Sunday, January 21, 2007

Diminished Responsibility

Everything looked beautiful to Maya tonight.

It seemed Manu would never leave her thoughts, exciting her every passing second. Heavily excited she was, that her excitement flushed out of her cheeks as embarrassment. A combined sense of womanliness and unabated thrill spread all across her face and body, like the currents she sensed.

The french window in the hotel bathroom was uplifted by the million glitters of the city lights, abundant with sparkling towers and teeming streets, in red and yellow. The lights picked up her moods as she sketched the San Francisco skyline with her slender right index. Drops of soapy water dripped over the tinted pane, smelling flowery just as the description on the Bath Soap said. "An oriental fragrance, woodsy and rosy." As she showered, she smiled thinking of her first kiss. Their moments of intimacy that concreted their love for each other. Her graceful responses of feminity in times like those.

For the next few seconds, she stood in front of the mirror and robed and disrobed the bathroom linen. The white cotton accentuated her pale sensual skin. A definite blush glowed her skin and promised eternal happiness. Bulbs of water were still dripping from the tip of her hairs as she slowly tiptoed to the closet to open her bag. And from under her bag, beneath old pajamas and sweaters, she pulled her laced night-gown out. The new white cotton night-gown and its sheer overcoat soon graciously fell on her lean shoulders, revealing her collar-bone, naked and beautiful.

Fast heartbeats, silence, embarrassment and beauty orchestrated her steps out of the bathroom.

She found Manu on the bed, asleep. Asleep?


Maya patted his shoulders and whispered, "Manu. Manu."

"Why did you get drunk, Manu?"

"Manu. Manu."

Her whispers tapered into complete silence when Manu moaned in an annoyed tone "Don't disturb yaar!"

Shaken and shattered, Maya whimpered the incredulity of the moment as she changed into a pair of pajamas and her sweater.

She climbed on the bed, kissed Manu on his forehead, careful this time not to wake him up and wept to herself, "Why should one be disappointed on one's wedding night."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shalom shall loom

Amidst howling wolves and prying coyotes, there stood a house scalloped by wild desert-berries and sunken wood-wheels. What is in there, man has thought ever since he has seen it disintegrate. One wonders and wonders like there is no tomorrow. Curious wayfarers passing by have either noticed its queerness or tried to locate what reeked. But no one can be unmindful of “The Hulk”. Its so strange on the outside that its a landmark that folks identify easily– Koko's Inns are behind “The Hulk”, Mac's Drugstore is just two blocks from “The Hulk”, Crazy Sardine's house is beginning to look like “The Hulk”.

Its outside is no better. It has become a museum-turned-toilet where men and dogs relieved their bladders when no one watched. What can be said of weather-beaten concrete that exposes its steel and that sharp stench? And the old Plymouth Savoy under the tumble-down porch, sinks in the golden sand, like a horse that can walk no more. The hot shiny sun has taken away all its color and the number plate that says 'The Hulk', still clings on to its last breath.

And all this reminds me of Ozymandias and the Aryan Neighborhood.

Lenmana, the flute girl, grew up in this Southwestern desert, her skin rapidly ageing with the gray wolves and the scummy shack.
Her withered smile is still withered.
Her hairs are silver white and her face looks like a blanched almond, for its color and the streaks of senility that runs all over.
Her eyes and palms are as parched as the bare mountains one sees to the east.

Her house looks no different on the outside. It is shaped like “The Hulk”. Most houses here look the same. Maybe there is a difference one cannot see, I wonder! As she opens her door, her pet rats squeak. ' Sandy and Tasha can smell me', she says confidently. As I see Lenmana drudging towards her kitchen, I look at her and try and guess her age. 'Over 80 easily'.

Lenmana explains the land like a tourist guide. She knows all the stories and all the secrets. Amusingly, she talks of Ben, the man from her neighborhood who crossed states to become an infamous Evangelical preacher. She tells me with a wry smile at the corner of her lips 'I always knew he was gay'. As I listen to her stories, I follow her as she follows her walking stick through the sands and through the ridges.

Not much can be explained of what one sees. Civilization will possibly fear to continue to live in this barrenness and cold. But Lenmana and the tens of others that make up the total populace here can never call it home elsewhere. Wakanda and Quidel are her friends, and perhaps the only living members of her nighthawk community. Besides, there are others like the odd dogs and me. And like these dogs that wander in Kalamazoo, most of the people you meet are either here to stay no more or have no where else to go. Of course, this desert quickly attracts desert animals, droughts, deaths and gossips.

I remember the song they sang when my vagitus brought my first sounds to earth, awakening those sleepy eyes and stirring those hands that killed.

For He shall come to kill and Save
From evil and plenty and cruel and shame
O La Suc-ki! O La Suc-ki!
Nights and darkness know His name;
He fends His neighbour and fleeces His foe
And nay heaven knows His bliss or blizzard,
Nor name like the land that loves Him.
And until memories shall no more exist
Suc-ki, He shall be, Suc-ki He shall be.

