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.



Give me a typewriter and some black coffee to complement it.

Make it drizzle outside my bedroom window and let vapors of caffeine flirt with my head.

Allow me to ponder, as I wipe away the drops of first rain from the window pane.

It will take some time, some giving-up and then some pulling-myself-up again to begin.

But the blend of rains and coffee shall suffice; it shall be enough to bribe my heart.

To spark the thousands of tiny street lamps in the corners of my brain.

And then I will write, I will put you into words, I will cage you into a stanza and I’ll only give you the keys to the egress.

I will write you into something that will carve your heart out of its rib cage and place it onto your hand and ask you what to do with it.

Dead poets will listen stealthily to my plans from behind the bookshelves.

They’ll stand witness to you tearing me apart with those stares and to me fucking your brains out with lyrical armaments.

Take off the clothes of sanity; my hands are itching to write, to send shivers down your spine.

Allow me to slide my hands into your hair while it drips off dew shining along their edges.

The beam of sun punches holes into the blinds and illuminates your wet neckline.

The slow fuck escapes your lips as you watch me and read yourself.

Love might take another form but the smell of first rain remains the same.

Melancholy to your sighs and reminiscent of your breath.

Teach me how to inhale this world and exhale it as art once again.

Hatred & Love


“Romance after the fight is the best romance in the world” is a pretty mashed up line now. And I do agree with it for starters. But what they don’t tell you is ‘why’. I think you have to look for the reasons in the fight. Hatred. Anger. The words themselves are so strong and the feelings so intense. I think it is the intensity of the fights that resides in our hearts, lurking like a molten lava challenging to be calmed down. You cannot. You could only channelize it. And what is the best stop apart from romance to get down at?

Call me crazy. Call me a lunatic. But I feel I am equally in love with her while she is screaming at the top of her voice and am trying to subdue it with my husky (clears throat) one. I think I’m oddly drawn to her flushed cheeks and her fuming eyes. I do not think I love her any less even when we are fighting. And the secret is neither does she. The anger burning in her tone only  tells me how much she believes that she owns me and cannot settle down to agree with any disagreement that may happen between us. The little things that she does not shy away from, tell me that it is the version of us belonging to this moment or the period of time we are battling and not us – whole ourselves. She inherently acknowledges this far superior worth of our bonding and knowingly or unknowingly she is careful about the fragile nature of it even when we are fighting. That knowing and yet not knowing part is what builds our castle of cards, our cloud of dreams. And each time we have an intense fight, we only prick away the least important clouds that we made together. We do have to sacrifice a cloud or two, though, each time we quarrel. That’s the rule of the game.

But hey, we have only been talking about the before romance – the fight part. Once you clear this stage of the multiplayer game, romance awaits you to rekindle few dying sparks and ignite the new ones. The fire that was set up by hatred, jealousy, possessiveness and all other motherfucking siblings of them, is now waiting to draw you close. Fucking close. It starts with her pushing you away. That is the first stage of it. Then there are more attempts from your end, marinated with sweet words of affection. The names you call her, you know. She says, Do not call me that! You then call her ‘that’ again. Next stage is your ego making an intermittent appearance questioning your pursuance of her. You ignore it at first and swallow it down at second. She then surrenders. Not completely. But you see the glimmering hope in her eyes with a reflection of yours. That hope is what we live for and die for. The hope in her eyes. Yes, that is the end. It starts with once upon a time and ends with hope and grace. Not ‘they happily lived ever after’. That is your job asshole. You write, edit, proofread that. Good fucking luck.



Little Winston



Sunday late evening, December 1989.
Rajendra Nagar, Delhi.

“Not now, buddy. It’s almost nine. It is super cold. Let’s go home” Prateek told his roommate standing in front of Winston Bookstore.

“You go ahead. I’m going to take a look once. The chap had told me that they are getting a new stock soon” Ayush said with his eyes fixed on one of the oldest bookstores in the Capital city.

Prateek exhaled out fog once and nodded his head with an expression on his face that says ‘this has happened before and there’s no way he can change the outcome’.

Ayush, on the other hand, rolled up the sleeves of his Navy Blue sweatshirt and swung open the door of his favourite hangout place.

The old man behind the counter was playing with the knob of his newly bought Crown television set.

“We are about to close down for the day, son. The keys are up…”

“I won’t take that long” spoke Ayush and marched towards the section marked FICTION in bold Gothic letters.

Winston bookstore was quite old. More than 100 years as per the old man.  Ayush did not care much about the intricate details of its history. But he liked it for a couple of reasons.

First, it was the musty, dusty smell of that place. He would say that it transports him to another world.

Second, a tiny room behind the Comics section which only he knew about. On a busy day, when the bookstore would be filled with people more than Ayush, he would take a refuge in that room he called ‘A little Winston’. The old man did not mind as well, as Ayush had already bought more books in a year than anybody he had known for a lifetime.

