Monday, September 8, 2014

Tapas and tea candles.

One candlelit evening in the tail-end of the summer of 2014, I realised that the greatest joy in my life was to see him sit across the table from me and eat bread. He ate it with precision and great elegance, with his knife and fork, while I broke it with my hands before dipping it in olive oil, and laughed. There was so much simplicity in that act that it rendered all the ups and downs we had been through, all the screaming and clawing at each other, completely irrelevant. For now, there was a thunderstorm outside and we were inside a tapas bar, holding hands over the table, staring at each other in the candlelight, smiling, and eating bread. The silences were as natural as the conversation. I could pretend to be his wife, and there would be candlelight everywhere because I lit candles all the time. I could pretend that this was forever. And in that one perfect moment, it was forever.

The wine tasted of toxic feelings, and debris from the past. He drank it out of habit. I refused to poison myself. I picked out the octopus meat from the sea of patatas in the pulpo, and slid it on the side of his plate. There we were, incapable of distance, touching each other’s arm, or shoulder, or hair, or holding hands, because physical contact was the guarantor of reality. Our feet touched under the table, and it was consoling. It was consoling to want someone so much that I was ready to give up all of myself to him and for him. It was consoling to have found the source of my poetry and the subject of it, my key to a whole new world. It was consoling to feel so protective and so protected at the same time.

We sat, ticking Shakespeare away and not noticing him pass by.

And then we laughed. We laughed, because our babies would be so hairy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Introspection, and angst.

All your life you overdose on saturated fats and rely on your metabolic rate to do things you are too lazy and too stupid to do. Then one day you wake up morbidly obese.

I am told life catches up to you like that. That you keep running to keep pace with it, taking every hinge and every cranny as another logistical consideration, till one day you wake up and you realise you don’t even know who you are anymore.

Myra felt like that often. Her father was ape shit crazy.  At first he used to be just another Asian man who had made his life as a cabbie in Birmingham and then one day decided the wife’s  income and his entitlement to unemployment benefits were enough to get him by quite comfortably. He had paid tax to these bastard goras and he was going to get every penny back. Things changed when he discovered religion through sheer idleness. Validated by a beard and pir sahib who was equally useless and an equal strain on other people’s bank balances, he felt he had found his true calling in life. His life’s other mission was to get his children married and so he searched for a husband for Myra among the men of good virtue that enjoyed his pir sahab’s favour. The daughters were expected to stay away from the evils of men on their own, unless it was pir sahib, who had access to their hands to touch in a handshake of pure goodness and their heads to pat his blessings on and their backs to say enchantments into to cure them from the evil of men.

When her university boyfriend left her, she was in a bad place. What sort of relationships didn’t result in marriage? First she cried secretly, pleaded with him to reconsider, he did, then stood her up multiple times, then she realised it was over and it was time to find something else to fill the vacuum in her life. It was all very angsty and unfair. That was around the time she transitioned from being angry to really, fucking angry on the inside and girls weren’t allowed expressions of anger in the household – because it is unbecoming, because no man wants a wife who is miserable and complains, because her father was an asshole, because.. she didn’t really know exactly why.

It also didn’t help that all her siblings were married and manufacturing babies with appalling regularity. She spent a large part of her time taking care of these babies, changing their diapers, feeding them, putting up with their tantrums, waking up in the night because they couldn’t sleep, and then sometimes she felt like she was doing the exact thing for her siblings and their spouses too. The world was no place for a single girl. Yet, she thought she had a reasonable deal because she had her pharmacy degree and a job that paid well and no rent to pay. The money just all went into a savings account because there were no beautiful things she wanted to buy because what was the point of looking beautiful when you felt miserable inside.

One day, her father found a boy of good virtue for her – her second-cousin who had some business degree from some college. He looked like a villager and spoke like one but he was sufficiently domesticated, she had heard. He’d never cheat on her, and since she was better-looking and more educated, she’d retain the power in the relationship, according to her mother. She was twenty five too, so the perpetual doom of being a spinster forever was a real possibility. Her father told her that it wouldn’t be long before the men who came to ask for her hand in marriage would start devolving into cripples or divorcees or both, so she had better hurry the fuck up. The second-cousin wasn’t a divorcee and he wasn’t a cripple in any of the usual senses of the word, so she said yes. I mean, why not? What else was she supposed to do? Maybe he’d be entertaining and she’d be the centre of his life because, let’s face it, where else would he find a girl like her?

