Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Today you walked over, out of the blue really
And all of it is a little bit of a dream,
It must be because you somehow convinced
me to meet your family, and they are passing on
wine glasses to me, your friends are teasing you
about your ex-lovers, the crazy ones,
I am especially amused by the knife wielder,
There is a canyon that separates us,
And we are strangers in an intimate dinner
yet you are sitting right next to me,
asking me if I am alright, asking me for
confirmation, asking me if I wanted to eat yet,
in the middle your sister asks me which year
I graduated from college, when I say 2014
she says," you are such a baby" and this
beautiful friend of yours whispers "cradle-snatcher"
to you, and I am partly laughing, partly annoyed
at being thought too young because I really enjoyed
this, more than I have enjoyed going out with
people my own age, who terrify me with
their ridiculousness. You and I both have a flight
to catch tomorrow, at different times to different places.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Treachery, that is how I see it now,
Political motives but also deeply personal
Running over all these years, hissing
and heaving in your house of worship,
To think that I didn't see it all these years,
All those nasty things said I felt deserved
 the guilt I bore for my people and their ritual cruelty,
for their categories of clean and unclean
But I could never have guessed the extent of
such treachery, to starve us to death,
to block our lifelines, does your God condone it?
To demand it for yourself, to deny it for others,
How do you reconcile your praise of God,
your Sunday worship to such vileness?
There had been a time when I hadn't
 seen the difference between us,
but then again I had never
 believed in an infallible God.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Love between guns and slow starvation

Often wonder how love plays out in our town
forgotten in the margins of a nation that has
nothing to do with us, because a love like ours
wouldn't survive, it depends on regular conversations,
a coffee passed around, the mundanity of reading
side by side in a library,
In our town, the public library was burnt by a violent mob
and it was never fully restored
It's been a month since the goods were blocked
from reaching us, the nation didn't cry fowl because
we are not part of the national imagination,
that makes it easier for them to kill us,
like flies, with so consequences, year after year
There are lines in ATMs, there are lines in petrol pumps,
And there is no place for love here,
We barely manage to survive
If you aren't killed by a bullet,
you die standing in line for money or food
And yet, despite the burden of history,
and the cruely of politics,
they tell me people fall in love here too.
One can only wonder what promises they make
to each other, how does love stand to fare
between guns and slow starvation?

Monday, November 28, 2016

To live on the smile of strangers

Last night passing through the town of no name
Where winter winds were upon us,
the hillside glittering with lights,
A cafe beckoned me inside
I ordered a cup of coffee and opened my book,
a constant companion, a safety blanket
Your song cut through my reverie,
The light was dim and I couldn't see you clearly
But I caught your smile,
The warm smile of a stranger to another,
The smile you can built a life on, a lie on,
How it must be like to live like that,
to sing songs and dance and smile like that,
to spread oneself between continents and oceans
To live on borrowed kindness,
To never live in one place too long,
Just enough to fall in love, but not long
enough for heartbreak
You see, that is all a bit of wishful thinking
Instead I carry with me a loan of bitterness
And exchange grimaces with familiar faces.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How is it that we hurt the people we love the most?

The moment I said it I wanted to take it back
But words take up a life of its own
It hung heavy in the air between us,
Poisoning everything in its path.
How easy it was to wound, to hurt,
A part of me had wanted some payback
for what you had told me the other day,
for all the all years you kept telling me
what was good for me, who wasn't good for me
And for your concern which I tend to see
as a judgement on my choices, on my life
So I lashed back with the only
weapon I had, but I see how childish that
was of me, because really, I do love you very much
And I am older now, not a sixteen year old
rebel-without-a-cause, and you are older too
And I should have been more considerate
Instead I had caused you pain
And I suddenly saw the world from your eyes
The fear that your children are slipping away from you,
But I didn't know how to fix it, you see
You had retreated, I didn't know how to draw you out
And the day dragged on with this pointless
 hurting, with our swollen hearts painful to bear.
How is it that we hurt the people we love the most?

Monday, October 24, 2016

You asked me to write a happy one

You asked me to write a happy one,
 And I did think of one yesterday
On my way back from Loktak,
And there was so much beauty to be
grateful for- the worn-out boat docked
at the shore where I wanted to fall asleep in,
the cheerfully yellowing fields.
But the words got lost
in last night's sleep.
When I woke up, the bitterness returned
I guess I just can't fathom the world around me
I am home after so many years
and it breaks my heart daily
To see so much beauty smeared
by so much rottenness.
History hasn't been kind to us, you see
This country hasn't spared a thought for us
and democracy has lost all its meaning
As for myself, I am railing against
the idea of merely following
a life that has been laid out for me.
I fear of becoming just like everyone else,
cocooned in cynicism, to be content with tokens.
Maybe it is hard for you to even comprehend
how looking non-Indian can affect my life.
In some ways,my life was rigged against
my favour from the start.

