I am rocking
Sideways, then up ahead
In every way possible,
Inside a four-wheeled
Giant of a coach.
The biting cold, barely outside.
I cuddle, snuggle,
Get a bit muddled
And open my eyes.
Wrapped in multi-patterned sheets
And the enamel chatter I make,
I feel an almighty heave.
The engine is roaring
Like a distant roll of thunder.
Front wheels tame
Bucking humps that appall bones
And not any less, the head.
Waiting for the rear ones,
Bless their superior suspension,
Is but, still agony.
The roads weren’t like this, I swear
Last time I was here.
I try, avert my gaze
From the portly maid beside me
Who I’d convinced earlier,
The stripes of Germany
Emblazoned on the flanks
Stood for the coach’s affinity
Towards keeping time;
Not a mere coincidence of pigment
Or the origin of its R&D.
I’m tired of catnaps, tired of
Make-believe portly maids.
Bright or not,
I’m going to look around.
For ten minutes or so,
I peer into cool darkness,
It halts for a pee-break.
The tungsten lights up like star bursts.
On a chrome arm-rest,
I spy a pretty face;
A beloved, forgotten not long ago.
Knowing she can’t be real,
I keep staring at her,
Willing her to shimmer away.
And she does, leaving in our wake,
A lonely me, lonely one more night.
I see them lights, bright ones
And faces peer down, all wearing green hats.
They’re talking rapidly to each other,
A quick mix of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalee?
They all seem to search for things
“Open Sesame”, never the magic word “Please”.
There are sounds .Noise. Beeps. Alarms.
And more of them. Blackhole faces.
I wonder who’s this new guy.
He’s got the Shashi Tharoor Mug.
Perhaps an all new cattle-tattle
With a twitter stutter to boot…
That’s funny. I so want to laugh.
But laughing hurts now. Real Bad. Fade out.
The Ferry to Elephanta
Skin grazed fairer skin
And was pulled right back.
Then the sun shone differently
In their eyes; reassured, reassuring.
Fingers sought others and found:
Twirling, pressing and believing.
He helped her onto the ferry.
They didn’t miss any steps.
Gave the extra twenty for seats
In the cloth-topped upper deck.
Holding hands, they looked around,
Everywhere but at each other;
Not a word passed, not a sigh.
Eavesdropping on two goras;
Peeling off paint, (already flaking)
He peered down the railing.
Saw the fickle foam fritter
And to wood pieces, clinging.
Each of them floating derelict;
Once shoved around by iron ships.
They chart their own course
Now, on the high seas.
The brown clouds descend; all blame
The dowdy old tankers and the flatulent rigs.
But they know it for what it is;
That they must not heed it, not yet.
It’s the call of Bombay
Seagulls know the tune as well.
Sun’s rays fall gently on brine, rippling.
She looks back and at him
And beyond him, a ferry on the sea
Wreathed with rubber tires and tinsel.
She knows the bride’s train that trails,
Won’t be as long as the one
The speedboat summons at will.
A single butterfly lost at sea,
Alights on her oiled braid
Next to its twin.
She bites her lip, he grins.
Not the caves this time.
They took the next ferry back.
The little one sat cross-legged.
Her scrubbed face, in front of her,
Preening over the mirror;
(Her hair in quite a tangle)
Frowning at all the world.
A rusty spot on the handheld silver
Jumped all over the proud, little face.
One day beside the arched eyebrow
Next day, the left cheek pales.
‘Mama! Mama! Why won’t it go away?
Every day it moves a little here and there.
I hope it hides in my hair.’
Mama knows and smiles indulgent.
They had torn the satchel;
She held the books in her arms.
Furiously wiping tears away,
She plopped down on the cold floor, unarmed.
Mama didn’t want to know.
She didn’t want to tell.
The mirror wanted to show.
At the wall it was flung, twice.
A hand was raised
But the girl was all she had left.
The world is kind as it is!
She didn’t remember when she last
Took a look in the mirror, anyways.
Under the cot, the pieces were swept.
The girl sneaks the largest one for herself -
A looking glass fit for her,