Thursday, 25 September 2014

Curtain Call

I write about death with a disturbing frequency and an even more disturbing insight, like I have studied it closely, dissecting every tiny aspect and profile with surgical precision and in obsessive detail. I have been doing this for years now; writing in perpetual fear of losing the ones I love to this inescapable truth and inevitable end.
My last few posts have been soaked in this fear, doused in darkness, and heavy with the harsh reality of losing someone. Some things happen in our lives, very unassumingly and silently, and they creep up on us at the oddest of hours-in the middle of the night, or while you're putting on your new black dress, or while you're relieving yourself in the bathroom and humming a Simon And Garfunkel song, or maybe while you're drilling into a patient's tooth- and change everything.
I once wrote about how death is like a nimble jungle cat that strikes without warning and without tell-tale hints.
Yesterday, I was at the clinic working on a patient, when I received a call from my boss about something to do with payment protocol for a particular case. I heard him out, nodded and mumbled some obedient yes sir's and alright sir's, and that was that. I got back to work, completed the drilling and filling for my patient and headed back home without knowing that this was to be the last time I would hear from him.
Dr. Ghosh, my boss, passed away two hours ago from a massive cardiac arrest. Just like that, he's gone.
I didn't know him very closely or for very long (just a little over two months), but the knowledge of his passing struck me like a guillotine to the neck. He was a man with a smile on his face and conviction in his gait. His hands were those of a man born to heal people, and his patients always loved him for his amicable personality and impeccable work ethic. His guidance at the workplace will be sorely missed by me, more than anything else.

Death tears little pieces away from your life, leaving behind a smaller paper to write your story on. It's like a giant eraser that cuts faces out according to some mysterious incomprehensible whim, and perhaps that is why we should develop a trained sense of myopia, seeing nothing but what is at hand, and what you currently have.
Staring far into the future can't possibly draw out much good, and taking life too seriously shall only lead to collected regrets to ponder upon when you're old and decaying.
But perhaps what I need to learn, more than anything else, is how I need to stop writing about and romanticizing death like it's my invisible yet omnipresent muse. There are happier things to write about, surely; and I think I've exhausted my quota of morbid vignettes and poetry a long time ago.

Let us learn to celebrate life like it is a brilliant vaudeville show where everyone gets free popcorn and candy. Death is just a curtain call; the show will always go on, day after day.

Rest in peace, Dr. Ghosh. You put up a great show, and I'll never forget you.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Like black silk hiding
A bitter velveteen pill
That can carry you
To a nation of elevation,
And open your eyes
To an armory of words
That can spike your day
With confidence and zing--
Carry the cup with sure hands,
And with a steady rise
Let the lips kiss the rims
When horizons unite
And the blackness flows
To enter you--
A sharp penetration,
Not gentle and slow like tea,
Nor tender and loving like
A hired concubine,
It romances your tongue
And plays with your mouth
Like a lover on a summer's day...
The warmth fills you up
Wholly, and without selfish intent,
Reminding your skin
That not all in this world
Is harsh, cold and hard...
The cup is your companion
When the morning arrives,
No matter how dark the night was;
The coffee shall be darker...
And remind you of the brightness
That you have seen before
On those Sundays when you played
With the frisky fingers of
The man you're growing to love...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My Reluctant Muse

His brows have turned white,
And perhaps that is the reminder
That has loomed over us all
Like the phantom peril that awaits
Only to befall each story that ever begins...
When I sense his presence,
And a silence, pregnant with words
That have not escaped his wise mouth
In months that seem like years, that
Have not been touched by rain,
And when the earth has torn itself apart,
I fill the spaces that occupy the inches
Between us with smiles that erupt
When tears would have preferred a release,
And words that sprout when
Question marks prevail...

There is only so far that our journeys mix--
We must learn to walk alone...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I'm All I've Got

I must write 
To save my soul,
Set fire to the threats
Of a foreign invasion...
I must maintain homogeneity 
Of the mind, body, heart..
Be true to the village 
Where my mind grew
And my heart flourished..
I must write to preach
And spin along
My own axis,
Like a blue ball of water and life,
Independent of the galaxies and stars
That cast threatening shadows
Over my innocent plans,
Over my harmless dreams,
And over my lofty ambitions--
Lest they grow bigger
Than the constellations
And dictate their own astrology...

I must be my own sun,
I must be my own moon,
For there will never be another...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

How To Live Your Life As A Woman In Calcutta: A Constructive Guide

If I had to make a list of, say, a hundred things that were wrong with our nation at the moment, I think the one that would top my list would be how conveniently, tragically and openly women are treated as second-grade citizens. Like there is a twisted hierarchy which places us on the tier well below the one reserved for the males of our species; and not only are we meant to stand on this tier and be alright with being society's predetermined denominators, so to speak, we are meant to adhere to certain rules and regulations that our more evolved males have set aside for us, with a smile on our lips and grace in our step. We must be lady-like and elegant, no matter if there are lecherous men salivating and staring at your bare legs as you head to a party, or taxi drivers that choose to check you out instead of the traffic through their rear-view mirrors, or not having the freedom to wear boxer-shorts in your own home lest that tempts the house-help into doing something dark and unspeakable.
Oh yes, the pressure is always on if you're a woman. 
You may be having a horrible hair-day, a crampy stomach, an endorphin dip, or just a bad hangover, but none of those things are big enough to exempt you from the demands of being a lady. 
This morning, I began my day on a rather sour note. As I sat with my faithful black cup of caffeinated goodness and flipped through the pages of today's newspaper, my eyes fell upon this ridiculous article which spoke of Kolkata Police's latest take on how to avoid being raped in the city.
I urge my readers to grab a copy of any of the city's leading dailies and check out the bizarre list of instructions that our dear cops have deemed worthy enough to be listed down and followed by the women of the city. 
However, for your convenience, I think it's only fair that I enumerate some of the choicest of these, verbatim. Here we go:
-DO dress decently;
-DO avoid late nights;
-DO walk in well-lit and frequented areas;
-DO be well behaved;
-DO stay in groups;
-DO avoid traveling in a crowded bus or train.

