Tag Archives: death

The Decade of March

You realize the smallest of human interactions add up to a lot, when they’re all collectively taken away. It was a long March. The March they hung three rapists in India and plotted against the virus outside. The virus outside was vicious and unforgiving, and all anyone ever spoke about. Every news channel, every website, at work and at home, outside at the grocery store. Momentarily they nodded at the rapists being hung and expressed their thoughts for or against capital punishment, but then they got back to the virus. Of ways to avoid it and what it had done to the economy and how everyone would get fat during the quarantine. Of ways to keep your immunity up and anxiety at bay. Of the lost lives and lost jobs and lost time, statistics we tracked closely and continuously. Back to the economy, a moment of thoughts and prayers for the doctors and nurses and others fighting at the forefront but not for the silly people who dared step outside and catch the virus and spread it and die. All this extra time on hand but not a moment spared for those who fought for their lives in vain, because we had the economy to worry about, and also the living.

I never wondered what it was like. I never thought to wonder. There was so much new to process, the days looked different and the different began to slyly seem perennial. Scattered people on empty roads, masked and gloved, walking hastily to their destinations that could be one of three – to the grocer, the chemist, or back home. Some of us walked hastily to a friend’s house for grass and vessels to take it in. Some of us still risked booty calls. All of us understood that none of us bought flowers for those we loved. This was hardly the time to express love with grand gestures, and hardly the test one should put love through.

He had started smoking again. His hair grew longer and his nails, shorter. I, on the other hand, ate for two and lost weight from worry. Some nights I would cry because there was there was little to laugh about. Other nights I would cry because he was being kind and polite and understanding and I didn’t have it in me to continue with the sanity. This little bubble of time had come like an unwelcome guest, scheduled to leave in three weeks but with no tickets booked.

We learned to cook a thing or two. An easy pasta recipe, a decadent French toast, one for him and one for me. I don’t miss my house, but I miss things about it. There’s a pigeon’s nest outside the window of my living room. I used to eat breakfast everyday and watch her protect her eggs. I once leaned way out the window and craned by neck down to see how many there were. Three, smaller than the eggs we eat. The mother pigeon stayed in the same position for hours, not moving a feather. Days, maybe.
I wonder if the nest is still there. Although why wouldn’t it be?

Here we have each other and we have a balcony that feels like we’re outdoors. He plays the guitar in the evenings and some days I paint. The days overlap and intersect in strange ways. I may not individually remember them enough to look back on them fondly, but if I were to be reminded to them, I’d look back on them fondly.

We’re all here sitting in our nests patiently, indefinitely, trying to keep warm the ones we love. It’s not the worst of times after all. March has ended, and this will too.

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The minutes you spend.
Looking at her clothes. How the neckline of her blouse is just shallow enough to give away her delicate collar bones. You spend a minute too long on this, in fact. And sigh.
Onto the next. Your fourth grade crush has bought his own BMW. Ah but, you think to yourself, it’s commonplace in the states.
Onto the next. Your ex boyfriend’s ex girlfriend. You make a mental note to unfollow her. Another time. Right now she’s got a cute puppy and you’ve forgotten you hated her.
You scroll down. It’s your mum’s cool friend, showing way too much cleavage.
Further down, your own ex. A post about his football non profit. Unfollow.
Next, your other ex. Married now, posting a picture of his brand new six pack abs. You smirk and don’t unfollow him, because it mildly amuses you to see his scantily clad calls for attention, the same reason you’re still following the girl from high school you never spoke to, who makes an appearance in the next picture.
You continue scrolling, fast now because the promise of entertainment from this app is slowly waning and making you restless.
And then you stop.
Scroll up just a bit.
Right in front of you.
The tiny thumbnail picture of the man you have a crush on.
It’s funny, you never thought you’d say man and crush in the same sentence. He’s posted something after two months. Not his face, not the weather, not some wannabe poignant picture of a derelict alleyway with a cheap filter and a borrowed caption. It’s a post of his latest animation, that he probably coded lying down casually in bed on a Sunday between his morning dose of Economic Times and his afternoon reading sesh (you think he likes reading Manto but you’re not sure it’s his Sunday vibe, so you don’t feature that into your imagination).
And then you scroll further. Slow now. Not really taking in anything. Memes. Selfies.
Comic strips come and go. By the time you’re back to the present, you’re already looking at pictures posted last night. With a pang of guilt you continue.
A quote with a bright background. A close friend’s terrible attempt at sketching. A stranger you follow in her latest gym attire (holy shit she got so fit so fast!). Because you like to know what exactly is up in their lives, three celebrities one after the other.
Your ex best friend with her new best friend. Your token cool colleague. And (just before it’s time to get off the cab) the guy who took his life last night.



































