Friday, 23 September 2016

The Call

Dedicated to that special friend who is going away

'There is something deeper than love, something which seeks me, or rather calls me onto it. I'm powerless against it, I'm too weak to fight it away!'

Frost covered all around like cold wildflowers. It was like spring, without colors, without scent, without life. Thinking about it now, I do not know if such a spring exists, but something in her voice kept on re-affirming me that it did.

'What normal people call their destiny, and what I define as my call, that vision which troubles us in sleep, which makes us fight insurmountable obstacles. I should not be sacrificing it for love.' 

'But what are calls Ruya?' I protested 'What is this destiny other than what we experience, what attracts us amongst what we see? Ain't it all a large collection of ideologies which we gathered through our childhood, adolescence and teenage? Ain't it all things we allowed to settle inside, is it not our creation?'

Cold was stabbing my throat with every word I spoke. From grand distances and time light visited us as twinkling spots, somehow it never appealed to me that night. Nor did swaying boats in the horizon which was seeking its own destiny.

'You're right. We create it, we create that call with our thoughts, the words we read, the roads we traveled and the nights we spend sleepless.' Ruya took a deep breath and continued 'But does that make any difference?'

There was this familiar feeling of life slipping away through my fingers, my breathing grew untame and my mind grew restless. I should not let her leave, I thought, not with what we had until now. Not with those nights where she narrates stories of dying stars and evolving life, not with her gentle moans and reassuring smiles, not with her bewilderment, her confusions, her curiosities and her madness. I've grown to need it somberly, like how nocturnal beings need darkness.

'But I love you, and you know how desperate I am'

'You love yourself, Anand' Ruya laughed 'Like all beings, you love how I make you feel, you love that feeling of love inside you, you love yourself inside this space-time where we exist holding each other's hands!'

I grew silent. I felt the frost enveloping me, eating into my sustenance, punishing me everytime I spoke. I was beginning; to conform, to let it devour me in its eloquence, to be a part of the lifeless spring, to die cold and alone like all beings.

'We are strange creatures Anand, and rare ones too.' Ruya pulled me close 'Our journey is not only through space or time but through intelligence. We are in motion, we are forever becoming. Do you know how butterflies migrate? Those who begin the process of migration never reach its destination, they always die in between. We are also the same, but that doesn't mean we should stop moving'

I pulled away from her hands and touched the Earth. It was cold and dead, and yet it was in motion. It would continue to move for eternities more. Life may collpase, stars would die, everything may shoot inwards into a singularity but then everything will again be reborn. That is the cyclicity of the universe, that is the only truth. What is an Anand in that great cycle, what is a Ruya? What is it that we gain by holding hands? What is it that we gain by letting go?

'Ruya, will it make you happy?' I asked.

'I do not know, but it would make me satisfied' she said.

'Go!' I said. No tears rolled down my eyes, no great weight burdened my mind.

She pulled up her sleeves, gave me her longest kiss and asked me to stay sane. I laughed cause what all are we but an insane collection of random particles condemned to live a life of sanity. I looked at her walking away, stars shining inside the folds of her hair and a dark red moon igniting her body, I realized then that some people find their insanities while others forcefully forgets it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016


It was during a spring 15 years back, when Salim had announced that the only way to drink alcohol was to let it slowly clutch him towards death and when Matthew would realize that God was being ceaselessly raped by his knowledge, that I began going out with Nasrin. Married for more than 20 years and still not bestowed with the subtleties and intricacies of motherhood, I’ve got to admit I was more or less certain that she would fall for my gutsy literature and riotous mood swings. And during those times, gripped with the fantasies of love and encouraged by the energies of drugs, life was indeed a spontaneous and ceaselessly blossoming adventure.

“You’re mad Anand! She is at least 15 years older than you!” was what Matthew had to say. “Bring her over for a peg” was Salim’s ardent yearning.


