Monday, October 1, 2012

so they say

the thing that makes us most afraid

is the thought of being brave.

isn't it so?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


when do we ever get time
to stare at the ceiling
without tending to words and thoughts

when do we ever get time
to be eight again

want to always cling to the feeling that you are.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


When it broke you
and you splintered

you turned into words

your story
solid, honest, profound
rang in all of us, reverberating

i fell into silence, more than once

your poetry was tears
your melody cloaked in blood
each line a scar
each word the worth of gold

even responses to them sprang from the body.

So now i pick up a pen
and this--

some, like us, write

few, like you, just are.

Friday, July 27, 2012

two wounds

that love which

keeps fragmenting the soul
until life itself wants to bleed out of life

that love

is not called home.

so in this story


what do you hear
when sounds crave for 
your ear?

from memory

first i knew memory

then it was gone
then it was wedded to the moon
that i was not

first we were invisible
but substance hovered
substance covered

i lost my faith in language
and then i saw it easy

turn your head 
towards your toes
look beneath
the cold floor
look beyond
the naked door

look and look
until you see 
there is a bird
inside your heart

look at the star
that greets your wart

look when we ask
how beautiful is the simple life that never makes itself understood to the most complicated creatures who refuse to see the straight in straight

they only terminate

we listen to the voices in our head
we walk upon the dead

we manifest
because we're too late
to be you, be me

we don't stop this talking
eternal speaking, yapping, barking

hopping with our words

i worry
this is what i worry about
worry for
worry if

i wont make it

i kill the bird in me
roots and feathers, clawed paws
i push the star afar

i wait at the edge of beyond 
i sit and wait and split.

stream of subconsciousness in the dark

the tornado hits
this corroded brain

and when we weren't heaven's
we were

and are
whoever will own us

but something in my body

tells me
i am a journey

i would not
but you were persistent

why did we die

when there was blue in the sky
and the one's who should have cherished

we were unfathomable

and you listen to your heart
and it doesn't beat

fuck it doesn't beat

who told you there was truth
in all these wanderings

i remember
from yesterday
the soul lost in its wanderings

wandering outside
wandering inside
the soul is so cold
this soul without a home
this soul that is only but a dying spark
and then we are no longer

do worlds sound right again?

do voices sound ripe again?

do words echo from a distance
uneven unforgettable

we are over
we are not there for anyone to understand

we are untouchable in each other

where did you come from

why wouldn't you stay
why did we mean enough to each other
that here is not a day

when the heart does not break

it breaks

and it breaks

first i was blinded by the light
then darkness.

what is your story?

replete with shame
with guilt

made of air 
and fuck 
and grime

adding up to


that is my story.

hang, momentum




to the 

before it is

are you feeling free yet?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


you so coarse and wordless
and the whole earth bursting in rhyme

your intentions so pointless

everywhere tells the sad story of what you are not

the motherfucker eludes you again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

inspires words
that tickle their way
of this

lazy heart.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

the story of everyone

oh dear god

what else am i


Saturday, June 16, 2012

to find my roots

Nostalgia is rooted in the body. Strange sensations begin from the heart; some lurk upward, collecting brimful at the eyes, while some plunge downwards to the pit of the stomach, making it churn sick. Memory fades with time, but nostalgia only intensifies, stirring the entire body when faced with objects, sensations, and images that take you back to that obscure past. For me, nostalgia is claimed almost entirely by a single place. It goes by the name of Rishi Valley.

It was in the midst of a synthetic social environment that college life in Delhi otherwise offered that I met the oddest bunch of people. Names have blurred, but faces remain. Bright, quirky, containing a contentment that was charged all the same with a drive to experience life without compromise—there was something magnetic about the profuse energy they carried. You could spot one from the other end of the corridor; it was like each was eternally part of an extravagant carnival. Where did they come from? I wanted to go right to the source of it.

They all pointed southwards, to a school hidden in the wilderness of rural Andhra Pradesh. A three hour ride away from Bangalore, the valley is vast and empty. Its rolling hills aren’t lush green like the ones around Kathmandu, but dry and pebbly. Rocks of all sizes litter the entire landscape. J Krishnamurti chose to start the school 86 years ago around an elephantine banyan tree that looks like it’s been around forever—the Big Banyan Tree they call it. Small buildings hidden under the continuous canopy of trees that sway and give off a perpetual hum like the ocean make up the school. But the school doesn’t end there; it extends into the adjoining forest, the sloping hills beyond that and the farmlands that stretch farther out into an entire valley which gets its name from rishis who, at one point, went there to meditate. A narrow, potholed road meanders into a gate that isn’t used much. A milestone greets you on the right side as you enter the unwalled premises. It says ‘Rishi Valley’; it says you’ve arrived.

While my friends applied for jobs or post-grad courses during their final year in college, I sent a heartfelt letter to Rishi Valley School, filling it with the yearning of a lost soul still desperately seeking its roots and a place to call home; I wanted to come down for a visit, maybe even intern. Good news came in a reply a few weeks later. They were interested in having me for a year.

On paper, the idea was to do an individualised programme in teacher training. Other than the work with my supervisors, I was to attend 11th grade literature classes taught by a poet who’d once been a student at RV. I also opted to conduct a creative writing programme for the same class. More tasks would open up as I found my footing in the school.

