To, Hosseini

What to leave behind,

When everything is taken,

Them hopes,

Burried blindly

In some graveyard with Mariyam,

Some dreams,

Destroyed barbarously

Like an unseen, all grown up Hassan,

Some love,

Snatched away heartlessly

Like Abdullah’s memory,

Now I am stuck

On this page, wondering

If you were more cruel

Than Alzheimer’s,

Or more wicked

Than the Soviet Army.

An ounce of laughter

With Laila’s nuances

Or Amir’s romance

Or Pari’s plight

Was never enough,

To mend a heart

Boiled and burned

By your twists and turns,

What reperation

Did you give

For the nights 

Deprived of sleep,

For the drives

Bereft of senses,

For the aimless reading

Of other books

Devoid of focus,

Just because my mind

Was fixated

On Sohrab’s numbness

On Tariq’s uncertain return

On the voices

That will echo

When I return

To the mountains

Inside an abandoned dream.

Which you always knew,

I will.

Sooner more than later.

So, Don’t you dare take pride

In converting-

A world that you created-

Into my oyster.

Because when other books fail,

The poems that I write,

THIS poem that I write-

Takes me away,

From the Kolba, Kabul and finally,

Afghanistan

Into the garden

That is far beyond the ideas

Of your wrongdoings

(And sadistic pleasures

Of killing souls

Filled upto the brim

With divine mysticism,

Whom I loved with

All my dear heart),

And your rightdoings

(Of evoking emotions

And suppressed tears

That had almost died

Living inside me,

Burried somewhere deep

In the depth that you scraped,

With your pages,

Your words,

Their wounds

And deaths),
And I will meet

Nila and Mariyam and Jalil,

Hassan and Baba and Rahim,

And hopefully you,

In this garden

That I created for you.

How to save a life

One, Tell them they are more music than muscles and bones

Where each note plays perfectly

Inside strings of nerves

And hollows of synapses

To create actions that weren’t written or decided for them

To create a symphony unimagined by Mozart.

So that when they are deemed a sidekick by an orchestra

And handed over a tambourine,

Tell them to go up on the stage

And play their best version of ‘The tambourine man’.
Two, Capture sunshine in the space between your palm and theirs

When they sit alone on the bench

Right outside the school canteen,

Go upto them and say Hi.

In time, when rays of the sun fall between your hand and theirs,

Hold their hand.

And let the warmth send something electrifying up their cold veins

let them know 

That it’s not hard to catch warmth

Which almost always

Lies at the end of their sleeves.
Three, take them out for a bicycle ride

Up the highest hill in your town,

Pedal.

Not opening your mouths as you move uphill,

Talk with your breaths if you need to.

Pedal.

Listening to the birds,

To the trees,

To the grains of sand beneath your tires 

talk.

Tell them to listen to what goes inside themselves,

The metal clinks , the waterfalls, the bomb blasts

That are drowned by the noise of citylife.

Pedal,

Till you reach the top,

And then release.

Tell them to let all those sounds out from the compression of helplessness

Into the valley of relief that spreads ahead.
Fourth, listen to them as they play their tunes for you,

Sneak some chocolates for yourself and them too,

I said chocolates, and not cigarettes.

For once

Let ashtrays be eulogies

Written to the gavel that you strike

When you pass judgements against them,

And chocolates be lullabies

That you sing to them,

On days when they are crying.

As you teach them to love chocolates more than cigarettes,

And listen to their songs,

You will realise that somewhere,

they have saved your life too.
Fifth, let them know,

When their path leads to a dead end,

Or a diversion,

Or a U-turn,

Right where they stop their car with screeching breaks,

Around that corner, they will always find someone

Who will write them a poem,

Like this one,

Acting as lyrics to the music in their muscles and bones

To create a song worth living for.

Truth

Have you ever choked on water?

While

Drinking it

And not drowning?

Truth

Feels the same.

Like it’s necessary

And not wanted.

