Not perfect.

“Amu! You won’t know. You have it all sorted.”
 
Every time I hear those lines leaving the vocal cords of people
In different styles, dialects, languages, sounds, contexts
I wonder, if they indeed are right.
If I am so bloody sorted in life that I haven’t worn dirty sneakers.
 
Then,
I look down
And come across my own pair of worn out ones.
Whiteness long gone, right one’s lace untied with
A blotch of navy blue on the top right corner
Where my ex had accidentally dropped his ink pen.
 
Do you want to know the story?
Well, it is just another Ekta Kapoor direction, really.
Girl meets boy
Boy meets girl (obviously)
Stolen glances, social media exchanges, late night phone calls
And love. Or was it?
Because I always imagined love to come in all his glamour
Imaginary violin in the background, roses and
FOREVERS.
It turned out to be, one of the next few repetitive mistakes
Broken hearts, mended in a fortnight.
No, I did not even need ice cream, rebounds, bandages
To fix it.
To fix me.
Ah! Is that why she called me that?
Sorted. Because its been 2 years and she still can’t stop crying over her scars every time
Our conversations stretch too long
And I muffle my screams with a ball made out of my blanket so that 2 am remains silent.
 
I have always wanted to be a doctor.
I have fleeting images of running around
Carrying the doctor set and treating mom of her tears that she sometimes shed behind closed doors.
I used to grab on to the head mirror, fixing it like a crown
Covering the right eye with the silver plate that let me look at the site of complain.
It was a tiny little hole but
The three year old girl peered through the opening trying to decipher the cause of wet cheeks.
She took a tissue and tried drying the surface, first the right side then the left.
Seven attempts later, she succeeded.
She meticulously took a generous amount of Johnson baby cream
And applied it evenly all over the cheeks till
The smile returned. I remember being proud of myself.
I’d cured maa. I sure could cure other people too.
Today, I am an intern.
I am showered with awe, respect, raised eye brows and a thump at the back.
‘Beta, tumhaari to life set hai.’
YOU HAVE IT ALL SORTED.
Well, have I?
Every alternate day, I wonder if I would have been a better writer.
Some mornings, I get up to the remnants
Of my dreams where I was teaching 4th graders.
But I still don the stethoscope with a smile and take my vehicle to the hospital everyday.
Trust me, Sharma Aunty, Gupta uncle. I don’t know what I am doing.
 
“Amu is the mom of our gang.
She knows exactly what to do and what to say.”
Sometimes, I almost become comfortable with adopting those words.
Almost.
Remember when you were a kid? You cheated that one question and scored a 50 out of 50.
But you never really were happy because deep down
You knew you deserved a 49?
What? Don’t give me that poker face. Come on !
We have all done it once.
I feel I am a 49 when they call me that.
When they call me SORTED.
 
I wouldn’t mind it, really.
Somedays I want my coffee to be heated to a perfect temperature
On a day where clouds have obscured the sky
Just enough to scatter drizzle to let the petrichor through my window.
And I snuggle up to The Deathly Hallows and pink blanket
No interruptions. Not even pee breaks.
Well. Perfect right? Too perfect to be true.
That is what I am.
Just standing here, draped in an invisible cloak.
 
You don’t know about the demons I silence to maintain the facade.
I have so many skeletons of all kinds in my closet that the door won’t close.
I am disarrayed every moment when loneliness hits me hard and knocks me out
And i wake up to the smell of burnt cigarettes between my middle and the index finger.
 
I have had heart breaks. Yeah probably not from twenty two tinder dates. But from one true love.
I hate, I am jealous too. Inferiority complex creeps up every other day.
Even I change ten tops before choosing one, it’s just that I do it in 5 instead of 30 minutes you take.
And to beat it all, I am not even sure about being a doctor.
 
So no.
I am not sorted.
Stop calling me that.
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Faces

Just some days,
You want to clutch on
To the strands that adore you
And pull it apart with every ounce of
Expression within.
And other days,
Tend to them
Like a new phone
Caressing it, tugging it
Behind your ears.
Also days come, when you
Want to wash the grim
Away,
Literally.
And you stand there, repeating the task
Over and over again
Till you find it within you
To step out to wear
A new piece of cloth.
You can't change the body, the skin,
Or strands the wind
oh so lovingly wants to carry off.
Sometimes you want to be carried away too when
The silence of the echoes of conversations
Within you won't be replaced
With bass or strum or tune
And everyone around you,
Becomes a liability.

