Picking up the pieces

It’s been fifteen years, you tell me.

You had just come back from college,
and had to rush to the hospital.
It was close to the end of the visiting hours.

And then you saw your father,
that independent man you had always known to be,
You saw him leaning on your brother’s arm,
struggling to stand.

Your uncle came in the next morning. ‘Freddie is no more,’ he said.

You did not know how to react.
While you struggled to come to terms with it, someone asked you to buy red bangles.
They were for your mother, they said. You complied.
On the way back you saw father lying in a coffin in the hearse. You realized he was gone, it was sinking in now. The vacuum was getting bigger.

At home, they made mother wear a red saree and the bangles you had bought. Just like a bride, a newly wed.
As your father left home with the final prayer,
a few women stepped ahead, and broke Ma’s bangles with a spoon.
It was a ritual you were told. You had played your part in getting your mother to follow it.

Before they shut the coffin, you bent to kiss his forehead. It was cold and sweaty, unlike the warm touch of your father.

As the years trickled past you, his memories dried up.
Earlier you could hear his voice in your head,
you could remember him egging you on the race track as you ran to pass the baton at the relay.
You could see him, out of the corner of your eye, running with you on the inside of the track.
You could feel his touch as he picked you up when you had collapsed after giving your team a winning lead.
Over the years, that egging voice has morphed into yours.
The smell you can’t remember.
The touch has faded too. You can only remember how his skin felt both cold and sweaty when you kissed him goodbye.
You will forget that too, you say. It’s like an empty word whose meaning is draining away.

You remember being disconsolate when the cemetery was running out of space and you had to let go of his last remains.
You took time to know it was okay; you could not hold on forever to shreds that would remind you of him.

And then you grew up. Into a woman.
You began to understand what Pa meant to you.
You hung on to the positives, only because you had suffered a sudden loss.
Slowly you stumbled on the skeletons.
His frailties, his shortcomings.
You realized you had lost a person you did not even know.

Even then you remember him for the independence he empowered you with,
how he lifted the burden of conventionality off your shoulders,
and yet wanted his wife to tread the conventional path.

You struggled with this duality. You forgot he was only human.

You realized a lot of memories you created of him were second-hand ones,
some passed down to you through your mother or your aunts,
some you had gathered through hearsay.

You had created your own idealized virtual image of him.
That was your guarded cave you retreated to whenever you wanted to think of him.

You have blown apart the cave now.
It was all unreal.
You had glossed over the vices,
even covered the glitches with wallpaper.
Yet the faults remain.

Yes they do.
Yes, you built your own illusion.
An illusion that helped you through the dark years,
memories that egged you on,
to make you the woman you are.

I have never lost someone whose memories I would have to hang on to.
Yet when I do, I wish I can deal with it like you did,
so that when everything turns to dust,
when the jigsaw falls apart,
I can still smell the fragrance in the picture.

 

 

Turning lyrical

Sometime in the recent past, I had penned lyrics for a Bangalore band Inmates. The song – Where is home is out now. Do check it out on SoundCloud here.

Glad with how the song has turned out. Here are the lyrics:

Where is home
I have walked
Chained to the ground,
Searching for a moment
To swim out of the earth,
And somersault into the sky.

I have run
Floating over grass and stone,
Rushing past snoring nights,
In the company of bats and stars,
Guided by my restless eye.

I turn my hand in my pocket,
Keys bound to a bunch
of memories graze my fingers.

Should I stay? Should I leave?
Should I grind out my skin, pass it through the sieve?
In another place
with a brand new face,
Should I renew myself,
blend into this home?
Where, oh where, is home?

I have flown,
Mesmerized by a cloud,
Unmindful
Of the slabs of rain,
On sun-kissed winds,
My weightless soul,
I’ve come a few miles
Closer to the sun.

I turn my head,
the wind screams and goes past my ears.
I feel weightless
like a child’s dream.

Should I stay? Should I leave?
Should I grind out my skin, pass it through the sieve?
In another place
with a brand new face,
Should I renew myself,
blend into this home?
Where, oh where, is home?

This me, this me now,
is a different me.
I’ve spilt bits of myself like breadcrumbs on my trail
should you want to find me somewhere in these clouds.
Drops of air have seeped in from everywhere I’ve drifted,
I’ve thrown away the shroud.

 

That’s it for now. Will be back soon with a happy poem. Okay bye.

Struggling to write a happy poem

So I wanted to write a happy poem.
I’d make it all cheerful and smiley.
But there was a catch,
what would I write about?

I thought of the things that make me happy.

Relishing a mango, its luscious yellow flesh squishing between my fingers?
Nah, that would be too shallow.

How about reading Murakami?
Perhaps this would work.
I picked up The Elephant Vanishes,
and with every page turned, my happiness vanished too,
morphing first into intrigue,
then bewilderment.

Maybe, I was approaching this all wrong.
A happy poem would have to talk about some profound joy.
Yea, I understand now.
Profound joy.
Oh so difficult to grasp.

Just like writing a happy poem.

100 Days of Happy Poems, Poem 6