Once there, I found myself in a strange land full of strangers. Their ways were so different, in trying to adjust to life there, I found myself a stranger. There was as much to discover within me as around me.

So far in life, I’d only been used to being boxed and boxing others into stereotypes, so when the students embraced me like I’d never been unknown to them, I fell in love out of admiration. In my interactions, I found myself leaning away from judgements and stereotypes because they were so raw—so many uncoordinated stereotypes meshed together to make each person unique.

Early morning, a bleary eyed Anjney would surface in the kitchen and I could tell he’d spent the entire night playing music on a keyboard he’d borrowed from a seventh grader. And he clearly wasn’t done. Alia’s poems, in their simplicity and intensity, would make me shiver and cry. Sid K’s quiet charm, his pointed attentiveness, his desire to outlive everything in life; Ira’s mellowness, her ability to constantly live in a dreamspace, but with exquisite grace; Rana’s reticent intelligence—you’d forget it existed if you didn’t look hard enough—that I was so drawn to; Gullu’s face, a neutron bomb, my god! Every time she smiled, she shuffled a million particles in me; Nikki’s sweetness, even when he needn’t have been; and Pod—with eyes of a green-blue-hazelish colour that looked at everything with a piercing intensity—who would ask endless questions with an innocence that ripped through all my facades. All were living examples of Krishnamurti’s vision; they inquired, sought answers, they were sincere and genuine to the core.

Unaware, they radiated a passion for living that was uncontained and beautiful and worthy of tremendous respect. On a hike during my first month, one of the youngest students in the school, a fourth grader, held a coiled baby snake he found on the way in his palms. When the nervous snake peed into his little hands, he laughed, as did others around him. I hadn’t known children could be unafraid of snakes.

They told me what panspermia was, taught me how to identify a bird by its call, how to jump across rocks, showed me how to dance. There was so much to learn from the students, what I had to offer paled in comparison. The only thing that helped me survive as an instructor was their willingness to learn.

Then there was the wilderness. It was while loitering my nights in the vast natural expanse that I found myself learning to be unafraid of snakes, of the dark, of being alone with myself. Silence taught so much, as did daily sunsets. Thorns scratched my inexperienced legs when I tried to hike, but the excitement always overwhelmed the pain. Something as basic as learning how to see came in the excuse of bird watching. I slowly grew into the pace of life in this isolated school. I saw myself—as Anjney had put it so well for me—getting married, going to the next door village of Thettu for my honeymoon, and spending the rest of my life at RV.

In my teacher training course, I was being taught about distanced alertness, learning ways to create the teacher persona. In my intimacy with students, I was learning how to be authentic, how to shed my masks. When the gap became too wide, I realised I would make a terrible ‘teacher’. I was much too eager to learn from those I was supposed to teach. When the school professed this unacceptable, I was asked to slowly distance myself from the students. I stopped having meals with them, stopped dropping into their classes and their dorms for post-dinner conversations. They wondered and asked, but I shunned them, like I’d been asked. I realised I wouldn’t be able to stay this way for long.

When I left halfway through my programme, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to people who’d begun to feel like family. The stay was too short, the end so abrupt. When some friendships got severed in the process, I didn’t know how to handle it. The loss felt too acute.

Loss, too, is rooted in the body. It resides below the belly, deep inside the womb. It bleeds out of you like a miscarriage, leaves you feeling empty and hollow. It eats into your hope, feels final and irreversible. But perhaps, all isn’t lost.

Last weekend, when Rana and Liz, who were in RV back then, flew to Kathmandu for a visit, I was unsure of where to take them, what to show them, how we’d get along. But a couple of hours into their arrival, I found myself unable to separate from them. They didn’t want to go anywhere either. Like a three-piece yingyang, we held hands, clung together, passing memories and stories to one another. They told me the poet who taught literature, and who spoke his words like they were made of petals, is principal now. We gossiped about him; all of us think he is a Buddha. His name’s Siddhartha.

We blazed with nostalgia—in body, mind, heart and spirit—and just like that, RV came alive around us.

I realise now that whenever people bring up love, I talk of RV, when they bring up loss or heartbreak, I talk of RV. Rishi Valley. How often that name comes out of my mouth as a reference point to any important experience that has held ground within me. It was the same for these two. I was so happy to know that even after having been out in the world for over two years, they hadn’t lost their essence. Something in their visit reaffirmed that we make up a family that will never fade, no matter how abrupt the goodbyes. They are all Krishnamurti’s children. Maybe I am one too.

Though still erect, the leafless banyan tree was already dying when I was there four years ago, resembling a family of grey elephants. The branches have apparently begun to fall now. I’d like to go and take one last look at that tree before it crashes to the ground, maybe connect with my roots, let the valley reverberate in me.

(From today's Kathmandu Post, but also from my heart)

Saturday, May 26, 2012


there is so much depth
to this little person
who speaks
these small, soft, simple


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the joker and the jokess.

leh. my song just committed suicide.

ke hola hai?

be water (vii)

be ready for love.

step aside, shivering

when they're done with enough reasons

they will discover
their life
a gathering
of rhythms
from the poet's throbbing heart

like petals gathered from a flower
still wet with bloom.

he gave and he gave and he gave

that we are.

new unseen stories

on the verge of the next story

sounds collapse at the glance of an ear

the smile is words choking into

a silence
so strong

this story
is a digging in, deep within
old skin
to find new truths that blend into
the unbeaten, familiar whole.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

on earth

today, the whole earth is dripping with poetry.

this season is full

the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face

powerful melodies in the driving seat
gearing up for this life, so sweet

movement is meaning made
silence, gratitude paid

happy are those faces
who can smile in a storm

green and grey the sky
life on earth
in ceremonious drizzle

caught up in between the sweetness
of sounds stored in love's cocoon
in the tragedies come too much too soon
in a life lost before it's in full bloom
in the wailing whimper of the winds gone home
in concentrated desires, who knows, for whom
can you feel the earth slugging towards june?

i trickle away
this may

Thursday, May 10, 2012

say what sexy weather -

without sex
fucking useless.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

so i said something like this instead...

