The closer you get…



“Should we go outside?”

“But it’s snowing out there, hon. We’ll freeze!”

“Yeah, but it feels more Christmas-y outside.”

“What? How?”

“The fairy lights. They glow like fireflies, like a portal to another world. ”

“Sigh. Poets! Okay, but you better hope I don’t catch a cold in this alternate reality.”

Most lessons from school have been completely forgotten, but some tidbits persist. Some inexplicably random memories floating weightlessly in a crevice of the mind. Like a short story in Hindi class (or was it Gujarati?) that taught us to counter evil acts with kindness, repeatedly if necessary. Like a Sanskrit adage that translated to “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The latter rang true in my life every now and then, the first time perhaps when I became college roommates with my best friend from school. I’ve come to realize now that proximity, too, has the same effect.

Have you ever noticed how fairy lights look magical from a café’s window – almost as if the spirit of Christmas itself has manifested as a bunch of fireflies. But the moment you go outside, to have a seat under the dim lighting that promised to cast a gentle holiday glow on the soul, they lose their sheen. You start to notice little details – the one or two erratic bulbs that flicker, the flimsy wire that holds them together – invisible from across a window but now, up close, louder than the lights themselves, the potted roots of the miniature tree they entwine and its stunted fate. It’s almost as if the flaws magnify, like this café wasn’t even a good idea. Unless…

Ah! Look at those cheesecakes inside. They look soft as clouds, and the chocolate fountain sprouts ecstasy in reckless abandon! Besides, the old woman wearing the hat at the far end looks like a witch right out of Hogwarts…

“Can we go inside, love? Near the cakes? They look like they were delivered from heaven’s own little patisserie!”

“This is exactly why we don’t do date nights.”





Sit with me
Feast on my soul,
All its trap doors,
Creaky wooden floors,
Almirahs of lust,
The attic and its ghost,
Sealed windows –
Stained by the rain
Of yesteryear.
A forgotten pain
I’m here. I’m here.
I will always be

~ Sumeet Keswani

The poetry of smudged kohl



Dear stranger who can’t decide what to order,

Your face was evocative of an autumn, wild orange, unapologetic in its eloquence. It hosted your life story, in large, lucid letters. If only I could read the language, I’d have savored the poetry of raindrops in your smudged kohl, memorized the tombstones of kisses on your cheeks and listened to the childhood tales that constellations of freckles told. Instead, I just mumbled, “Their muffins are the best.”

When you looked in my unsure eyes with yours, the hue of coffee beans and dark chocolate, i knew the memory of that moment would keep me warm for many winters to come. You asked me nothing; the questions, formless and wordless, washed up on your shores, helpless against the tides of a thought long forgotten. I never offered any answers; you fetched them, effortlessly picking out the lies from the uncomfortable confessions of my silence.

We sat at the same table, never faking a courtesy. What did we talk about? I can’t quite recall. I was lost in the way your eyes lit up every few minutes, the way you held a smirk when you thought you had me figured, the way you trembled when you realized i had dug out more truths than you had dared reveal in years, the way your gaze swayed every time you knew i was reading you, the way it returned with a knowing smile. I could feel it on me while i stirred whirlpools in my coffee, and when my thoughts wandered out the cafe window to fetch memories from lost cities.

Our thoughts jammed like a college rock band, at first trying out covers, and then some original tunes magically fell in place. You believed in zodiacs; I said there couldn’t be just 12 kinds of people on earth. We agreed to disagree, and I reluctantly told you mine, half fearing I’d be a sign you don’t like. Who knew we’d have the same sun sign and I’d almost instantly regret the rant against astrology.

When we parted, there were no promises of another morning of caffeinated conversation, only a hope that you would reach out some day to the boy who steals your thoughts. I told you i’d look forward to it. I do.

– The boy who drops his change