Infinite Heart

When I was twelve I fell in love with Amanda. She played basketball, had a chic (for the ‘90s) ‘mushroom’ haircut, and the widest, most gleeful smile. Stricken by indecision even then, I faithfully divided my affection between three others—Joyce, Feli, and someone whose name, decades on, utterly fails me. I wasn’t alone on this tender tour de force. At my convent school in Shillong, girls had crushes on other girls (usually their seniors) all the time. Continue reading “Infinite Heart”

The Gift of Stories

I heard my first stories from a woman who couldn’t read or write.

A small, stout lady with a soft, full moon face ringed by silver tresses. Dark once, always worn in a bun, fat, plump, perched on the back of her head like a dinner roll. The colour of her hair might be the only thing that’s changed dramatically over the years; her face, as far as I can remember, has always been intensely lined. A coastal shelf of experience.

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Poem in October

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.

— Dylan Thomas

Happy Birthday, TS Eliot

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.’
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od’ und leer das Meer.”

— TS Eliot, The Wasteland

Deleted Scene

“A deleted scene refers to footage that has been removed, censored, or replaced in the final version of a film or television show.” In this case, my novel, Seahorse. I’d written this paragraph in its earliest draft, and it survived until final edits, shuffled here and there, tweaked and polished. And then it had to go. “Suggest cutting to make it more brisk,” marked my editor. Yet I felt a little sorrowful to hit Delete. So it’s gone from the manuscript. Here it has its own space.

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Always Rome

I’ve written about Rome before, but that was a few years ago, and I’ve been back several times since. Each—for Rome is endless—brought about the discovery of something new. More churches than I can count, ancient neighbourhoods, ugliness, un-touristy bars, a disquieting rise in its neofascist numbers, Trastevere, local eateries, sudden vast midnight piazzas, old loves. Continue reading “Always Rome”

Journey From the Hills

It began with a bookshelf.

An ordinary bookshelf made of dark wood, devoid of elegant carvings or an elaborately decorated plinth. In my mind it looms far above me. Although, I suspect, if I stood before it now, it would appear quite normal, perhaps even a tad small. Like walking into a house from childhood, and discovering the rooms aren’t as large as you’d always imagined, the ceiling not as high.

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‘Amby’ memories

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet” ― Robert Browning

With the news that Hindustan Motors (HM) has suspended production of the Ambassador, India heaved a collective nostalgic sigh. After all, this mightily rotund tank of a car has been around forever (1957 is forever), taking up much space on our mostly narrow, potholed roads. And for those of us old enough to remember our pre-liberalisation days, the beloved ‘Amby’ is slotted with Things From Childhood — NP chewing gum, Chitrahaar, Disney Hour, VHS Tapes, Tinkle comics, Bournvita, Thums Up. Items endowed with mystical weight, bearing the insignia of youth, of sepia-tinted memory, of simpler, more innocent times. Naturally, we feel a tug of loss.

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Mixtape

There’s always time for books and music. Despite book deadlines, articles due, and election paranoia. The last of which seems to have exploded in all our faces, throwing up hugely existential questions. Among many, “What do you do when a friend has voted/supported a party you loathe, fear and despise?” I’ve been swaying between BLOCK ’em all (face it, if you voted Modi you’re an asshole) and “No, I mustn’t act in precisely the same manner that idiotic right-wingers do–silencing anyone whose point of view doesn’t align with mine.” To cut long story extremely short: I don’t know. For now, I’m trying to ignore their posts and tweets. Perhaps they’ll just…disappear…on their own.

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Seahorse (Excerpt)

Seahorse: A Novel (Forthcoming November 2014 with Vintage Books, Random House India)

“My songs, lords of the lyre, which of the gods, what hero, what mortal shall we celebrate?” – Pindar

I remember the moment I discovered Nicholas’ disappearance as though it were yesterday. Although perhaps that’s not quite an accurate way to phrase it. Yesterday may be further away than two years past, than ten, or more. For instance, I can’t recall my supper a week ago, but that morning remains palpable on my tongue, like a wine I’ve sipped, and sipped so long it colours everything else on my palate.

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