Tuesday, 30 January 2018

जाड़े का पिटारा

चटाई पे टाँगे पसार धूप खाता गरम गेहूँ
नानी के साथ घिसे काले तिल की खुशबू
संक्रान्ति वाला कोंहड़ा
बोरसी के पास वाला मोढ़ा.
मुँह से निकलने वाला कुहासा
बस थोड़ी देर में रजाई समेटने का झाँसा
शाम का शटर जल्दी गिराने वाली गली
बालू पे भुनतीबबल रैप सी पटपटाती मूँगफली
नहाने के पहले सरसों का तेल,
शरद विशेषांक वाला स्वेटर बेमेल. 



First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.




Monday, 29 January 2018

क्या ही अच्छा हो

जो नाच कहूँ हर बात,
तो यारों क्या ही अच्छा हो.  
छुट्टी जोहे हमारी बाट,
तो सोचो क्या ही अच्छा हो.  
बकरों साथ पढ़ें हम बच्चे,
तो क्या ही अच्छा हो.  
हम घास चरें वो पर्चे,
तो क्या ही अच्छा हो


First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.



Sunday, 28 January 2018

मुँह मीठा 

खाने के बाद करना है कुल्ला,
बात सही है, पता है मुझको.  
पर मेरा उड़नखटोला चले तो
कभी ना धोऊँ मुँह रसगुल्ला.  


First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.



उधार

क्या एक दिमाग उधार मिलेगा?
अपने से तो भर पाई!
गणित की परीक्षा में ये कहेगा,
सुनाऊँ कविता जो याद आई?’


First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

गुड़िया

मेरी एक गुड़िया थी.
वो मेरी हर बात मानती थी.
मैं मम्मी की गुड़िया थी.
मम्मी कहतीं, “बात मान लेतू मेरी गुड़िया है ना.”
मैं गुड़िया थोड़े ही ना हूँ.
मैंने अपनी गुड़िया से कह दिया,
उसे मेरे साथ खेलने की ज़रूरत नहीं.
वो जो चाहे कर सकती है.
अब वो दिन भर खिड़की पर बैठ मुस्कुराते हुए आसमान देखती है.
अब वो किसी की गुड़िया नहीं


First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.


Friday, 26 January 2018

गोल घर

चकरघिन्नी चकरी चकरम,
गोले कितने भी लगा लोवहीं पहुँचते हम.
डगमग ख़ुद को पाकर भी कहाँ मैं डरती हूँ,
झटपट जाकर पहले तो कुर्सी पकड़ती हूँ.
माँपा के कमरे में भले कुर्सी नहींबस खाट,
पर बहस से जो सर घूमेतो क्यों न सँभलते पकड़ के हाथ?


First published in Jankipul18 Feb 2016.



क्या? क्यों? कब? कैसे?

खाते वक्त बात नहीं करते
तो सर ने खाते वक्त क्यों कहा 
कि खाते वक्त बात नहीं करते?
मुँह बंद करके खाना खाओ.”
मुँह बंद कर लेंगे,
तो खाना कैसे खाऐंगे?
प्रार्थना के समय सब आँखें मूँद कर रखते हैं.”
फिर मैम ने प्रार्थना के समय
मुझे आँखें खोलते हुए कब देख लिया?
पापा पूछते हैं कि मैं हमेशा फोन में क्या देखता रहता हूँ.
मैं देखता रहता हूँ 
कि पापा हमेशा फोन में क्या देखते रहते हैं.


First published in Jankipul, 18 Feb 2016.



Thursday, 25 January 2018

Travel & the female body: Tripping in Thailand

I bought a glass of cold coffee at a small coffee shop in Bangkok and walked to the bus stop on the road. There was nobody about and I sat on the bench. I am not a huge coffee drinker but for the next forty minutes I sat there and sipped my cold beverage like it was an elixir and watched the Thai world pass me by. Many would find nothing remarkable in this. But for me it was extended exhilaration. I was in a hot air balloon that gaily floated about for much longer than expected. Not many things matched up to my feeling during the next few days of my stay and travel within the country. Because if the intention of travelling was to see a new world, mine was unfolding within my body right then, right there. To wear a dress and have leisurely coffee on the road and not to be stared at or bothered in any way was as much of a New-Man as any Paul could become for me.

My body’s flashcard stored no such memory it had relished back “home” in the city of Delhi where I lived. As a college student, I had once been heckled by a stranger in a twisted combination of outrage and mock politeness: “Button your shirt, ma’am.” The sense of entitlement with which the man had expressed anger over the clothes I wore had in turn created an anger in me white hot enough to make blurry the memory of what had happened after. What I do remember is reporting the incident to my friends, and I had probably added that in the confrontation that followed I had ended up hitting him. I don’t think that had actually happened, and in later years when I looked back on the incident I felt surprise and guilt at my own lie. It was not something I usually did. Probably the sense of violation in me had been so steep and the desire to retaliate so strong that I had started believing in it myself. Without that bit of fiction, possibly, there would have reigned in me a helplessness that would have been too humiliating to live with.

With a history like this, to be in Thailand with a girlfriend spending with pride and caution our nest eggs, and not to be constantly reminded of my gender while being outside, was the best kind of tripping I could ask for. Encouraged by my friend and finding the place a haven for first-time try-outs, I wore a two-piece swimsuit on the island of Koh Samed and for the first time as a grown up, that much of my skin rendezvoused with sun, wind and water.

My heart warmed up when at night in Ayutthaya, the old capital, we saw a bunch of women going around on motorbikes much after the markets had closed. They didn’t become handicapped at dusk; the streets belonged to them and they were the lights.

