Tag Archives: poetry
She sits next to me, staring vexedly at the purple sea. An expression more complex and perplexed than it was meant to be. For the first half an hour, no one talks; the only sounds we hear are the hollow murmurs of evening walks and waves crashing against the rocks under our feet. Then, after an eternity, she turns to me, breathes, and says “You’re the worst friend I’ve ever seen”. This hurts twice as much because deep inside, I agreed.
Soon, she gets to her feet with a swoon. Tears running free, glistening in the light of the moon. Like the salt in the sea breeze was singeing her wounds, she screams– Stop suffering alone. Stop hiding behind closed doors to trick me into leaving or believing that no one’s home, not when I can see you and your mess grieving through the fucking window. Stop telling me you want to make it on your own because you don’t need to. This isn’t the pact of friendship I agreed to, stop defending the pain it takes to keep you because this suffocation is unending and I need to breathe too. Stop leaving me at every turn because by now, I’m lost and blind. I’m tired of the million times you’ve said “everything’s fine” when I can clearly see I’m being lied to. For the sake of three long years of friendship that we’ve both been tied to, tonight, just tonight, I ask for truth.”
An overwhelming urge to purge all my regret is up till here now, but I don’t. I want to justify every action, reaction, every fear now; but I won’t. With a sharpened blade of quiet restraint, I slay every word in my throat as that little voice in my head goes – We don’t speak about our problems at home.
When I was a seven-year-old, my father was fighting a war when he crashed his plane. He jumped out in time, but the forces of nature weren’t kind on the day as he fell to the ground in the most excruciating way imaginable, as bleeding on a shattered spine. Lying and dying in abominable pain, his surgeon told him he’d be lucky if he ever learnt to walk again.
But even when consigned to a wheelchair bereft of the ability to stand, my father would hold take a ball in his hand, repeatedly pick it as his 8-year-old son knocked it back to him in a game of cricket. Come to think of it, 15 years on, I can’t write on a feeling as crippling as staring at the bedroom ceiling or the walls knowing your dreams were reeling and reduced to thoughts no one else would ever know. My father taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.
When I turned 18, my father asked my cancer-stricken mother to choose between a house near the hospital and one near my sister’s school. Despite her weakened defences, the impending pain, the consequences, my mother chose the latter because she could deal with her demons at hand but not with the inconvenience her daughter would feel if we moved during her board exams.
I remember on hour long cab rides back from the hospital after rounds of chemotherapy, I could hear the muffled screams of her agony shake her, on every swerve, every turn, every speed breaker on the road. But for two years, the only sounds I ever heard were those of silent suffering that torched her, but never a single word to describe the torture or the strain. Never a single complaint about a choice she consciously made on her own. My mother taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.
I want to tell her this, the reason she can’t break my walls. Why every secret is a secret, and why I don’t believe I suffer at all because I have no problems. I’ve been raised by two people who’ve been cursed to go through a whole lot worse through fate’s decisions and they never let me understand what it felt like to nurse such grave incisions.
I want to tell her about the time I broke my shoulder, as I sat on my bed groaning and moaning in pain, my father took one look at me and said “That’s cute; but I fell out of a plane”.
I want to tell her about the mother who never cried because of a terminal disease, but broke down because being in a wheelchair wouldn’t let her cook for her family every eve. My parents taught me this- pain is a very subjective entity when you put the grievances of your loved ones before your own. My parents taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.
But instead of the million words inside my head that I could have said to my friend, I offer her my first line of defence – an apologetic smile. I look at her, hold her hand and say
One night, her words won’t rhyme.
Her verses will die a slow death,
a little at a time,
mocking every memory she wrote.
On that night, your poetry will write
herself a suicide note-
broken, baffled, bereft of hope,
wishing, she could feel
a little less empty,
and a little bit more.
On that night, kiss your poetry to sleep,
tear her note to shreds, give her a shoulder
on which to weep,
tell her that you believe, in her stead;
and in the simple fact that poetry
can never truly be dead.
Tell her, that you believe in her,
and in tomorrow, a time
when she’ll turn her sorrow
into the most beautiful thing the world has ever read.
Watch over her, until she rips apart
her suicide note from end to end.
Then pray, that on nights like these,
she learns to write something better instead.
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.
I was 7 when I saw you for the very first time, blowing rings of smoke into the air,
I mustered enough courage to tell you to stop, only because I genuinely cared.
But all you did was you ruffled my hair, said “Just one last time, I’ll finish it fast!”
One hour I waited as the entire packet ran out, and the cigarette butts littered the grass.
At 16, I came home from college one night, saw you standing at the frame of the door,
The stench of tobacco and traces of ash, enraged every part of me to my core.
I shouted, I screamed, about the fears in my dreams, wondering what would convince you to drop it.
But all you did was you ruffled my hair, and said “Just one last time and then I’ll stop it.”
