The deafening Thunder was THOSE old men laughing!!!

An early morning, rushed packing for a 12 hour journey in a rickety old hawking bus which at every hole and bump in the road seemed like it would dismantle in just as many places as the number of screws and bolts holstered in its peeling red cream body, take a last deep breath and finally retire…through the smoke coughing city to the small towns with red roofs and chicken on the streets to the beautiful lanes colored black by the shadows of the gateway-forming weeping willows on both sides to finally, their destination…Happily standing brightly colored huts….red, yellow, green, blue….like all the colors stand there solid, individual but united with beaming faces, in the backdrop of the shore of the ocean having secret conversations with the rocks…It was a long day…All six of them were in high spirits…After all it was the beginning of a short unplanned vacation, away from their work and family and all the craziness of Bombay, in a motel on the shore of a beautiful beach…Lazing around, belly up… pretending to be dead on their respective hammocks to the sound of the ocean thrashing at the rocks 5 feet away from them, was all the music that one could need to collect fragments of sanity and attempt to make it whole…The sight of the blinking sky and still night were perfect partners to the music of the water…
The morning matched in its beauty with the night…at the crack of dawn, the colors of fire came out of their shell and flowed in all directions, covering the sky and melting slowly in the blue of the water…the reds, oranges, yellows, blues, greens and whites dancing around forming shades and shapes, mimicking each other, blending, integrating, separating again…to stand at length and watch them amuse themselves like that was as refreshing as the only urban counter part of a litter of puppies playfully tearing at each other and rolling over and biting one another oblivious to everything around as you stand at the red light between bellowing horns waiting to get to the next red light on a busy Monday morning…

Silhouette of men in wrap around bottoms and strong torsos in their rocky wooden boats spreading out their fishnets over the broad of the ocean slowly sinking, cutting its way through the water forming small perfectly geometrical square-ish shapes on the surface…The way they throw the net in the sky covering the sun for just one-third of a blink of the eye was the perfect component to complete the picture of the morning on a coast…

They get dressed and walk the busy streets bustling with local turbaned men at small, dainty clustered chai shops, bhel stalls, pani-puri stands and hay-shed restaurants with fish, prawns, fish, crabs, wait! Did I mention fish…small families with kids running around and getting lost in the crowd and parents running around in search of them, how many of them find their own and how many end up with someone else’s litter is anyone’s guess!…The sight of the blood-red crabs, shiny fish-skins, the circling firkis boastingly overflowing with bright colors giving you an insight into the direction it would be easier to walk in…tiny roads, scooters and cars honking in a battle to establish that the road is made for them and not pedestrians…it is amazing how the same things in a big city can suck out all your energy but here, it was different…it could all be put in the background…

“I cannot eat meat or fish…may we please look for something that I won’t feel like is moving around in my belly” is what started this journey into the busy streets looking for a food joint…After half an hour of walking from one corner of the town to the other and actually measuring the size of this coastal settlement in footfalls, they found a joint which said ‘Idli, Dosa, and Poha available here’…

“Oh! Heyy, there! I bet we will find something for you there”

She walked in with one more of them and walked out as fast as her rumbling stomach had driven her in!

“Wassup?”

“Ummm let’s find another place, or I could just stay hungry for three days, it doesn’t matter”

“What happened though? Did they not have any thing vegetarian?”

“I just don’t want to eat here is all” she said with a grimaced face twitching in all directions.

The rest of them peeped in to see what the issue could be. Was it not clean enough, the food not hot enough, the veggies not washed enough? Nope. The place didn’t seem to have any of these issues. Anywho, they began the circling walk from one end of the street to another, yet again, like a new place would magically appear this time around.

One of them couldn’t contain himself and asked what the problem with that place was to the other friend who went in with her. She hesitantly told him, “The cook was wearing a white kurta and a taquiya!” None of the other friends heard her hushed statement. But there was a loud thunder in the skies just then…

They all stuffed their tummies with fish, crab, kokam and whatever else they could find and walked out with pot bellies, all set for a full day of making love to the water and sand…She sat in a corner not even looking at them…

The days dedicated to sand graves and digging waters and the nights to the alcohol, campfire, sounds of the ocean and random laughter, three days flew by them and it was time to go back to their pseudo lives…Once again they woke up early, did the hasty packing and rushed to the rickety bus still huffing and puffing but alive, waiting for them…They sat in and realized they had forgotten to carry water in all their haste…And as the GODS would have it, She was the first to get uncontrollably thirsty…All of them were sitting apart in this dark, depressingly clustered bus so she went around the bus asking them for water…A kind lady looked at her with a warm smile, “ Here, love! Have some of mine, you seem really thirsty”.

