Two Suitcases and a Bag


The person at the store will tell you that suitcases come in four sizes: small, medium, large and the one that’s the same size as that 12 year old you. I took the medium one last year. What was I going to do with a suitcase any bigger than that anyway? My father wanted me to buy the large one, he believes in covering all his bases. I am still tainted with inexperience.

In the last one month, I chose to stay mostly at home (Other than the one trip to the hills). Everywhere I went despite this choice, I wanted to consume into my memory. Would I ever visit this lane again? When would I take this bus again? The dim lights of dinners, the blinding sunshine of afternoons in Calcutta and then the darkness of street lights. Maybe homes take up expanses that we fail to recognize and later, measure.

It suddenly dawns upon you that the tasks for the following days include emptying drawers, letting go of books, giving away clothes. These are the rituals of every departure. Life stands in a linear scale and the scale ends here.


The sun sets later here, evenings are longer. I wake up earlier than I would like to. New beds are hostile to sleep. You never return to the old, departure once is exile forever. Home, is a disease that infects memory. And yet, home is renewed everyday with memory. The further you move away from home, the more your memory creates it. For every bedside table that held your spectacles, is a shelf that almost fits them in the same way. Habits become rituals; homes are held together by rituals.


The first time you leave home, with only departure tickets, you will shed a chunk of your heart. Do not expect to find it back in the course of time.

Bombay is not unfamiliar, it’s not familiar either. Meals need to be taken care of, bills have to be paid. I think of Calcutta often, mostly in passing as a standard to compare every other place with. When you have known only one thing all your life, everything else seems to be a variable of that one thing.



New things grow on you, slowly. We spend lifetimes in finding dreams, but sometimes they come true in uncertain patterns. Happiness comes in toffee-sized bites, at the corner of every street in one strange shop. I think of my mother, of the way no other touch will be so old, so known. I think of departures, of the weight that I left behind. Perhaps, all departures only make us lighter. Everything is lost at its moment of inception. Where does life find its space then? Why do we collect souvenirs to remember? Umbrellas form silhouettes here. Bombay settles into you as you settle into the rains. Someday, the building opposite yours won’t be the same as the building back home that you remember.


I packed two suitcases for Bombay, and a bag. How many suitcases does it take to fit in the gatherings of lifetimes? Where do you keep the things you cannot carry? Every moment I spend here, I want to absorb everything. There is so much to see, so much that I do not know about. Laughter appears at odd hours, in pyjamas in the new place that you have to call home now. Embrace it, embrace every semblance of happiness that comes to you. Wait on the shore, see the tides rise. Love is a souvenir to keep, it fills all suitcases. Know that sometimes love is also the monsoon that comes without rain. Hold on to it anyway. It’s okay to believe. Let people find you, let rituals take you over.


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गुलमोहर की लाल आहटें



गुलमोहर की लाल आहटें,

पत्तझड़ में आवाज़ देते हैं

कौन सुनता हैं उन्हें?


नाराज़ होने का एक तरीका वो भी है,

जिसमे नाराज़ नहीं होते


अधूरे-अधूरे से घुलते है केसर के धागे,

पर खीर की मिठास पूरी-सी ही लगती है

कौन चखता है उसे?


आदत की अदालत में,

वकालत सिर्फ बदलाव की

जीत जाने से, जीत तो नहीं जाते


एक दीवाल है तूफान की,

एक आँधी का रास्ता घर तक

लौट आने का रस्म निभाता कौन है?


गुलमोहर की लाली तो न सुनने वाले पर भी गिरती है,

खीर तो न चखने वाले को भी मिलती है


ये रस्में भी अजीब हैं शायद,

इनकी आदत ही खराब है शायद


हर बारिश के छत्री हज़ार,

फिर भी, भीग जाता कौन है?

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इस शहर से उस शहर


सच तो यह है

की हर शहर

हर दूसरे शहर जैसा है


घर यहाँ भी सबके छोटे है, इमारतें वहा भी रोज़ बनते है

यहाँ तुम नीली शर्ट पहनते हो, और वहाँ काली


इस शहर से उस शहर के बीच में

चार कागज़ के फूलों का फासला

(वो फूल भी मुर्झाने लगे)


उस शहर से इस शहर तक

१५ कग – डोमेस्टिक

२० कग – इन्टरनैश्नल,  कम है

१० kg वज़न तो सिर्फ इस शहर की बारिश का है

१६ kg यहाँ की नर्मी का, ठन्ड में पिघलती तेल के पास पड़े कुर्सी का


तुम कहते हो, तुम्हारा शहर ज़्यादा बड़ा है

वहाँ अॅफिस जाते है, काम पर नहीं

वहाँ फुटपाथ पर घर नहीं बनते क्या?

