Category Archives: prose

North Campus and his Flowers.

Delhi was overflowing with broken flowers; flowers crushed under the feet of pertinent dreams; flowers plucked to death by promises of adolescent love; flowers betrayed by dishonest poems. Flowers, languishing under the fluorescent Moons that line the city streets, waiting for the Sun and the man who would sweep them to their destinies. The man would more-often-than-not be an old NDMC/MCD worker, too tired to take a minute and appreciate the crashing beauty of these casual bystanders to the vicissitudes of a metropolis lifestyle, and the flowers in their own way had accepted the banality of their existence.

But the ones that bloomed in North Campus were different.
Walking around North Campus, for my after-college reveries, I’d often see flowers lying idly in the corners of the sandstone pavements. There was something extremely self-aware about them. Their shades of red and yellow exuded a sense of finality, unlike the usual despair; a subtle declaration of a conclusion reached, and a purpose fulfilled. The way their petals wilted, into themselves, or onto the streets, reminded me of my first conscious rebellion, against the supposed tyrannies of life.
I had painted three beautiful canvases, with all the colors I could find, and then I had set them on fire, aided by gasoline and a decade-old metal vase.
It was as if the flowers were conscious of their sojourn on this planet, and did not want to stop asserting their beauty, asserting that for several students who walked up and down those roads every day they were the only respite from homesickness and the sheepish realization of the monotony that awaits them. They were confident of their shades and hues and the brilliance with which they shone through against the whites and blues of political propaganda posters, and litter from the Ridge, and on the days of my afternoon walks, they would lie just a tad-bit too unperturbed, just a tad-bit too suggestive of an underlying smirk at my humanity.

If they had to bend down to the whims and fancy of some evolution theory, they weren’t going to do it smooth and easy. They were going to burn, and with them, they were going to burn beauty.

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Hotel La Vie en Rose

On a corner street, one metro station further from Kashmere Gate, right next to the Raj Chaat wala is, the Hotel La Vie En Rose.

Legend says that the British Crown and it’s royalty dined there, once upon a time.

My grandmother tells me that they served the best Chicken Tikka and that she preferred having it with some pieces of lime.

She says that she went there with an Army officer once, for a date.

She says that it was there that she found the love of her life.

It was the only place in Old Delhi that stayed open till late.

It was the only place in  Old Delhi where everyone preferred arriving with a mistress and leaving with a wife.

It had a Burlesque Lounge and served the best booze, the way she tells it I’m reminded of the Moulin Rouge.

 

But, what she doesn’t know, is the current state of the much renowned Hotel La Vie En Rose.

It doesn’t serve Chicken Tikka any longer, the hotel manager prefers being called a Lady-monger.

Fresh roses don’t adorn the lobby any more, nothing remains as it was before.

The Burlesque Lounge was shut off once the British rule ended.

Now It’s the abode of men who’ve lost fortunes on alcohol and casual betting,

They might have been pushed out of their homes, but they’re always welcome at the splendid, Hotel La Vie En Rose.

 

Every night, at seven, ladies line up by it’s doors.

Passing children spite at them, laugh at their Gajras and call them whores.

Men on motorcycles describe the way they shall make love to them that night.

Even when they’re traveling with their children and wives.

It doesn’t smell of roses and the pink stained glass windows are now tainted.

Much like the ladies that look out of them at midnight.

 

With tainted windows and painted faces.

It still remains a place where everyone gets their happy ending.

The much renowned, Hotel La Vie En Rose.

 

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The watch from the dusty old attic.

In the corners of a dusty attic,

I found a watch from my younger days.

It had a Velcro strap and the Spiderman on it’s dial.

There were two button on the side,

one to activate the stopwatch function and one to turn on the light.

The stopwatch didn’t work any longer, but the light did blink dimly when I tried.

Two memories played simultaneously in front of my eyes.

One of my college days when procrastination led me to work the hardest just before the deadline.

The other was more of an image, one I’d like to believe had existed in reality at some point of time.

It was of me, five years old, telling my mother it was time to leave: at a party on a Sunday night.

The glass on the dial was broken and the hands that must have told a younger version of me the time, were still at 12:30.

It could have been an afternoon or after midnight,

the moment when this object from my childhood days became a lost memory.

I wouldn’t know because, in their stillness the hands seemed fast asleep.

Too indifferent to tell their now adult master,

the position of the Sun above his head.

Too tired to travel across three sixty degrees.

 

The light and the way the hands stretched out like a pair of yawning grasshoppers just before leaving for a deep slumber, were not the things that mattered to me the most.

The broken glass on the dial though, left an impression on me.

The watch might not fulfill the purpose it was meant for. It might not be, any longer, what it was meant to be.

But, it was very special to me.

Because in this watch I had the ability

to turn the hands to my favor.

To try and fetch myself some more time.