It was mostly a blank white canvas, but it took up most of the wall. Once you walked closer to it, you would notice the delicate ink on it seemed to symbolise the small of a woman’s back, with a thick lock of curls falling casually to one side. There was a hint of her feet somewhere to the bottom right, just above the artist’s signature.
The minimalism was almost poetic.

The signature itself was small and elegant, but it had a personality of it’s own. It had sophisticated straight lines intermingling with a beautiful cursive, and my eyes lingered on it a second longer than they did on the rest of the canvas. I’d never heard of the artist before, but an acquaintance, whose creative sense I admired, had been devastated all week with the news of the artist’s demise and I just had to come down and see what all the fuss was about.

The gallery (a short walk away from my house) was holding an exhibition to commemorate the late artists’s wonderful work over the years and despite being only a couple of small rooms large, it was quite empty. By empty I mean the attendance was quite poor. However, now that I think of it, the walls looked quite empty too. There must have been twelve canvases in all (prints of course, they never displayed originals) and the canvases themselves were voids in terms of colour and story.
Looking at them felt meditative.

He’d died in his sleep, the papers said. He was eighty six years old, had been married once, had one daughter, painted twelve furiously popular works of art, and one night, after a hearty meal and three cocktails, he went to bed and never woke up.

He’d also done one interview for a magazine a decade ago. At the end of the gallery, they had framed the published pages (possibly for lack of enough artwork). The artist had talked about his mute style in great detail.

Why didn’t he use more colour?
He’d started off not being able to afford it. When he was discovered, he had been publicised by his discoverer as the painter of ‘Monotony in Monotone’, and thereafter, that had become his brand.
(Monotony in Monotone was an outline sketch of a woman sitting on a chair and looking directly at the viewer of the painting. Of course, just black ink on a white canvas)

Why did he not draw the surroundings of his subjects?
He said he was poor at it. So he’d decided not to.

Why were there only twelve artworks in his forty seven years of work? Was it to create artificial scarcity to increase the value of his paintings?
No. He just hadn’t felt like drawing all the time. He would just create one every time he felt like people were forgetting who he was.

and lastly…

What was his inspiration?
The noise, he had said.

The noise of everyday, collected over years. All the baggage, the stories and drama. The noise of things, of excess. The constant need for good food and fine company. For entertainment and material. The constant need for attention.

“But wasn’t that what got you going in the first place, the constant need for attention? You just mentioned you’d create every time you felt like people were forgetting who you were.”

“Yes. I’d create to remind myself that it didn’t matter. And I’d just draw what mattered.”

As I walked back to the entrance, I noticed each canvas was the sketch of a woman. Just a part of her. Not sensual, not detailed. Just a simple man’s drawing of the soft curve of the elbows of the woman who was enough for him.

Pills We Don’t Take

It’s hot and my toes are sweating. It takes a special kind of heat, you know, to even realize that your toes are sweaty. I push my way through the crowd and head towards the balcony. Some ventilation would do me good, do my toes good.

As I reach the balcony, I notice a boy sitting in the corner. I haven’t seen him before. To be fair, I haven’t seen most of the people at this party before; but this boy, this boy looks especially out of place. Like I wasn’t supposed to have seen him before. I wonder if I should step into his line of sight. He seems like he wants to be left alone, at first. But as I linger at the entrance, he looks up at me and smiles.

