summer

Summer is a forgotten dream
Explosively sultry days
Like an argument bobbing just below the surface
Heavy languorous days
With great globs of exquisite moments
Floating in a swamp of stagnating time.
Drunk on silences and emptiness,
Empty days, that kindle a lust for badness
Lazy, slow, days trickle slowly like molasses

Then the rain falls,
A pressure valve opens
Interrupts the building drama
And the cools the madness
Bringing civil thoughts
And escape

 

Nonesense

There was a time I wrote to please myself. I wrote incessantly. I wrote happily. I wrote nonsensically like I sang to myself in the shower and while I did chores. I never thought about who liked my words or why. I did not know what I wrote or why. It was as if someone whispered in my ears, and my hands moved on their own accord. And I was happy. But when I started to “try” to write and to write “properly”, it all fell apart. Noone whispers in my ears anymore. Now I try to write to myself again daily – but how do I think of something to say every day?

Every day the same old sun rises.
Every day, the hill face outside my window,
which is covered with a lush abandon of flowering weeds,

is full of a chorus of bird songs, as the new day breaks.
Every day the breezes blows furiously like a child playing,
running around in circles with secret purposefulness.
Every day the wind sings the same bitter-sweet melody.
All the green plants on the hill, each a different shape and size,
dances along at their own pace, swaying bodies and laughing leaves.
Every day some new birds come to visit our little hill,
where the parrots live.
Every day, in the afternoon the sun glows soft and golden
for one secret hour making all the weeds glow,
like the most beautifully lit painting display.
Every day before the sunset 
the seagulls and the sea lions from the pier
call out to the town, to say it was a good day 
Every day the tourists wander in the fisherman’s wharf
and perhaps a young tourist discovers
the joyful abandon of weeping freely in a crowd,
veiled by the masks of anonymity
that being a stranger that nobody knows suspends.
The lighthouse on Alcatraz island watches over it all, 
with sage silence, every day.
Every day, the city falls quietly asleep by nightfall,
as if nothing had happened all-day 

But I could not write these things each day

The Golden Gate Bridge

And not the sea lions either

Somedays the stars are flickering pinpoints.

Somedays the thin pale sliver moon is only a mocking smile

But the water splashing on the rotting gnarled wooden framework

Reminds me of us gossiping and giggling

And if I am ever too blue, for penguins, there are old Chinese people

Who follow you with their sage eyes as you walk down the streets

And jeweled hummingbirds, and glowing fruit doves in the Presidio

And there is the Alcatraz and the bitter-sweet sad stories it evokes

But if everything else fails, I look for the beacon from the lighthouse

Circling patiently through the fog

A cone of yellow light – sent out valiantly, indifferent to loss and failure

To pierce the stifling muffling dark clouds descending :

the fog coming down over the sea, over the bridge, the beautiful bridge

the is not really Golden, but it is beautiful and red

and leads my heart to an island called Hope

Going back is sweet agony. Can I ever really go back?

No, I can’t really, because when I go again to my hometown, I do not go back to the place I once lived. It is neither the place that I imagine in my fond memories. Rather, it is the city that it is now, and it belongs to them who live there now.

Thus I can never go back and in a way, it is only a tender loving ache to see the stage of my life’s drama, and find not even a deserted ruin, but bustling with the next act.

 

It has been decades since I left Calcutta. This was probably the first time I went back to the zoo. It was so familiar, yet so alien.

It was bustling with crowds of people in hand-knitted bright woolly caps and packed picnic lunches. Had we too sat quite so on the grass and eaten our packed picnic lunch when we were little. Did my grandmother pack us some luchi,  aloo-bhaja, mishti. Did she stand by me as I looked at the bright birds, the spectacular tigers and my darling elephants?

My very elegant mother would probably say with a gentle brow lift that the crowds are not quite the same.  But really, have the crowds changed? Or have we changed? If I discussed this with someone from our parents’ generation, they would say that in their time, people were not so politically correct in their speech. But I don’t think that is the case. I think the politics were different, that is all. The Calcutta we grew up in was nothing if it was not classist. And the “us and them” of class was not the elephant in the room that no one was talking about.  There were many other elephants, however, I am sure.

