Moth-eaten Memoirs

Yet another moondrop slowly drifts into my room. Half adrift into the land of slumber and yet half awake still, I find myself awake and asleep at the same time. Part of my being is still in my body, while part of it is hovering around. Is this what the Dreamwalk is like, a brief part of my mind wonders? But before I can build up further on it, my mind changes focus again. Shifting thoughts pass through me like sand sifting across fingers of the hand- no matter how hard you try to hold on to the quartz bits glittering among the obsidian darkness, all you’re left with in the end is a small fistful of dirt.

Of late, waking or sleeping, my entire life has been a repetition of this. I trudge through life half aware, like a muted, blunted version of myself. My mind held trapped under a mossy forest of subconscious thoughts, fears, and feelings and underneath all of it my thoughts stay, half-transpired, too obstinate to dissolve and yet too scared to condense. Just in this decade and yet a lifetime ago, my fingers formed words faster than my mind could weave them. Half-awake at night I have gotten up because they would not let me sleep- and I have poured them out in endless torrents of black ink scrawling, scratching, and defacing the surface of the sacred, bleached hearts of a 100 felled trees. And yet, now, for many a month, I have failed to pick up the pen and write one thing that mattered. I’ve gazed endlessly at teacups and found the abyss staring back at me, with no storm brewing within. I’ve painted only forgeries, and nothing has told a story of my own.

Maybe there is a Multiverse, and maybe we are all just balanced precariously like the phosphorescent specks on waves, endlessly moving towards the shore but never quite reaching there- an endless duel of restless tugs, until one day the light ebbs, and the seabed beckons, and lets the gravity talk. Maybe we are all a bit here, and a bit, nowhere. Maybe I have lost the part of me that was here and maybe I’ve left behind the part of me that was there. Maybe I am now just a shell, a hollow facade of what used to be me, a transient after-memory. Maybe the words that nourished me have either exhausted themselves, or worse- fled in agony over who I have become. Maybe this is just me, mortal, wounded, without the wings I have sheared off mercilessly, and burner to lose flight. Maybe this is the me drowning in an answerless cesspool of endless questions, all of which end in a visceral why. Why?

Of uprooted trees and green genes

I came into this world with strong tree-genes in my roots. My granny, my ‘didu’, was an avid lover of plants. Nurse by profession, I used to see her run back at the end of her tiring workday in the humid sweltering May heat of Bengal, straight up to the terrace where the concrete floor would still burn, to see how her beloved saplings and plants (read grandchildren by choice) were doing. I would see her caress them with her hands while she watered them, not with the strictness of a governess and neither with the overindulgent abundance of the grandma, but with the perfected measurements of a mother. And my, did those plants bloom! They spread their arms skywards in leaps and bounds spreading way beyond the confines of the terracotta and the soil that held them, they twinkled in endless smiles every morning when she slowly said bye to them before work and as the clock struck past office hours, they dropped one by one as if they missed her way too much. And then in the evenings they danced with the mad tempests of the Bengal evening as if sharing their blues with her, and then spread their fragrance calling out to her, showing as much love to her as she did to them.

My mother is named after a flower, and so is my sister. My mother is ‘shiuli’, she spells autumn to our homesick hearts, unnoticed by many she blooms in the night and hands over the steed to my sister in the morning, leaving behind a heartful of home in the air. My sister is ‘aparajita’, proud and royal in the early hours, carrying forth the love into the day, spelling hope.

I carry no flower in my name, nor do I have my grandma’s nurturing hands to make plants grow, but where do I escape my tree genes?
This evening, with this concrete jungle taking its toll on me, I escaped a few miles away, to a place of solitude. But there, I found an aged, wizened old tree, with more rings on its stem than 4 times the years in my soul, lying felled. And the leaves, almost felt blue in their sadness. And I felt the tears welling up inside of me for a love I did not even know existed.

Please, please, don’t let the dragonfly fairies lose their wings. Please don’t make us moonchildren fade away.


Would you drive a dagger through yourself,
Unless reality, with its daily grisly ritual
Is used to cutting you deeper, bleeding harder?

Would you fall on a sword,
Unless the sharp blow slowly tearing into you,
Is still less cruel, still hurts lesser,
Than that daily sucker punch in your gut?

