For it is only a coward that hides his face under wet palms in the wake of even the slightest adversity in his life. And it is so that she reminds me of the smell of lavenders, much like she reminds me of the smell of love, of the smell of the sand after a rain, and of the smell of defeat.

How sweet is the taste of being defeated! Of lying on the ground and knowing you cannot get up how hard you might try. The puddles, the water, the soiled roads, you take a step and you fall again, the slippery grounds, the muddy footpaths, the heavy rains. Always it is the heavy rains. They wash away everything in their wake, and drench you so that you are wet from head to toe. I remember those rains, always slanted, so that even my umbrellas would not protect me from it.

I was driving on a road which was being repaired. It was being doubled in width, and for that they have been cutting down trees on both sides of the road. What earlier looked as a small path inside a forest, the trees providing shade to the road from both sides, now looks like a street in a city. Places change as much as people. I cannot connect with that road anymore because it is not what it used to be. It seems as if, along with the trees, a lot of my memories have been cut down as well, deforested, and piled up in a corner, to be carved into furniture or burned as fuel. At least the furniture still has the marks that the tree bore, but being burnt for fuel must hurt. It must. Because I have seen people burning themselves and I know it hurts.

The gardens in my house grow flowers no more. In my absence, they withered without water, and now they are but thin veins of what earlier looked like forearms. The flowers have died absent sunlight, and are now black and hard and crumple like paper. But somewhere at the back of my mind, despite all of this, despite the fact that I won’t be able to see so much anymore, that should I think of it a little more, a part of me would die and never return, much like my garden, for what is a garden but a manifestation of the soul and the materialization of the wishes that one pursues in life, yet sees them fulfilled in the planting of the root, in the growing out of a shoot, of the first bud in the plant, of the smell of the fresh flowers and the bees that hover them and the honey, and the memories attached with them which persist for so long; like the time when I waited ever so patiently for the first rose to bloom to its fullest so that I could give it to her? And yet, for all the roses that I gave her, she still smells of lavender, and enchants me into dreams which best remain unfulfilled, for then I have something to look forward to in my sleep.

Return – Chapter 3

Breakfast consisted of a lot of catching up. “What are you reading these days?” I asked. She looked at me melancholically, as if an entire life ushered in front of her eyes. “Love Story,” she said. “The Erich Segal one?” I paused, “or the one we wrote?” I tried keeping my face straight. She blushed, and in an instance I was transported back to school. Her shy smile hadn’t changed a bit. “The Erich Segal one, you fool,” she smiled. We talked a lot about what happened in our lives in the past four years, shared lots of stories. She talked nonchalantly, her hair still auburn, a thousand clips placed tightly. It reminded me of the first time I had seen her, how she kept drawing petals and flowers on her notebook, and how far we had come from there. “You remember the Biology lab?” she asked. The biology lab was where our entire story started. “You think I can forget it?” I said, winking slightly. My mind kept shifting from memory to memory, sieving those which had her in them. It was astonishing how I remembered so much, when I had not given much thought to it for such a long time. She insisted that I tell her more about my college, and what I had been up to for the past four years. I could tell her the truth, this time I had nothing to lose, but somehow, I kept back most of the truth from the story. I told her a bit about my friends, and a bit about my college, only as much as was needed. We decided to go out for lunch in another two hours. I told her I would be back on time to pick her up. We hugged and waved good bye to each other.

The sun was up, shining ever so brightly. It was as if it rejoiced in my return. I went back home, knocked on the door, hoping she’d not close it on my face like she did a while ago. I had my plan ready; I would hug her as soon as she opened the door, giving her no time to shut it on my face. As I retraced my steps, it began to rain. It was only a drizzle first, a pitter-patter, but I stood there, in the middle of the street, rejoicing the rain, as it washed away the dust on the streets, and from the memories that lay stacked in my brain for so many years. It reminded me of the days when I went to school during the monsoons. I still remember the faint white tube-lights of the classroom switched on even though it was early in the morning, and the smell of the mud never allowing me to concentrate in the class, my eyes always shifting from the blackboard to the skies outside, black and grey, dull and gloomy, yet happier than what the teacher was teaching. And how that changed later, when though it rained, the only place my eyes went were her eyes, and the teacher kept running through huge courses I had no idea of. But that was a lifetime ago. Those need not have bothered me anymore, not more than the fact that I would never grow young again, and never relive those moments; etched deep in my thoughts, like engravings on stone, made with other stones, proclaiming love in the forts and on the trees, so that people around the world knew who you were; the wish to be famous. It was queer how we never became famous for our good acts, and some, like us, never got any fame, remained in the backgrounds, forever working for those who received all the fame, and yet I didn’t regret. And suddenly I realized, the rain had stopped. I needed to do some serious business now. And so I walked.

