To the little girl who was afraid of the sea

When you were six, you hardly ever spoke. When in the company of strangers, you would hide behind my back and hold on to my shirt. When you were eleven we went to the sea and you were scared of how the waves splashed against the shore. You were terrified of the sound and smell of the water. You held on to my hand and refused to go anywhere near the it.

When you were five, we went on our first flight together. You were so shy that whenever any passer by tried to talk to you, you would squeeze my hand in a death grip. The nights they fought, we would lie close together on the bed holding each other while we shed tears.

Now you have grown up and I know are a strong independent woman. You were always the brains of the family and you always tried to do good by everyone. You are my little over achiever who aims to please. But amidst the world of thick books and medals, I hope you don’t leave your childhood behind.

Don’t make the same mistake I made at your age. Do not aim to please. Enjoy the sunshine after sleepless nights of hanging out with friends; enjoy the hangovers and the love pangs; enjoy the school dramas and the world of movies. Get your fill of sleep because after eighteen, you can bid goodbye to that. Get your fill of your family because people grow old and apart with age. Explore territories that you haven’t before. Fail once, fail twice and fail again because failure is a better teacher than success.

Dream a dream and then change that dream the next day because now is when the possibilities are most. Fall in love and realise the difference between love and infatuation. Get a job at McDonalds and understand that there is a lot of value in the smile of the boy who is given a happy meal by his father.

Join a cause and fight for it because if not now, when? When they ask you, “what do you want to be?” tell them that you want to be happy. When they ask which university, tell them the name of all possible ones because there is no end to learning.

Learn that experience is more valued than mugging up facts and that you can always change what you want. There is always a new dawn after a bad day.

Dear kid, don’t be sorry for not knowing what you want to do and for wanting something no one wants to give. It is okay. You will fail. You must fail. But you will come out of it shining, just like the time you boarded the plane on your own and made friends with the other passengers.

If a shy little kid could become a confident woman, there is nothing in this world you can’t do. I wish you knew how proud I was of you and I wish I could be the one you had your first smoke with and told all your secrets to.

But alas! It is what it is. All I know for a fact is that I will always watch over you even if it is from behind a screen.

Advertisements

Memory Lane

They called it the memory lane. Those who went down the street found themselves lost in delirium and were left wanting more. I was a lonely traveler in search of perks. The blue satchel I carried had only a few hundred rupee notes and a bottle of water which had been there for the last few months. As a result my only fluid companion was left undrinkable.

They say every road has its distinct character. However this particular street didn’t seem to follow that rule. The board at the entrance said- ‘Welcome to memory lane. Hope you enjoy your visit.’

The foot paths were smooth and white in some places and in others, were grey and broken. The gravel was uneven and one could easily lose his balance on certain slippery patches. There was also a possibility of losing a foot in the puddles spread across the street like polka dots on fabric.

The buildings on the side walk belonged to different eras and the hawkers had eyes resembling hawks. An old lady with a black umbrella was walking beside me; our steps matching. She whispered, pointing at one of the hawkers who was staring rather rudely in our direction, “they watch everything, they are like the omnipresent souls that fly around in search of weakness. Be sure not to stare for too long lest your eyes be burned.”

The sky was a blur of colors. A sort of confused disco ball emanating all shades of the spectrum. In some places the clouds were blurred as if the careless painter had dropped water on his canvas under the influence of spirits and melancholy. The trees decorating the street were unusually branched as if stretching their hands as a cry of help.

But there was one tree about a kilometer down the road which was illuminated with yellow chrome and sprinkles. It looked happy; euphoric even. It could well be a wise old banyan with its roots to the ground and leaves looking like chirpy school girls in the morn. That tree was bang in the middle of the road and somehow the inhabitants of memory lane had let it be.

Nearing that tree, I heard the chirping of birds, the thundering of clouds and the call of the sea gull all at once. Don’t ask me how, but I did. I could feel my smile emerge from a place I did not know existed in me. My chest felt warm and light weight. I was nearly happy.

