Category Archives: In Conversation

Ode to a lizard – Part 2

Ode to a Lizard – Part 2
or
Lizard on the floor

Me:
Lizard, lizard on the floor,
It’s summer – Don’t tell me you are here to carry on your ancestors’ lore?

Lizard (of the new generation):
Certainly I am.

Like every wanna-be powerful,
And otherwise frowned upon clan,
I carry forth the name of mine.
I have a global-domination plan.

Yes, you had spotted me
While I was stealthily sliding
Outside your room and I must say
You had shrieked in a manner unspeakably whiny.

Destiny had already whispered to you
Despite your efforts I would
Eventually land in your room
Closed doors won’t deter me, actually nothing could.

So when you entered your room today,
And saw me perched on the wall,
You shouldn’t display so much shock,
Haven’t you yet figured that I have our famous “Lizard’s gall”?

And guess what, I am one of the adventurous Generation Z!
I have the most unpredictable behaviour.
Unlike my predecessors, I don’t fear humans,
Now you definitely need a saviour.

I am so tiny and quick
You have never met any of my kind
I will trick your eyes
And incessantly creep across your mind.

Ode to a lizard

Ode to a lizard
OR
Lizard on the wall

Me:
Lizard lizard on the wall!
Whose the bravest of them all?

Lizard:
It is you, my dear.
You have always looked at me with fear

Since the first day
When you opened the room’s door
A shiver went down your spine
Creeping you out to your core.

The sight of me
Perched on your wall
Scared the living daylights out of you
Sent you running to the hall.

1 week later
Your legs they still shake but you stand tall
Undeterred and calm
Revising your strategy while still in the hall.

And finally,
When you open the door
Your eyes first scan the room
Inch-by-inch, from roof to floor.

1 month later
I am getting more comfortable in your room.
You think perhaps if you wait
You would be rescued by my eventual doom.

2 months later
I grin at you from near your bed
And since you don’t kill animals,
You clench your teeth and wait for my death.

3 months later
I am still alive
So you decide to take help of google
And with shock you realize
That sneaky lizards like me
Tend to live a long life.

So nature is not on your side, and you wonder:
“To kill, or not to kill?”,
Meanwhile I laugh at you from the wall,
Testing your will.

4 months later
You have given up waiting for it to end
Sometimes you are frankly curious about me
Wondering how I live without any friends.

So subconsciously you leave the door open
Walk away with a frowned pate
Those days you return to see the result of your kind act
If I have managed to get a date.

Initially you feel happy
But when I wink at you with my friend
You wonder if we might have kids
“And OMG – this story will never end!”.

Finally now it is winter
So we don’t see each other anymore
But summer is around the corner
Which is why I smirk while I snore.

So when you ask
“whose the bravest of them all”
I say it is you,
Facing your fears all along.

Ouroboros

I looked her in the eye
And told her to slowly die.

Asked her stiffened branches
To drop with a jilt,
Onto the over-exposed leaves
That dry and wilt.

She stands there stubborn,
Not ready to go;
I take an axe
And it hits her with a blow.

She staggers,
But stays upright,
Proud of her withering bark,
Where rough winds made her uptight.

She is not routine.
When she braved the storms,
Her branches danced,
Her leaves smiled with warmth.
Then a touch would have comforted her.
Now there is nothing to be saved from falling apart.

I light a match
And gently bring it to where she has dried.
I put her to peace,
So that the land can again be free and wide.

I ready saplings for fresh plantation.
It will grow stronger on manure –
Which is built from benevolent leftovers
Of the previous residents’ endure.

Mount Abu and its Mirage

Setting: One Summer Day in Mount Abu

Those were the warm summers when I went with my family for holiday to the cool hills of Mount Abu. In that time of innocence, my dreams used to be scattered with fairies and magicians. I would wake up in the morning and open my eyes in the warmth of my mother’s arms. The width of my dad’s shoulders spanned my world.

