Paper Boats


You ask your dad to show you how to make a paper boat.⁣⁣

‘Why?’ He asks.⁣⁣

‘So I can send it out to sea,’ You say. ⁣⁣

‘Paper boats aren’t meant for that. They’re meant for rivers.’ You watch his feet leave imprints in the sand that are deeper than yours.⁣⁣

‘But then how will I get my message across?’⁣⁣

He looks at his watch, the sun glints off of it. ‘You’re thinking of a ship in a bottle.’⁣⁣

‘How on earth would you get a ship in a bottle?’⁣⁣

‘You rig the masts.’⁣⁣

‘You what the what? And what’s the difference between a river and the sea anyway?’⁣⁣

‘Well, one is like life in the sense that it has no single direction and can go from a gentle, lilting state to a tumultuous storm. The other is like life in the sense that you can never tell how deep it goes.’⁣⁣

You stare up at him, eyebrows furrowed. He smiles, and kneels down to face you.⁣⁣

‘One is meant for paper boats, one is not.’⁣⁣

Somewhere

Somewhere
there is a rabbit hole 
waiting for you

You might find it 
at the doorstep 
of a rundown library

Or in the corner of your bedroom 
shadowed by yesterday’s clothes

Or in the eyes 
of the person 
spinning you across the dance floor.

You don’t trust it 
but it smells of movie night, 
paid bills and 
the perfect breakfast

It sounds like sea breeze 
and your sixteenth birthday

And it tastes 
like that first sip of champagne.

Somewhere 
there is a rabbit hole 
waiting for you

And all you have to do 
is fall down.

Ordinary

Yes, everyday seems to start with the same cup of coffee. You might walk the same route, take the same train. The desk is worn out where you rest your elbows all day. You repeat your lunch every three days, and your favourite blue shirt every two weeks.

But it’s not just that, not really. There are always those little moments that make time worthwhile. Like when your steps align perfectly with the beat of the song you’re listening to. Or when that burger joint offers you a discount. Or when it stops raining right as you’re heading outside.

It’s almost like the universe has got your back.

Constellation.

Constellation Painting

Our backs against the grass
A wide, lonely expanse in front

A gust of courage
The wind, teases the space between us 
Your finger moves across the inky blue
Tracing lines from one piece of starlight to another 
Drawing shapes onto the universe
An eagle.
A bear.
A hero.
A Queen.

It makes me wonder
The way you pull stories from the sky
Recite them like poetry
Treasure them like secrets

Do you know?
You are equally powerful
The universe made you too
And the fire you see burning all those miles away
Is just as alive 
In your eyes too.

12.01.2019

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You can never hold on to memories exactly as they were. There’s always some bits that will slowly fade, washed away by the waves of time. A few years down the line I won’t remember how far we were sitting, the slight chill in the air or the exact list of songs he played. But I will remember what it felt like: the opposite of drowning. Like I was submerged in the music, but breathing had never been easier.

Thank you @prateekkuhad for an unforgettable evening of live music. Your words and your music are one of the simplest, and most beautiful creations of art I’ve ever come across.

Bombay

The capital of Bollywood,
Cutting chai and vada pav
The real capital of the country.

A city of stories,
People weaving in and out of lives
Like the waves on a beach,

Where summers are unbearable,
The rains indomitable
And the winters, non-existent.

An island that’s a melting pot
Of myriad tongues, tastes and faiths
All stuck in the same traffic jam.

Family,
Is the bhaaji wala, the housemaid
And the woman who brings fish to your doorstep.

Stationary stores
And chaat stalls around every corner
Is why millions call it home.

Teeming with life
From five star windows
To tiny nooks on streets.

Its soulful roads
With pavements far too hot
For children running across barefeet

For tournaments on cement
That has seen the turn of a cricket ball
As much as the wheels of cars.

Incessant
Is the chaos of Bombay
From the patter of toiling feet to the chugging of local trains.

The night begins,
The streetlights and restaurant signs
Gleaming till dawn.
The day, never ended.

It merely changed,
Grew into the next, moved on
Much like the city itself.

Sunsets burn
Over soaring, cemented skylines,
Surrounded by seas that make the horizon,
Drowning the city in a fiery light

And it makes me proud
That I am able
To call it
Mine.