In my stories

In my stories, the girls I write about
don't win in life, they are shunned, feared
and hated, they live in the margins 
they are the witches parents warn about
In my stories, these girls live a life
I don't have the courage to claim
They talk back, they scream, they shout
They hurl things at people who
are always telling them they are wrong
They laugh recklessly and often
They drink and smoke in the backyard
They let their garden grow wild
In my stories, I give them a house
If I feel generous, a trip to the beach
Where they can run wild
and sleep on the sandy shores
But I don't let them win at life,
Sometimes they miss their family 
who have disinherited them,
At times they wish they had a shoulder to cry on
Sometimes they think of ending their lives
A few times, they do.
In my stories, my girls live a
life of protest, and isn't that something too?

Friday, September 23, 2016

The real war, my darling girl

Are you scared that we don't die when we bleed
Like men invariably do?
Do you think your threats would stop us
speaking up, breaking down the doors
which you built to contain us?
They forget that I come from a long
lines of witches, we have slayed
bigger monsters than you.
The wars between nation-states are fought
by men in the name of land and women,
Using our names to satiate their egoes,
A fight in which men inevitably wins.
That is no war for you and me
Th real wars, my darling girl,
is going to be fought in our homes.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

To outgrow all your friends
Is a sad and lonely process
May isolation fare you better.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Warning to trespassers

When I was younger and still wanted to be loved
I asked you to come visit my home
I wanted to take you to the Langol hills
I grew up climbing
and that little island in Loktak
But you were scared of guns and bandhs
And never came.
But by now I know who you all really are
And that we are just a dot in your map
which you have bled red.
To think that I loved you all once,
All of you with your shiny futures
Your uncomplicated loves
Made true by our sufferings, our deaths,
You have never known hate perhaps
 Because you kill and maim us
without thinking of us, and perhaps
you think us non-human because we don't
look like you, speak like you, eat like you
By now I know that if you come
you will only make it worse
with your ready words, your misinterpretations
For you, we are just stories confined to four lines
in the fourth page of your newspaper
But if you do come to my land
even after I have warned you
It would do you good
If you remembered we were once
head-hunters, fire-eaters and spear-throwers
And that we once had freedom before
you snatched it away from us.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

From one woman to another

But everything is political, Baby
Even your love
Shine a light on it
Shift through the coarse grains of biases
How often do you compromise?
How often does he gets his way
Love is a battlefield
The most crucial one, Baby
If you win,
the rest would follow
Don't believe him when he says it is
silly to fight over it
He has the weight of the patriarchy by his side
It is easy for him to brush it aside
Because he has never had to fight like you, Baby
He doesn't know how it is like to be gagged from birth
He doesn't know how it is like to kick down doors
The world has been shaped by men for
the benifit of men, don't you forget it
He set the rules of family, state, religion
and expects you to take it,
by means of sweet talk or coercion
What will other people say?
has often been asked of you in the course of your life
Right from childhood by your parents
when you were forbidden to play with boys
To neighbourhood gossip when you didn't marry
all through your twenties.
Love is where it starts- the inequality, the cruelty
Don't let love blind you to what is yours
Don't let it make you accept
a vicious mother-in-law, a greedy father-in-law
When love asks too much from you, Baby
You raze it to the ground if you must
Light it on fire and watch it burn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ways to heal

To have spent the last months hating
makes it hard to love again
But you start slowly, take tiny steps
You fall in love with the way
sunlight filters through the windows
and makes shadows that shift
You fall in love with the green vines
hanging from your balcony
You watch them whole day,
Today you watched the fields drop by
in the car ride back home
You watched the setting sun,
children hurrying home with their mothers
You watch the world go by,
You would like a potted cactus in your room
and new books, new shelf, a rug
You glance at the news
and fresh wave of anger rises up your throat
You accept it will never really go away
And it is alright, you can live with that
Perhaps that makes you a better person
than those who aren't disconcerted
by the unfairness and the cruelty.
Sometimes you remember the friends
you once had, the ones you loved,
the ones you thought loved you.
Sometimes you weep for your wasted years.
Maybe they were necessary lessons.
Maybe love is a book that you fall asleep reading
And your heart the superpower you always wanted.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

It is funny how you love them the most
when you have to let them go.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What good is your beating heart, old friend?

