Cat house

i will take your home away with me,
i will lure it with morsels of dry cake,
and see it trail behind me, purring,
wagging its tail, following me places,
all of Delhi’s dirty bylanes, and bastis.
i will do it because i take what i like,
i will do it by seeing everything of your
room, and choose to never un-see it.

i will put it on my heavy thighs and pet it gently
as I sit intently listening to poetry recitations,
for hours and hours; i will steal metaphors
from the air to feed it; and catch enjambments
to make a string and tie its neck,
keep it tucked to my warm full breasts,
a feline love affair with the house of my lover.

I will also recite poems,
but those written by you,
and read them,
as if they were written for me,

i will find myself lurking like an unwanted shadow
from a lamp post on a half deserted street,
somewhere in your half-broken sentences
and awful imagery.

while something licks my chubby ankle
with desperate irony.

 

 

 

Nationalism and tribals

Reading Ramchandra guha on Benedict Anderson:

Anderson in Imagined Communities demystifies the idea of nationalism. It is not an idea borne out of religious scriptures, or centuries old culture; nationalism, for Anderson, is a modern idea. a young idea born in countries where people had to come together in resistance to colonial exploiter.

And more interestingly, Anderson upheld the idea of nationalism (less shocking to know why Guha likes him so much). Nationalism has it imaginative, utopic characteristics. Americans either believe in the spirit of American nationalism that has imaginative, religious roots; or in the historically motivated secular American spirit which allowed Asians, Africans, Mexicans, Europeans, natives to live together. Both these definitions ultimately allowed for belief in American ethos, and prevented people from buying guns and kill each other in five minutes’ time. Nationalism then has a positive ring to it but only when it is secularised and demystified in order to understand its urgency and immediacy and not ascribe any symbolic responsibilities to it.

On the issue of Dalits, Muslims and tribals, Guha has another interesting point to make. The intention is not to further divide the subaltern into different identity groups and prioritise one over the other. It is true that there are common sources of exploitation for the subaltern, that the Dalits, muslims and tribals are dispossessed of their property, cattle, land, jobs, access to education, medical healthcare, their culture, their languages, literature, by the same capitalist-state sponsored-nationalist-conservative policies.

Yet to completely simplify the historical exploitation of these varying communities does not bode well. It is an erasure of the specificity of each mode of exploitation. While it is important to critique the exploitation of Dalits and muslims, it is more important to recognise the source of this sympathy.

Dalits and muslims (comprising 14% and 16% of our total population respectively) offer themselves as ready to exploit vote banks for electoral politics. They have, over the years, formed themselves into coherent assertive political groups and are politically represented (though this representation is equally flawed).

But this is not the case with tribals. Tribals in india, especially mainland tribals, are isolated to the hilly regions of chattisgarh, odhisha, jharkhand among other states. They live in strong cohesion with each other, unlike the diluted, sparsely located communities of dalits and muslims in india; because of which the cost benefit of wooing tribals for elections is very less.

Our media obviously has a role to play. National mainstream media is owned by corporates who also have vested political interests. Tribal issues do not offer ready readership in a country where people are more interested to know the reply Indian governemnt has given to its Chinese counterparts, before they kick start their day. The consumers of this kind of media also do not have contact with the tribals because of their isolation and absence from political fronts. Guha raises an important concern, how many pms, presidents, chief justices, solicitor generals etc have been tribals?

None.

Little by little.

hit me plateaus, so I don’t have
to go in circles around you
or climb your mountainous
peaks, only to find so little
of your skin there.

hit me glaciers, so I don’t have
to frolic dizzy like a mad stream
and erode everything I run over;
you freeze me, so I take years
to melt.

hit me parts of you, so I don’t
wander at night in hunger and
nibble at clay bricks off your house;
I want to stop stealing others’
homes now.

don’t rush into me like a waterfall;
I’ll lose you in the noise of your own making;
hit me like the moon hits the face of the
earth, or the earth hits
the face of the sun,

kissing its dark corners,
every hour,
little by little.