For the first time, Ayush was not able to find anything interesting in the Fiction rack.

‘Non-Fiction’  – No.
‘Autobiography’  – No.
‘Education’  – No

So he moved towards the last section of the Winston.


The shelf’s top half was filled with Archie. ‘Archie and Veronica’, ‘Archie and Betty’, Jughead’…’ Ayush browsed through the stacked books. The bottom half of the section was a mixture of Marvel and DC comics. ‘Star Wars’, ‘House of Secrets’, ‘Conan’ and much more.

He pursed his lips and raised eyebrows in admiration of the effort of the owner to have gathered as much variety in the book shop.

Let’s pick up ‘Archie’ tonight” he murmured and as he said that, Winston blinked its eyes twice.

Lights went off and came back on. And went off again. And…off. Still off.

Ayush hoped in his head that he would not need to curse the state government again for the power shortage. To his displeasure, the power did not come back.

Damn!” He suddenly realised how scary the bookstore looked in darkness.
Struggling to find his way out and dropping a few books off the shelves, Ayush somehow managed to find his way to the front side of Winston. Near the billing counter.

The area near the counter was partially illuminated by light blue moonlight crawling through the crevices of the thick glass door. It was without the old man. The television set was already turned off. And the door. It was locked with ‘WE ARE OPEN’ sign facing inwards.

Oh no! Do not do this. Let me out. C’mon.

The keys are up…”

He remembered owner’s words.

“Up what?”

He glanced around. The entire bookstore was draped in darkness. How the hell was he going to find the keys?

Ayush thoughtfully scratched his forehead.

‘Little Winston!’

Yes. He normally keeps his torch over there” Ayush thanked his memory and decided to go check in the tiny favourite room of his.

Don’t think much. There are no ghosts. The bookstore is never haunted. 100 years old place. Oh, stop it. No, don’t think of Evil Dead. Think of good stuff. Think of… Don’t think at all, damn it.

Ayush brushed towards the end of Winston and was suddenly greeted with a cold breeze coming from Little Winston with its door pushed open.

“Holy shit! Who’s there?”

“Who the hell are you and who turned the lights off? It’s only nine” said the girl coming out of Winston. She balanced a pair of books on her one hand and moved streaks of hair off her eyes with another.

“I am…Well, first thing, I did not turn the lights off. And second, it’s not nine. It is ten thirty” Ayush said while trying to make out how she looked.

“Oh! Okay, I’m sorry. I guess…I guess I was a little rude. And is it ten thirty? I mean it was just Eight O’ clock when I went inside the Pumpkin room.”

“Inside what? It is called ‘Little Winston’ and not some ‘Pumpkin room’”.

“Says a guy who reads Archie?” She smirked. He was sure she had a smirk on her face as she said that. Not sarcasm. A light smirk.

“Hahaha funny! Anyway, here is the situation. Do not panic. But the store is locked. I mean it is shut. We are locked inside.”

“Yes, I figured that out.”

“What do we do now?” Ayush was rather perplexed by her lack of worry.

“We wait for it to become morning. What else can we do?”

“We can find the keys. I’m sure he keeps an extra set somewhere” Ayush was consoling himself rather than her.

“Stop panicking. It is all right” she said and flipped on the torch.

“Let’s go find the keys,” said Ayush, and she followed him.

Ayush focused the torch light onto the desks, on the top of books shelves. He tried to see her face as the light ricocheted off the window bars onto her.

She had dark brown eyes. Eyes that came at you like an arrow destined to hit the target. There was a confidence in them that said she knew people. What they could do and could not. She wore a pale blue shirt with sleeves rolled up just before elbows and a black skirt reaching mid-calf. Elegant as writers would call it or classy as magazines would like to publicise.

“My name is Nadia. You are?”

“Ayush. I’m Ayush”

“Ayush, hmm. What do you do Ayush?”

“Well, I am a writer and a photographer. I am here for a project.”

“Interesting” Nadia said before continuing, “Do you have those big-sized cameras that you mount on a stand. What you call it, umm?”

“A tripod. Yes”. Her interest made him smile.

“And what camera do you use? Tell me about it” she kept him busy as they searched for keys in all the possible corners of Winston. Upon the shelves, over the desk, under the desk, behind the counter and other places. Ultimately, they gave up and rested themselves on the leather couch kept for visitors.

“Yes, so you were telling me about your project” Nadia was not the one to let go of her curiosity.