I went back home, only to find the door locked. I waited outside, for an hour, and another, and then another, but she didn’t come. Where could she have gone? She was here this morning. I felt an eerie sense of disownment. Maybe it was never destined to be so. Our lives had separated, and no matter how hard I tried, probably nothing good would ever come out of it. Our relationship was like a thread, once broken; I tried knotting it up, and making it one whole piece again, but that knot… that knot was there, and howsoever hard I tried, the knot would be there. To remove the knot would mean to break the thread again, and I had to choose one over the other. But the knot was hurting, it hurt a lot. And so I needed to break the thread, even if it meant losing someone dear, someone close to the heart. For sometimes, it’s not the act, but the repercussions and the consequences that make you act towards it. And something similar was happening here. I got up, kicked the door one last time, though nothing really changed, and strolled off. I had to be on time for lunch.

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Sunshine on Her Forehead

Through the tiny slit between the curtains,
That blocks her from the outside for most of the day,
Two tiny rays of sunshine slither through,
And fall on her forehead, making a tiny yellow moon.
She knows when the rains come pouring,
A pitter-patter on the windows,
She cannot smell the wet mud outside,
Nor see the birds fly back to their nests.

Sunshine on her forehead, she smiles,
A face of glee forever overshadowing,
Her life of plight that she has carefully masked,
Against day, against night, and against herself.
She dreams of a day when she’d go outside,
She sees her father, his hands wide apart,
She runs to him, and embraces him dearly,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

She doesn’t know how her story will end,
Whether her hero would rescue her,
She dreams of people who are blind like her,
And tells them to be patient, in her thoughts.
She walks up to the door sometimes,
But there are no latches on the inside,
She wonders who locked her up here,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

Sometimes when she sees the slit,
Between the curtains turn to a shade of black,
She knows it is night, and that she must sleep,
Yet never her eyes close, endlessly she stares.
She doesn’t remember the last time she cried,
She wants to wail, tears betray her,
She covers her face with the pillow she has,
It smells of her, she hasn’t known any other.

Yet next morning, when the sunshine,
Draws a tiny moon on her forehead again,
She feels a wetness in her eyes,
And tries hard to cover it with her smile.
She knows this could go on forever,
And wishes she had been dead long ago,
But she promises to herself she’d live through it,
And show to the day another black night.

#10 – A Cold Night

The hills used to be stagnant, though no one could tell how long it had been since they started moving. The clouds burdened with mist, made their ways into the lands and seas. It rained today, and it rained heavily. Pellets of water came first, but pellets of ice followed soon after. In a moment everyone was rushing to the nearest shelter. The Headmaster’s daughter rushed to a tree beside her. She staggered now and then, her strength not yet revived from the birth she gave a fortnight ago. Then everyone saw her guy come and pick her up and take her beneath the nearest oak, to shelter from the winds and the ice. Only a few days ago had he saved her life. They had always shared the same rugs after that, until now. A huge creak sounded and everyone looked up. It was falling, the heavy trunk was uprooted. In a flash it happened.

It took some time to pull out the bodies of the two from underneath the tree. Their eyes were open, blood tricking from the forehead towards their lips, yet frozen beside the ear. Ice and blood, the duo was lethal. They buried the bodies, and moved ahead. The road was covered with ice up to their knees. Tonight would be a cold night. They would have no choice but to light the fires. And when they did that, they knew the signal that they would send. Fire. They already had ice and blood that day, and now they would have a fire. Everybody knew what the three together meant, except the ones who were so young they still suckled at their mothers’. They had no choice. They kept walking.

