SRINAGAR, KASHMIR’ 97
The Dal had frozen again. It was an early winter morning as I walked over the boulevard footpath. The shikaras were not seen rushing for the floating market. Frosty winds blew across the lake accompanying the foreign birds. At some distance there appeared a small figure which I thought must be a tea vendor but as I came upon, it was Em. I guess that’s how shes still preserved in my memory. Short brown hair making waves in the wind, blowing into one of her hands and holding the camera in another.
“what do you think you are doing here this early?”
She was much younger than me but she raised her brows and blurted “capturing the birds?” cuing to her camera.
I laughed at her sharpness. “but the sun wont be out any sooner”
She fetched a cap from her pocket and put that on. “you see I have a lot of time to spend”
“are you a teacher?”
I sat down on the pavement “I just began my residency in surgery, does that qualify me as a teacher?”
“well well not really, it does win you the badge for nerds council”
I laughed at how fearless she was with her words. She looked at the sky and it was already filled with snowflakes down their journey. She stood there awestruck and then whispered “season of perpetual hope”. I walked her home and she told me she was trying to click a photograph for a post card. She did click a few of the twirling snow by the dwindling yellow light of the lamp posts along the boulevard.
“Miss Em, it was a pleasure to have your company this brumous morning”
She laughed looking away “don’t freeze yourself to death professor. You may however after I send you one of my postcards”
And then she disappeared through that iron gate into the fog just like she had appeared earlier.
HAJI ALI TOMB, BOMBAY’02
The unpredictable beauty of this city never surprises me or maybe it mirrors my own nature. It reminds me of “the brook by Tennyson”. Although it gets really busy at night but I like to sit in one corner of this shrine and watch the waves battle against the stone walls. Its all lit up from the main road upto the shrine. You can hear almost all languages of the world conversing and building bridges of holy couplets in soft low toned voices. Sometimes I walk along the seashore past midnight, it isn’t quiet but even the noise seems soothing. But you know when this city looks its best? When it rains. Even though rains here mean water logging in every nook and corner with hours wasted in traffic, it still looks like the ruins of pompey. The other day I was at Marine Drive and a small boy came upto me with postcards of the gateway of India and Taj. So I sat down with one thinking about you. Suddenly all words vanished from my mind and I wondered if anything would remind you of me. After a while I wrote
And put it away in one of my books.
i don’t really think of you everyday.
Of all the skies I came across Delhi alarms me the most. There isn’t much of blue left, it’s a dusty mixture of orange, red and grey-black. I didn’t know Delhi winters could be so harsh and chilly. Sometimes i sit at the terrace late night and watch the airplanes flying over my head. It might sound funny but I almost feel like if I jump with arms out stretched I might touch what seems like an LED bulb at the bottom of the plane. The airport is just a few miles away from AIIMS. Last weekend we went to see the Lotus Temple. You know there is a wishing pool. People toss coins and make wishes. The funny part is I saw a kid drawing out coins before his mum caught him and bestowed a scolding. But all that while, looking at the huge marble petals of the temple made me wonder how you could have seen it through the plane window on your first flight to Delhi. You said you rolled up and down the gardens and hid behind the orange bushes. I could see so many kids playing hide and seek. So I tossed a coin, a quarter dollar.
“may you get whatever you are looking for”
I don’t really think of you everyday.
RIVER CAM, CAMBRIDGE’07
When Audrey walked down that aisle as a bride, she made me think of the snowclad mountains of Kashmir. She was beaming with happiness from ear to ear. And as she tossed the flowers for the bridesmaids to catch there was a squeal of laughter and mirth. Midst the happy faces I almost saw you, the fleeting image of your short hair drawing waves with the dispersed glee around and your deep brown eyes questioning me. And then you were gone. I had to blink twice and walk half a mile away to stand and look more clearly at the gathering. Ofcource you couldn’t be there.
Later while we stood by the Cam I bought a postcard. Audrey said to me
“come with us. It will be fun.”
“I don’t want to tag along but where are you going?”
I smiled at her. She had been too kind to me. “itsnot a place I can be”
Edinburgh. Did you go there Em? You said you had to. Or are you still there? Sometimes I wonder how can places that you haven’t visited yet haunt you. I wonder if fog will ever bring you back to me or back to the same morning I met you. Like Heathcliff said,
“be with me always- take any form-drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
But Em, I don’t really think of you everyday!!
NAMSAN TOWER, SEOUL’11
from where I stand seoul looks like a galaxy with countless stars that look like dots and specks of light. Or like arrays of diyas floating in the Ganges at Assi ghat in Benaras. There is a planetarium too in this tower, the only other that I know is the Nehru planetarium in Delhi. I saw people putting locks on an iron fence surrounding the terrace. They write messages on the locks and keep the key. So I am putting one with a message for you.
Maybe back then you didn’t mean that indifference you suddenly carried in your eyes for me. Maybe we did belong somewhere together. Maybe when you said you will miss me you did mean it, even for a brief moment of time. Maybe you do think of me sometimes. And maybe Em, I might find you again, like my miracle in that December. So I am putting this key along with the post cards in a box to give you in that trance where I am still talking to you just before my alarm goes on.
I don’t really think of you everyday.
NOOR MAHAL, BAHAWALPUR’15
There seems to be a wedding dinner here. Folk musicians are playing flutes. And this palace all lit up stills draws melancholic attention. I come here for the sunsets and walks on polo track and sometimes, just sometimes I cannot help but ask this newly acquainted silence where did I wrong you? I might not be the most noble or kind person but for you I could be anything. Not for a second would I think if I could trade all my life for one moment with you on that night at Nehru Park. You said it reminded you of Aladdin showing the world to Jasmine on his magic carpet. And all these lights, all these years cannot shine brighter than your eyes that night.
I am tired Em, of chasing shadows and now I cannot make whether I am chasing yours or my own. And all these questions that I could not ask and you didn’t care enough to explain are eating their way in and out of my heart. And Em tell me what do I do? Where do I whelve this uncertainty?
Still I don’t really think of you everyday