When returning from Ayutthaya to Bangkok on a train, my friend had a can of beer in her hand. She initiated a conversation about the country with the guy sitting next to her and at no point did she have to face judgmental remarks or fend off unsolicited invites from him.


A lot of this can appear laughable or naive to people depending on their gender or context. But living in a world where I get reminded of my gender before, and sometimes without, it being acknowledged that I am a person, I do not have the luxury of taking these things for granted. Women in Thailand have their own struggles and it is not as if gender hierarchies, or crimes, for that matter, do not exist. World Nomads, a popular website for travellers, has this piece of advice, or rather, admonition, to dispense about being in the streets or back lanes late at night in Thailand: “That’s as silly here as it is in your home town . . .” But just like Maya Angelou had surmised about people (“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”), with places too, what I end up remembering is how they made me feel. This was a place that had its priorities right, that helped me feel like a person again, without constantly tagging my gender.         


First published in The Quint, 24 Jan 2018.



                                                                              

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Ingrate

The heart lacks the graciousness
To be at the place 
That hosts it so generously.
Longing for elsewheres and elsebodies,
It insists on being churlish,
Complaining of homelessness.


First published in Taxicab Magazine, 22 Jan 2018. 

In tandem

A raqs, a twirl of the sufis
Looking up, hand pointing to the heavens
To receive their bounty
While the other hand sways towards the earth
To give
           what it has received.

Thus they continue in their circle of ecstasy:
Feet held steady
            by the earth
Head wrapped in clouds
            by the heavens.


First published in Taxicab Magazine, 22 Jan 2018. 




Timing is everything

She did not say “no” in the beginning.
How could she?
When he came seeking
So desperately
All the answers 
That seemed to lie
Only within her.
When she realised
It was not to seek
But to impose 
His own answers
That he had come
She did retract
While there was still time,
She thought.
But time is relative,
And usually not one of hers.
She did not say no in the “beginning”.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Fired

For some
Homecoming is a path paved with lights;
For others,
A suspended sentence, after passing a trial by fire.*



*In Ramayana, there was a huge celebration and Ayodhya was decorated with lights when Rama returned from exile to take his place as the king. Sita, ont he other hand, had to take a fire test after she was rescued from demon king Ravana’s captivity, before she was accepted as the faithful wife and the rightful queen.


First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.



The demons within

Kaikeyi could ask as she had been granted two vouchers to redeem,
Otherwise the palace women had no voice or wish, or so it seemed.
So when Surpanakha spoke boldly and upset the apple cart,
To cover up their nervousness, the men called her a tart.
A woman’s outspoken desires cause consternation,
The flustered listeners resorted to mutilation.
Ravana wasn’t the chestbeater to whine that his venerable nose had been obliterated by his sister’s act,
But the princes proceeded to destroy Surpanakha’s, one with violence, the other being complicit in the pact.
While the justice league smirked and thought that they had served an ace,
Posterity wonders if by cutting off Surpanakha’s nose, they did not spite their own face.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


Monday, 22 January 2018

Writing a wrong

“If my daughter can lift Shiva’s bow,
Her suitor’s threshold can’t be set low.”*
Patriarchy needs male forearms to be more sinewed,
Even if the woman has been with brawn power imbued.
Visibly unflinching, Rama reeled under the expectation’s weight
Before he could be rid of it, Sita would have to have a long, long wait.
The Swayamvara was all wrong, the woman shouldn’t have set the task
To understand this she must follow him into the forest, no questions asked.
Boundaries had to be defined,
Sita needed to be confined.
Crossing the line, for her, was no big matter,
When all it meant was a change of captors.
But it was another occasion for Rama to show her her place,
The god she had pedestalized now pushed her from grace.
Now it would be as it should be, the man would set the test,
Wagging tongues about who wore the pants could be finally put to rest.
To accept or to reject must be his decision,
About the order of things 
there must be no confusion.
Once the rules were clear, she could sit by his side,
A woman can be the queen, after the king so decides.
The scales had been set right, a jubilation had to follow,
For the photo to be clicked and hung in the temple, Sita must bury her sorrow.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.




Sunday, 21 January 2018

Euthanasia

Freezing Ahalya’s body into stone
Was an act of pity, not punishment;
It is better to turn stone cold,
Than to feel and not be fulfilled.



First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


This is not that home

We were told
“Go back where you had come from,
Go home.”
When we returned 
We found we had the right address
But the wrong home.
They were already there,
Saying it was as much their home
As anyone else’s 
And because, you know, their home 
Therefore, you see, their rules.
If any of us dared to object,
They said,
We could go elsewhere
Seeking refuge.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Interrupted

‘What’s that?
What were you just doing?’
I suspect surprise and curiosity
In these lines my sister utters
But the slight frown and the quickness of tone
Make it seem like mild admonition
Emerging out of annoyance.
So my grandmother stops.
And now I’ll never know
How it went,
Her humming,
Done while fingering her nose pin
Eyes screwed to focus on a blank,
Body leaning forward, swaying slightly.
I would have liked to know
How the tune turned and ended,
Hummed as a lullaby to oneself.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Joke

How sad
To be so poor
That you can’t afford
Your own laughter,
To insist 
That it must be 
At another’s expense,
To beg 
That you be allowed 
Only a joke
Except it never is
Enough
It won’t be
Not one, not any, not many
Would be enough
To fill
Your emptiness.



First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.




Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ready, unsteady

My desire is a twirl 
Poised to become a poem.
I swat it into logic.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


Spillage

You thought the day I first wore lipstick,
I became a show-off,
Got a stiff upper lip,
When all I did
Was to nervously cover up
The run-over colour on my teeth.

First published in Hakara, 15 Jan 2018.


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Blogger last spotted practising feminism, writing, editing, street theatre, aspirational activism.