 

 

 

 

 

 

history

a reckless abandon. a careless fall. levitation. meditation. a light-footed walk to your street. every step forward erases the past. there are no resolutions, like there were none before. we still walk barefoot on treacherous territories of conflict of interests. you still do not let me decide which movie to watch. you still do not like when I fiddle with fire in your kitchen, while I hate the way you trespass on my treasured troves of truth. still bleeding on those cuts and cracks. mom doesn’t ask anymore. we have become warriors of sorts only because we can walk with secrets now.

as a kid, i once had a favourite pair of socks which did not belong to me but my cousin whom I visited every summer. i wouldn’t say i stole them. i just felt they belonged to me so i took them. there was nothing extra-ordinary or theatrical about them. they were pink; a shade darker than soft, fresh, moistened pink roses, with some incomprehensible thread work sprinkled like water here and there. they had begun to fade on the heels; the elastic had also begun to give way. i don’t remember what happened to them in the end, but the reason they were my most preferable piece of clothing was that they grew on me , like unwanted creepers. i hated how i needed them. i hated how i could not like any other pair of socks for a while- the lemon-green ones, the carmine ones, the ones with net borders and frills. i hated how the plain blue socks my mother got me, which i began to decently like, could still never make my feet look the way the pink ones did. i hated how a stupid pair of socks could revel in its full grown human subjectivity. i still hate how recklessly i mother.

in the yellow line of women’s metro coach abound jahangir puri, amidst silent women, women gossiping about their better-halves, haves and have-nots, women struggling to turn a page of Economic Times without disturbing the cosmic balance,  i watch myself through the glass. spreading over the tunnel walls like old pickle jam on toast (swoosh-swoosh!). two swift strokes.

i go to the university one person, and come back another. there is always something changed. something snapped. something enlightened. something apprehended. something made slower. something made faster. something new, something dying. i can barely carry myself whole through a single day.  and then there is the walk through your street.

i cover it in a minute and 54 seconds precise. not only because it stinks like a horse lying dead on his own horseshit, but perhaps because i am so sure of where to go.  and then i suppose we over-wore each other like the socks. we began to get undone at the heels. our colour began to come off. we ran out of positions. to watch movies. we ran out of lives to give away. the tea stall outside the astha kunj park across an ugly building in nehru place was the last of one hundred and twenty places and things that pirouette in my head when I take notes on Raymond Williams in the class.

you cannot possibly read a book over and over again; at least not in the same way. i suppose two people exhaust each other after a while. we just drag along old interpretations with a haggard man’s heart. walk into each others lives with a blind man’s precision. old buildings thunder with the footsteps of nostalgia at night. after a long day of braving the wreckage of time.

But,
breathe into my hands
so my fingers can exhale
in yours and when you
curl away from me to
make way for departures,
you find yourself caught in my spiderwebs.

do the stones we keep
on our hearts, make
stones of our heart?
I suppose not.
our hearts explode
like a river from a glacier,
mocking these trivialities.

 

 

 

 

 

nature’s outlaw

Knives hurt less, you were a double-edged sword.

i took down all the clocks, i wrecked the windows,
i drank off the icicles guesting on the thatched roof of my shanty heart,
i walked backwards, i slept upside down, I ate my own words,
so we could love.
you gave me signs, you were nature’s outlaw.
you were the marauding storm, pregnant with homesickness,
you carried desire and death. I should have stayed inside.
you came back again,

offered an apology, more desire and more death,
brought remains from your ravages so we could rebuild;
you promised that this time you’ll ransack at night
without noise,
you pleaded I won’t know of it at all;
you tucked your head inside my belly
and hung lose on my spine,
you cried,
‘I am sorry,
I can’t help it’.

you perched on the sickly marbled portico,
and gaily spread all your loot before a garden weeded with flowers,
I couldn’t choose what you’d use
this time.

you promised it won’t be like last time,
it won’t be exactly like last time. you laughed
and raised your fists, ‘these are big boys now’.
i believed you,

you don’t walk the same street twice.
so you entered from the back door
and this time, you made blue marks on my flesh
because you had learnt my maps so well.

and struck at the right places for not forgiving you
even when you apologised. you called me weak, ungrateful.
you stripped my skin like I was a snake and my skin could be stripped,
and dragged it on the streets for you could not afford to walk without me.
you had to carry something that belonged to me.
I have marred your life, even as you plundered mine.
snakes know how to grow new skins,
but which ever you street you go, the trail of my blood follows you.

even when you apologised.

First, they loot,
and then call us poor.

 

 

Paper boats

//don’t be a paper boat,

paper boats tend to take in
more water than is allowed
by principles of physics,
so they drown on the insides
first, before they can tell themselves
dry up, honey, dry up,
there’s a lighthouse to reach,
there’s a lifejacket there,
there’s a harbour waiting.
don’t be a storm,
storms are known to have killed a lot of paper boats.

you could be water,
that doesn’t kill those who know how to stay afloat.

you could be the lighthouse,
that doesn’t care if its light reaches those who don’t deserve it.

know
that the opposite of fragile is strong, not cruelty.

know
that the fire you used to burn your bridges
can burn you, or light your way.