SHORT STORIES

What the Servant Saw
- The Southerly

 

Divine Confluence

- Muse India

 

Eve Teasing in India

- The Monthly

 

 

JOURNALISM

 

Travel to Manali

- The Australian

 

 

Abode of the Gods - Journey to Rishikesh

- Yoga Journal

 

 

Edible Blessings

- Yoga Journal

 

 

 

POETRY

-  MUSE INDIA

 

Conversion

 

The Sahara waved her dunes around you like a skirt

and sucked you in

freed your mind from solid form

made you relinquish a world you could hardly recall

to put on her arid, barren renunciant's robes –

a twenty-year-old ascetic with sand in your locks

guided by a vision of a bearded, beaded man

from yet another continent that wasn't yours.

 

You hadn't yet seen my name written in the sand –

 

Instead you offered vows of celibacy to a mirage

that you'd never quite reach

created rules for yourself – decided to obey

what the Earth herself has no say in.

 

And in your vast desert bedroom your vows belied

those curving dunes of the loose ground below

that you pressed yourself into at night.

 

Much later you came to lay your head in my lap –

to tell me of those sterile vows that forbade my touch,

speaking with saintly longing of banished desire

(that snake left in the desert

pushing sensual loops in the sand

past the brave, occasional root penetrating down.)

 

And I, why I would have loved to be your Sahara

but I was far too moist,

with thoughts forever reaching down

to that waterline.

 

You must have known that –

you must have sensed that you'd come to the edge

of your Sahara when you asked if you could draw me

in the nude – your red chalk etching the dunes of my body

with a river running through it.

 

You must have known

when you handed me scissors

and I cut each lock of your hair – released the desert grain by grain,

through my fingertips.

You must have said farewell to your sacred Sahara

when I touched your athletic, aesthetic, oh so ascetic body

that time

and licked the salt of that luscious cosmic ocean from your lips.

 

 

Dying in the digital age

 

Nobody switched off their phones for your funeral –

the mobile was new, like the century,

with none of that decrepit etiquette –

 

so the calls came in

from the office chaprassi, the son-in-law's masi –

around you – brave you,

last of your siblings to take your place

between blocks of ice and a thousand marigolds –

 

you who went to school on a bullock cart –

who taught your daughter to swear at any

English man or woman who dared to walk

across her path in your motherland –

stalwart of a century grown old,

with so much more to teach the world.

 

Did they even know this, those guests? That cousin-brother's

best friend's mother who came

to pay her respects – who glanced at the careering clock,

then blankly back at the starched white sari

that burned with you and your stories –

 

on that humid day in Delhi,

the air thick with incense –

with Vedic shlokas and Nokia ringtones,

and the sound of a passing rickshaw-wallah playing

Where's the Party Tonight?

 

 

The Kolkata Crow

 

The Kolkata crow, the pig of the skies,

squawks lazy abuse through the hazy afternoon

at a tarmac road too hot to hop on.

 

From his eyrie in a Peetle tree

that chokes a colonial chimney pot

he nibbles on the bleeding edge

of a finger that points

at the humans below who make patterns for gods

with an aerial view.

 

His nest is quilted with fake black hair

rolled into a bun

he found in the gutter

beside the coolie

who coils around his basket to sleep.

 

His feathers are lavishly oiled

without stealing at all

from the barber

shaving customers at the corner stall

tipping chins up to face the sky.

 

From up in his eyrie

his small, proprietorial eye

spies a pakora

dropped by a princess

pigtailed, puffed sleeved

who burns her mouth,

and screams at her ayah

who screams at the crow

who scared them both.

 

The Kolkata crow, the pig of the sky

puts down the finger,

pecks his pakora

ruffles black down

against chimney pot –

then oiled and bold

he crows

and pushes the bleeding finger

on the patterns of humans below.

 

 

NRI (Non-resident Indian)

 

I have a secret –

I stalk real Indians in Westfield Mall

to snatch at a lilt of Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati –

whatever you choose

to send your missives to those jilted by you.

 

I have a weakness –

the masala vapours I inhale at your diner

take me back to the tiffins –

to my dead masi's table, aching with a hunger

I'll never fill.

 

I have a fear –

that the ragas I hear

will haunt me with

contagious regrets – regrets of a widow

cast out to lament beside rivers without religion

 

I have a passion –

for saris – when I'm far from your gaze

I expose my stretched navel

return to my birthright of six yards of silk

before stowing the cloth with mothballs to rot.

 

I have a habit –

I stain my hands with henna when I leave –

to force you to abide after that plane ride

home, captured, tattooed – but then you fade

to a pale orange stain, I must try to hide.

 

 

Janmashtami child

 

When you open your baby mouth there is no tongue

just universes clustering on and on –

a chasm of diamonds

to dive into.

 

When I rock your swing on the day of your birth,

anoint your forehead with vermillion smears

your face falls away

into sweetness.

 

When I drop my flowers at your baby feet

there is no end to the petals that float

on a gasp as they fall

like light.

 

When I wave camphor flames around your face

your infinite, secretive smile

gives nothing away

about the place from which you came