Cold winds lap my face, sending chills through my spine,
As I pull the hood over my head, losing track of time,
Once at the corner of this road, a small restaurant stood,
Which served hot tea with biscuits for cheap,
Now there was a huge building, blocks of concrete,
Studded with decorated lights, and barring entry,
Only restricted people enter it, people who know not,
What it might have felt like to know not what rich is.

It is serene all around, soft huddled voices come from all sides,
I spot a couple whispering to each other,
They look at me with sullen faces, as if I disgust them,
And I know why it is so, only I don’t take it to my heart.
It has always been so, since I was small, smaller than my niece.
They hate me not because I am bad,
And they don’t hate me for the wrong deeds I have done,
But they hate me for my hands are not white,
They hate me because the dusk seems more akin,
Than the sunny brightness, on my face.

Yet I don’t pay much heed to it,
For what cannot be changed need not be changed.
I have learned to adapt myself, much like my friends,
Like fishes which are small, stay huddled together,
So that sharks cannot encroach upon them,
And at night, when I get back,
The serenity around me, is what I have always wanted,
And I have got that, and I should be happy,
So why must I frown, and why must I be sad,
If he who does not know me, hates me?

Return – Chapter 1

As I sat there, watching the black of the sky fade into deep maroon, the sun rising between the clouds, more crimson than ever, and watched it light the sky into an orange, the chirps of the sparrows, and the caws of the crows who had left their nests already, the alarm in my watch buzzed. It was five in the morning, the iron bench on which I sat still cold, drops of dew settled on it, and on my coat, and the sun slowly started hiding behind the clouds, turning the sky into a black, and in a few minutes, the drizzle came upon me. The grass looked greener than ever, as if it rejuvenated in the morning mist and rain, the dogs running back into their shelters where they slept, and the road in front of me, empty. Only after the drizzle had stopped did I see old couples back on the road, some walking, and in some, one pushing the other around on a wheelchair. A guy in a raincoat rode a bicycle, had roses to sell, and newspapers too, but the papers were all wet already, and he didn’t have anything to protect them from the rain. He reminded me of a time long before, when I used to see someone else exactly this way, only the face was different, rest everything same. Or was the face same too? I didn’t remember. It was six o’ clock then, when I rose from the bench, and smiled at the guy who had been sitting beside me for the past two hours, never making an introduction, never saying a word. It was better that way, no one liked to talk early in the morning, he was out for some reason, I for some other, or may be the same, who knew. I had to return, I decided.

It couldn’t go on forever like this. I had tried long and hard for four years to stay away from her, and had thought that maybe we both would forget each other, get on with our lives, move ahead, never looking back at the path we had left. And yet, God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, you run so hard away from destiny that you don’t realize you’ve taken a full circle back to where you started. Maybe in a parallel universe we might have never met, and had been much happier than right now, but then, I needed to live in the present. I needed to be happy. Spring was around the corner, small green leaves on each tree, wet with the morning fog. I liked the winter rain. It made the surrounding slightly colder, and nothing could be better than going back inside, cuddle a quilt around, sip a cup of coffee, and get engrossed in a novel. However, right now, that didn’t seem the best option. In fact, going back didn’t seem a viable option at all. Going back now would mean getting back to square one. When one has read a story one didn’t like a bit, he is less likely to want to read it all over again. I was somehow the reader of this very bad book, and it seemed that someone had just thrown the book on my face again, only with a new cover, or maybe not even so much a new cover than a reprinted one. Yet if I had to read it, it were better I got started and get done with it already, rather than procrastinate it so much that it would seem to have gained more importance in my life than it should have.

