Thursday, May 29, 2014


The six of us split from a larger group of former classmates, an island from a continent.

We walked towards the sea, only to be confronted by a ridge that was most definitely not there the last time I was there - a neat little embankment of loosely packed wet sand. One fell, one slid down it like a skateboarder. The rest of us leapt, wind whistling in our ears, late evening sun beating down our necks.

Shoes and sandals thrown aside and jeans rolled up, our feet embraced the waves - becoming a part of the sea and the sand’s eternal dance of melding and parting, union and separation.

And as we sifted sand through our toes, huddled together, hands linked, breathing in the humid, salty air, a bubble took form in my heart. A tiny speck of elation that grew, grew, grew until it enveloped all of me, all of us.

For a moment that had no beginning and no end, we were the world, the world was us.

We were limitless.

2 a.m. My sister and I had tiptoed downstairs for a drink of water when she clapped her hands to her mouth and whipped towards the washbasin. And promptly vomited.

I stood rooted to my spot, my mind scrambling to make sense of whathowwhy mustbesomethingsheate BUT WHAT chips!noodles? compressed into one thought.

In the faint light streaming from the kitchen, everything came into sharp focus. The arch of her spine as she doubled over the edge of the basin, two curves perpendicular to each other. Her quivering frame, ashen face, trembling lips. The creases in her forehead as she threw up. The carroty tinge to the puke. Its pungent smell wafting towards me.

My own stomach heaving, rolling. Trying to ward off the nausea.

And then, after a moment that seemed to stretch out forever, my hands moving forward. One pulling back her frizzy mess of hair from her face, the other rubbing her back in what I hoped was a soothing motion. Me murmuring it’s okay get it out you’re fine, random words of comfort tumbling out.

And I dreaded the coming of the next day, because she’d be curled up on the sheets, ill and frail, and the house would mourn its life and soul - if only for a day.

In one brief second, bitterness and fury swirled into a Molotov cocktail on the verge of exploding. I could’ve laid waste to the entire podium then and there, leaving nothing of the flat, droning voices, the smug smiles, the flimsy trophies, the holier-than-thou attitude. Nothing but ash and dust.

It was a felicitation ceremony for the top-scorers of the 12th grade examinations, organized by the City Corporation. Invites had gone out to every school in the corporation limits, including mine and my best friend’s.

A couple of speeches into the programme, came the news: students from private/unaided schools wouldn’t be awarded individual trophies, only a collective one for the school.

It didn’t matter that we’d studied the same freaking syllabus as the government/aided school students. It didn’t matter that we’d put our life and soul into the being the best. It didn’t matter that we’d walked the tightrope between the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. It didn’t matter that the two of us were among the handful who’d scored 1200/1200.

No, all that mattered was that we were private school kids, which automatically equalled rich, privileged, cocky, spoilt brats who’d been served life on a silver platter. No matter how far from true it was.

But I did not explode.

Instead, something unspooled within me in that moment, some weird emotion that was outrage and sadness and pity and awareness rolled into one. All my life, I’d yearned for approval. Thirsted for recognition, validation. And now, at the end of my life as a school student, I’d been slapped in the face by my own desire.

Not any more.

From now on, I would validate myself.

(A few minutes later, defiance ringing in every stride, my best friend and I marched out of the auditorium, our heads held high, our school trophies left unclaimed.)

I can’t make out the contours of even a single cloud.

Today, the sky is just a single expanse of dappled light, letting loose its grief and rage; each thunderclap a guttural scream ripped out from its throat but appearing to come from everywhere - from above, from below, from the middle-ground in between fluid sky and solid earth, and from the very centre of the earth, rippling, vibrating... every inch of the ground left trembling.

For a moment, I feel a strange kinship with the sky, united as we were by our disposition to shed tears both in sadness and in anger. But mine are always hot, boiling - born from that molten iron core where all sense of being wronged and being in the wrong froth and churn and steam. The sky’s tears are icy, as if they were from a place where all feeling was frozen over. A melting glacier flooding the world.

Then my eyes catch a faint yet fiery streak of burnished gold - a lone, veined branch of lightning illuminated against the quick flash of frigid silver, kick-starting a cascade of moments. Surprise. Fear. Awe. That shrinking feeling when faced with something larger than life.

Moment after moment after moment, one domino knocking the next into the next into the next.

At four in the morning, my fingers stumble across the keyboard in an awkward rhythm of tap-tap-tap pause tap pause tap-tap. My eyes are rimmed with the beginnings of sleep. But I keep typing anyway, determined to capture as much as I can. Moments in words. Fireflies in jars.

And, for one fleeting second, I see myself.

