Artwork : 03/07/2018


Rain and Photography

few pictures and few stories…

The much-awaited Monsoon finally reached my city. As I woke up to a cold morning, the earth smelled like rain. The rhythmic beats of the drops, the icy breeze that blew the curtains halfway, and the absence of a blaring sun – it was so dreamlike.

I got my phone and clicked random photos. Though they are not of high artistic value, they do look good.

The rawness…

The shacks serve as lodging for students. These late-teens come from the aphotic zones of the country, where life unfolds slow and harsh, in search of this glimmering city, which is an aphotic zone for us. My sunlight is Delhi, which is dark and dingy for the people who’ve flown away to a brighter place. Light, I think, is a subjective reality.

The companions of my parents…

The parking lot of my little bungalow. Standing elegantly on its exquisite brickwork flooring is Dhanno – my mother’s scooty – who receives more love than all other members of the house combined together. Dhanno has been with us for years now, and has an equal say in every decision of the house. She’s covered in a lavish shawl with fine threadwork, and her butts are wrapped in transparent plastic, which, I assume, is the latest fashion in the bike world. In the background, that dying thing is my father’s bicycle, which is older than me (3 years). It does not have a name. It still works, though if you add the repairing costs over the years, you would understand why we could never buy a Pajero Sport.

Glide…glide….glide…and fall…

The coconut fronds lashing in the air. The dense trees jiggle in the wind and the sheets fall on the sheet, and the nature’s instruments play in sync, and my heart sings and sings and sings.

The baked earth over the unbaked one…

The insides of my under-construction house. Yeah, we are building a new home. A better one which can accommodate more of my mother’s dreams. But I like it this way – unfinished and raw. That’s more like me.

A half-baked story….

My proposed study. Right now, the workers have occupied this place, so all the stuff you see here belongs to them. The rack with the water camphor is actually for keeping our suits when we get rich. With this level of planning, my mother could run finance ministries of two countries and still have enough time to watch the Maha episode of Ye Hai Mohabbatein.

Down the memory lane….

My old house staring at me. No my love, I haven’t forgotten you, for love is not so simple, and I am not that heartless.

The Scent of Love 💕

when love disappears like a perfume….

Nothing is more memorable than a smell.
– Diane Ackerman

Love, at times, is ephemeral as a whiff. It passes in a hurry, like that wind by a snag on a summer evening – the skeleton waits alone in the pale tint of orange, on dessicated earth where life rusts while death dawdles; and the wind whooshes past, blowing its soul in the direction, blessing it with a vicarious flight, something its stationary existence would never stumble upon.

I remember her whiff – sweet, pleasant, unlike the deodorant she’d put on usually. It worked magic on my senses – so intoxicating that at times I’d just want to sniff at her neck.

It wasn’t a big affair. Fleeting and mundane moments of togetherness, a lot of unspoken words – you could not make a Titanic out of it – and the lack of better prospects drove our relationship.

Sometimes, you need a landing to rest and prepare yourself for another flight of stairs. We were the landing for each other. Nevertheless, she was special.

Well, they all are, until they stop being that. Love stories are not immortal. Those always end in tragedy. You would break up or die, or slowly ebb away like a receding tide – but separation is a certainty. I have known this for a long time, and so it did not kill me when we parted ways.

I remember watching her leave, and I knew even though we haven’t said our goodbyes yet, we won’t be meeting again. Even if we ran into each other, we’ll just turn our heads and pass. That was the end of our story. It was not easy to gulp, but that did not kill me, for love is a smell, and it shall have to pass some day.

How you wish for it to linger for a bit longer! Ah the petty laws of physics!
My memories of her are shrinking. Day by day, bit by bit. Her thoughts bring fewer images. Her voice had disappeared long ago. Someday, I would forget most of her. I may not even remember her name. But as I’d flip through the crinkly yellow pages of my life, I’d remember her whiff.

Or maybe not.

You don’t actually remember the smell, you just remember how it smelled. Sweet and pleasant – that’s what I’d remember of her.

The Predator Mom

Is your enemy worth the kindness?

I spotted it right when my pee stream reached its maximum attainable velocity and began to recede like a dying shower. There it sat still, sprawled like a wedding tent, the two front legs of it hidden behind the drenched bamboo pole. I could not see its eyes, but I could sense them fixed on me, monitoring my movement, mapping my gaze, like a predator following its prey. The stream vaporised mid air. My joints froze and my skin turned white. My heart shuddered as the hair on my napes rose in alarm. One giant spider in my toilet! Mummmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyy!

