My writing samples

One frame at a time
Story: Our Lovers

Back then in the 80’s, I had just one lover. My beauty could afford only that much. Malaika's beauty afforded her many lovers. We lived as paying guests then, when jobs were scarce and the pay low unlike now at these call centers where you get everything.
Malaika was a charmer. At that time, a dinner was a grand outing and her boyfriends always took her out. She would come home and lay her gifts on the bed and we would talk about this and that, examining the gifts, toying with them in blissful trance. Sometimes, she would get perfumes that smelt like heaven, other times books with lovey-dovey words on all their pages; or greeting cards with pumped-up hearts, silver jewelry, or ornate candle stands. One guy even had the cheek to gift a polka-dotted panty. We had laughed the whole night making silly jokes around it.
The sex wasn't great, she said, compared to the precautions she needed to take and the anxiety she faced before each period.
I went around with the one and only Glen.
He was a pious churchgoer and had a strong sense of marriage and family. He watched Sunday TV and preferred the parks, museums, and sea-sides to the discotheques and movie halls. We would watch the waves jump to our feet every Saturday as we sat at the beachside promenade sucking onto our ice-cream cones or watching the cars go by. There were Ambassadors and Fiats in those days.
His gifts were nothing like polka-dotted panties or blueberry-scented makeup boxes, rather a favorite book that he wanted me to read or a free pass to a science convention. He was a diploma engineer or something like that.
We made love, though Glen had told me that if I got pregnant he wouldn't support an abortion; we would have to get married
Meanwhile, Malaika had moved out of our shared accommodation into a women's hostel which, she relayed, served delicious pork roast and mutton soup on Sundays. I would have followed her if it was not for the rent which was too high, besides Glen and I had decided to marry.
Malaika came for our wedding with a new man wrapped around her arm, Derek – tall, dark with attractive eyes.
But she dodged the question on marriage when I asked.
Malaika had many lovers while I just one. But I dreamed of her lovers - Derek, Vishal, Bobby, Prem, Sylvester, Dilip and Anil - each time I made love to Glen. It was my way of equaling the scores, besides having a secret harem of male lovers at my disposal.

This was until I met Satyawati, our maid and a runaway prostitute from the village who told me of how she dreamt of her beloved, Jagmohan, each time she was forced upon by various men.

This story was first published in The Shine Journal

Poem: Native Place

Goa is a leit motif of childhood May holidays
A quartet of perspiring aunts cirlicuing their liquid syllables
Small washed rooms opening to orchestras of husk and coir in attics and lofts
A sonnet of rain over maroon steps, stone sofas, and green weeping windows
sandy-grain backyard ghazals of jackfruit, guava, mango
Catholic castes and Majorda beach-returnees behind gossiping grandmothers and aunts
(my mother was called scientist, an elder cousin-tourist, a single uncle-bebdo, a widowed aunt, ankwaar kodi)
A free verse of carved wedding fish of an aunt’s yesteryear wedding near a muddy déjà vu-ed water well.
An unripe mango, oozing blatant growing up languages in ballads of arresting tongues.
Owria, Mario, Maria – the neighbor’s children
Who could walk fast and long through paddy fields, uneven roads without a muscle tear.
Goa was dragonfly caught in thick forest bush, painstakingly brisk, pinched at its tail
Biting at the bend of body – a Chant Royal, announcing the end of the holiday season in raining June.
the same feeling thereafter of a house not being there off Mae Dos Pobres church road, Nuvem
A haiku of courtyard leaf, lost over time, a pebble etched wet, when the wave recedes
A roof caving in on an old Portuguese bungalow
where an Uncle sees it for a strange rehash of modernity:
a stack of cubby houses atop rows of reeking, rundown staircase
A building
A tragedy of childhood memories always sold
ode, ironical.
A blank verse, final resting place.
No matter what the disillusion, return to a promised land.

*bebdo – drunkard (in Konkani)
Ankwaar kodi – spinster curry (in Konkani)

This poem was shortlisted at the Raedleaf Poetry India Awards, 2013

Haibun: Palimpsest

Aparanta comes alive in the way the sculptor chooses square sand grains over round, surf-kissed ones. Square grains stick better. He pounds them into place with water, like hope, block upon block and removes the moulds with fine knives, when it turns hard like belief. He chisels her into desire, lust, love, prosperity. The strands of her hair, poise over shoulder, nose curves, eyelashes. Freckles, frown, the heaviness of lips. Her gaze is set to a dream, bosom made heavy of sand brought from the riverbed.
All come to see her now for the one flash that can set them free. Their eyes rove with hunger, searching her, as if staring into a mirror to become another person. So they can go back to their clockwork cities and say, "You know what happened to me once in Aparanta?"
They have to be quick. The sea breeze breaks thick, carving out new expressions over her face each minute.

the sun shaping trees
on her dungeon pane

This haibun was first published in Haibun Today


on a diet 
she kills her cravings, 
painting her nails 
a luscious, viscous 
chocolate brown

a hand-me-down shirt
I wonder
at a thrift shop, 
all what I must be inheriting

he aligned his fork 
on his finished plate 
before the ship sank -
his manners more ingrained 
than survival instincts

the nouveau city 
opens like a 3D fairy tale book
and by night 
folds into 2-line axes
of an infinite dream

the blue sun 
passes through the distended
womb of sea
like the refracted memory
of our once-summer love

These tanka first appeared in The Bamboo Hut, 2014


autumn whirlwind –
a child grabs at her
candy floss

fading moon -
the head count ritual
of stolen children

power outage –
my child finds no magic
in shadow play

Audio story

Slice / The heart gets into slices on Tall Tales, 2013