You have come again, my old friend,
announced by torrential tears
Because what good does it do?
What good does anything do anyway?
There are so many more important things to fight for
You have outgrown everyone you have known
In crowds, you feel terribly lonely
All those familiar faces no longer reach you
Yet you aren't willing to make new friends
Because what good does it do really?
You love them and they go away
Or they just turn out to be horrible people anyway
You have had too twisted a life
for them to love you
Your life intersected at the crossings of history and hellfire
You have seen good women fall
Evil men rise
Between home and strange lands,
Between last month and now,
you are filled to the brim with weariness
What good is your beating heart, old friend?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We will come with a flaming heart

My heart doesn't break anymore, it burns
It razes everything to the ground
The heart, I read somewhere, is an organ of fire.
Maybe that is why it was raining yesterday
Is raining again today
This world weeps for its loss.
Our grief divides us,
You took away what was rightfully ours,
our bountiful land, our deep dark trees
You steal our children in their sleep
You main, you rape, you kill
You try to civilise us, but we detest your
civilization, your loud mouths, your garish wealth
Your ignorance and your indifference,
We have our own tongue
we have no use for yours,
But you came with your guns and your flag
and imposed your history on us.
One day, we will come for you.
We will come with a flaming heart.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer 2016

You are draped over a chair
Painful beams of sunlight sting your eyes
There are books you have taken with you
From all the running around, the errands,
Growing up had exposed the grown ups
And their grown up powers as a charade/sham
You no longer trust it to hold you
It’s almost amusing to you
That you can look at it as an outsider
And sigh over your mother worrying about her children
You understand
But you don’t think a life like that can be yours
To be spent worrying over children
Or husband
Or maybe the result of too much economics
Seeing children as commodities
As being stockpiled and herded
The profanity of it made you even learn up the formula
To scandalise your parents
Sometimes you think ideas are all very well
But the very fact that we are skin and flesh and bones
Make the expression of ideas so very violent, so cathartic.
You are tired, you can hardly bear to move.
The world spins in and out of your sight.
You are young still, though not as young as you used to be.
There are books to be written,
And there are dreams to be plucked out of thin air.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

All the men I have loved

All the men I have loved 
have always told me not to be so angry
That I should laugh more often
And because I loved them and wanted to please them
I pretended to, but the rage never went away
Today I tell them I don’t want to calm down,
I don’t want to smile
This is a legitimate rage
And I rage for all the years we had to hide
We still do
All the years we had no claim over our own bodies
We still don’t
All the years we remained someone’s mother, 
or sister or wife or daughter
Never our own person
And all the history you took away from us
Confining our names to sidenotes, afterthoughts,
Villianising us, romanticizing us
But robbing us of our agency,
Our right to be angry
Our right to rage against everything that we have suffered
And still suffer
Today I don't want to be your darling daughter
I have no use for your love
If it doesn't let me decide
 The terms of my life
Today I don't want to be the love of your life
If you only loved me for my smile.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

If this would ever end, then when

You are beginning to come to terms
With your tight fist of a heart
And that you will always be a little angry
at your own helplessness, at all the sand that
slips through your hands
At your ancestors for having been so foolish
To have got you into this mess,
There is no walking away without
blood in your hands
Something wasn't right from the start,
and you knew it
But when you screamed nobody listened
Because who listens to a woman
in this land unless you are old with a husband in tow
Nobody remembers the past,
except for distortions,
It is now Us and Them
Sometimes hate finds your way into your heart
And then the self-loathing afterwards
Sometimes you watch from your window
for the familiar sight of burning tyres
Boys in their teens running in glee
And the chemically induced tears afterwards
Last night in your dream
you were wandering in a mist
Wondering if this would ever end, then when?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Baby they lied to you

Baby, they lied to you when they told you
Knowledge is power
Not in this country anyway
What did you get at the end of your many degrees,
Many books, your questioning, your mad laughter?
Because knowledge means nothing to them
Caste is power,
Being a man is power,
Wealth is power,
and you my dahling, you with
your narrow eyes, your slight nose,
what chance do you stand in this world
of wide-eyed men who haven't picked up
a book in their lives?
What did you get after years
of learning to speak like them, eat like them,
clothe like them, sing like them?
Baby, there is no such thing as equality,
Even the lowest of their lot,
Even the scum of their earth
would have an advantage over you.
Because all your words, all your beauty
will never get you anywhere
Till they also learn to eat your food,
speak your language, dance your dances
and sing your songs.
There is no other way.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Baby, I am beginning to wonder
where love ends and hate begin
I am inclined to ask if the terms
of this love, our life
which we hold in the palm of our hands,
where does forever start?
How are we any different from anyone else,
consumed in our individual lives,
Our affectations our aching hearts
What if today I have realised
that this love is not everything to me?
What if love is not devoid of power
like we have been indoctrinated to believe?
Baby, are you listening to me,
Can you hear this violent rage of my heart?
This world was made by men, for men
Where do I figure on this earth?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Far better to be savages than to be humans like you