I plied a bus and took a seat near the window. A few stops later, a man got up and took the seat beside me. He was roughly middle-aged, and smiled at me congenially, which was perhaps the first good thing that happened to me in the day. I was too flagged to make a good conversation with him, so I decided to let him speak if he wanted to, assuming he would get tired after a while and try to lessen the small-talk. But when he stopped, I felt miserable. It was nicer when he was talking, and so I started talking to him. He was a father of two kids, he said, had been living here for the past three years and found this city extremely affable. I laughed at my destiny. Here I was, listening to a person telling me how pleasant this place was, when it had succeeded in giving me nothing but nervousness of what was impending. A few stops later, he got up, we shook hands, and he left. A beggar got up in the bus, pleaded for some money, and I gave him some. I had always been lenient towards them, perhaps it was because of the way I was brought up, or maybe just because I had a soft corner for everything, or maybe, I really didn’t know what spurred me to spare something for them every time they asked for something. Perhaps deep inside, I wished that if ever I had asked someone for something, may be they would also give it to me, just as much as I wanted it, nothing more, nothing less. But life, strange as it is, hardly works in the ways you would have wanted it to. When I got down from the bus, the place was completely new. It wasn’t how I had remembered it, and not really how I would have wanted it to be. My memories raked up the old place, and superimposed it on the current. The entire scenery looked misplaced now. I realized that time indeed does change things. It might not have been weird to see it grow into what it was today, had I been through it entirely. But right now it felt as I had time-travelled into the future, and that somehow twenty years had passed since I had last seen it. There was no smoke from the chimney of the tavern, instead air-conditioning machines placed on the roof. The trees used to bear orange leaves perennially, yet now they were all green. Something was different about this place.

Perhaps it was time to embrace the change. Perhaps it would be better for me to go back to the point where I started again. Maybe this was the way it was all supposed to be. If so, then life was giving me a second chance. If not, it would be the most terrible mistake that I would ever commit in my life. I only hoped that this time the journey would not end so soon, like it did before. My mind was firm, and strong as ever, but my heart wasn’t ready to accept this fate. But when it saw the spring, and how the trees bore new leaves again, it sometimes found solace in nature. It realized that this is how life was supposed to have been in the first place. Make, break, make, break. It was an endless cycle, and how much ever you wanted to get out of it, at the end, it was inevitable to get sucked into it. Because that was the difference between God and us. We could not control everything. Because if we could, then we would have been as powerful as Him, as stoic as ever, never wandering from our path, and never being forced to choose anything. But now that I had made my choice, I would live by it, and live it good. Or so I wished. I would soon set things right, but before that I had one last thing to do.


The Smoke

The smoke rose endlessly from the pier,
Suffocating the child whilst the held the fire,
He was only five, then why didn’t he,
Sit at home unaware of this?
He knows not what he does,
He knows not what he loses,
He cries because his eyes are sore,
Knows not why the others around weep.
He sees a kite flying in the air,
Wishes he could fly the one at his home,
But he can’t leave the others here,
He’s sad that others cry,
And asks one if he wants a kite too,
The other looks into the sky,
Sees the clouds huddling together,
Soon the rains will come down,
Wash away the fire lighted in front,
Wash away the fire in each one’s soul,
He sees the clouds too, sees a cat in them,
And sees his father’s face in another,
He hasn’t seen him for a while,
And feels he is somewhere around,
He knows not what he burnt,
He knows not what he lost.

Sand in My Shoes

I remember the evening when we sat on the beach,
Waiting to see the sun set into the seas,
Staying there long after that,
Listening to the rumbling of the waves,
The foaming of it from black to white,
As it touched our feet, you retracting.

I remember you resting blithely on my shoulder,
Humming a tune that I will never forget,
The smell of wet sand, the sea, the saltiness,
The breeze, and all the joys it brought with it,
Earphones plugged in one ear of ours,
Your hair sweeping against my face.

I remember you speaking nonchalantly,
I lost in you, scarcely hearing what you had to say,
You were drowned in your whisky,
And once came this close to kissing me,
But then I turned my head,
And the peck fell on my arm.

We walked on the wet sand, creating footprints,
Sometimes tiptoeing to make children feet,
You sketched out our names in the wet sand,
And stood in front to guard it against the waves,
But the waves did come and wash it away,
And you came back, dripping and laughing.

Was I drunk too? I don’t remember,
But we trudged our way back through the sand,
My shoes were loose, and the sand seeped in,
Making slight bruises on my feet.
I carried you on my back, you were too drunk,
Until we reached the end of the beach.

Sand in my shoes, today they fall off,
I’ve washed them so that they no more remind me,
Of that evening when we promised to each other,
So many things that will never be kept,
But sometimes when I think of happiness that used to be,
I remember the evening when we sat on the beach.

Stranded – 1

They reached the city gates, hand in hand,
The guards looking at them melancholically,
He choked on his voice, but bravely enough,
Asked them to open the gates for them.
The guard’s eyes met with those of the girl,
All lachrymal, trying to rub off her tears,
Her eyes looked into his and a moment later,
Her vision buried into the sands below.

