“Most of us are not so strong. What is humor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms? Or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory and our great tragedy.”
― George R.R. Martin
Curious things are written about love. It is transformed into bottomless objects and never-ending rainbows in the sky. It is given more avatars than all our gods, and it definitely has more believers.
Being in love is that feeling one can’t fathom, and yet, it drives most of one’s life. Love isn’t a myth, it isn’t a story, it’s our everyday reality. But reality is harsher than we believe. It has carcasses. Love has carcasses too, and most of them are road kill.
A man tried to self-immolate at the Ramlila Maidan to show his frustration with our government, to show his love for our country. Someone turned the switch on the microphone and yelled, “This is how the common man feels. This is how much the common man loves his country.” I wonder if the people watching cheered to celebrate this expression of utter frustration or they ran in to save this man from burning himself to death. Story books can glorify immolation in the name of love, whether it is for another person or a country, but what they don’t tell you is that love kills in softer ways.
Love can kill you by suffocation. It feels like you’re choking on a bone that you can’t cough up but can’t swallow either. You are constantly agitated, something feels incorrect the whole time, and then it grows on you that this could be fatal. You can’t stop coughing and your face turns red, your eyes water. You open your mouth wider, cough deeper, but that bone doesn’t budge. You wrap your palms around your neck and everyone realises that you’re choking, that you need help. People rush to your aid, ask you to move on, or say that nothing can be done about this boy, about this city, about this system. The only way is to forget it or get used to it. How does one get used to suffocation? You should ask every corrupt man in India—surely guilt must feel like a bone in your throat. I fear they’ll answer it with a question: what guilt?
The fondest memories are with old flames, but flames die easily and the room is left smelling of burnt words and cheap cologne. India cheats you much like an old lover. Promises that were made are just broken prayer beads flung in a dusty drawer, robbed of all their holiness. It cheats you of your money—don’t ask the beggar on the road; instead, ask the man who earns well, pays taxes, and gets little in return. Everyone thinks the government is troubled, but no one cares that the bones in our necks have created more than one billion beleaguered human beings.
It is said that lovers are two bodies, one soul. Even if one of them exploits the soul, the other is left with a tainted one. Love needs boundaries to save severed souls, especially if the soul in question is the one India shares with its 1.21 billion people. The government facilitates, directly or indirectly, the disparity in wealth and health amongst its people and the people have hardly been taught to respect the system enough to get involved, take charge, and make amends.
Amy Winehouse wasn’t incorrect when she sang love is a losing game. Hate may kill more, but one expects hate to cause harm. Love, on the other hand, enslaves you and cripples you to such an extent, you accept your fallen self and get accustomed to the hole in the middle of your chest that will rise up to your throat and your fighting voice will be silenced until hell freezes over.
Most people are lost
me? I am lost
A babygirl loses
for the first time,
yet she is the one that feels lost.
I lose myself
in the shallow world,
work, friends, life at the speed of light,
and my poetry winds down a road
it takes alien turns and
twists around my neck
like an infant choking on an umbilical cord.
When I am dying and the happiest moments of my life flash before me, the moment I lost myself in the sounds of Sunburn ’11 will make me feel like this life was worth living.
To music that sets you free – to music that you cannot fathom the power of – to music that makes you feel powerful & powerless in the same instance.
It rained the night that I was born. It poured, it thundered, the sky was merciless and the streets were flowing rivers.
I was born premature, like the early monsoon. There were no incubators in the nursing home, and there was no way to keep me alive without one. No car could be driven on the streets. Some people made rafts, my mother said, but what raft could be given direction in flowing water?
The roof began to leak. The slow monotonous dripping of water was a lullaby to my ears, but it stirred panic within everyone else. The water had found a way in, and if it didn’t stop, it wouldn’t be much time until my bean-sized lungs perished.
My parents prayed for the clouds to get drained. The rain stopped when I was three hours old and spared my life that night. The water that flooded the streets went on to unite with the sea.
The angry raindrops on the night of my birth made a twenty-five year old woman evolve into a mother, a protector.
* * *
I grew up to love water. I would sit on the windowsill of my room and put my ear to the glass to hear the sounds of the roaring water that dragonflies carried on their wings, the sounds that the wind carried despite their body-less element.
I would float in the sea, letting the waves give me direction. I would swim underwater with my eyes open till they stung. I would stare into my red and black eyes, watch them water, and blink to feel the warm tears escape.
Like siblings – we loved and we hated, we hurt and we healed and we came together and we parted.
* * *
I wonder if the water will take back what it spared that night. I wonder if it’ll make me happy that my eyes won’t burn and my body won’t wrinkle.
I wonder if it’ll rain the day I die.
I wonder if I’ll fight when it swallows me.
I wanted to write this poem since 7th grade, when my grandmom passed away. I wrote it in my head for years before I had the courage to put pen to paper.
At the Mercy of our Heartbeats
There, she lay, on the floor,
Lifeless and cold,
She is sleeping in a slumber,
Deeper than it appears,
She is blue, but pacified,
She has transcended life and death, our ineluctable fears.
I enter the sea of unfamiliar faces,
The only familiar one at a loss to look at me,
They envelope me in embraces,
But I am not even tearing,
My face of wonder outlandish, in a sea of mourning faces.
The race at its climax,
Destiny passes the baton,
Something changes in that moment,
Death’s victory foregone.
My mother and aunt enter,
their tears breaking their shoulder,
their mother on the floor
never looking a day older.
She locks me in her arms,
“It’s alright love, death is a part of life”
I smile feebly,
My mind in a sudden strife.
“She is dead,” I say aloud,
Hoping for it to sink in
The realization of her loss,
A starving lion’s teeth in a zebra’s skin.
“But she is here ma, she is here,”
“Love, her heart doesn’t beat,
she is abandoned by her pulse,”
wide-eyed I say, “maybe if we entreat?”
I couldn’t digest the change
That had occurred within her,
She looked the very same yesterday,
The claws of death nowhere near.
What changes when one dies?
What leaves the body?
Where are all her smiles and cries,
Where is her living glory?
I live at the mercy of my heartbeat,
Although I never stop to think
If it skips a moment,
It takes away everything.
Love, religion and belief stand powerless,
When the soul escapes me,
Does one suffer at death?
Or are you set free?
Why do we measure life in time,
When the end is certain,
Like the epilogue of a play
And the drop of the red curtain.
She is gone for years now,
Her body dust,
Her soul, the thief of her life,
My own, devoid of my trust.
I live on the time of my heart,
And thoughtlessly call it freewill,
Clay to clay is my destiny,
I am my soul’s last kill.