A Dance for Life

Step, arch, jump, sit, slide, step and turn. Arya practiced her routine over and over again. Wearing black leggings and a loose t shirt, she glided across the floor of the dance studio. The music filled her up and she moved effortlessly. Her movements seemed to flow one after the other, one hand following the other. Her palms curved around each other at the top of her head for a moment and then with a twirl of her wrists came apart and down again. Her feet extended with every step as she maintained all of her balance on the tips of her toes. She felt the stretch in her side as she bent to one side forming a curve with her whole body until she extended her left leg and swept out of it with another smooth motion. On making two elegant turns she slowed down, along with the music. Gradually she bent forward with her arms stretched out on either side, and with every inch that she lowered herself she raised her left leg behind her, first bending it and then slowly stretching it outwards. Until finally she was still, balancing on one leg. She looked up to see her reflection in perfect form, both arms and one leg creating immaculate curves. She caught her own eye, and stumbled.

“Get it together, ” she muttered to herself. Stage fright was not something she could afford on the final day of the performance. Which was only three days away, she realised. The thought made her shiver. Dancing was never an issue when she was on her own, but just the idea of a hundred pairs of eyes staring at her while she was performing was enough to make her stomach turn. The dance piece was a combination of ballet and contemporary dance. The overall impression was supposed to look smooth, gentle, graceful and yet, powerful. Ballet portrays precision and grace while contemporary was more about freedom and passion. She fused the two to form a medium of expression that fit her emotions. She had the routine memorized to perfection, but while performing a string of pirouettes she could feel the presence of her own reflections in the mirrored walls of the studio. Just seeing those whirling images of herself from the corner of her eye, made her feel scrutinized. Whenever she saw herself she thought about how others would see her, ‘others’ being an auditorium full of people. And each time that occurred to her, she lost focus. Again, she internally scolded herself. “Remember why you’re doing this,” she thought.

Three days later Arya was standing backstage dressed in a plain white leotard that ended in a skirt. She pulled the curtain just an inch to the side and peeked. Through the glare of stage lights she could make out all the people seated in the auditorium, and couldn’t find a single empty seat. She let the curtain go and took a few deep breaths. She had it planned out. She was going to avoid looking at anyone and look only at the back wall of the hall if she ever needed to look up. Besides she knew the dance steps like the back of her hand.  No need to worry. Right? Right.
Glancing around her, Arya noticed a signboard in the shape of a folded ribbon. It had been painted with the colours of the rainbow and hung right in the middle of the stage. Once her performance was over the curtain would be raised to reveal it. The slogan below the ribbon read, “For children with cancer.” Reading it strengthened her resolve. She could do this. She had to. Just then one of the men backstage signaled to her. She nodded, pushed the curtain aside and walked on to the stage confidently.

The performance went off flawlessly. Arya looked fantastic in her simple white get up with her hair in a bun, but it was her dancing that blew everyone away. She started slow and simple, her soft and smooth steps matching the piano notes. Then as the music intensified so did she, her movements were faster and stronger and bigger but all the more graceful. Her legs crisscrossed as her entire body extended and contracted with the flow of the music. Her arms waved elegantly through the space around her, her legs rose higher with every leap and each time she bent she made a perfect arch. She seemed to occupy the entire space of the stage as she whirled around arms extended, vaulted towards the ceilings with perfectly pointed toes and landed onto the floor as gently as a feather. She had captured the audience with all of her, up till her fingertips that stretched above her or curled and twisted through the air around her. At that moment she knew of nothing but herself and the stage. She owned it.

 It was a huge success. The profits from all the tickets were going to be used for the benefit of children suffering from cancer. Moreover, several people driven by Arya’s passionate performance had decided to make sizable donations as well. She was overjoyed with the applause and overwhelmed by the amount of praise that followed, but she didn’t have time for either of those. As soon as she could Arya packed up her things and got herself a cab. In less than fifteen minutes she was at the hospital where, losing no time, she ran up to room 305. She pushed the door open and rushed in saying, “Hey buddy!”
A small girl with a crop of short, brown hair lay on the bed. The number of tubes going into her arms was far too many for an eleven year old, but she grinned at her sister nonetheless. “How’d it go?”
“It was great!” Arya reached into her bag and brought out a laptop and pen-drive, “You want to watch it? I got a copy of the video, as promised.”
“Yeah, duh.” As Arya put the pen-drive in place her sister raised herself on the bed with a little difficulty. “Did you get a standing ovation?” she asked.
Arya smiled. “Oh, yes. That, and so much more.”

