The Whistle of the White Winter Night

It must have been around 7 in the morning when we finally landed in Leh, breathing out the fog that was so thick in the air, after almost four days of restless sleep and constant bouts of decision-making keeping us on our toes. With the flights getting cancelled and us being stuck at Delhi airport—not being able to make our way into Leh; having to sleep on the floor, sustaining on the stalls inside the airport (it was quite The Terminal experience), to the trek being called off by the government due to adverse weather conditions and the trek company refusing to refund our money; everything that could go wrong had already gone wrong.

But somehow, and it all did seem like a reverie considering all the parts of my body, inside and out, were quite numb from the cruel wind that was biting the flesh off my skin and it felt like I would crumble and be taken by it far far away to the high mountains, we made it to the land where the gods sweep the dry Earth with its cold winds. The clean air and a friend of mine blabbering information about the names of the various ranges of massive mountains surrounding us, the music inside my head came to a peaceful pause, which was much welcomed, given how long it had been since I lend silence an ear. I could stand there forever, to soak in the cheering flight staff (on being the first flight to have successfully made a landing in Leh in 5 days), the noisy cabbies and the red-cheeked strangers; it all seemed so unfamiliar but so warm; like a mad rush of blood to my face.

We hurriedly got into a cab and reached our hotel, which turned out to be a warm little place (but not so peaceful) with a bukhari (heater) in the middle of the reception area. If you ever lose someone in that hotel, I bet my soar hangnail, by the bukhari is where your reunion is likely to be. Anyhoo, we waited and we waited and we waited some more for our trek guide to turn up, to give us more information on what’s to be done next. He showed up at around 9 and told us that he still didn’t have too much on the government’s decision and that he would let us know as soon as he could. We decided to use this time to explore the city and city market which was basically lanes and lanes of shops – surrounded by walls of snow-capped mountains on all sides — selling silly, colourful knitted caps, extremely warm, sweat-inducing clothes and old men with prayer wheels, fatherly smiles and colourful stories, oh and dry fruits; loads and truck loads of dry fruits. Did I forget to mention the furry little dogs that have the potential to be supremely ferocious, if only they were not so cute and snuggly and couldn’t stop licking you! One little thing decided that the sleeve of my woolen jacket was a good home for him, and he was quick to claim his territory — while I was still in it! “It’s okay”, he seemed to say with his big, round eyes;” I be fairly accommodating!” I think I saw a little bit of a wink too!

After gathering essentials from the market and regretting having bought our trekking gear from Mumbai at thrice the price, we treated ourselves with some Jasmine tea, some Kahwa and some Thukpa in a quiet little café on the bustling road at the heart of the market. Even though the steam from the tea wouldn’t quit fogging my specs, I couldn’t wait long enough to clear the blurred vision before sipping on the tea and slurping down some mountain noodles; everything made doubly delicious by the warmth of the tiny café, their pretty red carpet spread across its floor and the blushed smile spread across the owner’s face AND some mountain music playing in the background! And when mountain music beckons, you got to climb some mountains to go looking for the place where this music really comes from. And so, full-bellied, we set off, to climb the nearby peaks and reach a place where the endless mountain finally broke and the skies came to view. We waited at the top till the sun surrendered its light, and then we began to make our way back down.

When we got back to the hotel, we were greeted with some delightful news. The trek was back on and we were going to walk the river! How exciting! Or so I thought. My excitement was taken over by apprehension when I looked around and noticed a room so jam-packed with people that you wouldn’t need warmers at -3 degrees; they were all going to go with us! Since the frozen river had been made inaccessible for almost 5 days, all these people who were kept from it, would be starting on the same day as we were. There goes my dream of some peaceful solitude, away from awkward conversations, in the cold winter of the Himalayas!

Thankfully, everyone dispersed and went their separate ways at separate timings which made the morning a lot more peaceful than the day before had been. We were less than 15 people in the vehicle (which is still much for my liking, but maybe I should be counting my blessings instead of complaining!) and to my surprise strangers have a LOT to say to each other, which is very intriguing to me. I spent all my time looking out the window and pretending I didn’t hear any of it, since, not surprisingly, I had nothing to say.