[Before I begin my (very) constructive criticism of what can only be defined as something that eerily seems to be straight from the Dark Ages, I must also point out how Kolkata Police also advises us ladies to carry pepper-spray with us at all times, practice self-defense when needed, and to be street smart].

I suppose as a young woman working and living in the city, this 'instructive' piece of information aims to make me feel safe and looked-after; if for no other reason, then simply for the one that at least the city's police force is thinking of us, tier-two folks, and that they do wish for us to behave ourselves and not invite trouble. I suppose it should be some kind of consolation to know that we aren't an entirely ignored segment of society, and that once in a while, we are thought of.
To my fellow second-grade citizens of Calcutta I would like to say that it is best for you to hide those satanic legs beneath cotton sheets or denim pants- the baggier, the better (you don't wish to reveal the true shape of that evil derriere that you own, do you?). Cover that mischievous cleavage and shield those fleshy arms under opaque dupattas. There is no need or urgency to demonstrate to the world how young and sassy you are. No. That is indecent. We must behave well; we must not laugh too loudly in public places, lest that attracts attention or entices our respected males' eyes and loins. We must move about the city in huddles, never alone; because we, like lepers, must mingle solely with our own kind, just as we have indirectly been instructed to do. Dingy, poorly-lit streets are not for us to roam, and the night is not ours to explore. No. We must stick to exploration while the sun is still up and while we are still allowed outdoors. It does not matter if due to one of the numerous taxi strikes in the city, we are being forced to commute to work by bus; we must not use the bus. It is crowded and reserved for use exclusively for men. We do not deserve to go to work on such days, because of course, we wouldn't like to impose ourselves or find our sweaty, harrowed selves in that crowd sticking to a male member and causing them any discomfort, would we? No. Imagine the indecency and audacity of such an act!

Ladies, I suppose all that is left for us to do is accept our stature and social-standing. 
No, we shouldn't be teaching our sons and brothers and uncles to control their hormones and behave like civilized beings. We shouldn't be teaching school boys how their female classmates are also humans and do not deserve to be treated any differently. We shouldn't be condescending or critical of music videos on the telly which objectify women and restrict them to being mere sex-objects to be played with and lusted for. We shouldn't raise our voices against men who rape you with their eyes on a daily basis when you walk to work or to the grocer's, nor be vocal about the lewd comments that are directed at you when you step out on the streets with a bit of make-up on.
These are things that our honourable police force forgot to add to their enlightening and helpful to-do list.
Add them to your own list and find your life becoming a whole lot easier to lead. Be decent and well-mannered, and above all, don't write sarcastic, suggestive and inflammatory articles such as this one if you wish to live in Bengal. 
By tomorrow or day after, I may have some goons lined up outside my house waiting to attack me for this appalling display of my silent, snarky disobedience, but that's alright. I'll use my pepper spray, practice self-defense, and remain forever street-smart just as I have been instructed to be by Kolkata Police. I think that should work, shouldn't it? 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

So Predictable

Have you ever thought about how conveniently we ignore our mortality and the highly moribund nature of our existence? It seems to me, increasingly so, that we live in this very fragile, very opaque shell made of firm bricks of denial and a stubborn vehemence.
From the first breath to the last, it's a backward countdown ticking days off of our life's calendar with a robotic precision. Yes, these are facts that we all know; we have been force-fed these truths all along, like vaccine-shots to be taken, never questioned. And yet, this truth sits like a silent shadow that lurks backstage while the show is on, not letting you know when it shall choose to manifest its morbid self and demonstrate its full omnifarious form. You may ask yourself while offloading the next morning in the loo, will it be an accident, a disease, old-age, heartbreak, suicide, murder, an aneurysm, a terrorist attack, or a bullet?
It's an answer you cannot know before it chooses to reveal itself, and yet you know that it is simply a means to get to the same end that is predestined for every soul that has ever lived.

Some writers feel inspired to write about budding romances and passionate afternoons on rainy days such as this one, and here I am, reminding you of how perishable you are. The caffeine isn't working on me today, and neither is the music. I wonder what I need today; perhaps something stronger? 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Can I write you
A palate cleanser,
A mood changer,
A ball swinger,
A whistle blower tonight?
Carry your muddy feet,
Your charred flesh,
Your cuffed wrists,
Your sun-burnt skin
To the nearest black-hole,
And the warmest dying sun
That lies on this half
Of the universe
Where I shall allow
Gravity to seduce us,
And the wind to sing us
Our very own love song,
And the waters to touch us
With waves of gratification
And sonnets of passion...
Let me write you
A palate cleanser,
A mood changer,
A ball swinger,
A whistle blower tonight--
So that my words may kiss you
Where my lips cannot...