Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Lasting Fragrance

He was waiting for the metro when her smooth arm stretched under his nose, as she pointed an exit to a passerby.  The sleek arm smelled of some exotic fruit unknown to him. It was so close to his face that he could lick it. But he didn’t, of course. He just let his gaze travel up, interrupted only by the small birthmark above her elbow and the black strap that lined her shoulder.

She stood by his side and the metro started, packed with people. Just a week into the big city and he was taken aback by the abundance of smooth limbs around him.  ‘Somebody needs to teach these things to the girls back home’, his soul cried.

Not just that, he was beginning to have well defined preferences over the city girls. There were at least three categories discernible to him. The first consisted of na├»ve looking girls who roamed in big groups, laughed often, and were very loud. The second type, which he liked the best, consisted of usually very pretty girls who moved in groups of two or three. They would walk gracefully, talking in muffled tones, their soft laughter sometimes spilling to reach curious ears like his. The third kind, which the woman standing by his side seemed to perfectly exemplify, was the one that unsettled him. Such women could move the way they liked, be surrounded with any number of people, but still remain just by themselves. They seemed to revel in the loneliness of a certain palpable arrogance. They would invariably be captivating, but you couldn’t imagine marrying them. They would just not pay attention to the people around them. ‘Why should your lot treat the world like that?' he wanted to ask the appetizing chit standing by his side. 'Why can’t you just look at me and acknowledge my presence? Why?’

Her dark kohl lined eyes were riveted to a thin bunch of printed sheets. The white light of the coach ran smooth along her cheeks.  

He could feel the rush of his blood. He was inflicted by a sharp urge to dig his fingers into her delicate neck, break the imaginary glass chambers that made her inaccessible as a goddess, and reduce her into a screaming, begging creature. ‘Should I teach you a lesson?’ he wanted to ask her. ‘Maybe I should. It would do you good. You would not ignore another man.'

The metro braked violently. He lost his balance and his face rammed into the metal pole in the front. Blood started oozing from his mouth. Nobody stirred.

He moved his tongue over his teeth to check if each one was in its place. He wiped his lips with his hands but he didn't have anything to wipe his hands with.

She touched his arm gently and handed him a tissue paper, new and very white.  

© Rasagya Kabra, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dots of Light

Her hands were wrinkled, but the skin was smooth and shiny. She cut the silver wire with a sharp tool, the kind my parents forbade me from touching. Turning one end of the wire into a loop, she slid a sparkling blue bead through the other end. The bead ran smooth on the small segment of the wire and sat fat on the fine loop at the bottom.

“How is the custard?” she asked, without looking up.

“Yummy,” I said, digging my spoon into the caramel custard, “the best till now.”

Every Saturday she used to treat me to dessert, a new dessert each time. She used to live next door. My parents had told me she was a scientist with a company that made medicines. Because of the entry in the picture dictionary I’d had the impression that scientists wore white jackets and had funny hair. But she wore saris and very pretty, colorful earrings and her silver hair was always neatly tied in a bun. So I’d realized that the pictures in the dictionary were not true.

She never had any visitors apart from the maids. I could  have never lived alone like her, with nobody to talk to. She did not even have an X box. Whenever I’d go to her place, I’d find her sitting in the big wooden chair, her eyes scanning heaps of printed paper, her glasses resting on the tip of her nose. Sometimes she would leave the papers and talk to me; others she would keep looking at her papers and still talk to me. I did not go very often, once or twice a week apart from Saturdays. On Saturdays she would sit on the couch with me and we would talk about my school and the very funny people who worked at her office.


She slid a green bead.

“What are you making?”

“A pair of earrings,” she said.

“For yourself?”

“No. For this girl who used to work under me. She’s going to the U.S. for her PhD.”

“What’s a PhD?”

“Higher studies,” she said.

“Did you do a PhD?”

“Why, yes,” she said, looking up. “That’s why I’m Dr. Amrita Das.”

“Yeah, but that’s because you make medicines. You are a doctor because you make medicines.”

“Oh no, that’s a different doctor. When you do a PhD, you are just called a doctor. You don’t have to be able to treat people. ”

“That’s very strange,” I said, running my tongue on the spoon, savoring the last traces of the custard.

She slid a blue bead. There were alternate green and blue beads on the small wire. She had already made five such segments, and was working on the sixth.

She got two small silver triangles with holes at the base. I moved closer to her. She put a segment each in the holes and turned the edges of the wire with pliers. At the end, there were three beaded segments of wire hanging to each triangle.

