Her Goddess

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Painting by Leslie Ann O’Dell (source: Pinterest)

Dearly beloved, do not hide from me
Let me get drunk on the galaxies
scattered on your back

Let me gaze
at the blue in your eyes
Touch the red in your hair and
Feel the pink on your cheeks
You, my love, wear hues
that would shame
the colours of
Spring after the Solstice…

Your hands, you say,
are clumsy and plain
But all I feel is a summery warmth
As your fingers knit with mine

Do not hide behind colours and threads
in hopes to alter your shape, for
The topography of your body,
is a brilliant, virgin land
with lush crests and verdant valleys

Your salty, sun-drenched skin
has my intrepid fingers eager,
My lips parched
And my soul enchanted,
Forevermore.

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Like Rain on Warm Pavement

Silence, cold and harsh, like a slap to the face. The only other sound audible in the tiny car is the faint tinkle of the tiny disks on her earrings, as she turns her head. She sits there behind the wheel. Stone-faced, unmoving, unfeeling, staring straight ahead.
The sweet lavender-scented air between them is now suffocating, as his mind tries to find semblance among the words unsaid. He smiles. Almost smiles, as a single tear traces down his freckled cheek at a sluggish, morose pace. Many moons ago, he discovered that silences were companionable and suddenly the grey skies of winter didn’t look so drab.
Now, whatever is left between them is reduced to that single tear, still marking its path down the curve of his stubbled jaw, shallow breathing and his heart crashing open, with a deafening stillness. The kind that you are left with, after rain on warm pavement.

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artwork by Silvia Pelissero (source: Pinterest)

A Charm Elusive

I absolutely love it when a conversation sets my mind ablaze, sets the cogs in my brain churning the right way, one that doesn’t have me overthinking or second guessing. It need not be an entire conversation too! A snippet that really hits hard will do just fine. Like this conversation I had with a certain someone, who, I’ve come to realise, has a sunny disposition served with ready wit at the side. When I remarked that “you’re always like this, right? This happy, chirpy, witty thing…” I was met with a “Do you think I’m happy?” counterpoint. This had me rephrase my words of praise as I was told that “a lot of how I am actually depends on who I’m interacting with” *Praise for praise, we should hashtag this!* 😛

A few hours later, just as I was about to call it a night, these very words that set me thinking. What exactly is happiness? Is it a constant state of being? One where you feel like you’re floating on clouds and other such inane clichés? In response, was a sense of vagueness. Over the last year or so, I’ve come to realise that it’s impossible to feel one emotion all the time. The feeling of happiness is something rather fleeting, momentary. For me, it’s watching rotund kittens wrestle on the sidewalk, the thought of having cotton candy as I make my way to “me-time-beach-time” or like last night, a batch of perfectly baked chocolate cookies and many more. If I had to put it to words, each of these moments had me feeling like I was lit up inside, a flare going off somewhere inside me, a feeling I’ve come to call “like butter melting on warm toast”.

Expecting to be happy always would border too much on being unrealistic! It would only mean harbouring grand illusions, those that will ultimately lead to suffering and a feeling of unrest. Aiming to ‘not be unhappy’ is far more achievable, especially with an attitude that blends together a bit of optimism, some slap-happiness, and a healthy dash of curiosity over things to come. One of the biggest flaws that we, as people in general, have is confusing peace and contentment with happiness. The former emerge from a state of overcoming challenges, trials, tribulations and what have you, while the latter, to me, is like an elusive charm – you cherish it while it’s there, make a memory and smile about it.

Like Charlie Brown from one of my favourite Peanuts quote, I agree, I only seek to not be unhappy.

snoopy

Of Food and Memories

Most people associate their favorite scent with perfumes, but for me, there’s strict rivalry between the aromas of garlic hitting sizzling butter, a solid brew of Turkish coffee (kahwa) and the beauty that is gulab jamuns being fried… My work in the last few months made me realise how food has been such a fundamental part of my upbringing. My earliest memory of food involves running around my grandpa’s ancestral home during the summers, with my frock smeared in mango pulp while raising hell for the grandmother. The earliest introduction to herbs came through lemongrass found generously in mum’s shai (Egyptian black tea) – being confused about the long green tendrils in her cup but actually being taken in and soothed by the earthy, slightly sweet, lemony aroma.

