Category Archives: Personal

Spoken Word 3: A Man of Few Words.

To my man-of-few-words,

Im sorry I disappeared on you, for the second time. This letter isn’t about trying to reconcile, I’ve been writing away the seconds while trying to put together these lessons I, have learnt from you. To start, I can’t thank you for all that you’ve given me. I know we’ve been apart, but I write assuming you still have the same heart, so I can at least hope that you’ve forgiven me.

I wanted to tell you that you’re in my thoughts and just in case you believe that I forgot, I haven’t, not even in a slight way. I hope I find you exactly as I left you, lazing in the sun out by my driveway; remember that’s where we first met on that slight curb? I was walking home from school, and I found you lying in a pool of your own bright blood; battered and bruised like you’d starred in a dog’s remake of Fight Club.

The first few moments, we literally had a Mexican stand-off. I took a few steps to bandage your wounds and you almost snapped my hand off with a rough bite. So much for love at first sight, with that aggression. But thank you for teaching me that love is rarely about first impressions, that there’s always so much more to discover to a person than your worst perceptions. I live my life by that lesson today.

Remember our late night conversations, at odd hours? Of 16-year-old quips, relationships gone sour and all the pain? I poured my heart out into your glass over and over again and you downed it all without a complaint, even though my words required significant strain from you to know them. I remember when I needed an audience for my first ever poem, I turned to you; I know you didn’t understand shit but you listened like it meant the world to you. I mean, you didn’t have to care, right? You could have chased squirrels, licked your own butt, or whatever it is that dogs do in their spare time. But I guess the quiver in my voice told you what it meant to me. Now that it occurs to me; it is so easy to fall in love with a person who yearns to listen, without waiting for their turn to speak. The world needs more like you. But they don’t make any more like you.

You know what else hurts me too? You know so much about me and I know so little about you. I never asked if you craved attention which is pure and undivided. Never asked if you dated any bitches too, just like I did. Never knew about the incitement behind those facial scars. Never asked about the excitement within your playful barks. Never asked if your favorite song was Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, I just assumed you’d like it because the title sounded like an amazing part. So I sang it whenever we sat in the dark, lying on our backs and gazing at the stars.

The first time I had to say goodbye, I let you in for the night at the risk of being roasted alive by my parents. I tried to tell you what was apparent; why I was going to be a ghost for a while because my father was posted, so I’d spend most of my time setting house in a new area. How could I explain that all this was going to get progressively scarier and that distance turns the most balanced of us into obscure, edgy variants? How could I tell you that the family coming in our place, were pure vegetarians?

I was away for three long months, and then I came back just for two days. And as soon as I stepped near my old house and unlatched those two gates, it was like falling in love with your cute face all over again. If you were a person, your insults wouldn’t have been misplaced. You could’ve picked a bone with me and called me a disgrace, for abandoning and leaving you all alone in this place, but here you were, whimpering and jumping in our makeshift embrace, that familiar frame still full of so warmth. Tail wagging like a windmill caught in the midst of a shit storm. How could you forgive this easily? I wouldn’t have forgiven me.

In the next two days, you didn’t leave me alone, right from the moment I entered my guest room. Even stood outside my door when I went to use the rest room so I couldn’t escape your sight. Remember I was invited to an Air Force party the same night? So here I was, dressed up in formals, with a stray dog by my side, (perfectly normal); trying to tell you that legions of people would riddle us like a task force and you shouldn’t give them reasons to fiddle or to ask more. Five minutes into the party, and I heard someone scream “what’s a dog doing in the middle of the dance floor??”

That is a night I won’t ever need to get over. I spent our last evening handfeeding you other people’s leftovers but there’s nowhere else I would have rather been to pass time. I’m sorry I didn’t have the strength to say goodbye for the second and the last time, going by the past I, wouldn’t have taken it without weeping myself sore. My friends wrote me messages about how sometimes they saw you sleeping outside my door. It’s been nine years now, and I’ve written about you so many times but I have no one to tell me if you’re dead or alive. But if you are, I hope you know I miss you too. I don’t how good dogs are with YouTube but if you ever log on I hope you’ll find this, and see how a man of few words taught a little kid, a whole new language.

