Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It takes a while to shed my garb,
The nocturnal creature in me,
As I stride across the grey morning track.
The trees, comrades in arms, my witnesses,
Lean towards each other to whisper,
Their supine shadows holding hands.

As the sun breaks out on my forehead.
Dark half moons rise under my eyes.
Sleep has streaked my eyeballs crimson,
Curled my spidery hands into fists.
Fragments of my dreams incubate within.
My midnight stories crouch inside my palms,
A sliver of ecstasy is a thorn in my side
The one I slept on, with my back to the wall.

Stealthily, the jasmine flowers in my hair
Dawn settles softly around my irises
The ghouls stop digging their teeth into me.
Daylight is such a devil, it woos me.
I am a sunflower now, a young bud...
As my head turns, giddy and light,
I moult—my evening skin, a memory.

I laugh, as my shadows stalk me;
I know the trees will guard my secret.

-         Archana Pai Kulkarni

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today's confession:


I’m the bitch in the house,
Say my son, daughter and spouse.
My grumpy mornings and snappy days
Leave no room for defence.

I don’t choose to wake up
On the wrong side of my edgy bed.
Or determine the pace of my rabid strides.
Don’t hold me culpable for my hissing room,
Or the rancid smells permeating my hearth.

Don’t condemn me for my hot breath
Or deride me for my defiant gait.
Truly, I was never a candidate for mutinies.
I didn’t prod the canine in me
Or enroll to learn to snarl. 
It was you…

The seasons changed, the tides turned.
I have stopped taking the garbage out,
I have stopped cooking five-course meals,
I have given up waving white flags.
I refuse to perform on demand.

As I hum a tremulous tune,
My nonchalance a fa├žade,
I sip my wicked coffee
With a deliberate air of calm,
And notice with a shudder
That I don’t apologise or grovel anymore;
But, it doesn’t hurt me any less when I bite.

- Archana Pai Kulkarni

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How I Steal Time

Time Thieving

No one gives a woman time,
She has to grab him by its neck,
Her shy, withdrawn lover,
Pin him down mercilessly,
Claim him as her own,
Throw her weight and sit on him,
Wrench him away from the hob,
Pull him from under the grinding stone,
Rescue him from wailing children,
Gather him from dusty corners…

Lest his elusive legs
Go wandering again
Out of sheer habit
To lands embroiled in drudgery,
Places best forgotten for a while
And kept aside, concealed,
Till she’s waltzed with her reluctant slave
Kissed, embraced and made love to him
To her heart’s content.

When he deserts her,
As is his wont,
Her short-lived dalliance
With her visiting lover
Won’t leave her heart-broken.
He’s made her a crafty robber.
She’ll leave her door open,
Wait with hot, bated breath,
Wide open arms, fresh memories
A sedulous woman
Who’s tasted sweet blood,
And she’ll go prowling again.

- Archana Pai Kulkarni

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What if I Lost It All

The other day, I was returning home in a cab from work when a TMT bus, a veritable sardine can on wheels, parked itself alongside, at a signal that had just turned red. Speeding as it was on a crater-filled road that also threw up dust and cement from the flyover construction site nearby, it almost nose-dived before it stopped with a forceful jerk. All the commuters—those sitting uncomfortably in their seats and those standing with their bodies glued together by the sweat and  grime of a day’s work—were first pushed violently forward, then backward and forward again, before they could steady themselves and untwist their twisted arms that held on for dear life to coiled, worn-out handles. Next, I heard some expletives fly out above the blaring horns, screeching tyres and racing motors. The bus looked angry as people gathered themselves after disentangling their bodies from the mass of limbs that had flailed about when the bus driver had braked abruptly.
I have seen crowded buses before but this one looked like no air could circulate inside it. Though I was comfortably ensconced in the cab, I started feeling asphyxiated and claustrophobic. Gratitude filled my heart. I was privileged. I wasn’t in that bus trying hard to breathe. The forces that create us had been kind to me. ‘What if?’ I thought, as a chill ran down my spine, all that I have taken for granted vanished overnight? What if I had no car, no money to travel by cab, no roof over my head, nothing? What would I do? Suddenly, nothing felt permanent—not my clothes, my books, my little desk at home, my job, the plants I watered every morning, the people in my life, the buildings, the park, the bank accounts, the pan card, the passport, the cheque book, the travel plans, the vision board, the dreams! I shuddered!
What would I do?” Where would I go? What would I have? The sky would hopefully not turn its back on me. The sun would rise and set. The moon would flood the nights with silver light and stars would twinkle. I could take these for granted. Well, maybe. My fears made me doubt even that which seemed to have always been around and seems eternal. Love would still cause heartburn, longing and all the bitter-sweet things love does. I imagined myself standing under the azure sky, looking upward, all alone, wondering which direction to take. I pictured myself in the wilderness. Long stretches of land, wildly green, sullen brown and grey and orange. It terrified me. It liberated me. It deposited me into a fantastic world where anything was possible and everything was, at the same time, so dangerously adventurous! Would I be able to live without my Blackberry and vada paav and hot running water and a clean loo? If there was a way in which I could find out without it ever happening, I’d love to take a walk in the wilderness.