In Another World

If someone ever inquired of her
why she so often lugs her home
in a small backpack to enter
into places no human thinks to roam;

She would tell them in great detail
of her love of the quiet, broken
only by a soft chirp or a cicada’s wail
and all the adventures, her personal tokens.

But most of all, she would say,
with dreamy eyes and a nostalgic voice,
that it was after all the stars that lay
in the night where she found her beautiful respite.

But in another world when night struck,
she pulled her blankets to her chin and sighed
as she looked from her window to stars high up
wishing they would to the dreamland be her guide.

Or rather, she could be an author,
a God of her own creation. her words,
the life-giver, story-teller, the maker and breaker
of all kinds of dazzling worlds.

She would take readers by their hands
leading them into different lands,
where they would perhaps see a Dragon’s lair
or in the moonlight glimpse a mermaid fair.

They would laugh and cry at the joy and plight
of those they could only ever hope to know
through pages of a book printed in black and white,
yet understanding them better than people in real life.

But in another world she kept down her book,
shaking her head to dispel thoughts that remained;
as putting on a smile, a mask, she stood
to meet people who could never her real self entertain.

She could also have found love on a quiet eve.
And in a week of knowing love, she’d let it into her thoughts,
two weeks into her smiles, three into her waking dreams
and a month later into her heart.

With each meeting they’d create new memories,
their love growing beyond fleeting soirees.
Until one day, hand in hand, they’d agree,
that no longer apart from each other could they stay.

But in another world, she locked her heart
from strangers she met and friends alike;
no complaints, her life wasn’t hard
just a quiet ride on a road fenced on both sides.

Musical Stories Spellbindingly Narrated – Nocturnes | Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Short Stories, Music


Kazuo Ishiguro is a name that has gained quite a lot of favor in the literary world recently owing to his Booker Prize winner – Never Let me Go. So it is of no surprise that when I spotted a hardcopy with a pretty cover and a tagline ‘Five Stories of Music and Nightfall’ authored by Kazuo Ishiguro, I instinctively picked it up.

Nocturnes is a collection of five short stories, spinning around music in Europe, nostalgically narrated and abruptly ended. I vaguely remember reading An Artist of the Floating World by Ishiguro, but these stories have a similar charm to them – a style that inexplicably weaves the reader into the narrator’s world.

A common thread across these stories is a love or pursuit of music and fame or the desire for recognition Then there are the troubled couples, lovers whom life has slowly clinched apart and those who are still inching closer and finding each other. But they only form a part of the story, a background tune. Rather, it’s the fleeting moments shared between strangers connected through music that form the chorus, with the impending goodbye as the crescendo.

In some ways, these stories are about travelling and meeting new people – who you never really know except in the few hours that they decide to spend with you. It’s about people who you wish you could have known better or people that bring out a different side to you – sometimes they are inviting and mysterious like a tune you can’t get out of your head, and then, as suddenly as they appeared, they disappear and become another of those strangers you might catch a glimpse of from afar.

Nocturnes builds up a rhythm of its own. It has the kind of stories you would exchange with unfamiliar faces across a campfire, a bit to impress but really to avoid forgetting them yourself. These are stories that don’t necessarily lead to a well-formed ending but have still somehow stayed with the narrator all along – eternal mysteries wrapped around quirks in a stranger’s behavior.

The book is a light read that draws you in and shows you the colorful, vibrant and nostalgic world of a stray musician – full of lies and dreams. Even if you’re not the short story kind, if you’re looking for a change of pace and love music enough to experiment with it, Nocturnes is definitely a go-ahead. And if you’ve read anything else by Ishiguro, I wouldn’t mind a recommendation myself.

P.S. This was slow in coming to me but I finally remember why the title sounds strangely familiar. Think Neil Gaiman and his graphic novel Sandman – no wonder then that this nocturnes has a dream-like aura itself!


Days Like These

On days when breathing is painful
When music on full cannot pull
my pitiful thoughts spinning in whirlpools
to a silent blissful cool;

On days when I can’t but hate
the trade offs in life I made
family for freedom, freedom for money,
money for travel, travel for stability;

On days I roam pretending I’ve grown
all worries in a messy bag thrown
in a corner of my mind I actively ignore
so I can feign normalcy against all truth known;

On days when I can’t love the sky,
whether the Sun shines or clouds float by
Even as it tries horizon to horizon spread so wide,
to comfort the eyes heedless of time;

On days I spin stories of distant glories
which color my life like a jar of candies
I keep held in my hand as the day dies
feeding on the little nuggets to help me survive;

On days I count focusing  my eyes
On my hand as I flip fingers to get to five
reasons that hold my life
hostage to none but the route I decide;

On days I feel how unfair
it is to have no one to blame
my hands fumble finding nothing to claim
except the helplessness that remains;

On days like these I find my truce
in saying life’s playing a fucked up tune
and when it switches to the next track
it better be a song after my own heart.


