Ode to Mumbai – 1 – Monster

A monster’s heart is beating it alive
This city’s stench and bile is still aglow.
And you and I are dregs of mindless dust
Just wafting thoughts that pass, and are forgot.

“City of Gold”, they say with silver eyes
Gold – for rich and poor and middle class
Gold – to film, to sing, to act, to sell.
Gold – beneath the monsoon’s weary roof
Gold – among forgotten shanty cracks
Gold – embalmed in casks of broken bones
Gold – still owed to prowling, hungry hawks
Who nest too high and cannot see the ground.

In this parade I find myself spectating
My bag chock-full of dreams and hopes in waiting.

Docked at Lanky Bay

She was docked for a while in my cove of love
And again and again I confessed it
But my arms were too thin, and she thought my chest
Was repulsively soft when she pressed it.

It was funny at first, but I quickly saw
I would have to endeavour to work it –
If the tide was to turn, I would have to burn
All the books, go to gym, and twerk it.

When physique disappoints, and a love’s at stake
Don’t leave any dumbbell unlifted.
When the bedroom is dark and its time for it
You’ll need to be more than just gifted.

On the treadmill, the barbell and doing squats
I was pumping some serious iron.
So within a few weeks I was all the rage
On the streets they were calling me Siren.

So I swaggered and strutted and got to coast
I’d done what she wanted and more
She had better admire the pain I took,
Drop anchor and come back ashore.

As I stood at the beach, I had troubling thoughts
Of the kind you’re embarrassed to utter:
For the girl of my dreams had a fatness now
And my heart was refusing to flutter.

She was cute, but in truth it was time to sail
My ship was upholstered with oomph.
And the number of ladies who’d kill for me
Had recently shot through the roof.

I decided – don’t fight it. It’s meant to be.
And it’s not like she’s perfect inside.
I took a step back, and said,”My sweet
I can see that you think love is blind.

When you sent me away to get ripped and taut
To be honest, your tone was appalling.
Call it karma, or fate, you will have to vacate –
For the oceans are open and calling.

My canoe can canoodle Titanic now,
And your dinghy is barely floating.”
She was heartbroken, glum, and she left – and now,
I’m sexy and lonely and gloating.

I Don’t Want to Talk To Mukesh

You say I have to watch it.

There was a time, many years ago,
When my mom used to caution me against bad company.
Don’t associate with bad kids, she said,
They’ll rub off on you,
And soon,
You won’t be able to tell right from wrong.
And so I didn’t – I spent the better part of my life
Sheltered within the four, fortified walls of my home.

But then came the internet, and
I got my own room.
I shut the door tight, but the walls came crashing down.
She couldn’t watch over me anymore.
Bad things have a big presence online,
Great SEO, and viral potential, you know? Everyone’s sharing them.
And I clicked, and clicked,
And pressed and watched,
And chewed and licked,
And laughed and aww-ed,
And through it all I let them in,
And for a long time I let them win.
All the rotten things, 10 inches from my face.
I was the one who allowed them to talk to me that way.

If I met Mukesh in person, I might have said something back.
I might have told him to reassess his thinking,
Showed him how he was wrong,
And if he still didn’t listen,
Maybe,
I’d punch him in the gut and leave the room.

Because mom told me never to associate with thugs.
And I still respect that advice.

Now you say – watch him. Let him speak to me
From 10 inches away,
And you say I have to listen.
I have to listen because I have to know
That this is how it is now.
This is what we’ve become.

But – I knew that already.
When they described the rape
On the news, in the papers,
On my facebook feed,
In gory, vivid detail,
I found out more than I needed to.
I imagined the rest of it, and I assure you,
My imagination is brutally effective.
I could tell you what happened that night as if I were there myself.

If there is filth on the streets,
Huge craters filled with toxic waste,
Right outside my house,
Perhaps even spilling into it,
I would know, don’t you think?
But then you come along,
And rather than handing me a plastic bag and a jhaadu,
To clean the mess up,
You ask me, instead,
To lie down in the filth, face down,
You say I must
Roll around in it, stick my nose in it, inhale deeply,
Feel it coarse through my veins,
Let the stench transmutate into rage
And boil my blood…
Well, I might refuse.

I guess it is important film
If you’ve been blind all along.
Or if you’re silly enough to think
That the trash
Is outside, not inside.
But I… I’m already angry.

Mukesh doesn’t deserve my attention,
A place in my mind.
He can rot in jail, then fade away into nothingness, ignominy.
I would rather not be forced to listen,
Without the power to
Stare back at him
With hurt, outrage, disbelief.
Without the power to speak back.

I don’t know how Udwin did it.
She must have sat across from him,
Listening patiently,
As documentary filmmakers do.
Asking question after probing question,
Never raising her voice,
Poker face.
And Mukesh got to speak out – to a camera crew
Who seemed nice enough.
I don’t know how she ended the interview.
Did she say – “Thank you, Mr Mukesh”?
Or “I hope you rot in hell”?
Could she have said rot in hell to him?
What if she needed to reshoot?
And what bothers me most is –
Mukesh isn’t going to watch this film.
No torrent in Tihar.
He’s going to go to his grave thinking –
“I raped a girl,
Came in international news,
Then white people came and interviewed me!”
“Really? White?”
“Yes! They were white!
And the nice lady asking the questions even said thank you.”

But now you’re all talking about it,
And I’m sitting in my closed room with no walls
And no mom to tell me otherwise.
And I might… I might have to let Mukesh talk at me after all.

To be continued.

It’s Cold

She’s gotta be cold
She’s gotta be cold tonight
Won’t you hold her close
Hold her and make her feel right.
Wrap your arms around her
And just hold her tight.

Ever since you left her with tears in her eyes,
She’s thinking of killin’ herself but all she does is cry.

Coz it’s just really cold
It’s just really cold tonight
She’s lonely in this wonderful world
Cramped and suffocated inside.

All the riches she had couldn’t help her tonight
All the blankets couldn’t keep her warm tonight.

She needs someone to hold her
Someone to hold her tonight
Coz it’s just really cold
Really cold inside.