“NO! I do not want this” she said and turned around with the same twitching face and disgust in her eyes…And the skies rumbled and roared once again…the woman was travelling with her 5-something daughter and wearing a burkha…

Waiting for their ferry to take them across the ocean back into Bombay, the six of them sat around in a circle in an attempt to calculate their expenses for the weekend…As they sat there doing the math, waiting for the boat to get to shore, She self-righteously declared,” Our holy books say, if I pay for your sins of eating fish, it is as good as me gifting them to you and I become an equal sinner”. She said this with all sincerity and belief! This time the roar was as loud as an echo in the depths of a massive and empty rock cave…they stared at her blankly and went about their business…

With her head held high in the arrogance of being the most scholarly in the matters of the world that was so far hidden in the clouds, it had started to get dubious about its own existence, she strutted on the banks, all this while the thunder growing louder and snout-ier…

They reached Gateway of India and were walking the handsome streets of Bombay at night…

Just then a beautiful 5 year old beggar girl with a heart-warming smile and tattered rags for clothes happened to be walking the same lane…They couldn’t just walk past her, they went to her and sat her down…started talking to her…one of them went up to a nearby stall and brought her some food…She sat with them and told them stories of the street and tales of the day…even introduced them to her sickly stray dog…she called him ‘Chikoo’ she said because they became friends over a chikoo…They had to ask her to shut up so she could open the box and eat her food…She opened the packet, looked inside and said,” this is too much, I cannot eat this, I have a small stomach…why don’t you take half of it back”. When they said they couldn’t do that, she neatly folded a piece of paper kept on her side of the street, emptied half of the food and kept it on that and neatly arranged the other half in a box, ran up to an old uncle with a stick and handed it to him…”I am sure he’s hungry”, she said…she sat back down and made chikoo sit next to her…They sat next to her till she and Chikoo finished their dinner…

“Where do you sleep at night”, She asked her.

“That green white building there, Didi”, said the child without looking up.

This time the skies didn’t make a sound. The child was pointing to the Dargah…

She walked off into the night, sat in a cab, got home and slept…

She was a teacher… !!!

All in a day’s work!

The heat,
The zing,
And the sharp sting,
Of the blazing dawn…
Fired darts of flames,
Punched in my skin,
Burning within,
I like the way I crumble and fall…

I wanna fly, glide into the morning sun with you baby…

The surfs,
The roar,
Miles from the shore,
Of the unmanacling tempest…
Vortex and thoughts,
Spinning around,
With a deafening sound,
I like the way they demolish me with every thrash…

I wanna plunge, dive straight into the tumultuous storm with you baby…

Frigid,
Blows his breeze,
Making me freeze,
Right down to the core…
Whooshes and swishes,
And sits right on,
Exsanguinate my brawns,
I like the way it snaps me in a million places…

I wanna drive into the cold night, ride up to the moon with you baby…

Zugzwang too,
But the next move,
Is behoove,
For the ensuing line of our story…
The die waits,
To be rolled,
And the number called,
I hold my breath as my mouth turns cotton…

It’s your turn, roll the die precious,

Make your move, finish the game baby…!!!

-Neeti

Stage Act: Catch 22

“All the worlds’ a stage”