From what we know, water flows as it relates to gravity. It lulls animals into long hibernations as it cools down. It reduces the skin to blisters as it heats up. It is relentlessly volatile, constantly on the move; but above all, water is known for its willingness to change from one form to another.
What we don’t normally know of water is that it can sit in blue rectangular pools on the edge of the stage, greeting audiences as they enter a theatre. Something similar would happen to you if you entered the Naga Theatre for a performance of tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses this May.
Studio 7’s plays have always sparkled when it comes to sets and costumes, each time inviting viewers to expect the unexpected. Their acute attention to detail manages to release a generous dose of imagination on stage, making the theatre experience incredibly vivid for the audience.
So when I saw that the supremely talented set director Ludmilla Hungerhuber had decided to go minimal this time, I was initially a little disheartened, unaware of just how big a part the pool of water was going to play. As things unfold, water extends itself beyond a mere motif, becoming the primary character; taking centre stage, water helps bind all the different tales together into one coherent performance.
Inevitably, most of the drama revolves around the tiny pool and director Sabine Lehmann has done a commendable job of engaging her troupe in a number of techniques, stretching conventional notions of acting.
Characters wade through water, dip in it, drown in it, and crash into it. A plastic tube floats on it, a golden skipping rope sinks into it, oars push against it, candles glide on it. Apart from offering a visual treat, water also serves a larger, more symbolic role. It washes Midas’s greed, brings Ceyx onto shore, and delivers Narcissus to his troubling reflection. Water is caring and cruel—it destroys as well as heals, punishes as well as purges—altogether playing a significant role in the metamorphoses of these characters.
Actors swiftly manoeuvre their way in, out of, and around water. Memorable moments come in Karma’s hideous grin while he gathers gold from the pool as the greedy Midas, in his portrayal of the equally crazed and nervous Vertumnus who makes a convincing fool of himself before Pomona,  in Nirab Rimal’s naive Narcissus filled with longing and disdain towards the water that at once offers and denies him his one true love, in Samuna KC’s intense performance of an Alcyone debilitated by love and loss.
While the major characters in each of the tales do their part to sustain the performance, it is the minor chameleonic characters that add a touch of brilliance, deftly changing into different roles within minutes. While Divya Dev Pant’s narrator is charming with a subtle, restrained quality, his portrayal of Bacchus—grapes dangling from the ears—brings a long-dead Freddie Mercury to life. Anupam Sharma’s Iris—in a deliciously flamboyant Krishna-like avatar—is a treat for the eyes. Rajendra Shrestha manages to take on almost every deity that resides on Olympus, projecting a comic wrath through a false but glorious beard accompanied by elaborate costumes. Aashant Sharma’s portrayal of Silenas and Sleep prove how natural an actor he is—body, expressions and dialogues jut out with humour sending the audience into roars of laughter. Lehmann and Hungerhuber immerse themselves completely in their characters and manage to grasp your attention all through their limited time on stage. Lehmann, especially, has the uncanny ability to speak with her eyes, drawing in the audience even when her character is seated silently in a corner.
This adaptation of the play Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman dramatises some familiar stories from Greek and Roman mythologies originally written by Ovid that many of us have grown up hearing. It is a vibrant medley of tales of transformation, weaving effortlessly in and out of drama, comedy and tragedy, making viewers laugh between heartache. But sometimes, as an audience, you might be left thinking that it’s too much of a medley.
While the tales of Narcissus and Echo and Alcyone and Ceyx evoke the ancient civilisations from which they emerge, those of Midas and Phaeton are a concoction of the ancient and the modern, western and Nepali in the development of setting, costumes as well as mannerisms. This flitting between pure representation and hybridisation may confuse viewers—it might have served the performance better had they stuck to a thorough Nepalification/modernisation which would have added relevance and context for the viewers.
Nevertheless, performances allure, and the cast’s bold decision to play with water on stage makes this rendition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses worth a watch.
Scenes from Metamorphoses will be performed at the Naga Theatre, Vajra Hotel, at 7:15 pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until May 22

be water (vi)

this is all the use words are for me.

to say this,

‘Highest good is like water,’ says Lao Tzu. ‘Because water excels in benefiting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way.’...‘In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.’ Tasteless, it accepts all tastes, colourless, all colours, reflecting the sky, refracting the white stones of its bed, dissolving or suspending the soils and minerals over which it flows. The pulse of our bodies is liquid, as indeed all living pulses are. Water dissolves the salt of the parable in the Upanishads, covers the land of Genesis and flows by the paradise of the Koran. And the random blur of noise, the tumult of light at which I now stare is the author of more beauty even than itself: cirrus and cumulus, rainbow and storm cloud, the strata of sunset, the indescribable scent of the first rains on the summer-baked plains.