Nasrin was a strange human being, and with my genuine affiliation to everything even slightly strange, Nasrin assumed a certain level of exaltation which was never overpowered by any subsequent relation. She was intrigued about the world and was inspired by the poetry of Neruda, she was bisexual and wrote about the beauty of loving people without barriers of gender, she was living with her husband and yet would land in my apartment every single day without shackles of time or guilt.

“You make love with the thirst of a wounded slave who is given a bottle of rum to savor before death!” Nasrin once said, and I kept using the same words over and over to muse people who were covertly interested in our strange relationship. The fact was that the thirst was equally reflected in her eyes and constantly seeped out from her sweat as we lay naked night after night, singing sonnets of Neruda and making love like wild dogs.

And the poems I wrote during those times marked a generous shift from pains empathetic poets enforced upon themselves to beautify their writing, to a more heart-ful and ardent yearning to fulfill the passionate cries of my heart.

‘Storm, dark and dangerous, I wrote back then,
Shelters your nudity,
Whilst I stretch my arms
around you,
It devours me and spins me off control,
How difficult it is to love you,
How difficult it is to love your storm.’

I particularly remember this poem because she replied to it with a word that came to her during her travels.

‘Onsra!’ she said ‘Is a feeling, a mixture of pain and undying emotion where you know the love you have would not last the rains of tomorrow, yet you have no option but to walk into it today!’


Matthew would call Nasrin as ‘the dark red spring of my life which bloomed late’; in fact he was so impressed by her assiduity to all forms of dissent that they became close comrades in their day-to-day revolution.

“Everything about the Capitalist system enslaves human potential, and it is pathetic that political parties which ideologically favor Communism or Marxism have over the years conformed much to the system and became slaves themselves. This is to say freedom is everything for a human being or a human organization”, I once heard Nasrin say.

“Freedom is indeed everything. Perhaps all the more we need freedom to think our own thoughts”, Matthew then replied, “Our thoughts today are shaped by larger-than-life news anchors and venom spitting communalists acting like they are demi-Gods and shouting that they are common man’s consciousness while all they have been are paid workers of the system who has absolutely no control of what they vomit out of their mouths or shit out of their Capitalist arse!”

In between these conversations Salim and I floated in a world abound with some sort of poison or the other. 
“Guys, I have been free all my life”, Salim said then, “But then they invented alcohol and I couldn’t help but fall in love!”

“And that love is killing you dammit!” Nasrin shouted

“Ain’t all love meant to kill us?” Salim laughed.

Nasrin threw a glance at me, I twitched. There was a deepening amor between us with every peg we had, and years later when I look back, those days shaped the words that I throw around today.


When Nasrin said she was pregnant, the first thing that crossed my head was an uncontrollable guilt followed by a persistent image of her feeding a newborn with her sagging breasts marked with spots of red where I tried to seek pleasure, it still visits me as nightmares on nights when I do not have the motivation to even close my eyes.

“We could try for an abortion” I finally said.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Anand?” she burst with anger “All my life Jemal and I have been waiting. 20 years Anand, 20 fucking years! I’d talk to Jemal, I need this child.”

“Are you insane? He’d kill us both!”

“I don’t care. I love him, I love him the same way I love you, perhaps a little more. And I am sure he would recognize it!” she replied.

“Do you believe in that? Do you believe he could forgive you that easily?”

“I believe in him, I believe in his love. I believe in love generally!” she smiled and looked hard into my eyes, holding my hands she asked, “Would you come with me? We could clear everything out.”

I was uncertain, uncertain about Jemal and the idealism love brought into Nasrin. She claimed that she shared her bisexual adventures with Jemal and all he did was slap her hard in the face and everything was back to ‘normal’. ‘But having a child of another man wasn’t the same thing’ I thought.

“If you are to say it to him, you’d say it with me by your side” I promised.

Love was to her
a covert fascination,
a passion, boundless inspiration.
It filled her with vitality,
It graced her with lust,
She searched for it among all,
She searched for it in her soul!