If I were a six year old, I’d have sprinted like a gazelle, and not peed or pooed for the next two days until my father got sick of my whining and grabbed it with his hands wrapped in plastic bag and tossed it out of the house. They’d return to find me – sometimes spread on the wall, sometimes lurking behind the flush, sometimes puckered up on the back of the door. They’d never move, just stare at me with the strange silence that shrouds over decaying cemeteries. My throat would go dry and I’d stop breathing, afraid of the venomous stench of them pervading through the air.

The presence of spiders was frightening, but their absence was even more horrifying. My eyes would look for them in the corners, digging every place they could hide for a Guerilla ambush. I imagined them quietly crawling over my body, their long legs feeling my skin, their teeth tearing through it. You cannot squish a spider, because its gland splatters deadly venom which sears your skin and leaves a spider shaped scar. It’s dead and gone, but its ghost remains to give you nightmares. What a terrible feeling, to not be able to fight a tiny insect that’s crawling all over your body, like an emperor treading over his slave! It builds its web all around you, right on your face, and you cannot do a thing. You cannot hurt it, it’s a suicide bomber, it’ll go by killing you.

I would have nightmares of me trapped in my chair, bound in spider silk, spiders crawling all over me, trying to get inside my mouth. I’d clench my jaws tightly, but they’d get inside my nostrils and crawl all the way up. Spiders taste like death, they smell like death.

But I was not a six year old anymore, so I had to put up a fight. I could turn and run away, but if I did not find its dead body hanging from its own web the next day, I’d assume it was still hiding somewhere, waiting for me, an evil sneer pasted all over its face.

I made a bowl of my hand, poured some water and threw it on the spider. No movement. My heart thundered in my mouth. In an hour, a spider can run 1.8 miles, which is 156,230 times its own body length, where as, in the same span, a human can run only 24,606 times its own body length. There was no way I could beat a spider, it was quick, Spider Man is quick as hell. I gathered all my courageous bits from the floor and threw some more water. It moved. Damn! Godamn! It turned and ran. Under its belly it had a large white egg sac. I shot out of the room like a propelled rocket.

Goddamn it! A spider mom laying spider eggs in my house. A giant spider sac contains 150 to 300 eggs, and a giant spider produce 10 to 20 sacs in their lifetime. That equalls 1500 to 6000 spiderlings in my house. I was getting dizzy with all the maths involved.

My nightmare was realising – the 6000 spiders shall cocoon me up and devour on me. They’d crawl in and out of my skull, they’d bite and rip off my flesh, they’d burn my skin, they’d feed their babies off me. I’d be the dinner to a family of house spiders!

I was sweating profusely, my throat all dried up from fear. The hair on my body went stiff like erect penises. I shall have to abandon this house.

That night, I could not eat the okra fry, because it felt like spider abdomen – soft and squishy. I knew there were no spiders in my plate but my eyes still combed through. The mangoshake my mother offered me wasn’t tasty as before.

Earlier, I used to raise lizards in my house so that they would eat all the spiders in the house. I’d never shoo away lizards, I’d play Rahat Fateh Ali Khan when I saw them mating, just to make the air more romantic. Every baby lizard that was in the danger of getting trampled or flushed would be saved by me. Then one day, we found a 7 inch lizard in the milk pan. And my mother started shooing them away.

I googled spiderlings that night. They are not cute. No way. Tiny little monsters crawling with their horrendous legs. Ah.
Next, I googled spider moms. They are brave, they carry all their babies with them, all the time, till they are big enough to find their own ways. Quite like my own mother. Okay….

In the morning I came all prepared with a hose, my body wrapped in winter clothes. And there, I spotted a lizard. It had repaid the kindness. The spider was absent, but I was sure my Geckoboy had killed it. I was relieved.

I thought about the spiderlings though. Would a lizard really harm a pregnant mother? It could have just shooed the spider away, I mean.

Maybe it did.

Do spiderlings find their ways if the mom is dead? And does the mom leave her child when she has to escape the predator?

