Monday, March 7, 2016

To JNU - with love

Later in the night -
sins of the day wash off
strange whispers murmur
slogans echo

Microphone thrust in
stained by political passion
clandestine combine
managed media
idiotic idiomatic ideologies
purposeless politics
nihilist narratives
introduced by innocence
wrapped in curls
contrived corridors
layered lies -

Incarceration. Asphyxiation.

a Malda burnt
a Kerala simmered
a Margherita wept
a woman student thrown out.


Hum kya chatey – Azadi
Hum lad ke lenge azadi
Hum mit ke lenge azadi
Hum til til ke lenge azadi
Hai haq hamara azadi
Imaan hamari azadi
Fitrat hamari azadi
Samvidhan hamara
Hum Leke rahenge azadi.

Bloody salaam!
rebellion ?
anti-establishment ?
pro-poor ?


Duties waived off.

Moth burns itself –

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Love is it?.....Part 7

They knew it would not last.

She let her hair be as they were the last night - scattered on his broad shoulders, half smooth, half tangled. The balmy air from the sea kissed the entire room and swept it clean of the musk odor. He was still in bed, trying to make sense of what was happening between this woman and him.

She will not be hers. He knew it. But she was completely his while they lay together. In the same bed – sometimes in hotel rooms, sometimes in her house, sometimes on his bed. Mostly in dreams and always in unfulfilled realities.

After months she saw him. They kissed. Soft, lingering – as if tasting every sliver of time that had licked the gap between them, painting all those moments of separation with passion. The moonlight washed her house in a pastel yellow. The color of love. From outside, the neem tree waved its branches on the white freshly painted wall. The mirror on the wall had a beautiful patina – of lost love.

They exchanged wine – mouth to mouth. She said she had read it somewhere, in one of her collections. Balancing her in his arms, toppling the Kafka and Marquez that lay on the brown table and gave her company while he was away, he claimed her – in that short moment of nostalgic togetherness.

She cooked. He rolled for them. She slept. He watched her over. He worked. She read her poetry. Together, they had built a dream of sand that they knew would not last.

Last night on Goa. It was a blissful reinvention of herself. On the orange moon kissed beach – no sound but that of the sea. Bearing witness to the last night of silence and quiet assurance – that was to be clipped short soon.

They made love when back in the room. Crazy, teary love.  Every time he would take her in, she cried. She felt as if the world was about to crash. She felt strangely claimed and discarded. She felt complete but empty. And he kissed her deeply, crying out her name each time they finished. All the while, tears kept soaking and matting her hair. She didn’t want to cry. But each time they made love, she ended up filled with emotions – longing, fulfillment, separation, submission, claim, loss; lot more that words can not explain.

The last drag of Black. Spicy, sweet, fragrant. It reminded her of loss. Of belonging. Of being forgotten. Of the hills. Of him.

On the fort, above the din of the cities and lives they left, the wind blew in abundance. The first time they went, they sat. Quiet. Not a word between them. Only the story of the kids in the car played on the radio.

It was the story of two children. Neighbours. One boy and one girl. The boy’s dad was transferred to another city and he had come to bid goodbye to his friend. As kids are, they discussed in innocence how nice it was to be together, to share and care. How she will miss him and he will miss her. Both curious to know if they would ever meet again.  The boy wanting to know more. The girl eager to make him understand the practicality of fading memories and time. The boy at once overcome with emotions, the girl pacifying him with words. Tables reversing. The girl, amidst all the maturity, shuns it all at once. Tells him they might never meet. The boy breaks down too. Perhaps they hug. Perhaps they just wailed. Who knows what’s the end, anyway.

They had reached the hotel. She did not know the rest of the story. He, did not bother to discuss with her. But the story stayed. Perhaps too long than it should have.

He never said why he loved her. She never fell short of explanations. Once while reading that paperback edition of poetry, she felt a tear roll down her eyes. Her cheeks at once red. She rose. Lit a cigarette. Blew out the smoke drag after drag. They would never meet again.