In a whirlwind, Myra packed her bags and went back to Rawalpindi to meet this second-cousin for the first time so she could cross off marriage from the list of things you do without always knowing why. The honey moon was a week, at some hill station from British times which was almost pleasant. Her new husband had clearly never been with a woman before so he tried to be gentle. It was a little pathetic and it felt a little like those elephants doing it on National Geographic. She had thought about her first time for a very long time. In reality, it was more grotesque than it had been in her thoughts so she wanted to re-visit it as many times as humanly possible in that one week to try to recreate her version of it. The hillstation may as well have been a wasteland. There was a day there when the sun may not have risen and she would never had noticed.

Then the week was over and it was time to go back to Birmingham. The second-cousin-turned-husband waited in Pindi for the paperwork for his visa to be sorted out. She came back and soon found out she was pregnant.

That morning when she woke up after a hellish few hours of pushing and sweating, there was a baby twisting his face and crying for her and then she realised it was hers. A little person born out of a week of protection-free screwing with what was the memory of her husband who was still waiting for his paperwork to be finalised. 

They told her post-natal depression was very common. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I've lost the will to water your flowers. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Flying without you - an email.

He writes stories with short, crisp sentences, but finds a way to insert semi-colons into them and that was what made me love him once. Well, not love-love, but enough to laterally lift me into a sort of frenetic compulsion that was borne out of the way the slant of his S’s seems to say, ‘I’m a stranger; tell me everything.”

Everyone else was getting married and making babies in a display of staunch Fordism, while I was working twelve hour shifts, followed by two hours at the gym, followed by one of eating alone. It is a fate worse than any, a fate I often prized over all else, coming back to an empty house, inebriated in its colour-coded splendour. And then there was a stranger, and another, and another.

There’s no story here. I was just overwhelmed by an urge to write, and even more so by an urge to write to you.
I once tried to take this man to your Rose Garden. I wanted him to see it in its unapologetic glory. But he was in a suit, and it was a warm day, and the laptop bag in his arms was heavy, so we sat by a bench about ten minutes or so off, and never quite made it. He was a good man, but it was an awkward encounter. We had kissed before in another country, at first by accident, and then not by accident, but on that bench our hands just fiddled away from each other. He was the first man I kissed ever; he tasted of fine cheese and salt and paint. But then we were running to St Pancras and apparently there’s a rule which says you can’t kiss when you fast, so I suppose I broke my fast with fine cheese and salt and paint that day. Your Garden, I never went back to it. It was one year to that day, give or take a few, and I was breaking my fast to Bloomberg, because that was perhaps my eternal love. That man, things just didn’t work: he tried so hard to be good for me that he stopped being good to me. It was sad, he cried, I cried. It was messy. I vowed never to kiss again.

The man with the slant on his S’s, he’s gone too. He just disappeared one day in the afternoon. I loved him like I loved myself, because he was my own reflection, and because he never tangibly existed to begin with. It’s complicated. I should tell you some time. He made me write and then he pushed me away and out and pulled and tugged and made me write more. I hope he’s okay, whoever he is, and wherever.

I don’t know what an epic love story is. I feel like I’ve had many, though I’ve had none. Maybe one day, I’ll write independently of them all, but then perhaps, I don’t need to. In the meantime, there are strangers from Dublin, their eyes so blue and their voices so titillating, who sit drinking on stages, recounting stories from momentary loves that inspired them. One day. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Tipping Point.

When I finally woke up the morning after, there were only five Euros left in my purse and my ankles had bloodied clots in a semi-crescent formation. An ambulance blared through the drone of the Monday morning traffic, and a church bell chimed unmusically. Swearing at the whole universe, I stumbled out of bed, with a white-hot hang over and the faint memories of a complete loss of dignity.

I don’t know when or how, my life had become a drunken stupor. At about 7 pm every day without exception, I could be found at the nearest watering hole and within the hour, a long glass of Red eroded into a Long Island. Life became merry then, and sometimes rather dramatic, so we all laughed on things that often didn’t make sense, and not-so-secretly hoped someone would make out with someone so that we would have something new to talk about. Scandal. How unexciting life can be without it. It was not possible to escape it unless you used religion as crutches, and these crutches gradually gave way and you found yourself smoking again within a year of quitting. Then your subconscious would suggestively hand someone mints, while a sober you would be shocked at such candour: what an absolute hussy!

Then there was yesterday, beautiful, sunny yesterday when the geese were all out to play by the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Or was it the Boating Lake in Regent’s Park? Oh, for fuck’s sake. What difference did it make? There was a lake, and it was a fucking beautiful day, and you smoked and drank and life went on till someone pulled out Tagore’s ‘Unending Love’ and there was chaos again.

