The parrot

Madhav came back seven months later, but his voice had taken on a strange, foreign lilt and Jagan was reminded of Peechook, his little green parrot from when he was ten.

Peechook had fallen in love with the sound of the brass wind chimes and tried to squak along whenever the wind blew. He would exhaust himself in the boiling hours of the afternoon, trying to simmer down his cackle into fragile, metalic shivers. It was pathetic really, but he never seemed to give up. He’d gaze longingly at the gangly tangle of pipes and wooden stars until his cage was taken back into the living room at dusk. 
One night, there had been a terrible downpour: windows shuddered, and the thunder rolled overhead like a charcoal beast, hungry for its next prey. Jagan had sidled closer to his grandma and buried his head within the folds of her saree. Eventually, he fell asleep. 

The next morning, Jagan’s father found Peechook’s cage empty. They searched for him high and low, but their feathered friend was nowhere to be found. Sometimes, the wind blew the door of the cage open and Peechook would waddle out for a quick flight over the courtyard, but he would always be back before sunset. They dismissed the disappearance and the day crawled on.

Twenty four hours had swept by and Peechook still hadn’t returned. The scent of rain hung over the threshold like a newly knit blanket, clouding everything with cold drops of water. Jagan stepped outside to feed the squirrels with a handful of salted peanuts. 

On the threshold, scattered between twigs and storm blown leaves, was a mangled web of brass pipes, string, and wooden stars. And inextricably entangled within this web, was the limp, green body of Peechook. His eyes looked like little brown beads of glass, and his beak was open wide like an opera singer about to deliver the highest note. His feathers were soaked through. 

And now, Jagan watched carefully as Madhav pecked at his lentils and bread: the curry was gingerly scooped and was never allowed to touch his fingers. He wore starched shirts now and always carried a floral, silk kerchief. His voice shimmered and tinkled as he spoke of how there were at least five different flavours of popcorn at the movies and did you know the discos were open all night? All night, Jagan, can you imagine

When the bill arrived, the waiter placed a bowl of salted peanuts on the table and slipped the square of paper beneath it. All of a sudden, Jagan didn’t want to be at the restaurant anymore. He hastily crammed a wad of bills beneath the bowl and scurried away. Madhav called after him, but he dashed out of the door and in his hurry, collided against a branch of low hanging wind chimes. 

The brass pipes and wooden stars began to sing, but all Jagan could hear was the squaking of a hundred green parrots. 

– Picture sourced from Pinterest –

Advertisements

Marigold

7d6d2df0b7597ddff123bfd02dc2eba6

On Sundays, we lie flat on our stomachs and watch Marigold trap sunlight inside her orange scales.

She swims placidly in Mobius strips of water, each fin throwing hundreds of glass shards across our walls. We count them all. They flit between our toes, hover over our cold blue noses, slip through unguarded, berry stained lips. We stretch our fingers out to catch this piscine illuminance, to close our palms around these eely needles of light and swallow them in one quick, winter gulp. The shards dart away; their edges soften and dapple our sweaters as Marigold pirouettes within her water globe.

Sundays smell of gooseberry shampoo, basted chicken and durva grass.

Still splayed on our stomachs across the old Kashmiri carpet, we turn thick, grey socks into muppets, weaving esoteric conversations about apple soda and Mini’s new collection of tin blades. We slither our arms back into our woolly sleeves and bat at each other silently with our deflated paws for a good ten minutes. The wool begins to smart.

Sundays feel like strawberry mint bubblegum being stretched between Time’s willowy fingers; pink, soft and endless. Like slow cotton candy cloudburst. Sugary, wispy, and fuzzy to the touch.

On Sundays, we lie flat on our stomachs and watch Marigold trap sunlight inside her orange scales.

For one breath of a moment, there is a ripple.

We blink,

and it melts away.
Image credits

Tale

If I began 

with once upon a time

would you have me washed away?
Tame yourself.

Gather your blue skirts 

around starfish studded ankles

And for once, 

Listen.
I will tell you tales of mermen who sold their scales to the God of Salt for one dusk away from your tides. 

Of genies drunk on absynthe, tottering on wispy blue tails and chasing after the phantom of freedom. 

Of handmaids who grew seashells from their scalps and left trails of coral in their mud homes. 

Of fishermen who lit bonfires on your skin, only to be whisked away into the gaol of aqua absolute.  
The bards sing of sirens in your lair. But it is you. You are the siren. The seductress. The scream. 
All these years, I have listened to the wailing of your voice. 

And today, you have heard the wailing of mine.

– The sea was once a home –

Image credits: Manan Dhuri

Airports

Disha's

Cornflower blue overalls, yellow sneakers and a matching yellow snapback with dozens of tiny Spongebobs masquerading over his head.

He looked so tiny.

