Figure in the Mist: A Translation

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Why did you have to…?

I thought I’d ask.

I’d come out of the mist

I was always there

Waiting – to ‘catch’ you

To stop you in your tracks

And ask – why that?

 

Then I step back

I let you walk on

I hide into the mist once again.

 

For I can’t let you think

All this infinite time

I stood waiting in the mist.

There are nights when I think

The one thing that can and should be said

Is that always, and, well…

There are days when – phew!

I thank god for Never

Never will be said the inane words.

 

I have asked She-who-knows

For your sleepless nights

Let him not sleep, Mother; once

May he court sleep

And get only my name

Like a blot in the landscape

That wouldn’t disappear

For all my sleeplessness, just one.

 

In the same breath

My ever-coward self

Shakes a warning head to kind eyes.

I believe in you, Mother

So don’t listen to me.

May my shadow not fall on anyone.

He didn’t ask, Mother

He didn’t ask for me.

Bless him; save him from my reach.

 

Why did you have to…?

I think I’d ask.

But then I think, no, why should I?

Why give you a chance

To ‘explain yourself’

To try to pretend, as if to undo…

Let it stay here

Let the story halt

At I love you and you killed me.

 

Image: pixabay

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Till We Meet Again

Perhaps when I die, I shall get a warning or a notification of sorts: your time has come; please prepare yourself. And how shall I get that warning, you ask? My cats will come to see me. My cats who are no longer here, that is. Till now, I used to think it would only be my first cat, the beauty in black-and-white, my beloved friend, the wonderfully mature, intelligent and warm one. Now I think: perhaps I shall be lucky enough to see all of them. The one who was white with orange spots, who scratched me in play and made me take an anti-tetanus and understood that she had made a blunder; the one who would simply come and fall asleep behind the statue in our veranda; the one who would begin with a snappy ‘Meaow!’, and after some milk would take it down a couple of notches and respond with a mild ‘Mew.” The same one who, while passing outside the window of our kitchen one day, called my attention to herself with a “Hi,” and after I had expressed my pleasure to see her and asked her to come in, replied with a ‘Nope. Bye,” and walked on.

If I am lucky, the one who has gone away now to join these others, the one who left most recently, shall also come to see me again. She’s the one who looked a bit like a tigress – a young and playful tigress. This is how we became friends: one evening, I realised that the dogs in our alley were barking at a cat who had ran up our frangipani tree. I went up to the roof to help her because cats do this: they often climb up to a height and then have no idea how to get down, the intrepid explorers. On seeing me, she greeted me with a subdued mew, which meant as clearly as possible: ‘Oh, hello. Here we are, in a bit of a spot. Bit scared too, to be honest… Anyway, could you lend a hand?’

So I got a small tub and extended it towards the tree so that she could jump into it and then I would bring her inside the roof. But she made the leap directly into the roof herself, and was soon rubbing herself against my feet, possibly to show her appreciation of my moral support. The dogs were still waiting and barking below the tree, so that could not be an exit. I tried to show her a different route out, stayed with her a few minutes till she had relaxed enough to start the all-important grooming, brought her some milk and left her sipping it.

A few days later, during the day on a weekend, she came and sat down on the wall in front of our house, below the frangipani, and I had no doubt that she had come to renew the acquaintance. I also realised that I had met her before, on the park wall, mewing uncertainly. I had taken some milk to her then too, and she had not only had some of it, but had also rolled over on her back, possibly to assure me that she knew my intentions were noble. Rolling over on her back was her mannerism, actually; we came to see that in the following months.

And today, she has been missing for a week and someone who takes care of cats tells me two of them have been killed recently by dogs near our house. Two plus two = our playful little tigress (perhaps also the timidish tom who would sneak in to lap up the milk she would leave undrunk) is gone.

So long then, love.

 

Chance Meeting

railway track

Chance meeting in a rail compartment,

I hadn’t thought it would be possible.

I had seen her many times

In a red sari

Red as the pomegranate;

Today, she’s wearing a black silk,

She has covered her head

Bordered her face — fair as the white ginger lily.