The road was long, and for boys who were young, it was no easy task. Janas limped, even more than before, his leg aching, his hands frozen, the stump of his other leg turned into an icicle. But he never stopped. He knew he wouldn’t make it for long. But he would have the night’s dinner, he was hungry, he would eat and he would sleep, and then he knew he wouldn’t wake up. That was no reason to give up. He would walk. He prayed to the gods, to let him see another day, and wished fervently that they would listen to him.

Night approached them like a hungry wolf. It encumbered Janas even more. And then someone did him a mercy. The air whooshed around him and the next moment he looked down he saw an arrow through the place where they had learned the heart was. He fell to the ground, trying to look behind, to see who did it, to see who the gods had sent to mock him. His eyes had almost closed by the time he turned around. And then he saw. Through the quarter-opened slit in his eyes, he saw. He was carrying a bow, though he looked too old to use one. Could it be true what he was seeing? He came up to him, bent a little and said, “Remember me in your afterlife, boy, and remember I taught you about death, once today, and once more long ago. Do you remember?”

“Yes, when we were in school, Headmaster,” was the last thing Janas muttered.

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Nothing Has Changed

The gardens of my house still flowers bloom,
The trees in it still nest birds,
The windows of the room still bring sunshine,
And also the rains as they came with you.
Without you here, nothing has changed,
I don’t miss you, I really don’t.
You did a good thing leaving me,
A bolt from the blue was what I got,
But new things happen, and old things go,
Bygones are bygones, you must know.
You thought you’d punish me by going,
I really don’t care what happened,
I do not apologize, I never will,
But I still remember that last bill,
Which came with the last date we had,
I burnt it up, I was so sad.
But no more sadness, no more grief.
I’m thankful to God who made you weep.
The roads here still people walk,
The markets here still people crowd,
Yes, nothing has changed without you with me,
And nothing will change, I assure you that,
And so at last, and so at least,
Remember me when you cry like a beast,
And I will laugh when I realize,
That I was the one because of whom someone cries.

Changing Colors

It’s a strange feeling, the emotions overwhelm,
When you and I both feel the same,
When dreams come true, and roses change color,
And the plant we planted keeps growing taller.
We sat beside each other I remember,
And today I must surrender,
That at first sight I fell in love with you,
But had to wait for the rose to change its hue.
Waited for it to change from yellow to red,
Stayed awake night after night in my bed,
And I remember I cried when my mother said,
All this is sheer waste, love in world is dead.
Yet deep in my heart I believed in myself,
And kept carefully the cards on that upper shelf.
Day by day our friendship grew dearer,
And slowly and stealthily we came nearer,
Under the table at the tuition,
Your and my legs in a close fusion,
Those days have gone when in the lightning and rain,
You’d hold me tightly, giving me a sweet pain,
The rose had changed from yellow to red,
Although to say so neither of us dared.
That night I remember when we slowly hissed,
And behind the building we both kissed.
Then ran away in fear that we might be caught,
And thinking of what we did we both fought.
I remember when I told you I actually love you,
And you smiled and you said you do so too,
Had I only been a little early may be,
You would have been mine, now I can see.
Where are you? Where am I?
Here only, but we both deny.
Come back to me, I know you will,
And till then I will wait, silent and still.

Magnetic Skin

Listen folks over here let me tell you somethin’,
I will tell you today of the magnetic skin.
The heart craves for those days of the past,
Which we have only heard of, saw nothin’.
Heard that she with the pot on her head,
Went miles to the river where her clothes she shed,
And whilst bathing in the sunshine she used to sing,
And from far places water she used to bring,
Perspiring on her way, she being of weak built,
And heavy being the pot, in front she would tilt.
We search today for those earrings around,
And we search today for lips tight bound,
Kohl on the eyes, and braids on her hair,
And the beautiful gait of girls slim and fair,
Those days have passed, it won’t come again,
When she used to dance in the beautiful rain.
And the three small spots at the end of the chin,
When we used to wait to see the magnetic skin.
The anklets, the bangles, the silences all gone,
The swings of rain, the letters all torn,
Nights awake, pillows wet,
No more these things anyone will get,
Eyes’ talks, lips’ words, promises to die,
All these seem now cold and wry.
Still there is a wish, deep in my heart,
That we’ll again see them, when death do us apart.