Jemal was everything that Nasrin was not. A hard-skinned, poker-faced, intensely masculine human being who supposedly walked the Earth through the grace of Allah.

“I need the child, don’t you need it too Jemal?” Nasrin pleaded.

“Ask this Himar to fuck off from here!” he shouted.

“I’m sorry Jemal, I’m sorry for everything. We could live a life from here Jemal. We could forget everything and begin anew!”

Jemal was eyeing me up and possibly thinking which part of my body once attacked will hurt me the most. I was ready.

“Nasrin” Jemal looked at her and his eyes grew moist “I’ve loved you all my life, and this is what I get in return!”

He reached out and she fell into his arms like a scared lamb. He held her close, perhaps closer than he would have ever held her. Just then I saw his face growing red and he raced into the kitchen, came out with a large knife, held it tight and gave me a poignant glance. I took a few steps back and prepared mentally on how to handle the towering figure of Jemal.

He turned to me and for a moment I thought he was smiling, but turned back again and dug the knife into Nasrin’s stomach. I heard a low moan emanating from the place where she stood and felt her voice crack. She desperately tried to make her eyes meet mine while I fought on to escape from the obligation. I froze; there was a reminiscent passion hiding somewhere within her and perhaps a faint hope that I would rescue her from her suffering. I could only watch on as Jemal pulled the knife back and dug it deeper. I heard the suppressed cries of our progeny - a collection of random particles granted the rare capability to think, but whose unfortunate point of occurrence ate into the dreams she would have seen, the places where she would have been, the ideologies she would have stood for and the poems she would have written.

Her moans gradually receded, Jemal walked towards me, handed me the knife and cried. “Kill me”, he was saying, “Release me!”


Salim succumbed to a failed liver the past week. Going through his literature which was always shunted by his relentless devotion to alcohol, I found a piece which talked about Nasrin like ‘a bottle of Rum, uncapped and for anyone to drink’ and her love, ‘like luscious poison which you cannot refrain from tasting!’

Matthew and I still talk about her, the spring she carried with her everywhere and how she would think things no man would dare to. Perhaps that was what springs were all about, a violent throw of strange colors which is bound to pass with time, replaced by monotony and blandness.

I have heard from acquaintances that Jemal took to religion with fervor and is presently living as an ascetic Sufi who supposedly has a strange craving for passionate Qawwali music, though from that day when he broke apart in front of me I have never seen him in person.

For me, Nasrin disturbs my sleep every night. She was indeed a very strange human being. She could’ve ended it all with a safe abortion but she took the chance. She was a strange human being because her love was sanguine and its flow was not meant to be reduced to a single sink. She was that dark red spring whose memories still blossom within me. She was that uncapped bottle of rum whose poison made me dream. She was that dark and dangerous storm which hesitantly subsided before me and whose memories lead me into that apartment, where I sat watching the flow of her blood, unlike her love, spreading strenuously along the floor.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Yearning

Cigarette buds keep piling on in the ash tray,
Words without meanings dance merrily inside my head
Carrying a commotion of dark red flags between you and me,
There is happiness among them, their laughs are inaudible yet visible,
I wave for you to notice me,
The flags pass, the words dissolve,
You look at me and I continue to wave,
Your eyes do not light up, your face do not bring that familiar smile,
You walk away leaving me adrift and alone,
Cigarette buds keep piling on in the ash tray,
And I continue to wave.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Walk

Receding lights of the day stabs me as
I prepare for my final walk,
The glass of milk you saved for me,
Will remain on my table untouched,
Words, what remains to be read and what I wrote,
Will lie beside my armchair, you can read it if you want to,
Clothes which you bought for me,
Will rest carefully folded and still novel,
I will not need them and never did,
I will take the blanket which you used to keep in my bed,
I would need it to break the cold; both on the inside and out.

