Phir le aya dil and an embedded story

I’m standing in front of my new apartment
complex, I notice the infinity pool, exactly
the house we both wished for back
when we were writing our futures
on a government answer sheet, but here
I am alone; one of us ran a little faster, the
other wore off the threads. The
elevator bell rings; 9th floor, I hope
the people don’t find it difficult to carry
all of my books up here. Three
nameplates, I never thought I’d find
your name here. I almost believe it’s a
dream but then you step out, in a lavender
kurti, you’re as beautiful as I remember.
Your hair are tied up as if you were
trying too hard to contain your thoughts,
keep your mind from leaking. You still
feel the same as the 90s cassette in
my dad’s blue Hillman. You feel like
a faded memory that sends you
letters every year to make you resent
your existence without them.

Phir le aaya dil majboor kya keeje
Raas na aaya rehna door kya keeje

You notice the grin on my face, you
smile, it reminds of the varsova drive,
I can almost hear you say it again,
“You have a pretty smile, like a
ladybug”; “but ladybugs don’t smile”;
“How do you know that?”. She said that
my smile is invisible because it travels
from my face to hers almost
immediately. You don’t remember me,
I say hi; “Oh you’re the new tenant here”
“Yes I am, Mrs Gupta, I guess?”
“Yes that’s me, Mr Akash”
She does, she’s pulling her sleeves,
she does that when she plays-pretend, so
you’re married now, I want to ask
why, but I guess I should just
find the right alignment for
my recliner. We sigh and there’s
nothing more than a numbing silence.

Dil keh raha use maqammal kar bhi aao
Wo jo adhoori si baat baaki hai
Wo jo adhoori si yaad baaki hai

Her nameplate doesn’t have any
other name, and I stop by, the excuse of
a sugar shortage, classic, right?
“You live alone, does your husband
work overseas?”
“Akash, we don’t live together”
“Oh, uh thankyou”
“Come in, you need to apologize”
Juhi, she’s the wind, you never
know what she wants, she flows like
a suburban legend, every breath
paralysis you little. She takes control
of your purpose, you live for her. I left,
I stopped running to match her
pace, I wanted to be good enough
for her; as we stand in this room,
5 ft apart I wish I didn’t, I wish I called
one last time.
“I’m sorry, I should’ve called”
She smiles and we talk about her
new hair, my books, the ones she’s
read. She thinks I’m desperate
with the endings, I defend but I
know she’s right. There’s empty walls
between us and I can hear them
chanting as we talk; inconveniences
that perhaps never stop growing
in our garden. We had so much
in our hands that I didn’t even
realise when we started to fall
far from each other, I, I want to
hold her hand and cry. I want to
carry her in my arms.
“I’ve to leave, I have a conference in about an hour, thankyou for the sugar”
“You’re not gonna use it”
I smile and leave; she remembers. I
almost hoped that she would, that I don’t
like the scent of jasmine or that my
shirts were always ironed to a 3/4th fold
and that I don’t sweeten my milk.

Karte hain hum aaj qabool kya keeje
Ho gayi thi jo humse bhool kya keeje
Dil keh raha use mayassar kar bhi aao
Wo jo dabi si aas baaki hai
Wo jo dabi si aanch baaki hai

Time passed by on this floor like
a fourth dimension, Juhi visits on
weekends and we watch her kids
make a mess out of all the drawing
supplies we give them. We share
silences, memories and regret;
It’s never going to be the same again,
we’re going to live on the opposite
sides of the 9th floor untill one of
us moves out. I tell her I’m writing
a new book and she asks me if
the protagonist has short curly hair.
I can finally write her, I’m losing my
grip onto reality, I am starting to
forgive myself. She tells me that
she is proud of me and we
sip our warm drinks in silence.
One of the kids stuck a Sharpie
in her nose, and we laugh as we
try to get it out without her injuring
herself more. She’s adorable. Her name
is Ahaana. Her younger brother, Aakash,
watches us struggle and cries.
Ahaana is like the nonchalant thunder,
makes no sound until it does, there’s
a moment of silence before you know
how impinging the combustion is
going to be. Aakash is like the
sea, always moving in slow motions,
trying to comprehend every pair of
feet that walk over him. He is me.