One such morning when I sweetly slipped out of my fairyland, my mother held my hand and readied me for a bright and sunny day out. As she finished tying my sneakers’ laces, I screamed in semi-irritation when my elder brother pulled my ponytail, and then smiled with semi-delight at the mere sight of this god-image. I ran behind him fighting for the toy cars he was now engaged with.
My grandmother joined us while we moved out of the hotel room and hopped in the big white taxi and accelerated ahead for a long, long day out. The trip to the Dilwara temples was enlightening, no doubt, and as the knowledgeable guide showered us with his anecdotes, facts and history, we followed him across long passages lined and ceiling-ed with the most intricate carvings. The entire scene appeared to be surreal, as the carvings appeared to be suspended magically in the air.
Wide-eyed and curious, I held to the helm of my mother’s sari and stuck very closely to her. Finally my brother had had enough of being bombarded with history and took to teasing me and playing with my hair, having not been allowed to bring his second best toy (car) in the premises by my religious mother. We took to running around the pillars, much to the orthodox guide’s despise, earning us doles of disapproving looks from both the guide and the other visitors.

When my mother sighed and called out for the two of us kids, I emerged first from one of the hallways, being still chased by my brother. We were panting when we stepped out of the temple premises, earning even more of those disapproving looks coupled with a rare smile by passers-by. My mother had to pull us away from the candyfloss stalls on the pretext of unhygienic production, but having the foodie father that we did, both of us earned not one but two floss-sticks each.
We were thus bribed, and offered no rebellion when the taxi driver now announced that he would take us for the view of ‘sunset point’, a trademark commercial tourist spot without which every hill station would stand to be incomplete. We jumped out of the taxi when it neared the long populated parking. Visibly, a lot more visitors had chosen that weekend to tick this site off their checklists.

We were soon at the coveted peak point and could vaguely see the ‘sunset-point’ at the other end, along the horizon. The mountains were hidden behind dense clouds and only a few rays of the sun cloud be seen slashing out of the corners of the clouds.

We took seats close to each other on a cemented wall close to the dispersed crowd. Soon we were surrounded by a herd of hawkers selling snacks, toys, newspapers and binoculars. After repeated refusals, they persisted for sometime before finally wandering off to yet newer customers. Soon a little boy emerged from behind us and soon enough a wide shoe-polish brush and plate with traces of wax appeared too. “Please sir, let me polish your shoes”, he said. My father was of the view that those who want money should earn it. Seeing this distressful image, my mother commented, “Let him off with some biscuits.” But my father allowed him to polish his shoes for the dignity it would give him. His brush and his polish box looked devoid of everything.

Seeing a colleague getting a job, other boys with shoe-polish brushes and polish boxes rushed over to intervene. “Sirji, he has no polish! Allow us to polish your shoes bright and nice. Look, we have better brushes!”

The boy however ignored them and diligently went on polishing using an exhausted box and a dying brush. My father then gave him a couple of rupees and let him go. My eyes followed him from behind my father. I saw a small smile while he pocketed that money and joined the companions who had been teasing him. The empty polish box and a dying brush made my heart break.

The clouds had sifted by now and the stark sun could clearly be seen setting. However, they had sifted too late and we got only a single moment of glorious saffron light to bathe us all in the same color of humanity, and then it was gone.

The trance lifted immediately and everybody started looking for their families and friends to head back to their shelters. The boy was gone, and I could see his friends tinkering off and trying their luck on the very last of the visitors.

My mother gathered us all as we were to head back to our hotel room.

That night, I did not dream of fairies. In those flower laden gardens, the face of the boy kept irrupting again and again. When I got up the next morning, I wondered if this was why people said growing up was bad. The fairies in my dreams were replaced by monstrous realities. I stayed in the hug of my blanket and gaped at the curtained window with vacant eyes.

Then I remembered the boy’s smile. It made me smile too.

Little Boy Unnoticed

Little Boy Unnoticed
In a deserted street
Bending over
The garbage bin.

Pulls out
A used rag
From within.

He looks around
No cherubim.

Only,
His addictive sin.

Little boy,
They turned you at the gate
Even though you had been raped

But you never knew
The care-house wasn’t safe
There users had a crew.

Now you turn away as you were told

You had been wishful
In a world so cold

Deluded with hope,
You reached out again,
Shimmer melted away like liquid gold

You stumbled against your fate
It was thus arranged everyday
And you told yourself again
For one more time, just be bold.

Little Boy,
When I build a roof –
That day,
I will take you under.

From those misleading alleys
And strange homes,
A comfort besides the thunder.

Tucked in warm and sweet,
Of your fate you wouldn’t wonder.

How long will you last?

Did your struggles merely appetise –
A conspiracy’s hunger much more vast?