‘It is all in the water’: Scotch whiskey, Longjing tea. The universal element, it is yet so particular about its local excellences. It ‘benefits the myriad creatures’, yet the vehement loveliness of the cataract is the cause of flood and death in the overburdened stream below. Its substance yields to the guiding rocks, yet its form outlives the rocks that direct and hinder its flow.

I will during my life be certain to drink some molecules of the water passing this moment through the waterfall I see. Not only its image will become a part of me; and its particles will become a part not merely of me but of everyone in the world. The solid substances of the earth more easily cohere to particular people or nations, but those that flow--air, water--are communal even within our lives.

From Heaven Lake, Vikram Seth

Monday, May 7, 2012

drabness flashes, flashes

the ugliest thing about having a job like this
is how it steals the dusk from you

day switches into night and you haven't a clue

what a fuck.

the time of day that you should own
that could own you
lost forever
day after day after day

what awful luck.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

we couldn't

we composed

was the dream
we hungered for

we conquered

in millions
we swayed

we carved

from underneath
our ears

we relied

we lifted
from their mouths

we sewed

so sweet
in our chords

and we served

what would never make it.


the subconscious sings

and music
is a dreamless friend

who knows what the words meant


hear what you want

honey-eyed love

i know you belong to the sun

although we're apart you're a part of my heart

but tonight you belong to me

break down, by the street, how sweet
it would seem once more
just to dream it in
the moonlight

my honey-eyed love
with the dawn
and music will become
hunger tonight

you belong to me

but tonight
you belong
to me


only in poetry

you are granted the gravity

to take what you want to say

with all the seriousness

nobody would ever


on listening.

our words -

always too quick
too thick

- puzzle our silences.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

adding up

we've lived through a compact history of negation

now our silences as thick
and unforgiving
as permanent markers
that cut through
our fundamental desire
to erase
to forgive
to hold hands
to complement

we are still tight in our togetherness
tight in making meaning
off the other

counting like coins
of devalued currency

we are still intense
with our attractions
knotted into our repulsions

loud mouthed retaliations

we are still concentrated
with the efforts
to make memory out
of missing

weaving nostalgia into

making each living day
the work
of finding
and not finding
the other

in our own downfall

it is all the mathematics we are capable of

we still haven't been able to choose sides in this


story of us.


buds recover from their bloom

beauty unfolds in the wrinkles
that have come to occupy your face.


i try to spill you into mother's
ears with my

telling you like a story

making you linger longer into your


the most beautiful man on earth

i sat beside you
swinging in my seat
i spoke to you
through my mouth
my eyes
my hands that twisted
to try
to make

but it's clearly not the things i say
you say

my ears have still not trained themselves to

not as much
as my mouth has trained itself
to make itself

lips swell

it wasn't the words
that washed over me

when silences were gained

who knew
each cell in this body would jingle

at home
in the night
washed with the growing glow of moonlight

there is no worry
no exhaustion
no words pandering in their own darkness

there is no need for poetry

there is a clearing
wherein resides clarity
where smiles are made
where the heart levitates

to get that much closer to the moon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

it was so inspiring, please go see


At exhibitions, there is often the kind of art that puts you to sleep and then there’s the kind that shakes up each cell in your body, changing the alchemy of your very existence.

As you enter the exhibition hall at Park Gallery, the thing you may notice first is how the women in Umesh Shah’s latest solo exhibition titled Invention in Tradition—their standing, seated, reclining bodies splayed in the most unflattering of poses—disregard you.

Whether it be in the distinct sharpness of their two-dimensional eyes that stare unfalteringly at the world, or in the expressions evoked through the uninhibited turn of their lips, the women are striking, bold, unbeatable. It looks like every woman in this collection of 31 paintings is smirking at the world, and by extension, at you, the audience. “We don’t give a hoot about you,” they seem to casually proclaim.

There is also a certain masculinity to their poise, an almost transvestite quality to these peculiarly long nosed women who seem to reveal all that is beautiful in them as well as that which is ugly. Hips curve, breasts jut out of chest unperturbed, hands move, hold, possess. Together, the collection seems to be saying that nothing could be more attractive than a woman who—in her attitude, poise and expressions—conquers the manly space of confidence and self-assuredness while still preserving her femininity. Naturally, they have a flair that is missing in our cultural understanding of women where they are still expected to be beautiful in a demure, dainty way. Shyness may be considered a virtue, politeness a quality still very much desired in and demanded of women, but they only serve to limit what being a woman means. Petulant, moody, unafraid of expressing themselves, the figurines in this collection are not even remotely shy. Clever, mischievous, they entice, opening up limitless possibilities in the tiny space of an art gallery.

Shah predominantly works in blues and greens; the turquoise colour itself feels like an overarching theme, and seems to represent moonlight. Even though the paintings are oil/acrylic on canvas, they carry a rustic feel, creating the impression of Maithili art that has aged on village walls for years, causing some of the paint to peel or chip away. The brightness of the colour combination coupled with the uneven texture brings the paintings to life. On top of that, everything in Shah’s paintings is injected with personality, whether it’s the women themselves, or the mirror one of them holds in a painting, or the barely visible cat in the background in another.

At a juncture in human history such as this, we often look upon traditions as cumbersome barriers to individual freedom and liberty. Yet, with the increasing legitimacy that individuality has gained, humanity has also come to face an existential crisis where isolated individuals have hit upon a dearth of meaning.

