A Report of My New Blue Dress

My new blue dress bleeds colour.

It bleeds without provocation. It has no hesitation, discretion, intent nor prejudice. It is a dress with a lot on its mind, and with nothing to lose.

I have never—deliberately, at least—owned anything that has the potential to cause so much trouble. I love my dress. But it is dangerous. I’m terrified of what it, in a machine, would do to my clothes and my flatmate’s. So I wear it a lot, my patience in ready competition with the dye, waiting for the bleed to get better.

It is a dress, but I treat it like a disease that I’d rather treat like an inconvenience. Not something as face-splittingly painful as a rotten tooth. But maybe more like a corn in the crook of an unimportant toe, or a mysterious, highly specific ache in my shoulder.

Whenever I wear my dress, I sit exclusively on dark coloured sofas and granite slabs, stand despite the rare fortune of seats in the gleaming metro, and when I forget, I lean against a wall. Once, I caught myself sitting in a paper white chair. I didn’t know how to bring it up with my host. So I left, a little giddy with a secret that she would only uncover when (if) she washed the chairs and lined them up in the sun. My chair would be that frustrating white sock sacrificed to liquid blue.

My dress fits me well. It fits my chest with a snug, grown-woman fullness. It hugs my waist and flares at exactly where my self-consciousness begins. It’s a heavy dress, batik in technique, contemporary in motif, anarkali in inspiration. In temperament, it is an indulgent craftsperson summoning an extravagance of fabric to put to employ in making me look beautiful.

The first time I’d worn the dress and taken it off, I had noticed that my white panties (my favourite with blue lace trimming) had been dusted blue by contact. The blue folds against the white cotton had looked like the stretchmarks along my sides. When I bathed that evening, blue rivulets had run from my feet to the drain.

Yesterday, when I drew my hand out of my pocket, I found blue grit under my fingernails.

My dress is the blue of night. Not nights of stolen, sodium-vapour-lit, shawl-swaddled walks through Hanumanthnagar. But of a night on my back on Surathkal beach, watching the star-stippled sky and the lighthouse cutting slow ribbons through it.

I match my dress with serious-seeming earrings and feminine-enough sandals. When I walk, my dress swishes as is appropriate for my age (not like a synthetic sun-dress on holiday). It is reluctant to play with passing drafts, and it rustles like I have important business to do.

In my dress, I’m daubing my city in a blue carbon-copy-paper patina. I am a vandal, leaving imperceptible blue graffiti in the shape of my seat.

I am guilty of laundry discourtesy. And theft of a slice of sky.



A billowing of curtain
A bloom of tissues
A breeze of newspapers
A dock of dishes

The babble of kettle
A whistle of window pane
Eddies of fallen hair
A gurgling washing machine

A clap of laughter
A meadow of books
Crags of peeling paint
A thicket of socks

A tree of tired jackets
A sunset of dust
A marsh of spent tea-leaves
An autumn of pizza crust.

A Hundred and Nine

Cotton candy aftermaths.

Slippery notes of 10.

The prickle of stranger on a bus.

Inevitability between man and woman.

Static of silk and belly.

The vase that got away.

Etchings of brassiere straps.

Calluses for absent play.

11AM sun of winter mornings.

Bites of new E-string.

The lure of knife’s edge.

Wetness inside a ring.

Found an interesting theme on this blog that compiles 55-word stories, called “Touch”. This is what came of it.

A Hundred and Eight

In the season of presidential nominations,
I’m running for a few designations –

Writer. Poet. Photographer.
Professional describer of feelings.
High-intensity leer-evaporator.
Smasher of nonsense ceilings.

DF Wallace Quote Generator.
Multiple bell-jar defeatist.
The Antoinette of Drama Queenery.
The Nilgiri winds of eye-mist.

The atlas of all the right spots.
Perpetual leaver of aunties aghast.
Shaadi.com’s SEO Nightmare.
Wit like the Virar Fast.

Lethal sashayer of saree pleats.
Visual crime police.
Khadi-wearing activist
Of “thank you, hello, please?”

Part-time mood re-decorator.
Marmalade evangelist.
Slice of chilled watermelon.
Male-throat dehydrist.

Sr. Executive Puppy-face.
Tantric caller of cat.
Compliment-netting fisher-woman.
Serial thwarter of fat.

Zero-contact gut-puncher.
Saviour at the ninth-stitch.
Hidden memories detonator.
High priestess of bitch.

A Hundred and Four

Clad in gossamer salwaars,
Ponytailed hair tumbling in ghosts of school-plait cascades,
Dupattas folded with indecision –
A stiff V, like in the heart of conservative?
An elaborate arrangement to shade modesty?
Wound around the neck, an emulation of favourite liberal aunts?
Or an incidental billowing sail, that, who knows, will steer to first and true love?