After maybe 3 hours, we reached a dead end from where we were to begin walking down to the tents on the frozen river. It was around a 6-7 kilometer walk on an especially slippery, narrow strip of land, with patches of smooth ice camouflaged with dirt, on the mountain, with a massive drop on one side and a wall of a combination of loose and hard rock on the other, in the dark of the night without no moon to guide our way. I finally managed to lose everyone on the trail! I FINALLY managed to get myself the walk I so desired. I didn’t know where I was headed, couldn’t find my head torch and found myself on the flattened path alone. It should be scary, but unsurprisingly and undoubtedly, it was the best hour of my life when I had no sight of, no sound of and no breath of another soul touch me, for miles to come. Heck! I did not even have sight of where I was walking or what I would walk into. It was pitch-black and my eyes took as long as it took the snow to come into view to adjust to the lack of light. Blame the imagination, but it was much like walking in space (not that I have walked in space to know any better!) for it was so dark and so quiet with a spread of stars up ahead — so close to you, you’d feel like you were walking among them — and no end in sight. It was like walking into nothingness. The thing about high mountains is that it’s dead up there, hauntingly quiet, with no crickets or cicadas to keep you distant company too. Nothing but the whistle of the night! I could walk forever for I felt as light as air itself, even with a 12 kg backpack which was supposed to wear me down with each step with my lungs not getting sufficient oxygen and my legs getting tired of trying to hold the ground in an attempt to keep upright so I don’t find myself face down in the mud!

The night was beautiful, yet so thick with drama that I couldn’t fathom her true character. Her clandestine demeanor — how she sneaked up and surrounded me in no time — I wondered, for a long long time, what she really was and what she was trying to do to me.

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Was she wicked…?
In the nest of winter,
Nyx was in the thick
Of her reign,
The army of Erebus
Hypnos, and Thanatos
In full support…

Together
They had spread
The veins
Of their territory
In every direction,
And seized all
That belonged to Helios…

They ambushed him,
Lynched him
Nibbled at my shadow
Bit by bit
Stole it,
Cut it short
Little by little,
Inch by inch…

As they burnt the flesh of the sky,
From blue
To pink
To a dusky purple
To a much deeper hue
And spread the darkness around…

With Hades
Screaming beckons
From the gurgling Acheron —

Charred
By the cold winds,
The day retired!

Was she lonely and waiting to be formed…?

Mist from the rivers,
Prayers in the wind
The night slowly walks in on me

So thick, so light
So much, all around
Held me, guarded me,
Tickled me
It made me laugh

Paved my way,
Walked up ahead of me
One long mile at a time

So warm, so comforting,
So cold, all dark
Tripped me, lifted me,
Talked to me,
It listened to all my tales…

Amongst the high rocks
And the cold river
Maybe she sought company
And the voice
Of a troubled sound
She could help pronounce…

Maybe my dark thoughts
Deepened the color
Of the night…
Maybe that’s how
All nights are born…

Was she troubled and calling out to me…?

The darkness was purring;
Imprisoned,
In the rugged hands of winter…
Water on the road,
Frozen,
From the duel with the skies…
The rocks bleak whimpering,
Ceded,
When Boreas declared his stay…

She shivered,
Bellowed
In her quietude
Looking for an escape…
Serena was captured,
Broken
Into much littler
Sprinkles of light…
They now shine their brightest —
Waiting —
As a bellow, as a cry…

Or she was suspicious of my presence…?

As the chary night
Lay on its side,
Burnt — the darkness intensifies
With the dawn of caution
Slyly from over the stars
It furiously pries
On the stranger that had walked into her
Without summons…

The effrontery of the swarthy visitor
To enter her perimeter
The impudence — such nerve
With a hint of self-assured hubris
Of being licked by blistering fire…
Beckoned Boreas to serve
While she herself grew stronger and bolder
In horizontal abundance…

The beauteous purple skies
Were only a guise
Poof — disappeared in an instant
Taken over by the charred black
Painted over the dark naught
Spread across and stationed
Soundlessly and watchfully
At not too far a distance…

She watched her visitors stride
Dim down, alongside the assumed pride
Boreas’s sprinkle — my fire croaked
From within me, while the night walked
Like a hawkshaw
Under the semblance of indolence, she moped
To befriend me, to know my story,
To get me to break the walls of resistance…

She doesn’t do well at all with unanswered questions,
There is no comfort in secrets…
And so she stripped me,
Of all my secrets,
My dreary and my might
And all the other queries that the night
May have for me!