Kismat ko hai yeh manzoor kya keeje
Milte rahe hum badastoor kya keeje

Juhi is like the wind, we never know
where she’s headed. I’m at the
pedestal of a college, promoting
my book, and I my eyes are tearing up
as I answer questions about the
protagonist, all in a vague uncertainty, so
my publisher doesn’t kill me by
the end of the event. Juhi, why did
we become another story? When exactly
did the world disown us? Juhi,
why are we breathing two different
realities? Our sunsets unfold into
a dark humour like comic strip.
We both exist, in two different
stories, in the same universe. Maybe
this time around, if one of us leaves,
they’ll have the chance to say goodbye.
Maybe there wouldn’t be another
almost or maybe to us, and perhaps
some flowers don’t bloom to
fruit. Perhaps some people love to
get their eulogies printed on each
others goodbye notes, and perhaps
stories never end. If I may, Aakash might
find her Juhi, he might be the late night
call to another wind of a person, or
hi might just have a suitcase full
of memories that makes him wonder
if the shifting company would have
trouble carrying it to his home.

Dil keh raha hai use musalsal kar bhi aao
Wo jo ruki si raah baaki hai
Wo jo ruki si chaah baaki hai

-Garima S

The Shapeskin

I’m in a bamboo garden today,
ladybugs and dragonflies are
humming a song, of sorrow,
seems like a lot of suffering
and I think I’m dreaming because
there are elephants dancing, wearing
t-shirts with four leaf clovers
printed all over them, in the colours
of a rainbow and I see dolphins
at the horizon’s end, the waters
cripple under my feet. Am I
really dreaming? Even sadness
feels refreshing today; I want
to live here. It must be
love, I wake up with the sound
of my own breath ringing through
the bathroom doors. This was
supposed to be a dream because
when love comes to you, it
crawls up your walls, slowly like
hydrangeas, it doesn’t feel
like a flood of good luck
symbols, it’s a mere whispering of
an omen. But if today I were to
name myself, I would be Venus,
my suffering would be Botticelli and
this picture is the birth of Venus.
Today we find loving in ourselves, engraved
in our skins, with a giggle of
a soap bubble, with the freckles
on my shoulder and the stretch marks
on my thighs. All this shedding
skin and still so much to
love, all this uneven tones to
carry my love for myself, today, we
love ourselves, move to a barren
land and flourish, yet.

-Garima S.

Why do the pink days make me feel sad?

The coffee stains on my dairy tell
a different story everyday, there’s
no solidarity in my empty stomach,
I eat too little to have an empty
mind, my thoughts keep barging in
like relatives wearing raincoats so
I don’t wash them off with my tears.
“It’s a beautiful sunset”
Her name is Ume, the Japanese
apricot, and she stands true to her
meaning, elegance a pure heart. “Hi,
you’re here early” I said barely meeting
her eyes. She knows. She knows
I’m thinking again, she knows
it’s killing me to just sit in this
room and paint a blue sunrise.
We’re on the edge, her eyes look
weary and she’s wearing her
baby pink trench coat the one I almost
hate. I keep painting and she
just sits beside me, her coat now
staring at us from the sofa, laughing,
almost, at how two people try
desperately to hide their desires, cover
their miniscule happiness they find
in each other, it’s almost funny. Almost.
Ume calls me Camellia, the flower of
perfect love. But I’m not perfect,
I’m not even the person who I want
to be, I’m supposed to be someone
different, someone who has a heavier
voice, someone with their hands
on you, someone who can kiss
you, someone who picks you up
and pins you against the wall, someone
not Camellia. “Ume, I want to be
a man” I say in the emergency
of the moment, as she’s about to
leave for the first time in the coming
years and the last that I want her to.
“I know.” She smiles at me and
kisses my forehead. It felt so much
like flying that day, it felt so
liberating to have her by my side,
just sitting on my bedside, holding my
hand, we’re almost free birds. Almost.
Ume liked to dress me up in
in all these scary looking trench
coats, and she would paint my
heart with the colour pink everytime
we saw a sunset together, her hands
never waited for my touch, my skies
never saw a blue sunrise with her
by my side. I’m walking on a grey
sidewalk, she hated coffee and kale,
“Cam, how do you even drink that?”
Her voice rings in my ears, it sounds
almost the same as the last time. Almost.
Almost because it has a certain
echo, a vague uncertainty, the overbearing
question, ” Did we ever have enough?”
What wasn’t enough?
Why did she leave?
We had almost everything, our
proportioned Polaroids that
found their place under the refrigerator
magnets, we thought we’d never
use, our cactus library and her
cupboard full of trench coats, she
clearly had an obsession. Ume, you,
you were my everything. We had
everything, almost everything, almost
because the last time we went to
see the cherry blossoms, we wouldn’t
have time by our side. That this
spring break would be the last
goodbye kiss from you to me, to earth.
Ume, I know you’re around, I want
you to know that you saved me from
that gunshot, but I almost hope
that you didn’t, it’s killing me. It’s so
selfish of me to wish a death before
you, but my heart feels heavy
on days I walk out of my room
and the sky is pink because I don’t
feel like deserve it. And when spring
comes around I paint my
room blue because the only time
we have left with each other is
the sadness I associate with my
walls, they’re empty now. And so
is my heart, this canvas that stares
at me, laughing, at how horrendously
humans take time for granted, it’s funny.
Almost. Almost sadder than the
laugh behind the white canvas.
Ume, when did we start losing
track of time, when did the ticks
of my watch stopped resonating
at the back of my head like
a permanent reminder that we’re all
slaves? We’re tied to the clock.
Ume, look I painted a blue sky
again, you hated it, Ume come
hold my hand, paint it pink again?
Garima S.