Candy House

Candy House

I make myself a candy house everyday,
with new flavours – raspberry,
bubblegum, orange, guava, cherry;
with new tweaks – a cotton candy bed
or a swirling table with a chocolate seat at the head.

And everyday, the candy house protects
the brilliant colours and savory odours,
from the blackness of innumerous insects
that leave the house I carefully crafted to moulder
into hollowed nothings and ugly cuttings.

In my city I roam apprehensive
jealous of people living in wooden houses
that boast of splendid appearances,
and stay the same stable homes
through passing days and years gone.

And they think of my candy house
as an exquisite work of art,
ignorant of the pests that plough it to bits
or of the desperation that keeps building it up.
Again. Everyday. So I can keep up
the sweet appearances.

Candy House


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Silences and Smiles

If I had a superpower
I want it to stop myself from thinking
what others are thinking
every hour.

So that I would not fall short
of goals I had never sought.
And just live my life. Like I want.
And not like what I think they think is my wont.

Near people it’s never quiet
even in silence, I hear voices fight;
personal takes on what is wrong and what is right.
When actually their field of vision are narrower
than a one dimensional line.

Stop! Pause for a breath
Pause into silence and keep it fed.
Take in a lungful of fresh air
And let me, to myself be fair,
without shamelessly being drawn
against others who are individuals of their own.

It’s not teenage angst
I’m not in that age gap anymore.
It is instead a suffocating pillow you snuff
on my face every minute and still expect me to smile in return.
Which my superpower tears to shreds
with an ugly scowl.
Because people are not measured in smiles.
The secret is… you don’t measure them at all.

So I look into their eyes and pity their life
which has twisted them so they can only derive
pleasure from others’ plights
while they pretend their life is alright.
And smile. And pretend. And smile.


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An expression in ink

You tell me I live in a society.  And societies have rules. Undocumented. Unsaid. Unanimous. Untampered. Unquestionable. I tell you I have a life. Mine. And while I know you are right. I also know that I’m not wrong.

When I make choices,  I understand all the directions the repercussions might burst into.  I may underestimate the magnitude,  but I get the general direction. But the choice in itself is valueless to me. I accept the consequences as a payment for the freedom of making it. But your comments and your slights are not to be wrapped in the same packing. When I travel to a new place,  I understand that I may be lost.  When I stand on the stage,  I confront the risk of drawing a blank.  And when I get a tattoo,  I know it’s permanent.

You don’t have to spell it out to me. I know how to read. Or listen. Or think. Or choose. Everything. The design. The place. The size.

You don’t have to protest about missing your vote on my pre-tattoo design deciding panel. I don’t need it. Your permission. Or approval. Or pat on the back. It’s still healing and I’d rather not get it infected.

It might surprise you to know that it wasn’t an impulsive decision. I did think long about it. But even if it was,  I don’t get why I need to tell you about it. If I have to maintain a journal of my choices,  I’d rather it be my body than the constricted puzzles in your brain.

I don’t need you to make me look for questions in my answers, when you really don’t care about the why or the what or the how. Because you’re too busy making the world fit into your own fancy mold to understand it.

Every statement that I make, does not need your approval stamp. And you can rant about your views in words that won’t sting more than an inked needle. And my mind will pay you no heed. Because opinions are like seashells.  I’ll choose the ones I like and leave the rest to the waves.

Dedicated to all who made me think yet again about something I’d already been pondering over for years – getting a tattoo. And dedicated to all those who are still letting others steer your life when you’re one hell of a driver yourself.


I swear I will never drink again.
Not even a swig. Ever.
Even if I’m in a bar and under the expectant looks of my friends
The waiter asks, ‘And for you, ma’am’,
I will make a solemn face, and unnerved by my peers’ views,
Say, ‘I would like some orange juice’
Or a mojito perhaps, when my palette needs the taste to differ,
But it will have to be one without any liqueur.

You see. I’ve sworn I would never drink again.
Even if it is that bubbly beer mug in the gent’s hand there,
Or the fine rose wine that the lady is swirling there,
I will pay no heed, and sip from my meager alcohol-less treat.