Or maybe she was a sculptor…?

Melting corners,
The hands of Nyx
Sculpting awareness,
A little to the left,
A little on the side,
A lump of gorgeous mess
Much by the jest
Of Erebus
Playfully closing every door
Set
My internal blare
To rest…

A little damaged,
A tiny bit broken,
Cracks and all,
I learnt a thing
Or two
From
My solitude
As the intense quiet
Peacefully held me
Through the night…

Or maybe none of it…!
Maybe she just was, like me!
Without purpose,
Without due…
Walking alongside me
Because we were
And happened to be…
In the vicinity
Alongside each other

We were…
We just were,
And will be…!

The Wanderer

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A walk to the light,
May not always be paved by a road…
The winds and the rocks,
And the songs of the birds,
Steer you gently towards the friendly ford…!
And thence a voice from the skies herald,
‘Not all those who wander are lost,
For it is the mountains who to them accost’!

Summoned at the arrival of the untamed warmth,
The tormented soul burns with anguish to explore…
The reaches of its depths,
And the lock to its chambers,
When the violent winds order him to soar…
And the heaving soul thence declares,
‘My answers are not on the roads they take,
I ain’t the one to walk the paths they made’!

The resfeber of the curious rover,
Bursts out in a fulminant melody…
It giggles and it swivels,
As it wheels on the golden earth,
For the soul has, at last, discovered to cherish its singularity…
Paint me purple, it squeaks with glee,
As the soft whistles of the evening play,
Recite remembrances of the day.

I live with the mountains, And I talk to the stones,
I glare a bewildered stare, as they tell me their story,
Of how they rose,
From the crust to the waters to, now, the heavens,
Gifted with a golden crown of undefeated glory…
Hear! The roaring sound of the sentinel conqueror scream,
‘He who is lost is not always looking for the way,
For he revels in the sound mystery of mirth and dismay’!

I am joyous like the playful water, I am free,
Untamed like the fire in the skies…
I am limitless like the aether, I am indefinite,
Unrestrained like the winds…
I am whole, I am part, I belong to no one like the spirit that never dies…
I am one, I am many, Oh! Way too many,
And with armed spirits I walk on, for I am, Oh! Sir,
I AM…THE WANDERER!

 

 

Winter Fix

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Brumous nights
And wet skies
Veiled the soft shivers
Of sundered bights…
The talking breeze
Healing whispers so deep,
The surreptitious sensations
Of Erato…

Laced fingers
In thick blood
Under the spread
Of skins…
The melted crud
As warm as cinder
Splashed fire
On two canvases…
The painted souls
In slippery time
Soaked in sweet brine
Sucked out of ghouls
The red so red
As the texture
Of wine
On a white night…

From the depths of me
To the depths of you
Embrace your darkness
And the fireflies will find you…

 

Published: ‘Six by Eight Feet’

Published

Recumbent…asthenic…
Still as beauteous as vernal willow,

In the kaleidoscopic gossamers of light
Streaming from her corner
Winded by the contiguous timber
That had been her comrade
For half a century past…

She looked as young as the day she had come in,
As blazing as the skies
As sweltering as the aureole
As fervent as the storms
As fiery as the orange she donned…

As unwonted, as vehement, unequalled, an intrepid
As… as
Still, tranquil…
As pleasant as she was ole…

Impetuousness…brawn
And the strength of a stalwart equine,

Dwarfed by the inflexible darkness
Screaming from right down the core
Of the unceasing march of stone walls
Silent in progression
But spry to house her soul…

First day in, she had looked as stripped as a newborn
As harried as the dusty lands
As ravaged as carrion
As broken as a dream
As lost as a letter on silent grounds…

As stark, as scourge, bleak, astray
As…as
Disrobed, barren
As fragmented as her impending dawn…

The rambunctious shrieks
And the unruly brawls

Blatant rape of her space
And being
Raucous ordains and
The arduous inane labor
Reeking of the melancholy of trapped demons

At the end of their game.
The black bile
Consuming the hallways,
Each solitary cell,
Their sanity and resolve…