वो एक शाम…

कुछ अधपके ख़याल । 💕

उजाले अपनी यादों के हमारे साथ रहने दो,
न जाने किस गली में ज़िंदगी की शाम हो जाए।

-बशीर बद्र

पत्तियों से छनकर शिमला की वो शाम मेरे गालों को हल्के से स्पर्श कर रही थी। उस धूप में राहत थी हल्की सी, थोड़ा सा सुकून था, और रत्ती भर उदासी । हवाओं में तैरता एक गीत था, जिसके शब्द तो गुम गए पर धुन अभी भी गूंज रही है – गिटार के सबसे निचले वाले तार को मानो किसी रूमी ने छू दिया हो। कुछ बेफिक्र परिन्दे घर को लौट रहे थे। समझ नहीं पा रहा था कि मेरी वो शाम कब आएगी। शाम और मेरा रिश्ता थोड़ा “काॅम्प्लिकेटेड” है – इसमें मोहब्बत और नफरत बराबर मात्रा में है, जैसे चौसा वाली चाची की चाय में चीनी और पत्ती।

जाखु की चढ़ाई में शरीर अकड़ चुका था। पसीने से तर बतर मेरी नीली शर्ट मेरे सीने से चिपक रही थी । सीने के अंदर ज़ोर-ज़ोर से धड़कता मेरा कोलेस्ट्रॉल वाला दिल मुझसे थमने की गुहार लगा रहा था। पर दिल की अर्ज़ियाँ तो हम कमबख्त बचपन से ठुकराते आए हैं। हनुमानजी अभी भी कोसों दूर थे, वो भी थीटा डिग्री कोण पे। मैं चलता रहा – तेज़, उखड़ी सांसों के साथ । एक ढलते सूरज से रेस थी, जो मैं लगभग हार गया था।

सोच रहा था जिंदगी जाखु की चढ़ाई से कम है क्या – अपने ही कदमों के निशान रौंदकर चढ़ना कोई समतल रास्ता नहीं सिखा सकता; इसलिए तो कवि पहाड़ को चुनता है मैदान को नहीं। इसमें रस है, अलंकार है, अंग्रेज़ी में कहें तो “मेटाफर” है । ये मेटाफर – यही तो ज़िंदगी है ।

पहाड़ी खत्म होने का नाम नहीं ले रही थी। सांसों ने धड़कनों के साथ पार्टनरशिप कर ली थी और दोनों हड़ताल पर बैठ गए थे। सूरज डूब चुका था, आकाश उसकी विदाई में लाल हो चुका था । मैं रात की कल्पना कर रहा था। वो ऊपर का अंतहीन अंधेरा और ये कोसों नीचे तक जगमगाती सिटीलाईट्स – ये जो अद्भुत संगम है ना, ये मूक शब्दों मे बहुत कुछ कह जाता है।

अचानक काफी चीज़ें स्मरण हो आईं – जैसे किसी ने मेज पर रखा यादों का मेरा मर्तबान गिरा दिया हो। अंधेरे के साथ मेरा रिश्ता बहुत पुराना है – जब भी उसे सोचना होता है पलकें बंद कर लेता हूं, ताकि कोई आंखो में उदासी न पढ़ पाये । और अंधेरे में उसे देखना आसान होता है । दोस्तों मैं कोई देवदास नहीं हूं – शायरी भी ज्यादातर काॅपी पेस्ट ही करता हूं – पर औरंगज़ेब ने भी तो कमबख़्त कभी न कभी आशिकी की होगी । मार्क्सवादी इतिहासकार आपको ये नहीं बताएंगे, पर ये जो यादें होती हैं वो बड़ी औरंगज़ेब होती हैं – पत्थर के एक किले में बंद कर देती हैं जहां जालियों के बीच में से एक नन्हा सा ताजमहल दिखता है।

सोचता हूं क्या कुछ बदला जा सकता था? कोई जवाब नहीं आता । मेरे खुदगर्ज़ मन ने अब झूठ बोलना बंद कर दिया है । और मैं भी अब उसकी खामोशियाँ समझने लगा हूं ।

शाम अब ढल चुकी थी । सूरज की यादों को आसमान अब भुला चुका था । एक काली घनी रात थी ऊपर और नीचे टिमटिमाते सितारे थे । और थी यादें – जुगनू जैसी । चलिए, ताजमहल कह लिजिए – बस मेटाफर बदला है, मायने अभी भी वही हैं ।