 

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This Story Is Mine.

I am writing a book
where you exist in pages,
ones I want to tear off
incinerate, erase it,
take chapters that mention you
find the will to write replacements,
but I won’t.
I won’t, because
this story is mine,
you’re a half-written character
and I, ran out of time,
and though the pain
of plotting your course
is gray and unrelenting,
I’ll let you stay the same because
this story is mine;
and you aren’t enough to change
the ending.

To The Girl Who Must Go On.

To the girl who must go on,

In the great wilderness of the world, you and I are trees. Strong stems, different leaves; but trees all the same. From time to time I part my branches and look at you, standing there magnificently, through rain, hail, snow, disease and I wonder, how can she go on so effortlessly? Even through forest fires which burn down everything we’ve ever tried to be, you have been scarred but not mutated, charred but not obliterated; and in that moment this little sapling next to you knew what he wants to be.

To the girl who must go on,

This is not a plea. This could be the first thing you want, or the last thing you need, but please do know that this comes from somewhere deep inside of me. Call it experience or label it compassion, but writing a letter has never gone out of fashion for someone who perpetually lives his present in the past. I know you do too, so maybe this is something you will relate to and hold on to, steadfast. I just hope it lasts for as long as I want it to.

It was a warm afternoon in a month I don’t remember. Oddly, it felt warmer inside the air-conditioned room than it did outside in the blistering heat. I sat opposite a middle-aged, bespectacled man; my mother sat next to me. She was wearing a scarf around her head, one to cover the bare skin where luscious tufts of jet black hair had fallen away after chemotherapy. She looked beautiful though, she always did when she was happy. She’d been cancer free for a couple of months, and all the right changes were there to see. Reinvigorated melanin, a radiant glow that stemmed from somewhere within and how nice her eyes looked without dark circles etching themselves into her skin, it made her look alive to me. But as always is the case with moments of peace, rediscovery is often rudely redefined by reality.

“Your cancer is back again”.

That day, I learnt a few things I will never forget. After I thanked the doctor for wrecking our world with a travesty, I looked at my mother and did something I was constantly guilty of doing. I lied to her. Promises like “It’s just a minor thing” or “It’ll be over before you know it” sounded hollow even in my own head. Maybe that’s why thoughts with empty intentions tend to echo inside your head for an eternity. When she looked at me and offered a weak smile, I just knew she didn’t believe me. Why would she, when I didn’t believe myself?

I could have started this letter by lying to you, but I won’t. You’ll probably see through it too. Maybe adversity makes some blind and for others it makes things easier to see through. But either way, I want to make you believe. I have seen my mother do everything that you’re enduring now; I have broken down while cleaning washbasins stained with vomit and blood, asking myself “Where do we go from here?” Maybe you ask yourself that too. But there are some situations which are best left away from the truth. Somewhere I believe that facts are hidden from us because we’d give up if we knew what was in store. Uncertainty is good, it gives you a chance to fight towards a door without ever knowing whether you’ll get there or if it’ll open.  All that matters, is that there is a door. But if you give up now, I promise you’ll never get there.

Anyway, over the next few weeks I saw and felt what relapse did to people. Why alcoholics, drug addicts, chain smokers find it difficult to deal with withdrawal, and why hopes of a rehabilitated future promised little respite in a present that refused to get better. I couldn’t and didn’t even want to imagine what my mother felt. The light at the end of our tunnel was a train. The silver linings to our clouds were the angry glimmer of thunderstorms and rain and sometimes it felt like the forces, natural and supernatural, conspired against us. But in those broken bits we could never put back together, we learnt to live little by little. That is all I ask of you.

Even though the cancer’s back, know that it returns only after losing to you. Against the winds of adversity, you’re a tree that stands tall in its wake, and even if you are about to bend or break your roots have dug far too deep for you to be uprooted or destroyed completely. Maybe that’s why the strongest parts to you are the ones you couldn’t see.

So today, no lies from me. Take it from someone who’s done it before and regrets having the audacity to look into the eyes of the most important part of himself to say that she was meant to stay and not to leave. Maybe you’ll shake and maybe you’ll sway, but those roots of yours have seen and felt all that you feel again today. Hold on, and let the storms pass. Tomorrow, when you outlast it again, and stretch your vast arms towards the sky, I will stand under your shade and thank the heavens and so will a million others who will have learnt how to stand with the best, and withstand the worst.

