Saturday, September 10, 2016


on my tongue, tasting

of glossy cookbooks
with grand names

and lists of grander ingredients
at me from the store shelves.

My mother
refuses to believe
what Google says
cilantro is.

And I can only remember
coriander leaves
tasting like the folded

of her diary,
where jotted-down
still dream of daylight

and the wall
behind the gas stove, sweating
oil and ghee

for years.

Friday, April 29, 2016


I left home –
and I breathed
clean air for the first time, Ma.

Never mind that
it was Chennai Central,
reeking of grime and filth and sweat
and metal and watery coffee

This air was free

This air never breathed in
the guilt we etched on your pores
for daring to hold a passport
to the Island of Insanity –

we, of the Nation of Normalcy

This air never heard the chilankas
of duty

clatter in alarm

as you danced across the Line of Control

the water tugging at your ankles
first, and then your thighs and hips
and torso

dragging down under
even your untameable hair

This air never saw you
resurface –

kicking and biting and punching
and spitting at dad

who waits patiently every single time
you sail away

and this air never saw you wear my angry hands
like a life-jacket

my hands – laden with Dicorate and Mirnite
and Ativan – oblong grey pills and tiny white tablets
whose generic names and dosages
I could tell you even today

(Valproic Acid. 700 mg. Mirtazapine. 7.5 mg.
Lorazepam. 1 mg.)

and this air
never saw me Google their chemical structures
on the eve of my 12th standard board exams

trying to place my grief and fatigue
within double bonds and
hydroxyl groups and benzene rings

This air never touched pencil tips
broken by my failure
to figure out how your terrified screams

defied all known laws of physics

and drilled through floors and walls
and doors and my skin of steel

with a force it never should have had.

When I left home, Ma,
for the first time in seventeen years
I breathed air that was free of you.

I breathed air that was free,
or so I thought until yesterday
when the blindfold slipped

and I saw air
coiled round and round like a
stubborn umbilical cord

spoonful after spoonful of memories
down my forgetful throat:

me burying my face into the folds
of a nightie faintly smelling of onions

you holding my shaking hand
through the haunted house of trigonometry

us rolling eyes at my sister’s terrible puns

over cups of coffee made exactly the way I like it,
loaded with milk and heaped with sugar –

the rich steam wafting into my nostrils
from across seven hundred kilometres

I choke.
The air refuses to budge.
I scream.
The noose tightens.
I panic, sending papers flying everywhere,

if gravitational force was inversely proportional to
the square of distance between two objects?
when the cartoon anvil struck –

Newton was right, after all, and I was wrong
I never left home, Ma.
I never left home.

A homesick musing on my relationship with my mother, who has struggled with clinical depression since her college days, weathering prejudice and judgement along the way. 

To your resilience, your strength. To you, umma. With all my love.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Need No Name

I leap
leap out of my body
hair on fire
eyes flaming with the fury
of a thousand years
dagger in my hand

And I burn
I burn every fence
every wall
every shackle
every muzzle
I burn, and watch them
crumble into ash and dust

I hack
I hack at every tongue
every hand
every eye
I chop them all, and watch
as they leak blood

And I bathe
I bathe in ash and dust
and congealed blood
in spaces that no longer
grope me
in words that no longer
bend my head
in catcalls that no longer
deafen me
in gazes that no longer
undress me

I bask
I bask in the sound
of my words tumbling free
in the sound of my feet
clattering off to places it dreamt of
in the sound of my hands
stomping on surfaces it yearned for
And I step back
into my body
moment of madness
in the heat of my boiling blood
and slowly
I burn my silence
I hack at my fear
I bathe in my euphoria
I bask in my voice
I strip down to the marrow
of my bones
I bleed
I yell
I am

Again, anger fuels this. Immediate inspiration drawn from a senior talking about her experiences with gendered rules on occupying public spaces in a college, where she's attending a fest, and an incident in another academic institution where first-year students misbehaved with a female student until seniors intervened. The powers-that-be dismissed the girl's account as a fabrication, and the senior students now have a ragging case foisted upon them.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Autumn, a haiku

out of turn, autumn
bears witness: one more leaf
kneeling before time

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Nation Wants To Know Why You Write Poetry When You Should Be Studying


This pesky nation of yours
seems to want to know a lot,
so I will say this:

I am young
and furious, and my voice
gathers rust,
prone as it is to noise
that demands I sew my lips
into silences

where only
canned dreams
and clockwork desires

I am young
and furious, and my voice
yearns to sing
to a different tune

and it will:
its frayed ends and jagged edges
will spill blood
on all that you declare holy –

on the 207-foot-tall tricolor
and the mandated 1-foot space
and the
sitting next to me

on the weighted boots
of history
that condemned to death
a boy’s yearning for stardust

on the six yards of sanskaar
and fifty-inch veils of modesty
which brand my love
an obscenity

on the madness
that lynches a man
with just a lingering whisper
of look in his fridge

on the lines
that become fences
that become walls
built upon grave after grave
of frozen uniforms
and butchered hearts.

hear me as I drip blood –
its red seeping
into an earth

where answers are weeds
and questions burst
into life
without fear

where poetry
hits every discordant note
on the way

as it soars above

auto-tuned voices
peddling doctored truths
and photoshopped patriotisms

So hear me
as I sing
as I kiss
as I tell

Written in solidarity with the JNU students protesting the state's crackdown on dissent in academic spaces (and the country as a whole), its excesses ranging from slapping outrageous charges of sedition on student leaders to giving a free rein for violence against journalists and students.

This poem was featured in the first issue of Mithila Review.

A Foray Into Translation: Love, In Four Fragments

I know, I know.

I know I haven't written in a long while, and if this blog were a physical space, this post is just dusting the cobwebs, trying to infuse life into its musty corners.

I really don't know how or why writing slipped from me (or did I let it slip?) For months now, it was as if thoughts shrivelled up at the tip of my fingers, in terror of shape-shifting into words. Maybe I just lost inspiration. Maybe I was too lazy to sit down and coax words out of their shells, when once upon a time they used to tumble out of me like a row of toppling dominos.

I was bereft. 

So when my schoolmate and friend Sulyab posted his Malayalam poem, Pranaythinte Naalu Varnangal, it was with a vengeance that I took it upon myself to translate it, possessed by a faint hope that I could rediscover my love, find purpose again. I'm not sure if I did, but I did have a lot of fun in the process.

With my limited exposure to Malayalam language/literature (something I'm not proud of) and this being my first attempt at translation, I'm well aware it could do with a lot of work. Nevertheless, I'm proud of my baby steps!

If you appreciate Malayalam, find this wonderful, ridiculously self-aware meditation on love here.

And then, find my translation here. (Nothing's stopping you from reading it as a standalone, non-Malayalis! *hint hint*)

Do let me know what you thought of it, especially bilingual Malayalis around here: how did I fare as a translator, and what could've been done better?