Tesco Medium Free Range Eggs

For Appa’s birthday,
I meant to send him a postcard
(hand-drawn),
showing him my room,
Warm,
in all its sunlit glory. 

Behind it, I scribbled
the only line I’ve typed out in a Word document
for the London Piece I’m trying
(waiting)
to write

I moved to London last September. I walked into my room with three suitcases, a litre of milk, one loaf of bread, and a box of six broken eggs.

It’s a nice room, nice-ish at least (?)
but the postcard,
drawn on hot-pressed watercolour paper
with a 0.1 Derwent Graphik Line Maker
is black and white,
and slightly
grey

London, like the cracked eggs,
and my excitement
the soggy cardboard box
sitting in a pool of egg whites

I didn’t notice until morning.

Advertisements

27.05.2018

Today, in Hyde Park,
I stopped to sit at a bench dedicated
(in loving memory)
to a woman whose name I don’t remember.

The placard said she had liked to sit
precisely at that
– spot –
close enough to the Serpentine’s ducks
stoically waiting
for bread (often stolen)
by otherwise well-behaved dogs
temporarily forgotten by their sunbathing owners.

As I pulled my knees up to my chest,
I thought, quite warmly –

Perhaps I would have liked her, perhaps she preferred to feed the squirrels, maybe she wished she had studied art, and drank her way through four pints of beer after her first day as a teacher in an evening school for working women. Perhaps she didn’t (couldn’t?) fall in love – there was no time for this anyway – but maybe she would have paused, for a second too long, at a flyer on the footpath that announced, An Invitation to See Things Differently. Perhaps she sat here like me, with her mother’s letters, watching Wellington the German Shepherd bounding at Mute Swans and Gadwalls, wishing that today, ten years later, they might also say something.

In a London library, wondering if I will ever keep up

Yesterday, M set down three candles at my feet
And as she turned on her camera
Slick black against her dark black clothes and dusty black boots
(she is my favourite aesthetic),
I felt her zoom
into my fingers
– stubby fingers
as she said,
I guess, what I want to know is, What does solidarity mean to you?

I think she meant Solidarity
– you know, with the capital s
But I mumbled something about infinite differences,
And listening – you know, really listening,
Before I remembered,
My candlelit hands are going to be in a film about this Space
and froze.

I freeze often here,
M has noticed – she’s seen me nod vigorously when
R reminds us that this Space,
our political project,
is – and let’s not beat around the goddamn bush –
segregated,
even though we made these walls announce
– loudly
that we are powerful and dangerous.

Then I think I should tell her I really really dislike –
Don’t like,
(Hate?)
This city, that has made me anxious
Withdraw, retreat, recoil, recede,
into myself
Because words don’t roll off my tongue like they do for her,
– M with the perfect aesthetic,
and I am still thinking about whether this thing about solidarity
is new (smart?) enough to say,

But now they are discussing the problematic, hallowed halls of academia
and decolonising everything.

Consequences

No, I have to tell him today, you say.
Maybe he won’t care. Or else
There will be pin
Drop
Silence (as school teachers would say)
Maybe he will yell, Do what
you want, like
always.
Will
That mean you
Must remove it (you won’t).
Then there won’t be anything left to
say
about it again.
You’ll tell him about your tattoo
(Four inches long) tomorrow morning.

After the cremation

He has left his glasses on the table.

There are two photographs—
One from a trip to Bannerghatta that I say I remember.
I don’t.
We are watching monkeys.
In another
he is watching me come down a yellow slide.

He was old even fifteen years ago.

Amma said I was never stung by a bee.
But I’m telling you, it stung me
Ask him—
Drink coffee, take, Suma is saying.
His cupboard is full of books
Where are his clothes?
Remember when? Suma is asking me.
—We still haven’t given away Amma’s clothes either—

Do yoga.
But what about physical exercise?
He shakes his thumb at my answer:
Touch your toes and show me.
Drink coffee, Suma is saying.
I stand on my toes—
Uddha, he says,
surprised.
That day I stood on my toes
to look over the wall with the binoculars he brought me,
and see Golconda fort from my bedroom window.

Can I have these travel books of his?
More coffee? Suma is asking me.
There is a book about frogs on his cupboard.

—don’t worry, I’m fine, Rukmini aunty insists.

 

Green gates

The bell rings at nine o’clock.

In the rectangular room, only our

Sock-covered feet would feel

the cold,

Until we sat and it

Spread itself, slowly on the back of our thighs

Like water

they poured down

your back,

When you did not expect it.

She was the initial silence in that rectangular room,

Opening conversation—

What shall we talk about today,

Before sitting back to wait for responses

That only occasionally came,

Like surprising lone flower pots

On a rainy Diwali night.

