Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Previously published in MUSE INDIA

                                                                                                 Picture taken by Indriyajit Sethi


For twenty years I have watched the trajectories
Of the lives of two friends
I love dearly

Those lifelines were to intersect momentarily
Then loop themselves around the globe
Never to meet again

I remember when I saw them for the first time
Matter-of-factly sharing jhaalmuri out of a newspaper cone
Under a gulmohar tree at the bus stop

I thought I saw a match made in heaven
But apparently not
And had wished for something like that for moi

I hear from them both on birthdays, Diwalis, some January firsts
And the occasional “I-just-called-to-say-hello days”
I’ve watched them grow closer separately

When I called her yesterday she was reading “Kafka on the Shore”
Of course I couldn’t tell her he was all caught up
In the Windup Bird book

They never ask of one another so I never know if I should tell
Earthly duties come above the flimsy emotions
Of the disobedient heart

Speaking of earthly duties, she told me she had cooked Pongal rice
With Tellichery peppercorns. He’d been complaining about airline food
A few hours before and asked if dal bhaath was too much to ask for?

I suppose it is quite impossible for the pair of them to meet for brunch
One on an airplane going six hours south from Beijing
The other in Winnipeg snowed in for the weekend

What could’ve gone awry at the time their fates were drawn?
A GPS malfunction in high places? A Y1K catastrophe for
A complete lack of software engineers, what?

Last year in May they left the kids in Dida’s care
And vacationed in Paris to celebrate twenty years together
He and bhoudi

Her grandmother passed away the same week and she flew to her hometown
Changing planes at Charles De Gaulle at eleven there, or so said my Caller ID
He left a little after three as I saw on the photos he emailed me

He’s becoming more spiritual he says. His kids say, ”Baba’s getting old
He’s turned vegetarian; the smoking’s gone for good; he even stopped to pray at the Bodhi tree after having driven past it hundreds of times that we’ve seen”

He does not know that she was there last year
Right across the street at the hospice where she was born
To pick up a copy of her birth certificate

“Who am I,” I ask myself,” to play Cupid twenty years too late?”
I would’ve sooner, had I known how deeply marked these two lives
Would become by a summer fascination of 1985

That summer, he says, he flew on wings
I suspect if she hadn’t brought with her gifts of anger and a false sense of security
He might never have crashed

It used to bother me that he’d say he’s bored and tired of it all
“It’s all getting too old and too easy
But it’s a living”- words no one had ever heard from him before

I know, ♫heartless♫ as it might seem that in the crashing burning
Then forging anew his sense of who he really is he found his true calling
The loss of ennui and that million wattage smile

She tells me she can’t get through one summer without reflecting
On the exact shade of orange that was the gulmohar in the breeze
So she’s simply resolved to stop remembering

She said she’ll plant some narcissus outside the window to admire next April
When like the still frozen earth
She feels only half alive

Feelings turn into thoughts, thoughts into words, and words turn to naught
For whose amusement do we speak our lines on this stage called “The World”
When it all stops to make sense?

                                                                                                              ~ Sonali

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