Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Taleteller’s Coda.

Ten years ago, Krishna flew on a plane to see Meera. He would fall out of love with Meera, and fall in love with Mathura. He would never touch Meera again—he would touch Mumtaz and kiss the lips of Heer, shed blood because of Delilah and marvel at Mehr-un-Nissa. And in this Mathura that was not Mathura, he would meet others who would spin some of their darkness into the the great river that made people flutter around it. And the river, in return, spoke to them in their nights, in their sleep; its slow flow watering them like plants, blocking their ears, silencing their thoughts, erasing their memories like the Lethe, as if its very waters came from the cave of Hypnos. In the Magna Carta, this brown life was called the Tamesis.


The Marxs Brothers traipse behind them and a cake is achingly left on the table—later, he would not remember what the cake was but its taste lingered on his tongue every time he remembered it. The Italian Beauty, vehement that she isn't beautiful, also bakes beautifully. She is dressed in a tuxedo and a top-hat, holds an umbrella for a cane, and when he enters into that warm flat of white panelled floors, she does a curtsey.

‘Welcome,’ she says. Ernest resumes smoking the old cigarette he had put down earlier—there is always a cigarette in his hand, and his sly flick of the cigarette pack top made you always want to have a cigarette too. Krishna thinks of Heer (but did Heer think of Krishna?) and how it must have been for her all those years ago. As he sits, another woman - not the Italian Beauty - flaxen-haired, with all of the britishness in her tongue asks, do you want tea?

Heer has gone back from where Heers come from, and he cannot remember when was the last time they had had tea. And Delilah became Delilah because of Heer. But now, he remembers his last tea two days ago—beneath a bookstore that’s older than most bookstores there—with a hazel-eyed woman whose eyes took the colour of the leaf more than the colour of the bark. It was pleasant, he remembers; how six years ago he would see her, quiet and elegant, and would want to sit with her. He  remembers how he always sat with her after that and how she almost leant her head on his shoulders one morning among the working ghosts of Victoria Station. Some stories, however, go nowhere. Some strands murder itself.


A list. 10 reasons, it said, why Krishna must not leave Mathura. Just ten reasons and that’s bloody enough, as if the world worked with such beautiful logic.

1.) We have to go to Paris together.
3.) We have to finish the wine cave of the King’s Arms
4.) You’ve got to start a love story with…
5.) You’ve got to have sex with…
7.) We need to write together down in…
9.) Kill Nav

Prime Reason: …


All these years, he says, I had never gone in. And you live so close by.
Do you want to?

And in bits, as if flashes; a memory of slipping on the slush right before this dirty pub on a snowy day appears. He had just ended it with Mumtaz, a difficult consort, one he would never build a Taj for. You could be a Mumtaz and a Krishna together here, and no one would say anything, even though they wanted to. Even though they are from different histories, different stories, of a single land.

They survey the pub—and the cold seeps into their skin; brown and white—because the night was crying and because its people will not cry. A few hours pass and they pass each other a blunt as the night gets weary of its darkness.

In the morning, the Italian Beauty—her short hair tucked behind her ear, her sharp voice in a whisper—lays a kiss on his sleeping forehead. Was there a slight a tremble in her usually confident tone? Was there, a regret that she did not cherish him earlier? That is the last thing he remembers of her—her gentle kiss.

He stirs and hears the door close behind her. His last day in Mathura, he did not brush in his own basin. He walks out into the balcony where once, leg upon leg—and those legs upon the balustrade exposed to the rain—Ernest spoke of the the lilt of a man’s pen and how it was changed and how that made his fingers special so that when he put it on paper something pure as good ink came out. The night’s rain sits in little pools where they had sat before—there is a cigarette by the windowsill—does he smoke that cigarette? Krishna cannot remember now. Mathura is asleep. The Temesis is calm along her bones that bend through all his brain’s memories like it bends through Mathura. The gold of the morning inches out from the horizon like a shy girl. In his heart, there’s a gram of weight.

There’s a postcard with a picture of a great tree (and in this postcard those ten reasons), mighty and pronged as if it were merely a great follicle of hair from the earth. On the tree, a man with a top hat on a rock-like branch, feet dangling, looks down. At the foot of tree, a man with a top hat, hands clasped behind him, looks up. Friends.

I wish you were still here in London - the Italian Beauty would say - I feel like we are losing something from your absence, even the ones that never met you.

