Acid Rain

I wrote this poem in response to a writing prompt “Eye in the Sky” – the brief was “Write about someone who is desperate for something. They should look up at the sky frequently. Describe how the sky looks at that particular time.”

I wasn’t sure if I should break the stanza after “vermillion”, but I prefer this unbroken version, I think.

Blacker than coal
bluer than copper sulphate
whiter than cotton  
grayer than elephants
more orange than orange
pinker than a whore's lipstick
redder than vermillion;
my head hurts  
my lungs burst
my knees quiver
my palms sweat
my ears ring
my skin burns
my nose bleeds;
tell me
what rotten colour were you  
when the acid
scarred my body
worse than abstract art?

Shape-shifting vessel
of particulate matter,
I piss on your water
I can no longer feel
and that is fine
I mock your thunder
I can no longer hear  
and that is fine  
but why, tell me why,
must I imagine your colors
I can no longer see.

Tennis and Habits: Creative Non-fiction Assignment #1

Wrote this piece in response to the first assignment in a writing workshop that I am currently attending, on creative non-fiction. The exercise was to write a three paragraph story that begins with a wide-angle perspective, then looks closer, and finally zooms into something that’s meaningful to the narrator/protagonist. Word limit of 500 words.

The sun seeps into my world through a steadily growing hole in the sky. When I wake up at 05:45, it is barely there; ten minutes later, when I step into the balcony, the building next door blushes in a shade of Amaranth pink. The security guard is still sleeping. I put on my shoes, pick up my tennis racquets, gulp down a glass of water, call out to my wife to close the door and step out into the as yet unlit corridor. I run down the stairs, then walk quickly towards the tennis courts. Dogs linger and stretch, a few men jog, an auto slowly motors down the road, and fallen leaves crackle beneath my feet, while I weave my way between the sidewalk and the edges of the road, avoiding low hanging tree branches, dried cake like dog shit and mounds of mud deposited from the last time the road was dug. I jump over the compound enclosing the courts and wave cheerfully at my two friends already there.

I have been playing at this court for over seven years now. I am amazed I still persist, knocking balls across the net every day. My game has improved a great deal, and so too has the rigidity of my mistakes. Tennis is an easy game to learn, but easier still to learn to play the wrong way. Every now and then, I have considered getting a video camera to record myself playing. Someday I will do it, and no doubt it will make for unflattering viewing. Elbows twisted at the wrong angles, the racquet coming down on the ball in unappealing arcs, footwork all over the place, eyes never watching the ball all the way to the strings, service motions exaggerated or utterly underwhelming, but never just right – yes, I can imagine a litany of technical errors near impossible to correct anymore.

But it does not matter. I am not here for technical perfection. Certainly, I strive to improve, but it is nevertheless a secondary objective - a consequence of repetition and continuous adjustment.  I am here because it is better than being asleep at 6:30. I am here because it makes the rest of my day go better. I am here because my friends are here. I am here because I love the game. I am here because of Roger Federer. I am here because I desperately want to be here. And so I have made it a habit. Just like drinking coffee. I have come to this realization rather late – our habits are our roots. If I had more such habits, writing every day for one, I could well become just like the fecund tamarind tree court side. Year after year, it produces an enormous number of fruits just before the onset of summer, but is largely unchanged otherwise. It has struck such deep roots that the changing seasons, the increasing pollution and the fluctuating monsoons can do no more than touch it mildly.

Those ‘Small hours’

MUMMY, she screams,
Her voice loud, stricken, immediate,
drilling, like a trepan,
into your just begun nightmare;
stirred and shaken, you imagine
her fall down, from the bunk bed,
having hiked up sleep-walking;
an earthworm wriggle, in the folds of her blanket,
having crawled slowly from the bathroom;
her forehead, cut open and bloodied,
having struck the wall as she roiled in her nightmare;
but while your brain weighs up
the many unlikely possibilities,
her mother

is already by her side,
having navigated, in perfect certainty,
the fraught path across the living room,
it is as if her daughter’s scream gathered
the chairs, crayons and toys together,
frightening them into a heap to a side;
soon you hear a nose blow
once, twice, thrice, break, repeat;
utensils rattle in the kitchen; a toilet flush;
a reassuring conversation in the dark;
all seems well; you close your eyes,
and before you know it, nod off again
to find yourself

in a room
with Leonardo Di Caprio, watching his totem
spin, wondering if it stopped or if it didn’t,
when a space craft lands close by,
inside, Matthew McConaughey rages
at a fragile Anne Hathaway,
his friend having aged twenty one years
in the five minutes it took
your wife

to return to bed and awaken you
with a 'kick'
“I am not sending her to school today”,
which you know, after nine long years,
is a question pretending to be a statement,
so you finally do wake up,
and proceed to gently talk
her out of her perpetual worries.

