Heat

We are out of it already.
We are no longer in love.
We love that is certain.
And that is good enough.
If they touch us, they will know a fire here was once lit.
We are just heat, you and I.

Love is such a fleeting emotion anyway.
I think I am in love with you.
And already I have lost the feeling.
Now I am merely thinking, drifting in its aftermath.
As smoke
Rising in the air because somewhere there was a fire.

I want to extinguish myself.
Because I am consumed by my love for you.
​I want to be alone in love.
When I am completely in love with you.
I want to be a match struck in the rain.
Drenched, spent, pointless.

No person can always be in love with another.
Don’t woo me everyday.
And I shan’t hanker for you either, everyday.
Let us fill our lives with annoyance, irritation, disgust, disillusionment, apathy.
This way, we shall burn all the brighter when we meet.
And our combined heat shall set the universe aflame.

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Kiss

The universe puts
Two friends in a room
Rolls a joint
Makes them smoke it
Soon he starts to sing
And she laughs
languishing on the bed.
He lies beside her
As they always do.
He touches her body
Trails his finger on her arms,
Her legs, then up to her hair.
He makes up a song as he goes along
It makes them both laugh
But suddenly he is over her
As he sometimes does
At a home they share
It’s nothing new
But today she sees that
He has perfect lips
And a face to die for
She laughs at the cliché.
His eyes darken.
Hers shift.
She makes a joke of it.
Oedipus Rex.
She stutters the play.
They laugh.
He knows the game.
They have that connection.
They can have entire conversations
Without any context.
And still understand each other.
‘No. The wicked zamindar.
Who always has his way
With the nubile village lass.’
They laugh some more.
He moves away
And she misses his warmth.
It’s a cold room.
There’s no heater.
She siddles in again next to him
Just for the heat, she tells herself.
It’s her right.
He is her own joy come to life.
He fists her hair hard
‘Too violent’, he says
Loosening the grip.
But she enjoys it.
They have been violent before.
They have played scrapping siblings too.
He snorts a laugh and sprays her hand
She goes ‘Ewww…’
And rubs her hand
Against his clothes, his chest.
He arrests her hand and licks her palm.
She cries in protest, laughing.
They are children at play
The universe makes them play
A very adult game.
He traps her hand between his
He holds her by the waist
And sings his made up song
They laugh anew.
They have smoked potent stuff
The best money and friendship can buy.
‘What are you doing?’ she asks drunkenly
As his hands trail down her body.
‘I am not touching this’ he says
Pointing to her breasts
‘And I am not touching this’ he says
A finger hovering around her vagina.
She holds her breath
Releases it on a laugh
As he warms his hand
Between her burning thighs
‘So hot’ he says.
‘Go sleep on the other bed,
you are so hot.’
‘Only there’, she protests
And places her frozen fingers
On his neck.
‘Ugh.’ He pulls at her hair again.
Her face lifts off the pillow
Her breath fans his face.
They are children.
They lock eyes.
Their lips are close.
Too close for this game.
They wait a heartbeat
They wait an eternity.
They hover around a kiss.
‘Sleep on the other bed’ he says,
Impatient, suddenly angry.
‘I am hungry’, she wails,
A demanding little girl.
He offers her a chocolate
And puts it in his mouth.
‘Take’ he says.
She pouts and rummages
For her own chocolate bar.
‘Does he want me to kiss him?’
She dismisses all her instincts.
Are you horny?
She asks herself instead.
She proudly fishes out a large chocolate bar
Refuses to share it with him.
They pretend to be children.
They pretend like only adults can.
They bury away the awareness
They bury away this memory
And never speak of it again.
Later,
He finds a way
to blame her,
to hate her,
to stay away from her.
She doubts herself.
And in the doubting,
loses herself.
That kiss they never share
Changes the course
Of the entire universe.

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Summer

I know you won’t think of me now.
When the sun scoops vanilla clouds
And there are new friends
Planning exciting summer picnics
And dances mid summer nights.
When you can share your dreams
With colourful people who enjoy
Without intent, without intensity.
No.
You won’t think about me.
You are a summer child
And I am the dreary crone
Of relentless, lonely monsoons.
I am the trees dripping rain
Drunk, somnabulent in green.
I am the monsoon winds
Whipping grey and cold
Boringly intent.
Boorishly intense.
Pursuing.
Truth.
You.
Can.
Do.
Without.
Within.
No.
You won’t think of me now.

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Morning 

It’s 7 am.
And I wake up in a warm bed
too large for a single person
to neighborhood noises –
clattering vessels and conversation muted
by walls and windows.
My head pounds to the beat
of a sprightly mixer making chutney.
My eyes shut tight against light
wish for a gun that would
shoot the migraine away.