It’s not so much a smile, actually. It’s a half smile. And a half smile is a dangerous thing. Half smiles hide more than sullen faces ever will. Half smiles come with a sense of resignation, the wrong kind of peace.
He smiles at me, half smiles at me, then looks away, into space, at nothing really – maybe a star, I can’t be too certain. I walk across with my drink and stand at the edge, looking down into the beautiful city, lights dotting the landscape till as far as I can see.

“How does one bring themselves to forget someone who loves them?” says a voice from behind me.

“Nonchalance and distractions, mostly,” I say, still look at the moving specks of light in the distance.

I can feel his eyes on me as I say this. He’s probably hurt. He’s probably aching in love, furiously looking for a profound explanation to justify his pain.
I turn now, to look at him. There’s an interesting expression people have when they don’t get answers they want to hear. A look of confusion mixed with incredulity, a feeling of “How could you!” with a side of “Oh”. His moustache is barely sprouting and his eyes are red with memories of someone who held his hand one moment too long.

“You’re young,” I say, as I turn back to face the city and its specks of light, their anonymity comforting me.

“Until I’m not”

I don’t know how to respond to that. That blatant crisp truth. I’ve been young, I’ve been in love and I’ve been in pain and I’ve been in thought. I’ve wanted to sit in someone’s lap and not be touched at the same time, I’ve wanted to play with someone’s hair and not call back and I’ve been young and I’ve been old and it never really goes away. I don’t remember much but I remember feelings.
And the trouble lies in the expectation. The expectation that someday true love or maturity or destiny will work its magic and you’ll fall into a love that won’t make you claw your insides out. The expectation that things will turn out the way everyone who ever comforted you said they would, the way everyone who ever comforted you wished they would.

So I turn back to face him, determined not to fill his head with false promises of a world that’s fair and a heart that beats one beat at a time. But as soon as my eyes meet his, I know he knows. He knows what I want to tell him, and he knows I won’t.

“I know,” he says. “I know”

A few days later he jumps off the same balcony. I don’t feel anything.

He’s left a note for me, they say. I still don’t feel anything. I open the note that looks like it has been scribbled hurriedly in pencil, rewrites on top of rewrites, and remnants of a chewed up eraser the only saving grace of the words meant to be hidden.

“How could you forget? What kind of sickness of the brain eats up your ability to love someone back?”

Nonchalance and distractions, mostly, I think to myself, as I forget what I’m reading.

When Life Gives You Lemons

Nobody tells you that when you wish upon a star, you’re actually a few million years late. That star is already dead. Bummer, eh?

I turn twenty three in two days. I’m kind of in between moods right now. You know how it feels to be pissed off and ladylike? Utterly confusing. I suck at it. Of course I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this age before. I’m usually a calm person but some situations really test my giveashitometer. Like when I see fresh bird droppings on my car and I go out  and eat devilled eggs by the window just so they know who they’re messing with.

I wish men could be dealt with the same way. You get over the bunch of them and you meet someone tall with a crooked smile and there comes that feeling you thought you’d forgotten. But sooner or later you find out that he’s the same old dal-chawal sold to you on the menu as well steamed long grain fine white rice from the brilliant yellow fields of Punjab, a golden lentil broth on the side, garnished with pixie dust.

And then the inevitable happens. Khichdi.

I’m feeling a little over-worked and under-intoxicated. Break ups usually leave me feeling a tad bit wild, I think. I start booking tickets to all corners of the world and getting new piercings and not waxing because lulz, lemons.
Nowadays I just get home and get the cheese and crackers out and think Screw you, recommended serving size. You don’t know my story.

I don’t know what happened. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. But I think I learned things from my time with him that one should eventually learn. People love differently. Silence, I discovered, is something you can actually hear. And you can tell so much about a person by how they leave you. It’s sad how Wile E. Coyote is remembered for his barbarity, and not for his insanely realistic paintings of tunnels. People never forget how you make them feel. And be careful, sometimes what’s left unsaid says it all.

Then, of course, there’s the mommy angle. From what I’ve heard, parenting is mostly about telling your kid how many minutes of something they have left. Moms, spurring their offsprings to go forth and conquer the world and also get a mani pedi and find a suitable boy and HAIYO RABBA IS THAT A TATTOO AB SHAADI KAUN KAREGA.

