Monday, August 29, 2011

At Least That

The fabric of our association
Would have worn thin.

The fraying edges would have lost
Their neuron like sensitivity
And become numb, dead.

We would have been left with
A hideous gauzy mess-
Entangled, live and burning.

Good we set fire to it
While it was still straight
And somewhat bright,
While we could still
Look each other in the eye.

At least what lies in the grave,
Is something glorious,
Worth remembering.

At least that.

©Rasagya Kabra, August 29, 2011

"There is no answer. It's okay. Even if it wasn't okay, what am I supposed to do?"
- Raymond Carver (Cathedral)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Mud Man

In the pit, he turns, creeping into the shadow of one of its walls. The sun is still beating down on the extreme left of his back. He raises himself along the wall, lying on his side. He thrusts his face into the soil to blot any remnants of water.

The pit is a dark center in the middle of a sea of cracked, barren land. There isn’t a tree, a house; only dry, burning land marred with fissures running deep into a soil that weeps no more.

He forces his body against the wall with the last residue of strength in him. “This is the worst it gets,” he tells himself. “Just survive this. Survive today.” He tries to wet his lips with his dry tongue.  He shuts his eyes and tries to think of rain. He pictures the beauty of raindrops clinging to smooth, green leaves; golden crops dripping with water, swaying in the wind; children dancing in the rain, splashing the water with their feet. The river is brimming with water. The riverside is green with grass. There are cows grazing. There are birds chirruping. Women dressed in bright colors and silver jewelry, are filling their earthen pitchers at the river, laughing and chatting all the while.  He is dreaming of the happy times.

His body lies shriveling in the receded shadows of the sun. He sleeps facing the heavens, his mouth open, his chest barely rising and falling. Every inch of him is covered with mud. There is mud on his eyelashes and in his teeth. He sleeps like a dead man, a man alive only in his dreams.

The sun is like an orange ball and there is a wind blowing. The man sleeps, oblivious.

The sky darkens, and still the man sleeps.

A drop of water falls into his mouth and another on his forehead.

©Rasagya Kabra, August 20, 2011

A man has to fend and fettle for the best, and then trust something beyond himself. You can't insure against the future, except by really believing in the best bit in you... (D.H. Lawrence, in Lady Chatterley's Lover )

Sunday, August 14, 2011


“My pain was so strange that at first it produced no tears. There was just something smouldering in between my ribs and my stomach felt as if I was on a ride that defied gravity,” he said.

“I just couldn’t bring that torch to burn the logs, and her,” he said, turning to me.

"All those people who had nothing to do with us all these years since papa died, all of them around me, and I just couldn’t get the bloody torch anywhere close to her dead body. My hands wouldn’t move,” he said, looking at the grand Deodars in front of us.

He fell silent and his eyes were lost in that strange land which each one of us inhabits on our own and to which other human beings do not have access. The Palace, Chail said the steaming white cup in my hand.

He was stroking a blade of grass. His hair shone in the dying light. There was no other sound but the chirping of birds coming home at sunset. My body hurt because of the journey, half a day’s journey for a day’s stay.

“It was a different kind of love,” he said. "You know when I compare Lillian with her I think Lillian just has a smaller brain. That’s not to say that I’ve not been mad about Lillian, which is something I cannot justify to myself despite all its futility. It’s just that my mother somehow operated with me on another plane.”

His face was pale but less than how it’d been on his mother’s funeral. That day his face had crumpled into a wet sallowness when setting fire to the pyre, he dropped the torch aside. He had cried like a baby, his head on my shoulder, his hair smelling of an unknown shampoo, his tears mixing with mine, wetting my kurta.


"There was something unchanging about her. She had been the one thing constant in the twenty years of my life.” He said. “Though I’ve always been the one to love the transitory, you will realize that we do need some things to remain fixed. We need the trees, this hotel, and this cottage to remain fixed, so that our motion can be defined relative to them.”

I was contemplating whether to give him a piece of my mind on the dynamism of the seemingly ‘fixed’ things; on the need for playing an active, sensitive role in making a relationship work, when he said, “When I was at school,whole weeks would pass without a word between us. Then she would write to me, a letter, an email, just asking me if I’m doing alright, if there’s anything I’d like to share with her. You know those early days when I’d be so lost in my life that I’d almost forget that she existed and then these letters would arrive and I’d either send brief replies or just not reply. Occasionally, when there would be some unsettlement in my life, my other life that is, the one that existed oblivious of her, I’d be more sensitive to her letters and give her vivid accounts of harmless things. She would sense something in my tone and write back asking if there was anything bothering me. Then I would pour my heart out and she would give her unflinchingly resolute take on my situation. I would just marvel at the clarity of her head, her ability to reduce the complex mess I always offered her, into manageable discrete components that had been invisible to me until she illuminated them. Eventually I would tide over the unsettlement and start sending her short replies once again,” he said.

“I was a jackass, treating her like that. She would be close at hand whenever I needed her, and then she would relegate herself so far away in the background of my life that I would almost forget her,” he said.  

“Each time I would leave she would just wish me a safe journey and hug me tight, even when I left for the UK two years ago. Not a word more. She had this unsaying way of transfusing her feelings. When home, we’d occasionally eat together and mostly not talk about anything and still be perfectly at peace. I was not needed to say things unless I felt the need to say them. Whatever talking we did was so real that I can pick instances from my memory and tell you the content of what we spoke. In comparison, these whole conversations I have with Lillian are pointless. I cannot recall anything in the morning. We talk out of necessity because, between us, silence gets oppressive,” he said. “I just don’t know why I have been with Lillian. I don’t know if I can still be with her. I cannot, I think. I will have to tell her that, first thing when I get back.”


It started raining, without thunder or lightning, and we rushed into his cottage. His cottage was clean, a kind of quiet order established in the four days he’d been there.

I pulled out a sweater from my bag. On the tea table I could see the small earthen pot covered with a red cloth, which contained his mother’s ashes. He was going to disperse them into the Ganges after a week, on the twelfth day since her death, and then he would fly back again, into his other life where he didn’t need me.

“How long are you here?” he said.

“I need to be back on the 16th,” I said.

“Stay a little longer?”

“No, there’s no point.”

© Rasagya Kabra, August 14, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011


There are streaks of orange in the sky and in the river.  My wet hair drips water onto the smooth red tomatoes I pluck. Beyond the tomatoes the air smells of dainty roses, lined on the peripheries by ripe cucumbers and gourds. The sunflowers on the other side are beginning to stir. Swarms of honeybees are flying to the flowers, their buzz faint above the babble of the river.

Soon I will be asked to move away for two months. The river will start throbbing with rainwater, flooding the brown patch home to my hut, submerging the green tracts of my garden. The mighty water will force my shrubby plants, accustomed only to the love of the sun and clouds and the intimate affection of my fingers, into a harshness that will dissolve them. My plants will die in the water that gave them life all these months.

I will miss the sound of the river, its occasional roar and the continuous stir. Its lilting waters will echo in my memory. I will sing to the potted plants that I grow in the two months. I will tell them how the river turned blue and orange and golden, how it laughed in the rain and sweated in the sun. I will tell them how I live to meet the river again, and how together, we will bring to life the green promise of placidity.

©Rasagya Kabra, August 7, 2011