Break Up

The moment had passed...
Silence ushered in,
Cigarettes lit, ashtray's passed
Words remained unspoken.

Seconds lapsed to minutes
minutes ticked to an hour 
and then many...

The occasional sound of water glugging
ended by the resounding silence

She rose and walked purposefully towards the loo
Switched the light on and quietly latched the door
Almost in a single motion.

The sound of a matchstick striking the box 
Indicated another cigarette lit.

Outside, smoke rings peter out.
Heavy, round, ovular rings of smoke
disappear as they rises upwards

The window on the far side was open
Timid yet steady breeze passed in 
every few moments. 

The silence was unnerving
Rattling, almost a death knell
The proverbial lull before the storm...

The flush broke the silence.
Then water gushing out of the basin tap
and a repetitive sound of water 
cupped in the palm, splashing the face.

Outside, a huge heave
a sigh of relief, followed by silent breathing 
The door opened finally
Rays of light from the rest-room flooded the far side

Specks of dust brought in by the gentle gush, now visible.
And then the gentle push to door brought the room back to stark darkness

The darkness was the only soothing thing
No not the only, silence helped too.
Consumed in thought, the cigarette burnt to the butt

Forcing a muted ouch and a flick of the butt.

This is how it would be, thought he
Dark and silent
No words scathing the other
No words, barbed and wiry
No more verbal assaults

Their sharp wits and tongues
Sarcasm had brought them together
Ironically, she reflected.
She groped her hand bag, and found the packet
The last cigarette of the last pack waited.
She knew it was her last, she'd borrowed one from him before she rose
Silently of course.

Fidgety, she'd left the matchbox in the loo
She looked up to meet the eyes she'd been averting
since they'd met here. They looked back.
It was a generous look, not the searing look that made her feel stripped
Neither the glint after a cocky, caustic one liner
She wasn't used to this look.
of apathy, of lifelessness, of acceptance
yet he didn't look down.

He took the lighter out of his shirt pocket
and gently without his usual flourish
offered it to her. She saw the raised arm,
But she was looking in those eyes
Searching for something
she didn't know...

He could always make his eyes talk
Since she'd first seen him, checking her out
His eyes made it clear, it wasn't a look of awe 
He wasn't enamored or smitten.
But he was genuinely interested
she could tell, as her gaze had shifted then
Avoiding those intrusive pair of eyes.

She expected disdain, anger, retaliation in his eyes
but found none, as she picked the lighter 
Careful not to brush her fingers against his hand
She lit up and for a moment blinded him
For in that darkness, her face was clearer now
The signs of weeping hadn't been visible earlier

He didn't feel remorse, or sorrow, or empathy
But strangely felt protective
Not of her perhaps, but of what they shared
Or what they used to share!

He hadn't planned to fall for her
Neither had she, 
It was the game that egged both on
Till most games as these end.
In love, in realization of a passion unexplained.

They hadn't made love
They didn't want to
They just wanted the assurance of each other.
And so it had been, 
Despite his moving away to another city for greener pastures

Till today,
Till he opened the door and saw the house half empty
She had taken away all but one of her cartons
The one which she'd hoarded his letters, movie tickets,
Bills of food and drink, books he'd sent, music he'd shared.

He'd waited for her to arrive
For it was she who had asked him to come.
And so it had been since.
They'd been silent.

The weight of her taking a new lover was not all
The secrecy that shrouded it did
They had spoken every day
Had she lay in bed with someone in one of their conversations?
His mind wandered in myriad directions
Thoughts flooding and replacing till another had even taken shape.

Her phone rang
She answered after the third ring
and quietly murmured, I'll be down in 5.

This time he didn't look into her eyes
Instinctively, despite the darkness
He stared towards the general direction of the door.

She cleared her throat and said "I must leave".
Must you? He thought; "Yes you must" he answered
And without a thought ambled towards the switch board
and switched the lights on.
The lights almost blinded her
But she walked towards the door,
even as she grew accustomed to the light...

She stood at the door and looked back
Waiting for his parting shot, for he always had the last laugh
His face showed no emotion, his eyes placid and true
almost glasslike...
But he didn't fire any salvo's 
He was done.
"Goodbye", he said and turned away.

She stood unmoved, waiting for something
But nothing happened, he didn't even look back at her
She'd hoped it would end amicably, even begged him so
He wanted to keep his word.

The phone rang again, and she instinctively rejected it
She'd hoped for something, yet she didn't know what
She lingered, unmoved for a few more moments 
Then turned her heels, and closed the door behind her. 
After all, the moment had passed...

Remember, Remember...

