Bookmarked

I grew up in a fairly small-sized house. As a kid, at times, I thought of it as a challenge and wished that my father should have gotten us a bigger place to stay. After completing graduation, I moved out of my hometown. I got a nice job or two and moved to cities like Delhi and Mumbai. There, I stayed in much fancier and bigger apartments.
I tried to make up for the size of my childhood home by spending more money on rent and more time between those walls. Over the years, I earned enough to have more distance between the walls when I shifted from one place to the next.
As a writer, one thing that remained constant throughout these years was my love for reading. During the four years in Mumbai, I’d often pick up books from Crossword or the tiny bookstalls on the streets of Andheri. I’d be talking to my father over the phone later that day and telling him about the Jeffery Archer novel in my hand. He’d respond by saying – “Why did you have to buy that one? We already had it at home.” He’d even share the spoilers for fun.
Nevertheless, that phone call always transported me back to my childhood home and, specifically, to the one-third of that house that my father had filled with books.
There were multiple closets lined with fiction novels by authors such as O. Henry, P. G. Woodhouse, Hemmingway, Jeffery Archer, John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth, and many more. I particularly remember this green cabinet built inside one of the walls that did not take space inside the house yet had ample room to host a hundred classic authors. It’s funny how I struggled to find space for books in my new apartment, but he had managed to have a mini library for us.
An established writer himself, that was one gift he had quietly bestowed upon his kids. He instilled the habit of reading in us quite early.
That gift stayed with me through the years of growing up. When I was on a flight to Delhi for my first job, it was with me. It gave me company during the nights in Lucknow. It kept me entertained during my daily local train rides in Mumbai, and more importantly, it made me who I am today.
I could never complain to him about not buying a bigger house, but I will make sure that one-third of whichever home I stay in will be reserved for books.
I once wrote about preferring paper books to Kindle ones. A few of the readers mocked me by calling me anti-technology. I do not blame them. Maybe, they never got to smell the musty old books and be transported into another time. Perhaps they are unaware that one could ‘favorite’ special corners in their life with a bookmark so that their future selves can revisit that space.

Brought to you by

The year is 2030.
You live in a macro-rental housing society inhabited by a thousand more people living in matchbox-shaped houses. Google owns it, and they call it a Smart box.
You are in your late thirties. Almost everyone you know works at Amazon or Reliance. Today is Friday. You decide to use the accumulated points on your card. The employers have given you one day’s leave for a month. The office shares a social media update on your behalf – it is an animation of you thanking them for being a great workplace. They brand it as a wellness time for employees.
You decide to go out for some beer. At the café, you meet someone and have a little chat. They dislike your opinions and give you a low rating with two stars.
You hop onto an Uber bus. The facial recognition app greets you by your Citizen code. The driverless bus runs over a bunch of people. Thankfully, they are all homeless, and the system ignores it as an error.
The Spotify chip in your ear begins to play a track by Imagine dragons, but it is interrupted by an advertisement asking you to upgrade to a pro-premium account.
On your way back, you decide to stop at the local Kindle store. You dimly remember it used to be a Crossword book shop at one point. They are all Kindle stores now. You sit down and join a few others who are watching elections. You really hope that the Tesla guy beats Adani to become the new global president. He has promised to run a contest for free tickets to Mars every year.

Time, space and her

What happens when you fall for someone at a bookstore?

I wonder if books gossip about us later.

I shared time and space with her in that old book cafe.

The classic authors stood witness to our awkwardness.

We drank some tea, some ink,

and then some undercurrents of emotions.

We had everything but words.

Like lonely bats cutting the night in half,

our thoughts walked around the room in circles.

Our souls could defy gravity,

but our feet stumbled at the edges of conversation.

The words were supposed to be our seatbelts,

but we were already falling.

She shook her head and laughed a little,

And that was the poetry I’d never know how to write.

I could only float from one moment to the next,

and hope that she was there in all of them.