The Sun sets in the horizon, I must begin,
When I walk away, I will not look back,
Because your thoughts, it might still pull me behind.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


“What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and how you remember it.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


It was since last spring that Samira’s memories were being eaten down by her disease with a grave vengeance. I remember  that day vividly, I was back home from another grueling day of work, knocked on the door more than 10 times and looked through the window to see her staring timidly at the door knob.

‘I forgot how to open this thing!’ she said with a laugh.


I fell in love with her laugh. I fell in love with the innocence of it. I fell in love with the way it repetitively defeated my depressions. When I said I loved her I knew the repercussions. I knew how a group of people, united by a subservient attitude to a set of unwritten rules, would react to the idea of us, two women, sharing a life. For them my love, our love would always be secondary compared to our identities granted down by birth. And when we began our life together, we were a bright spot of paint on their colourless thoughts, the mere existence of which may reconsider an ardent viewer to paint thoughts more colourfully. So they dejected us because we could defeat them, so they mocked us because we were beautiful, so they shied away because we were perfect!
Yet, as I remember her laugh as she kept staring at the knob, I could feel a certain pain. Because faintly yet certainly, every stroke of colour with which we painted our lives were now being washed away with time.

‘Aditi, when did you put up these? Who took it? My, they are lovely!’ she asked me looking at the photographs that detailed her room.

‘You know what I love about the photographer in you?’ she once said when she was drunk. ‘You tend to capture more emotions than colours!’

Perhaps that was the greatest compliment I ever received from the only person who have seen every one of my photographs. And then there was this image of her in front of me today; her skin folding everywhere, her cheeks, which I used to suckle, growing inwards and her eyes devoid of stories. She watched in awe at the photographs, as she began to relive them all over again.


She was patient when I said I loved her. She was as calm as a tree. Breathing in all that I breathe out and giving me my sustenance instead. There was this insanity amidst the calm which only I could decipher. Her craze for travels, her fear of not living life fully, her words with which she created a world of illusions.

‘..for life is something we interpret, not something that is as it is. Perhaps this is why our realities are different and our meanings of life so extreme that you could see a person seeing red as a rose in a lover’s hand and another as his blood which boils in revolt..’

I remember that night when she wrote these words and pulling me up to show me what she has written.

‘To hell with you Samira, it is 3 in the morning and I don’t understand a word!’ I said then. And it took me almost 30 years to understand the fact that life is indeed the way we interpret it to be.

She was defined by her insanities. It was her insanities which would define me too. For the travels we’ve been on created the photographer that I am today, the words she had written enriched my passions and the dreams which she shared made me a much better person.


She was holding a pen in her hands. It was years since I last saw the same. I waited, patiently, for her to write. She was smiling, rather displaying a naughty grin. She spoke very little these days and was almost always lost in thoughts. I tend to believe that she was recollecting all the years of madness we’ve been on, and was perhaps losing trail in between. I watched how her pen traced something on the folds of that paper, and I desperately prayed for it to be something with meaning. She stopped suddenly, looked up at me and stood blank. She didn’t come up to me and show me what she had written. Maybe, in those passing moments she was slowly beginning to forget me too.


‘Aditi!’ she called out as I was cleaning the mess she made as she forgot to go to toilet. ‘There is a lake by our old apartment where we used to sit every evening. You remember?’

I was taken aback by her sudden remembrance. ‘Yes! Do you want to go there?’

‘Yes!’ she said.

The lake was pleasant and by its shores numerous stories nestled restlessly. They were all waiting for Samira, they were all waiting for me, they were all waiting for us. But we never met them that day. We looked silently at how the lake, like every other thing around us had outgrown its due date. She was polluted, crippled by weeds and plants, choked out of its life by an encroaching city. There were fishes leaping out of the water and a couple of kingfishers waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I took out my camera, steadied it as one of the kingfishers dived into the lake and came up with her priced catch. Shutters of my camera clicked almost in the same instant and all the colours of that evening was devoured into a small little card which kept all memories.

‘Show me the photo’ Samira said and watched the image closely.