If I know how to handle meat, the credit belongs solely to my darling late aunt. It was under her guidance that I learnt the nuances of barbecuing meat and offal during Eid. What seemed fun as a child laid the foundation of tenderising, marinating and resting meat before and after prep. Maybe this innate understanding helped bring together a grilled fish dish that the twin and I labored over. Marinating fleshy, fresh blocks of Bengal Carp in a little bit of lemon and pepper, then coating with a paste of coriander, garlic, pinch of fresh ginger with a generous dash of mint sprigs and finishing it all up with a little bit of oregano. Charring it to perfection it on a makeshift grill, in an urban kitchen, no less!

My humble experiment with Affagato

My humble experiment with Affagato

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Hot brownies with a slab of vanilla ice cream and sinful chocolate sauce – Win win!

I’ve grown watching my mother try out various recipes, gone through the ratty recipe book that she’s handwritten with several annotations, tips and explanations. Went so far as to mark out dishes that she’s NEVER prepared and demand they be made! Every summer my late aunt would pickle mangoes using different spices. Watching her hands move and mix the spices and fruit together was like art. Folding, turning and blending, delicately yet with dexterity that was absolutely satisfying to behold. She’d talk about why she balanced red chilli with turmeric in that exact quantity or pass on jewels of information like adding a glug of vinegar to hit that perfect balance between sweet, salty and spicy that the entire family would relish all year round. Pretty sure my love for food and the willingness to experiment is a part of the genome inherited from my father. His passion for food is undying, much to the chagrin of the darling mother – who laments good humouredly every time he cuts out a recipe from a magazine for her to make. 🙂

Khichda - Rich lentil-meat dish, made once a year

Khichda – Rich lentil-meat dish, that mum makes once a year

When someone says coffee, the first word that pops in my head is “NOW!” This long-standing affair began with a piping cup of mum’s café con leche on that that rainy evening in 5th grade. Little did I know that coming home drenched from buying school supplies would be the beginning of something so amazing! Our relationship has intensified ever since and has now grown into one that makes my soul sing.

I smile as I realise that my love for food is probably one of the best ways to nourish my body and nurture my soul. And as I sit writing this post, my heart content with lovely chicken curry cooked in pepper and yogurt for dinner, I can see my aunt lovingly secure jars of pickle to cure the mangoes to perfection…

Stupid Heart

beach september

The damp sand
makes for warm company
as my thoughts defeat
coherence and sense

Above me,
the day draws to a close…
Night crawls in,
languidly caressing the twilight
turning the sky to a canvas of
pink, mauve and gold

With cracked lungs
I pull in the salty air
With eager lips
I snatch mouthfuls of your name
whispered on the wind

A tear escapes
as my eyes remember
the light from your smile…
And something inside me
shifts ever so slightly
as tectonic plates rattle
in place of that stupid heart of mine

My Addiction

Addiction
/əˈdɪkʃ(ə)n/
noun
the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity

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I consume words, in copious amounts, like a glutton does with food and finery. It began from the books my mother would buy me as a child. She never bought me dolls, and I am proud to proclaim that I never played with a Barbie. Like any other kid, I did yearn for one, but the desire was soon replaced once my tiny little fingers would touch the heavenly fragrant pages of an illustrated children’s book. Summers at my grandfather’s beach town were spent going to and fro to the tiny library that was surprisingly stocked with an excellent collection of books for children. My heart holds memories of several summer afternoons joining the likes of The Famous Five on several of their escapades, adventures and picnics.