At 21, when Mom left us all for good, I saw you crying and slowly breaking apart,
Breathing in wisps from a million smokes, hoping it would help fill the hole in your heart.
I begged, I pleaded, told you this was not what you needed, desperate to turn you into a new leaf,
“Just one last time” you said once again, “I need it to keep me from drowning in grief.”
From that time on, not a day went by, that you tried to stick to the promises you’d made,
I constantly reminded, that the smoke had you blinded, to your health which had started to degrade.
Then came a point when I had to accept, that nothing could change how things were,
My words to you, were like the smoke you blew, they swiftly vanished into thin air.
So I decided to keep absolutely quiet, never to give you a warning in the coming years,
Why should I waste my breath to save yours, when I saw it all falling on deaf ears?
Not that you seemed to care anyway, one cigarette lead to the next like a trigger,
I sat and watched in painful silence, as the heap of burnt matches and smokes grew bigger.
Now that I stand over your hospital bed, in silence broken only by the ECG’s noise,
Your million cigarettes burning a hole in my heart, knowing I said nothing when I had the choice.
Now the cancer works its way through your lungs, and I can do nothing at all but squirm,
Realizing that through the years by gone, all I needed to do was be a little more firm.
Then you opened your eyes and looked at me, we both didn’t know what to say,
Both of us knew that if we’d played our parts, things wouldn’t have ended this way.
It was far too late to see things now, through the smoke that made our lives gray,
“Just one last time” you managed to say, and then like the rings of smoke faded away.
It completely slipped my mind that I should probably put my first Spoken Poetry performance here. I loved every second of that experience; being on stage, taking something so immensely personal and getting the audience to live it with me. So here it is, a letter to someone I miss every single day. Dear Mom, this one is for you.
I have been in a complicated relationship for a while now, and it is starting to devour me as time crawls by. I know you want to ask why; so tonight I’ll give my sorrows the vent they always needed. Tonight, you will know all the concerns that went unheeded. I no longer want my silence to be treated like dirt; just because I kept quiet does not mean it did not hurt.
For the last three years that I have been with you, for you, around you, I went out of my way to be the person I thought you’d love more than anything else, every single day. I have tried even harder since the very first day you lost your heart, and I did my best to clean your mess despite not knowing where to start. I knew that you would never be the same again, probably never find the will to love through pain; but I burnt myself to the ground to make sure that you’d have at least one reason to change that. Clearly, it wasn’t enough. Or maybe, I wasn’t enough. I was never the kind to openly acknowledge this feeling of jealousy, of envy, that is now a part of me, but what she does to you leaves me wondering if I ever made a difference to the indifference with which you treat your pain.
She makes you feel the way I could never do, the exact same way I always wanted to. I envy the care with which your fingers caress her lengths. I despise the nights you spend tasting nothing but her essence, breathing her in, leading her in to your deepest, darkest corners. She wanders through places where I’ve always wanted to go, exploring dormant reasons I’ve always been dying to know. I always wished I could be something like that, who you could turn to, but somewhere fate and your actions convinced me that I wasn’t supposed to.
Yes, it breaks me. Sometimes I can’t understand why I’m so angry, but I’ve started to realize it is only because you make me. She isn’t good for you, I am. I am not like she is; a temporary pleasure, a desperate measure stemming from unwarranted pressure. I love you and take nothing in return. I just wish you’d drop the cigarettes Dad, before she truly starts to burn.
Why don’t you understand that I haven’t been oblivious to all the signs that I’ve seen- crushed empty packs under the bed, the bathroom smelling of nicotine? When will you understand that white smoke does nothing to fill black holes, or that smoking kills 5 million callous souls, every single year? How do you not expect me to be overwhelmed? What if in the next five million, you’re one of them?
I have already lost one parent to cancer, you know it better than I do. Yet you embrace an element that causes the same travesty, that took your wife, your life, away from you. I can’t rewrite your past but I can dictate where your future lies, and that future lies with two kids who hold you as the biggest inspiration in their eyes. So, close this chapter, label it fiction; start a new book far away from your lethal addiction. Convince me that this complicated relationship will get somewhere better. Because I certainly won’t run out after a pack, or fade into the night sky in seconds; I won’t strangulate you slowly as time beckons. The only similarity I have with your cigarettes is that I will love you until I burn to ashes. And you know what? I’ll love you even after that.
I know she keeps you company, but you need to know one simple rule. The human body was never meant to inhale fire, only because it runs on fuel. Your head rushes with emotions and memories, mine does too. But my love transcends the smoke you breathe to keep your sanity next to you.
So this Father’s Day, I hope that my gift to you, is also your gift to mine. I hope you understand that I’d do anything it takes to make sure you’re fine. You’ve always been there for me, now this is my turn. So please drop those cigarettes Dad, before they truly start to burn.