So when life gives you lemons, contrary to popular belief and one too many T-shirt quotes, there’s not much you can do. You don’t even get to ask why. And some part of you doesn’t even want to know. Sure explanations can be helpful, but so can ignorance, paychecks and new senior recruits at the office.
So helpful.

And as I move a day closer to the first time in life I’m not excited about my birthday, I ponder over the idea of possibly not letting life happen to me again. It’s time I owned this shit. With abs and stilettos and calculated risk and my own little business because heaven knows I make one hell of a difficult employee.
Those shooting stars are long dead, and I’m feeling more alive than ever.

I’m in a really good place spiritually.

Please fuck off, lemons.


The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

A number of hedgehogs huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.

It’s a theory called the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. Freud used this as an analogy for human intimacy. Apparently you can only get so close to someone without unintentionally hurting them as well as yourself.

Ah well.

What do we, as humans, run away from? Intimacy is a relative term. For you, intimacy maybe the laughter during sex. For me, intimacy maybe the comfortable quiet during a stroll in the park.
I’ll tell you what intimacy isn’t, though.
Intimacy isn’t ordinary.

Why, you might ask, would someone write a poem that doesn’t rhyme? Maybe it’s because putting too much thought into something kills the essence. If we’re too careful, we’ll turn out ordinary.
I can turn you into poetry, dear, but I can’t make you stay. There’s a difference between somebody who loves you and somebody who would do anything to keep you. It’s the difference between want and need, I think.

I’m looking at the November sunset and thinking, if day must turn to night, this is a beautiful way. Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what it needs to. And we could think of all the ways things fall out but so little of what could happen does indeed happen. There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. I’m no expert on relationships, but I know that if I’ve loved you, I’ll paint our sunset your color.

If people just lived off promises and guarantees, this world would be a broken place. People live off hope, that’s why it’s still warm, you know? Because people live off hope and try in the best way they know how. And they make their quills blunt together, so they can stay warm longer.

I can be mature and I can be poised and I can be an elegant dream, if you’d like that.
I like it some days too.

But don’t love me for that.

Most days, I’m lost. I write to find myself and I paint to get lost again. Science can’t excite me like a paradox can. I’ll forget things you say and do, but I’ll never forget the way you make me feel. I’ll forget your birthday but I won’t forget the way you smelled on our first date. I’ll stay close to anything that makes me glad I’m alive. Make me glad I’m alive.
Most days, I’m chaos.

And this chaos could be the quills that push you away or the warmth that pulls you close.
That’s for you to decide.

Who’s to say your quills won’t be sharper than mine?

You Are All Stardust

Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics.
You are all stardust.
–  Lawrence Krauss, American theoretical physicist and cosmologist

As a kid I was told that when people die, they become stars. I had my own theories derived from this, of course, for the imagination of a child is infinite. I thought the brighter stars were the dead celebrities. The dimmer ones were common people. And the ones we couldn’t see were the bad people. People who had wronged society in one way or another and perished, never to shine again. (Of course at that age you think common folk, celebrities and bad people are three mutually exclusive sets.) It all made perfect sense. Every near death experience was described as seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the star that the soul turns into.

I lay sprawled over my terrace floor gazing into darkness full of nothing and yet inconspicuously everything. The sky was so tragically beautiful that night; a graveyard of stars, illuminated by a reluctant half moon. Dead in our memory not because they aimed too high and they missed, but because they aimed too low and they reached.

I wondered what type of star I’d be once I died. I wanted to be a small star. Not dim, just small. I didn’t want to be too noticeable, but when noticed, I wanted to be able to entrance the onlooker.  Like a small celebrity star, with its own loyal group of fans. It’s funny how once we start to think about death the problems of the world all begin to seem rather miniscule. Relationships and materialistic worries, how much we weigh and how much we earn. I think of what would make me want to end everything and then I realize life is so much bigger than that. It’s bigger than the last thing you think about when you sleep at night and the first thing you think about when you wake up. It’s bigger than a cheating boyfriend and a shoddy bank balance. It’s bigger than failed exams and missed opportunities. Don’t let your soul be defined by its shell, for a star will twinkle in ways the sun couldn’t begin to imagine.