I am pregnant.
My stomach swells
with your good intentions
and your kindness
that refuse to be born.
My pregnancy lasts
a lifetime of wanting,
desiring decency.
My pregnancy refuses
to birth
our conventional desires
and so shames only me.

It’s 7 am.
In the morning
Words have more clarity.
Even those that lack depth.
Worlds have hope everywhere.
Today is a new day.
But where I live
with my swollen stomach
my head pulsing failure and loss
morning brings only sickness.
And a heart heavier than
The light of a piercing sun.

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Ageing

Cities change. That familiar landmark next to the empty lot doesn’t look the same anymore now that the empty lot is a seven storied building. That’s what strikes me on Instagram.

My city has changed. It’s no longer familiar. While I have been living, ekeing out my existence teaching, puffing up with self-importance when I ‘Like’ a comment on a post on the Modi government on Facebook, things have moved on, changed. Entire buildings have been built. The sky has turned blue, then grey, and then a pregnant red at night portending rain, while I have idled days away watching American dark comedy, watching Transparent.

At the restaurant, I suddenly catch myself in a mirror and start because I look familiar but also like a stranger. Who is that woman?
My hair greys out at the edges of my face, but shines burgundy, and my skin ruddies with a smile and the heat. My body is thick, substantial, proud. I pride myself on being self-aware but now I am constantly startled by how little I have changed in love, in anger, in friendship. So that woman in the mirror I glimpsed so startlingly cannot be me. She looks self-possessed, bored, self-important, and indifferent even when she smiles.
Everyday, I scrub at memories so I can erase a bit of the people who have left, so I can reassure myself I don’t hurt anymore, so I can reclaim myself. It’s like moulting. Everyday. It’s painful. Everyday. But the woman in the mirror looks like she has it all figured out. That woman looks like she would dismiss pain like a fallen eye-lash hair. Hardly caring about anything.

The city brims with people and stony faces. I dream of crisp weather and faces that care. But I myself don’t care anymore. People are tiring and tiresome and no one is more so than me. For someone with deep sated commitment phobia, I have lived too long with myself.

The city can’t go on for too long. There’s no water. Rain is a promise and a sludgy curse. The heat is intolerable in January we whine to each other but don’t know of any productive step that would bring the cool back to the city. The buildings kiss skies proclaiming progress in brittle, glassy confidence. Inside, people are dying a little each day. The dead walk amongst us smug, laughing, defeated, raging like mad on their car and bike honks on the streets. We choke and die anew in traffic.

A friend tells me China has foresight while Indians are riddled with religion. China focuses on the future, plans for decades from now in smog-filled cities that are all about urbanity and development. China dreams of world domination. We fight over what Rama wore to bed at night in newer, urbane accents. We dream totalitarian dreams, impressing no one with our vocabulary that labels everyone and everything in binaries.

Numbers are never odd. My tarot reader reads my cards and is appalled that I have no savings. Why is the future a preoccupation then? I reassure her that I am not worried about the future. I want to figure this now out. I want to figure out this strangeness with my own familiar skin. She chides me for not worrying about the future. But you must care about money she exclaims. She won’t take money from me. Money is inconsequential we both say at the same time. Unless you don’t have it, she warns.

I decide to educate myself in economics and see that entire countries are debt-ridden and states have over-drawn accounts.

Nothing gets done in this city. They announce tenders for laddoos for the Namma Metro inauguration. Everywhere, the streets team red and angry with the deluge of vehicles. The metro divides us like an orphan vein throbbing in self-importance, bursting varicose with the crowds even when it connects nothing with anything.

My head roars like rain on the asbestos sheets of the metro station, filling me with unnecessary insights on the cusp of another birthday.

  1. Bangalore is dying.
  2. This, right now, is all there is.
  3. You are already who you are.
  4. Families are full of people who are too familiar and unwilling to be surprised by each other.
  5. Heed Shakespeare. Moderation is the key.
  6. So even when you are burnt out in life, even when the city no longer speaks to you, even when your lovers belong to other people, be grateful.
  7. Anyone can fuck anybody and orientation is just buggering bullocks.
  8. Readiness is all.
  9. When your dreams die and your lost, unconceived baby dies, mourn quietly, in silence.
  10. Guard your privacy and your grief, even if there are willing ears and others’ fingertips to wipe your tears.
  11. Don’t make life about yourself.
  12. Don’t make a life for others.
  13. Don’t make. Life. It happens.
  14. Ageing is just old things looking different and new things becoming familiar.
  15. Ageing is change. Until it no longer is.
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Somebody to Love

The beauty about life is that you will always end up learning, and especially learning not to be a smug, superior, self-righteous prick.
You think you will never have an affair with a loserly, married man, no, not you with your values and with your staunch distaste for clichés.
Ha.
You think you will never date someone whose English language skills are clearly always going to be a work-in-progress.
Life makes you fall in love with a few Germans or worse, many Malyalees.
You have seen the ‘Annavaru’ fans, and recently the ‘Amma’ fans, wailing and weeping when their idol passes on, torching things and immolating themselves in their grief, and you shudder and think, “What weak people! What absurdity this is!”