Strange shames get hidden in times that steal bad memories. Abandoned by sinners and wept by pitiful souls, shame embitters relationships haling man to leave behind those bad memories. The good ones, both men and memories, move on. But the bad ones, both men and shame, stay behind, retching as they shall decay one day, sealing their fates and lives.

The mysteries of this desert shall remain saved in Lenmana's memories and in the ashes the desert winds have blown afar. And in their wisdom of history and as an acknowledgment to the past, people of this land shall come and go, like ants in search of food. Now here I am, looking unto the mountains of the east, the farthest I can see, and time it shall tell these tales when my memory fails and when Lenmana will be no more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


This is the fourth time in the week and I am seeing exactly what I saw the last three times. The same two people. The same house. The same garden. The same dog tied to the same Silver Oak stump. It looks like even the leaves on the ground have not been blown off by the winds.

It is like a picture. Frozen, unruffled, tranquilised.

Familiar and yet unfamiliar. Times I knew and times I could have never known. Like a collage made of two time-frames, so intelligently harmonised that it tends to appear like its true. Like its today.

Pleasant memories bring a million smiles. You want to be wrapped in them, bury your head and heel inside and try to smile with the times that went by. You want to be that kid you were, jumping for the moon. You want to make those mud-castles, play with those toy swords and get wet in the rain. You want to hide your grandmother's spectacles. You want to blindfold your father, cupping his eyes with your palms and wait for him to find out that that was you. You want to run around the house in a superman costume. You want to stand on a parked scooter, hands on the throttle and dream it zooming.

The plastic slide on the lawn was one of my favourite plaything. Until the time I was big enough to scale the steps on its ladder, I used to sit on the pram watching my elder brother climb it, faster and faster each time, clapping my hands as he slid down the curvy orange plastic. And when my legs were sturdy enough to run and climb, I used to climb up its ladder, sit down on its yellow seat, with my legs on the slide and my eyes looking down on the earth below. I used to imagine I was a mighty king, overseeing his vast army of men and horses from a fort so high.

I can see me roosted on that yellow seat. Legs on the slide and eyes looking down on the earth below, imagining to be a mighty king overseeing his vast army of men and horses from a fort so high. I can still see my face gleaming. The same sneer of contempt. The same innocence.

You do not know what lies ahead of you. But you know what it will be made of. Your wishes and with it, your dreams. And you hide your wishes for tomorrow carefully under your pillow. Looking at it every night before you retire. To see if it looks any different from yesterday. And as those wishes age with you, they look more and more beautiful. The Japanese call it Sabi, the beautiful patina that accumulates with age. Yes, the beautiful patina. You want them to breathe life one day. You want those wishes to become memories one day. And you want to cherish those memories some day.

I remember the recliner with those long arms and the folding plate in between. I also remember that old copper teapot on the tripod. The plate is unfolded. I see a glass teacup thats half-full. The old man is reclining on the chair with his legs stretched. His eyes in the direction of an open book spread on the plate, beside the cup. He looks totally at peace with himself, not caring to see how dull it indeed is around him. The veranda has never looked so faded. The wooden chime on the front porch where he sits seems to have lost a reed. The walls look like they need a repair. The flooring has cracks all over and its also time to change the doormat.

But amidst these vapid looking objects, I can see the brilliance on my face. The same sneer of contempt. The same innocence.

I walked past them. The little kid and the old man. Faded shots of life tied one to another. One within another. I knew what it is to be. I knew what it is to be me, with the same sneer of contempt and the same innocence.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

33 Jubert Ave.

Honeybush or Mild Orange Ginger. Water or Wine. An idea or an encouragement. This place has always given me what I wanted. Filling in the silent pauses of life with Fur Elise and Marriage of Figaro. Like syncopated words that are fuller than the sounds they create. Like a breeze that kisses your cheek just as a tear rolls by. Giving me life when I lose my breath. Giving me a thought when I need to write. Giving me a reason to come back and seek more.

The high-ceilinged rooms with dark wood lining enliven with pleasantness even in midsummer's heat. Today as I cross the dark hallways, the strong smells of old wood and old times pierce my memories pitchforking the most tender days of my childhood, when many a tender feet trembled as it passed, fearing hidden ghosts inside every nook.

The corridors that lead to the courtyard warms my feet as I walk on its sunburnt tiles. The baked smell of shingles that line the corridor's slanting roofs blend with the whitewashed insides, making it glow like amber after a long day of untiring sunshine. The matchless serenity in those courtyards, filled with guavas, mangos and shoeflowers where I have carefully observed caterpillars turning one day to flutter by with rich golden wings evoking a unique sense of freedom and beauty, combined. I have spent many a night on the oblong wooden counters gazing at the sky trying to match constellations and lose myself until I wake up to the first beam of daylight as it reaches my face.