Perhaps traditions did serve a role to make life meaningful, even though in their appearance they seemed to confine. Perhaps there is something in them to preserve, maintain, recreate. Shah’s collection pushes forth this idea, reclaiming the traditional space of Maithili art with an unabashed celebration of women that wander through the night, mingling with darkness and indulging in their sensuality.

In re-inventing traditions, Shah inevitably subverts them, provoking the orthodox eye, but also providing scope for modern, fragmented lives to find a home, feel native, start belonging again.

Art is ultimately philosophy, and in its essence, this collection gestures towards an inner freedom that neither tradition nor modernity can take away from us.

At first glance, Invention in Tradition is a collection of contemporary paintings that draw a strong influence from traditional Maithili art. A closer look reveals that it is, in fact, a story strung together through rustic and visually seductive images. Spend an hour surrounded by these paintings, and you’ll find that it may have changed the alchemy of your existence.

Invention in Tradition is on exhibition at Park Gallery in Patan until April 23.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

this began with the thought of how stupid and wise you are

it always happens when i'm moving

this time, though, i was trying hard not to think
i was yelling songs into the air

and yet it slipped into my mind anyway

and i thought you should know

that out of the many kinds of people
there are two
that i know exist for sure

there are those kind of people
who know exactly how stupid they are
but are clueless about their own intelligence

and then there are those kind of people
who know exactly how intelligent they are
but have absolutely no idea about their own stupidity

now, should i tell you which one you happen to be?

Monday, April 2, 2012

skinny love

we are stories without strands

in our sense of belonging
by how we subtract
in all our togetherness

poking holes too deep
too wide

who will love you
who will leave you
with what i've found

who will find 
what's in your mind
who will smile
and unbecome

who will find 
what i've lost
who will find 
and keep forever ago.

we were love yesterday
today we move like the wind

invisible ghosts
pale to the bone
frightened to the core
swallowed by the night

this song is a charm
that does not save the day

it does not save the day.

it rhymes against the will of words

all the love is wasted.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

begin there

a whore is granted limitless whoring

liberty begins there.

lubricating the system

ke lekhum?

ke lekhum, ke lekhum, ke ke ke?

kollai sodhum?

sansaarai haraami.

time of no reply

when we finally looked into your eyes
we wanted to hold your hand
be by your side

fill your gills
with the warmth of a smile

drive out the suicide

pink flesh
coiling into happy accidents

we wanted to stop asking
because finally
we would have

Sunday, March 18, 2012

how so?

today while staring into your sad eyes i noticed


both of us are more confident about loving


being loved.

Monday, March 12, 2012

and now, just putting out contrived stuff out there feels a bit odd.

hoina? always trying to be a somebody trying to be a somebody trying to be a somebody trying to be...

also, my hair smells like food. i had better do something about that. feel so nice to let myself be, isn't it? to write the way i used to once upon a time when i used to write in my notebooks. when there was so much writing happening, but writing didn't even mean anything. it wasn't even writing.

and now there's so much of conscious effort going into carving and chiseling and trying to perfect an art and trying to convey meaning. and wow, i guess i haven't written this loosely in a while. felt this free, haven't, haven't.

weighing the weight of each word, idea. excluding unless they seem worthy. i dont know, there's something unclean about that. ki ke? khoi ke khoi ke.

tv herchhu ajkal. khoob. romantic comedies. newspapers pani padhchhu. nepali ma padhna khojirachhu. tv herera pani khushi nai chhu. watch romantic comedies, am gullible to believe in all of it. hindi serial ni herchhu. ramailo maani maani. khoob ramailo lagchha. keta le keti lai hereko, keti le keta lai hereko.

must be feeling lonely. but also feel unclean from the inside. what should i do about that? cleaning up the insides. top priority. ho ki hoina?

aba distances narakhne. aba je bhitra chha tyei nikalne. hola ni. don't know what i'm saying.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Written in the body