And then, George Michael dies.
Suddenly, unexpectedly.
On Merry Christmas day.
On the same night you stay awake all night, inexplicably, with a migraine and a sadness that can swallow the universe.
‘What?’ you think as your best friend calls you, crying audibly, at the ungodly hour of 9 am just an hour after you have finally managed to sleep, “Did you hear? It’s George Michael. It seems he died.” She can barely get the words out.

How can that be, you wonder. Didn’t you have this compelling urge to listen to Faith, just last night? You subjected your tiny Christmas party to a loud performance of Father Figure in the guise of checking the music controls as you and your best friend laughed and shared a knowing look because George Michael isn’t just about music if you were a girl growing up in the 1990s in Bangalore.
No.
He is fun, and sex, and sanction.
He is the ultimate lover with a voice that makes your toes curl for the very first time, the one who writes soulful music but creates seductive videos, the sorts you are uncomfortable watching in front of your parents.
Yet, it is his poster, blue, hairy, signed, intense, looking slightly pained and hurt, that you wake up to in the mornings – a perfect gift from your then best friend.
That’s the intensity you are looking for in the many hapless boys that flit into your life, the poetry you want from the lovers you deign to kiss.
It’s a trend that never stops.

After school, when you come home and try to hover around the ubiquitous ITI telephone so you can answer the calls from the boyfriends and the girls without parental screening, you use George Michael as the excuse.
You play his hits one-after-another loud, crooning, singing along, even embarrassingly saying, “I want your sex” and knowing the parents will avoid your eyes, your corner, and just let you be for that one hour you play an entire tape loudly, almost in meditation.

The boys in your life capitalise on his power of seduction.
Birthdays or Valentine Day gifts in college from the richer boyfriends include cassettes and CDs of George Michael.
They think misguidedly, poor sods, that the 90s Bangalore girl will now unshrug her jacket and walk straight towards them, lean back in challenge for that kiss just like in Father Figure on the television.
The girls may kiss but they are thinking of George Michael.

The newspapers erupt one morning with news of his coming out.
It’s the first time you actually understand that it is possible for a man to not desire women. Yes, George Michael, yes, after all that!
You are saddened, confused, shocked, but the hope lingers.
You only half-joke to your friends, “I will convert him. He only needs to meet me and then we will be married.”
Wisdom, life, friends and family with excellent musical tastes have led you to discover other gay geniuses – the raw masculinity of Judas Priest and the unadulterated orgasm that is Freddie Mercury. You can now stand to have an idol who is gay.
It’s selfless, somehow. It makes your love purer.
What could you offer George Michael other than your devotion?

Thing is, you couldn’t have not devoted yourself to the lilting, high-pitched saxophone riff in the 1990s in Bangalore. The riff was soon followed by a voice that will always define molten for you. On the 12 pm show on Sunday on All India Radio, George Michael first entered middle class Kannadiga households.
While young, you thrilled at the pure music it was; older, you whimpered at the pathos in the poetry, the voice, the diction. How his voice shattered your heart when he sang ‘Pain is all you find.’
You discover Last Christmas.
You set about uncovering his lightheartedness in WHAM.
Someday, you would dance to Wake Me Up and wear white shorts. You would too do that.
You love the sweetness in If You Were There.
Club Tropicana is a summer vacation.
You are grateful to your cousin who has photocopied all the lyrics from an Archies lyrics book so you can sing along to all his songs.

The first time you ever enter a pub as a cowering, excited gang of girls in college, the riff of Careless Whispers immediately puts you at ease amidst the assault of beer, smoke, and strange men in dark, purpled corners. You know then that you can handle Queen, Metallica, The Doors, Led Zep, all those roots of yours that are slowly foot-holding your soul along with the alcohol and cigarettes, and, of course, the men.

But it is in Faith that you find religion. An album replete with messages for the converts. Kissing A Fool breaks you. This is a man who knew pain, and passion, and still cared about the world, about society, who advised how you were to listen without prejudice.
A man who told you repeatedly to chase passion and the heart and have fun while doing it.
This is a man who defined sexy for you in high heels, leather, smoky eyes, and lipstick that looked like stains.
This was the man who told you again and again that he would be your father figure, that you gotta have faith, and that sex is natural, sex is good, sex is fun, sex is best when it’s one-on-one.
A message everyone in your society neglected to give you, but a message that was now etched into your consciousness so you would never be awkward around bodies, sexuality, and love.
His own life and his scandals taught you that in an unfair universe, you were right to seek your bliss, stake a claim, and look sexy while doing it.
You learnt too that celebrity could be good, bad, vulnerable, maligned, confused, but essentially human.
Most of all, you learnt to bring genius and passion into your work because in the end, true worth in the work is what always stayed.