-amrutha

The first conversation with my first crush

The first time my body realized

That it could feel things beyond

Pain, fear, happiness,

Oh dear!

I constantly made a fool of myself.

 

The first time I reacted to the

Long island iced tea (of hormones) that

Coursed my arteries was when I was in 6th grade.

I was in LOVE.

I don’t remember the how and the why and the when of it but

Boy! The guy made my cells tingle.

 

And hence began the one sided saga

Of love and other things of a

Uniform clad – twelve year old- rabbit teethed girl.

 

All my free time was taken over

By his thoughts. Well,

That’s what they did in the movies!

Songs that had his name were

Searched, saved and played in a loop;

Smiling at the mention of the name.

Just like those long lost lovers living

In the two corners of the world would do.

 

My lunch in school comprised of three things –

Cream biscuits, fryms / Kurkure and peeking.

Not the peeking-tom kind, but more like

The devotees outside Indian temples,

Standing for 3-4-5 hours

To catch a glimpse.

Just one tiny glimpse

For just one second,

A glimpse of my super – HOT – hero!

 

Now, let’s talk about the ‘HOT’ factor,

Shall we?

I have this tendency to

Fall for people who the crowd

Doesn’t find to be good enough.

 

HAHA yayy! My inner goddess always does her

Ritualistic topsy-turvy step when I say this.

“No competition there woman!’

 

So while my friends saw

His oiled hair;

All I saw was how beautifully they shone.

While they thought he

Was an average looking nobody,

He was my Zac Efron and my Brad Pitt!

While they laughed at

His middle partition which

Ran right from the forehead to beyond,

I…

Well, sometimes even I laughed with them.

 

Just like that, my Mirror

Who otherwise was a good friend,

A friend who was usually supportive,

A friend who looked exactly like me,

Only sometimes a tad but thin and a tad bit not-so-thin

With the change in the weather

Had become my nemesis.

 

Chiding me for the bushy eyebrows I was born with,

Showing me a ZIT!

A freaking real ugly not-disappearing-for-fifteen-days zit!

She had the audacity to point out

At the tufts of hair that grew

Right above my lips. Yes.

I had a moustache!

Also, my dear mother made me

Live with that till I was sixteen.

 

At this point, I would take a moment to bow down

To all those boys who fell for me,

At a time when even I wouldn’t have.

Thank you, for feeding me with false pride

That made me smile at days

I otherwise would have spent

With zero self-esteem.

 

A couple of changes

Discreetly crept into my routine.

Instead of ten, twenty minutes were spent

To look presentable in school.

There was the hair that had to be done meticulously.

Nails kept, kohl applied and

Lip gloss smeared on a pair of lips

That had never seen anything beyond ghee and petroleum jelly.

 

But let me make something clear

Right now.

I never really wanted him

To love me back.

The thought never even crossed my mind.

This pea-brain was happy running around,

Worshipping him!

But all she ever craved for was

One conversation.

 

I remember this one time

When our eyes met.

I have never wanted to be more

Invisible than that day!

I kept staring

With an inane pair of huge, wide, unblinking eyes

Glued to the spot.

Brain dead.

A heart galloping faster than Arion!

He looked away; I ran

To take cover under my self-loathe.

Well, basically I went back to attend my social studied class.

 

And thus went on the days;

He – nonchalantly handsome

Me- Well do I need to say anymore?

Until that day.

 

That day when Him and I were

In the same room,

In the same space,

On the same table

With twenty something people.

 

Oh look!

He is sitting there.

Two chairs to his right, empty.

Let me just run and

Take the one beside him.

 

No wait! No no no no no.

I’ll make a fool of myself.

What if he sees the tiny zit on my left cheek?

What if he finds me ridiculous?

What if he finds me stupid?

What if he finds me absurd?

Wait, don’t they all mean the same?

I’ll just sit on the other chair.

 

But wait!

Who will sit in between?

What if it’s the pretty senior?

What if it’s the guy who smells of fish?

What if nobody sits and he ends up

Terming me an imbecile.

What’s with the synonym woman!

 

Thus began the never ending clamor

Between my inner goddess and me,

Till only the chair beside him was empty.

 

My Inner Goddess did

Five flips and a split.

She was on fire!

 

I went and sat awkwardly

Beside him, aware!

Aware of every word that

Left his mouth.

Aware of his every breath.

He breathed and I

Consciously tried to breathe in a rhythm

Trying to match it to perfection.

 

Twenty five times, he clenched his palm,

Six times he shuffled his feet.

 

Concentrate Amrutha, concentrate.

There are others, look. Look at them. 