“Yeah. I use Kodak Kodamtic 980. It lets me make pictures the way I see them. I think that’s the beauty of photography. Capturing something you have seen with your eyes and carrying that image gingerly in your pocket and presenting it to the world in the form as similar to the original as possible. I feel that’s the very essence of photography. Reaching places not everyone does. Seeing things differently and help other see it with your eyes. But sadly the definition of good photography is changing slowly to enhancing the quality alone. I keep arguing with the editors of magazines over the same, and they keep saying that the readers only want to see beautiful things irrespective of originality. But I do what I do. And so far it has worked well for me. Besides I feel that photography is incomplete without a story. So yes, writing keeps me busy too. In a pleasant way. I think life is too short to click as many places I want to and as many people I would like to write about.”

Nadia kept reading his eyes as he went on speaking. There was a certain spark about him. A spirited one. She watched the muscles of his forearm flex as he lifted a pile of books and wondered how strong his arms would be. He wasn’t particularly well built, but muscular where he needed to be. He moved fast. Like the wind. Yes, that was it. He was like the wind. Maybe he came with it. From somewhere, searching for her to spend time with, that night.

“What’s your favourite book?” He asked her and pulled one out of the rack.

“This is mine. The bridges of Madison County. Maybe because I can relate to it a lot. See here; these are my favourite lines” Ayush’s forefinger pointed to a paragraph on the yellowish page.

I look down the barrel of a lens, and you’re at the end of it. I begin work on an article and am writing about you. I’m not even sure how I got back. Somehow the old truck got me home. Yet I barely remember the miles going by…”

“It is one of my favourites too,” she said without taking her eyes off his.
“You know which are my favourite lines from it?” without taking the book from his hand, she leant close and flipped the pages until she landed on the right one.

I am the highway and the peregrine and all the sails that went to the sea”. He says it to her remember?” Nadia looked up to see him looking at her already.

“You love people, don’t you Ayush? Maybe because you never stay with them forever. Like Oscar Wilde said, ‘people ruin romance by trying to make it last forever’. You, you know when to move to the next place. Shifting gears from one utopia to the next, before the reality jumps in.”

“And what about you? What is it that you keep seeking inside the pumpkin room? What is your kind of utopia?” he asked.

“I am a teacher. I teach the language. I teach because I like the sound of it. The sound of everyday routine. Simplicity keeps me happy. I like giving myself to it, as much as I can. Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Charles Dickens, Faulkner, Sylvia Plath. They all keep me occupied. But I see a different world coming up, Ayush. The world which is far less interested in spending time on one thing you love. Such as books. I don’t see many people who can spend hours in a library. Like I do. Like you do. The world where people keep running, chasing things. The technology that is coming up is kind of scary. I don’t see much point in staying glued to these television sets all the time to watch the world someone else is living. You think I’m making sense?”

“Of course you are, Nadia. I feel the saddest thing is everything is getting too systematised. They are setting rules and orders for you to live in. Right from what should be your education. How much time you are going to spend on it. What shall you become? They are making youngsters chase things they might not be supposed to. I mean who cares if you graduate a little late. Don’t become an engineer or marry by the age of 25-27 and don’t have kids in another couple of years?”

“I understand. And I think there are very few like you who still exist.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“I mean you are doing your own thing. I think that’s the most attractive thing about you. You know what you are born for. And you are doing exactly that. You are clicking.”

“And we are clicking” Ayush so badly wanted to say that, but just smiled instead. He thought she heard it anyway.

“You know Nadia, this Little Winston or Pumpkin room as you call it is actually a time machine. It lets you be in a time where you like to be. You want to live in the 70s, and it gives you just that. The golden period as they call it. And me, I’m running ahead of time or maybe far behind. I do not know where I belong. I feel I belong nowhere.”

“You belong here. In this conversation. Right in this moment. You belong now. You were not made to chase tomorrow or to stay back with yesterday” she said, and Ayush felt the sudden urge of telling her how much he liked her already. Is this real? Could this feeling be a little more tangible? He could hardly see her face in that dim light, and yet he found her so beautiful. He loved her already. What was love anyway? A mother of all feelings. An intense belonging to someone.

It must have been past 4 am.

Nadia titled her head to look outside the glass window. An azure sky was filled with December fog. Just the thought of how cold it must have been outside made her shiver. She wrapped her hands around herself and shivered sitting on a leather couch next to him. Her shoulder brushed against his, and he subtly put his left hand on the couch hoping she would rest on it. It took her twenty another minutes and several more conversations to do that.

He looked at her face and tried to read it from whatever he knew about her in the past four-five hours. There was a blend of emotions on her face – of contentment and weariness. Of being happy where she was and at the same time wishing she was somewhere else. He thought of kissing her closed eyelids and then laughed at his thought.

It was good. It was beyond rationality. It was not to be pondered upon, as to how close they got to each other in a matter of few hours. They did not want to think about it. They simply chose to sink in the feeling. Float along the surface of right and wrong.

The hour hand took another walk around the circular path. Nadia woke up, and he pulled back his arm, now aching because of having worked as a pillow.

“Here,” she said and pulled out a set of keys from her bag.

“You had them all this while?” his answer was met with a twinkle in her eyes.