As if, with the black colour, she has wrapped

A deep distance all around herself,

The distance that is in the last limit of mustard fields

In the blue depths of the saal forest.

My whole heart halted;

I saw a known one in the unknown’s solemnity.

Suddenly, flinging down the newspaper

She greeted me.

The way to social norms was opened,

I started the small talk –

How are you, how’s the family

And so on.

She kept staring out of the window

As if in a gaze that has crossed the touch of intimate days.

She gave a few, very brief replies,

Sometimes none at all.

The impatience of her hands implied –

Why this talk,

So much better than this to stay silent.

I was on the other seat

With her companions.

At one time she asked me with her fingers to come close.

I thought she was rather brave;

I sat down on her same seat.

In the cover of the train’s noise

She said softly,

“Don’t mind,

Where is the time to waste time.

I have to get down at the very next station;

You will go far,

We shall never meet again.

Thus the question whose answer has paused for so long,

I want to hear from you.

Will you tell me the truth?”

I said, “I will.”

She kept her eyes on the sky as she asked,

“Our days that are past

Are they utterly past,

Is nothing left of them.”

I kept quiet for a while;

Then I said,

“All the stars of the night remain

In the depths of the day’s light.”

I wondered, did I make it up?

She said, “Never mind, now go there.”

Everyone got down at the next station;

I went on alone.

 

Translated from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.

(Image: Pexels)

Straw

There was this girl in a TV show who could not ‘get over’ (detestable parlance) her ex, and was being pathetic enough to entertain all his nonsense, to the extent of giving him a lift when he was going to see his current girlfriend (with whom he cheated on this one) and so on. But then, in the midst of this suspension, she happened to realise that the ex had not watered her plants. And suddenly, all at once, she was ‘cured of him’.

And there was this guy in a film who had lost his love to all intents and purposes, fought with his best friend… but he kept the upper lip stiff. Till the hour when he meant to call one friend and ended up calling another. By mistake. (Except that there are no mistakes, as he says.) And then this guy broke into tears.

Suspension is when the dust has settled and you realise that the bomb was dropped on your floor. Or perhaps your floor fell when it had no business to fall. Stupid, selfish floor. Suspension is when you need straws. Suspension is not crossroads because crossroads suggests two or more roads to choose from. Suspension is a lack of anything resembling a road, a path, a track, a route. That is why straws indicate the possibility of a way. Or. They may at least indicate which cannot be the way – which is the no way. To break the donkey’s back or to clutch and survive hangs upon a straw.

But straws are also unreliable – even treacherous. Too often (or is it always?) they move the way the wind blows. You cannot feel the wind if it is too light, but straws being straws will take even a breeze’s direction. And hence. When you have to go towards, every straw will usher and urge. And when you have to go away…

When you have to go away, even straws acquire the audacity to shove you. Or at least pinprick. And pinpricks may well break your back.

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Image: pixabay.

A Futuristic Romance

Citizen Phaal of Planet E had always liked to think of himself as a great appreciator of female beauty. Which is why, when he met Citizen Ilka from Planet V in the Inter-Planetary Youth Carnival, he did not fail to appreciate her charms. They spoke different languages, but that did not bother Phaal. Conversation was not his immediate concern. He knew plenty of other ways to express his interest in a girl. And Ilka seemed to understand him well enough. When Phaal led the way to a passing tent, she seemed in no way reluctant to have a little fun. Again, when Phaal brought out the protection and the girl brushed it off with a look of puzzlement, he did not complain. She must have been on pills.

The complaint burst forth a few months later, at the doctor’s chamber. Phaal had been feeling perpetually tired, hungry and pukish. He hoped that the doctor would not ask him to cut down on the booze. However, the doctor seemed to give a dry chuckle (which made Phaal feel hopeful), and said, “Congratulations.”

