Paris, mon amour

So here I am

Leaving you behind –

The train lifts its skirt and runs

Before I can change my mind –

Wondering who,

If anyone, can ever conquer

This memory of you.

 

I’d stay and save

Myself the mediocrity.

If you’d let me have

You for eternity.

But you’re a fickle lover,

O Paris, mon amour,

Let’s not linger

On this goodbye.

My time is up! Au revoir!

 

The canals in the new town

Reflect my parting blues;

In a concert of cities

Who would want to follow you?

O Paris, mon amour,

Let’s not fake niceties now.

It’s not me. It is You.

 

You invited me over

For a drink or two;

Before night fell, I was in love,

You had had your someone new.

I was never the only one,

This much I knew.

Your streets are full of lovers gone mad

Artists, they call them,

Victims of cobbled-street voodoo.

O Paris, mon amour,

Let me go

Before I’m a prisoner, too.

 

No corner cafe will ever smell the same

The streets won’t sing again

Church bells will never promise

The stunning spell of Notre Dame.

What have you done?

O Paris, ma chérie,

My heart is now a homeless refugee,

My soul is yours to claim.

 

I’ll be back another night

For one more forbidden affair

Between my pen and your rues.

Until then,

O Paris, mon amour,

Grant me this final farewell kiss,

Bid me a fond adieu.

 

 

Longing

cast-away

Rain drapes everything
In a veil of wistful longing,
A yearning for something lost
Many moons ago,

About the same time
Solitude became more
Pleasing than company,
Silence, a friend, and conversation, a woe.

There’s nothing quite as soothing then
As a song on love and its follies,
Windows rolled down, the years fleeting
Amid arrows of melancholy,

Falling.
“I’ll have a cup of tea,
Please. Brewed to a burn-
The skin of lovers put out to sea.”

~Sumeet

Singalila

The rhododendron trail has a roof

Clad in hues

Of departing autumn:

Orange of the maple leaf,

Ever so elegant in its fall;

Green of the magnolia,

Eager to blush at the faintest whispers

Of spring;

The barren have long shed their green

Revealing my winter blues –

An endless playground for wings.

Death is the end, only

If you think it so;

Just ask the tiny oak nut that rebels, 

Plummets, 

And breaches the silence

Of an infinite jungle on tiptoes.

~ Sumeet

The closer you get…

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Fireflies

“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.”

Where Forevers Begin

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I seem to have lost my words;

They left in the middle of the night-

The day I forgot to swallow my blues,

A mouthful of addiction, memories on flight.

 

I seem to have lost my blues;

They left on a train of thought

While I was willfully drowning

In a fight I had never fought:

 

The light of your caramel mornings

Seeping into a world forgot.

 

~ Sumeet Keswani

Silk

What are we
But waves abandoned
On a silken shore,
Feverish in our attempts
To find home.

What is love
But this pristine
Silence
Between vowels frothing
At the lips of nameless lands.

I found mine in you-
The belonging of a nomad
To a castle of sand.

~ Sumeet

Lingering

Cafe

 

Come
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
Lingering.
I’m here. I’m here.
I will always be
Here.


~ Sumeet Keswani

Falling stars

Time

The Stars come falling today,
Humming songs of infinite dark
To a tune of despair,
Lighting up the Sky,
Even if only
In splinters.

“They become Stars,”
Said Mumma of the dead,
Burned to the bone, a lifetime up in smoke.
So she waits –
All of nine –
On blades of green, supine,
Clutching a scarf, half-knit,
And Ted the fearless, cotton canine.

Dusk drowns on the horizon,
Storms are kept at bay;
Night will get a smiling welcome today.
It brings promise, after all,
Of grandma’s twinkling new face.

The Stars come falling today,
Humming songs of infinite dark
To a tune of despair,
Lighting up the sky,
Where Amma now stays.

“Make a wish. It’ll come true,”
Said she, the lover of 19,
By the swaying Ocean and the still Moon.
Laughter stirs his evening Sky –
For love doesn’t heed Meteors,
Nor do goodbyes.

“How could we forget?” “Why did we part?”
“When did forever end?” “When did it start?”
No wishes, just questions today
Greet the cosmic scars.
Light bleeds from where one breaks,
Even if only
For a moment.

The Stars come falling today,
Humming songs of infinite dark
To a tune of despair.
Sing along, the sad and the broken,
For every night faces an inevitable end;
Dawn awaits its turn
‘Round the next bend.

And Now I Let Go

Indulging in some blackout poetry

Indulging in some blackout poetry

And now I forget
Your words to my meanings,
The relish of your language on my tongue,
Mine on yours.

