Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A Happy Place

In a flash it plunges you into a world of darkness. You stare blankly at an indistinct point and dialate your pupils. There is no blaring TV, there is no Humming washing machine, there is no Whirring motor only an indistinct chatter of familiar voices.

The voices pull you to them, and you make your way to the balcony. With the door half open you see her sitting by. Her one half silver from the moon and the other gold from the candle. You see her red Saree with its black border and white polka dots. She has with her a fan from a bygone age, made of palm leaves dried and strung.

As you go towards her and rest your head on her lap, they start to rock you into a lullaby. Her fan swinging wider now to encompass you as her frail hand tries to cool you and the other pats your chest softly. You don’t know if she is telling you a story or singing you a song, all the words seem to rhyme and the stars seem to dance to them. You slowly drift to your happy place.

The sound of a neighbor’s pressure cooker keeps you from falling asleep. And every time it whistles you take a fresh dose of what cooks. The drumstick Vathal Kuzhambu from Chitra auntie’s, its thickness and fierce redness smeared with mustard seeds and groundnuts. Garlic Rasam from Parvatham auntie’s, a watery soup of tomato and garlic that makes you want to drown your rice and lap it up. The crackle of Rice Vadam excites you and makes your mouth water.

In between the assaults on your mind by your neighbour's kitchens you resume streaming her sweet words through your ears. Her mere intonation giving you comfort as you unconsciously play with the sagging skin on her elbows.

If only you knew you would not have this again.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Ballad of the Tiger king

Long ago on the plains of the river gold
During a time very many stories were told
There was a war that bled the lands
Soaking in crimson the river sands

They fought not for jewels of gold
They fought not for keeps to hold
But they fought to etch their stories of might
Gallantry and bravery from the fight

On one side there stood the kings of the south
Piscean, hungry and open mouthed
And the other there stood wounded and wild
The cornered tiger maddened and riled

The tiger kings sat on the eve of their last
Wondering what new spell would be cast
For their forces were all but broken and weak
With no path to ponder victory, even to speak

The silence that awaits death is pained
For your mind lets go not what it fained
It dwells upon all the color that was seen
All the ebbs and waves of the have been

Dwelt did the kings on all that was past
For spent their mind was of schemes to last
They found solace in thinking of their end
At least they had impending death to depend

In this acceptance of truth was where
The king of them all came to be there
He was a valiant who had fought many a war
He had conquered lands near and far

But now the stars had cursed him to be
To move not and to helplessly see
As his lands and his people were marred by those
Vile and evil bloodthirsty foes

He looked at his sons and his kin and kith
What remained from the war herewith
‘We have lost all, my lord and all is lost now
We shall fight to the end and die before we bow’

‘What good be a fight with death in the mind’
They hung their heads in shame no answer could they find
‘Death I shall not ask for, nor shall they bestow upon me
Bring me an elephant and I shall make them flee’

A general came forth and bowed to the king
‘There are no elephants, none left to bring
Forgive me sire but they are all dead and gone
Killed in a battle bygone’

‘Then bring me a steed to ride like the wind
Head over heels the wretched foes I shall send’
‘Not a hoof is left alive by our foes
Our horses ran like wind but were shot like does’

The king looked down at his legs weakened and beat
Unable to move them, to stand up was a feat
Now though he is able and desires to fight
They budge not forward nor garner his might

He looked down at his legs and the swords beside
Of his sons killed by Piscean and cast aside
He took the long swords one in each hand
And the Tiger kings gasped with their armies behind

What strength must he have, the king of us all
What resolve in his mind could make him call
For one man could carry no more such a sword than one
Not the mightiest warrior lifted two, none

‘Come forth my men two at a time
Show me those who felled our brothers in their prime
Carry me towards the enemy that hounds
And we shall chase them out of our bounds

For this is our lands and these people are ours
From the farms and gates up until the towers
And fight we shall to bring death to those
Who come thirsting our blood from across the shores

Let us save ours for no one else will
Let us sever the enemy and fell them till
The sun it sets and rises again
For our brothers have not died in vain’

Not one, not two, but two hundred came
All in a line to cut and maim
Their hands were clenched to destroy, with their swords
And their minds brimmed with the kings mighty words

I can only imagine what the other king saw
From atop his hill across the field afar
No elephant, no horses, no chariots not one
But a line of mad men on the run

Led by an old man with no legs, cursed to lay
Riding his men lusting to flay
What fears reigned king Piscean's heart
As he looked at his armies destroyed in parts

With his two swords the tiger king did not fetter
And he cut through the armies like a hot knife through butter
He dazzled the enemy with his unfathomed strength and power
For none foresaw the legless king, upon his men, would tower

They ran for their skin across the sands
They turned their elephants and ran for their lands
For they feared what they had not known to fear within
Desperation and a heart that was determined to win

And so the war was won against the kings of the south
And the world gasped with an open mouth
Making immortal the king with no legs that won
And made the mighty and strong run