Incomprehension, bewilderment, fury and expletives; consolation, explanations, reassurances and sympathetic nods followed. The patient even shed some not unmanly tears. But a few hours down the line, the polite doctor’s patience was wearing thin. He had explained many times to the protesting man in front of him why both an abortion and a caesarean delivery were not safe options. There was only so much you could put up with from a grown man.

For the nth time, however, Phaal was struck with a new argument. “But how?” he exclaimed shrilly, “How in the name of you-know-what will it happen? It’s not possible, see? That’s why women do it. They are meant to do it. There’s a reason why men don’t do this s***. How will it come out?”

By now, the doctor was too irritated to elaborate. His reply was cold and brief: “A******e.”

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(Image: pixabay)

The Window

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(No, this and the previous post are not part of a series of architectural poems!)

 

I sat beside the window

Watching the world pass by,

And the world has passed me by.

 

I sat and watched

The wondrous world…

I looked far; I looked high.

 

So much I planned

To join the stream

To join yet stand apart;

 

Such glorious dreams

So many a path

Took shape and filled my heart.

 

The room within

I never would see

It’s there and me in it;

 

It will be here

But the world’s changing

Can’t afford to miss a bit.

 

Such long neglect

My humble room

Such dusty corners now;

 

Warm it may be

But it’s no beauty

I see today why and how.

 

I watched the world

I dreamed the world

I turned my face away;

 

What’s always here

Will always be

One after another day.

 

I had stepped out

I tried to hold

I tried to grasp and catch;

 

In the big busy world

In the land of dreams

For me there’s nary a patch.

 

See, all my friends

And all I loved

Have been so wise and good;

 

They tidied rooms

And packed their bags

The rules they understood.

 

When I caught a glimpse

I felt so thrilled

I thought I saw it all;

 

Not just pride

But love and trust

Can come before a fall.

 

This day, the world

Turns back at me.

Is that pity or scorn?

 

“You just don’t see

Till you bump your head

My dear, when were you born?”

 

What should I say?

Excuse? Sorry?

Should I move or step back?

 

My history seems

Milestones of loss

And even before – a lack.

 

Excuse me, world

If I retreat

To my neglected room;

 

My absence won’t

Leave any big gap

I believe I rightly presume.

 

This is my room

Let’s look at it

Let’s see it closely now;

 

The dark corners…

Whose voice is that?

Some voice I didn’t allow?

 

Poor old room,

Now here I am

Now here I sit with you;

 

The window’s closed

The world may pass

But we must start anew.

 

Not too late,

It’s not too tough

Let there be struggle or strife;

 

We’ll clean you up

We’ll bring in light

Got the rest of our life.

 

(Image: pixabay)

The Corridor

I am going to let myself

Dream the good dreams:

 

I am walking down a corridor

Lined with doors.

I pass them by

And then come to you –

The door to your room.

Many bubbles out of one;

So the dream divides…

 

Maybe you are so eager to see me

That even while I’m walking

The door opens and you come out and we see each other

And smile and grin and laugh

And I walk a little quicker.

 

Or maybe you’re inside

But again, waiting; wanting to see me

And I knock

After a fleeting pause…

When I go in

You’re right there;

Your seat by the window

Glad to see me; really glad.

And we’re laughing already;

We’d been joking in our minds even before we set eyes on each other.

And then another amazing thing happens

Unprecedented

You hold out your hand for mine.

I take it.

Technicolor embrace.

Not too deep, not too intense

For I’m in the mood to walk on clouds.

Just holding each other

And laughing at being together.

End of dream.

 

Can you believe how long the corridor was

That I had to walk before

I could allow myself to see this?