Then a screech of the gates, and a toll of the bell,
Made it known to one and all,
That the two would remain unwelcome as long,
As they drew breath from this world.
They limped out slowly, eyes forever on each other,
Neither knew what stood against them,
For the sands of time were running loose off their hands,
Nothing perennial in their lives anymore.

Save he, the girl had nowhere to go,
Or to see, or talk, or wail loudly,
But he seemed disheartened, became laconic,
Owned brevity in speech, in thoughts, and smiles.
Once she thought she was in love,
But that sentiment was only ephemeral,
And withered like leaves that fall off in autumn,
Never getting to see another spring.

Their hands had the mark of the city they came from,
And no one else would take them in,
So they walked by day and they walked by night,
Until they came by a petite inn.
As he drank his ale, she thought about him,
How their lives had changed for just one decision,
She thought of the evening when her hands was bloodied,
The blood never washing out, the oceans turning red.

She remembered how she had pleaded at first,
Explaining to her father that it wasn’t her fault,
Telling him how much she had fallen in love,
How she tried not to do so, but all in vain.
She remembered how she had been tied,
Beaten up till her skin almost came off,
She touched her bruises and almost instantly,
A tear silently fell into her wine.

Read the next part in Stranded – 2.

The Journey – 2

Read the first part in The Journey – 1.

For in my previous life, I was but you,
Now you are dead, didn’t you realize so?
The woman in sand put her hands over her face,
She was alive, only a moment ago.
She had crossed the barrier of one afterlife,
And now was born in another century,
She would have a brother, a child and a husband again,
In a world where everyone was free.
Freedom is what she came looking for,
And freedom is what she had got,
If not for her, for another her,
Her voice welled up, and in her throat got caught.

As she sat softening the soles of her feet,
Which had turned hard for the sand she walked on,
She knew what next she had to do,
That she would have to walk on and on.
For on the other side of the meadow rested another desert,
Its sands hotter than the one she burnt herself through,
And at the other end rested another of herself,
One she knew through and through.
There would be large walls, and larger iron gates,
Breaking them would be difficult, that she knew,
But the walls within oneself were stronger than those,
And broken them had only a few.

So she walked and she walked, by the light of day,
And she walked and she walked, by the shade of nigh’,
She had been dead once, and she knew for one,
What is dead may not die.
She didn’t know if it was the right thing she did,
Or if she was trotting the opposite way,
But she walked and she walked, never stopping,
The desert would still be miles away.
She heard a song her mother used to sing,
The words didn’t come, but the music had,
A faint tune that carried over the sands,
Said she could walk some more, it wasn’t that bad.

A dragon flew today in the skies above,
Its hiss as loud as thunders in the rain,
And it turned the sky from a blue to a red,
Carving in it a fiery lane.
But she walked and she walked, never caring about it,
Though it came and perched on her back,
And after a while ate a part of her meat,
Charring the rest of her shoulder to black.
The nights were colder, the fires never burnt,
She shivered in her cloak, though it was good fur,
Her dreams were wavy, she thought of other lives,
And someone in her ears some words did murmur.

A fortnight later, the desert abruptly,
Gave way to a mighty castle of stone,
It was huger than any she had imagined so far,
Its door carved out of a huge mammoth’s bone.
She heard voices inside, her own kith and kin,
From a life she led once upon a time,
Where her breath had been taken away from her,
On account of someone else’s crime.
Her journey had ended, she would relive this life,
Undo things that were best undone,
Before she moved to the next spoke of the wheel,
Around which all her lives spun.

How It Changed Entirely

This is a sequel to Nothing Has Changed.

It is true that you change,
When people around you do,
Or else I wouldn’t be writing this today.
It is true that you change,
When I am absent,
Or else I wouldn’t be writing this today.
For coming back and starting,
From the point you left off,
Is never the same as not leaving at all.

You understood my eyes,
What they meant without speaking,
Now you can’t hear me,
Tell me, who changed?
You smiled at silly jokes,
Now you mock me with others,
Say I am stupid,
Why, who changed?

Goodbyes were meant to be happy,
Yet this time it isn’t,
I am sad and I’m upset,
But you wouldn’t know,
You are busy there, out with new ones,
And like old newspapers I’m trashed in a can,
Know that I’m sad to see,
How it changed entirely.