Amid the rows and rows of slightly dusty glass lined bookshelves, I first experienced the heady aroma that is born when old books and teak shelves make silent, passionate love. It was here where I read Othello at age 14, nearly untouched and I remember how thrilled I was to be the first one to get the stamp on its library card. An ancient-looking, unabridged version of David Copperfield was next and I can distinctly recall my fear of tearing the delicate yellow, vanilla-scented pages on that beautiful hardback. Back home in Mumbai, the kindly neighbor would give away stacks and stacks of local Indian comic series that her son, ten years our senior, had clearly outgrown. My mother has lost count of the times she’s threatened to refuse my neighbour’s generosity when she caught me sneaking to read comics instead of completing homework or cutting back time on studying for a test.

My real romance with words and the insatiable hunger to feel it all happened in grade 9 and 10, while being tutored in English from the great classics by my mother. First was Great Expectations, a book that remains extremely special, followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights and Pickwick Papers. The exercise expanded my love and understanding of the language alright. What it also did was to pass on a unique legacy – the lovely way she was tutored by her British teacher at her school in Cairo. I think my mother more than succeeded. Not only did I get excellent grades at exams that mattered, but also was awakened to a lifelong addiction to books. I read as an escape, to quieten my mind at the end of a day that was too much to handle or simply to experience a life in a universe far more magical and beautiful than my own.

Something inside me smiles gently as I reflect on the peaceful frenzy I experienced when reading Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Then there are countless ebooks that I have spent many a night reading on my tablet or smartphone (no, I do not discriminate between the medium, for a book is a book). As the list of my to-read and unread books at home and my Moonreader e-library grows, I know one thing for sure; my old-age is never going to be boring. Pretty sure my love for books and the tendency to hoard them won’t wane with the advancement of age.

I’ve amassed books from annual book sales at school, cosy bookstores, and very recently, rescuing abandoned books from resort rooms :P, second-hand book sales and the like. A majority of my collection comes from the love of friends, who unfailingly gift books on birthdays (the best kind of gifts ever). As an adult, I now dream of having a whole wall in my dream home lined with books, a cozy chair with plush cushions placed next to a window that provides ample natural light and a view of birds tittering home at dusk.

 

 

 

 

A Quarter Down

Dear Me,

I’ve just finished cleaning some lovely rainbow cake off my face, thanks to the benevolence and love of our friends (more on them later). So, you’ve just completed a quarter of the average human life expectancy. Excellent. Let’s hold the congratulations just yet; you and I need to talk, if we’re to go ahead with this whole “adulting” business. My run today, gave me clarity; allow me…

Remember the mini-meltdown you had a few days ago when you realized that in five years, you’re going to turn 30 (Captain Obvious). It wasn’t age, you don’t care about that bit. What scared you was not getting to where you want to be, in terms of accomplishments. Life has a way of never shaping out the way you want it to. That’s why it’s such a thrill to simply go from one day to the next. Five years ago, when you were slaving it off in Microbiology class, struggling with O-chem and lugging fat books to and fro, did you even think it possible to have a job that not only sustains you pretty comfortably, but also be able to provide for an adorable cat? Did you even think said cat would be a reality? Or that you’ll be wise enough to know how important savings are? Get to travel and make plans- both big and small? Heck, you were skeptical to even wear makeup! Look at you now, your eye-liner game is totally pro and you rock lipsticks from muted pinks to bright, sassy reds! I’m just getting started here…

Sure, you’ve made mistakes, burned several bridges and made choices that set a cringe-fest rolling. There are instances where you’ve held on to relationships that had run their course. You’ve also said a few words that have left a bitter taste in people’s mouths and have been on the receiving end of that party too. Because of all these experiences, you have a filter in place. There is now a bunch in your life friends that accept you as you are. People that effectively blur the lines between friendship and family. Hold on to them, make memories and cherish them, they are way more precious than all the world’s treasures. You have integrity; you have real, legitimate deal-breakers and a fierce loyalty that makes you a wonderful friend. Do not beat yourself up if you mess up, because you will, a lot – for as long as you live. Make sure you have a lesson to take away from it every time, that’s the only way it will hurt a little less.