Mother spent her evenings in the living room, plastered limb stretched out on a sofa. Grandmother too wrinkled and frail to make meals twice daily sat beside her, both binging on unsavoury tele-serials. Histrionics crackled on TV, making their way through the closed kitchen door to nag away at my already irritated mind.
Pods needed to be popped to release peas, potatoes needed washing, peeling, then some more washing, defiant onions needed fine chopping and odious garlic mincing. In the sink, pots and pans were collecting to make a pile too high. I would set my nose to the greatest possible degree of crinkling and pick up a plate between reluctant thumb and index finger. My approach was straightforward—the idea was to try and clean the dishes without really touching them. Not much of an approach at all, I soon realised. And so, I had to eventually let my hands dig in.
At first, picking out the flakes of rice and bits of vegetables that coagulate at the bottom of the sink made me writhe in disgust. It was often at this exact moment that father would saunter into the kitchen, dirty cup in hand. Placing it on a slab by the sink, he’d give out a mumbly, apologetic laugh and then he would leave; the kitchen wasn’t his territory and dishwashing not his duty.
There were lines. Oh, there most certainly were lines! Invisible ones that my family refused to see, as much as they were marginalised by them. Every day, these lines pushed me into a more limited space, making me work against my will. I didn’t mind so much when I had to serve mother or grandmother, but it irked me to have to do anything for father.
It was mother’s fault for pleasing her husband, grandmother’s too for not letting her son-in-law into the kitchen, society’s fault for giving that privilege to men, father’s fault—beyond anyone else’s—for so easily succumbing to the most stereotypical version of a Nepali, Bahun male. Within the space of my kitchen, I began to trace the history of my family, our patriarchal lineage, Nepal’s history, until I found myself another tedious, defeated dot in the stale, repetitive history of womankind. I couldn’t even stand up for myself, free myself of the obligations forced on me just because I was a woman. While meals simmered inside pots and pressure cookers, something else boiled in the tiny passageways of my veins. Day in, day out, I poisoned father’s meals with the contents of my mind. The plate was politics, the spoon, the ingredients, the fuel, the will of my own mind, all politics.
I don’t know when I became a convert—from despising my time in the kitchen to finding it tolerable, even enjoying it. There was no moment of epiphany, no rolling of drums, but before I knew it, I was at home amidst vegetables, spices, soaps, and dirty dishes. The more I spent time in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning, the less I felt disgusted by the leftovers on others’ plates. The grease on the karai that needed more effort was an added attraction.
My ego relaxed as the muscles on my arms tightened, and my body regained a confidence lost through years of sedentary living. There was something altogether therapeutic about that time spent in the kitchen, cooking and feeding, combining ingredients, experimenting with culinary alchemy. I felt closer to my entire family than I had done in ages, connected to them through my effort, my offering of food. The desire for vengeance slowly vanished.
Now that mother is back on her feet, and with that sedentary work piling up again, my entries into the kitchen have become rare, but I cherish whatever time I can spend in it. I dip myself into action and indulge in some self-forgetting.
No sooner am I fully immersed in the act of cooking, it’s as if my being extends itself to the knife, the vegetables, the ladle. My mood blends into the mellowness of the light, my soul dances in neglected corners of the kitchen. The food soaks in the flavour of my emotions. I become the walls of the kitchen, its unruly cabinets, the hissing of the pressure-cooker, the shine of soap suds as they slither from plates. My kitchen offers me a solitary space where identities blur, and in a way, I cease to exist.
All this reminds me of a story I once heard. I am in the centre of that story, for it is written in my body. In it I trace my origin. I am born of parents who were born of their parents who were born of their parents who, if I trace far enough, were born of things unevolved, unrecognisable. I also try to trace my end in that story. I find myself in my children who find themselves in their children and so on, until the end of time? My body will be set on fire, smoke will twirl into the atmosphere, ashes will merge with the earth. Or else I may be buried, in which case my body will decay, becoming food for the soil, nourishing things that live in it. I will slowly seep into plants, then into animals that feed on the plants, then maybe back to the earth as they perish and decay. I belong to things I may not have seen, touched or held, things whose name I don’t know, things that might not even have names. Where do I mark my beginning and my end; at what point do I stop belonging?
Even as I live and breathe, the atmosphere becomes part of me. Every morsel I consume is the joyful union of the earth and the sun. The sun may be the most active ingredient in the making of me; it is in the oxygen I breathe, in the water that sustains me. And moving farther away, apparently it is the moon that makes my sanity sway just as it does the seas, and the stars that hold my destiny. It seems that the entire universe is conspiring in the making of me.
This is the story of everybody, every creature, every object, and it clings to me dearer than my own skin. Every time I get trapped in desires and dissatisfaction, I try to remember this story. It makes me feel so small, almost nothing and at once a part of everything in the universe. I let myself loose from the boundaries of my body and my mind, I open doors I’ve locked myself inside, and notice how freedom is a personal choice that politics undermines.
My kitchen, at one point, used to be the home of my discontent where I waged political wars. It has been strong in my education and upbringing—that desire to condemn the world—to point fingers and locate blames, accurately. To be all too aware of what is wrong. To see the world as a wrong that can be righted with my thoughts and actions. It seems that we latch on to unhappiness because that is the easier choice. Through it, we hand over the responsibility of our happiness to somebody else, somebody who is most likely going to disappoint us. It takes a great deal of unlearning, a continuous washing away with the soap of experience the dust coated lens of prejudice to see the world anew without itching to change it.
When did I truly become a convert? Perhaps when I began to see father as an extension of myself, and myself an extension of him. Perhaps when I began to see the open air for what it was, not as invisible, suffocating walls that minds can so easily build. Perhaps when I saw that we are synonyms in the same story, living out a similar essence in different disguises.
Like myself, my father, through his body made of a commingling of all elements, of time and space, makes available his share of qualities and flaws. Outside of words and vocabulary, outside of language and meaning, outside, certainly, of politics and identity, outside, mostly, of the desire for discontent and within the realm of uncertainty are lingering possibilities.
Today, steaming bowls of vegetables, plates full of rice and wafting aromas form the centre point around which mother, grandmother, father and I huddle together. There is food melting in our mouths. There is contentment making its way into our hearts. Our faces soon disappear into a faceless whole.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

buddha saw others' suffering
and felt it like it was his own.

jesus suffered like no other
yet such suffering he wouldn't own.

why do both these men
draw me towards them so?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Meeting Points

As a teacher, I was a little distressed by the generally antagonistic atmosphere of a classroom that I found myself in.

