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

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

Is it just me?

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Tell me…
Do you ever wake up at night
Sweating over reality,
Beads of a reluctant memory
Trickling down nostalgic cheeks,
Where love once birthed red?
Does your skin remember that misty February?
…Or is it just me?

Tell me…
Do your walls whisper
Conversations we conjured
(And those we couldn’t)
Under the starry veil
Of your silent, white,
Missing winter?

Tell me…
Do words evade your tongue
When i invade a thought?
Does our endless story demand of you
The same answers
I once sought?

Tell me, my dear…
Do i haunt you
The way you haunt me?
.. On endless nights
.. On lonely trains
.. In a paper plane’s flight
.. In a stranger’s face
.. On the break of dawn
.. In a lover’s embrace
.. On melancholic monsoon days
.. In scavenged poetry
.. On saved texts
From a ghost of a memory.

Or is it just me?

A class in nostalgia

For starters, let me confess something. I enjoy the occasional drink of nostalgia. I indulge in the melancholy that memories bring. Perhaps that is why i sometimes seek out places that exhume moments long gone by. They may not even have been among the best times i’ve had, but if i remember them and the emotions associated strongly enough, revisiting them feels a bit like time travel.

So, to relish a slice of a long forgotten past that was bound to sting the tongue, I set out for my school, St. Xavier’s High, one of three i attended in my life. (However, this was the only one i had managed to get attached to.) It had been 12 years since i had been there, since i had walked out of Class 10 thinking i’d just passed my toughest exam. So I anticipated the bout of nostalgia, almost looked forward to it. But i hadn’t expected the stage of my childhood to have stayed almost entirely the same, thereby enshrining those days. Right from the colour of the walls where i once busted my knee while chasing a friend over a joke, to the basketball court which back then felt like the only happy spot in the school, to the notice board which once hosted my first (and atrociously lame) poem, and even the tree fences that we sat on during breaks, everything had retained its composition – as if saved for this very moment when i’d visit, my adult disguise betrayed by a pair of moist eyes.

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I often wonder why we miss it, the past. Is it because our present does not match up to it? Hardly. I’m lucky enough to say most of the things in my present are of my choosing, and hence make me very happy. Close friends who are insanely understanding, a mind that knows its thoughts from its emotions, freedom to live on my own terms – a lot has changed, for the better. So what exactly do i miss when i sit in my old classroom with a broken window that overlooks the basketball ground? Why do i miss the yearning, when, now, i am no longer bound by class rules and don’t have to wait for the tolling of the bell for a shot at the hoop?

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Maybe it’s not the yearning we miss. Maybe we don’t miss the place at all, but who we were while we inhabited it. The kid who sat gazing out of Class IX B didn’t exactly like being there; he was full of doubts and wishes, but was also full of life. He had no bad memories to recall, only an unshakable belief in a gleaming future; he had no money to call his own, but he also never worried about paychecks and bills; he never had the freedom to play at will, but when he was on the court in the ‘Games period’, he ran like the world depended on it; he had no qualms about his own existence and its purpose; he had no cynicism to rob him of his faith; he had no real nightmares, just ones of monsters that didn’t exist.

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Maybe I didn’t visit the school at all today, maybe i just visited me. The 10-year-old introvert who was equal parts excited and scared shifting to a “tough school” in Class 6 but eventually made the exams look easy, who spent every day looking forward to the basketball game at the end (and sulked on those that didn’t end in the sports period), who worried about his grades but only on the last day, who sneaked a glance at his crush in every ‘recess’ and believed love would find a way (and heartbreaks wouldn’t). Maybe for one day, i had the itch to bend the space-time continuum and inhabit that boy who believed, without a speck of doubt, that his life would be grand, and whose biggest worry was if he would grow tall enough. Maybe i wanted to find my way back to a peculiar version of happiness which was unadulterated by reality.

And I found it lying untouched, in a class cupboard that still smells of moss and childhood secrets.

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My first heartbreak

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Dada,

As i say the word, a peculiar unfamiliarity washes over my insides. The kind that seeps in gradually over the years, as moments turn into memories and memories dissolve into oblivion. Like the edges of a photograph slowly betray the promise of permanence, like the rusty hinges of a childhood bicycle screech under weary adult legs, like the yellowing pages of a book surrender to tenacious silverfish. This strange unfamiliarity with a word, that once slipped out thoughtlessly in excited childhood shrieks and injured whimpers alike, hurts. It reminds me that i have forgotten. How could i forget?

April 28, 2015. It’s a good day at work. I get a lead for a story, and a hotline to the source in a remote disaster-stricken area against all odds of a scratchy network. The story finds its way from the precarious place between his life and my words to the newspaper. Another story of a man shrugging off his missing limb to scale summits will also find space today. An unexpected privilege announces itself, too. Amidst almost habitual discontent, today has been spectacular! I shall sleep well, for once.

The next morning comes with the knowledge that my stories are being read across a country. There’s nothing more a writer needs. Except coffee, maybe. The smell of a fresh brew is as good as smells get. Ma talks about reading my articles as we speak over a phone line that stretches over 1,062 kilometres. She is my most loyal reader, and my favourite too. And probably the proudest mother in the whole world right now. We discuss how hot the weather is, whether i’ve had breakfast yet, and when we’ll meet next; in other words, the usual. Meanwhile, Facebook tells me i got my first ever article published on the same day three years ago.