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

So, it made you remember of what you were once and who you hoped to be, and this mess, this was definitely not it, but the memory of the memory was so infinitely painful, that you chose to fall deeper into your cycle of trying to forget. A moral compass broke somewhere. There was a rave. No, dubstep. What was the difference? Did it matter? Rivers of Jack Daniels flowed and there was LSD and MDMA so we were all tripping, but then it became unbearable and someone pushed and stepped on a foot and danced and shoved while they danced and her boyfriend felt up other girls and I saw him and everyone else saw him too but he lost his wallet and threw his drink at someone and there was smoke, so much smoke, and the lights blinked on and off in epileptic frenzy and there were so many people to be taken care of in the Moulin Rouge-esque terraces and no amount of alcohol could get you drunk suddenly. Moulin Rouge. Paris. Only tourists did that shit. He had told me once that the local blend was too sophisticated for that sort of thing. Him. And his total disregard for all that was mainstream. I missed him and that made me sad, but then I thought about how there was always a boy in every sad story, and that made me laugh, but I missed him still, except I missed him fondly, not sadly.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same 
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

When I fell into the bathroom to throw up, I tried to push my hair away but there was too much of it and I wanted to cut it all off. No, I wanted to stand in the shower for hours and hours till I could wash this decadence off me, but the window was ajar as it always was and there was a man in his full frontal nudity and a hairy belly in one of the windows in the hotel right across me, and in customary fashion, I closed it, much to his disappointment and stepped into the shower and over Estee Lauder’s rosy Pleasures shower gel, I decided that I had had enough. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There will always be Paris.

I am reading your lies again tonight- 
They are crumpled up on yellow paper,
Obvious and unflattering,
Like a displaced orphan on the earth’s underbelly.

I asked you to wait while it snowed
In the middle of the ice rink where we met
But these days I hear strange things:
I hear that there is something-
 Something quite special about Parisian evenings
And the women swimming in them and their silk scarves
Their pouts at words like ‘popularity’ and ‘graduation’;
I hear that on the metro, between bursts of music,
People are trapped by how European they are
And they stare into your soul’s balance sheets.
I hear they don’t forget to say things like excusez-moi
Or sil vous plait or cherie while they make you dizzy
I hear they will gladly give up their seats for you
If you are a pencil skirt with a certain je ne sais quoi
I hear that every man who hopes for love
Must walk by the Seine.

I hear that Paris, it is a city made for falling in love,
That there will always be Montmarte
Or the Champs-Élysées, if I pleased.
I hear that while there is Paris, there is love.
But perhaps that is simply because
Pont Neuf dances to a script
Because in French, alone is lonely.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Of men who make life worth living.

Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer by Caspar David Friedrich

If someone had told me that I was just like everyone else in my responses to the emotional ramshackle of life, I would have scoffed at them just like everyone else does. And yet between the perplexity of being and doing, the 72 hours he didn’t speak to me ostracised me with the rest of humanity. I stood by Titian’s Diana for hours, wishing for the power to destroy a man with a few drops of water. I thought about duality and virtue and pregnant nymphs. But there is no art or higher beauty in the way your first love can desiccate you by its turbulent absence. You start to question ritual. The kohl in your eyes starts to smudge. There’s a chaotic pointlessness in every cog of existence.

And so it was for me. All day, I wished for him, finding faults in myself which I didn’t know qualified. I was just like everyone else. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I lost the will to talk and the courage to laugh. I lay around thinking of where I had gone wrong, if I had loved too much, expressed too little.  It was a miserable, miserable feeling. Perhaps it was because my heart was holding on to a summer which was nearly over. Perhaps it was because I had too much time. He was incredulity and he was faith. He harboured the cynicism of a forty-year-old but dreamed like he was twenty. He was German in the daily rituals of life, but with a French disposition. Like a young, sexy Jean-Claude Trichet. But I thought he didn’t love me because it was too difficult. Because I laughed too much, and too loud. And because we were separated by the soft borders of the Schengen area.  And that one haunting thought ricocheted inside my neural membranes till I lost the desire to desire.

At night, I returned to my unsuspecting husband. We consummated as if from a cook book, or an Ikea manual. It was listless, and unpassionate, and brief. He said he would cry if I wouldn’t stop being so broken so I told him that I loved him and he fell asleep in the comfort of what was perhaps still a half-truth. I did love him – I had to - because I could say anything, be anyone, leave him a thousand times and he would still take me back, no questions asked, choosing instead to dwell in the dark recesses of unrequited love.