Four little alternating pieces


My happiness is
derived from small little things,
and greatness stymied.


Her observations
fill my days with contentment
I don't desire;
A summertime caesura
arrives, bringing misery.

When she laughs

When she laughs, her eyes,
exploding in happiness,
simplifies our world.


Sometimes you attend
the wedding of a couple
you barely know, for you think
it is a good chance to meet
that someone you barely know.

Five not so easy pieces: #2

After the rites

In the burning Ghats
I watch tired bodies praying
for a cleaner death.


When the weather turns
a harp plays inside my bones
and ripples my soul.

Hooked Under

Gulmohar petals
trapped under my car's wiper
struggle to break free
like bra hooks in the hands of
an over eager lover.

The commerce of words

Take a great poem.
In its humble remembrance
over hundred years,
do you picture the decay
of human conversation?

There is memory

Every night, I watch
a father walk with his child
inside our compound;
Sometimes I feel guilty, but
always there is memory.

Five not so easy pieces


This brooding silence,
echo of a despondence
that our road ends here.


Mason breaking tiles,
shrouded in a dusty haze
I watch and resist
an immaterial grief
rising from the detritus.


In the school lobby
I listen, till she completes
Her swimming lesson;
She was born for the water
I, to linger in daydream.

Burnt Waters

The river, submerged
by a millenia's pyres,
carries life no more.

Unfit for consumption

Even the termites
boring through sheesham wood shelves
ignore my poems.


Been a while since this blog has heard from Thoreau. This was on my feed today, and it left an impression enough that I highlight it here.

We falsely attribute to men a determined character; putting together all their yesterdays and averaging them, we presume we know them. Pity the man who has a character to support. It is worse than a large family. He is silent poor indeed. But in fact character is never explored, nor does it get developed in time, but eternity is its development, time its envelope. In view of this distinction, a sort of divine politeness and heavenly good breeding suggests itself, to address always the enveloped character of a man. I approach a great nature with infinite expectation and uncertainty, not knowing what I may meet. It lies as broad and unexplored before me as a scraggy hillside or pasture. I may hear a fox bark, or a partridge drum, or some bird new to these localities may fly up.


From the blog of Henry David Thoreau.

Times three

For the last time tonight,
the neighbourhood falls
into a fitful sleep,
having been woken,
first by fighting dogs
coming intensely alive
when the street’s last lights
no more dim the moonshine
on their slack bodies,
then by cabs returning
back to their lonely homes
tired evening shift workers
with their packed food boxes
and chalk white headphones;
Somewhere close, a shrill alarm
awakens an irritated father,
groping blindly, he turns
to switch it off, yet can’t help
robotically dragging himself
across to his daughter’s room,
to rudely break into her dream
as a demon from Dholakpur
marching her to the toilet,
for the first time tonight.

When the Brahman stayed a while

A wise and ancient Brahman
Traveling on his time machine
Chanced on my digital footprint
In row 911 of his eternal database
And humbly asked me to teach
Him the secret of friendship;
But I am nobody, I told him,
Showed him a few others instead,
Stunned by all that he saw, he
Marvelled at our amicable age,
Where any which way he turned,
He found himself surrounded
By so many likeable people,
Sharing and chirping gloriously
All their favourite moments
Seemingly in endless supply;
"Ah, the age of enlightenment
Is finally here", he announced,
Deciding to settle amongst us
He began to create with gusto
An assortment of new avatars
To rebuild the primal connection
He suddenly felt with this land
That he had for long renounced.

I messaged him a few weeks later
And he sent me a cute little hug
followed by a quote in Book Antiqua
"My friend, I finally know Maya,
and I much prefer it to a troll".

Two Tankas and a Haiku


Friendless and lonely
He intensely feels the like
Of acquaintances.


A sheet of rain breaks,
Abruptly, the gulls descend
down to the branches.
Standing underneath, I soar
silently into their world.


Rescue me, I hear
Her eyes cry, as she serves me
biscuits and coffee.
I throw her down to the floor,
Watch a scream, "fuck, you crazy?"