A raging battleground, a classroom is where teachers and students constitute opposing armies in an unfair war whose origin, like of wars universally, cannot clearly be located. It is a terrible fact that a teacher, although standing alone on the battle field, is invincible and has powers to pulverize. Students pull out their blunt knives and poke the air at most. The prospect of the teacher pressing a button to release a nuclear bomb to blow them into bits is all too real. Lines drawn between the two sides are impenetrable. Self preservation may be the primary activity at any school.

I've often seen in my classroom experiences that a lot of students’ learning capacity is overwhelmed by the effort they put into hiding and protecting themselves. A full time duty on the defensive reveals little that is real or vital in the students. I entered my career as a teacher with a pacifist outlook, wanting to prove wrong what I thought I knew about schools, wanting to provide a more humane alternative to my students. And yet, more than once, I found myself aroused to approach my button. With great power may come great responsibility, but it is all too tempting to forsake responsibility and indulge in a little power trip every now and then. I used minor weapons from a range of ammunitions--that include public humiliation, punishment, reports to authority, meetings with parents--silencing my students, making them retreat further. But all it did was establish me more concretely as enemy. An unfair advantage of being in a teacher position, and even more importantly, a pointless victory left me feeling somewhat guilty. Was that my purpose in teaching--to blow fire through my nostrils, scathing young confidence?
It was with more than a little bit of worry about how to reconcile these gaps that I recently embarked on a two week long tour of India with my students. My mental worries soon faded as I faced what was to become the most intense and exhausting experience of my adult life. With the direct responsibility of a dozen kids in my group as well as the added responsibility of whoever else came my way carrying a sad or sorry looking face, I felt like someone on a kind of humanitarian mission. Equipped with backpack, first-aid kit, sunglasses, sturdy faith in non-existence muscles, I even let myself feel like a film star gliding through an action movie.

My knowledge or expertise in my subject matter proved utterly useless in the streets, however, and humility rather than heroism characterised my mood. I forgot that I was a young South Asian woman who should be afraid of strangers and men and society and darkness and mostly of herself. Instead, I became a single human being struggling against the world, with a hoard of youngsters behind me, my primary agenda to protect them. And it was while scampering up and down trains with my students, pushing sinister strangers away from seats meant for them, stuffing Benadryl and ginger into coughing mouths, pressing my palm against blazing foreheads, squirting liquid sanitiser into dirty hands, counting coins from my pockets to supply tea, water, tidbits, lending my shoulder to a sleepy head, lending my phone to a home-sick heart, that I felt for the first time like I was doing something of fundamental importance--taking care of others while relating with them. It was as un-intellectual as my job had gotten. It filled me with new-found purpose.

In the intimacy that the tour granted, I came to realise that whatever impression I’d made of these students had been a product of my limited judgement. As they opened up in those moments of chaos, confusion and euphoria, I saw new personalities emerge to occupy the same faces. The quietest of the lot turned out to be an amazing storyteller, the one who never smiled in class was a natural comedian, the back bencher took interest in everything around us, the shy one was a relentless haggler. There were musicians, artists, philosophers and caretakers in our midst. These were full bodied protagonists in their own stories--charming, intriguing, and irresistibly endearing. We were creating, en route, our own carnival of delight, them trusting me with their sense of humor, their stupidity, their joys and their insecurities. When they began to trust me with their entire selves, I felt like I’d gained something of immense value. It seemed like it is possible, after all, to help them learn without having to go against their current.

And somewhere along the way, we developed a great sense of ownership of one another. Did I have anything to do with it? I wanted so badly to take credit for the way they’d fused together to become a single unit. I wanted to somehow feel responsible for their transformation. I wanted somebody to acknowledge me as the glue that helped bind them together. But I knew deep within that we’d left behind hierarchies at the school gates on the first day. I was no grand orchestrator here; things were unfolding naturally and they were just as responsible--with their eagerness to learn from and about each other--in bringing about that sense of belonging.

Towards the end of the trip, in a haze of exhaustion, I found my tongue sweeping out words from the subconscious. I began many a sentence with ‘saathi…’ stopping myself halfway and correcting it to ‘student’ as it was consciously meant. But somewhere deeper, I knew these distinctions had already begun to blur. For what is a saathi but someone who embodies ultimate trust? Saathi, someone who you arrive to. Someone you settle into. Someone in whose presence you do not have to keep guarded secrets that divide you into blacks and whites, goods and bads, conscious and unconscious minds. Someone who dispenses with your fragmentation, allows you to be whole.
And as far as learning goes, it is friends I trust deeply that have taught me an inordinate set of values, given me eyes to see beauty in the world, given me the strength to own my sorrows and equally, my weaknesses, given life to details that otherwise lay neglected. Good friendship is littered with experiences of true learning. So why not saathi?

Now that we are back from our trip and on with our daily lives, I feel a slight sense of loss--even betrayal--in their student-like behavior; the way they stand up to greet me every time I come into class and how they wait upright until I’ve asked them to sit down; the way they ask for permission to even enter the classroom; the way they have grown silent, lost the smiles on their faces, begun to feel one-dimensional again--as if they have ditched me as a friend. Do they not trust me with themselves anymore?

But I ought to know how vulnerable being back in school must make them feel. A school is a minefield of wrongdoings and rightdoings. More often than not, it is actions committed with innocent intent--or merely being themselves--that get kids into enormous trouble. Schools uphold a false sense of morality--speaking your mind through your words is wrong, but in your attire, style, behavior, it is unforgivable, growing your hair is wrong, questioning establishment is wrong, telling your teacher they can be wrong is wrong--which must undoubtedly skew their understanding of reality. In constantly being told what not to do, I wonder how they are to discover the true nature of life on their own.