They gingerly ring the doorbell,
Always underestimating the pressure required for the button,
Always sheepish of the loudness their efforts produce.
They come armed,
With first names and surnames,
Door numbers and invitations,
The Barbie peace-makers,
Negotiating neighbourhoods in currencies of cuteness, comeliness and camaraderie.
Freshly powdered faces,
Light hairs on still-baby cheeks aglow,
Shaky-handed-kohl-lined eyes shining,
Security, manners, and social lessons all clutched
With handkerchiefs folded to sixteenths.

They always come in pairs,
Bearing with them, if not words for exchange,
Well-shorn coconuts,
A few rupees and betelnuts,
Snug in an offering of heart-shaped betel leaves.
They come armed,
With neatly arranged wire-baskets,
Covered with erstwhile sofa doilies,
Both, topics for your mother,
Who they will call, “Aunty”.

Aunty will offer them coffee or tea,
But they will both exchange looks and say, “We drink only Horlicks.”

Aunty’s husband will then ask what their parents do,
Where they’re from, who their siblings are,
What they want to be when they grow up.
Aunty’s husband will then nod gravely, and say, “Good, good.”

And Aunty’s husband will promptly forget.

They will hurriedly cool their evening’s fifth Horlicks with their breaths,
And gulp, careful to not seem indiscriminate,
Or unladylike,
Consciously licking the corners of their lips.
The first to finish will fidget
With the yellow string around her wrist.

Then Aunty, or maybe you,
Will then bring them their own coconuts/bananas/bangles,
Vermillion and turmeric.
The lesser experienced of the two,
Or the one with her guard down,
Will briefly fuss over which finger – ring or index –
She must ply.

They slowly get up,
Tugging at and ironing the bottoms of their kurtas,
And studiously slip on their sandals,
Teetering on one foot while adjusting the straps.

Their goodbyes sounding
Comically adultlike in their plurality:
“We will be back soon”.

They leave,
In their wake, the alien smells of the spoils
Of a visit to the fancy store,
Where they flirted with the henna-fingered “Bhaiyya”
To buy four hairclips at the price of two,
Where they found the bindi stickers they wore today,
The mehendi that they’ve stashed for later this week,
And even the bangles whose glitter
Twinkles like indoor starlight, on our sofa.

Ariel View

I’m not half a woman,
I’m mostly sea.
I’m not half a woman,
I don’t need legs to complete me.

I’m not an almost-whole Marilyn,
Underground rails billowing my dresses,
Haute couture of where I come from
Is mostly sea-shell bras, and floating tresses.

Come, live below sea-
Level with me,
Where there’s no doing the dishes
Or laundry,
We’ll pop oysters,
Smoke sea-weed,
And what we spark between us,
Is the only fire we’ll need.

There’s enough bubbles
For champagne the whole year round.
Gargling composes
Trumpet and saxophone sound.

There’s enough clay,
To be a water-work Michelangelo,
Where it makes sense to say,
Let’s take it easy, let’s go with the flow.

Our fingertips will forever be wrinkled,
Your money and maps, forever wet,
And should you ever get homesick,
We’ll visit the nearest shipwreck.

I’m not half a woman,
Sure, I’m almost always at sea.
I’m not half a woman,
I don’t need legs to complete me.

I’m sorry, I’m just not into flesh-trade,
Cutting in love’s name, is such a cheap charade.

I’m not parting with my second-half,
To be named your better-half.
I won’t burn hours at the treadmill,
To account for shapely calves.

So, Mister Prince Charming,
Mister Smile Disarming,
Take a deep breath,
Take the plunge,
Don’t open your mouth to say hello,
Just wave at the pants-wearing sponge.


Our meeting begins
At the valleys of your fingers.

I squint,
At the sunlight that squeezes
between them.

I look at the map,
And find no way around the lines
of your palms.

Of course,
I’m too proud to ask for directions.

I trudge on,
Dodging your fault lines,
Your mound of Venus.

The eddies of your fingerprints,
Are too many to unravel.

The air sings
of your musk.
My footprints
are your rash of tiny, pulsing gooseflesh.
The glade that I run along –
your rapt-to-attention follicles.

The sand of your skin,
Ripples in fractals.

So sharp the stalactites
of your upper lip
and tongue.

I snowball down the smooth
of your arms,
And hang by the outcrops
of your blades.

Your throbbing rivers
pulse red.

I am caught in your rapids,
And rescued
by the mesmerising fissures
that crowd around your eyes,
Flirt at your cheek,
Cut your chin,
Chisel the dip of your back,
And punctuate
The neglect behind your knees.