To the girl who must go on, the world will need your seeds.

 


The Power of Silence.

I stepped out of the crowded train, grumbling under my breath. The night air a peculiar mix of petrichor and a stench of sweat. I whipped my bag off, it was soaking wet, trying to find the umbrella that I usually kept. I searched frantically but couldn’t find it. Before I even opened the other compartment I was rudely reminded; my sister had taken it just this morning, the anger I felt was blinding.

The drizzle turned to torrential rain, lashing against the metallic shelter; under which crowds of frantic people were now running helter-skelter. I went down the stairs and took a right, as my path opened into the night; I stood just away from the grasp of the wet ground, waiting for the rain to subside. I cursed at sour lady luck, repeatedly used an expletive that rhymed with “truck”, wishing tonight had been a little different and I wasn’t here, cranky and stuck.

As I stood there with a blank stare, muttering quietly in despair, I suddenly smelt a delicious fragrance diffused into the damp air. I looked around like a wide-eyed owl, with a confused expression and a curious scowl, and as I spotted the little sandwich shop, my stomach let out an angry growl. I sprinted towards the store my heart in a little flutter, the aroma of grilled cheese and burnt butter on the side of crusty bread was making my mouth water. Two minutes after that, I stood with two grilled sandwiches in my hand, happy that this night was finally doing something except wanting to get me mad.

Fatigued and famished from all that waiting, I was salivating as I moved in for the first bite. But then I saw something else in the night that made me stop before I could eat. In a dark corner across the street, sat a man alone, on the stone pavement just a few feet away from where I stood. He sat still with closed eyes, arms raised to the open skies, his lips moving in quiet prayer for the Gods that I couldn’t see. His clothes were riddled with gaping holes, so were his shoes with torn soles; he shivered involuntarily every time a raindrop kissed his skin with jarring cold.

I covered one sandwich with a paper plate, hoping to preserve it from the rain, as I walked carefully in his direction I could see and feel his sorry state. As I stood before him, I could hear his breathing; rugged and heavy, the words receding, fading into the sound of raindrops crashing against everything. I tapped his shoulder and he opened his eyes, registering a look of sudden surprise. I lowered the plate and he lowered his arms, his eyes dropped their gaze from the skies.

When he spotted the food, a giant plateful, he looked at the heavens and prayed, immensely grateful. He gazed at me then, all the while, his lips stretching into a smile as I looked at him and returned the gesture. I stood over him and watched him eating, savoring every tiny bite even with the rain beating furiously against his skin. The sight made my heart melt so fast, I opened my sandwich and sat next to him.

For the next 15 minutes two strangers sat; with a pact of silence, both soaked and damp. Words unspoken, the quiet unbroken, yet one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. After I finished my treat, I got off my seat and smiled at him one last time. I turned around, without a sound, and quietly walked off into the night. A heart uplifted with new found hope, body and soul thoroughly soaked, I looked back at what I’d left, and I saw him embracing his torn, old cloak. Before he faded into the dark, I saw him slowly lifting his arms; the inaudible prayer resumed in all its glory-probably tranquil whispers of our story. He sat still again in pious defiance, amid the thundering of nature’s violence; I looked up and prayed for him, hoping the Gods could hear the power of silence.


How I Found Home Again.

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I had never felt so uncomfortable in a place that I had come to call my second home. The small, muddy ground with two rusty goalposts at each end had always been reassuringly familiar to me; but not on that one night. Over the past year, I had covered every inch of the ground more than a thousand times; right from the first day of college to the last day of the university team trials. I loved the ground so much that my once gleaming, white Star Impact Spectras were now permanently coated with a dull brown tinge that so often ended up on my shirts after rough falls. My legs had almost memorized the physical attributes of the turf; how the far left corner was slightly elevated and how a little patch halfway up the ground was particularly hard to sprint on. I can embarrassingly admit, I didn’t even know my girlfriend as intimately as I knew about the little, muddy pitch in the centre of my college.