Oh seven shuffles

Look the fan! It is swirling.

A spider web! But his voice.

Can I talk to him? No!

The spider.

Yes! The spider isn’t in the web.

Where is it?

Our legs are two inches apart.

Chocolate! Yes. I have to learn to make them.

I have to ask Neeta Aunty to help me with..

 

His palm accidentally brushed my fingers.

Oh lord the butterflies!

Butterflies from all over the planet

Seemed to have disapperated right

Into my stomach and

The part if my skin

That layered my finger,

Which he accidentally touched became

The most prices possession of my body!

 

“Hey! What do you think?”

“Huh?” I looked up.

 

He is asking me!

ME. Oh my god!

ME and NOT the twenty something faces

That all seem to stare at me.

They seem to see right through me.

They know everything I was thinking.

 

Then,

I looked at him.

And at that moment it was just him, I see.

Just him, I feel.

I grinned sheepishly and in a voice replied,

“I think it is perfect.”

(I don’t know what I was calling perfect. It was mostly, him.)

 

“You think so?” he asked with

Eyes, wide and curious.

Eyes, black and questioning.

Eyes, beautiful and smiling.

Eyes that want a YES.

And that is what I gave him.

“YES, I think so.”

 

And hence on the

Nineteenth day of the ninth month in the year 2007,

I had the first conversation with my first crush.

Masks

Depression. A word used often, but not always as it should be. People say, “I am depressed.” They sometimes confuse it with being sad. Depression is a disease. A disease that effects every 1 out of 4 people. A disease that should be spoken about, heard, redressed. Let’s talk, trust and carry the message forward.
This piece is a poem within a poem. One thousand seventy three words, and I still think I didn’t do justice to it. I hope, this helps someone somewhere. Also, if you feel anything like this talk to someone. Talk to me, if you want. Get help. You will be fine 🙂
Here it goes.

I am a mother
I saw my daughter in a shroud.

It was just yesterday,
When I held her;
And the midget was crying,
Life filling her with every breath.

And today
She just lies there, denying to stir.

I cry out loud,
Cry her name,
Piercing the silence of the humming crowd.
I hold her like I held her for the first time.
But; she denies to stir.

It was just yesterday when
She took her first step towards me.
And another and another.
I stood there with arms wide open to catch her
If she falls.

And today,
She just lies there, denying to stir.

‘Tis was the autumn of the year 2002.
She rode a bike for the first time.
She laughed as she sped down the road, a laugh
So beautiful! Oh the autumn seemed to blossom out.

And today
She lies there, denying to stir.

“Maa..
Can I..?
Should I…?
Shall I…?
Would you…?
Could you..?
Can you…?

I..I think I said NO to half of those requests
Or probably more.
Is that where I was wrong?
Should I have said a YES to them all?
Cause may be, just may be
She would stir.
I remember when she was in 3rd grade.
Her best friend fought with her.
She cried,
Clutching on to me for
3 hours 22 minutes 13 seconds.
And I held on to her.

Why didn’t she cry this time?
Why didn’t she come running to me?
I would have caught her.
I wouldn’t have let her fall.

But she didn’t.
And just lay there, denying to stir.

The other day, I saw some videos,
Videos on the World Wide Web.
Videos that might have answers
Answers as to where did I go wrong.
It said:
“The following are the signs of depression –
Appetite change, long periods of hopelessness,
Social withdrawal, concentration problems..”

Oh! That one time she didn’t attend the neighbor’s wedding!
Was that a sign?

Or that time when her grades slipped for a month.
I remember chiding her; was that a sign?

Or when she stopped having pizzas!
I stood there, thumping her on her back
To have finally listened to me; was that a sign?

She did come to me once.
She said, she sometimes didn’t feel.
I slighted it to be one of those times
I feel aloof.
Ignored it, to be a teenage whim.
“It shall pass”, I said.
“It’s just a phase.”

Is that why she denies to stir?

Or was it because I was less of a friend and
More of a mother.
The video said, I should have talked.
Words would have helped.
Words, the never ending plethora of sounds
Imbibed with meanings
By us.
Could that be a mistake?

“Give me my space mom.
I’ll tell you if I feel like.”
I gave her, her space.
I should have pressed on
Shouldn’t have given up on our daughter
Who lies there, denying to stir.

And thence,
I played and replayed every memory
I could grasp, trying
Trying to solve the puzzle my daughter had become.
Trying to find my fault,
Right from the first cry till the last breath.