‘This photograph, it presents two conflicting emotions’ she said in a serious tone.

‘First, the kingfisher comes up after her successful hunting expedition, captures what she was looking for and holds it closely not to let it slip.’ I nodded in acceptance.

‘The next is of the fish. Clearly, she doesn’t like the prospect of being caught by this kingfisher and is trying to slip away.’ I smiled. Ever since her disease began haplessly eating over her it was only now that I heard her speak such genuine philosophies.

‘You know what?’ she continued, ‘I don’t think the fish will escape!’

And she slowly gave the camera back and stared at the lake. The kingfishers had flown away. The lake was calm and Samira was even calmer. I hugged her, and pulled her close. All the while the stories which nestled upon the shores remained there, untouched.

Monday, 1 February 2016

From Swayamvar to Honor Killing - An Essay

15 June 2007. After testifying before court that they had married in conformity with the law, Manoj and Babli, a couple whose marriage was not accepted by their village’s Khap Panchayat, asked for police protection as they decided to move to Chandigarh. The same day saw police officers assigned to protect them stranding them midway, their relatives kidnapping them and feeding Babli with pesticide while choking Manoj to death. And the only mistake they did was they loved each other.

We were not a society which believed in murder as a resort to any evil. We were not a society which believed in differences among people. And we were most certainly not a society which discriminated between men and women. Consider Swayamvar, the ceremonious and sacrosanct act of a bride choosing her apt groom. It was perhaps one of the earliest rituals practiced in our country, one whose prevalence was seen in epic works such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which dates back to the era before Christ. The mere conduct of providing freedom for a bride to choose the person with whom she should live out her life was considered a genuine priority back then. But those quintessential practices have rather worn out as time passed. Today, when 21st century India is in a path of economic catapults, the freedom of Indian women remains vague.
Withdrawing from our traditions of granting freedom to women we are now drawing veils of darkness over them, the most savage example being those of honor killing. Honor killing is certainly the most stirring and deeply disturbing form of violence practiced in contemporary society. The term broadly deals with the murder of a family member who is considered to have brought dishonor to the family. Even though the definition gives a certain scope of both men and women being victims of violence, as the case of Manoj and Babli shows, it is a genuine matter of concern that it is mostly women who fall into the ambit of this crime.

The historical depth of honor killing goes back to ancient Rome where men had complete control by law and custom to check and control the activities of women and children in their family. Many a times the lives of women and children were at the discretion of male members of the family and instances abound of them utilizing these stray powers. Chinese, Aztecs and Incas empires also resorted to killing as a punishment for adultery. An Amnesty International statement on the historical context of honor killings was drafted quite vehemently:
‘The mere perception that a woman has contravened the code of sexual behavior damages honor. The regime of honor is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman.’

Even though medieval Indian history was rather devoid of honor killings, we now witness a scenario wherein one out of five cases of honor killings reported worldwide is from India and most of the victims are indeed women.
What happened to our previous notions of regarding women with respect? Are we deteriorating as a society in how we look at our female half? These questions will loom ever more as cases of honor killing keeps coming up. Currently we see it showing no definitive differentiation between rural and urban India as cases are being reported extensively from cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow. Southern India which seemed rather bereft of such cases is now repeatedly showing that it is very much culpable to honor killings while Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are found to be in the forefront of this shameful crime. In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honor killings among some ethnic groups in North India whose activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honor killings in rural areas of the North. Yet the picture is in no way perfect which was visible with the Supreme Court of India demanding responses about honor killing prevention from the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in June 2010 as instances of violence became frequent. The same year saw the government planning to introduce a deterrent bill against the same but as of now nobody has any idea how the bill was muted down. To arrive at any clear solutions we first need to understand some basic features of this crime.

