Aaji

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What comes to your mind when someone says Aaji? (Daadi/Grandma)
I immediately think of the real Masterchef from our childhood. I remember the one who used to cook delicious sabudana khichdi and thalipeeth for me. The one who would tell my mother “I know exactly what he will like. Let me cook it for him” with a sense of love and pride beaming on her face.

The one who narrated stories of Mahabharata to me and my sister. And also the same person who would scold my mother not to fast because ‘Gods would never want their children to stay on an empty stomach’.
I have far too many fond memories of her. Of course, I have seen her fight with my parents too. But the good parts outweigh those times far too easily.

I remember few funny incidences from my childhood. I had an aunt who lived downstairs, and the one who never got married. As a kid, I have asked my aaji at least a thousand times ‘Why does she not have children like other people?’. Aaji would burst into a laughter every single time I said that and instead of answering me, let someone else know what I had just said. I would just find it hilarious the way she’d try to control her laughter. Interestingly, she never told me anything else just to kill my curiosity. She’d rather say, “You’re a kid. When you grow up, you’ll know why.”

And I’d just add that to the list of things I was supposed to know automatically once I grow up. My next unanswered question in childhood was about sanitary napkins. As soon as the TV commercial would start, I’d demand everyone in the room to tell me what exactly was it. I had to wait all the way to my teen age to figure out why lady in the commercial was jumping around and later throwing blue ink on the Huggies-like diapers.

I think my aaji along with others cared for my innocence knowing well that that’s exactly the beauty of childhood years. I’m glad they did.

Recently, I went to meet my aging aaji. She has not been keeping well. She is bedridden and can barely stand on her own. It hurts to know that I would never see her cooking sabudana khichdi in the kitchen again like old times. I doubt she has accepted that though. I think she still thinks that she can do that one day.

When I sat next to her, she started asking me about what’s happening in my life. I told her everything was good, and asked her how she was doing.

“This lady is waiting for her daughter-in-law to cook her jalebis.”

“Who lady?” I was confused.

“This one. The one in green saari.” She pointed a finger at the television screen playing a series that she was so fond of.

She then went on to narrate the entire story plot that she remembered quite well.

In my mind, I thanked the makers of the series for keeping my aaji busy and entertained during her illness.
Thankfully, they make content for everyone. Funny how I never thought this way before.

While I was lost in my thoughts with my eyes staring at the TV, she told me to stay alert.

“What for?” I asked her with amusement.

“See, now a butterfly will come. It only listens to the little girl. This girl…Her name is Nanda. Keep watching…,” she spoke without moving her eyes off the screen.

I looked at her and the TV in turns with a smile on my face.

She was right. In the TV series, the girl whose name was Nanda then called the butterfly and an animated butterfly fluttered its wings only to come and land right on Nanda’s shoulder.

“How do they do that no?” Aaji asked with her eyebrows raised and the chin resting on the palm of her hand.

I had not seen her that curious for a long time.

Of course, I could see and knew that it was simply a computer-generated image of a butterfly. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give that as an explanation to her.

“How they must be guiding the butterfly to fly when they want and sit on her shoulder like that no?” Aaji smiled with joy as she asked me that. Her eyes were still glued onto the television set.

“You will know how. Once you watch the entire series, I think you will come to know,” I looked at her and smiled.

Interstellar

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Let’s pick a black hole to plunge into,
Let’s tumble down into the black velvet sky.
Let’s spin around the planets as tiny specks,
Until we transcend the dimensions of space and time.
Inject sunsets into my arm,
Let me feel your rush.
Let me love you violently in the privacy of my heart.
Your rib cage holds an ocean,
It’s the night we drain this sea
And plant flowers on its floor.
I think you’ve become a planet yourself,
Which is why I keep orbiting you like a dead satellite.
Turn the stars back on,
Let the moonlight slice the years gone by.
A taste of the universe sits on your tongue,
Show me how many galaxies you hold in your mouth.
Pour me a thunderstorm or two on the rocks,
Let us riot against the time.
Let’s tumble down, down, and down into the black velvet sky.
It’s the night we become one with the cosmic sublime.

