments hang with the air of unfinished business.
His shoes wait in empty limbo, never to be filled  His place at the table stands with a sombre  emptiness, even when occupied.
He leaves us, the weaker ones, wondering why him.
When a strong man dies,
He defeats death
He lives in all that he left behind
A legacy of love
That will live on forever
That will never die.

Monday, February 3, 2014


This is the rather easily made Banana Rum Cake with a comforting dollop of cream cheese. It's part of the One Day at a Time project I'm trying to live up to. The last month was the hardest month of my life. And I'm still reeling from everything that was. But life must go on. And we must recover. We must keep creating. Anything.
Wish me luck!

Friday, January 3, 2014


Old loves are like keys to doors of old houses you once lived in. Doors your once walked in and out of, every day, without thinking too much about it. Those keys that you always kept with you. Clinking softly, moving about, rubbing against other essentials in your bag - lipgloss, chewing gum sticks, peppermint wrappers, tissues, lint. Entangling in a messy game of twister with other everyday stuff - in a threesome with earphones and rosaries that in turn twist acrobatically with scrunchies. A sort of conflict for predominance. For those of us who keep our keys in designated pockets, the key recognizes and rewards the gesture with an acolyte-like eagerness to serve. Acknowledging the importance it is given. And for those of us, who mindlessly toss them into our bags, it means five minutes of sitting in the stairway and laborious fishing, or in a worst case scenario, an inside-out turning of the bag. Regardless of whether or not you have a bursting bladder screaming to be addressed. Just to be let in. Just to be home.

Then one day you move on. You leave it behind. To a bigger, better place, with a brand new set of keys. What was once familiar, now slowly fades from memory. A habit you've given up. The passages of routine change, the kinks that were committed to memory, get splotchier and blurred by indifference. Unhinged from the key chain you picked so lovingly to give its nondescript, cookie-cutter, conveyer belt featurelessness some mark of distinction. An appendage of identification. Indicating possession. My. Mine. Those keys hold no place in your life anymore. They don't open any doors that matter. Long handed over to new owners - new lives in which they're relevance. Just like old loves.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


It's that time of the year when I sit and take stock of a year that I mostly wasted away. 2013. The year that by just showing up mocked, among many things, the supposed "apocalypse" itself. The world was supposed to have ended in the year 2012 as the Mayans claimed. And 2013 showed up, said "Gotcha" and went on about being as destructive as any year with the unlucky number 13 in it, had any right to be. Earthquakes brought cities down. Hurricanes came and swept a callous hand across towns, homes, schools and lives - once, twice, until we lost count. Prime Ministers looked the other way from the problem, hoping that they would take the hint and politely leave the room - the problems, not the prime ministers. While a few rapists were brought to book, others eagerly took their place on the streets. Ice continued to melt at the Arctics and climate change gave talking about the weather its more-than-15-minutes in the spotlight of all things consequential - never again to be taken lightly. Economies followed the example of the ice caps. The Ridiculousness Quotient of things politicians say hit an all-time high.

The general theme for 2013 largely seemed to be learning to swim. Floundering, water stinging your eyes, gasping, threading water, swallowing, chlorine burning your lungs, but not yet drowning. For me, especially, 2013 was like learning to swim. In an icy pool I crashed into when the ground beneath me just decided to give way. Learning to swim off the deep end, going under many times. Just when I thought I'd gotten it, the water would cover my head and push me downwards.

I wrote much too little. I read far too little books for my liking. Took too few pictures. And even fewer risks. Danced too little. I mostly let life grow grow cold in my mug and then took a tired, cold, flavourless swig at the end of the year. Taking things for granted is the original sin. Because I can't think of anything more damning that being in a state when we fail to see life's beauty, when we squander away the time we're given to grow, to discover, to run, to make the best of our youth, limbs, skin, hair, love, dreams, desire, lust, wonder, bones, strength, opportunities and coherence. So much, that it's criminal. And I've never been more aware or rather made aware than in 2013. Cancer walked in while we weren't looking and became part of our household. And like most uninvited guests, it has inconsiderately rescheduled our routines, plans, tomorrows, itineraries and yes, all our taken for granteds. We've had to relearn our habits, remake our tempers, rearrange our priorities, relook our convictions, reassess all that's considered valuable, reword our prayers. And suddenly, I'm looking at life with one eye on an hourglass. Constantly pursued by this shadow that threatens to take a loved one away. A shadow that censors our laughter; killing it just it escapes our smiling lips. Smiling lips and dancing limbs that are severely reprimanded for their forgetfulness - shaming them, turning their momentary abandon into something ghastly. It's a little distracting. But it's given me something to focus on, while I try to break into the surface. It's put the fight in my existence. The fight that will be 2014. And we'll come out victorious.