No truer words were ever spoken…Do I have the freedom to make my own choices…at all levels…conscious, subconscious and unconscious? Or am I driven by this mysterious force, the parasite housing some corner of my brain feeding on my memories and thoughts and the undercurrents of history, the collective unconscious, if there ever was such a thing…Sucking out my sanity and individual standing a little bit each passing day…Will I ever be freed from the clutches of history and those rotten piles on piles on piles on piles of methods and being and thinking and existence…Freedom from the roots of decaying masses grabbing at my feet, those old men, their scars and their existences, the fact that they once walked the same lands as I do, dominating my every move…bulge out from their graves, hold tight at the bottom of my feet in the name of gravity and constantly pull me down to Netherlands…Stopping me from growing, reaching higher…thwarting the birth of my distinctiveness…singularity…My universe…the scope of something new…for better or for worse, but scope of change…scope of discovery….self-discovery…No masters, no guides, no Lords, no Gods, no light…Just me and the untouched, unsullied stretch of endless land…No dead men directing me from below, no God’s from above…!!!
It looks so distant now, I think determinism might actually have been crowned the new Idol…King of the lands of zombies who walk the country, walk around in different combination of quirks and qualities all pre-set to proportion carefully calculating each move they will make till the end of time…like programmed chips functioning on orders and scripts…scripts created by an unseen creator…Meet somebody on the street, stop and say with an almost genuine-looking smile, ‘Hello! How you doing” irrespective of whether you give a damn…Say ‘ It’s going to be okay’ when someone’s upset even though you have no goddamn idea why they are so morose…You are better than somebody, feel guilty, worse than somebody feel shame, younger- listen, older-understand, teenager- oh! This one’s the worst, listen AND understand…Years after years, generations after generations, moons after moons, universes after universes…guided by things you OUGHT to do, people you OUGHT to be…
We have different ways of dealing with this absurdity…all of us do…our own way to deal with distress….but is it our own…Maybe not…Some of us withdraw, some of us try extra hard to go with the flow and some of us say, ‘What the fuck, bro! This shit is not for me” and try to defy, rebel and quit…But apparently there are no exits…do you see them…I don’t…it’s a game…a sick game…once you enter it, you can’t get out till you cross the finish line…till the curtains are down, the lights are out and he says, ‘Shows over’…Nothing is in our control…nada…no control, no escape…just a bunch of marionettes dancing around and groping for a pair of scissors to cut loose in the dark, but he was smart…No sharp objects on stage…everything is meticulously planned, diligently organized and calculated and placed…He is quite a chess player, you gotta hand him that…
Catch 22

The Recluse, the Squire and the Junkie!

One gray, one leaden, Marionette,
Monstrous, mellow and grotesque,
Get on stage with lines abreast,
With lanky, crippled, tawny zest…
Wander east and tumble west,
With no valleys, and no crest,
It was a dull and plebeian fest,
No exits; no cracks and no egress…

She walked atop a wooden stilt,
There wasn’t a folk right of her ilk,
And so she abandoned, so she jilt,
Both the masses and her quilt…
Choked her marvel with heavy silt
Veiled her shiny sparkling gilt,
With abashing and with guilt,
Of a bloody, wilt, and puffing hilt…

Out comes leaden in their color,
The heavy metal and shiny armor,
Dazed at the slimmest, slenderest stir,
Fetter the bugger; bind him and mure…
All the edges, they were a blur,
A giant trooping cloud of azure,
No scope for chafing, none for jar,
“Would you die for this grime” “Oh! Why not, Sure!”…

Stringed, in their corners they stood,
Strutting past, along came a brute,
Unkempt, shabby and somewhat crude
With a glitzy colored suit…
Curled up hair like strings of jute,
Smoking weed and dreary moot,
Gray and leaden thought, ‘Oh! Shoot!,
Where be his strings, there be none by his glute. Hoot Hoot Hoot

The strings to honor or to lose,
Reckoned they, is for them to choose,
In a bucket of paint they dip and douse,
To free themselves of the louse…
The roles, the acts and the engineered joust,
They yank and tug and it wouldn’t come out
How then did that carefree lout,
Was freed without a holler, short of a shout…

Self- abandoned, on the fringe,
Fighting fire, water and winds
No cords, no ties, no kilt or kin,
No virtues, vices, or dirty sins,
No peasants, warriors and no kings…
Off to the beautiful land of glen,
Out of bounds; here and then,
Away from the stage and the ugly masks,
He walked to the lush and fertile Grass…
But that too, wasn’t a lonely land,
Not a place where he could stand,
Alone; without all new strings and all that jazz…!!!!!!

They had only watched him, watched him pass!!!

-Neeti

Borrowed Sensations!!!

They walked hand in hand, without a word being said, One in yellow, the other in red!

They walked hand in hand, without a word being said, One in yellow, the other in red!

Clammy hands
And slithering fingers,
Coyly wandering
Through meadow-lands…!!!
And the quivering touch
Sketching jumbled shapes,
Nonesuch
Were ever drawn…!!!

Hushed sounds
And moaning breaths,
Find their rhythm with the beat
And the other way around…!!!
The sugared words
Rounded to perfection,
Blurred
The edges of my being…!!!

Smoky undertone
And warm bodies,
Enkindle and melt
Every solitary bone…!!!
From the best of you
To the best of me,
From my deepest true
To the truest you…!!!

-Neeti

Riding the High Horse!