In this Mathura, where there were Italian Beauties and Mumtazes, Delilahs, Hemingways, Fitzgeralds and Mehr-un-Nissas, people got lost and made stories as vivid and varied as the great stories of the of the river. In some nights, Faiz says to him:

Dono jahaan teri muhabbat main haar ke
Woh jaa rahaa hai koi shab-e-ghum guzaar ke

How does he deny to Faiz that his every vein has not bled for love? How does he tell Faiz, he’s leaving defeated in pain? That has not touched her trembling, long lips, or known her scent in the morning? Or the shape of her wide hips when she sleeps on her side?

He was afraid to see her again—the thrill she would excite in his blood was harder to calm with every meet. Her beauty stuck on one like the pollen on a bee's feet. It was carried far, and gave birth. He was afraid that there would come a time when he could not wash off her beauty. He was afraid that touching her would transmit a beauty that would take hold unto his very marrow. One shouldn't be allowed to touch one's muse—if one does, one is destroyed.

The Temesis, as it is called in the Magna Carta, spoke to men and women in their nights and poured into them its brown, so that, like the trunk and branch of a tree that pours into its leaves, they were all attached to each other. Each was a beautiful growth upon the other until the river decided to shed them in her autumns. He fancies he is the Tamesis—brown and ruthless. What was she then?

After the Tamesis sheds him in an autumn, hundreds of days later, he stands at a high place with another river that cuts through the old rocks of the world in green, blue and white; all the colours of life. All the colours of wilderness. All the colours of her. He listens to the distant river as the sun blows its last warm breath on the peaks that loom before him. At his feet, there is a deep drop to certain death—a drop that would break all his bones and set whatever that’s containing him free. And here, like a secret from child to child, he whispers to the mountains—he replies to Faiz:

Somewhere are visions of her life
nailed into, shining in your flesh,
You imagine such happiness;
the dark of her locks, the vermillion of her lips.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


He wants this feeling—this heavy slime attached to his heart to dissipate. It reduces. It chokes. It kills. Like a careless slaughter, like an ant’s life to the boot of a giant. These nights, his eyes retch but cannot vomit. He cannot - as if disabled - work his heart, and yet it works; to keep his body alive, to murder all else.

His head’s a pot—they stir his brain.

A blood-river runs in the dirt—here's a careless slaughter.

Monday, 18 August 2014


That root-like promise she made, in the half-light, in his balmy lap—does she remember it, or not? That touch with which he touched her after her body had longed so long for such a touch—does he remember this, or not? When they sleep, somewhere, as if by a charm, they recall it all, little by little, and forget them all, more and more—do they know this, or not? They were as if the seasons begot children - to play, to weep, to be naughty, to be in sorrow - do they still feel this, or not?

That same corner by Great Portland Street, does it still mark their first kiss, or not? That grey building door that he unlocked to see her lungs court in all that white smoke only to be coughed out—does the wind there still carry her breath, or not? That lone bench, by the rustling water that fell and crashed in the autumn day fringed of gold and red—does it still hold their stolen warmth, or not? Or that pitch black—that searching for the other’s hand on the table because people only ate in the dark there, that same closeness, that exact heat of her hand, that precise cold of his—does the dark still commemorate them there, or not?

In these and all, there, something lived and died.
In these and all, something’s forever cursed to lay in wait.
When at last the River opened up to him beneath the Green Bridge, it told him that it had seen men like him before, that like his, some people’s lives are punctuated with the careless slaughter of love.

Sunday, 6 July 2014


                                   Find me…
Find me… 
                     Find me…

Wherever I am to be found.
Wherever you are to be found.

And then?

     …And then?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Betwixt Shakespeare.

They had come to an agreement - it was a thick book and he could be sweet. Hounslow was far, Victoria was near. I'll bring mine somedays.
But you don't like carrying books? She said.
I don't mind.
And you don't like coming to classes either.
I'll come, when you come.

He found it years later; somewhere within the pages of the green hard hardcover of the Norton Shakespeare - between The Rape of Lucrece and A Lover's Complaint - she had hid a little note.

The way you touched me --
Touch me like that tonight too?

Friday, 31 January 2014

A Man's Pen.

You must take care, he says, to make sure the bowl does not overheat. It will burn your fingers.
She takes a drag and coughs.
Who smokes the pipe these days anyway?
I do.
Wear your long coat, she says.
With the pipe, you look like an aristocrat.
And use a matchstick to light the tobacco - he begins again, as if he didn't hear her - always use a matchstick.

