Wednesday, November 28, 2007


She walked with a gait that was prose itself. A kind of sashaying of the hips marred by the limp she bore from a childhood fracture, further accentuated by the bobbing of her shoulders. Her head was cocked to one side, and her proud nose and wide mouth were set off by those big brown eyes. She had a certain arrogance to her gaze, which was quite an affront to those unfortunate souls who turned to stare each time she swooshed by. Yet it wasn’t arrogance. No, it was ignorance of her own charms, that so made each average male turn to look, and every other woman cringe inwardly at her presence. But behind that disarming naiveté lurked passion. Born to a poor family, for generations repaying unfairly a debt bestowed upon her clan by her forefathers, she nursed an ambition to be free of her shackles. An ambition that had manifested itself in her after seven generations of bonded labour.

Raped by my uncles on her thirteenth birthday, the year she first draped herself in a saree, she was condemned forever to a future devoid of hope. Her lot would not have her in the house, and no man would purchase her for all the chattels and assortment of livestock her father promised. Instead, she was forced to live among the buffalos on the landlord’s land, tending to the calving and milking, and walking for miles with the goats. Yet strangely, she bore no resentment in her. Shed and forgotten like the pubescent hairs of her stolen womanhood, her memory was short-lived.

The two of us had been playmates for years, our profound innocence no threat to either family. I was a scruffy child, forever scrapping with the other kids in the village, and being the landlord’s only son, born of his third wife, I enjoyed most favoured child status in the region. My misdemeanours were tolerated with a benign smile, and it was only my middle-aged father who instilled any awe within my bones. A large man, with big muscular arms and a proud moustache, he ran the village like his personal fiefdom. But he had a tenderness about him that calmed the most stressed cow during birthing, and made every child want to mount his lap and rest against his big stomach. Rama was his favourite, and this annoyed me no end. She was far from shy, a bully actually, but never did I ever see her lift her gaze from her toes each time he treated her to a lump of jaggery.

As we grew older, my jealousy manifested itself in a possessiveness of her, and on her part she too bore a proprietary air about me. Our games saw us wander miles in any direction, and each day I’d tell her I’d climb the mountain on the horizon, behind which the sun set. She’d listen in dead earnest, never once scoffing at my pipe dreams. Once, in a bid to impress her, I walked until evening, but with the sun beginning to set on my destination, I realised I was too far from home and too alone. I sat and cried among the mounds of mud and ant hills, fearing the jackals and leopards I knew roamed these parts. I curled into a bundle, my shorts no match for the mosquitoes or the impending cold. I waited, shivering in anticipation of the first swipe, the first bite on the back of my neck, of the way I remembered Papa describing how leopards killed their prey. By now, the sky was just a slice of amber in the west, the rest of it merging to inky purple via grey, dotted with silver sparkles.

And then I heard it.

Over the droning symphony of the crickets and the mosquitoes, I heard it, the mechanical whirring of a motor, the only motor I’d ever heard and recognised as my father’s. It was his old jeep, a left hand drive relic which ran on petrol and which Papa boasted could be used as a tractor to plough the fields and get him to Bombay faster than the daily express train. I watched the jeep meander among the mounds, and suddenly something stirred me to action. I ran, screaming “Papa! Papa!” waving my hands about. I watched as the jeep traced a wide arc, a cloud of dust billowing in its wake as it headed towards me.

The jeep halted beside me, and in the fading light I saw for the first time a hint of concern in the coldest eyes I’d ever see in my life. Years later as I lay in my bunk smoking, I’d recall that evening to my men aboard Gayatri, the coal barge I owned. When we got home, it was dark, and the cows had retired for the night. My anxious family smothered me in hugs and kisses, my mother crying as she clasped me to her frail bosom. Never my father’s favourite, he was nonetheless civil to her. But this was not the night she would be in his bed. No, this night belonged to his first wife, an ample woman who loved me like her own. As I was fussed over with warm milk and a bath, my father shuffled into his room, muttering a curt refusal to dinner. I drank my milk, watching Rama as she went about her chores. She didn’t acknowledge my presence, and expected me to do the same. But as she finally turned down the lamp, I realised that I was staring at her, looking for some faint trace of approval for my day’s feat. Instead I was treated to a liquid gaze that anguished me more. I tossed in my bed that night, too exhausted to sleep, listening to the whimpering of my father’s first wife in the stillness of that night. I was nearly thirteen then, and I found I had an erection. As I stroked myself, I thought guiltily of Rama, to the days gone by when I would lift her skirt inquisitively. I thought dreamily of her soft labia and sweet-sour scent as I climaxed in my pyjamas, fantasising of her rough hands on my penis.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The shadow dancer

He loved her. A blind man. She was light and colour to him. He sensed her moves, he sensed her toss her hair; he sensed, for he knew, her smile. There was that singular dimple which he'd kiss, and he knew the way those cheek bones rose when she smiled.

He sensed it as they glided over the floor. This was a pious emotion, for her rhythm banished the darkness from his mind. In his mind's eye he still saw her. He recalled the lone lock of hair which forever resisted the multiple brushes behind her ear. He smiled broadly at the thought of her cheeky one-liners as she sought to contain herself.

Those evenings were gentle. A mild climate and clean air nourished their young beings as they sat reading in daylight. Relentless powercuts meant they read only till sundown, but they would talk forever. She was his best friend.

They grew, and grew apart. He gained and lost, moved on, reminisced and forgot. She loved a man, who broke her heart. But then perhaps, she thought of him...her best friend.

Tree-capped streets and thoughtful walks was what he missed most now. Home again, he felt his way in the perpetual darkness. Perhaps she'd know where he was and come looking for him. Perhaps she would read to him on her balcony. Ten years. Had it really been that long?

Running free

I ran. I ran around
I ran deep and ran aground
On land and water deep
My spirit has no place to keep
For in this time I run around
I run deep and run aground
Keeping alive by breathing free
Two feet of solid ground but no water beneath
To breathe as a fish
To fly free as a bird
Yet think like a man
Much to do and far to go
How what where I don’t know
But I run deep and I can’t run aground…
Not here not now not for a while
For there’re promises I’ve made
Promises I’ve broken and some I’ve kept
But to be free, truly forever free
I must keep my promise to me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bitch of a bright idea

Building on what he figured was the way forward, he stood and stagnated. That was the infernal conundrum, as he called it. Tired of the sing along rigmarole sing song, he wondered when he’d spin out of this orbit, charting his own course. Break through the invisible force shield that seemed to have him in its grasp; that inability to make others believe what he believed. What appeared make-believe. Which he made belief in the belief that his belief was sustenance. Damn it.

No matter then. The spinning orbit was a blur of darkness spinning around the bright centre point of light. He gravitated, mesmerized. It was the nautch girl of his dreams. An intellectual masturbation of gripping proportion. He needed to seize the light for himself. Hold it in his grasp and snuff it out at will. This was a dark orgy he played out in his mind; the stimuli he craved, but wanted to control. To say no - that was the difficult part. To say no. No?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My friend the onion

He strolls through life
A wanderer…
Waiting long enough for longing
To leave behind…
To love and leave…
He walks with aimless purpose
Stopping frequently to gaze
And relieve his heart
Offload that pain…
Of belonging.
Being the one who is no one
Being free…
My friend the onion
Leaves leaves behind
A tear shed at his passing
Essential but worthless
Augmenting the substance of others
My friend the onion
Cut open to monotony
Cut open by the blade of life
My friend the onion
Strolls through life
A wanderer…
waiting long enough for longing
to love and leave…