Looking at the history of killings carried out to uphold family honor in India, we clearly see an intrinsic patriarchy which hides itself ever so well within the crime. It is an unspecified rule in most families that the responsibility to preserve honor entirely lies within the hands of women, and men is free of any such burden. Our daughters and sisters are threatened with force and moral suasion to choose a ‘right’ life partner, and any deviation she makes for her love finds herself in dark prisms of adultery. Clearly, honor killings follows suite of male chauvinism which is nurtured generation after generation in our country.
Another interesting fact is that most cases clearly arise due to caste differences (inter and intra caste relationships) and other cultural and religious dogmas. Recent cases have clearly shown there is no respite of caste related violence and Ambedkarian notion of ‘veritable chamber of horrors’ still parasitically holds onto our society. From a casual matrimonial advertisement inviting caste specific proposals to killing a kin who married from another caste, the distance may be extreme but the core is the same.
It is also frightening to think of the authority and the misuse of that authority by institutions like Khap panchayats which contributes to the continuance of discriminatory rituals, most of which are enforced violently. A rough evaluation shows that half of the cases of honor killings happen through the order of such illegal bodies which holds a certain moral command over villages of the North.
The time for us has come and gone to have a drastic revolutionary movement against these evils, but our demographics and vote bank politics continues to keep us in the dark.

Clearly caste related issues and patriarchy forms the base for honor killings through which almost 1000 victims are being claimed every year from India. The path ahead is difficult and long, but we must move on. A four point principle should be rolled into action by government and society alike which includes:
Change in Mentality specifically within ourselves and society as a whole. We should de-link the notion of associating honor with sexuality. For this on a personal level, developing a certain empathy and understanding would serve us good while transmitting the same on a societal level requires some effort. It poses a very good opportunity for the young generation to assume command over the issue and lead the way for others to follow.
Stricter laws against those who practice such atrocities should be brought out as soon as possible. The Honor Killing deterrent Bill should be brought for discussion in the Parliament. It is also important that illegal authorities like Khap panchayats is brought within the ambit of this law.
Casteism should be broken down gradually. Caste related crimes should be clearly identified and tackled specifically. There is a developing trend that most caste based killings are classified as mere acts of murder and is not treated through Prevention of Atrocities Act. Identification of crimes and stringent classification of crimes should be made by the judiciary so that every crime receives its specified punishment.
Spreading awareness on the same through public funding will go a long way in a society which at times fails to judge by itself on what is right and what is wrong. No action of violence is ever justified, and it is important that such a message reaches every last person of our country.

The Constitution of India, in all its Nehruvian idealism and Ambedkarite vision, provides life and liberty as a fundamental right. This automatically asserts the fact that under the rule of the land, no person is given any specific command at any point of time to claim another person’s life. For once it is just a matter of looking back over the years and drawing inspiration from ceremonies like Swayamvar which granted a certain liberty to women. The onus is in every one of us, as responsible citizens of a culturally diverse country seeking unity and harmony, to uphold the liberal outlook of our visionary leaders and to eliminate outwardly nefarious acts like honor killing.

Monday, 14 December 2015


Stars studded on your hair
Guides me through seas of despair,
Winds which graze your face
Blows past me bleak.

Freya. Light! Love! My life!
Night grows around me,
Your love holds me deep,
Free me from your rune!

Searching - I've grown old,
Words slip out cold,
And I swim towards you,
On and on and on!

Freya. Find me. Hold me.
Free me from your rune!

Dreams push me down,
Its weight make me breathless,
I crawl onto you
And you slip far away.

Freya. Light! Love! My life!
Silence cripples me,
Your love makes me survive,
Hold me close and never let go.

Lonely- I've grown cold,
Searched for you, never found,
Still I swim towards you,
On and on and on!

Freya. Blunt me. Daze me.
Free me from your rune!

How far away is your light?
How much more should I try?
Gently it fades away,
And I fall apart.

Freya. Light! Love! My life!
Fear grips me tonight.
Pull me out of my woe,
Come. Save me!

Forlorn - I'm numb,
I will wait forever,
And keep swimming,
On and on and on!

Freya. Kill me. Possess me.
Free me from your rune!