Further away, the diverged roads, separated by a barren patch of earth for about a few feet, converged once again. Again the disco colors returned and the hawkers could be seen perched on their porch like vigilant birds of prey. By now I was used to their stare and they had ceased to be an object of concern. They were now just background noise meant to be ignored.

The road turned into the right and scene changed. Now, instead of the hawkers, there were empty stalls and the buildings had been stripped naked. The only color in the sky was grey and the trees were burnt at the bark. I could taste the rust on my tongue. The lady beside me said, “Time is the culprit you know. Look closely and look hard. This is what we all will come to.”

It was scary and thus I increased my pace. I did not want to know the games time played on people and things alike.

The road turned yet again and this time I saw water on both sides of the road. The waves were crashing on my right and a yacht was sailing lazily on the left. The latter was calmer and monotonous whilst the former was exciting and terrifying.

A tumult of emotions overcame me. Truth be told, I did not know what I was doing there. It was supposed to be rejuvenating and refreshing. But I was left with a mixture of thoughts and feelings I could not make any sense of.

Further down the road, a few kilometers walk ahead, my journey ended. The last thing I saw was a green board which said—‘Thank you for visiting memory lane. Hope to see you soon,’ before my alarm clock woke me up just in time for class.

Onism

Airports are places which have always fascinated me. They are the doorways to different worlds. Airports- a place where one can spend a whole day without getting bored. It is a place where dreams come true and all emotion are present simultaneously in a muddled thought of different people. What are the chances that the guy next to you is not thinking the same thing you are or that the old couple in the seat across yours’ is leaving their son’s family and going home just as you are leaving home to get back to your life in a foreign city. Sometimes I feel lonely when I leave home and seeing those families going on vacation to Ladakh absolutely tear me up. Smiling faces, sad faces, indecisive faces, despairing faces, apprehensive faces, ecstatic faces, scared faces, indifferent faces, all of them together under one roof- a sort of collective thought process, all very different from each other and yet have the same underlying feeling- one of change. No other place is a classic example of how nothing in the world is ever constant. Flights leave; flights arrive; flights get delayed and flight get cancelled. Success, failure, stagnation and death all under one roof called life.

I remember having spent the Christmas of 2010 stranded in the Delhi airport with my little sister. We spent 10 hours sitting on the airport floor observing people around us. During those 10 hours, we ended up speaking to a wide variety of people. I struck up a conversation with a young man, in his early twenties sporting dreadlocks and tattoos. He was from San Marino, a small country in Europe. He had come on a tour of India and was travelling to Amritsar from Delhi. He told me about his country and how it is almost the size of Delhi. We spoke about the way people in his country are different from those we see in India.

He seemed to be intrigued by the idea of eating food using ones hands and licking the dripping curry off their elbow. The way folks in our country start talking to each other on the roads without any proper introduction seemed strange to him but interesting, nonetheless. I grilled him about how to go about travelling the world on a low budget- the dos and don’ts. He was more than happy to answer me. His trip would end in another month and he would go back to university in his country the following year.

He was travelling from west to east and had covered most of the countries. But he had to leave a few. For that, he was sad. That is when I realized that I would never be able to see the world in its entirety. No matter what I do, what job I get, how much I earn, there will be some small corner of this vast world that I would never visit.

This corner would be beautiful and have its own flaws. There would be a new kind of flower growing. The people will speak in a different tongue. They would have breakfast at a different time and might skip lunch. They would celebrate Christmas differently. The horizon would be green instead of yellow. The water would be greenish instead of blue. They would grow coffee beans in their backyard and keep lamas for pets.

So many places to see, so many things to do and I had no idea how much longer I would be stuck at that airport. My only dream is to travel the world. But now that I think about it, I will never be able to travel the world. I will probably just visit the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, the Pyramids of Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon and the Big Ben. But what about the rest?