He sidled up to me, peeking through brown curls that lay plastered across his forehead like rain soaked yarn. I stretched out my hand, my fingers slowly trotting across the metal armrest that lay between us. Like startled butterflies, his arms flapped up and down as I tickled his chin. Peals of laughter bubbled out of his soft, pink lips. Squealing with unrestrained glee, he wriggled in his chair and threw his head back, curls flying, legs kicking the air conditioned nothingness around us. Gasping for air, he placed one plump finger on his nose; our mutually agreed upon white flag. I retracted my fingers and planted a noisy peck on his cheek. The airport continued to ring with the echoes of our tickle battle.

Seven pairs of eyes darted in our direction. Staring. Visibly uncomfortable. I ignored all of them.

Turning towards him, I wiggled my eyebrows and grinned.

‘What day is it today?’ I quiz.

‘It’s my birthday, Mama!’

‘That’s right, it is!’

‘Can I eat an extra slice of cake?’

‘You can eat all the cake in the world, sweetheart’

‘Will there be candles?’

‘Of course!’

‘All thirty-two of them?’

‘Every single one’

He smiled.

Six feet and two inches tall.

Cornflower blue overalls, yellow sneakers and a matching yellow snapback with dozens of tiny Spongebobs masquerading over his head.

He looked so tiny.

 

Picture credits: Disha Chatterjee 

The Grand Museum of Failed Human Endeavour

download

I will myself to write of a bureaucracy
that knots food pipes like neckties,
starving the horse to feed the pig,
whose snout has been dabbed generously with rouge
to celebrate its journey from sty to slaughterhouse.

I will myself to write of men of stature,
who stink of unbridled power,
reek of pseudo chastity,
and who faithfully drool lies
over the roofs of hungry farmers
and their pregnant wives.

I will myself to write of scandals in skyscrapers
where lamps glow fluorescent with infidelity.
Infidelity towards conscience,
country,
god.
(Capitalise if you must.
Grammar
alters
nothing)

Because,
twitching my nose at exhibits
in the Grand Museum
of Failed Human Endeavor
(open from Mondays to Saturdays.
The seventh morning is for God
– capitalised, for your satisfaction)
distracts me from the anteroom reserved
for my signature brand of hypocrisy.

Because,

I am the one who starves the horse, knots food pipes into neckties, I dab rouge onto the snouts of pigs, lead them from their warm sties to warmer slaughterhouses, I stink of unbridled power, I reek of pseudo chastity, I drool lies over the roofs of hungry farmers, I inseminate their wives with untruths, I kick their whelps to the ground before they can even whimper, I scandalize the crowds, I scandalize my conscience, I scandalize god, to hell with upper cases, to hell with the sanctity of brotherhood, to hell with democracy, it is but a leper in denial.

Welcome to the Grand Museum of Failed Human Endeavour. I am the exhibit. I am your guide.

I am everyone who has ever
kept
quiet.

I am the infidel.

And so are you.

 

Image credits

We

scarecrow222smallbwcm7

He sits atop his throne of corn,

cranium choked to bursting

with bales of inflammable hay

that for want of space sprout

upwards,

emerging from a tangerine scalp,

floating over a tangerine brow,

shielding his eyes,

from the folly of abandoning

the treaty of ’15.

 

Oh carnage,

Oh chaos,

Oh convoluted crime,

Halt.

Do not thunder into our lungs

at the behest of a Star Spangled Crown.

Reign in your hurricanes, your blizzards, your storms,

Soothe the seas, lull oceans into a dreamless sleep,

Cup torrents of ice within the palm of your hand,

Pacify the breathless wolves that dance

on blistered feet.

 

And perhaps,

When the air begins to crumble and the rain begins to boil,

You will retreat, having finally learnt,

that our albatrosses are dart boards

and greed, our cardinal sin.

We are the archers.

We are the targets.

We are the war.

And we will never win.

 

Image Credits

TIL #1

Today I learned:

Courage is about the tiny things. 

It’s not battling dragons and flooring trolls. It’s not rescuing damsels from burning towers or scaling glass mountains. It’s not saving the world from a zombie apocalypse or sacrificing yourself to the gods to appease them. 

It’s not always confrontations, battles and war. 

Sometimes, it’s about coming to terms with a truth about yourself, so atomic and yet so fundamental, that it has the potential to rattle all the shelves of china in your heart; enough for a scare, but not quite enough to topple them over. 

Sometimes, it’s about independence. It’s​knowing that papa won’t always be there to check for monsters under your bed. It’s arming yourself with a broom and poking the emptiness beneath your four-poster before you tuck yourself in (all four limbs safely covered by the blanket of course)

And sometimes, it’s knowing that you are your own best friend. And that sometimes, you have no choice but to believe in yourself. Because everybody’s magnifying glasses are focused on themselves. We are gigantic in our mind’s eye. We dwarf even those we love.  

And that’s okay. 

We are our own best friends. 

And that’s okay.