वहाँ भी तो तुम,

अचानक हँसते हो, धीरे चलते हो


अच्छा बोलो, एक हँसी की वज़न क्या होती है?

नहीं रहने दो,

अगले बार ले जाऊँगी

इस बार शोपिंग कुछ ज़्यादा कर ली


सच, तो यही है

कि हर शहर हर दूसरे शहर

जैसा ही है


कल सुबह फिर

तुम्हारा शहर अलग होगा मेरे शहर से

तुम्हारे शहर की काॅफी ज़्यादा मीठी

और मेरे शहर की चाय बिल्कुल कड़क

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I say your name every fifth day of the week

The r’s roll off my tongue
They fall down,
I lose them
Sometimes I try to remember you
Other times I forget you were
sixth day of every week is for
Cleaning the house, folding clothes
Throwing away old things
Every first day of the week I wake up late
I leave out messages to the air
Ironed clothes, clean shelves
Couldn’t throw away the old
Fourth days are for silence
Coffee is not enough
Corners pile up
Palms on cheeks and hair on face,
Tucked away
Count your breaths for a minute
Every second day of the week,
Is for homeward smells and
Promises that went hungry
The last day of the week
Is for a walk
You walk sometimes, I walk faster
Sidewalks are not flat here
Book on the pillow, half closed glasses
Crinkles on the bed form scripts,
On Wednesdays
Half and half, take yours
Round and round, stop
Now. The weekend is too far.

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Simple Present Tense – Bombay


Perhaps this is the difference between Bombay and Calcutta: Bombay doesn’t understand farewells and Calcutta, is the city of perpetual departures. Bombay is forever the new city, the daunting maze of opportunities and dreams; Calcutta is the respite from the maze.

My friend in Bombay told me, “Bombay fucks you over once.” I guess that’s the thing about Bombay. It’s the big bad world. Bombay is a racetrack. Everyone runs here. There is no breathing, only gasping for air. There is no sleep here. And yet, cafes fill up here. People sit around and share a meal, take pictures to remember. Sometimes, in rare places where the service is slow, people might even sit for hours to talk. Sometimes I wondered what they spoke of: was it only of work?


The sea is so close here. The sky-rises clog your lungs and then there is the sea. People are there everywhere. Bombay is a racetrack without any end. People run here to nowhere, just in their routines.  How weird is it to imagine a life of running with no end! No one loses here. Sometimes, people win.

Bombay is the big bad world, but it is also the kind stranger helping you to get on the right train. Lovers walk here not in a daze, but in a full awareness of love. Love isn’t too much here, it doesn’t spill over. (The more I unravel love, the less I see of it. Maybe love is in its passing. It’s only here for a moment, for this moment. See it, pull it closer. It will leave when you open your eyes.) Love is present continuous here. You can see love pass by in Bombay, as Calcutta is witness to the passage of time. Everyone is alone in Bombay. No one lives alone in Bombay.


The sea is so close here. It saves the city from the ugly tall buildings crashing into the sky. Sometimes you can smell the sea without even being near it. It’s where time stores itself in this city. You can search for time in all of Bombay, but you’ll find it at the sea, in between those imported four-legged rocks at Marine Drive. Time is understood simply in Bombay; all of it is spent, every inch of its linear and circular existence. It is not a thing you collect over hours and weeks till it takes up too much space. Time here, is not wasted in the exercise of memory.

(Yet, why do I always go back to memory? Sometimes I wonder if writing itself becomes an imagined conversation. Who do I talk to? No one replies. There are no words from the other side, only indicators; as if reminding me of its presence.)


Bombay rushes in my memory. The local trains transition from their bitter heartbreaks to their surprises. The city keeps changing, rebelling against its own history; a part of which remains hung on the lanes of South Bombay. It is a city that has seen tragedy, no tragedies. Every leftover of a tragedy will tell you the importance of erasing memory. Have you ever tried it? Doesn’t really work, does it? Try to get on the train from Dadar.

I had experienced Bombay rains once briefly on an earlier visit. The sound of rain had penetrated the entire city, all of its traffic became soundless in the face of the monsoons. Monsoons change the vocabulary of sound in the city. Magic only exists in the city in the niches of the fantasies of Bollywood. The city stands as a testimony to reality otherwise. But when it rains, the airs twist in the city. Something changes. Nobody knows what it is. Perhaps there is a story to these rains. Perhaps it is lost with the old, crinkled man who knew all its details but lived his life in anxious haunts of conversations with himself.

Bombay never sleeps, its existence lays in the realm of simple present tense. Bombay is a simple city. It takes you in, and takes all your problems. Get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee. Yours dreams can come true. Bombay is a simple city with complex dreams. Bombay, never sleeps.