Dil Beparwah by Prateek Kuhad and a poem I wrote while listening to it.

थोड़ी थोड़ी है सबकी सुनी
थोड़ा कुछ तो सबने कहा
थोड़ा थोड़ा समझा भी मगर
दिल ये माने कहां
You said that the last time we had
we went together to Rakesh uncle’s
momo ‘palace’, you forgot your
bracelet, the one that I gifted you on
your 20th birthday, that the momo chutney
left a stain on your tongue, now your
words, all in unison, appear red in
front of my eyes, they seem so
vibrant, out of a temple, their wishes
still waiting on god’s feet to be heard
of. We grew apart, didn’t we? But then
you used to tell me that my
blankets never smell the same, and maybe
just maybe I couldn’t stay faithful
to one fabric softener, maybe my habits
have a pattern now. You see I love
too often and too much, the blankets
didn’t smell different, it was
your consistency in my bed.
बस इसकी ज़िद्द है दिल बेफिक्र लापता
कैसी ये धुन है
खो कर भी कुछ ना मिला
Maa says I often lose my trail of
thought and that it’s fun for papa
to defeat me in a game of Scrabble because
words, words, some words remind
me of you, most words remind of
myself and then some other come
around, wait why did I have a pink bicycle,
I hated the colour when I was
young, maybe I still do, oh but I did
like strawberry ice-creams, ice-creams, you
liked Cornetto cones and I only
wanted the bottom part so we used
to share, didn’t we? Wait what word
was it again? I’m lost again.
इस दिल की आदत यही है
गिर कर संभालता नहीं है
ज़ालिम समझता नहीं है ये कोई ज़ुबां
ये दिल बेपरवाह
I sit across the stained glasses of
this cafeteria, I don’t like cafés and neither
roses. But here I am with a stale
cappuccino because you clearly didn’t
focus on the “I’m not a coffee person”
remark. You’re kind so I might
stick around, but I see in your
beige sweater knit holes that you’ll
never let me play my playlist on
our drives so I tie my tongue
to the back of my head. I won’t, I won’t
do it again this time. “Hey I like you”
Shit, here we go again.
But what’s the worst that could
happen, I wouldn’t have to sneakily
throw away the roses, that’s all. That was
the fun part. Trust me. I, I am fidgety
like a spin fire, not too bright but
warm enough. You’d remember.
At least I’d stay in your thoughts
for a while and I guess that’s
worth a time of heartbreak. Right?
कतरा कतरा हो गया
दिल ये बिखरता गया
दुनिया गुजरती रही
टुकडों पे चलती रही
There would be no leftover Chinese
takeout in my fridge tomorrow,
my heart’s empty too, somebody must
be right around the corner, come quick, hush
you, I’m running out of time I
guess, my breathe feels heavier than
the last time I sobbed on a newspaper
while orange juice ran for freedom
on my old tencel carpet lining.
So we’re gonna do it again, aren’t we?
My heart is the battle between
Prometheus and Zeus, one trying
to steal fire from humans, the
other saving it. I think I should
sing a song tonight. Which song was it,
right, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,
Frankie dear, what a song. It’s fun
to sing it to the mirror, I should’ve never
bought this apartment, it’s too big
for one person and when the song echoes
I feel lonelier. It’s good tho, to be
lonely, on some days it’s comforting.
बस इसकी ज़िद्द है दिल बेफक्र लापता
कैसी ये धुन है, खो कर भी कुछ ना मिला
इस दिल की आदत यही है
गिर कर स्माभलता नहीं
There’s a certain kind of satisfaction
associated to loving people, it’s
addicting to have your calendar
marked by supernatural presence. I see
colours when people walk over me
and it’s not always so hurting,
sometimes they step on a knot
release some older tissue tension, I
promised myself you see, if not people
then I’d atleast be faithful to myself
and I don’t understand living if it’s
not living like this. Tell me, would
you stay for a cup of tea, we can
walk on the boundaries
of my ceiling, whoever falls first, has the
right to leave behind a memory.
I hope it’s me. Yet again.
-Garima S.