But they did. And each time, it was, it was with an urgency that time was running short. That they needed to hurry up. But once in each other’s arms, time ceased. Moments waited. It was as if everything stood still.

She was diagnosed with blood cancer. Doctors said, it ran in her family. She wanted to meet him once before she left. And talk to him like the children did. But she chose not to.

Alone, frail yet determined at 40, she left. In her own obituary, she dedicated these words to him:
“I wish I could fight for me, against me.”

He came to know from the newspaper clipping.

It was dusk in Lonavala, night in Goa, day in Mumbai and gloominess in Delhi. He rolled down the window and frantically searched for the last book she gave him – tucked between the pages were the poems she wrote – the last one she wrote for him - while they were together.  On the cigarette paper, she had scribbled, her tears smearing the ink.

He looked vacant – at the sea, at the sky, at the memories that lay behind him - splattered on the green hills, soaked in the rain. Just as she had spread herself – in the sun, amidst the air.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Darts and quivers

I feel with every sunrise the texture of you
slowly being washed away 
from familiar streets and staircases. 

I scattered my soul 
to the drunken air 
above the sun beaten earth.
And quivering knees 
beaten and infected with hesitation 
slowly leaving footprints 
deepened by the weight of shame 

Love has shriveled its way
quietly and naturally to death.
From the precincts of cheap apartments and hotel rooms 
escape heavy air of heavier heaves. 

Everything seems drowned in that one gasp 
the one with together - with each other. 

Perhaps there was a purpose somewhere 
tucked between shared meals or beds 
Nesting between embraces, arguments and kisses. 

I hear and feel nothing. 

Warm tears wetting my cheeks, neck
entangled in my scattered hair - now lost. 

Only a sense of numbness 
etched beautifully into my skin 
deepened and deepening by the age of time - 
unravaged and uncaptured by memory.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Love, smiles and sunshine at GB Road

Gitanjali Babbar was a Gandhi Fellow. She worked on an assignment with National AIDS Control Organisation at Garstin Bastion Road (GB Road) sensitizing the sex workers about the need of AIDS control by distributing condoms and other medical aids to them. It was towards the end of that assignment when one of the sex workers asked her, “Apka aur hamara safar yahin tak than na? Aur NGOs ki tarah aap bhi condom baant ke chali jayengi? (Your association with us had to end here, right? Like all other NGOs would you distribute condoms and go?” This was the beginning of Katkathaa for Gitanjali.

Katkathaa is an NGO that operates from GB Road in New Delhi. A stone’s throw away from the New Delhi railway station, GB Road (officially called Swami Shradhanand Marg) is the largest red-light area in Delhi. Jostling for space since the time of its inception - somewhere in the beginning of 2012, Katkathaa has recently lost the evacuated brothel from where it was functioning due to some ongoing legal dispute over the property. This is for the fourth time over a period of seventh months that Katkathaa had ‘begun anew’ from this empty brothel.

Kushal Sinha, a member of Katkathaa informs, “We work to create a model of change in GB Road - something that could be replicated later in other areas where sex workers live and work. Currently, we engage with the didis (sex workers who come at Katkathaa are called didis the volunteers here) and their children and try to give them a platform to think and dream as freely as any of us do.” He adds, “Lot of things need to be done at this juncture. Most of the didis lack confidence on their capabilities, have no belief in their selves and lack a sense of individuality. This is an area where we are intervening right now. As an immediate goal, we look forward to reduce their alienation from the mainstream society.”

Gitanjali says, “As of now, we try to ensure that Katkathaa becomes a place for our kids and didis where they see a world beyond brothels.” Piya (name changed), a learner at Katkathaa quips, “We dance, sing, paint, watch movies, learn tailoring, tell stories and also study.”  Elaborating on the futuristic aim of engagement, Kushal shares, “We want to adopt a structured and systematic model to help the kids get the education they deserve. We also want to help open alternative livelihood and lifestyle options for the didis. We want to expand our reach beyond GB Road once we have created a tangible impact. 