Your parents are academics,

She knew them,

And so she knew you

From when you were that little.

You feel old when she says that because

she is old;

Talking of education, and fear, and music—

They were only words that she tried to

Make real for you, every week,

In that rectangular room.

You write this because she was the first

To talk to you about writing.

This Monday, the bell did not ring.

India Coffee House

They say we talk too loudly.

Empty trays held by their knees;

Slouching, they move towards full tables—

four seaters with the six of them.

In white they stand against

pale blue walls.

Coffee spills on stained saucers—

Do not bother,

Nothing remains white for long anyway.

In rectangular mirrors,

A man curses in a brown shirt, asking for

Coffee, hot

Scrambled eggs.

Cutlet.

Masala dosa.

Books from Blossoms lie next to her.

They do not talk.

Corner table, five of you talking

Around buzzing fans and rumbling conversations.

Again,

waiting for explosion, it comes quickly—

His counter bell rung insistently,

Like school bell on Monday morning.

Frowning,

Too loud.

Your bill is on your table,

Your egg half eaten, coffee still full.

White.

His hair is more grey than black now,

Wisps of grey cotton candy she dropped from her hand.

Hers would have been

Brown weeds of dark chocolate, 86%.

Five-thirty, he would have come home,

She had bought him his black office bag seven years ago.

Now on year ten, its strap is torn like the bottom of those kurtas he still fits into.

A gas cylinder undelivered, a leaking kitchen tap,

She waits, but his hand has stretched to turn on the television

–Why do you make the pasta so soggy–

She is by now already in their room, reading.

The question hangs on an invisible hook, a coat temporarily unused,

Unanswered, and staying.

Sunday morning, the mixed smell of coffee and payasam,

They sat together, him talking,

“But,” she would say softly, and he would stop to listen.

Him, quieter now, they would discuss her writing.

There is something of their old scooter rides around Bangalore,

Days now seen mistily in black and white,

Like that slowly smudging photograph of their backs, sharing lunch on a hill in Goa.

And there are still yellow rubber gloves in her full cupboard,

Stained brown from the last mixed dye.

But his hair is no longer black,

And now he cooks for the two of us.

Two

We,

Sat across,

He straight, on the edge of his chair,

I, staring curiously.

He didn’t look at me; there was that old face,

Years had changed enough, and I couldn’t recognise him anymore.

I sat,

Waiting for him to speak,

Thinking recognition would come then.

Picking up speed,

A train pulled out of the station.

He spoke,

Quicker, longer, faster,

Shooting finished sentences

Bullet points in his head he had to complete

Like he had been taught to do when he debated,

To show that he knew.

A girl in red, drew on the hand of a boy in green,

Butterflies with a red sketch pen.

Somebody’s birthday or wedding,

I cannot remember now.

But the boy in green had played Uno with them,

And he had let her draw butterflies on his hand,

So she was happy.

The train moved quickly, purposefully,

He talked, of the places he had seen, the people he had met,

The pubs he had been to,

but he did not drink.

Clipped words, and straighter back.

He said he taught sixteen-year-olds now, but they weren’t interesting,

They thought of different things,

Not like he had done then.

“The education system has to change”, he said.

The boy in green dropped juice on himself,

But he was talking about football, and did not notice.

Now, he sat up straight,

Uttering words so perfectly rounded,

That they conveyed almost nothing,

And who he was,

I could not tell.

I thought they were the same

I was supposed to be home by five.

We were sitting on some abandoned slabs of stone that

looked like they wanted to be sat on. He was standing, she was talking,

I was listening but not responding. It was a quiet street;

some old houses, an older man, a slowly moving car.

I was picturing a staircase.

I was scaring her, she said, but I didn’t mean to. I was just picturing a staircase.

An upward-moving escalator that I got on but walked up anyway, just like Appa did.

What’s the point of an escalator then, she had once said, standing as I walked up.

I was walking up the black and white moving staircase when he spoke.

We’ll read your blog tonight, they said; those words would talk to them.

Even then I knew I wouldn’t write that night; the black and white constantly moving staircase

looked like it had been drawn.

I got home; it was around six, the figure at the dining table rose to go inside.

In my room, I opened her drawer to find something to draw with; there were oil pastels I hadn’t used for years.

I turned off my phone,

Coloured a large blue square leaving no white spaces. Satisfied, I covered

the blue with a purple, and then the purple with a darker blue, there was an urgency that I couldn’t place.

Five times I coloured.

An hour later I scratched out a staircase in the coloured square, what colour the square was, I cannot tell.

I wanted it to be like the one in my head,

but it was another.