Oh my darling, Medusa

When she visits me humming to
the birth of a new anarchy, she
was loosing power for all her might
was invested in me, pursuing me into
making a covert escape; from
reality and the earth that waited
for my return, my home. She is
the sin of her own imagination, her
misery comes to worship
her greed every night and leaves
with stretch marks around her
waist; she eats until her stomach
aches. Her hair keep getting longer
and so does her will to not
let me go. She will visit me
tonight as well, she would seduce
me into sleeping through a nightmare
and I would cry as loud as
I can so I don’t hear her lullaby. She
is the voice in my head and
I keep calling for my Odyssey, someone
who can free me from myself. She sits
right in front of my cell, singing, her
hair knotted into tangles and watching
me carve the name of my earth, the
earth that awaits for my skin.

-Garima S

The uninvited guest

The Pied Piper, did you see him
in a long time? The town seems to
be struck by a plague, everyone
is on their bare feet, dancing and
looking for a tumbler, their feet
bleeding, their mouths as dry as
a draught. The Pied Piper, he didn’t
whisper my song this time, he didn’t
sing for me. There must be a new
lover, a frilly red skirt, puffy blouses,
a new silhouette. A shadow of him that
looks more like him. My ears are
deaf to your song, my feet didn’t leave
the veranda today. The Pied Piper,
my lover, he’s in town and he has
all these girls strumming to his
song, a human tail. I sit here, by
the wet laundry from yesterday, I
feel light, there’s warmth and I know
I’m a person. I’m more than his
silhouette, his light is off of me.

A withering stone

Wish there was a funeral today, I
want to have a reason; my company
is now an empty chair by
the corner, the filthy interior of our
college restaurant. I want to die
like a fragile pistillate , anonymous
to its loneliness, wrapped up in
velvety petals, white, the colour of
death. I am colourblind, every colour
seems white and I think
death is calling me, death is
calling me,
calling me, it is
calling me, I am being
called by her. She looks
beautiful. It’s a rainbow and I’m
the farewell sapling that
God gifted to the devil because
he was tired of wiping my tears, I’m
now a burden to my own death,
I am now a forgotten grave, the grave
that was dug up and emptied, I, I
hold nothing inside. I’m
I am the incomplete curse that was
left to rot, the spell, the spell, the
My tongue now struts drunk, in an
incoherent fashion, dressed up
like the 14 year old emo kid who
failed all of his exams. I, I, I think
I’m abandoned, I am
I, I feel like I should’ve died.

-Garima S

Letters from the project child (pt 2)

I started writing dairies when I was
11, a dairy update of results from a rational
ink blot test, the ink that kept leaking
from one page to another, the results
asking more questions than the
test itself. I had a friend once, who
had thin-rimmed glasses and was known
for poking needles all over people’s life
and she said she was trying to help but
it almost felt like an acupuncture session
gone terribly wrong, she asked me why
all my dairies were named after men
from our English book. I didn’t tell her but the
truth is, all of them, being dead, poets
and writers, the ones who could never
cross the linings of this hated textbook, they
heard me when I cried. I wish
my father would lend
me his ears like them so I
wouldn’t have to write so much, my pens
keep running out of ink. My father
looks like a concentration camp if you
meet his eye and hold the stare long
enough for him to twitch his
moustaches. I think he never belonged
to a biological family, I see him tying
himself in relationships with responsibilities
and faltered morals and I tell Maa
that he isn’t faithful to one, she just smiles
and asks me if I want to have
Rajma chawal for dinner. My name now
rests on a dinner table and I stare at it
with a stuffed mouth that burns
from all the spices and parasitic words,
that know their death awaits
at the tip of my tongue, so they
eat me, inside and above. I become
this half dried spiderlily that goes
unnoticed on an old rusting grave. The
monologue that keeps playing
in my head
“Dreamer oh dreamer, your hopes lie
distraught in my garden dying of starvation
and when the clocks stop at this doorstep,
there you are, a dead tree that’ll never receive its salvation.
A choir hums in far distance, singing of your
creation and how every verse that was ever
etched on tour trunk needed a castration.”
– Garima S.