Would you, by your own hands,
Choose to stop the manic rhythm in your chest
Unless in its last beating throes, your dying heart,
Thanks you, for freedom, for emancipation
From the fist that was reaching into your ribs,
Crushing it, crumbling it, ripping you apart.

Unfinished equations

A fictional phone conversation…

Blue: I wonder if you come across me on the pages of an old book, as I do. You are such an old chapter that even the memories have become sparse, but suddenly, in an aberrant note in the corner of a notebook, or an old pressed rose, you come back to haunt me. Will the way it punches me in my gut, ever get any weak?

Brown: I don’t need books. I am still confused, every person I like resembles you. I don’t even think I like them for who they are, just because they remind me of you. I have stuck myself in a self-destructive loop, and I don’t understand how I will ever forget you when my mind keeps finding more and more ways to confine me to you.
Here I am living you out day in and out and you are complaining of some dust I left behind! Some dust that inconvenienced you!

Blue: It was always that with us, wasn’t it? My feelings came in bursts, and I thought you were placid, unfeeling – only you were probably on an even curve throughout. I was always the one who loved more and –

Brown (interrupting ): No, you were merely the one who loved more intensely. ‘Intense’ and ‘more’ aren’t always the same. Aren’t you the mathematics geek? What do you think amounts to more – high peaks and low troughs, or a curve that always plateaus on the positive side?

Blue: Come on, how can you possibly bind feelings into algorithms and equations?

Brown: You really have changed, haven’t you! Don’t you remember one of the last things you told me? That we are not working out as ‘we’, the ‘equation’ is perverted, imbalanced, toppling? And suddenly now love isn’t mathematical? Why, is it because it no longer suits your explanations?

The pen had trailed off at this point, perhaps I was sleepy/sad/bored or maybe having a writer’s block. I never got back there. And I deserted Blue and Brown with an unfinished conversation, like most people who were once close and are now strangers.

Of concrete kissed skies

For as long as I remember being able to read, I would spend entire afternoons on the terrace of my grandparents’ home, lying over the quilt laid there for fluffing in the sun, with a replenishable bowl of snacks made by Didu, munching on them as I devoured novels faster than the food. The terrace air of Bengal winters used to smell of the oil of mango pickles, lukewarm sunshine, and love.

Many a summer evening I have rushed to the terrace, originally sent by mom on an errand to pick up the clothes spread across cloth lines before the evening thunderstorm came and drenched them all, and hopping with my bare feet like a sparrow over the concrete burning from the day’s sun I have finished the job sent up for. But then, I have lost myself standing there in the tantrum of the kaalboishakhis and written a hundred poems about the wonders it does to a flightless, migratory heart. The terrace air of Bengal summers used to smell of petrichor, and rain, and poetry, and reckless abandon.

I have forged my first love story on the same terrace. One evening, in the age where a slight touch of hands would convey more static and electricity than whole foreplays of adulthood, I remember sitting on the small staircase on my terrace that leads up to the smaller terrace overhead- sitting there next to a boy with brown tousled hair, dark brown eyes and cheeks just about shadowed by puberty, sitting there with my head on his shoulders, our voices too meek and choked and drowned by the battledrums playing out in our hearts. The memory of terrace air of Bengal dusks smells of my first love, of the breath of a teenager who spreads roots into my heart, and of a 100 conflicting emotions too strong for my mortal body to hold.

Night after night during my older years, the terrace has heard tales of my heart- how it fell, how it mended, how it broke. Sometimes it has heard and probably soaked in more than the person on the other end of the call, as I walked impatiently all over it wondering where I am headed to. Late into the starry and starless hours of the night with the changing geometries of the constellations and the spreading darkness across the face of the moon, a terrace has heard the shatter of the heart of a hopeless romantic, like a déjà vu. And it has seen me grow into a different, hopefully better person through it. It has heard me scared and still tiptoeing into love again. The abysmal night skies of the hostel terrace used to smell of coming of age emotions, of breaking chains, of finally finding myself.

And now. For the last 6 years I am trapped in a campus with high-rise buildings with terraces too overgrown with dried leaves and mould and moss because we do not step on them. Because wired barricades stop us from stepping on the accessible level of cloud 9 that we have right in front of us because people are scared that life has probably taken its toll so hard on us that even a terrace would only mean a opening to glide down. Standing across the door that stops me from stepping onto the terrace these Sunday evenings, I ache to smell what all the terraces in my memories had in common- the smell of Freedom.