Cake Crossword: Second Helping

After venting mid-week about tests (of patience) https://tithikatha.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/an-ode-to-the-little-deriders/, I return gladly to tastes of… well, go on, find out. Bon appétit!

cake crossword2a

 

Ingredients:
Across:
1. Take a bite of this and it may appear on your device (5)
2. No time to savour different things? Mix ’em together and drink it (8)
4. Italian, creamy, inverted. (10)
5. Explosion of chocolate on the plate. (4)
6. Many kinds of this; the Swiss one’s particularly popular. (4)
8. It’s the date that makes the pudding so. (6)
11. The key ingredient of marzipan (6)
12. The guise chocolate takes in Easter (4)
14. Difficult to believe that something so healthy can be turned into something as delicious as flapjacks (4)
16. Draw a square. Now divide it into four equal squares. The diagonally opposite smaller squares should be the same. You see where I am going? A town in Germany. (10)
17. The first five letters is an ingredient involved in making this. The last three is another ingredient, but usually absent. (8)
18. Creamy, gooey, sinful. (5)

Down:
1. An leg. A glen. A food cake. (5)
2. So popular a kind of cake that a queen lent it her name (6)
3. Three layers? Three kinds of milk? Both? Sorry, I am a bit confused, but milk seems to be the keyword here. (10)
4. Wiki says this is named after a Russian ballerina. Another clue is in the 5 down of the first instalment https://tithikatha.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/cake-crossword-slice-1/. (7)
6. The first 5 is actually a kind of the last 5. Typically white. Typically accompanies fruit cakes. (10)
7. The pie version of this is also a book by PG Wodehouse. (And so happy I am to have been able to bring him in to this!) (4)
9. What it really means is a milk product. The fruit version, however, doesn’t use it but can be more delicious. No? Alright, it’s hidden in the product. (4)
10. Think Christmas. Think trees. Think chocolate. (7)
13. Can mean a number of things, but the Scottish version is the sweetest (6)
15. Comes in so many kinds that it’s difficult to know whether I should mention the savoury or the sweet, the tomato or the caramel… (5)

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And finally, what I’ve been talking about:

cake crossword2b

An Ode to the Little Deriders

 

You know the ones

Who’s so much the funs

The ‘anything goes’ abiders.

 

They know what’s best

To hell with the rest;

I call them Little Deriders.

 

’Cause anything good

Can become the food

For ridicule at their hands;

 

Mean is ‘in’,

Decorum’s sin;

Nobody else understands –

 

What they realise.

They see through the guise

Of the old fool – ‘decency’;

 

Filth they’ll find

In theme of any kind,

The muck they’ll always see.

 

And oh! The delight

They feel at the sight

Of all that glorious muck!

 

Of anything nice

They’ll take a slice

And out the sweetness suck.

 

You like the Bard?

Well, he’s a retard.

Have you not heard that joke?

 

Sex or shit…

(That’s usually it.)

Anyway, he’s a worthless bloke.

 

You believe in – what?

Oh god, not that?

But that’s a complete sham!

 

They’ll tell you why

You’ve got to be high

To trust that obvious scam.

 

You believe in A?

Bi or gay?

The dirty version they’ll know.

 

You admire B?

Now, let us see…

How did that loo joke go?

 

It’s transparent

The way they’re bent:

Offence the best defence;

 

They’ll show you the way

To live your day,

Or how to live life hence;

 

Strongly support

What they purport,

Or you are a pathetic fool.

 

’Cause you can’t deny

Even if you sigh

That they’re oh-no-so-cool!

 

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Cake Crossword, Slice 1

Get, set, gorge!

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Recipe:

Across:

1. Little balls of choux pastry filled with crème pat. (Gosh, how knowledgeable that sounds!)
2. If you take away the accent on the last letter of this word, it also means ‘the low sound heard through a stethoscope’!
6. The fairer sibling of the very popular gooey, fudgy, chocolatey dessert.
8. It’s got a chart named after it.
9. Lime is the ___ ingredient of this pie
10. Muffins decide to dress up.
11. When a cuppa and a bite come together…
13. Think almond, think jam, think a town in Derbyshire

Down:

1. Brit informal abbrev for these sweet things
2. Scottish, buttery, occasionally millionaires
3. Take 1 across and make it long
4. There’s a New York version, there’s a Philadelphia version
5. Starts airy and ends up crisp
6. When a fruit and a sweet join hands to make a pie
7. Red. ‘Nuff said.
12. What’s common between Snoopy, Brazil and crazy?

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And the result…

 

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