27 days 14 hours 32 minutes later,
I chanced upon a journal
And these were the last pages:

I sit.
Clothed.
Writing.
Talking, smiling a smile that never reaches my eyes.

You see,
I weigh one hundred sixty six pounds.
I am an acne clad, love tires armored
Lone battalion.

Couple of centimeters below the
Average Indian height.
Foot size – US size 9;
I could easily pass for a hobbit.

Short, overweight, myopic.
Just above average in everything.

Getting these (teeth) aligned
Required four extractions and
Metal wires strung for another four years.
Marred at places, broken too.
Striving every day,
Every day to be acceptable.

Pitted,
Torn.
Bit I denied to break.

My feeds on Instagram and Tumblr
Filled with scores of people.
People with perfection.
Tall smart hot rich beautiful witty.
And there sat a girl
Holding on to the phone
Just above average, denying to break.

Fifteen years of outstanding performance,
Reduced and shattered to mediocrity.
Some scoops of peer pressure,
A dollop of ‘society ka burden’.
Expectation.
Pitted.
Torn.
Yet, I denied to break.

Anxiety,
Raging like a storm, harbinger
Of sleepless nights.
Breakups, hair fall, a broken arm.
But I denied to break.

You see, I had ignited a fire within me.
And all I needed was a unicorn to sweep me off my feet.
And thus, I lived on a life,
Of Paradoxical sonnet.

But unicorns don’t exists.

Three rotis became one.
Social gathering, a headache.
Sunny days turned pensive.
I was draped on the outside
With yards of skin and layers of clothes,
Adorning a perfect mask
Of nonchalance.

But what about the inside
The part that lay bare, naked.
Naked; to be trampled.
Naked; to be whipped.
Naked; to be touched, stabbed once twice,
A hundred times?
“Get a grip of yourself.
Take deep breathes.
Count forward, count backward – 1.. 2.. 3..”

There were nights in my room
Days in the bathroom; lights on, lights off- it didn’t matter.
And I cried.
Cried behind doors, cried myself to sleep.
Sleep that stopped coming.

My BMI screaked at me to stop!
I couldn’t.

Friends became people.
People became crowd.
Crowd became beings with two arms and two legs.

Moving a foot felt like moving boulders.
I didn’t know what was happening to me!

Maa told me to talk.
But words;
They failed.
Failed to express, failed to know,
Failed to come out of the bourgeois.
Failed to form, failed to articulate.
Letters became mere arrays of – A B G P X Y Z.
No switched to turn off, no anchors
To hold on to.

Till,
I had no choice but to silence
The disarrayed words, figures, body, mind
Heart and soul.

Thus, I write one last time.
The last time ink shall ever leave
The tips of my nib.
The last time I shall ever
Struggle to breathe.

Let me sleep.
Good night.

I sat there holding on to it.
Stunned and lamented.
Lamented for reasons I didn’t understand; but would have.
Lamented for reasons I couldn’t wrap my head around; but would have.
Reasons, I knew I would have solved
If only, if only she would have
Let me catch her
Before she fell.

I sat,
Holding on to the non-existing body
That denied to stir.

 

(29.04.2017)

The Train for Mundane

I sit by the window sill.
The world passes by,
Not stumbling once.
It’s as if it was born to
Walk and talk and never stop.
The cooing of the birds
Silenced by the never ending blare
Of the passers-by.

Rumbling along the crevices
Of the city untold
Undeterred, stopped by a red light or two.
The train continues its course.
A woman smiles looking at her son,
A man hastily picks up his phone.
I sit and watch it all unfurl
On my 7:01 to Luxembourg.

My day goes down
Like a mundane show
That is played with a hope to have
A visitor someday.
A life of utter brown and dull
Is what I live every day.
But I wait for my way back on the train
To look at the world alive.

Unseen in the never ending crowd
Of suited men and masked faces
I trudge back and wait for my train.
Stuck and beaten
By the things around
All I house is disdain.
My train to Luxembourg and home
Is my only track to reign.

The Vanishing Whisper

To all those stories that didn’t happen when they should have
To all those stories that have unfinished business
To all those stories that would never be written
To all those stories that would never see an end.

He loved her.
She didn’t.

He saw the sun
And the stars
In her eyes.
She didn’t care
To look him
In the eye.

He waited till
The vines of
Solitude
Strangled him.

Unbound.
He left.

The tree
Was bare
And the sky
Was bereft.

She remembered.
The glimmer
Of hope
In those eyes.
Those eyes
That she didn’t
Care
To look into.

She begged
And vowed
And cried
To no avail.

She wanted more
He didn’t.