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Simple Present Tense – Bombay

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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?

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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.

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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.)

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Bombay rushes in my memory. The local trains transition from its bitter heartbreaks to its 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

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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?

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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.

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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

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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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Look at the homes that we have built for ourselves

look at the homes that we have built for ourselves

look at them dismantling, undressing
before their foundation days
look at them in ruins already
already
before mortar or walls
or windows or corridors
morning light white curtains
tea spills dirty shoes
look at them
look at us
without homes
renting homes
packing
and unpacking
not enough closet space
not enough breathing area
this home and that
and none at all
look at your homes
the ones with eyes, deep and empty
the ones with hands, always receiving
the ones that they built for you
he she they
count their names on the windows
forget the ones you made into homes
vast areas of land cannot be found
homes :
there is no home
other than the one you were born into.

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“There will be time, there will be time”

The truth of there being no time is so opposing to the lives that we lead that we cannot understand how all of the time that was ours slips away. We behave almost like time is also a possession, like it is yours and mine, forgetting that time is beyond belonging, that by virtue of its very nature it is no one’s, not even its own.
Nobody owns it, and yet it is within our capacities to give it to people. How are you? Why are you upset today? I’m sorry I couldn’t talk then, what were you saying? I love you. I missed you today. When can we meet? You haven’t spoken to me in a long time. We are made to believe that it is love that we need, the irrevocable love of a someone who will forever swear loyalty to us, But that’s just bullshit. All we really need is time.
The thing is, love is giving time. Love is the act of sitting down and listening, not the act of mere proclamation. Love is knowing that words sometimes cover time and sometimes silences do, but both need the spending of time, that sometimes people just need others to be unselfish, for just one moment in time to believe again in themselves. Love is time.
The people who truly uplift us, who make up the ideas of happiness that we have, are the ones who give us the most time. Because even though it is beyond all belonging, in reality, time is all we have.

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ताबीर

giphy

उस रोज़ जो उनको देखा है अब ख्वाब का आलम लगता है
उस रोज़ जो उनसे बात हुई वो बात भी थी अफसाना क्या  (1)

गीत सुना है कभी?                                                                                                                                                नहीं, मेटल रॉक नहीं
बोलीवूद, जॅज़ या पोप भी नहीं
गीत नहीं समझते?
सुर ताल नहीं, कुछ और
रूह?
या शायद तुम खुद ही

गीत

पानी पर जैसे चलते ना जाने कौन-कौन
एक भीड़ सी जमती है
जीवन में, जीवन के लिए

ekhon gangar teere ghumonto darale
chitkath daake- aaye aaye (2)

 

इतनी जल्दी भी क्या है?
एक अफ़साना ख्वाब में देखा
एक ख्वाब अफ़साना है

कभी-कभी
यों हो जाता है
गीत कहीं कोई गाता है
गूँज किसी
उर में उठती है  (3)

धीमी सी है चाँदनी
ल़हेर उठती है तेज़ी से
अंधों की दुनिया में भी
छवि वही बनाती हूँ
रंग तुम्हारे मिल जाते है

गीत
धीरे चलो
जाना कहा है?
इस घर के बाद भी यही घर है
इस चोट के बाद फिर यही चोट
सुनो ज़रा

गीत

बहती हूँ
या तुम तक जाती हूँ
इत्तफाक
खुमार इस पल के पहले पल का
तुम तक
बस, तुम तक

गीत
बह जाती है

 

(1) इंशा जी उठो, इब्ने इंशा (http://www.anubhuti-hindi.org/anjuman/ibneinsha.htm)

(2) jete paari kintu keno jaabo, Shakti Chattopdhyay (https://priyokobita.wordpress.com/tag/jete-pari-kintu-keno-jabo/)                                       Roughly translated into Hindi it is:                                                                                                             अब नींद में गंगा के धार पर जब खड़ा होता हूँ,
चीता पुकारती है: आओ-आओ

(3)   परिचय की वो गाँठ, त्रिलोचन   ( http://www.anubhuti-hindi.org/gauravgram/trilochan/parichay.htm)

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Could-have-beens

 

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सुना है किसी देश में लोग
मन्नतों के नाम ताले लगाते है
यहा लोग डोरी बाँधते है
कुछ लोग दिए जलाते है
इतना ऐतबार कर लेते है उस पर जिसे कभी देखा ही नहीं

मन्नतें सुनता कौन है?
क्या कोई मन्नतों का एक लिस्ट बनाता है?                                                                                                                       category-wise                                                                                                                                                      money in one column, houses in another                                                                                                 love leaves all columns too short
उस देश में शायद ताले लगा देते है मन्नतों पर
ताकि वो कही उड़ ना जाए, किसी पराए के घर में
किसी और के दिल से वो ना निकले
और किसी को वो ना मिल जाए खुद से पहले

या शायद मन्नतों पर ताले लगाना ही सही है
मन्नतें सब कहा करते है
लोग तो सिर्फ़ माँगते है

उन मन्नतों पर ताले लगाकर
कितने पल इंतेज़ार में बीत जाते है?
गिना है कभी?
कितने पलों बाद हम भूल जाते है हर मन्नत को?
कितने दिनों बाद भी सो नही पाते उस मन्नत के बिना?
कितने बार ही उस ताले को जाकर देखते है
उसकी हिफ़ाज़त करते है
कितने महीनो बाद याद नही रहता
कौनसा टाला था अपना

हर मन्नत के बीच, तालों में क्या मेरा-तेरा
जो है वो सलामत है
यही काफ़ी है

कविता भी शायद मन्नत है
उनका, जो मुककममल ना हुए

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