Dear dengue mosquito Trapped in my car, You think you’re so saucy, Such a fucking Sheba, With all your groaning, Your sighs and whispers, Your legs and wings Brushing the backs of my knees.
Yes, keep nibbling at my ankles And tickling my neck, go on, When I’ve said NO, like, thrice already. All this flailing and screaming Doesn’t imply pleasure, you know. That’s right, you bastard. My blood type does not Determine my consent.
That shut you up, didn’t it? Hello? Oh, please. I know you’re still here. I can see you lurking Behind the dashboard. Kindly end your tiresome games, Your silly hide and seek. Your brooding and sulking Doesn’t impress me.
Really, you drive me so crazy! This is the last time, I swear, That I make the mistake of Leaving you such an easy opening. And I WISH we’d agreed on a safe word Back when this damn thing got started. (I asked for “release”, But you wanted “death”.)
Some moandays and bluesdays, So dang sprawled across the summer earth, Your tongue in the air like a poikilotherm, Most of your joint in ashes, All the light of the world Having stripped off your eyelids, And your hunger a mere Rasam-itch in your stomach (Not yet that unpleasant gnawing For an everything-dosa Or a nothing-but-vada), It just ups and happens: A window begins to vibrate, Then the whole house gets the shakes, And it feels like you’re jittering Between four opposing realities, You legendary, timeless pendulum, Rattling through their eggshell skins, And yet you fear — you know — That when the disruption subsides You’ll land back in the same soft Life you’ve always inhabited, That the adventure of an all-new, All-shiny timeline will elude you; And you despair, of course, you despair, But feebly, politely, without the kind of noise Needed to drown out your still-baying hunger, Or the horsefly ranting in your ear — After all, the sunlight still warms your legs, And the wind so smells of storm; So you let those storybook characters, The bears and crones and superhumans, Back in your brain again, only because Some pleasures are multiversal, Because there are always timelines Within timelines within timelines, And because no later is better or worse Than the sweet pain of now and again.
Vinayak Varma, 2020
(I love drawing hands, especially wrinkled hands that have learned to hold time.)
The evening flappers – the crows and the hawks, the crap-happy rodent pigeons, the rubbernecker ducks, and the lightning-rod bats — they litter my terrace skies like torn plastic liners and brown-paper bags relieved of the bin life.
If I could bird like them, I would forget the earth altogether — for why, then, must I, grey-eyed and mysterious, persist with the gravity of things?
An old poem from when I lived in a barsaati and spent my sunsets perched on the watertank — a dull, wingless thing watching those splendid things with wings doing unimaginable things in the sky. The accompanying illustration is from my book Jadav and the Tree-Place (Pratham Books, 2016).
At unbridled, untethered twenty, I would measure my rides to that (certainly not this) college town — that lemon-and-eggshell homeostatic asylum for creative misfits — using, for signage, succour, pitstops and piss stops, lakes, banyan trees and omelette vendors, barbershops with chrome-and-rexine chairs, crone men with beedis behind ears hunched around the daily weather report like crows worrying at a fallen squirrel, jasmine, jackfruit, flames of the forest, snake-infested ruins of temples for misappropriated gods, the old brick factory, its tall red chimney blowing smoke at the police station athwart like a lonely, ageing pothead courting detention, courting love, this Andhra mess with the curd so thick you could sculpt it, that vada joint with the paperplane dosas, the reaching wind, its fingers running cold and warm,
raking sharply across all of nature, prehistory, my flatted hair, reeking of permanence, every bit of it a glorious lie. Because six hard lanes have since stamped out every living feature, every fold, hair and pimple, on Bellary Road, and I can’t see my place in it any longer. The old map is ash and rubble. The Parsee Tower of Silence jitters with the rumble of jet engines, cash registers, and the screams of ride-sharers and gig-workers hailing swift passage away, across, aloft, anywhere but here. The vultures are dead, gone, eaten, beaten, overtaken by their own morbid function. Townships, Layouts and Communities have uprooted or walled away the hallis like unclaimed, unmarked graves. The granite hills are bombed out shells. No, I cannot reconcile these two highways,
the one I see and the one I remember, just as I cannot fit my bloated thirty-seven into this jigsaw hole that’s still shaped like a crisp-edged twenty. What, then, gives me the right to judge the art, the passion, and potential of these soft young hopefuls who look and sound the way I still feel — bright, brittle, afraid, and full of bluster? When so much of the world they inherited is so dulled and compromised, why must they also tolerate the criticism of strangers? Or must I show them truth and horror so they may harden their backs against the highway’s next assault on fragile, aimless memory? Or perhaps the highway will, one day, wind back around, disappear into itself, and re-emerge as a smaller, milder, less ambitious metaphor for expectations, progress, or the many crimes of Time.