Gushing over the successful strides of Katkathaa, Akanksha, a volunteer says, “One of our didis, after a few days of association with us, expressed her interest to opt out of prostitution. She is currently working as a help in a household. Our didis made some 200 batuas (small purses) and all of them were sold. There has been a marked change in the behavior of kids now. They have become more respectful in their habits and sensitive to the kind of language they use.”

Talking about the journey so far, Gitanjali says, “We have started from scratch so many times that beginnings have become a part of our journey by now. Each time we are out on the streets, looking for space to settle and work, it is a moment of rediscovery for Katkathaa.” Asked if this frustrates and irritates, she answers, “There have been times where we have had no room(s) to work from. We have often roamed on the streets of GB Road in hot summers and held classes and our activities in the open. But slowly, perhaps because we continued to stay and did not go back frustrated and lost, we have been able to make some place in the hearts of the didis. Perhaps they trust us a little more now. Perhaps they know by now that we are here to share love and work with them by being here - with them and near them. Didis have been generous to lend out their own rooms for Katkathaa so many times. The love the didis and their children have for us and the attachment that we have developed for them will make us stick through.”

Opening up on the question of Katkathaa’s interaction with the Delhi Police (a police beat is place right at the entrance to GB Road), Kushal says, “There is an interesting dichotomy in how the administration treats the didis. While on the one hand you have some police officials who do not shy away from taking advantage of the vulnerability of these women, some of them have come forward and gone out of the way in providing Katkathaa a place when we were rendered homeless.” He adds, “The roots of prostitution is deeply entrenched in history. In a situation where you have no control over its existence, the administration has the option of either legalising prostitution or maintaining the status quo. As much as we support the former, at the moment, we would continue with our amiable relationship with the police – a certain section of which has been extremely supportive of our cause.” 

Commenting on the source of funds for Katkathaa, Kushal says, “We have individual donors and organisations who volunteer to support us. Recently, we won the Mahindra Spark the Rise Award. We have also been trying to reach out to the CSR wings of companies and corporates.”

Katkathaa looks forward for volunteers and any kind of support from individuals and organizations. It can be reached at 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

सिगरेट के उस आखिरी कश तक 
तुम मेरे साथ थे 
अचानक क्या हुआ तुम्हे या हमारे वजूद को?

धुंए के साथ उड़ता गया मेरा, तुम्हारा 
हमारा साथ?

या तुम इंतज़ार करते रहे 
आखिरी कश के उड़ते जाने का?

तुमने उड़ान चाहा था 
या थमाव?

समझ गयी होती तो 
शायद सिगरेट की राख जैसी 
बर्बाद नहीं होती। 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Unconditional camaraderie with pain....

An evening minus you invades my meaning
the permeability of my mind suddenly shuts.

Callous kisses, virgin surrenders
seize fleeting images on intrepid eyes.
Ravaged remnants of hidden memories -
i am forced to reap - on hidden islands.

Stubborn aroma of this season
hanging limply in the you-ensconsed air.
Feigning foamy feelings on numbed racks
i paint my cupboard - purple.

Unborn romance on the cigarette butt
shadowless dim lights on streets we walked.
Half-written notes on newspaper edges -
Let all be free from strings of utterance.

Leftover pieces of eleven seasons
jab crevices on memories you invade.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This day and that day

This day
with you -
memories smile.

Promises welcome
singed desires
for that final gash.

This day
with you -
memories freeze.

That day
without you -
memories shall torment.

Each extra ray of sunshine
each superfluous mist of desire
moments without you
shall tear apart.

That day
without you -
memories shall betray.

That final feel of you
that sweet memory of your love
that delicious dash of your desire.

That day
without you -
memories shall thaw.

Fingers shall ache
muscles shall twitch
skin shall burn
insides sear down.

That day
without you -
a wait suspends...