Curfew: Day 16

I walked in the near emptiness yesterday. Streets that have been friends for years looked at me with apprehension as I waited on sidewalks for people to pass on the far side. This, a city of ten million, was deathly quiet in what should have been the evening rush hour. I crept past a pushcart vendor selling tomatoes and greens. A motorcycle crept past me. When I got back home, I realized I had forgotten to check if the air felt cleaner, if there were more birds, if the sky was brighter. If the chai shop at the corner was open.

It is the third week of the lockdown. Only the third week.

masked city –
like kohl, your questions
darken my eyes

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 15 

Curfew: Day 15

Four years ago, on this day, I lost someone who was mentor, friend and hero. Struck by polio as a child, she had not only figured out a way to live big from a wheelchair, but also built an organization that changed the lives of so many others with disability. We spent a lot of time talking in the gardens she so loved and the more I learnt about her life, the less I understood mine. I wonder what she would have made of this lockdown. Probably done the same thing she did when the earthquake hit Latur – visited the affected areas to find out how she could help. Raise a glass with me today to your own real life heroes. In times like these, we need the comfort of knowing that, in body or in spirit, they’re out there, looking out for us and for those much worse off than we are. Cheers!

surely the cloud
hiding the moon tonight
is a kindness

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 14

Curfew: Day 14

In the shadow of the pandemic, only a burdened quiet grows. And inside it, all reality turns into fiction. Characters with strangely familiar faces say and do things you seem to remember. Scenes play out like morphed videos. There is an odd sense of déjà vu. The past runs parallel to the present. I wonder if we’ll come out of this, changed. Butterflies emerging, winged, from the black pupae of isolation? Probably not. Unless reading more Darwish, writing almost nothing and losing all sense of time and place amounts to something. It used to, in the old days. Remember?

curfewed moon –
look how the sky waits
night after night

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 13

Curfew: Day 13

I’ve been reading about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed around 15 million Indians. I don’t know how to process that number. I tell myself that was a time of famine, of war, of colonisation. Now we have lockdowns. And internet. We’ve got this. I also told myself that somewhere someone has built enough AI and we will have a cure in a few weeks. That was in January. We might not have seriously capable AI. Or we might not want to deploy it right now. Or maybe it failed. Or maybe the AI is in charge now. I’m going with a happily-ever-after ending. That’s how you deal with big numbers. You surrender intelligence. You connect to wi-fi. You walk hand-in-hand into cyber sunsets.

alone on the road
my shadow stands
six feet away from me

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 12

Curfew: Day 12

The virus has been dragged by its crown of spikes along the bent axis of human behaviour – it now follows the thick lines of our divisions, our distances, our fears, our desperate need to assign blame as if that last sin will instantly inoculate us. It’s April. Already. Only. April. There should be mangoes and summer showers and kids on the street playing cricket. There is a certain level of noise that you get used to. That fades into the background, like life tapping away at a giant keyboard. This quiet, this disquiet is too loud to ignore. It should rain. Rain, long and hard, on tile and concrete and metal. Wash away this April. Drown out this April.

like a secret lover
another night slips away
from dawn’s door

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 11

Curfew: Day 11

An unfinished chapbook looks at me with reproachful eyes. I should be writing poetry that holds the face of the earth in its gentle hands and kisses it out of this death trap. But where are the words? Silence is less painful. Silence is a continuum. A block. Words are like lovers, putting spaces between themselves where things can grow. And multiply. I need a poem that is complete without a single word. I need you to read me that poem today. Especially today. When I should be writing.

even that crow
that has no song
has known the touch of a cloud

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 10

Curfew: Day 10

Not so long ago (remember?), the Amazon was burning and climate breakdown had briefly occupied the headlines. We knew even then that emissions were rising, that dystopia was just one unflattened curve (whatever it was called then) away. That science seemed distant. Less able to invade our homes or our bodies. It didn’t shut down the world. It didn’t put up death counters that ticked upward rapidly like a rigged rickshaw meter on a rainy night. Fear is a strange thing. Belief is stranger. Wilful denial is the strangest of all. But then I think, we’ve been here before. These new roads were old once.

hot summer afternoon –
this day will end
in more ways than one

 

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 9