Near the hippo enclosure, I watched a man and his lady-friend walk by. She was beautiful in a pink and blue salwar-suit, with a shiny dupatta, looking up at him lovingly. He laughed and said “See doesn’t he look fat like you?”. I will remember for a long time, the look on her face. Did she look more startled, or ashamed? She knew I had heard. I have heard that tone of “leg pulling” so often. It is always said as if it is nothing and if you respond, you will often be called silly. And then it will come again. We do not feel any compunction stating our opinion of people’s physical appearance. If we are scared of them for whatever reason, we will not say it to their face. But we will be just as casually vicious behind their backs. If I were a friend and called him out on it, he would say he was only joking. Why is it funny – someone’s appearance? More significantly, however, we judge people for their appearance – especially women. What does it matter, if she were ten times more fat than she actually was? Or dark? Or lovely, or ugly? Is our appearance so relevant? This censure too would probably come under the umbrella of greater political correctness of today.

<to be continued>

 

Friends and Witnesses

The moon is rising. The night is young
My work is done. My house is clean.
I have an open bottle of wine. The radio sings.
It is a good night and I had a good day.
But I miss a friend to tell all these things to.

I have no new ideas and no new dreams. And no new words. I still try to love the same way, with the same words. Purple. Rain. Thunder. Contradistinction. But I found a new word: Famelicose. As in I am famelicose for a witness.

I constantly hunger for a witness. I want to tell someone about my stories, my songs, my history, my inherited tales, my impotent days and nights, my dollhouse of cherised ex-dreams, my childhood, my youth. But also my pain, angst rage and dyings. My love, but also my heartbreak. My Satis.

When I lament my friendlessness, I am thinking there is no one I can say these things to. When I rage at someone for not really being there, I am angry they are not listening to my stories.

I find friendship more challenging than ever today. I have moved so many times, across continents. Each time I have left behind a set of friends, a social context. Each time I have made fewer new ones to replace the ones I lost.

Also, each move means learning a whole new social context. Different jokes, different politics, different cultural histories. But most importantly, a different set of values and nuances.

Then there are the ghosts of the past on social media. Thus the past is never laid to rest. We are still able to cling on to our old friends, whom we left behind. Without them, would we make a push to make more friends here and now?

Then there is that big enemy: time. We are busy almost all our waking hours (and few when we should be sleeping). We often work far from home and spend most of our non-work day commuting. Many of us have a lot more ambition, more responsibility and more ownership of our work than ever before, making work a much bigger deal in our life and psyche than before. Plus, our work has, in many cases, evolved to be so complicated and differentiated, that often we cannot even remotely relate to each other’s work, or there is just too much happening to keep up.

But the biggest challenge I think is finding common ground and being able to relate to one another, trust one another, laugh together. Across the world, we have become so engrossed in our perspectives, ideologies and particular situations, I feel we cant talk and laugh about things like people did before. Or perhaps we find less to laugh about anyway.

 

Rain Dreams

It is Friday night. I have eaten too much, by myself
On the dining table, by the window,
In the street lights warm yellow glow, While a moth circles the globe.
The light from the Alcatraz keeps checking in

It is late. I start to tidy the kitchen, by myself
One window is open to let in the world outside
And the mournful cry of a sea-lion floats across to me.
I am always surprised how far a cry will carry

It rained a few days ago. I drink my night cap, by myself
The window panes are stained by rain marks,
it looks like its still raining. It used to rain lavishly
back home. I dream it will rain again tonight.

A Day in San Francisco

Evening came slowly. The day rolled smooth like an old favourite radio song. Chilly and sunny, smoke bubbles came out of my muffler as I walked through wet leaves. The co-working spaces are already humming with activity. So many people, so much enterprise, so many things to sell.

Are any of these figures hunched on the laptop, feat sprawled on the chair across the table, selling their dreams. A tinder to match stranded moms with each other. An app to learn a dead language. Or social skills.

San Francisco is the land of e-dreams. Every few feet a door-sign displays a new dream. I walk home measuring my road in dreams: Straight past Harmless Harvest. Left at Grove. Finally, right turn and up the hill at Real Real. A cluster of unlikely ladies in chanel and gucci are smoking near the entrance. Thanks to cigarettes, smoking is cool again.

The evening sky is a beautiful sparkling deep blue. Across it, are strung so many lights along the Piers. And in the distance, the Coit tower stands stoic enough to withstand all the silly jokes hurled at it. It makes a breathtaking picture, but I have never been able to capture the glistening or the colours. Somewhere below it, a family of coyotes are getting up and about, and getting ready for the night.

At night, I hear the Sea Lions bay over the many blocks that separate us. Like me they are immigrants who were probably displaced by a catastrophic event and floated over to these shores, but cant quite make it all the way in. Or out.