He smells of old parchment,
A faint trace of a man
Who still laughs like a child
And cries like one.
I see the curve of his hands,
in the shape of words
crafted to perfection.
A flash of colour that streaks
the canvas of my younger mind.
He blazes across the horizon
The soft rain a warm caress,
that lasts just that long, an instant,
On my cheek,as if to say
“Always remember, I think of you.”
Scorches my soul, the purest white,
In the freezing showers, I still look out
For my lighthouse in the sky.
He takes my tangled threads gently,
Into his hands as he kisses them,
and knots them further,
into seemingly random weaves.
Dyes them red, and grey, and
a shade of brown he resembles,
He is exquisitely clad in
A fragment of my pain.
He is the tenor of my art,
A lover, of the beauty I try to hide,
He sifts it out and holds it into the air,
And laughs as I wince.
Yet I paint words at his door,
and leave them as a mark,
For that shared thought we both
struggle to understand.
He looks everywhere except
the corners I throw open to him
The shreds of dark are unknown,
In his vision of radiance.
I smile, at his impertinence,
and my indifference.
Long ago, and far away, there was a land blessed with a strange and magical power. No one quite knew how, but any child born in that realm was gifted with the ability to live up to his or her name. Now you might think this was mere coincidence, and believe me, so did people for a long time. Then someone did the math and deduced that there was indeed a reason as to why all the young men named after the Fire-God were setting haystacks ablaze with their slightest tantrums.
Anyway, such were the ways of the land and people took great care to choose a perfect name for their young ones, one that would seal their destiny for the years to come.
Time passed by until on the first day of winter, with the first snowflake, a baby boy was born in the family of a modest school teacher, and the entire village came to partake of their joy and to witness the ceremony of name-giving. Amidst the crowd, the teacher’s wife held up her little baby in the air as he shrieked, protesting against the cold blast, and pronounced his name “Arihant!” There was a murmur for no one quite knew what the name meant. It was the first of its kind and they stood in awe as the teacher told them what it meant- “One who has vanquished his enemies”
The years passed by and the little boy grew up under his family’s stern but loving eye. He went to school like others of his age, but his heart lay in other things, finding shapes in the clouds, building artifacts from clay and making up elaborate stories to amuse his younger siblings. The bane of his existence, in his ten year old mind, was his name. Each time someone asked him that question, he suppressed a grimace thinking of the inevitable awe that would follow. He often thought of asking his parents why.
I don’t want to kill enemies, I don’t want to conquer anyone. I’d rather make friends and make people happy, don’t you get it?
But being a polite boy, he never voiced it out loud.
One day he was sitting by the river bank, throwing stones into the water, watching as they created ripples in his reflection. Suddenly he heard a plop and saw that an old man was trying to recover his little metal pot which had just fallen into the river. In a jiffy, he waded into the stream, his wiry body underwater for a few seconds before he resurfaced with the pot and handed it over to the man with a “Pranam”.
“May God bless you, my son. What is your name?” The old man asked.
“My name is Arihant, Dadaji” The boy replied, using the form of address for grandfather. He didn’t quite mind telling this man his name, maybe because he didn’t pause in awe, he just smiled.
“And Arihant, do you know what it means?” He asked.
The boy crinkled his eyebrows for a second, ” It means one who has conquered his enemies” , he recited listlessly.
“Yes that is what they say it means. But do you know what it means?”
By now the boy was confused. “What does it mean then? I don’t know. I always thought…”
“You always thought the enemy would just be someone who attacks you with sword and spear. Someone whose blood you need to spill. Okay tell me, if you are very hungry and have only one mango and a boy your age suddenly snatches it from you ,what would you do?”
“Hit him hard!” Arihant said, a flash of outrage making way to his face at the imagined scenario
“Okay, but then, suppose he hasn’t eaten for days. Suppose he has to bring back food for family too. What then?”
“I’d not get angry, I’d let him have it.” Arihant mused
“So who was your enemy in this case? What was driving you to do something bad, an eye for an eye?” The old man smiled peacefully.
“Anger.” the boy uttered with a wide eyed look. “My enemy is not a person. It can be a thing. An emotion. Something truly bad.”
“Yes. And your destiny is to be the conqueror of your enemies, my son. Do you see now?”
The old man quenched his thirst and walked away.