A ghost

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You tell me you don’t miss home anymore

You stare at the faceless portraits of people you come across

You wait until midnight to listen to your favourite song

In the new city that sucked you in

Just a month before

 

You tell me it’s hard for a ghost

To be dissolved in such a crowd

You tell me you can’t as much work on new art

You stare at rusty drafts that hoped to breathe life

Just a year back

 

You tell me you take the longer route back home

You chew on daydreams more than before

You stumble upon a broken tree and

The old abandoned houses try to pull you in

You wander the city like a ghost from another time

 

You tell me you don’t miss home anymore

As I get ready looking right at you

You mimic me until I smile

Then you draw a half smile in reply

I leave for the new office in the brand new town

You stay back on the other side of the glass

 

Renascence

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I remember drowning in the sea with a rock tied to my legs.
Though it was a mammoth ocean trying to claim me, I felt like a lost kite wandering off in an azure sky.
I was gasping for breath until a mermaid came to rescue me.
I opened my eyes to her face studying mine. Looking at the typewriter next to me, she grinned.
Write a tale which speaks of a white ship. The day you finish it, a giant wave will help you find your way back” the mermaid whispered into my right ear.
I was looking for the right words to say. But like all beautiful things, the creature was an ephemeral one.
With one flip of her tail, she disappeared into the dark sea.
It has been twenty-seven days since she left me here. Alas, marooned yet alive.
Sitting with my weary feet dug into the white sand & my eyes staring at the papers flying around in a frenzy.
Ready to prophesise with my words and undo the curse from the past.
I would like to believe that I have somehow made it already in the parallel universe.
The crumpled papers in the sand have slowly begun to unfold. They are asking me to breathe life into them.
But I’m busy pondering over the stale thoughts in my head.
It is insane how we let these voices in our head devour us. The things we need to purge, we let them feed on our brains like ravenous parasites.
But I have had enough of it now. I have stared far too long at the sand beneath my feet.
It is time to howl back at the Moon. Howl back at the ghosts of our ‘what ifs’ looking down on me.
I had buried your soul in my typewriter long after you left. And I see it burn out into the tiny sparks as I hit the keys.
Like a firefly, it hovers around my head. It’s been the only light on this godforsaken island.
I sometimes wonder if you’re keeping me company or waiting for me to wither & die.
Your love had grown like wildflowers in my ribs. I couldn’t pluck it, so it spread further to crush my lungs.
Much to your displeasure, I do feel a rush now.
There is a sparkle in my veins. It travels down my spine & kindles my senses.
I sit by the sea every day where sunlight breathes warmth through the singing trees.
This is where I shall conjure angels and create magic.
I could move through the time with waves. My words will shatter distances and defy the ocean’s depths.
You know, I keep thinking over what the mermaid said.
I have been writing for twenty-seven days straight. But the story never ends.
I’m stuck in a riddle that keeps me dying and alive at the same time.
There are days it rains & I hide under the tree. I have seen how the peace exists there in a daydream.
The rain drops fall over the pages, and I silently hope the ink will find its way to the egress.
If you read the poem well, you’ll even see the silhouette of a raven on the pages. It was sent by the Poseidon to keep an eye on me.
I have finally learned that the magic is concealed in one’s belief.
Why else would the mermaid choose me? When the sea is littered with lifelines, and she won’t touch a single one. That creature is in love with the dying.
Or maybe the resurrection is her task to summon all poets & writers and bring back the magic. I will never know.
Today, I’m standing at the spot beside the river where the willow branches touch the water. I can hear the waves singing paeans on my behalf.
I have now learned to hold hands with the wind and let the words become infinite.
I can see that the crumpled pages have joined into a giant paper boat.
The quest is at last complete. It is time to sail once again and say hello to the roaring breeze.

“The End”

A date with a midnight

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He was one those silent whispered children, glued to the shadows. Ink was his blood and paper was his realm. Such was the magic of her that she brought out the best in him with her arrival every time. He was a writer and she was a midnight.

He felt strangely connected to her in the loneliest of those after hours. Her cold breeze oozing through the gap of half shut window whispered of first rain somewhere far where it belonged. 3 am was the time he was most awake and she knew all of his secrets. What he went through that day and what had made him smile. He was the shoulder to many and at night, he turned to her for she was a refuge to his tears waiting to swim out. His fingers moved fast narrating a story to her, a story of what he saw, heard and went through. He lived a lonely life because he had to get the best tale out. For he had to be with her all night and be inspired. She was his only inspiration at times to transform the severed words and bond them into a meaningful chronicle for everyone.

He slept less and thought more. Midnight saw him restless, happy, scribbling, resurrecting the thrown out words back. A date with a midnight was all he needed for he was a writer and words danced in his dreamy eyes, waiting to be told. He needed her and she needed him too because he was the only one who did not desert her. He worked in the tranquility of her world and she kept him company by lingering over his shoulders, tickling him occasionally with a cold gust of air.