Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti

Read this for reference before continuing.

Sixteen years later, a full fledged, voluptuous, long dark haired girl lies on a bedsheet on the floor of her room, next to the two mattresses, both of which are depressed with mountainous solids, covered in bedsheets and flanked by multiple pillows on either side- her parents.

The room is bathed in a gentle red hue and the air conditioner’s low, constant hum creates a drowsy, comfortable atmosphere. A guitar is in one corner of the room, against the wall, behind which the red lights twinkle lazily. The opposite wall is covered entirely with scraps of paper, some printed, some written on- by crayons, pencils, pens, markers, so much that the blue paint of the wall is hardly visible; things that may make no sense to someone who doesn’t look close enough. Each bit of paper contains thoughts.

It was something that the two sisters started earlier in the year. They put their thoughts on scraps of paper and struck them to the wall. Song lyrics, some random poems, lists, words, quotes, essays in the newspapers they liked, some important deadlines, written in bold; it was their mind on the wall. It contained candid snaps of their lives. There are times when each one of us wishes to read other people’s minds. The sisters’ minds were on this wall, right here.

In the background, from a small speaker, in a low, smooth voice, sings Jagjit Singh her father’s and her favorite shayari- Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti.

“It is an experience,” she had urged her parents who were both in their beds in the adjoining rooms when she had asked them to accompany her to her bedroom. “I want to give you The Experience.”

The Experience referred to something that she had, well, experienced just that evening. She’ll lose the lights and light up the red ones, she’ll set the temperature to an optimum, she’ll envelope her body up to her shoulders in a bedsheet, arms beside the body and play this song from the speaker. She’ll close her  eyes and let the song wash her over. She’ll inhale each beat, she’ll exhale each note, she’ll feel the music unravelling her, she’ll feel the words crawl up her skin. She’ll conjure images in her head, as each combination of words will make sense, second after she has registered them. She’ll let each chatoyant of every word that left his voice, enter her being and imprint permanently in her mind. Sometimes she will open her eyes and look at the shadows that the red lights will make in the room, and the music and the light will complement each other perfectly. She will think of songs that may make her feel the same way that she is feeling now. Her mind will produce a blank slate. That is when she will feel weightless.

Her parents were in the same position, eyes closed. She can feel the music weigh her eyes, and she knows that she’d be asleep soon. She pops her eyes open and looks at her parents’ resting bodies. And suddenly, she feels guilty.

In twenty three days, she would be leaving for college. For four years. For the first time, she’ll be away from them- away that she will never see them daily, away that she will not hassle with her mother over the quality of the food, away that she will not hug her father and kiss him goodnight, away that will not curse her sister for not having set the beds, away that her parents will not barge in on her before dawn and catch her on the phone. She felt guilty for leaving them with nothing after eighteen years of love and effort they put in for raising her; she felt guilty for leaving them empty handed. She felt guilty for having discovered The Experience so late that she won’t be able to compose a playlist of songs suitable for it. She felt guilty for receiving all the time. She felt guilty for taking so much from them. She felt guilty for having thought that she’d enjoy hostels, when the truth is that her heart would always be there, in this house, in this moment, when she is guilty and they are weightless.

Her parents were perfect. How can she ever have thought of leaving them, how could she have fought with them for something as stupid as a mobile phone? How could she have ever thought of living alone, embracing adulthood, when she still needed her mother to tell the doctor what was wrong whenever they visited one, for her? How could have she ever thought of doing laundry when she didn’t know how to operate a washing machine?

How could, how would she leave them? 

She looks at them. She wishes, suddenly, to be two once again, when her father came from the office, straight towards her for a hearty kiss, and her mother bathed her in a small bucket in the kitchen. She wishes to be two again, because she knows she’d have sixteen more years before she’d have to leave them.

Getting up from the floor, she goes and lies down between her parents, who are, both, fast asleep by now. She cuddle with her father, his arms around her. She extends her hands towards her mother, who holds them both between her own, warm palms, as Jagjit Singh sings in the background, “Voh kagaz ki kashti, voh baarish ka paani…”

*

Sorry for the long absence. Please check the Facebook page for details. You can follow TWPM on Instagram @theakankshavarma where I post lots, and regularly. Also follow at Twitter under @axavarma. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Mathematics Fails.