I’ve come to harbour a sneaking suspicion whether my students haven’t deliberately dumbed themselves down as a survival tactic. Any trace of individuality, originality of thought, any intelligence proves to be a threat to the authority of institutions. The foundations of good schooling lie in how effectively you learn to distrust. Most of all yourself. What else do you see looming in that--other than tragedy?

My kids. That is what I call them and friends laugh at my choice of words. They may be somebody else’s children, but I refuse to relinquish kinship. I want to say to them, kids, out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field; it is where I learn about things that matter the most. I hope to meet you there.

(from today's Kathmandu Post, along with lovingly made illustration from best friend)

Saturday, January 14, 2012


corrupt gardi halyo
amit trivedi lai pani
hindi cinema le.

'so what exactly am i allergic to?' part three


mostly because it rhymes with


'so what exactly am i allergic to?' part two

maybe the words of the jyotishi when he told me last year:

'i see the disease of skin in your future'

'so what exactly am i allergic to?'

than having your
be your

worst enemy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


i heard you once.

or wait
i've heard you for an eternity

which one is it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


the year we all die

is the year i finally
learned how to live.

there it is


i try to
my love for

but my heartbreak
you own.

this is my entire story


it breaks

again and again and again

just for you

it breaks

because all i want to do is hold you tight

and never let you go

all i want to do

is heal

the both of us -

but how?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

misanthrope again

oh verse, i am tired of you.

words, you too.

people, especially you.


you yanked the paper from my hands and wouldn't let me have it. it wasn't even finished. i was going to call it 'little girl' because it's about how you're still a child, even though you're also the most grown up person i know. and above all, it was supposed to be really beautiful. the most beautiful thing i would have ever written. because i wanted to make that poem into a bag which would contain all my love for you.

but it had a shitty middle. a really, really shitty middle.

because i lost the middle part on my way to work on my scooter. riding in the mist. most poems come to me when i'm riding. and most of them are forgotten by the time i've hit the brakes. today, all i wanted to do was to rush to school and pick up a pen and put the poem on paper so that it wouldn't vanish altogether and i could give it to you. but i also had class to rush to. i had children to attend to. and i had love to share with them too.

i scattered whatever bit of poetry that had remained on them. they made drawings around basho's old pond. they made laughter amongst themselves. they also made my face into a happy face.

i scattered myself on them too. just like i scatter myself on everything, everywhere i go.

what can i possibly give to you that is whole?


makes me want to burn the paper
i've been writing on

all these words
are all lies anyway

and they would make do just fine

but your words
are truer
than my experiences

than the air i breathe

each word you write
exposes the lie in me

why would you write things to debilitate others so?

Friday, January 6, 2012



unbutton your pants
unzip the zip

just let loose
and splay

time of day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


my mother says that it was
carnation not

whatever the case
you were smart
to wrap it in newspaper
and foolish
to stick the paper together with
scotch tape -
what did you think that is made of?

you were also foolish
to give me
the best conversation
i've had over a coffee table

i think i felt god eye me once
peering from behind
that blue mug of 'regular' coffee

you were foolish because
this conversation has wrapped itself
around my heart -
without any scotch tape, mind you -
and will stay there forever

now all my conversations across
coffee tables
will be measured against this.

majaak nai garne ho bhane

Nepali haru lai pani Time person of the year banaam na.
Loadshedding bhanne word invent gareko ma.

Prophetic wisdom gleaming in one word -

equipping future tongues
all over the world with vocabulary
to iterate the eternal darkness
that is their destiny.

the girl who carries milan kundera in her bag

off-white jacket
brown stockings
leather boots
dark brown woolen skirt -

i lost my heart in the shape of diamonds
that pattern your skirt.

as i'm coming back home through the
invisible dust of the night -
loneliness stinging my cheeks,
or is it just the wind?

may it also be possible
that i be the most special person in your life?

it mightn't

but that doesn't stop me from wishing.



a poet's worst enemy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

flip the coin

there's no such thing as bad luck.

also in this story

how i miss dancing with you

let's dance to invisible tunes

like invisible people
dancing on the moon.

let's, let's sing
and let's

so in this story

i saw a rainbow
and it reminded me so much of you

did you know

that you are also a rainbow
one that has delivered
a pending childhood to me
at this age

you've known

and yet you always
like being told.

so in this story

"there is no poem for me on gooeyjournalism" re.

poems lekhchhu
tara publish gardina.

malai matrai dukha dinchhas? mora!

"there is no poem for me on gooeyjournalism"

so in this story

while you were away
winter suddenly became my favourite season

i remained at your door for several days
twisted doughnuts remained uneaten

so while you were away
i became a big, big girl
in this big, big city

eating little, little momos that
you will be horrified to know
had chicken pulp in them

even longing for you is full of sweetness

tyei pani

kahile kaahi ta

dhoka kholnus
phone uthaunus
malai bhetna office aunus.

in the affirmative


i will not touch

what can i say

soaking in the sweetness
of your words

stirring your memory
with bluing fingers

temptations linger


i'll just have to die of thirst.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

kasari sutu?



the cold wants to be my bedfellow tonight.

written on the body

illegible scrawls.

your pen

hits and misses