Vacuous words
From people who had once been
But now were as lost
As they were around…
Reposed…sang-froid…
As empty as the night

Spilt of all juices, thoughts, dreams
Poured out like black blood
From a wound;
She felt whole
Her being now hard bound and delivered…

It lay on the rack as sacred as her first words
As hallow as her fatuous sins
Filled with tales of purple trees
And talking breeze
And ALL the splendor her life had not seen…

Her beautifully unveiled imagination
As bound as she had been
Inside these walls for 56 years
Back at 18, she finally felt free…

Recumbent…asthenic…
Still as beauteous as vernal willow,

In the kaleidoscopic gossamers of light
Streaming from her corner
Winded by the contiguous timber
Of the dark forest
Outside her prison walls…

As she lay breathing her last,
The guards queried
What kept her going that long
She lifted her eyes
And looked one last time

Across the dark room
And the cold stone walls
Out her crooked little window
She was at peace

Six by eight feet
That was her swansong.

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

The Illuminating Void

Spiti

Pick a day in your life, one day that was just perfect, an hour, moment, a second that you would change nothing, absolutely nothing about…it was that day…the perfect day, perfect evening, the perfect moment…I don’t really know how long it lasted, I had no measure of time…could have been a second or a couple of hours…time didn’t make a difference because it didn’t exist…Everything was still…ALIVE but still…like it was suspended in time…there was no sign of humanity for miles, till my eye could see and beyond…the company of mountains and the meandering river, glimmer of the moonlight, blinking stars and the silence…the intonation of the mountains, rhythmic, like a symphony of the heavens…a symphony made not of sounds but simply by existence, of their magnanimity and design…

Everything knew its course, all was ME but still had individual existence…a personality which was defining, with sharp edges, bumps, rounds and curves and all…Everything was within AND without…”I” was all that I could be on that bridge that was two ropes tied at either ends…swaying yet supporting all that came to its sanctuary…It swayed under the full moon like a blanket used to swing a child, a warm, soothing cradle that slowly rocks you to sleep…It shone in the borrowed moonlight…it was the light of the heavens, with a warmth of a mothers’ lap in that minus-something temperature with me without my winter clothes…

Light of the heavens, the divine…it was the luminous light of ME…with no one around, the bridge would have ceased to exist if not for my presence there…the only spectator, the sole witness and the other way around…we were both sole bystanders of each-others being…Hence we needed each other and we sat comfortably in our shared silence, contemplating, introspecting, BEING…I owned it…Owned the darkness that was resting there for the night…it belonged to me…

Everything in its current state that was me and that precariously hanging bridge and our moonlight of existence…I was a tiny speck in that enormousness that was space with heaps of rock and dust towering around me in all directions…but that tiny speck was all that the universe was…nothing else mattered…no one else required…nowhere else to be and no one to belong to…I could sit under the bright moonlight braving the dark, crouched in the middle of the rocking bridge, over 50ft above the singing river for all of eternity, MY eternity…Because time had come to a screeching halt…It didn’t matter how colossal the cosmos was, the speck had an identity, an unchallenged existence demanding no proof or evidence and having nothing to prove, that stood steady in the spotlight with its shadow as a judge…

The light bright so as to see everything clearly…Bright but not blinding…Not the kind that hurts the eye, makes them shut and look inside but the kind that allows you to measure yourself in the vastness that is the universe…Silence was a comrade too and for once it wasn’t haunting, daunting or vicious…it wasn’t intimidating, quite the opposite really…it sat beside me in its own space, aware of my presence but minding its own business at first…it slowly made its way towards me…It covered me, enveloped me, it was like a joyous child on a fathers back…it rolled on me, jumped on me, covered me from all sides, it consumed me, embraced me and blanketed me…it kind of tickled…tickled my senses alive…alive enough to soak in everything that was around and shut out everything that didn’t matter…it took over each sense…slowly…one at a time…comforting, soothing…like I wasn’t alone…we were both lost together…lost and outcasted…Each with its daunting existence, we found solace in the other ones company…

Silence is pretty good-natured, whoever said it liked being alone…We had a lot in common…it was tranquil, gentle… healing in fact…like a child’s touch…the silence, it made tiny giggles, moans and sounds of joy as it rolled over me and ticked me everywhere…it looked onto me with its big eyes and put its head on my lap, purring and whimpering for attention…The stillness, it was different…it allowed me to be silent… to be numb…to forget all actuality and still be aware of it…it made time stop or maybe made everything move too quick so as to make it seem constant…I don’t know…

But that was when I decided, it was as beautiful as anything can get…!!! 🙂

HUSH!
Listen to the silence speak,
It lives in blessed places,
Hushed and locked up in the dungeon,
Hither,
It’s only found in veiled traces…!!!