When Mom’s cancer happened, I was forced to see two of my most cherished things in the world spiral towards unimaginable predicaments. With Mom’s steadily deteriorating health, I was slowly starting to spend more and more time away from the little field I used to practice in. I sorely missed what it once made me feel – the thrills of exquisitely timed sliding tackles, the earthy aroma of petrichor during rainy football sessions, the joys of the wind beating against my chest while sprinting; the sheer nostalgia of memories was overwhelming. Those poignant shards of a shattered imagination were now replaced with far graver memories.

On that night, I stood once again on the same ground after God knew how much time. The sound of gravel scrunching beneath my shoes felt like listening to a song that I had long forgotten, but one that I suddenly rediscovered on the radio. I could hear the crowd roaring and the bright floodlights illuminating the field radiantly, lending its brown colour an alluring, lustrous glow which I think it always deserved. I had been there so many times before; soaking in the pressure, the crippling expectations and the electric atmosphere. But that night was different. It was strange for me, this feeling. I had built my footballing reputation on being a calm central midfielder who feared little. But on that night, I felt nervous and uneasily anxious. The worst thing was that I was fully aware of why it was happening.

I didn’t look on my right-hand side because I knew she was watching me. I also knew she understood little about the game; had no clue about the intricate tactics, the industrious endeavor and the orchestrated teamwork it required to assert one team’s supremacy over the other. All I knew was that I would mean the same to her on the pitch as I did off it. She cared little about my team or the opposition’s, she was only going to watch me and be oblivious to the rest of the world. In 18 years of my life out of which I had spent 10 playing the beautiful game, this was the first time that she had come to watch me play. That night, I wanted to give her something to smile about after what had been a tumultuous few months for all of us.

I still remember how it felt the same way like my first match did. My legs felt like jelly, my stomach had turned so violently that it felt like someone had tied my guts into a scout’s knot. I couldn’t focus, I was sweating and the game hadn’t even begun. Trust me, there is nothing worse than sudden self-doubt on the big stage; that one moment when you completely forget your very purpose of existing. That horror of letting everything unravel when it matters to most was terrifying to me.

When I heard the whistle, it took me a few seconds to register that the game had kicked off. It was like the world had dropped its burdens on my shoulders, but I told myself that nothing mattered more to me than the lady who got up from a hospital bed after a chemotherapy to watch her son do what he loved. I wasn’t going to let her down, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I did. Failure was unacceptable on any night; but tonight it was simply unthinkable. I had no way of knowing if she would ever watch me play again, so I knew had to make this one performance count.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I played like a man possessed. I dived recklessly into tackles, ran twice as hard as the man I was supposed to mark, and constantly told myself that this was just another game. I don’t think my body was listening. By halftime I looked like I had taken a momentary dip in the college’s heritage well; my head was aching with the lack of composure that usually regulated my body’s physical output. It was then that I realized what my fear truly meant. And for the first time since the match started, I smiled.

I realized that I felt different because that night, I wasn’t playing for myself anymore. I was playing for someone else, someone far more important. None of the hundreds in the crowd had ever seen what it took me to become the footballer I was, but the lady smiling quietly at one dark corner of the field certainly had. She had seen me caked in mud and exhausted from training camps, she had seen me in hospitals with sprained ankles and torn muscles, she had seen me distraught after defeat. She had witnessed and understood the true aspects of my art and my worth as an artist, which is why on that night, the weight of expectations felt heavier than it ever did before.

Before the second half began, I went up to her and talked to her. My heart felt lighter knowing that today, all I had to do to make her proud was just to be myself. Just like how I was the centre of her universe, she was all that mattered tonight and nothing else came remotely close. Win, draw or lose, it didn’t matter anymore; just knowing that she was watching me was all I could be grateful for.

I played the rest of the game with a heart that knew, for the first time that night, just what it had to do. I ran my socks off in the second half and also scored a goal that I still regard as the best of my life, considering who I owed it to. We drew the game 2-2, but the disappointment of the draw didn’t wipe the smile off my face for the whole night. The ground felt familiar once more, and I smiled again. She looked at me, she smiled too; and in that moment, I found my home again.