When the day wraps up
And the crowds turn away
Shelving anecdotes of you in their past-

Little boy Unnoticed,
Know it in your heart,
You will be the brazen star,
Rising to glory among an aesthetic cast.

The Pusher

She hurriedly tugged on her shoes

And walked into the rain

Ineffectively covering her head with arms

The dark night making it seem less vain.

 

The car around the corner

Now had the blinkers on

She briskly made her way to it,

Getting in, but post a hesitant stall.

 

Her shivering wrinkled hands –

They were moist and swollen

Her eyes struggling with them

And bringing from her coat,

A packet into the open.

 

She handed this to the men

They had had a history of trade

They were the loyal buyers

Who first turned the pusher into a rich maid.

 

And yet she had no idea when the object made a haven in her son’s blood,

She was busy finding users when the infection made him fall with a huge thud.

 

It was a necessity now

To sell, to earn, to pay for the meds

The smoothness of the rise

And to the fall – that’s where it led.

In Conversation…with an ex-user

“Would you like some tea?”

Me: (turning and smiling at the young man behind the voice.) “No thank you”

Him: “You sure? You don’t like tea?”

Me: “It looks a little too strong for my taste!”

Him: (pulling up a chair and settling down with his own cup of hot tea) “So, are you a journalist?”

Me: “Um, no, I am just working in the office here.”

Him: “Ok, well, either way, if you want to ask me anything feel free to do so”

(after a pause)

Me: “So you are working here as well?”

Him: “At this rehab centre? No, I was in here a few years ago; I came back then to get help with my addictions, and since then I have been trying to get my life in order, starting from becoming independent so I don’t need to be dependent on anything or anyone. I like to visit this place once in a while. Just come back and say hello to all my friends in here. ”

Me: “That is a good thing.”

Him: “Really, you can ask me what’s on your mind.”

Me: “I was wondering how did you get into it though.”

Him: “Oh it was just everywhere when I was growing up. You know this place, its very populated and there is no future, well atleast we never saw any when we were younger and playing and living off these very streets. Socially, the culture just passed on from the youth to kids, it was that bad. Habits caught you even before you knew what a habit meant. When I was as young as nine, I started smoking. I remember it was one of my seniors from my local school that offered me my first cigarette, and back then we were so young and naïve that I didn’t really think twice. When I was eleven, I was already smoking up.”

Me: “Didn’t your parents realize what you were getting involved in?”

Him: “I had about half a dozen brothers and sisters and my parents were very busy raising them. They had barely enough money to keep the house running and kept busy with that. Plus once I would be off to school, I would be on my own. You might have already guessed I could not get much money from home, so I started doing odd jobs after school to afford my new lifestyle. I would do work for anyone who would pay me a bare minimum, provide an extra helping hand in small shops or for small businesses. As these were random jobs, and we needed something much more steady, we got around to picking rags and sifting through the rubbish to find anything we could resell to kabadiwalas (scrap dealers) who would find someone who would pay for their scrap value. This was an okay thing until we started finding curious things in the wastes from the area where we were growing up – the residential-cum-commercial area was full of grown-ups sniffing and discarding worse stuff in the trash – there were always traces of such things, especially the cheaper, unhealthy, and contaminated variety, for us to find and experiment there.”

Him: (continuing) “We got in a nasty habit there, trying all sorts of things, first for free then slowly paying for it. We just didn’t realize we were paying a part of our lives as the price. This went for many years before my family finally gave up on me and stopped giving me shelter any more. Looking back, this was one of the best things that happened to me. Then I had to come here to seek shelter and also make changes to my life. These people were nice, they let me in at zero fee, I just had to follow the rules and help with chores. Things turned around slowly. It was not always easy, but I kept trying. Since the time I got out of here, my target is always the monthly salary from a decent job – nothing gives me more happiness than going home with a cheque in hand and being greeted with smiles. I live for my family, from one day to another.”

(awkward silence)

Me: “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

Him: “I will see you next time I come around here. You really should have that tea, if you intend to work here for longer.” And then he passes me one of the most genuine and warmest smiles I have ever seen.

As he walks away with his cup, I pick up my tea reluctantly, take a sip of the bitter liquid, put it back on the table, and try to do some work. From the corner of my eye I can see him chatting smilingly with other people. I wonder if his new fix is hope – or love – because we are all dependent in some way. It’s just about choosing the right fixes.