In the age of innocence and thrills, I have spent many a moment in the attics digging out mysteries and treasures and with them untold stories that survive each generation as it passes to the next. Bottomless urns. Broken cannisters. Corningwares with heavy coats of dust. Colored Pebbles. A teak trunk with mud idols of gods and goddesses. Walking upto the attics and squeezing my then tender, flexible body through the tiny doors in stealth, not uttering a word and exchanging conversations with the dark walls and blue shadows with raised brows and an open mouth till my bouts of sneeze give away the secret hiding place.

The wide and wellspread hall. The wooden cupboard in the southwest corner that never closed. The divine reading room with the giant rolling shelf in the center. The rooms where we sang and learnt to play the violin. The beautifully designed hexagonal front room. The sprawling dining halls where more than one debate was argued but none agreed upon. They are all pieces of poetry by those who built it. I go through each one of them, recalling each moment I once lived and cherished. As I stand on the brilliant flooring. I see it has still not lost its sheen. Neither has it lost the blurred reflections of those who walked on them.

I long for those days when death did not part us all. When we laughed in content and slept in peace. I wish I can relive those days again. In togetherness and love.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This is only for Yu

My name is Yu. I am 18 years old. Palsied. Weak. Mentally unstable. Partially blind. I have always thought that land was flat, until little Lara told me we all live on a big orange.

I dont know how to write. Even if I knew how to, I dont think I will be good at it. But I can read. Very slowly. And most times I dont understand. I have never wanted to. Lara tells me she is going to start to teach me to write one of these days. She says it will help me read faster.

Lara. My sweet Little Lara. She is the one helping me put my thoughts into words, so that one day I'll have you read this. And I am glad that that day is today.

I dont know where to begin. Is it because, I know no beginnings. I also dont have memories of my boyhood. As I try to think, the least I can remember was when I was old enough to climb a tree. I also grew up very fast. I was looking handsome until I started losing my hair. Now I am left with just a thin curve of grey on the back of my head. Lara once picked lice from my hair. Ever since, she calls it The Fertile Crescent. She tells me it has a biblical reference, but I dont know.

I dont know how many years it has been since Lara is with me. You might want to ask me how I know my age. It is just a number. I was probably thirty then. But I thought I will be eighteen till I die. (laughs) They said Little Lara was five when she first came to me. I have never counted the years as she grew up. I dont want her to. In my mind, she is always the playful and sweet Little Lara. But she can be rude too. Especially when she refuses to buy me ice-cream from the corner shop. I know I ask her for one everyday. Maybe she knows its not the ice-cream but the lady at the store I want. Or maybe she doesnt. I dont know what Little Lara will think of me as she writes this. But I know she wont estrange me. She can never. She owes it to me for what she is today. "Isnt that true, Lara!" (laughs again)

I wish I was in Artesia now. There is going to be a band of players with their strings and drums and flutes. I have watched their posters. That poster. It looked like these players have never had and will have a bad day in their life. You should watch that singer's mouth. Open. Ecstatic. All of them had long hair and were wearing fancy clothes. They were probably playing a good song in that poster. Maybe. I dont know. But I know the poster said they will be in Artesia today.

Lara wants me to think in the order of time. She is smart. But she is not smart enough to understand that I forget the things I would want to remember. The other day, we walked by a garden full of flowers. She told me their name. And I forgot. Now playful Lara tells me she will never speak to me if I forget that those were chrysanthemums.

I will tell you what happened today. But this little girl here tells me that she is getting bored of this old man. She wants to go play with her friends. I will allow her to. After all, I know my life is not interesting and no one will ever want to know about it.

"Yu, I know you would have loved to know that someone was going to read this.

I will miss you."

Lara Yu.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

virginian stock

love, like the sun and the night, was always there in our lives. amorous glances, butterfly kisses, tender handshakes, an occasional hug, furtive walks down the fieldside...many a pleasurable moment as we laughed together and cried together. to me, he was the only one. and we lost no moment in love.

we lived past those times of apathy and illwill, when man hated man, when war was at the doorstep and peace knelt low. escaping ourselves of all that held between us, bringing us closer as the world around us distanced itself, only till i bore my child.

- - - - - - -

virginian stock. i remember them. i remember their smells too. how could i forget that night. that night, those flowers and us. soft whispers from streaming lives from the earth below. the scents that wafted from those flowers threatening us for a brief moment. indeed, i remember them all. when all seemingly bright things evanesced under the setting sun, his eyes glistened, oblivious to all things around us. i remember how stealthily he waded through those dark waters, when the rest of the town slept, dreaming of virginian stock and hate.

- - - - - - -

growing up never came easy to him. it could never have been. neighborhood fraught with ill-speaking mouths - hags who rail and pass their time, reviling postmen, betel-nut vendors who spat bitterness as they bicycled past his home, mothers who forbade their sons to play with him. the ever-growing enmity grew in him like a bloody cancer. he hated those who hated him. hatred like love, grows.

- - - - - - -

the poison the townsfolk fed had been numbing his senses. i could see it. my touch made no difference to him. paralyzed, ready to brush with his end, he drew a deep breath, suspiring of all the disgrace he lived through all these years. those still eyes looked at me, never to move again.

- - - - - - -