To McDonald’s, With Love

There is something about McDonald’s, as a popular franchise restaurant loved by so many, that makes me certain that it will last the incessant passage of time and remain, a relic, in the future. It is so coveted and so passionately loved by some people (including me) who could never tire of their staple fries and burger. The universality of their food, the presence of a McDonald’s in more than a hundred countries convinces me that it will never truly die out like so many other ‘greats’ of the world already have. It may go through several modifications but no, it is impossible that ‘mcd’ would ever cease to exist altogether. I can almost see it, the year 2070:

An aged woman walks on a street. The world’s countless problems weigh down her shoulders and beget the smoke in her hand. Her fluff of white hair is like a tiny, bobbing lamp casting a luminescent glow in the dark, grimy street. Her pace is slow, her head bent down as she thinks of what the world has become. She mourns about how much it has changed since her youth, for better or for worse? Nobody even knows anymore. But she soon spots a bright yellow glow on the pavement in front of her. She looks up to see none other than the giant McDonald’s ‘M’ hovering above her. It’s flickering, but stubbornly bright against its dull surroundings. She can’t help it, she smiles.

She flicks the cigarette to the ground and crushes it with a foot, still looking up at the large ‘M’ looming over her like a halo. She proceeds and pushes the door open. A blast of the cold air conditioning hits her, a welcome from the humidity outside. She looks around, even at this time of the night at least a third of the tables are occupied. She walks to the counter and places an order with an aloof looking employee. Looking around, her eyes wander over the grimy floors and the chairs scattered around. It isn’t maintained in perfect condition, but that had never been its charm, she thinks. The employee attracts her attention and hands her a tray with her order. Finding the nearest empty table, she sits down eagerly. A soda cup filled with coca cola, a McSpicy chicken burger and a bunch of French fries sit obediently in front of her. She sips the drink, the liquid cools her throat. Picking out a fry she dips it into the ketchup she poured out onto the tray for old time’s sake and bites into it. There’s a slight crunch, followed by the soft warmth of the potato. The twang of ketchup accompanied with just the perfect amount of salt meets her and she smiles even further. Finally, lifting the burger with both of her frail, bony hands, she takes a bite. It’s like being flung into the past at warp speed. The crackle of the crispy patty takes her back to all the birthday party lunches spent in McDonald’s with a huge bunch of friends. Noise, party hats, and tables smeared all over with cake and ketchup come to her mind.  The lettuce and the oozing cheese remind her of sitting with her family around similar tables and giggling over who was stealing whose fries. The burst of mayonnaise in her mouth makes her feel like she’s back in her dorm room, enjoying a home delivered McDonald’s meal in pajamas on her bed. She leans back in her chair, savouring the meal in front of her.

Having nowhere particular to be at this time she takes her own time with her meal, relishing every mouthful. She glances at the occupants of the other tables, most of them grey or white haired like herself. Also like her, most of them sitting by themselves, seemingly engrossed in the trays of food in front of them. Except in the corner, where an old couple sit across from each other sharing an ice-cream sundae. They chat and laugh, oblivious to the rest of them. It takes her back to the many times she shared a vanilla soft serve with her late husband. So McDonald’s survives. It survives the ruthless passage of time and all the radical changes that come with it, and persists. It becomes a gateway to the past for those who want to relive it again. It becomes a real and happy escape. The old woman concludes her meal with this thought, crumples the burger wrapper in her hand and promises herself to come here more often. As she carries her tray to the disposal aisle she looks down at it and sees a clown, dressed in yellow with red and white stripes smiling up at her. And as Ronald McDonald cheerfully waves up at her she thinks, not all is wrong with the world just yet.

To New Beginnings

It’s a known fact that the year 2016 was not the greatest one. So much so, that the year has now transcended to meme level. It’s the last day now, less than 24 hours left for the year that took away some of our great and revered actors and artists to finally reach its end. A lot of people are nearing the end of the year with sighs of relief and new expectations but low standards for the coming year. Personally, I think that 2017 could do with a little hope. Hope that waters will be bluer and grasses greener. Hope that skylines look more magnificent against sunsets that are more beautiful. That slothfulness will be shrugged off and pencils picked up again. That creativity and science will blossom and cross another milestone in the progress of humankind. That kindness and joy are passed around like candy on Halloween. That chins will be held higher as we learn to accept and embrace identities, not just our own but of those around us. Hope that she finally finds the courage to make her destiny her own and strive for the goals she always wanted. Hope that he finally finds the peace and freedom to pursue his dreams without reproach. Hope that every individual can, unhesitatingly, be who they truly are, with whomever they want to be with. Hope that children see more playgrounds than war zones and the whole world sees more life than death, more light than darkness. Here’s to hope. Here’s to 2017.