“There’s something I want to give you,” Nadia said while stuffing her right hand inside her handbag. Chewing on her lower lip gently, a search was done for something she considered as the perfect souvenir.

“A mixed tape that I made for myself last year”, she pulled out an HMV cassette and put it in his palm.

Judging him looking at how old it was, she said “Don’t worry. It does get stuck in the recorder at times. But a turn or two of the wheels by a pencil shall do it. And once it plays, the effort is worth it. It has all of my favourite songs.”

She smiled the smile of a ten-year-old girl giving away her favourite toy just to make her younger sibling happy.

“I can’t wait to play it,” Ayush said and pushed it gently down the pocket of his denim.

“I have nothing to give you,” he thought out loud.

“Because I am hoping this is not the last time we meet”.

Nadia said nothing. Just dropped her eyes, and smiled a little.

“I think it is time for me to leave”.

She spoke and set her brown eyes on Ayush’s in the way she hadn’t in past six hours. As if she could read his thoughts.

While Ayush kept wondering if he should shake hands and or hug her goodbye, she leant forward and kissed his cheeks. He opened his eyes slowly and watched the best six hours of his life walk away in the purple mist of December 1989.

Leaning against the counter, he flipped open the note behind the cassette.
See me outside Royal Cafe tomorrow by 7. Don’t forget to bring your Kodak along. I have heard that photos survive time.


Clipped wings


She dreamed of flying, when others were simply learning to walk, learning to cross the street. She was just nine, when she had made white clouds her home and felt wind was waiting to carry her along.

Twenty one and she had made it up there. Flying along with one of the finest airlines, smiling her perfect smile at 200 new faces every day. From one city to another, from another to the next one…she only halted for a while. She wished she didn’t have to at all. But life had some other plans.

And tonight she sang at Eleventh east street cafe, her new job it was since past one year. A favourite hangout place for the young ones in town. And they loved her at what she did – singing their choice of songs with an occasional melody of her own. For Him, it was his first time at the restaurant.

He had taken a small round table close to the fountain overflowing with water, which failed to drown her voice. She had conquered his thoughts, as she put her dark wavy hair on one side and the battle was already half won…by her. She sang American pie and he couldn’t help but hum it along. Feeling stupid, every time her eyes caught his.
He listened intently to her voice and wondered what her story was.  After all nothing entices an artist’s mind more than pieces of a broken heart. He knew she was much more than a singing lady tonight or any other night. Maybe a little late to go back, a too early to leap ahead. Tonight was hers though. This moment sang her song. Her dreams whispered into his ears in hushed tone as he held onto the words.

They had clipped her wings down.  But nothing could kill the magic in her voice.  If you listen closely enough, you could still hear the flutter of her wings…waiting for the cage door to be swung open. Her heart was jailed and tonight he melted his into a key. She sang all night, while he sat there scribbling on his notepad. Occasionally the glass of wine made it to his lips. But his eyes, they only held one vision in that crimson moonlight – of hers in the white dress, singing with closed eyes.

He knew he had to get past the lyrics somehow and she kept hoping her walls to be never brought down, by another man.  Having reached bottom of the glass several times, he felt more confident. He felt he knew her now, probably more than she did herself. He was sure of having unlocked the draft folders in her heart. And he penned down what he thought had been hiding behind those walls, waiting for the peek-a-boo to be played with the right heart.

Her voice resonated in the four walls that night and his words did the dance to the tune of it over the notepad. Dipped in the ink of feelings, they now left a trail of romance behind. The music stopped and he fervently tried to grasp the notes flying around. She sat back and relaxed, sipping onto the drink she had bought.

“You, you sing well” he said and she shook her shoulders in reply.

“I guess I do fine.” She said and he saw she wasn’t as pretty looking as she seemed while she sang. And yet at the same time very pretty somehow.

“You got the tale you were looking for?” She said with the straw flirting with her lips.

“What do you mean?” He smiled wondering if he had completely got her wrong.

“Your story I’m talking about, the one you were scribbling while pretending to sing American pie. I’m sure you had thousand thoughts in your head, with those characters doing a dialogue with your inner voices.” She smiled and offered him a chair next to hers.

He sat nervously feeling a bit stripped down and let her take the charge.

“I am Nadia. And what’s your name, writer boy?”

“Why don’t you read it yourself?” He smiled and handed over the notebook in her hands.

“I hope the ending is good, as I dreamed it to be” she said watching him read her eyes like ‘he’ used to.

“There isn’t one. She learns how to fly. He helps her do that.” He replied.

“And she leaves him behind? Yet again?” she asked.

“He was never hers to take along. She wasn’t his. They met. Like two kites accidently brushing hands in the sky. They were meant to carry on” said the writer boy.

“Well, she is happy that she met him after all” she smiled her perfect smile. After a long time.