The places not spoken of, not written about and not photographed. Those where no one went and even if some did, they haven’t dared to speak about them. That moment I was attacked by a sensation of impending doom. I could never fulfill my dream. Why couldn’t I have an easier dream? Something like ‘going to Disneyland and posing with Donald duck’ or ‘writing a book’ or ‘opening a restaurant’? Why did my twisted brain have to choose the impossible?

Jules Verne did claim that with the advancement of technology the world has become a smaller place and that man, if equipped with the resources, can go around the world in 80 days. But what of experiencing the very places he visits. Is it enough to have an airport view of the world? Look outside the glass walls of the huge building and see the traffic and the neighborhood. That is seeing but not experiencing.

That Christmas day, sitting on the floor of a packed Delhi airport, talking to a stranger from a foreign land whose name I was hearing for the first time, I realized what Onism was. The realization that I would never experience the whole world and that I would get only a taste of it in my mortal timespan, was a depressing one. It was like being told that Santa Claus isn’t real and it’s mom who has been leaving the gifts all this while. My dream can never be fulfilled and I would have to be content with seeing Moulin Rouge from afar.

Paper doll

Paper doll

Hey there paper doll,
Yes you-
The one on the wooden shelf;
The one with the distant look;
The one who dreams of faraway lands;
You fragile, delicate creature;
You who took my breath away;
You– my beloved, beloved doll.

I speak to you of a possibility—
It will not be the first time
That the lion fell for the lamb.
History is my witness my doll;
“The wind and the doll”- they will say with a smirk;
They will laugh at us;
Call us names.
But care we will not.

I will carry you as light as a feather
Away from your shelf;
To the lands that you dreamt of.
As high as the heavens.
From the mighty mountains of the north;
To the never-ending seas of the south.
From the city with the glaring lights;
To the farm kissing the rolling meadows.
I will show it all.
Put you high up in a pedestal I will.
Place a crown upon you I would.
I will tell you of sages and poets of the old;
I will love you with all my might;
Believe me my doll I will.

But my doll,
One day I will stop blowing—as is my destiny;
And that day you will fall from great heights.
Now my doll—cry not.
Shed away the tears of sorrow my sweet.
There will come a day
When one of your kind will join you on your shelf.
That day you will speak;
You will dream;
And you will love.
Doll, believe me you will.

That day your shelf will become all those magical places;
That day them postcards—bearing pictures from the far
Will cease affecting you.
That day you will find a home
And a reason to live.
And I my doll- will blow quietly outside your window.
Not howling;
Not laughing;
Not speaking;
Just seeing.

I will live with the idea of the possibility.
And when you feel that familiar ache for adventure,
I will caress you and sooth your nerves.
I will be there always;
Unnoticed but necessary.

Curse me not paper doll for being oblivious to you;
Know always that I saved you from me.
After all my doll
All my adventures have cost me.
And the biggest price I have had to pay-
Was you.

The Lady

There she was in my dream,
A canvas- a canvas done by me,
She was as ‘normal’ as any of mine can be.

Her auburn hair in a severe bun,
The black button up,
a- turtle neck,
a dog’s leash lovingly pressing
her delicate neck.
Yet she smiled- smiled through all that pain.

The old and the wise had once told me-
leave the eyes for the last,
The window to the soul,
Delicate creatures they are,
Tread lightly around them
For they- those unexplained beauties,
can well show you heaven in hell.

Kohl lined they were,
A strange hazel hue in them,
Big and bold- fearless they were
Stood out in her cold face.
Glowing like the star just before death

But wait- the emotions,
The emotions in their depths.
Something bordering between
Stubborn bliss and cynical defiance,
they haunt my dreams.
What is it about them?
I understand not.

My own creation so painfully crass.
What is she?
Why is she what she is?
I long for the day
I can conceive her with the stroke of a brush.
I long for the day
I can give her a house, a frame,
I long for that day,
I do.

I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.
I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.