And now I erase
Prose tucked away in the closet,
Rain-kissed pavements I preserved of (y)our town,
Songs of an autumn long gone.

And now i unlearn
What it means to love a poet,
A magician of allegories misspelled,
Written to enchant.

And now I trust
No one but myself
To tell a love story from a plot spin.
One’s forever is another’s whim.

And now I try
To un-love you.
If only I knew;
If only, I were you.

– Sumeet Keswani

Living an ocean-blue dream and capturing it

Have you ever heard the hymn of the sea? Not the emphatic roar of waves that crash recklessly into the dented black of rocks. But the gentle symphony that lives under the turbulent attire of the surface. It’s a singular form of poetry that seeps in through every pore of the skin. Under water, all you hear is the sound of your breath, which leaves a train of bubbles marching to the surface, and the musical silence of deep blue. It’s the closest you can get to entering a wormhole and exploring a whole new reality, where gravity can’t keep you grounded, the senses are crippled, and the surrounding life forms defy all that your eyes have become accustomed to.

The training manual claimed that it’s the most memorable moment for any beginner. But nothing could prepare me for the first time I breathed underwater. A worn, uncomfortable regulator, which I clasped with my reluctant teeth, flushed dry, hollow air into my protesting lungs on demand from a cylinder hung on my back. All that meant nothing the moment I went down into the ocean blue, which I had loved all my life from the safe realms of the shore, and breathed. In that tiny instant, I became part of the ocean and everything that called it home.

Looking for a subject and something called neutral buoyancy. Pic credit: Anurag

Looking for a subject and something called neutral buoyancy. Pic credit: Anurag

One of the many ironies you get introduced to as part of an open water diver in training is the art of sinking yourself on purpose: You tighten a weight belt around your waist to counteract the buoyancy of water and deflate your BCD (buoyancy control device – a jacket that inflates and deflates on the touch of a button). It goes against all instincts of survival, so you train your mind to do it. As you cross the surface line, the lights go out, a blue tint takes over the world, and all your senses panic. It’s a hostile environment you aren’t supposed to inhabit. The steeply rising water pressure hammers your ear drums, so you equalize your air spaces. You’re taught to do this at every count of five. This and a dozen other things that you can’t afford to forget.

I was horrible in the first few confined water dives (shallow water dives). I drank half the ocean and inhaled some of it. But my dive trainer would have none of my skepticism. It was my dream to scuba dive, and he took it upon himself to see me through. In the training module, all sorts of potential situations are simulated and dealt with – you’re asked to flood your mask with ocean water that stings the eyes and drive it out with one swift forceful blow-out; swim 9 metres to the surface in one extended exhale (for an out-of-air scenario); sip on air from a leaking regulator, and more. I overcame one instinct at a time. By the time I reached my open water dives, I was getting a hang of things, and drinking less salt water than before, but hovering mid-water still confounded me. I kept rising or sinking while my patient trainer levitated in a monk-like stance in front of me. It reminded me of a clumsy Po blundering in front of Master Shifu. After all, it takes just an inhale to go up, an exhale to sink, and you can never hold your breath (lest you tear a lung).

In many ways, learning to scuba dive is like learning to walk, or balancing your first bicycle. You see others do it with almost no effort, and wonder why you keep falling and scraping your knees bloody. But once you get the hang of it, it liberates you. You turn directions by merely turning your hips, do somersaults, swim sideways, fin ahead with a superman fist extended, rise with just a breath, plunge with an exhale… you finally have the superpowers you always wanted. My most memorable moment was surfacing from my last training dive with a wide grin and hearing my instructor call me an ‘open water diver’. Or wait, was it the one where i first saw a stingray and swam circles with it? Or was it the moment i swam with a school of yellow snappers who let me into the clan? I can’t possibly choose.

Thank you for capturing me in action, Anurag

Being a photographer, I have an instinct to take pictures of anything wild and exquisite. Naturally, I itched to capture marine life the moment I laid my mask-protected eyes on it. Once I was a licensed open water diver, I started to learn the tricks of underwater photography the very next day. It’s the most difficult form I’ve tried, by a margin. The blue-green water is the biggest foe of sharpness and colour, the sunlight a mere trickle from the surface, and zoom lenses pointless – so you go as close to stinging fish and corals as possible while floundering for neutral buoyancy (a perfectly horizontal floating position). Not to mention the need for waterproof gear. Not getting into the nitty-gritty of all things camera, i’ll go ahead and present my first attempt at capturing glimpses of a world that I adore. A world that finally accepted me as its own.

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Have you heard the hymn of the sea? It’s the song within that we drowned in everyday’s cacophony.