Ten year old Arihant walked back to his village with his head held high, ready to embrace the power of his name.
It’s almost like straight out of my head, except expressed with much greater clarity 😀
Great writers come forward in saying what they are reading : a book which has been seldom read, probably, the first batch of which has its few copies left in old sections of bookstores, to get their pages wrinkled and age and wither slowly and stealthily until they are no more, until the words in it are no more legible; and suddenly that posthumous read becomes a new best selling story, through the word of mouth of indirect recommendation. Only this time the word of mouth was only the first node of the tree. The rest were virtual word of mouths, media. So what he would say about this phenomenon, what would the dead writer have called this piece of life, if he was asked what happened suddenly. Why was he being read so furiously. He wouldn’t have said ‘life happened’. He couldn’t have possibly said that, because, well, he…
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I hear it- BANG!- and I rejoice,
Even as he stifles a cuss-word and she
splutters before coming to a standstill.
He walks over to her, frowning,
Too much damage this time, she’ll
Have to go,she groans in protest
As he gently pries her apart.
I cry in ecstasy as he lifts me in his arms,
Just for a while he condemns her
to the dark confines of my abode
as we walk in the sunshine together.
I squeak as he makes sure everything’s set
I’m screwed I know, I couldn’t care less,
Each time we roll along his choice of road,
I can dream I’m not the spare any more.
She awoke one morn with unexplained dread,
The Maiden of the Red Red River,
With undue haste in her elfin tread,
She couldn’t help but shiver.
Looking all around for a sign or shred,
Thoughts ran amok in her mind,
The path she took, to the river it led,
She let out a gasp at her find.
Gone was the ruby, the crimson hue,
The water lay deathly pale,
Its faded shade was the colour of dew,
Not a trace of the blood red trail.
She sought help of a wise old soul,
To solve this great conundrum,
The crimson ’twas that made her whole,
Her life force was its flowing strum.
Said the Master, “There is a way,
But a terrible price it shall take,
Another must with his own blood pay,
And willingly so, make no mistake.”
She shed a tear behind closed doors,
Her world was bereft of hope,
And with her wept the isles and shores,
The Lion king, and the swift antelope.
Now through it all, a Red Red flower,
watched the beautiful Maiden mourn,
Catching its reflection in a puddled rain shower,
’twas suddenly struck by a thought of its own.
When the sun arose the next day’s dawn,
There was a tide of incredulous delight,
The pallor of the waters was gone,
The river sparkled with a ruby-red light.
Overwhelmed,the Maiden frolicked around,
And peacocks danced in spring,
Then noticing a grey petal on the ground,
She said “What an ugly little thing!”
When someone told someone else today that I am a poet, I laughed, because I had quite forgotten. Lost verses came back to me, much worse for wear, but still there in traces. They asked me why I don’t write these days…well, I said, poets are mystics, they dwell in sad love. I’m done being sad, yeah, life is tough.
And then I bit my lip, for like any old habit, it resurfaces at the oddest of moments. I used to rhyme once, for a living, and now I realize there are some things that linger in your bloodstream long after you think you’ve killed them. You’ll find an odd piece of paper with four lines in your handwriting- I don’t remember writing that,feeling that, living that, you think.
Memory, they say, is treacherous, you don’t remember the bad days as much as the good ones, you turn the not so good moments into not bad. Why treacherous, I ask? Maybe it is the insight of reflection. But then again, if I always reflected, I’d never be a poet. I’d never compare my heart’s dull beat to the clock ticking on my mantelpiece. It’d be lub-dup, ninth grade biology, straight as that. I’d never describe someone’s scent as the fragrance of dry winter mornings, or the prickliness of pine in someone else’s grip on my arm. I’d not write about the hollowed eyes of the beggar girl on the street, I’d just be yet another individual disgusted by the economic disparities in our nation.
My people live by images. Every moment of our lives is one such crystal of perfection. Poets have fuelled rebellious fires, they’ve led to cascades of tears, they’ve painted the best of nature, and highlighted our biggest fears.(And there it goes again. Not quite dead.)
Here I am, sitting amidst my old notebooks, reminded again of the hum of a new poem as the line dances in my mind’s eye. And here I have lost the love, to pick that line with care and spin a tale around it. It is oddly peaceful, not having to run after stray lines all the time.
But for a poet, peace never lasts.