She kisses him, his saliva flows into her mouth. There is salt, like there is salt in every intimate fluid of the human body. She takes it in and savours it. But the tobacco makes it bitter.
A unique mixture of Virginia Burley, Maryland, and Black Cavendish, topped with a Cream Caramel Flavour and blended with hand-rubbed Virginia Flake.
Yes, caramel, that's how you smell now. She finds him through the cloud of smoke. It covers his dark face sufficiently enough that she finds in it mystery, but not enough, that she can be winsomely lost. 

Her fingers recoil - the pain in her finger like the sting of scorpions. He kisses it.
I told you to make sure the bowl doesn't overheat, he says. This is the same bowl that held scars because a friend - in his drunkenness - burnt it with a Zippo while he was asleep; its rim - now black - as though the kohl rimmed eyes of a woman of the subcontinent. She wasn't of the subcontinent, she could not understand this simile.

Because he was always lost in the eyes of someone else, he did not notice the eyes of the women who loved him, or the eyes that wanted to love him, or the eyes that just wanted a fuck. Along Kensington Road, the cold liked to seem more dignified than the other streets of London. From Knightsbridge he would walk to the Royal Albert Hall. He was wearing his long black coat. Another woman who wasn't of the subcontinent, but beautiful - were they green eyes? blond or brunette? - stopped him. The clear twang of the British was in her tongue - did he not want to taste it?

Do you have a lighter? The woman asked. He noticed her smile beneath a tree and lamppost. But he was preoccupied. All he wanted to do was sit with her when Handel's Messiah was performed by five hundred beautiful voices. 
No, he said. But she stood still; perhaps, if she saw him checking his coat pockets again, she would leave. It was getting late. He unbuttoned to pat his coat. The London cold, like a whetted knife, sliced through him and froze his heart.
Unfortunately, I haven't one. (A lover would say, nobody talks like you anymore. Ruthlessly polite; even in his reproach. But the polite do not acquire politeness, so there was blood with broken glasses. The amber liquid coating the marble floor in one part, the blood of two brothers, on another.)
Really? she seemed annoyed. Really?

This beautiful green eyed blond, or brunette, did not understand that he only smoked his pipe by the Thames - or in St. James' Park - with unkempt strangers. He did not need to carry matchboxes elsewhere. She did not understand that he did not want a fuck, he wanted love. Maybe she wanted love too but there were two tickets meant for old lovers in his pocket, not a lighter to kindle a new lover. Years later, he would wonder, if he should have taken her number.

When she finally came, she came in red. Her eyes coated with kohl. Her dress revealing her beauty. The five hundred voices that night did not matter. And when they sung Hallelujah everyone stood up because everyone did in Europe like the patriotic in the subcontinent when they sung Jana Gana Mana. He looked at her - only her. The eyes of the subcontinent drew him. They parted at Green Park station - the Station of Separation.

Years later, he lit his pipe in the room with whiskey in his hand. She was there with him, yet she was not. She noticed him; her subcontinent eyes - full and beautiful and alive with all the intricacies that made the people of that land the subject of awe - flashed at him. She had forgotten how she adored the things he did that no one else she knew did - who smoked the pipe these days anyway? But he did not heed those kohl rimmed eyes anymore, for the love was dead in his heart.
What? He asked.
No, nothing. I felt like looking at you. Sing? So he sang a thumri that was not meant for her. Yaad piya ki aaye - the memory of my beloved returns.
If I ever fall in love with you again, she said, I'd fall for your voice this time. His voice, rather than his prose. He smiled and gulped the last of the whiskey. 

Ernest would say much later to Scott as he lit his dear friend's cigarette - later than the subcontinent women, later than the non-subcontinent women - that the lilt of a man's pen changes after too many a drink. After too many a woman.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


She was made in praise of the night, that no other creature was at home in the dark as she.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Hush, it will Travel Far.

His words were tempered with the restrain of a great bank, and hers foamed upon them gently, violently - each time, taking with it a bit of its foundation as it returned to her sea.

Log zaalim hai, har ek baat ka taana denge. Still in the arms of her approved lover, a writer came her way. Baaton baaton mein, mera zikr bhi le aayenge. And wrote a kiss - for this statue must undo to clay.

In the day, we upheld traditions, in the day, we said the words of others. But when it was dark - when the sun, carpet-like, was rolled away, our mouths, live as volcanoes, spilled words. The night afforded truths the day did not permit.

If I am married - she began - will you have an affair with me?
Will your husband be a good man?
That doesn't matter.
And if I have a wife?
I will, she said.

Hush, he wanted to whisper - dur talak jayegi.