Cockled under a stampede of thoughts,
It crawls from under a million feet,
Only to be lost again in enslaved graces…!!!

Crouched on all fours,
Nails squawking dirt on the ground,
Bloodied and beat it clutches on,
Scraped knees and bruised palms,
Waiting to be found…!!!

Just as it was wheezing gone,
Aeolus flies in on his reined horses,
And rescues it in a cradled shroud…!!!

The shackles, they crumble and fall,
In the cold of the aureole,
It glides into the haven which is its home,
Its’ now an emissary to the vagabond,
The offerer of aplomb…!!!

Held gently in the hollowed palms of Gaia,
Merged with the earthen chiaroscuro,
Where it pleasingly belongs…!!!

Suspended in mid-air,
On ropes with logs precarious and bleak,
She looks to the dubiously blinking celestials,
And the pristine free-flowing river,
Feeling miniscule and meek…!!!

As she is swayed by the passionate winds,
She holds tight the reins of the mid-air bridge; whooshing past her it says,
Hush! Hush my child, you are safe with me!

It pivots and it rolls,
Swivels and rides the gales with glee,
It chuckles and sniggers,
Unbridled of reins, it sprints and laughs,
Larks through the skies at being free…!!!

She watchs it saunter; meandering, teasing the gusts,
Slowly, she lets go of the rope,
To be carried to its clique…!!!

It looks at her with twinkling eyes,
Soaring…Floating past,
Takes her hand and says,
Let go! Surrender!
Oh! Take; take to the skies with me…!!!

Hush! Hush my child! Just BE!!!
You are safe…
You are safe with me!!!

-Neeti-

Weathervane!

Somewhere between reading The Masque of the Red Death (Edgar Allan Poe) and watching When Nietzsche Wept (a movie based on Irvin D. Yaloms book by the same name), I came up with this. How does that even happen!?!?!?!?!?!?

Fredrick Nietzsche says, “that the urge to possess and assimilate, to change “something new into ourselves” is behind the experience of both love and greed. “Greed and love: what different feeling these two terms evoke! Nevertheless, it could be the same instinct that has two names.” He says the experiences of both greed and love are the same drive or instinct.

He says a lot many more things, but I got lost right around here. All I know is love is as complex an emotion as there can be, and I can’t, for the life of me, even begin to decipher it!

Of the many, I like this conversation from the movie “When Nietzsche Wept”:

“Nietzsche: Its the first time I’ve revealed my loneliness, its melting. Its melting away.

Dr. Breuer: its a paradox. Isolation exists only in isolation. When shared, it evaporates, my dear friend… “

WEATHERVANE!

Stay! Stay, Oh! Wouldn’t you,
But she didn’t!
She was strong but cynical,
Wavering like a drifter…
She was the desert sand in the desert wind!!!

Lithe yet nimble,
Stotting from one dune to the next!
Bowing only to the winds,
Way-less and astray…
She was resolute to make it to the crest!!!

When the golden arrow,
With the rooster sitting atop!
It swiftly changed its course,
Hollering him, the nimbus cloud…
This! It got her wandering to a frightening stop!!!

Stay! Stay, Oh! Wouldn’t you,
The plea repeated!
Carrying the smell of being touched,
She re-discovered mirth in surrender,
And belief and…AND she stayed!!!

A sea of wet soil,
The specks hurdled in a concert!
She was integrated,
But he couldn’t hold her together forever…
Before long, she, once again, was a mere mountain of dirt!!!
Forgotten sand in the sand of desert!!!

For the rooster, now, un-menacingly,
Decided to look away!
He (the nimbus) marched towards his summons,
To faraway lands…
She wished! She wished for him to STAY!!!

-Neeti