She then held out the earrings in her hands. The blue, green and silver dazzled in the strong lights of her house.

“Can I touch them?” I asked.

She smiled. She opened my small palm and placed them on it. With the fingers of my other hand I touched the shiny things. I had never seen earrings like those. I used to wear the really small silver studs that girls in my class were allowed to wear. My mother wore colorless diamonds. The earrings with the green and blue dots of light were so pretty that I wanted to wear them, but I knew I couldn’t; I shouldn’t. With a pained heart I gave them back to her, for the girl who was going to become a doctor incapable of treating people.


On one winter morning, six months later, her house was flooded with people. My parents did not let me go. I saw from the window that a body covered in a white cloth was put in the back of an ambulance- like van. I realized she’d died. It was a Saturday. I just stood at the window and shed silent tears.

The next day a man came to our house. He spoke to my parents and handed them a white box. I knew the box. It was her earrings box. She’d left me her earrings.

© Rasagya Kabra, July 23, 2011 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tap Tap Tap

Some mornings
I wake up to the
Tap tap tap of footsteps outside,
And the ruffle of newspapers being slid
In front of each door,
But mine.

I shiver
In the stinging awareness
Of the madness lurking around me.
Father Rapes Daughter.
Artist Exiled.
Artist Dies in Exile,
Government Promises to Bring Back Ashes.
Man Kills Wife.

I bury my face
In the arms of the man
Sleeping by my side,
His chest rising and falling-
The Rhythm, reassuring.

My stomach responds
To the appetizing aroma of
Vegetables being baked.
My ears soak in
The music of the cook’s anklets.
I marvel at the beauty
Of the tree outside my window-
Loaded green,
With leaves glowing
In the early morning sun.

Tap tap tap
I think of the people who died at
Of the people dying in
Kashmir, Syria, Afghanistan...
People killed at the WTC,
In Mumbai, Gujarat, Orissa,
Sarojini Nagar.

I shut my eyes
And try to go back to sleep,
Into a world unfamiliar with
The rot of dead human flesh,
The wails of stifled ambition,
The helpless cries of life.

I lie with my fists clenched.
I can feel the madness creeping.
Someday, it will call for me, I know.
This madness that feeds on
Human sanity and love.
When that day comes,
I will have to fight for my life.

Until then,
I want to live here, in loving arms,
Indulge in the beauty of spring
And savour the whiff of baked vegetables.

Let the goddamned madness go
Tap tap tap.


© Rasagya Kabra, July 14, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

'The' Opulence

Kharbanda jerks forward in his black full- grain leather chair.

“It is going to be the best Golf estate in the Guvgaon,” he says, moving his hands in the air, tracing the imaginary contours of the building.

His Vertu mobile phone rings.

“Vevy nice, vevy nice...” Kharbanda says on the phone. His diamond studded Mont Blanc winks from the breast pocket of his blue suit. Thick gold chains dangle from his neck.

“So what was I saying?” he says to my friend, resuming the conversation. “Yes! KD Golf Estate,” he says, tapping his left hand on the mahogany table. “Nobody would have seen anything like it. It’s going to be the splendid, the voyal, the best!

The Tag Heuer on his wrist has polished silver hands. Its steel bezel glints gently in the yellow indirect light. The automatic chronograph and the black alligator strap tug at my friend’s heart as he looks at Kharbanda and says, “Sir, I have taken care to ensure that the advertisement lives up to the opulence of the Golf estate.” He smiles a little and hands Kharbanda the draft.

Kharbanda is comparing it with the original write- up given by him. His eyeballs are moving back and forth, back and forth, like an eight year old playing a flash game, spotting differences in two images that look alike. My friend is waiting patiently.

“Oh, I found it,” Kharbanda says with a smirk. “You’ve left the the...See,” he says, pointing to a line.

“Sir, in my opinion, it reads better without the the,” my friend says, as politely as he can.

Kharbanda rivets his eyes to the sentence, studying it like Edison on his thousandth attempt at the light bulb.  Then, shaking his head in desperation, he says, “You must consult my assistant, Mr. Bose, about this.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Only Once

Gentle, harsh,
Chapped, smooth,
Metallic, mouth- freshened,
Expert, novice,
Old, young.

I lie
Night after night,
Seeking the understanding of
Skin, lips and breath.

I remember you,
From the way you felt,
From the way I fought
With the urge to
Remove the blindfold.

That was the only once
I wanted to
Break the rules.

That was the only once
I wanted to ask,
“Will you come again, tomorrow?”

© Rasagya Kabra, July 2, 2011