I perceive the thought as it enters my mind
and then quickly brush it away like a mosquito
that I know will return once it has spotted
me, a half-hearted attempt, with clear intentions.
And now, like the mosquito that keeps buzzing
near the ear and then flies away only to buzz near
the enclosed ear of a tortured soul again, the thought
enters my mind when I see my mother’s loose skin
and the father’s pepper hair, and the slow, yet steady,
constantly increasing messiness of the house,
as my mother’s knees give way to the arthritis and
notice the increasing summons of the plumber or
the guard or the electrician to pick out something hidden
in the high shelf as my father’s backache prevents it, and
the reply that I don’t get when I greet ‘good morning’.
my hung-over-sleep voice rarely above a whisper
as they don’t hear and the quivering of my father’s hand
when he signs a cheque and the uncertainty of my
mother’s foot as she places one step after the other.
And I realize that though I may have known them all my life
and though they may have been there for me (physically or mentally)
all my life, I’ll be there for only half of theirs. And then sinks
the grim reality that there is probably only a small fraction of their life left
that they will spend with me, and with the planet, after which
they will cease to exist but in the memory, which will continue to haunt
me till the day I take my last breath on this planet, my entire life.
And yet even in that half life, they do so much for us that even
a hundred thousand lifetimes wouldn’t be able to pay
that back right at them . And I think how in that half life, they can
know us better that we can ever know ourselves.
It’s funny how promptly the rules of mathematics change, where
one will always remain less than half. One half life less than a full.
Slowly, as the mosquito leaves once he has sucked enough,
so does my thought, and as the mosquito leaves behind a  red sore spot,
the thought leaves behind a faint resolution to make the most of
the time that I have left with the two angelic souls that I have
and who I love most deeply and without whom, I shall always be
half.

Rita.

IMG_7960 copy

The mountains in the background of
this gentle abode of mine
appear hazy to the weakening eyes
that saw everything but today rest in the care
of the only one who is worried enough
to care about- Rita.
There is some despair that has nested in my heart today
I can’t figure out why. Maybe, someday I’ll be happier
when I have my husband and he will crack his jokes.
Even then, even then, it will be despondent as
he will laugh out loud so much that the air
is palpable with a, strangely sad happiness, the knowledge
that the people we took care of,
we loved, we nurtured, the brought to this world
have forgotten us as we have tried to.
But I know why I feel it today as I see everyday,
some four-five unfortunate souls who are brought here,
who made the mistake of assuming that blood is thicker than water
and that somewhere down the line,
only people of same flesh and blood are
there for you. It’s just the nostalgia, just the beginning
as you come to the realize that sometimes,
promises one makes are false and the days that one had spent- futile.
Then comes the denial, the sad bitter truth
you know is true but you cannot accept, like a cancer patient
who knows that what is killing him is himself,
but also knows that humans are selfish and they can never
hurt themselves: the two paradoxes, truer than the truth
of the sun rises in east.
Finally, we knock on the doorstep of acceptance,
the truth which you have to swallow like an ugly pill that hurts at first,
but ultimately only lessens your pain. Which comes with a tang of guilt
as we know that somewhere, it must have been our fault
because our children are the sapphire and the diamonds of our lives,
and all that glitters is gold. Today, I feel the bitter pill of acceptance coming up.
With that internal and theoretical monologue in mind,
I make my way to the house that has been my home for the past seven years
and despite the melancholy I feel today, I feel
a smile make it’s home on my mouth as I see the silhouette I recognize
so perfectly- Rita. I grapple her shoulders and she turns to kiss
both my cheeks and says, in her chirpy voice,
“Aunty, you grow prettier by the year, your seventy-ninth
is even more glamorous than your seventy-eighth.”
And then, she puts the small cake in front of me
and all my friends at this old-age centre gather around
and clap as I weakly blow the candles,
when Rita says, “No aunty, make your wish.”
And my head goes back to all those small gifts
that I bought for my kids on their birthdays and the delight
on their faces and their faces when they realized that
their mother had probably become senile
after their father’s death and the relief,
evident when they dropped me here
and then I see Rita’s face looking at me,
so sincere, so innocent that I just wish,
God bless this angel.

What Are Parents’ Called?

Young morning, breakfast in bed,
A little annoyance, a little dread.
A goofy smile bursting through your lips,
Earns you a smacking kiss.
Your innocent dance in the rain,
Your precious tears at a little pain.
The fashion shows and funky hairstyles,
Now far away- Infinity of miles.
My sleepless nights when you were sick,
You childhood, tiny, blue colored crib.
You smell in the silent, unmade bed,
Scattered with prickly crumbs of bread.
Oh! I wish I had never scolded you.
I wish you knew how much I loved you.
But now you’re gone, never to come back again.
My heart’s been broken; it’s never been the same.
Your first step, bike, graduation day,
Evening walks in summers of May.
First relationship and the first heartbreak,
Swearing like a sailor, for your sake.
Your anger walks and the sweet talks,
I remember, to let you dog be named Fox.
Every word, every step I stuck on to, ya
Be it Easter, Holi or Hallelujah.
I’m sorry I could never take you to The New York City.
I’m sorry I treated you with such ferocity.
But my baby’s gone now, it’ll never be the same.
An ache in my heart that refuses to fade.