You’ve dealt with agony, heartache, loss and despair in quick succession. But here you are, laughing loudly about all of those things that caused your eyes to turn into rivers not so long ago. That is your catharsis and I am proud of you. I do not wish for you to go through all that pain again, but if you do, remember, you’ll be okay. Eventually, you’ll be okay. You’re too stubborn to let it consume you. If not, there are friends to hug, books to read or some really cool stuff on the internet that your eager mind will consume. Of course, there are workouts to do, runs to complete and endorphins…basically feel like a Spartan when you do finish a grueling hour on the mat. 😉

I’m aware it bothers you that right now, you’re jobless, in the conservative sense of the term. And it’s natural to worry, overthink and stress a little bit. From where I stand, you’re using this time to hone your craft through freelance. You’re finding your voice, giving an outlet to words trapped inside. Feeding that fire to better yourself and get where you want to, in the years to come. You’ve figured what you want; mostly- now go get it. I have a feeling an adventure awaits. Your time has just begun. Happy Birthday. 🙂

 Started from the bottom, now we here ;) Started from the bottom, now we here 😉

Fragments

I came across this quote online and sat wondering if we do, truly, leave a little bit of ourselves in every place we’ve loved? That magical night in Sikkim when my friends and I found ourselves beholding a sight unlike any other pops to mind. En route Lachen, we stepped out in the middle of nowhere for a pee break. Falling out of the car in the chilly night air, our eyes travel north, way above the outline of the mountains in dusk only to see stars. Nothing but stars; sparkling like glitter in the ink blue sky. Stars so bright against a night so dark, that if I reached out far enough, it felt like I’d be able to touch a couple. All coherent thought escaped, only to be replaced by the lilting notes of Coldplay’s Sky Full of Stars. In that moment, I lost myself to the beauty that my urban upbringing would never allow.

Closer home, there are the magical sunsets at my favorite spot in the city’s coastline. The sky turning from a rich gold to a demure pink, proudly flaunting every colour of the rainbow in patterns that delight the soul
A single sip of a brew so rich that it makes your heart sing with joy unlike you’ve ever known…
Running after butterflies as a child, chasing dragonflies
Spinning around till the head gets tizzy with silly delight, leaving all worries behind
Finding someone you can bare your soul to. Losing that person and struggling as you protect the tiny ember of hope
A first love so cathartic, you lose a part of yourself at its end
A hug so tight it only brought more tears
I lost a heartbeat when there was a smile that was welcoming with its warmth, despite belonging to a stranger
A giggle that was as beautiful as running barefoot on warm grass in summer
A bunch of crazy people that feel like family, that feel like home
A love so warm, it felt like a salve to a heart that was tearing into a million pieces
Standing on tiptoes to kiss a friend goodbye and blinking quickly before tears threaten to fall
Feeling the pain of love unrequited; the stab of the ache that mars their world whilst spilling over in yours…
Moments like these that break the heart, memories that make a life… Having lost myself in several pieces; hope to find the real me at the end of it all.

You…

IMG_1930 A memory: Dropping stones in an abandoned well. (Zero Point: Sikkim, India)

 
It’s a sunny Saturday and I’m at the movies. I see young lovers, lost in each other
oblivious to the sea of humanity swarming by.
I feel a sense of longing, like a writer for his lost muse.
Because
you are the poetry I want to etch on my skin,
the words I have waited for six months to write,
the rhyme I want to feel with shallow breaths and soft sighs 

There are days when your very thought makes me smile.
Moments when the mind takes off in its flights of fancy
I peek from behind heavy lashes
and see a world where
my head finds the perfect spot on your shoulder
Your hands hold me in a warm embrace
or I hear reverberations from fleeting seconds as your eyes giggle with joy 

Then there are some where I try
not to think about you…
But you’re there, lingering on the fringes of my most private thoughts.
My mind whispers your name
like the small tinkle
when fingertips tap against fine crystal…
It’s a struggle, an exercise of fools, yet here I am, hoping
for the frantic mumbling to stop
The skies darken and thick raindrops pelt the night.
I close my eyes and you will become a dream,
the kind I hope one day gets chased to reality…