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Once upon a tell-ah!
There was a stately fell-ah!
Who rode a majestic chariot,
Like no man ever rode before…

His ride was a complete stell-ah!
A noisy a capell-ah!
It clinked and clanked and made a bang,
Sounds that no ride ever bore…

Feasted on a prudish haym-ow!
With pride the shade of alpengl-ow!
Bellowing his shiny armor,
And galloping evermore…

Through the house of the may-ah!
The crowded street or empty bri-ah!
Billowed chest and chin to the sky,
The whole town he filled with furore…

He reckoned his stallion was bett-ah!
Than all folk, stamp, pole and lett-ah!
There was no doubt,
With him she would go…

Sprinting straight!
Towards her gate!
Gait and spirit,
Always high, never low…

Go, go, goes his shi-yeh!
Slumped straight into the mi-yeh!
Pulled and pulled his chariot
Muck being its feisty foe…

And while he was left to holl-ah!
He saw her with an earthly fell-ah!
She was glowing with smiles looking into his eyes,
It was quite a show…

But how! He was a mill-ah!
Together they walked into the sun-soaked will-oh!
Beautiful in her white gown,
Beautiful-er than the beautiful-est doe …

Shredded his horse in the mi-yeh…
And walked straight into the dying fi-yeh!
Soaked in dripping muck
From head to toe…!!!
In search of another shore…!!!

-The End

-Neeti

The Red Corridor!

Crucified

Skinned in taut darkness,
At the fringes of humanity,
Forgotten

And left to burn.
Burnt yet flickering
Like besieged cinder,

Rose the army of heathens.
Sullied by soot,
The declared abscesses,

Fuse and swell.
Swell into a conflagration,
A colossal dust-cloud,

Of nether feral.
The sequester followed,
By eyes and minds,

Of the avowed and tormented renegades.
Renegades to the
Black suit,

And a civilized thought.
Cold metal,
Gave them fire,

Which was an iron-clad irony.
Irony declaring a chimeric unity,
Of which ‘they’ were not part,

Only the aristocrat.
An esoteric society,
With fedoras and books,

Reading hollow blacken marks.
Hollow words directing
Ablation,

Of a section, of an entire class.
A dialogue then usurped,
By handshake of the cold arm,

With a peep-hole and a shot.
For the zombies had awoken
From the lair

Where they waylaid.
Waylaid in wait,
To paint the canopy

Red.
Red, red, red
Red, red, red,

Red, Red, red.
Until a red
Redder than Red

Covered the brazen ground.
Blackened by their hats and coats,
In their death,

Were the aristocrats.
But ‘their’ deaths shined,
With an open eye,

As a red from the sun and skies…

Oh! What a Pyrrhic victory it was!!!!!

-Neeti

The Grim Reaper!

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The ball of fire surrenders its arms,
To hand the white light its scepter and crown,
While the night frowns with malicious glory
And casts its shadow down-
Upon the wolfish ground…!

Darkest corner of the chamber of night,
Reeking of dread, ire and cry,
In hiding from the moonlight,
Finds the crouched, bleeding tomb and I,
Wedged on the gravel of death, as if by a pitiless gyve…!

The cold stoned distant eyes,
Hold eternal the vacant stare,
As I clutch tight against my chest,
And let the dry red on the spatula declare,
The swarm of sworn ins had not one heart to spare…!

Freedom to the prisoner of eye,
Make the hardened soil go damp,
Fifteen years of laughter, hopes and drive,
In fifty inches of dug ground, are left to cram,
With “a loving son” and a religious stamp…!

Moons after moons,
I walk the ground,
Each night accompanied by the unceasing working shovel,
As the only sound,
The heavy feet and the tired hands that the graves found…!

As I sat in my dark corner,
Still holding what I held each night,
Robed in discomfited gait,
He walked towards me with his shovel and blight,
Gripped by heavy sweat, remorse and fright…!

Slumped down next to me,
With defeated soul and weary eyes,
Looked to the fading letters on the dusty stone,
And began to cry,
I couldn’t understand why…!

Until the moon found him,
And cast its light,
Upon the man’s dying ember,
His tattered uniform and dog tags shining bright,
The mindless rebellion by which he must abide…!

The young face dawned one too many lines,
Masking the gentleness and age,
Drowned in fatigue beyond years,
As to solitude and the dark he bade,
With nothing but a hollowed soul and a spade…!

He kissed the wet soil,
And disappeared in darkness once again,
Watched him walk the green mile,
And yonder I heard the sound again,
Only this time loaded with silent screams of grief and pain…!

The ball of fire still surrenders its arms,
But the night is no more frowning,
The white light walks in with soothing warmth,
And not with a cold smirk at the downing,
Of the King…!!!

For death comes in many a form,
Some lay still but with some it walks,
Its looming shroud crowned with darkness,
It relentlessly knocks,
Until, Oh! Until the sweet door to heaven finally unlocks…!

-Neeti