 

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dear Isabella.

what is the time?

is it time for me to leave you yet? cause I’ve been meaning to do so for quite a long time now.

it’s not that I don’t love you anymore. it’s not that I never did. i did love you and I still do regardless of what you’ll come to believe in the next few hours. it’s just that I love you a tad bit too much.

remember the first time we met. it was at the university I guess. you were late for your chemistry class while I casually strolled around looking from here to there. I followed you around later that day, contemplating on how should I reach out to you. you were wearing something black, if I remember correctly. looking back at it I can’t ignore the irony. you had a thing for black back then. you thought it made you look cool and that’s what you had always wanted to be. but inside, now I know, you were just a pretty little girl missing out on all the pink dresses you wanted to wear for the fear of being called too girly, for the fear of not fitting in.

I think three months from that day on, I wrote you the first letter. on the back of a poem I had written, I scribbled a few extra syllables and sent it across through a common friend of ours. I hear that common friend is married now and has three children of her own. two boys and a girl. the girl’s been named after you. It doesn’t surprise me now that I think of it. You had your way with people;

anyway, the poem on the back of the message I had sent was titled “a winter of white roses and shriveled up hearts.” it was a drunken composition much like a one night stand. i didn’t feel any particular emotional attachment to it and hence didn’t mind sending it across. three years later you told me that, what made you change your mind about dating me was that very poem and the few extra syllables around it. I would lie and say, I wrote it for you. but instead it was nothing better than a one night stand. just another night I had to spend alone making love to the paper and the words lurking in my ink.

the common friend came back a week later with a coy smile on her face and a piece of paper in her hands. you were a minimalist back then as well. i cant say I didn’t expect that already. I’ve come to believe that people who venture too deep into the sciences learn too much about the complexities of the world and hence prefer the mundane to what poets like me would call the notion of romanticism. the paper had a date and time on it and was signed in black, “Isabella.”

the date was set and so was the time. we met on the fifth of may, at a fast food joint. seven pm. I arrived at six forty five. you were there at seven sharp. dressed like you always were. once again the beliefs I had in regard to people who delve into science too deeply were confirmed. you were a sight to behold. the jeans you had on were worn out but to poets like me things like that are holders of great beauty. they tell a story of their own and well, your jeans were no less. they kept distracting me that night with every mark and tear whispering out their tale to me. you had a plain black tank top on. cant say I didn’t fap later that night to the image of you. but i will cause I know how dearly you hate the word fap.

the weather was windy that day and your hair kept on sticking to your lip gloss. yet you managed to stay calm through it all, at-least you tried to make it seem so. but i could see you scratching your palms covertly. love made you nervous like acids and bases had never did before.

we barely talked that day. you seemed preoccupied whereas I preferred sitting aside and looking at you. We did say good night towards the end of it and in those two words lied a promise. a promise of meeting again some night.

a few months later you sent me a message. 3:04 am in the morning. it read, “hi,” we both missed our classes the next day and went to sleep just as the Sun was rising from the horizon. that night had been the most eventful for me. five years with you and yet what matters to me the most till date is those messages you sent on some random day at a random time. you told me your father loved alcohol more than he loved you and that your mother had found love elsewhere. You mentioned a sister that died of cancer some time back and while you told me this, I could hear your sobs silently playing like a Frank Anthony record in the background. I apologize for that night and my ways. I shouldn’t have asked what your home is like or if you have a sibling. I am sorry to let you cry. I am sorry I wasn’t there to catch those tears before they touched the ground.

we met again but didn’t plan it this time around. You were walking back to your dorm when I first saw you that day. I wanted to give you a ride. But bicycles don’t make well for long drives. I was cycling away when you called out to me. To my surprise you mounted my bicycle and asked me to take you away. I did try to imitate the heroes I had read about but yet again, bicycles were not chariots of doom or stallions with golden manes. we fell onto a heap of dried leaves and couldn’t stop laughing till we were told off by an old man that taught me mythology for a semester. The old man still remembers you they say, the letter of apology you sent to him the next day is still the most beautiful thing he has ever read, they say.

but now it’s time for me to leave. the sun is setting and even though I leave you tonight and for me this is the last of day I will ever see, the sun will rise for you tomorrow and I don’t want to keep you awake too late. I don’t want to leave you and yes I do love you and always will but some things are inevitable. the universe has certain ways, it’s own dynamic idiosyncrasies and it is those that keep me from staying. you would have understood me better, maybe you still do, if you would have been a poet but then again people who delve into the complexities of the universe too much, like you have, prefer to live in a world that is black and white and the colors that flash against my eyes every night are those that don’t exist for you yet. But I do hope you realize that there’s more to life than just black and white. I do hope you understand why I prefer to speak in prose and rhyme. I hope you realize that there are some things that cant be explained in a laboratory and also some questions that can’t be answered by science.

I’ve heard a heart break tends to do it for some and if you do end up realizing all that I stated, i know you’ll finally understand that I did love you and always will, and Isabella when you do call out to me and I’ll ride to you in the same bicycle as before and we’ll fall onto a heap of dried leaves all over again. Only this time around we’ll be careful enough to not be told off by the old man who taught me mythology for a semester.

I leave you in this life, but darling please realize we still have eternity to dance through. our very own infinity to mar and recreate.

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