Like its needed,

But not needed

Truth,

feels like a stubborn prick under the skin, 

a defiant artery choosing to carry impure blood,

an underlying sense of bafflement

settling over the calm of your mind,

a constant fight between tears and laughter

the pain felt when you accidentally bite your tongue

Truth

Feels like there’s no room for doubt

But plenty for denial.

And when it settles in,

It feels

Like there’s nothing

Left to know

In this world

Ever again.

“Dirty”

A crescent Moon

Against the backdrop of Jahaan’s grimy skin

Under the shade of

His unkempt hair

Will tell you that he is too happy today.

If you are one of the residents

Of the big building

Just across the road from

His makeshift home,

He might even come up to you

With his beaming smile

And tell you that he found a clean Bisleri bottle 

In the sewer drain just beside his home,

The pipe that he sleeps in with his dog Tinku

Is just the right size for Jahaan

Like it was manufactured

Only to fit the world in it.

But Don’t visit him in the morning,

For then he is out

For his job.

And if you visit him in the evening,

His dishevelled face

And mucky clothes will tell you,

That his is the only job in the world

That dresses him up

After it’s done.

But, he takes pride in his job

If you ask him, he will tell you he just got promoted.

He will tell you that he likes

Collecting garbage from door to door

Better than

Selling pens

Or flags on holidays

From car to car,

Signal to signal.

Or better than

His first job

Where he wore dirty clothes too,

But, to beg on Akbar road.

He will tell you that he likes the sound that bells of different houses make

Better than

His hoarse voice saying “Paanch ka ek, Paanch ka ek” until someone opened the window.

And if you are lucky,

He will even show you his collection,

Jahaan’s treasure from the grime,

He’d say.

A red toothbrush, a tennis ball, a coloured pencil, even a CD at times

He knows the name of every object.

Okay, he asked the Chowkidaar!
He will tell you how much he loves

His treasures

And in between , remember to pick up the innuendo:

Sometimes, he loves the dirt too.

The only thing he hates,

Is the stench that comes with it.

That lingers on to his clothes

And body long after he has abandoned the dirt

And makes all his friends run away from him

Except Tinku.

He might ask you to gift him a “Perfiyum”,

As he heard from one of his friends.

So next time, you visit

Do remember to take the housewarming present

And tell him,

That the plastic perfume might make plastic people‚Äč love him for a while,

But the real perfume,

Is within him

That makes him love himself every single day.
And then, when you return

To your painted home

With colossal walls,

And vintage halls,

Insulated from even a speck of dirt,

The dirt that you call filth

And that fills you up with disgust and dread,

Let his voice resound inside your dusty heart

To tell you that his was a home without filters,

But, unlike those who run away from him, calling him ‘Dirty’,

The dirt in his home does not come from within.

ME, RADHIKA.

My Father named me after,
The power of the God he believes in.
Yet, soon
I became his power.
So, my morning yawns became fragments
Of his strength
As he calls out my name
And gently tells me to wake up:

It’s time,

He says.
My name means the power of the universe,
And sometimes
I believe it too,
Urging myself to remember it.
Yet, my memory is a deceitful ally
That looks gleefully
As I fall face first into the sandpit of self doubt.

I start

To fall deeper
And deeper
Until all that’s left around me
Is sand and thistle
That suffocates each cell inside me,
And makes every synapse of my body
Regret the space it’s taking.
They say,
Power is in

Listening,

Then how is it that each time I listen,
To what others have to say
About me,
My name loses it’s relevance.
They tell me,
I am too bold with my words,
I am too naive with my choices,
I am too proud with my thoughts.
I think

To myself

That I wear my words and choices and thoughts
As an armour against their validation,
As the mini skirt their eyes are too ‘purified’ to see me wearing,
As the pantsuit that they dread their sons will answer to.
I want to tell them that my father named his daughter
After the power of God
And I am his strength.

So the next time they tell me this,
I use this power to light the corners of
The pit of affliction and doubt
I had fallen into,
And I solemnly voice the vibration
Inside the long suppressed cells and synapses,
To tell them:
It’s me who knows the meaning of my name

And not them.

~RS