In the timeline of the universe, I am just a moment.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Poem: Yours

They will slit my veins
searching for your blood, in vain
for I am not yours

Not in flesh, not in blood;
Nor have I known your womb’s warmth.

But let them search my soul,
and find your face etched in gold -
for I am indeed yours

Yours in being, yours in living;
Reborn in your heart’s warmth.

A delayed Mother's Day gift for my mother-in-spirit. To the nit-picking world which survives on technicalities: my best friend's mother.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Second Chances

The world tells you he's treacherous.

But you are blind; always have been.

He waltzes right through your defences. He captures you the way no one can - in light and shadow, in glory and disarray. To him, you bare your mind and spill your soul. He listens and locks them all away, all those little odds and ends you pick up as you go through your life.

Between the two of you, there are a fair number of tantrums. Shouting, screaming. Fuming silences. Refusing to budge. But he was never one for letting tiffs ferment and sour, and before long, he's back in your arms. After all, how can you resist a guy who shows you the world, who even sings you to sleep?

He becomes your heart. He promises you forever.

And he betrays you, cripples you.

You cocoon yourself in your misery, you curse your naiveté, you mourn all that you had. All that you lost.

You're furious.

You dig up trenches, put up fences of barbed wire around your wounded heart. You swear to never let anyone in that far (so close, too close) ever again. Never again will someone steal your mind and soul. Never again will anyone reel you in so completely, wholly.

Slowly, the storm in you abates, leaving chaos in its wake. You take a deep breath, square your shoulders and turn back. You wade through the rubble, salvage what remains untouched. Bit by jagged bit, crack by crack, you try to put together the shards of your broken heart, but it's almost like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with no hooks or curves to tell you what goes where.

But you go ahead.

Never again, you tell yourself as you find your feet, as you rediscover your  rhythm, as you put back together your old life.

And then he waltzes right back in.

Never again, no, never...  your head chants desperately, but a part of you is on song the moment your eyes find his. And he's right there - rugged, worn, but warm and solid and there. He's sorry, he's a clean slate and your defenses crumble as if they were a house of cards and it is all too easy. You need him.

It is all too easy to go back to what you were once - he feels like an extension of yourself, he connects you to the world. He is there to listen, capture, caress, lull you into sleep. Just as he once did.

But some piece of you remembers. Resents him for letting go. Hates him for coming back, hates him for making you feel weak. Hates yourself for feeling weak.

Yet you love him anyway.

It is maddening, this intricate dance of love and hate and everything in between.

But he's yours and you're his.
And for now, you don't want to let go.

(However, this time you're going to backup all your data.)

If you're wondering what brought this on: someone messed with the pattern lock on my smartphone, the get-in-with-Google-sign-in didn't work, I had to do a factory reset and I lost all non-SD-card data. Tons of notes I'd prepared for HSEE and science quiz, writing prompts.... I'm still grieving.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

In An Instant

One second.

That's all it takes for your life to change.

For the weight on your chest to dissolve, for that choke-hold on your windpipe to loosen, to drop out of the paralysing limbo between will you and won't you and let gravity take you down, down, down... to reality.

For once, not the grim kind.

Yes, I have good news! The scream-out-loud, oh-my-god-WHAT-IS-AIR kind of good news.

For a person who posts at least once a month, I have been noticeably absent from the arena for some time. Well, the culprit was an entrance exam I'd been preparing for - the Humanities and Social Sciences Entrance Examination (HSEE), on the basis of which students get selected for the Integrated MA (English/Economics) course at IIT-Madras. The exam was held on April 20th... and ever since, well, I've been a wreck. A well-disguised wreck, though.

*Elsa voice* Conceal, don't feel.

After nearly two weeks of nerves, panic, freaking out and generally curling up into a ball like a terrified porcupine - with brief Zen moments of relax, you'll be fine and even if you won't, you can try next time - the results came out yesterday. The actual announcement date was supposed to be 14th.


8th RANK. I got in with a freaking 8th rank. I got in.

I will spare you all the typographical variations of the same words, even though that's what it feels like - like every cell, every pore in my body sounding akin to a broken record, varying in frequency and volume. I got in. I feel like I've been doused in a bucket of cold water. I feel everything and nothing all at once.

This is too good to be true.

(Which is why I'm opening the PDF for the umpteenth time, to reassure myself that my name is still on the list, it hasn't been magically wiped off, and it definitely isn't a one-month-late April Fools prank.)

I can't believe this. I'll be moving to Chennai in a few months.

Wait, what? I'll be moving to Chennai in a few months? Oh. OH. Oh. 

One second.

That's all it takes for your life to change.

For the weight on your chest to solidify, for that choke-hold to return with even greater force, to be paralysed again, to drag yourself on, on, on.... only to arrive at a crossroads.