You see, alcohol seeped in my life through ink
Even though I had found, to much dismay, that butterbeer was clean,
There was still mead, and taverns and tweeny dwarfs chugging down mighty jugs
And there were barrels and ships and swanky pirates draped in rowdy music cheering rum
And in case you lean more to the quieter and pensive side, you’d still find
the bookish guy with toppled glasses sipping a red blood wine.
And even as I held them bound in my hands,
This emerged as the one aspect I could live of these fairy lands.

You see, I am a little of romantic. And I love to glorify things
With characters as numerous as the number of letters in a book.
So I’ll order a whisky, a Johny Walker preferably,
assuming I had enough money,
And sit on a bar like Tony Stark,
The loner who has everything and is yet somehow sometimes distraught,
And act the part.
Until, I bring the shining glass to the edge of my mouth,
And take a whiff.
And scrunch my nose.
And keep the damn thing back down.

You see, I can’t help it. My friends don’t get it,
“Why do you have to smell it?” they ask.
But how are you supposed to not?
I can’t help that the effective radius of my nose,
Kind of covers my mouth
And when I tilt the mug
The rim of the glass and the tip of my nose may get a bit snug
And you really can’t take a sip while breathing out!

So I guess I’ll put the perfect Iron Man imitation on hold. Indefinitely.

But you see, I still like beer. And other alcohols – mostly the colorless ones.
And the sweet wines. Those still work.
And I’ve had rum before, but it terribly screws up my stomach,
So I’d eliminate that option.
And hence we gain peace.
Until I get home, and sleep.

You see, I hail from a family of careful eaters.
Imagine my stomach as the newbie in the gym
where others of its kind have honed their strengths
by pulling up on spices coached by packaged meals.
Now give this stomach an overexcited brain
which cannot accept that ‘getting high’ and ‘the amount drunk’ are two different factors
each having its own tracker.
So not being drunk (yet) does not mean that I have not drunk (much)
or that it’s not affecting my (over-nourished) stomach.

You see. The drinking part is fun.
As is the trying out different tastes part.
And the I can feel the world spinning as I pee part.
And the I still feel I’m the most sober part.
And the occasional ‘what the fuck are those guys doing?’ part.
And the ‘Okay. Let’s carefully check the bill (as if)’ part.
It’s all fun!
Until I get home, and sleep.
And my poor stomach can’t hold it in anymore.

You see, I feel my body in its entirety reject
All the shit that it had been forcefully fed
And with each tremor and retch
Tell me of the utter torture it underwent.
I try to reason with it, still.
With water, sugar, ORS, juice,
But it does not listen.
And has forsaken all trust on my judgement.
One whole night it continues the toil
And I, forced to resort to aid packed in silver foil,
complement it, as if to not draw attention, with a small swig of water.
And with that, finally, it starts getting a little better.

Through all this I believe I’ve finally learnt my lesson.
I swear I would never drink again.


Except maybe a little sip.


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What is stability?

All our lives we’ve been taught to sort stuff into squared slots and shelve them
into little recurring time tables when we were kids,
perfect cubical wardrobes when we grew up,
and as justified lines and paragraphs of text as we got introduced to paper.

So that we are organized, easy to understand, fit into definitions, thus normalizing our lives.
So that we establish brotherhood, rely on similarities to recognize our kind.
And it is necessary, as uniformity feeds into the stability machine.

But what is stability?
A glass bottle kept on a table with all legs of equal height on an even platform?
A flexible building made to adapt to earthquakes a rigid one won’t?
A tight-rope walker performing on his best day?
One leg following the other in a perfect line suspended in mid-air.

But how can it be all?
A glass bottle may shatter sooner than the wink of an eye,
Quakes do not define buildings like people do,
and the very notion of stability in mid-air is truly laughable.

But we wish for stability.
Like swimming ropes we stick to the notion,
And if we happen to lose grip on it, we search for it –
within a lover’s arms, in conversations with friends,
scrolling under the blinding glares of our white screens,
in paragraphs of text, in our daily buses and routines,
at our workplaces and our homes, in our food,
in little choices, through our attires and things in our room.

We search for it – like running through mazes of gibberish mind-paths
to find that perfect word we cannot find in the most organized thesaurus,
now on the tip of our tongue, now slipping to another black-hole in our brains.

