That hair! That mass of black, curly, coarse hair, held tightly together by a simple rubber band. Where, when did I see it last?

“I can help the next one in line here!”

The farewell party? Or, the airport? No, it must be at her wedding. Wait, I wasn’t even in Bangalore then. Mani’s place?

“Miss?”
“Oh yes, sorry, I was… can I get a veggie burrito?”
“For here or to-go?”
“To-go, please”

It has been a long time in any case. Did I expect it to change, look different? How can I when it never occurred to me till this moment? I have a very carefully pruned memory of those three years. Don’t we discard the weight of a yesterday that does not flatter today?

“That will be six dollars and thirty five cents.” “Credit or debit?”
“Credit”

She will be out of the restroom any minute now. The veggie burrito is still waiting patiently behind a beef taco bowl ponderous with guacamole which will take its time to be wrapped.

“Oh-kay, will you sign this for me, please.” It wasn’t a question.
“Here. Thanks!”
“You have a nice day!”
“You too.”

Her eyes will widen in a familiar sense of surprise when she notices. It’s not a surprise of the place or the event of such a chance meeting, but the time. She will exclaim at the years that went by without a sign of communication. She will not reach out to hug, it was never the chosen expression of affection. She will be married, of course. She will cheerfully inquire why she was not invited for mine. All the while maintaining a steady conversation in English, which never happened before.

“Veggie burrito to-go.”
“Thank you!”

Maybe not today.
Where are those keys? I’d slipped them into the handbag while crossing the street. Did they fall down instead? Not in the pockets of my jeans, there’s room enough for a dollar bill at best there. Would someone have picked them up? They might be lying on the street somewhere. How did I lose them again?

“Miss!”
“Are these yours?”
“Oh! Thank you so much! I was just … thank you!”
“Hey, no sweat!”
“Thanks!”

“Don’t tell me! Is that…? Been so long since I …”

The first thing she sees is a dirty old paint can, rusty with age and sun. Someone stuck a yellow post-it on its rim with u-m-b-r-e-l-l-a-s written in black bold letters. The incessant drizzle washed the arrow they drew pointing downwards away to a faint shadow. Carefully lowering her small, inadequate umbrella she steps inside the cold hallway. There was a long line of people waiting in that small office; the last woman was standing with one foot on the dank carpet and the other on the hallway’s wet cement. She lowers her umbrella into the can and quietly steps behind the woman. The baby notices her anyway. Nestled in a bright blue sling that the woman had on, it was the only one around that looked comfortably warm. It had matching blue eyes! Perhaps the sling was bought because of that. She had its full attention. The tiny gurgling noises it was making made her frown and then take a step back. Babies or anything that size are appealing, nonetheless they should carry a statutory warning: ‘Handle with care. This schmaltzy image will self-destruct in thirty seconds. In case of any sound, smell, or sight of liquids, please inform the parent immediately.’ On cue, it stopped making those noises and the tiny mouth formed a perfect, wet O. Uh-oh! Silence is not good. She looks up at the woman only to find her engrossed in the big package she is juggling along with her cavernous bag. Not to mention the baby. For a moment there, she was amazed at how straight and neat her blond hair was. Even from her profile view she could see that the lip-gloss and mascara were applied diligently. Never the one to lose eye-contact so quickly, the baby gave his sling a kick and said, ‘da!’ This time the woman looked down, one beringed hand swiftly cupping the baby’s head. She reached into her knapsack in the same thoughtless, instinctual way for her camera. But that was it, she didn’t take it out. She was all too aware of persnickety parents in this part of the world. Apparently content with the attention received, it turned the blue gaze onto the nearby heap of red and green gift wrappers. Its round white head wobbling characteristically. She was tempted to give a light tap to it to see if wobbled again but knew the thought to be rather devious for articulation. As if the thought translated itself in thin air, the woman turned around to see her. She smiled; the same innocuous, vacant smile one sees everywhere. She had a crazy thought that maybe while people see someone in their dreams, their sleepy brains would still manage that ghostly smile. The woman had turned around to move forward in the line which had turned rather short with just an old man in a long raincoat for company. The three of them waited as the short man behind the counter slid a credit card in for the umpteenth time this day. ‘Next!’ As the old man hobbled over the yellow wait line drawn across the room, she gave a start remembering the stack of postcards. They were left on the worn wooden table of the crepes place she caught a hurried snack at. Sending one short, angry glance the baby’s way, she ran out into the incessant drizzle.

