Void

I live,
Day after day,
With you not around me.
I know years have passed,
And time should have filled up that vacant space,
With memories anew.
But the ache remains the same,
In no way lessened.
I wake up with the thought of your absence,
Piercing my skin like needles.
And it lingers on all day.
I smile,
I sing,
I laugh and I always long for you to see me like this,
See me trying too hard to blend in,
To justify what people around me are thinking,
That I have moved on.
But darling,
I haven’t taken a step since that day.
I relive that morning,
When too lazy to get up,
We cuddled together, the sheets on the floor,
Your legs entwined in mine.
Seems like a snapshot etched in my mind.
I live like a shadow,
Running out of time.

Fear

Some events,
Changed the course that we were set on.
The still waters we were knee deep in already,
Rose above our heads,
Murkier,
Bloody.
And we are struggling,
Gasping for breath,
Feeling it gather in a whirlpool around us,
Taking with it those we know,
Those we hold dear.
I can’t breathe.
I can’t expect anyplace to be safe.
We are not resisting outfits,
We are up against our men,
Women,
Like in every war.
Trying to keep my head out of these waters,
Trying to breathe,
And all I can take in gulps,
Is my fear of places,
Crowded, empty spaces.

Aparajita

The Night

This night,
Spreading like a cat on its claws,
Arches down the driveway,
Knocking air out of people;
Like smoke that freezes against glass windows,
For you to slide your fingers across it,
And give me a sign.
And I will stumble out with staggering steps,
Straight into you.
Take me somewhere,
Where I cannot hear it rattle,
Against my feet.
Where I cannot watch it dissolve into the humdrum of the day.
Brutal like a pack of wolves,
It chases me to the end of the road.
Gathering men around it.
Leeeing,
Groping,
Calling me names I know not why.
Because you say,
The night sold its secrets to the day.

Aparajita

Life

‘Auntie?’ , implored Ashima cautiously.
Her aunt Pamela, who was making hot chocolate for her favourite niece managed to mutter a faint ‘hmm?’

‘I am 25 now.’

Pam smiled.

‘All grown up, eh?’

‘Remember the question I asked you years ago and you told me you’d tell me when I was 25?’

Pamela handed her a mug of deliciously heavenly chocolate as she sank into her bean bag beside the young woman.

‘Of course I remember Ashi! Well, how time does fly!’

Pamela didn’t know how to begin but she decided to start with a routine query,
‘Tell me Ashi, have you been in love?’

Ashi eyed her delightful aunt with hesitation before lowering her guard.

‘On and off, I think I might have felt something bordering on love.’

Pamela chuckled.

‘And I hope that you get lucky, my dear.I hope that one day you’d be in that place where you just want to spend your life with someone, married or not. That you’d want to watch your child grow through trying times.’

‘For me, I never had that happy chance.’

Ashima raised her brows in mock disbelief.
‘You are telling me that you never fell in love, auntie?’

‘Oh, no, I did. I did fall in love so many times. Or I believed I did. In retrospect, everything is a blur.
In retrospect, everything seems a lost opportunity. At least that is what some people keep reminding me.’

She smirked.

Ashima knew only too well that Pam was referring to her brother, Ashima’s father. He had only lately resigned to the fact that his 51 year old sister was not a bitter woman who kept to herself because she hadn’t married.

‘But you never felt the need to have someone close to you most of the time?’

‘Ashima, I had my books!
I had my students. I had young, eager minds waiting to be sculpted. I did not feel the lack of a family.
Sometimes I did feel lonely. But you see, you can feel lonely in a crowd. If it is meant to be, you can drown in your own loneliness as you sit with your arms wrapped around someone.’

‘And it surely gets painful at times, Auntie?’

Pamela placed her mug on the floor. Ashima couldn’t make out her aunt’s expression as she bent but when she looked up, her gaze seemed distant.

‘I’m sorry if -‘
She began but was cut short by an impatient wave of her aunt’s hand.

‘I do not know Ashi, why the world wants to believe that I am resentful because I chose my way of life. Isn’t that wishful thinking? Like I manage to break away and you’d make such a fuss about it, and say youre sorry about my life, making me question my own choice at times.
But that is just how the world works. You ought to be a wretched wreck if you decide to do anything that they dont sanction. It gives them the satisfaction of saying, ‘I told you so!’
But you see, I have had my books clutched tight, drawn close to my chest on some nights and I cherish that.
I have had my students look up to me and that is enough.
I have this family. You are enough.
I sing and dance and draw and make friends.
This too, is beautiful.
As beautiful as walking into the sunset holding hands.’

‘And if I ever wanted have the joy of watching a child grow into a wonderful, kind person, I have had you. Nahi?’

Ashima fought hard to hold back tears. She alighted the wickerwork chair and walked up to her aunt.

Bending down, she wrapped her hands around the woman, tears streaming down her cheeks and onto Pam’s shirt and said,
‘Yes, ofcourse, yes.’