Coloured apologies

One fine day, when the sun
decides to set in the east, and all
land’s water floods itself and humans
would forget to pry upon
each other, I’ll sing. I’ll sing the
morning heat and my freedom
will orchestrate the stadium. I will
be safe. On one fine day, when
mountains grow backward and leaves
stop decomposing, when
all men’s mercy returns home for
I see it nowhere. I see greed above
all, casting a shadowless spell
on men and women. I could cry
for that woman who got raped
and burned, left lifeless like a
dead river. This river won’t flow, the
waters carry no story and
the mouth runs dry because
people still won’t stop lighting
fires around her. What will the
molten wax do now? Will it
seal life back into her? Will the countrymen’s
ears be cleaned so they finally
hear her screams? I could cry
for every women that dies in
this land of hollows but then
I’d be crying for nothing. No women
felt safer when her throat soaked
itself with cries, of help and of
pain that seeps inside her. I would
be safe only when I learn that
if I cry now, I’ll die in a pool of my own
tears, drowning myself. Is there a fight
in me or the men that come dressed as
messengers of the Coriolis. There’s
a storm waiting inside them
and they drown women when they can’t
bare the heat winds. Their semen
boils, they want to cool down,
they need a sacrifice. Quick, the
men are in need, they need a sacrifice,
the men with the boiling fluids
need a fucking sacrifice to complete the
ritual. It’s been a part of our ancestry, and
in our country we don’t abandon the
rituals passed on from generations
to generations. So when men need a human
sacrifice, women must come to
them, women must serve as the carrier
of typhoons. Women must endure it, or
they must die.
On one fine day, when there’s
no religion or greed, quicksand
doesn’t sink my feet, or when money
starts growing on trees, I’ll call
myself the daughter of this
country and still feel safe. The kerosine
fires are chanting, they say, “hang them,
hang the fucking culprit!” Who’s the
culprit? Is he a person or a wind? How do you
hang patriarchy? This is a game,
people like a show, one defeat
one victory. An obsolete fight. There
must be a fight, there must be a show,
someone must be defeated. They still
don’t listen. They won’t fucking listen. The
women needs to be heard. Our ancestry
that you build up last night
while watching a pirated sex tape is a lie, you
know it’s a lie. Lies are delicate so
you protect it with violence. When would
you fucking stop lying! Stop shutting your ears!
Listen. I want answers.
Tell me, will I ever be safe?
Will men ever learn to tame their
lust and greed?
Will the country stop fearing men with
hypothetical constructs of power? Will
the wax that flows under
the pedestal at the end of a protest march
unclog the patriarchy’s ears?
Will we ever stop feeling the need to ‘protect’
women? Do you have answers or
will you just light a candle in silence?
-Garima S.

Letters from the project child

I used to be my mother’s shadow, and
she, my salesperson, desperately
knocking at doors to make a living
out of me; she hasn’t eaten today. She
thinks I’m worth a lot of fortune. When she
created me, she put me through all
these tests that were supposed to make
me tough, but instead, they wore me down.
I’m the shadow of my mother that set
herself free because the light started
to perforate my mother. My mother, she
let arrows pass her so I know what
it must be like to be her, meanwhile
protecting me.
My mother is my hero, but she
also is me downfall. She’s the weakness
that holds my feet to the ground. I might
be a shadow, dear mother, but you need
to stop filling me with your suffering, I
know, I know, dear mother of mine, you’re
breaking, persistently at an exponential
rate and believe me it hurts me. It hurts me
more, because somewhere I believe
I am the reason for your hurt. Sometimes
when I look at you at the dinner table,
when you’re eating leftover hardened
chappatis from last night, I wonder
if I’ll ever be able to protect you.
Dear mother, I’m your daughter and not
your shadow, please stop protecting me
from the sun. You’re beautiful, you deserve
better, and so do I. I am
the spiderlily that goes unnoticed at a
funeral, hiding behind an old unnamed
grave. I am you, but I’m weaker and
yet stronger. Hey, look at me, maa,
please stop crying, I know you cry
when we all fall asleep; runny noses don’t
sound similar to weeps and I’m not
a fool.
It’s going to be alright maa, I will
protect you one day, don’t break me before
that. Don’t break yourself so much. Remember,
I’m you and you’re me, if you break, I
break too. It hurts Maa. Stop talking in
your sleep, my ears bleed sometimes. And
on some days the food tastes like hatred
because you keep chanting a spell, standing
there, on top of the kitchen counter.
It will be okay, right? We’re gonna
make a Christmas cake tonight, and
I promise I’ll add only a tiny
amount of cinnamon, and you can
have all the crusts. We can have
a movie marathon and I’ll definitely
put ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’  and
‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ on the list. And
Maa, It’ll be okay, we’ll be happy.

-Garima S.