“How uncanny! Yesterday was lucky for me, i guess.”

She asks me what date it was.

“Uh.. April 28. Why?”

“That’s Dada’s day, remember?” she says.

How could i forget?

April 28, 2003. It started out like any other day. But by the time the sun was halfway around the sky, you lay on the floor, cotton swabs uncomfortably plugging your nostrils. I felt a pressing urge to remove them. ‘How will Dada breathe?’ I’d think every now and then. I stared at you for a long while, waiting, hoping, almost believing in miracles. Gradually, rigor mortis set in, making your lifeless form pale, and alien to me. That wasn’t you. That’s not how i’d remember you; i looked away. While everyone cried and grieved (even Sammy dragged his feet that day), i stood by, numb and comfortably oblivious. They often came looking for tears rolling down my cheeks, and found none. No, i didn’t cry, not that day. Not for the next few in fact. And i saw eyes watching me, probably judging me for it. Slowly, guilt set in. How could i not be sad? You’d loved me the most. What would you think if you were in the room watching everyone mourn but your own grandson?

Back then, my teenage mind hadn’t been introduced to denial. It did not know why it made fun of the pujari who recited all sorts of incomprehensible verses, why it bolted out of the house to play pool at a cafe, why it pondered over the colour of the mat on the floor instead of the body on it. Until one day, when the rituals were long over and the house restored to its stillness, i saw grandma looking at a picture of you on the wall. Behind her was the empty spot you always occupied on the bed. Maybe i expected you to be sitting there reclined on your custom-sized pillow complaining of some ache instead of smiling lifelessly in a frame, or maybe it was the emptiness that filled her eyes – that day I cried. You know i cried.

Twelve years ago when i lost you and my brain finally got around to accepting it, i wore the date as an indelible scar on my heart. It was the first time my heart had broken, the first time i looked to the stars to find someone i missed. In the years since, I have written about all my heartbreaks. Each time a separation shattered me, i collected the pieces and used them to bleed words. How then could i forget my first heartbreak? I’ve shed too many parts of me in the name of growing up. This one, i refuse to shed.

Do you know i’m a journalist now? I’m sure you wouldn’t have approved of the erratic lifestyle, but would be proud enough to stack up all my stories in your old cupboard, alongside the life-size picture of an infant me that you treasured all those years. We found it after a certain April 28.

I know you look out for me, and not just on a certain day each year. Know that I still look for you in the stars; I find you in some of the first and dearest memories I preserve. I hope there’s piping hot tea in heaven at 4 every evening. Along with biscuits that you share with Sammy.

– Nonu

P.S. I haven’t played carrom for ages. You’d have to play really, really badly now to let me win.

Your other Today

Today

Dear stranger-turned-lover-turned-stranger,

This day, last year, you said you didn’t love me any more. That it did not feel the same way. I stood by you like i had always promised i would; you walked away. You don’t know what happened next, do you?

I knocked on your door on a sunny spring morning. The tulips in your front yard shied away from the scorching sky. I came with roses and scrunched up notes in my pocket- each one a different draft of what I would say. I didn’t have to open them of course, for I had felt the words lodged in my throat for four days. Four days: That’s 12 cups of unstirred coffee, 6 half-cooked meals and 2 cold pizzas, 3 cans of ice cream, 4 bars of chocolate (okay, 7!), 4 long sunsets, and a sum of 3,45,600 moments without you in my life. The moment you opened the door, my eyes blurted it all out.

We exchanged our eccentric vows at a placid beach on a stormy day, a few monsoons down the way. The photoshoot was washed away, but the clouds giggled as we kissed in their rain. Our first dance was barefoot, on sand birthed by the sea, lit by a crescent moon the size of a paper lantern. The ocean swayed with us that night, before the darkness fell asleep in your gentle embrace.

It’s too bad the dream always ends there: In a perfect world, painted the deep blue of a dawn nigh and an ocean full, marked by the caress of hair that held the perfume of daisies and filled with the harmony of your bloodsong on my skin. It’s a universe where I knew what to say that day, and you were home to open that door. Out here, right now, pizza and unstirred coffee await tired hands, nostalgic of a day we never had, as another letter recklessly crawls beneath your locked door.

Once yours,
Just another whim

The Clock

Time

On days the sun hides

Behind solemn greys

Of nostalgia,

I curl up in the attic of a home

Built with trembling hands

In a winter past;

Abandoned

When the spring birds sang.

 

Words

Once tenderly birthing love,

Rot in their nascence,

Pressed between pages

Full of you and me

And what we could be.

 

There’s a clock that stands still

On our single greatest moment:

When you first said

You loved me

And stopped my frantic voices

In their soliloquies.

 

In that world,

Stuck in a time so dear,

You and I linger

Like unspoken words

Under cozy quilts

Of a silence we held near.

 

Today,

Strangers we may be

Again.

But there is a place

Where we live on.

An ounce of time and space

That you can call upon.

 

You will find me there

On stormy nights,

Reading incomplete chapters

To firewood

Blazing:

Once upon a time,

There was a story unwritten …