A Thunderstorm on a Beach

Just past dusk, the remnants of an iridescent sunset are still visible in the dark sky like dying embers. The air is still, the beach silent. Towards the west a row of palm trees stands protecting the beach’s golden sands from civilization. On the other side is nothing but the wide, open sea. A huge mass of deep blue stretching towards the edge of the earth. Flecks of dark red and orange can be seen through the spaces between the trees but they do not last long.  There, from the south where the trees and the sand converge to a point, a hoard of menacing, black clouds make their way. They roll towards the beach and the closer they get the louder the rumbling becomes. The wind picks up and in just a few minutes the huge, dark shapes reach the seashore. They cast a shadow over the beach, darkening the golden sand and reducing the rich, blue ocean to a dull grey. They form a thick layer, a dark roof above the serene landscape. They loom, thundering, over the sea that begins to roughen in agitation. Larger waves are thrown against the shore where they crash and crumble into foam. The thunder stops, a few moments of silence filled with apprehension and then all at once there’s a crack of lightning followed by an outburst of rain. Heavy rain falls in torrents towards the Earth peppering the beach with huge droplets of water hitting the shore and the sea alike. The sand is dark, wet and sloppy with muddy water running in trails and tiny rivulets from the trees to meet the sea. The wind is strong and powerful. It whistles as it forces the tall trees to bend to its will. And the sea. Oh, the formerly calm and serene sea is now wrecked by the storm. But it remains just as glorious. The vast ocean swells as the volley of raindrops disturb the water’s surface. The water is dark and turbulent, giant waves leap out towards the shore as if seeking to drown the coast. A flash of lightning lights up the perilous waters, and the ocean seems to echo the thunder. The sea is forceful, chaotic, amazing and terrifyingly beautiful.

The storm persists, the rain continues to beat down on the beach and no speck of the sky is visible through the clouds. For hours it goes on this way, the wind howling, water heaving and the trees creaking. The solitary beach does not have the privilege to acknowledge the moon’s rise or its fall. The gale reaches its height, the tide proudly swells and expands and the descent begins. The gale reaches its height, the tide proudly swells and expands and thereafter the descent begins. Gradually, the waves become smaller and gentler, the clouds lighten to a soft grey and the wind slows down to a cool breeze. The thunder and lightning ceases, the ocean doesn’t writhe and heave as much as it was and the waves don’t hit the shore as much as brush against it. Everything seems to be reverting to its former state. For the first time in the night the clouds, thinning out rapidly, part a little to reveal the dark sky and a twinkling star or two.

The now wispy clouds gradually disperse and all is calm again. The sea only gently ebbs away from the shore. The vast expanse of water is a picture of tranquility with only a slight breeze rippling the water’s surface. The sky begins to lighten towards the east, the inky blue fading to a softer, paler shade and merging into the warm hues of pink and red. Then a shaft of light breaks through the long stretch of horizon, a thin column of brightness piercing the dim sky. It emerges, almost peeking out from behind the great, big, blue ocean. Bit by bit the sun raises itself, the column of light widening with each passing second. Barely a part of the great orb can be seen but it’s ever increasing glow illuminates the sky like a warm fire in a cold, dark room. Hesitant and flickering at first, then growing in confidence and all too fast its radiance lights up the whole room, spreading its warmth in all directions. How similar it feels when the sun rises and warms up the world. The reflection of the rising sun shines across the ripples of the sea like jewels glittering just under the surface. The water changes attire along with the transforming hues up above. The spreading red is highlighted by a tinge of pink on one side and streaks of bright orange on the other. Cheerily chirping birds soar way out at sea, their shapes silhouetted against the warm melange. The colours of dawn extend across the sky like strokes of a brush by an unseen hand, the light reaching all the way across the entire dome dispelling any sign of the darkness and along with it the previous night’s storm.