Because we forget, even as we search frantically through lines of nested definitions,
that no two words can ever have the same meaning,
and stability does not mean happiness.
Or family. Or the perfect career. Or friendship. Or love.
It just means itself. And it is transient.

Because we forget, in our quest to employ our hands to control everything we can, that we can’t.
No matter how many times we go through the numbers and justifications,
we are not seers, and we are not the only ones running the world, or living in it.
That we cannot be sure of anything, but change.

That stability is the sandcastle which will not stay no matter how grand we make it,
That when worldly waves wash over it, it may put up a mighty fight,
with all the battalions and toy soldiers we fashioned ourselves,
but it will even out to be sprinkled with shells just like all the surrounding sand,
That this admirable fight may only be remembered in our memories,
That even this is alright, and acceptable, and commendable, even,
For this is how new sandcastles can be built.


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The Boat


Thud. They laid the first plank.
They knew they had to be patient
After all, theirs was a thorough plan.

Two girls they were.
Two islands they belonged to.
Two different islands connected by a string of land.
A string of land frayed in the middle,
so a little leap was what got one into the other’s place.

But two different islands they belonged to.
One where the sun would rise
And the other which better bade it goodbye.
One which soaked its hands every day
to reap from fields of water on all sides,
And the other which picked up trinkets washed to its feet
to make wondrous treasures acclaimed far and wide.

Thunk. Thunk. They nailed another plank to the side.
A boat should be sturdy and strong at heart
if it was meant to ferry two souls through nature’s treacherous tides.

Droplets of sweat dripped into the sands
as the Sun glared at them hovering in the center of the sky.
And even though their villages would not see eye to eye,
the two girls looked at each other and shared a smile.

Kreesh. Another plank cried as they trimmed it the right size.
The daughter of the fishermen holding it tight,
as the progeny from the artists’ side
sawed at the doors to their future dreams and life.

For the first, while her people saw an expanse of nature to monetize,
She saw a sphere, a shell, engulfing her from all sides,
Gravity that pulled her to her house with all worldly strength
everytime she’d try to jump to the other side – the haven her heart desired.
And so she looked at her friend tying their makeshift sail to a pole,
weaving plans of flying to faraway lands in each knot,
knowing all too well that she held in her hands every dream she sought.

For the second, her hands were steady, as much as her mind was in a frenzy
Painting wild pictures of strange lands on the face of the sail in her hands.
She looked up into eyes that reflected her own thoughts,
for travelling to ever newer places to sell their store
was a work she could have sooner made her ideal world
than running between her house and the shore to collect worthless stones.

Two different girls. Each with the other’s wish,
they watched each other throw it away
with every plank laid as the boat was made.

They did not care for tomorrow but for days still farther
They did not know the sea as they knew their promising vessel.
They did not grasp anything of the world except what they wanted of it.
And so they dragged their cradle of dreams into the starving sea
the wanderer mooring it while the artist took a leap.
She stretched out her hand offering freedom to her human anchor,
and in taking it, she in turn, set them both free.


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A rope fraying at the center

She did just one mistake once, took a little misstep, let lose a few unnecessary words,
But they were necessary, and the step wasn’t a miss, and she would never call it a mistake.
Rather, the difference between self-defense and a frontal attack.

But for her, it was a blow to the ribs, that smashed her senses to hard reality.
A back-stab. An et tu. Seething with disbelief,
she also thought it necessary to retaliate, eyes hard and brows furrowed.
Carefully chosen words reeking of betrayal. And a lifelong burden.

Two neighboring countries jealous of their own similarities,
they both knew they were the ones wronged.
So they pulled out their lashing weapons,
with every intent to strike at the chinks visible to just them,
And then whimpered into their own pity holes licking their wounds, teary eyed, and faithless.

For some wounds, no medicine works. Some wounds leave behind their marks.
Scars – the body’s memories. Beautiful. Flaunted. Hideous. Hidden.
But none devoid of stories. Or lessons.
And scars were what they were left with. Scars only visible to the other.
So that when they hugged, they could feel them at their backs
and when they ran into each other at a busy street, they could see it in the light that shone in their eyes;
So that what was natural once turned into a conscious effort
And what was friendship became an obligation;
So that the emptiness took away everything left to blame.

They tried still. Wordless apologies. Tiring facades. Soulless Discussions.
In little lockers they buried the words they wished they could take back
Instead of exchanging them again for mellower understanding.
The scars scared them from facing each other with jarred truths.
Instead they just smiled. Eyes averted. Hearts locked.


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