Remember the walks from College to your home, remember making you wait outside AMRI, while I headed towards Panchantala, remember 5 years of sharing lectures, notes and conversations, remember blocking your phone on your birthday from 12-6, and dropping by for lunch the next day, remember, you, Aadil and me in your room, remember wading through water to drop you home, remember the play rehearsals and your exasperation's, remember days at Tarnaka, and at Arunlekha's house.
Remember the snaps I took at your wedding, remember the Sin City's and V for Vendetta's we watched together. Remember Chandnidi's house at Nacharam... Remember picking on Partho Mukherjee and gaping at Bertie, remember giggling the class off, while AP and Christina were lecturing, Remember spending more time photocopying your notes than actually reading them... 
Remember every damn thing, you chastising me when I would go off the boil, laughing at me imitating Belafonte singing Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Remember that crazy night with Elakshi, Namrata, Arunlekha, Runa & Vineet, Remember the fact that you always took my calls irrespective of the time, 
Remember the Christmas at Chris' home with Suman, Tri, Jishnu, 'Banjo' amongst others; Remember you down with cramps and getting the proxyvons, Remember you introducing me to Hari, remember sitting in the staircase near the library, and the road along the ground with Vidisha, Tri, Sagnik, Simon, Krittika, Jishnu, Banjo...
Remember you punching my solar plexus for 8 years...
Miss them for 2 & half years now.
Like everything else...
Miss you and Love you girl, for you truly will be Forever Young...

Picture Perfect

The Final Paper
The Final frontier,
The last hurdle
Minutes before a famous victory
I'll recollect the exultation many a time, I think
and remember the expression on everybody's visage

The final bow
The one for keeps...
as papers go flying in the air.

Excitement gives way to euphoria
As bodies break into cold sweat;
and the voices go shrill

Faces turn blurry now
Yet the voices remain fresh...
Shrilly and piercing, a cry of joy celebrates the end
Of another step in life.

A hurdle bound to pale out to insignificance
in times to come

But the sketches are etched forever,
The faces may meet two scores later
with shades of joy and recognition of another kind.

Bodies may decay, faces spread out
The memory that comes back though
is the lasting image,
of goodbyes, adieu's and au revoir's.

Remarkable they seem later, theatrical, Beckketisque,
Pinter-like even, joyful nonetheless!
A momentary glimpse of 'all of us' together,
The moment that stuck, almost as if frozen in a time warp
or even a photograph!

Yet that's the moment which keeps coming back,
When days gone by are recalled.

We didn't have mobile phones with cameras
to remind us of those moments,
yet every megapixel remains
in some deep corner of the mind.

Wishing we'd got the Point and Shoot 35 mm's
the KB 10's, the Vivitars and the Minoltas
a Cannon or a Yashica if you were privileged
with film rolls that needed studios to get prints of,
negatives that were preserved, all 27 or 36 of them if you were lucky!
Just in case a friend asked for a copy...
None of us owned Polaroids then
They were too fancy for us!

I found a few strips today in an old shoe box, the negatives looking eerily familiar
And as i think of today's myriad photographers, toting a Digital SLR
and framing a perfect composition.

I wonder if they evoke the nostalgia of the perfect frame that wasn't captured?

Shine on you crazy diamond!

 Dedicated to you Bondhu!
May you be forever young...

On a familiar note

Tonight shall pass
Like yesterday and yesterday and yesterday,
Or should I say yester nights?

Eyes wide shut and mind wide open
beckoning disinterested sleep to calm me down
and lull me away to distant lands
where dreams reign supreme. 
Voluntarily if possible.

Images flash by, like reels of film
I hear hushed, incoherent murmurs
Blissfully asleep beside me,
dreaming of a an ancient land
Of twisted by-lanes, and narrow streets
Chowks and Paras, Mohulla's or neighbourhoods
Different words float by too.
Different worlds too!

Some flashes of NY, some of Calcutta, some of school
A long drive in the distant, foreign lands
a wild dash to the house across,
Here in the teens, now a child, Lo! a woman.
The ever-mesmerising call of home beckons.

Sleepless myself, I feel a hand reaching out
which finds content by my mere presence.
The hands stop benignly, and nestle in,

A cycling expedition, perhaps, i think.
With brothers and sisters, to the dam 
calm on a side, bursting, churning at the other.

The mild headache, turns throbbing, pulsating pain
I close my eyes again, and find myself in black,
Stuttering lines from Brecht, squeaking almost from the throat
i remind myself, it should come from the gut,
I try a baritone, picturising Belafonte. 
It doesn't happen, so a friend improvises, becomes my echo
Repeating after me, to the audience in the far corner
Who couldn't hear me.