Drunk on the clusters of hope and desperation,

I opened one book and closed one self-doubt.

Evanescent

Remember the smell of winter lurking in your childhood house?
Like your ancestors’ thoughts pinned on the brick walls?
November has brought it back enveloped in its smog.
It gives you a sweet ache for a place you could never move on from.
You know you’d seen the monsoon crawl out of the front door.
Then why do memories of June still chase you like a ferocious dog?
You think of the rain-soaked streets in August.
You miss the flickering street lamps that wept throughout July.
Maybe, we are wired to love the bygones.
We’re bound to search them again in a kaleidoscope of time.
Standing at your bedroom window,
You hear the Palm leaves whisper something to 3 am streets.
“Hold onto the November, love. While you can.”

Carpe diem

Alternate realities

“Every decision made is a decision against something else.”
The multiverse theory is simply mesmerizing.
Whenever you are presented with a choice,
you create an alternate universe with an option you do not pick.
Do you catch the last train, or does your parallel version?
The delicate guillotines of options, aren’t they?
When does it start or end?
Do you choose to collect silences or words?
Do you make sure you touch the roses with or without the thorns?
Do you move out of the town or stay back?
Do you get out of your house and take a left,
Or do you walk straight and bump into a stranger?
A stranger who later becomes your best friend.
You are but accumulations of all these moments,
and yet you vividly mark as yours only a handful of them.
You are now and then.
A thread of forever and nothingness.
A puzzle of summers and raw winters.
You are holding time with both hands
but forgetting it in soft memories.
A thousand of ‘you’ are living your ‘what ifs’
at this very moment in the alternate universes.
Maybe our dreams are our memories from the worlds we don’t live in.

Elixir

It’s a Sunday afternoon.
The old forest is your latest hiding place.
You run deep into the woods,
where the riverbed smells like dreams, you don’t dare sharing.
The dreams that didn’t know where else to flow.
You wonder if forests know what their breathing does to your wounds,
or how often you turn to them.
How much you have already forgotten,
and how many years you would have gained,
if you were more like them – the big, old burly trees.
You like to think of forests as a poem written by you centuries ago.
Your favorite part is ‘a bird looking for a gentle tree to rest.’
And hers is ‘a tree quietly looking for lost birds who wish to be held.’

Stardust of memories


I’ve been dipping my words in hot coffee & purple ink,
Since I know you like to warm your heart into them.
I’ve been dragging my bones over the skin of these pages,
Because I wanted to write you poems like I was really there.
I wanted to touch the spines of books on your shelves,
And ask you if you could feel the shiver.
I was sifting what’s left of this stardust of memories,
and I can promise you my greatest work is yet to come.
It’s when the silver bones of my mind,
will be polished down to the silence of snow on paper.
It’s true,
When writers love, the planet does spin a bit slower.
It lends us time to turn all our quietness into words.

Oblivion

I began this day as I do most days,
Pouring coffee over the plants in my head.
Filtered pictures with a #throwback,
Make me yearn for places outside the window pane.
But I have reached the rock bottom,
The social tells me I can’t scroll no more.
A tall, sturdy tree is who I have become.
Mourning the mundane work from home.
The seasons blend in the background,
as I’m glued to yet another meeting invite.
With another tall, sturdy tree on a Zoom call.
Is this how the lonely forests are born?

Kaleidoscope

Have you jumped over dried summer leaves,
Just to savor the symphony of crushing sounds?
Have you bunked enough classes,
Or were thrown out of them with your buddies?
Have you lied to your crush that it’s not your bus,
Just to steal an extra hour of waiting together?
Have you walked home with your best friend,
Balancing your feet on the tracks that disappear in a tunnel of trees?
Then consulted a stray kitten,
about the hint of rain trailing the changing wind?
Have you chatted up with your roommie about times like these,
And had a Deja Vu that you’ve had the same conversation before?