What etched
the canyons between your toes?
How shall I escape
the quicksand
that knots your elbows?
What shall I read
in the braille of scars
on the walls of your shins?

I’m lost.
Wandering, wondering,
At the Geography
of touch.

The plateau of your chest.
The plains of your abdomen.
The pit of your navel.

And beneath –
a glistening pool
of a place I’ve been a hundred times,
And yet,
The mounting confusion
between a rise
and a fall.

A blackwater
of full moon tides.

Your breath
is the gale I brave.

Ninety Two

Please don’t wash my blanket.
I want the smell of balm still on it.
I know you think I should move on,
But I want that smell
Not to remind me of pain,
But to remind me, of inevitable healing.
I want its memory altered,
To remember each nook of my body,
How to hold me,
How to obey,
To know the language my body speaks
When nobody is listening.

I want it to still smell of me,
Because nobody can correctly describe to me how I smell,
And only my blanket can.

Please don’t erase the canvas
Of dreams I can’t remember.

For each time you wash it,
You make a cold stranger of it,
A person reluctant of intimacy,
And does a frosty “there, there” job
Of comforting me.

I don’t want to make new friends,
Or take strangers to bed with me.
I don’t think you’d approve of that


My morning cereal
was all over the back of the van.

My throat burned
And my 6 year old eyes stung,
In pain, in shame,
And most of all – in pride.
I had promised Mumma I wouldn’t cry.
But all I wanted,
What I really wanted,
Was to let loose one sob,
Just one,
So that the knot in my tummy,
Or the knot in my throat,
Would melt.

My two long plaits were my only friends
standing outside with me,
And I would have called on them
to hug me,
If I didn’t feel my wet uniform
Sticking to my chest,
Or if I didn’t smell the smell that haunted me,
Hunted me,
From deep within me.

The pity in the van man’s eyes said,
“It’s all right, I won’t tell your Mumma”.
He gently lifted me back into the van,
To a dry seat by the window.
And with that,
Two drops weighing the earth, left me.

The school bell was long forgotten.
The other girls with the pretty pencils,
and obedient hair,
Had long gone in and called “absent”,
when I was summoned to show
my yellow
house, worth two gold stars.
The scabs on my palms missed
The bars of the jungle gym.

The engine roar was loud enough,
So no one but the black rexine seat heard,
Two more drops

My nose felt cool against the window,
And slowly,
So slowly,
I felt my attention wander
Even while the rest of me sat crying.
The scaly salt trails on my cheeks
Still felt like cake
When I saw that my buckled black shoes looked so pretty
Polished to a shine
By my grandfather’s able hands

This time, I wasn’t prepared
For the onslaught
Of plop, plop, plop.

I played with my tears,
Squashed them with my eyelids,
And by some strange alchemy, this
Made sunlight seven dotty colours.

Homecoming, today,
was magic.

God-light played between trees
That had finally woken
Stretching their arms up to the sky.
The wind did not have a flavour of hurry.
The air was not full
Of hot breath or bus exhaust
Or the giggles of gaggles of girls.

The scene was the same.
It’s just that the view had changed.

No wonder adults hid this from me.
Who knows how much trouble it would be
To get me interested in
Long division again.

My running nose had stopped,
My shoes were still black.
My tiffin box, intact.
And yet, I was received,
By the tough hands of my grandfather.
My scrawny arms cradled his neck,
And his hand found my head,
Even with the flecks
Of hurry-chewed cornflakes.

Inhaling the smell of his talcum and sweat,
I fell blissfully asleep.

Outside, the world had chugged on,
Unchanged by my vomit.

Paging No. 7

You will come, one day,
Bright eyed, black haired,
Laughing and learned,
Scornful and sceptical
Of my own scepticism.

You will agree to go Dutch,
Crave an occasional puff,
And walk the right pace,
And stay to my right.
You will say all the right things,
And ask all the right questions,
And to the only answerable one, I will say “yes”.

And one evening,
You will find me seated with a book,
Or toiling over a photograph,
Or some odd distraction –
Hair tied up,
Skin vulnerable,
And you will wonder,
How much water can the cups of my collarbones hold,
When the droplets drip,
From the loose lobe of my ear.

You will one day
See the shadows my eyelashes cast
When I throw my head back, laughing
At an incredibly odd something
That only you could’ve said.

You will learn
To keep the bus, train and movie tickets,
You will learn
To hunt for the phone bills,
And the car’s registration papers,
You will learn
To put cheese in my noodles,
And save half the chocolate bar in the fridge.

You will know that I’m sorry
I won’t remember why I’m angry with you,
I may turn away in my sleep,
I won’t always be on time,
I won’t always know what to say.

And yet,

You will teach me the art
Of surprising myself.

But one day, you will come.
Funny, clear-headed, curly-haired.