Another milestone
The end of these two years
With people you didn't become friends with
But became familiar nonetheless
When you arrived, you were so self-absorbed
with your aching heart and your little girl dreams
The world has spun a few hundred times since then
Spring has come and gone
You have spiralled into a brave new world
You have dared to raise your voice
which you should have raised all those wasted years of the past
Mostly people you didn't punch in the face
Mostly the times you ignored indignities
or forgave them because they were friends,
excused them their racism, their impunity,
their coal black hearts and their empty minds.
You will never do that again.
They always tell you not to carry hate in your heart
But that is only for the privileged ones
Never having endured social-historical insults all their lives
How would they know what we go through?
To know that our memories had been wiped quite clean
systematically through education
This country doesn't care for the millions of adivasis
whose land is forcibly taken away and sold to corporates,
They only care for eleven men winning a match.
Because it is no longer alright to look away
To be complicit in this vicious terrible silence
This brahmin raj calls us savages, barbarians, uncivilised
But far better to be savages than to be humans like you.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The generation that loses its humanity

You have so much unlearning to do
Starting from history to norms of beauty
Which you have internalised
It is a beautiful day today
but the world hangs heavy
What you own is truly not yours
The language you speak and think in
This religion is not yours, please
put it away
What good is a country to you
that doesn't recognise you as its own?
What good is all the history of the world
when you are ignorant of your own?
How can you fight against one form of
oppression and not against others?
your whole generation, young men
and women, unable to think beyond what
is told to them, beyond the glamour of their
own lives and their future,
unable to empathise for the lot of humanity
Maybe we are the lost generation,
the generation which loses its humanity.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

One country is too small for you

You go from hope to disillusionment
You go from pride to disgust
There is something terribly wrong with the world
Just yesterday the world had been set for you
How were you to know
They would come for you?
We are accidents of history,
especially you, with your slight eyes
Your freedom-loving bones
It's been almost seven decades
And they still haven't got the hold of you
they don't know why you dance and sing
they don't know the words of your lips
they don't know why you die
year after year, asking to be free
Sometimes even love fails to stem
the tide of this feeling, so late in life
which has been been aroused in you
By now you know they will never see you an an equal,
Yet they ask you to fight for this nation
Whose nation? you want to ask,
You will always forever be the other
Marginalised, neglected but chained.
This heaping of indignity, it makes you feel small
It makes you so ready to apologise for
what you haven't done.
For you are a wanderer on this earth
And one country is too small for you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

There was a freak rain in the morning
the day I left home as though Manipur
was mourning my departure, I romanticise
the Wakching rain, I miss the way my world
erupts in laughter in the morning
The steps of Mama going faint
As she goes downstairs, Papa's songs
filtering into my room
I am growing old and impossibly younger
My bones are heavy with history
There is always so much writing to do
which never gets written.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The earth quakes in Manipur

We are but specks on this earth
Cowering from fear that the earth would give
 away and swallow us up
We live in the shadow of despair
That you have given us such beauty
Only to take it back
We only wish you to spare us
Your unpredictability, your arbitrariness
Tell us how we have sinned
We will try to make amends
We stand humbled before you
Please don't disrupt our insignificant lives
Leave us to our devices, our human loves
Let our mortal lives take its course

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

You were Dodo when I was Pepe

You were Dodo when I was Pepe
And you used to pull my hair
And I used to stamp on your foot
And we used to lie around in your mother's garden
You, me and Deb
We had strange nicknames growing up
Whoever gave them to us?
But they stuck nonetheless
So much so that I never found out
Bung's real name and then he moved away
Our real names were like the fancy purple frilly frock
I rarely wore unless on birthdays or parties
And we grew up
God knows why, God knows how
And boys would go past my house and shout "I love you"
We outgrew our petnames,
You grew into Chingkham
I began to answer to Pianu
We moved away, went to college
And many years later at Deb's wedding
I saw you with your little girl who answered to Pepe.