This time it didn’t rain much when I was there. It was almost as if the monsoons were waiting for something, as I was. What is it that I was waiting for? It seems that waiting was pointless. Some things never arrive in the city of arrivals. Two days after I came back, a call informed me that it had started raining. The sound had penetrated the entire traffic of the city.

Bombay fucks you over once. Remember that.


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Postcards from Pondicherry


Pondicherry is quiet. Sometimes I look at it and I think that maybe time moves slower here. It doesn’t, I know that. Pondicherry is not Calcutta. It’s so bright with its yellow walls and houses full of sunshine. It’s also so small. I walk a lot here; I guess I knew that would happen.

Here, nothing is okay but time keeps moving. Perhaps time moves me too. This place is funny really. It makes me laugh without happiness. Am I just homesick? Perhaps not. Perhaps, reality is just closer here. It stares me right in the face and I can’t look away. There will be times in life when there will be no escape from yourself. Here, I have to be who I am; there is no other space.

Too many things run around here. Spaces join faces and all the colors just come together to a sense of meaninglessness. Everything means nothing. Not the wind, not the red bicycle, not the blue door that you see in your dream but never find in reality. Everything is a shadow of some unseen, imagined territory. Shadows fade out with the light. Here, they carry themselves through the breeze. Everything is a blur. The breath of the sea frees you and suffocates you. The narrow lanes remind you of life that is; there is no going around it. All roads lead to nothing, didn’t they say that?


Do you see those lines of sunshine and wind? Do you see them criss-cross into each other? They touch each other and fall away. Eyelids close, suddenly, gracefully. Did you see the smile in the eyes before they closed? All the roads are built here like a maze. All roads can lead to the same thing. Is that how fate works too? Would the owner of the house paint it yellow in a different universe? Somethings are meant to be.


I haven’t seen my home in a few days. Sometimes I call this home. Then, I curse myself. Makeshift homes are only made of mortar. They are demolished by the very idea of their existence. Sometimes I think love is makeshift too. Who can see the truth of it? I think there are many truths, all of them makeshift. I see you. I love you.

Sunshine creeps inside from behind the blue curtains. Well, love doesn’t really change anything.


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Calcutta Kolkata Calcutta Calcutta – Part II


I wanted to move out, to constantly keep moving. My father has lived in this city all his life. He knows it like the back of his hand. It is weird that now, when all I want to do is leave, it suddenly fascinates me. Loving the unfamiliar leads to an ignorance of the familiar. Maybe staying back, is in itself a kind of movement. So many things pass in this city. Sometimes I think does the phrase ‘the back of my hand’ even make any sense? What would we know if our hands were exchanged by another’s? What difference would it make if this city was another?

Too many things have passed in this city. Maybe it is too changing, keeping up and yet nostalgic.
Calcutta Calcutta Calcutta Calcutta. Utter its name a thousand times.
If there was to be a book on the chronicles of this city , it would have to be divided by its seasons. Seasons change this city. It is not unstoppable. The rains stop this city, every fucking out pour stops it like it was some goddamn village with no drainage system. Couples walk on roads holding on to each other, oblivious of the city being held up. It takes nothing to stop this city, only a small hindrance to its functioning.
I am sick of it, sick of the same old place with absolutely no sense of pace. In movies when they show cities, do you remember how on the streets people walk at the same pace? In Calcutta the scene couldn’t be shot in a million years. Everybody walks at a different pace, constantly bumping into one another. This whole progression of disorganized bumping, cursing, stopping and waiting function in sync. Calcutta is a mess in sync.
I need to leave, leave this familiar mess, not discover any more lanes. I need to leave before the summer is back: the dreadful summer when arguments are free flowing and there isn’t enough air anywhere. No place to sit in buses, no empty benches, no cold drink cold enough. Don’t come here during summers.
My father knows a shortcut to almost every place I have ever visited with him. He directs drivers better than the GPS directs me now. He never speaks of leaving this city.
This city makes me sick. This god forsaken city where nothing good ever happens. How can trams still function here? Have you not seen how slow they are? And the autos. Don’t even get me started on how they cause jams to fight and the autowallahs hurl abuses and horns at the same rate.
Too much has passed, too much. What stands heavier in passage are all the things that never came to be. Leaving. Always leaving. This city is paved with losses. Love arrives here too late and losses are always travelling with you. It rains, it rains again. It will rain all night and in the morning people will go to work late. There will be mud everywhere and not enough sleep.
How do you leave this city? How do you leave this bloody city that is so full of you, you smell yourself in every lane? It makes you dizzy, you want to destroy it. Every person poking his umbrella on your skin wants to destroy it. The thing is, maybe the city is already in ruins. How do you leave ruins that keep building themselves back, resurrecting and ruining, always moving, always waiting.
Calcutta Calcutta Calcutta Calcutta
Utter it a thousand times. It isn’t enough. This city isn’t enough.

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