In the early hours of the morning, I was down to my fourth cigarette and wanted so much to be comforted. Because in wanting both of them, I had none of them. It was jarring. I thought about exemptions from morality, and red wine, and Minotaurs and Fawns uncovering sleeping women for Rembrandt and Picasso. I wanted to be comforted with words and with silences, but where was I supposed to find someone who didn’t question my motives when I sought solace? Where was I supposed to find someone who understood my erratic trivialities? Where was I supposed to find someone who just accepted with a smile that I simply got along better with men?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Point of No Return (20-02-2011)

Wind in the winter trees, cherry blossoms with no blossoms.
Saturday dusks, blanketed hum drum of crickets, a longing finger along the smooth of skin.
Rain in your city, fog in mine, a soap and water bubble floats across scalded fields

You have come here in pursuit of your deepest urge,
in pursuit of that wish, which till now has been silent,
silent . .

On days like this, I’d spend with you in this room.
You sit on that chair.
The faint light through the frosted acid etched glass on your face.
I’d sit in the rain, opposite to you in the balcony.
You don’t need to get wet, you’ll get cold.
I want you to see me, in the rain.
I’d close my eyes, killing all the noise.
You should keep looking.
And we won’t talk.
For hours

I have brought you, that our passions may fuse and merge -
in your mind you've already succumbed to me
dropped all defences, completely succumbed to me -
now you are here with me: no second thoughts, you've decided,
decided . . .

We don’t need to talk when you are here in this room
You’d understand everything
I don’t have to say anything
Words would be noise
I’m yours and you are mine
Take from me, give to me
Bite me, kiss me, touch me, push me, breathe into me,
I won’t resist anything.

You have brought me to that moment where words run dry,
to that moment where speech disappears into silence,
silence . .

Days like this, you’ll spend with me in this room
I will be everyone for you who was always absent, always busy, always far away
My fingers will graze your knuckles
In the dim of the spotlights, our shadows will touch
I’d close my eyes and steady my breath
You should keep looking
I will let you kiss the sound of my heart beat
I want you to see me in love

I have come here, hardly knowing the reason why …
In my mind, I've already imagined our bodies entwining
defenceless and silent -
and now I am here with you: no second thoughts, I've decided,

When you lie next to me, you’ll understand everything
I will let you taste my tears
I will say the words you’ve longed to hear
You will see how broken I have been under it all
How much in pain, how longing,
And I will let you fix me

Past the point of no return
the final threshold -
the bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn . . .

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Avoiding Reality.

As the rubab stirs a high note, your steps become a dance. When it slows down, it becomes the melancholic sighs of your longing. When it stops altogether, it becomes his sleeping breaths on the bed next to yours in a countryside where no one knows your names.

Through celebratory lakesides in foreign countries, and castles which the British don't know how to build, and chunks of tortellini thrown out in a creamy bile, your mind tries to find faults which it can't forgive in him. He is arrogant, but so are you. You love how rudely clinking china offends him to no end. He kisses you in trains full of people because he refuses to apologize for what he wants. He is damaged- that much is clear. But he is also brave, and he puts a strong face though you can see that life has dealt him a very bad hand. He tells you it makes him difficult, and very complicated. He thanks you for tea. He thanks you for every conversation. He thanks you for every kiss. You don't understand how one man can turn everything upside down.

He complains that you are very straightforward. You say one thing, and mean exactly that. That you are kind, because you stroke his hair when he is upset.  That you make yourself too vulnerable, because you sleep with your head on his chest. That you are funny, because you cure migraines with absurd stories. He says he cannot make peace with these things, that he must talk to you less because it's painful not to be able to see you every single day.

But he is scared of being in love- he actively looks for reasons not to be- though he has been with so many before. And maybe that should be a fault which you shouldn't forgive. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012


When you sit upon a ticking bomb, I have been told it is easy to fall in love.

Maybe that is true, and maybe it isn’t, I don’t know for certain. But what I do know for certain is that one very uncertain summer right after graduating, with the impending doom of adulthood upon my head, just when I least expected it, I thought I was in love. It was, as they say, the best of times, it was the worst of times. He was equal parts Flaubert, Modigliani and sovereign debt crisis. When we sat and talked into the early hours of the morning, I didn’t feel hurt over all that had passed, but happy that I had gotten through it all; we both had, the two of us, two separate spheres orbiting two separate universes, united by the concept of conquering odds and the beauty of human suffering.

Then the summer was over and my best friend said I had other things to worry about and much as I hate to admit it, he is right. This man – this perfect, perfect man- doesn’t deserve to be dealt a hand of uncertainty from my very complicated life. He makes me so, so happy and the best I can give him is half a dream. So in an obscure tearoom in the nooks of London’s drenched streets, I am about to go break my own heart.

Can someone please, please stop me?