The arrow was now washed away into oblivion.

Conversations end, traffic clogs up, tears stream down, shop windows beckon, tea steams up, batteries die, oatmeal congeals, winter coats stink, a hug waits, nails break, books forgotten, trains late, smiles welt, and emails pout.

Things are happening all around me. I’ve been lazy. Perhaps life needs some help.

I am a cat; I will land on my feet. Always.

So here’s the deal: One story every day. Or, maybe every week. Oh, well. Let’s see.

gulmohar

For the love of Gukmohar
Single-colour silkscreen (124 mesh)

Gulmohar (Delonix Regia) and tree (imaginanex)

hibiscus

tree

I’ve been doodling on coffee shop tissue papers for a while (maybe, I should put those weird things up?) and have recently started using ink. I love the tiny metal case with nibs in them and those round ink bottles.

Wondering if I should get some charcoal and carbon now…

मुझ से पेहली सी मोहब्बत

मुझ से पेहली सी मोहब्बत मेरे महबूब न मांग

मैंने समझा था की तू है तो दरख्शां है हयात

तेरा ग़म है तो ग़म-ऐ-देहर का झगडा क्या है

तेरी सूरत से है आलम में बहारों को सबात

तेरी आँखों के सिवा दुनिया में रखा क्या हैं

तू जो मिल जाए तो तकदीर निगूं हो जाए

यूँ न था मैंने फ़क़त चाहा था यूँ हो जाए

और भी दुःख हैं ज़माने में मोहब्बत के सिवा

राहतें और भी हैं वस्ल की राहत के सिवा

अनगिनत सदियों के तारीक बहिमान तलिस्म

रेशम-ओ-अतलस-ओ-कमख्वाब में बुनवाये हुए

जा-बा-जा बिकते हुए कूचा-ओ-बाज़ार में जिस्म

खाख में लिथडे हुए खून में नहलाये हुए जिस्म

निकाले हुए अमराज़ के तन्नूरों से

पीप बहाती हुई गलते हुए नासूरून से

लौट जाती हैं उधर को भी नज़र क्या कीजे

अब भी दिलकश है तेरा हुस्न मगर क्या कीजे

और भी दुःख हैं ज़माने में मोहब्बत के सिवा

राहतें और भी हैं वस्ल की राहत के सिवा

मुझ से पेहली सी मोहब्बत मेरे महबूब न मांग

[Source]

Noor Jehan’s rendition

Translation on OldPoetry

Dont ask me for the same love, my sweetheart
I thought that life was radiant because of you
Why complain of worldly woes, once in your love-affliction
Your countenance brings eternity to the youth of spring
What else is there in the world but for the beauty of your eyes
If you were mine, my destiny would surrender to me

This was not so, only my wish for it to be
There are sufferings in the world other than the suffering of love
There are pleasures other than the delight of our union

Dark, heinous spells of uncountable centuries.
Woven into rich silk and precious brocades
being sold in every corner, bodies,
covered in dirt, drenched in blood.
Bodies, burning in hot ovens of disease
Pus seeping from open, lacerating wounds.

My sight returns to this as well, I am helpless
Your beauty is heart-warming still, but I am helpless

There are sufferings in the world other than the suffering of love
There are pleasures other than the delight of our union
Dont ask me for the same love, my sweetheart!

“…Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Hibernating-for-the-last-ten-years boho with an ironic smile: Internet?? Wasn’t there a TV address, you know, the PM sits against a dark background with a desk infront…

Wise Ass: TV?? Wotdafukizdat? Oh wait, you don’t even know it’s ‘President’ and not ‘PM.’ Jeez, where did you drop from anyway, man?