This was the man who first taught you to look outside the reality of middle-class, urban, Indian existence so years later in clubs in Berlin, walking around international airports, meeting people around the globe, you were never awkward, weirded out, or intimidated. No. This was the world that you already knew.
So you could give of yourself with the same energy with which he paid a tribute to Freddie Mercury and sang Somebody to Love (Best tribute ever!) in any city in the universe and bring your own brand of sexy while doing it.

George Michael is dead.
Yet, you are always looking in other people, for the man that emerged in the music you first fell in love with.
And when no one matches it, there’s George Michael and his music, compiled best hits in your favourite stage phrase, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Another righteous bubble gets pricked.
You spend the day in bed weeping and grieving this man you never knew, but one who changed your concepts of life, love, and sex so irrevocably.
Life, we know, always goes on.
It will continue in loving lesser mortals.

 

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Blind

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant, put on weight and reformed herself.
In these cards, I hold wealth and abundance she said from her tower overlooking Ulsoor lake.
An emotional raven escaped his Poe and fluttered morbidly to the balcony.
“Pay attention to atmosphere, seeing into the future is not just about the cards.
But from these same cards, I will help and heal, now that life is so abundant,”
she said heaving her large bosom and shuffling her deck.
“I wonder why this weight makes me feel blind.”

“Look”, said she, “the colours are green and yellow, yellow and green
Only good things shall your fortune bring. But, here, look at this card.
Do you know anything about the Major Arcane and the Minor Arcane?
No? Never mind.
Just see the picture. You have turned away from the comfort of a water body.
Look at the moon. It’s pale and curved to the right. Clearly, you are in the middle of a fight.
I wonder why this weight makes me feel blind”, she said nibbling on her lower lip.

“The thing with being blessed with sight, you know, is how curved and rounded your body gets.
Everything is written in the stars.
It’s not what you eat or how much you walk or what tai chi you do.
It doesn’t help if you are known as the wisest woman in Europe
With a wicked pack of cards, and the entire world knows you have a cold,
Because a silly poet once proclaimed it.
It’s all in the stars, but even so, I wonder why this weight makes me feel blind.” she said offering coffee.

“Do you have a question?
No?
Yes, your labour will bear rich fruits. Try not to eat them.
One must be so careful these days.
I see seventy percent effort and cloudy nights.
By the full moon give it your hundred
And only then shall you enjoy the sights.
Even with sight, I feel so blind.” she said placing newer cards in a Celtic cross.

“Tarot is in the practice and I have had plenty of it.
I have to thank Eliot for it, I suppose.
All this wealth now, what do I do with it?
My future and my past are so painfully clear.
I no longer even need the cards to report an impending war.
I don’t have to look too far.
And when I look, I am blind.” she said fingering The Sun card.

“Tell me, have you ever considered bariatric surgery?
They tell me there are very good doctors at Colombia Asia right in Bangalore
A stitch here and a tuck there, they say.
Just four to five lakhs, I have heard.
But one must be so careful these days.
Abundance is also a failing, you see.
As is sight. So I only sit and serve these days.
Really, how can weight make you feel blind?” she asked and breathed a sigh.

“Thank you. If you see dear Miss. Bangalore, tell her I am glad she left her husband.
He threatened to kill me, for telling her that he was fond of dicks.
But it’s all in the stars, you know.
I only speak about what I see in the cards.
I made him sit, drink coffee, even when I foretold the rest.
See my swollen feet? Please kill me, I begged.
This weight makes me so blind.”

“He left me alone after drinking my Chikkamagalore coffee, just as I feared.
His cards did not show violence, not even in bed.
His stars, you know, he’d never know true love.
She didn’t matter to him except in the abstract.
But loving, you know, it’s not a good business.
How could she be in love without sex? True love, she said.
One must be so careful these days, and true love makes you blind, I said.”

“I tell you this story so you may grow.
Control, that’s what love is about.
See this? The Emperor. Do not settle for less.
That’s inviting a mess.
One must be so careful these days.
Think, recognise his disinterest with your head.
Don’t let love make you blind.” she warned waving a thick finger.

“Fear death by water. It’s not an issue if you learn to float.
Love, learn, let go, and live. Accept and move on.
My only problem these days is how to scratch my toe.
So I help and heal. Tell people whatever I feel.
A medium even when maximum, must channel.
You can leave the money on the seal.
But to wealth and fame, I am, really, quite definitely blind.”

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