اکثر (Aksar: Often)

I find myself being pushed out of sleep, deep at night,

A faint cry of time, an abandoned dream, a lost star.

Pulling the quilt over my head, I remind myself to breathe,

In ones, twos and threes.

One

A song I learnt long back, a decade and a half between the times,

The rhythm and words difficult to roll over my tongue,

A particular antara always managed to throw me off,

When I sang, I ran out of breath midway.

Every night I listened to my music teacher sing, on a cassette, in an old walkman,

Rewinding the tape with my fingers and letting the shruti flow.

Late one night at the ninth attempt, I figured her trick.

One sharp breath in the beginning and to pause at the right places,

The music magically took over, and she let her heart sing.

When I feel overwhelmed, I sing this song, to breathe easier.

Two

A few years back while studying I realised that no amount of cramming could help me,

The concepts flew over my head and all I wanted to do was, raise my hands and walk away.

Which is what I did.

I shut the books, made myself a tall glass of chai and looked out of the balcony,

Watched the traffic make its way through the narrow arterial lane,

Tiny marigold flowers, bright orange and yellow resting against the lazy creepers,

The sun set in all its glory, calling the birds and bread winners alike.

And for once, in a long time I slept, for fourteen hours straight.

I woke up in the morning and thought to myself, what was the worse that would happen if I fail?

I walked out in the balcony with the question, to breathe in some air and sunshine, and the question answered itself,

Nothing.

A moment of surreal clarity amidst chaos.

Three

There was a time when the pain was much to bear,

I can’t quantify the time, sometimes it seems like yesterday and during others, a previous lifetime,

One that reddened my eyes, choked my throat, brought tears and anger bubbling right beneath my skin.

Everytime I felt I couldn’t, I would remind myself to breathe and repeat,

This too shall pass.

A stab turned to sear, slowly became a dull throb and now is blue and numb.

And that’s okay, for maybe time heals all.

 

 

Winter

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the winters, with passion.

Most people look at me with questioning eyes and tilted faces, on how I could love winters more than the rains and summer. That’s just how it has always been, I answer.

Come mid-November and you can feel the air around get heavier, colder. The trees don’t maniacally sway, a gentle breeze flows and the leaves shiver. Most often in the mornings, I find myself walking on golden leaves that have withered away, admiring pink and white bougainvilleas that creep over old worn out walls, picking up one or two flowers that have been shed during the night for keepsakes.

The nights set in earlier and I find myself sitting on the terrace, watching the sky turn from a mild lilac, to a light shade of pink, blazing oranges to fade into darkness. Occasionally sighting a star, I sit amidst the distant honking of vehicles, the buzzing mosquitoes and use my palms to warm my arms and feet, to watch the sun set.

But off late I haven’t been able to write, no matter what, the words don’t spill out and the ink runs dry. There was a time when I bled words onto the paper, my mind clear as I recall memories.

I could find myself standing right at the moment, watching the events unfold, the way light seeped in through the blue curtains, the smell of chai brewing, his distinctive laugh, high pitched noise of the doorbell, every little detail.

With time though and come winter, my senses seem to have dulled. I can’t recollect his face, it comes to me in bits and pieces, like a puzzle that I have to put together, things that would take seconds to recall now take hours.

Nights though are the worst, without notice I drift away to the last time that I saw him, on the railway station’s platform. It’s remarkable how little details that would have gone unnoticed come rushing to me, the hawker’s cry, a make shift shop selling books and magazines, the red coat coolies running after the train, my his face is still blurry in my memory, I can see his hand waving at me and then him standing at the steps of the train as it picks up speed.

A warped sense of time leads me to believe that this happening to me at present, reality and dreams get muddled. I wake up with a start, unable to go through the pain, over and over again. A wave of sadness sweeps me across and pushes me right into an ocean, breathless, sinking and drowning, at all once.

So I wander, make myself a cup of coffee, pick up a book, build a castle of pillows and blankets and look outside my window. Hoping and wondering if things are ever going to get better.