Be picky with who you invest your time in. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are just either charming or tedious. There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story, though, so give everyone a chance. Eat what’s good for your soul and not your body. Read books with stories and not formulae. Fall in love with moments and not people. Be someone’s shot of tequila and not everyone’s cup of tea. Feed your soul so it shines the brightest in the night sky.

After all, we’re all stardust.

Ms. Kor

“Ms. Kor?”

Ray stood in the verandah inspecting the ruins of the once majestic house in front of him.

2B/ 29, the nameplate read, in moss covered bronze lettering.

There were creepers along the walls. His mother often said they caused a nasty mosquito problem in the monsoons, such creepers on walls. There was no doorbell, only an old sturdy door, with a brass knocker in the shape of a banana.

Weird, he thought.

Tak tak

Tak tak

Tak tak

“Ms. Ko-o-or?” he called out once again

He bent to rest the huge green package at his feet when all of a sudden the door flung open and a large woman stood there, with a white bob and a white beard working its way into her cleavage, the end of which seemed about a foot above his own head.

Boy, that’s one massive woman.

Age wrinkled her face as fat wrinkled her arms.

“Eh? What? What you want? Again you come? I no sell this house. My pappa’s house. Shoo. Shoooo!” she bellowed.

“Uhm. Hello, ma’am. There’s a delivery for Ms. Kor”

Her brows smoothed and she smiled. “Pizza you got?” she said, this time rather faintly, as thought she didn’t want anyone else to hear.

“No ma’am. Courier”


“Are you Ms. Kor?”

“No. Myself Missus Kor”

“Oh, I see. Ma’am, is your daughter at home?”

“Eh you no shame or what? Coming at night asking for daughter!”

“Ma’am, there’s package for her.”

“Haan haan, nice idea. What package there is? Let me to see! How I know you not rapist or murderer? You rascal boys! Show me package now!”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. The package is confidential and can be delivered only to your daughter with her signature.”

“But I have no daughter”

He stared at her, incredulous, cursing his luck for being assigned this package. This woman had to be some sort of lunatic.

“Ma’am. Is there a Ms. Kor in this house?”


“Could you call her so I can give her this package”

The old woman giggled.

“Arey baba, now is her nap time. You come tomorrow in the morning, no?”

And she closed her door.

Just like that.


The next morning Ray found himself staring at the huge green package once again. He barely had any packages to deliver on his route for the day, and he didn’t really have anything to entertain himself with at home either. Weekends are useless, even the TV guys expect the whole town to be out and about, enjoying free time with their loved ones, broadcasting crap on prime-time weekend television for the lonely and loveless.

He studied the box. It was weirdly shaped. Sort of an irregular pentagon, with one edge slightly curved. He tried to imagine what it could be.  He’d never seen anything like it. It seemed scientifically elaborate, but that’s probably just what he thought because the ‘sender’ tag read:

Department of Neuro-Bio-Mimicry
University of

Then again, maybe it was the constant faint ticking sound that came from the package.

He took a bottle of cola from the fridge and set himself in his van to do the day’s work. After completing his route, he hovered around route 29, wondering if he should risk it with the maniacal giant woman again.

Ugh! One more try.

He hauled the package back into the delivery truck and set out for 2B/29.

The Kors, said a bronze nameplate, under the house number. He hadn’t noticed last night. In two years of his career, he’d never visited the same house twice, and so he’d never noticed much about any house.

 There’s always a first time for everything, he thought, as he knocked with the banana knocker. It looked more like a moon now, though. That makes more sense.

The door began to open slowly, as though by itself. A terrible smell made its way into his nostrils. Within a few seconds the door was wide open, and nobody could be seen. He heard a soft thud, and looked down to see a small girl, about four years of age, holding a large doll with a gold heart shaped charm around its neck. It read ‘Ms. Kor’.

“Ms. Kor?” said Ray, peering inside the house.

And this time, a young lady appeared. Her silhouette was rather unflattering for a woman of her age, boxy and flat, yet her face showed innocence.

“Hello, I have a parcel for Ms. Kor,” said Ray.