"A middle aged man was taking a walk one evening in the avenue of poplars... Nothing special had happened that day. ...As he went back to thinking about the Apfelbock case...-it struck him he could easily kill the dentist tomorrow, with a knife, say...But he could equally well not kill him.                              
He wanted to sit doen at the piano and play Haydn; but Apfelbock had waited seven days (after killing his parents and kept the corpses in a chest), during which time he had first moved first to the living room, and then to the balcony because of the weird smell). Haydn couldn't disguise that.
Suppose I did die, he thought. I'd like to have a child. Perhaps I already have one. If I die nobody will give a damn. If I stay alive nobody will give a damn either. I can do what I like nobody will give a damn.
Troubled, the man got up and put on an army greatcoat over his shirt. Thus clad, he went out to the street. It was not all that dark; clouds passed, visible, damp, compact. Stiffly the black chimney pot pierced the sky.
...He hummed: "How gently falls the bridal tear, When the bridegroom slugs her in the ear". Then he walked faster, ...singing in his shirtsleeves; for he threw off his coat; on a planet like this nobody needed a coat.
Loudly intoning, he strode through the streets, and no longer understood anything."
The Revelation-a short story by Bertolt Brecht.

The images and the installations whizzed past me
All the places we had performed at randomly.
The pain had subsided, it was back to a steady throb
I could hear sweet, rhythmic breathing from the side.

Opening my eyes, i recalled an interview
Shekhar Kapur on Phoolan Devi
When asked how he had visualised the serial gang-rape in the village
He'd said he sat alone in a room and kept switching the lights on and off!

Closing my eyes again, i now visualised the colour black
forcing myself to ignore any thought or memory, any image
The colour of peace and tranquility is Black for me. Jet Black.
Turning sideways to rest my arm over, i needed sleep i thought.

To play the same role, wear the same make up, do the same things 
Lest I lose continuity.

The Serpentine street / Rear Window

The serpentine street overlooks
Tall, yet, old and frail houses
Which hover over it from all sides
The houses have histories, the street, all the memories.

I watch quietly from my rear window 
wondering what secrets the street knows

The awakening of the lazy street
Doesn't coincide with mine
Knowing well I'm watching it
Half asleep, it covers its eyes.

Shying away from impending dawn
As if snoozing its alarm
It readies itself for another day
Of memories all around.

As light breaks in, the cycle bells ring
Newspaper boys do their rounds
On the open balcony's they fling
One fails to throw one in
Ambitiously throwing two together
One on the second,
The other up third floor.

Watching it land on the parapet
He curses himself for a bad attempt 
Resting his bicycle against a wall
He picks the weapon of choice

Racing up the stairs he goes
And runs up to the third
Arching precariously through the window
Bracing for the duel ahead
He takes his humble weapon out
A long and dangling bamboo stick
Remnants of a cobweb cleaner

And pokes his lance out.

The newspaper's a worthy opponent
Refusing to budge a bit, 
Helped by a stray stone on the parapet
The boy get his hit

Knowing laws of gravity
Perhaps not Newton's
He rushes down the stairs quickly
Reaching out to the battered paper.

Picking it up and he dusts it hard
Removing traces of the dust settled on it 
He takes his aim and throws it right up third

He waits.
To hear the landing thud 
Looking up all the while,
Bubka would be proud of him i think

Then he looks me in the eye.

The horror in his face apparent
Guiltily he looks down, 
I'm trying to make eye contact
But his eyes remain fixed down.

Finally, he trudges towards his pride
Bicycle rested against the wall
He looks up at me once again 
Carpe diem or Carpe florem
I gesture towards him frantically.

The quizzical look on his face, finally catches my smile.
He smiles back at me, knowing his secret's safe
Rushes to his bicycle, so many more deliveries to make.
I share a secret with the street I feel, and help myself to a grin
From a distance i hear a tinkling sound 

The pulley rickshaws are in.

As dawn turns to morning, the street wakes up too
Used the morning's hustle-bustle, it stretches its arms and legs
instead of turning over.

The first batch of morning walkers start their trail
Sweatshirts, track pants, jogging shoes, the feet start picking pace
Here the occasional greeting, as each others they pass bye

Some just nod in acknowledgement, strangers they may be
But the daily routine of theirs, has built a camaraderie.

Next the working women come, the maids from far beyond
Ticket-less in trains they come, in hordes they pass by
Others come from a walkable distance' n call it nearby!
As door bells awaken sleepy heads, the daily chores begin.

The street and I keep watching, perhaps some others too.
It's not so odd after all, Rear Window was written in '52!
Too many times...

Too many times have I done this
Too many times reneged.

Woken up in a pool of sweat
Always, unerringly at three
The coldness of it overwhelms.

The harshness of it unfelt.
I light a cigarette, and ponder
Wonder why three, and look yonder
Through the window overlooking my bed.

The fading night beckons me
I respond to its strings like a puppet
Getting out of bed, wondering
Whether to go for a drive
Or smoke another cigarette.

As I switch my system on
the whirring sound of its fan 
Reminds me i need to upgrade the ram
i logon to the internet 
And aimlessly surf around.

A rush of blood, and ideas pour in
and aimless surfing goes to the bin
Pen and paper long gone,
I turn my digital diary on.
Randomly, my thoughts i jot type
And hope for substance not just hype.