“Oh. I’m sorry. The only Ms. Kor here is Cherry’s doll” she smiled, as she took the little girl into her arms.
It was an ugly doll. It had black marks around its eyes and its limbs were floppy.

“Are you sure?”

“Why, yes, I’m certain. It must be for Mrs. Kor, Cherry’s grandmother.”

“Oh. Ok. Yeah I guess. Is she home?”

“Yes, just a minute.”

The little girl left in the lap of the lady, dropping her doll at the door. It looked up at him, long and hard, as though it were begging him to escape. Its beady eyes seemed to say “So what if I’m a doll? You know that parcel belongs to me! Don’t give it to that wretched old woman!”

He couldn’t stay there any longer. The doll’s beady eyes bore into his, and he broke into a sweat.  He grew restless and agitated, the stench was unbearable, and in his panic he turned on his heel, dragged the parcel down the stairs with him, lugged it back into the van, and drove as though he were driving for his life.


He had completed his deliveries for the day. As he drove his van home, he thought about the mysterious parcel of Ms. Kor. What had caused him to flee yesterday? He felt so stupid now, thinking back. He should have just given it to her and got a signature and his job would be done. But something stopped him each time. And now he had this tremendous urge to know what the parcel contained.  So he opened his trunk, took it out and carried it to his living room.

After taking a cold shower, he opened the day’s newspaper and scanned the headlines for something interesting. Rain tomorrow in the north. Murder somewhere in the west. Scientific progress in the field of cloning. An accident down south. Haunted house.

Hey, she seemed familiar! It was the same boxy lady he’s seen at 2B/29! Her name was Winny Bose and she spoke of how she’d served the house for only a few days and how the owners seemed ‘really creepy’. She thought the place was haunted, and the owners, possessed, and was afraid to leave for fear of being cursed.

He gave the paper a quizzical look. What was in that parcel? Now he wasn’t so sure he wanted to open it, but his curiosity was killing him. What if the house maid was right? It did seem believable.

No, he’d just leave it at their doorstep the next day.

And so he did, right in the beginning of his shift. He left the parcel at the door and drove out of there and resolved never to return. This was too much drama for his daily routine.


 “Cherry? Cherry darling! Bring Ms. Kor here, right now! I have a gift for her.”

Cherry entered the room, doll in hand, house maid in tow, looking eagerly upon the gift that her nanna seemed so excited about.

“Those people there, Winny?”

“Yes ma’am? Which people?”, the house maid asked, stuttering curiously.

“Winny, I tell you, those people there in full town, think I mad. And they think little Cherry also mad. They think you marry your own bother means you have mad baby. So I marry cousin brother to keep them quiet. And give birth to lovely Eustus. But, my real brother get so angry, he kill cousin. Why pollute family blood, he say. And right too, you no think? So we have little Lara and she marry Eustus, like all good sisters in family. And then they both have accident and die!”

And this was where she broke down. First just a teardrop or two, then a whole string of tears, rushing down the wrinkled face.

“But they leave Cherry and Ms. Kor behind.  Doctors say Cherry too old for new brain. But Ms. Kor? Oh, not Ms. Kor!” As she spoke, teardrops made their way down her smile and into the tangled white beard on her chin.

She slowly unwrapped the box, “So I say, why poor Ms. Kor suffer same fate?  So much money in family, I say we buy Ms. Kor new brain!” She opened the box, and there it was. A mass of light-pink-brown, pulsating in rhythm with the small gadgets attached to it.

“And now my darling Ms. Kor be normal to full world!”

She took the artificial brain out of the box, removed the 5 plugs from each corner and put them in contact with Ms. Kor’s arms, legs, and head.  As though by some miracle, the doll’s eyes moved. There was a gulp down the throat.

“AH! And now I name you Mia!”


Ray opened the newspaper after his day’s shift. On the front page, stood the boxy lady, looking absolutely terrified, about 8 microphones strategically placed around her so as to not miss a word she uttered.


He felt beady eyes on him as he read the rest of the article.


P.S. This story was written as a farewell gift to Bing.  Bing, this stays my story to you.