Tremble

I tremble,
when your words hold me with the tip of their fingers,
as if one day they’d let me sleep on their palms
or let me keep my head on their fingernails
or catch my metaphors when they tumble down my lashes.

I tremble,
when your words hold me with the tip of their fingers,
as if they would fracture my branches
or tie the withered flowers to my body
or unrhyme the poetry that I have scribbled on my skin.

I tremble,
when your words hold me with the tip of their fingers,
as if they’re capable of doing everything to me,
or undo everything that has been done
or choose to do nothing at all.

I tremble,
Not because your words have too much power,
but because I have nothing,
when they hold me with the tip of their fingers.

 

Poetry by Eshwarya Khanna

Photography by Arif Khan

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Photograph

I see pixels bursting into words,

And I wonder when will I see your face again,

before I forget- the wrinkles on your skin,

the density of your brows

and your lips bulging inward,

into your mouth.

 

These photographs tremble

when they exhale words,

and look like scribbled pages to me,

sprinkled with question marks,

and grief.

 

I, now, see words bursting into memories.

Reminding me the sound of your giggles,

the smell of your breath,

the noise while you chewed chapatis,

the words you’d eat

every time you’d shout in anger.

 

I see the memories bursting into nothingness,

I wonder where will I find you now.

 

Poetry and Photograph by Eshwarya Khanna

 

(Poet’s note: Pixels bursting into words, words bursting into memories, and memories bursting into nothingness and you lose what you wish to keep forever- memories.

Short poetry dedicated to a really important person who’s not here anymore. I clicked a photograph when I was a kid, and I never knew that this random porridge of pixels will cease to be a photograph one day. 
Sometimes, you wish to suffer from the pain of missing people. What scares you more is the thought of forgetting them. Because only in memories you can meet and spend time with them.)

 

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Mulberry Maps

Mulberry Maps

The shards of glass tainted with blood lay scattered in the room like the crushed mulberries trampled by the foot of naked children in an abandoned backyard. If one could switch on the lights of that room, or perhaps, hang the sun on the ceiling, one would see the impressions of the fruit on Neel’s right cheek, on his arms and on the barren yard below his neck.

But in the Room number 21 of Highfield apartment, where Neel lived with his husband, Joseph, everything was dark for the past six months. It was only on one ordinary day when Neel decided to hang the trembling sun on the ceiling. He picked up his phone and called his mother several times.

However, it was the fifth call when he finally got the courage to speak up.

“Maa, Ne..el. Neel.”

“Neel? H..how are you, son? After six months? six months! six…”

“I want to come back to India. I can’t live here anymore with…”

“Oh, did it take you so long to understand that there wasn’t any closet at all? After untying a seven year-old marital knot? I always knew that leaving Sayema to marry the firangi guy‘ could be the worst decision you could ever take. So now you know how unnatural same-sex marriages are? And why can’t they work? Look, it’s not too…”

The courage that took four phone calls to build, shattered in four questions.

“Maa, I haven’t called you up for this. I am still sure about my sexual orientation. I can’t stay with Joseph because…he beats me. My decision to marry a man wasn’t wrong. Joseph isn’t the right one. And, I can’t stand these episodes of violence.”

“Domestic violence? Is that what you mean? In the same-sex couples? Who do you think will believe it?”

“If it rains, the water falls over our roof, too. The heterosexual couples are not the only ones who’re getting drenched. The storms affect everyone. It doesn’t knock the door to check the sexual orientation of people, Maa. Don’t build another closet for me.”

“Goddamn your closets! Somebody threw a word in the air and everybody is sneezing this term ‘closet’ since then. Closets! Closets! Closets!”

Maa hung up the phone.

The mulberry like impressions on his skin grew darker. The sun fell from the ceiling.

But at that time, he knew how to catch it.

He rang up Sayema, his wife who had helped him in getting out of the closet.

“Five months of suffering and you didn’t call me even once? You need to pack your bags and come to my apartment. He’s not the only man out there. We’ll find the right one for you. First, we need to get a lawyer and talk to him about the divorce,” Sayema said as she peeled the mulberry maps from his skin.

“Do you think getting a divorce for a homosexual couple is easy, Sayema?”

“Is living there easy, Neel?”

Neel knew that answers to both the questions were same. He didn’t know what the future would bring, but he knew that he had to get himself out of the land of crushed mulberries and fight for his rights.

He kept his dull pants, vibrant shirts, the leather shoes and the ball of sun in his briefcase and walked away.

The only thing that he left behind were the mulberry maps, a deafening silence and a tale of courage.

~ Eshwarya Khanna

(Photography by Arif Khan, Editing: Eshwarya Khanna)

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Wither and Wilt

They will tell you that flowers look beautiful only when they are blooming in the garden in your backyard. But let me tell you something that nobody ever will; flowers look beautiful even when they forget to blossom, or don’t stay amidst other floral beings.

Just like you, Aayat.

So, if such a day comes, and you feel that the garden isn’t where you belong, don’t be afraid to walk away. And if life seems too rough and harsh, unlearn the art of blooming; wither and wilt, darling. Because you will always be beautiful, no matter where you stand and no matter how sad you are.

Eshwarya Khanna 

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Picture Credits: Aashna Sharma

सूखा हुआ बगीचा,  और डायरी के खली पन्ने

नफीसा,

लोग कहते हैं कि किसी के इंतज़ार में ख़त लिखना बेवकूफी होती है| क्योंकि जिस इंसान से तुम एक लम्बे समय के बाद मिलते हो, पता नहीं वो वही इंसान रहता है जिसको सोच कर तुमने खत लिखा था या नहीं | क्या पता वो आये या ना आये, और अगर आये, तो पहले की तरह उसी रंग में आएगा जो तुम्हे हमेशा से पसंद था, या अपने साथ नई आदतों और नए शोक का पिटारा लाएगा|

बस आज ये ही सोच रहा हूँ कि जब तुम वापस आओगी, तब पहले जैसी ही होगी या नहीं| सोचता हूँ कि अभी भी तुम जूतों के लेस पहले की तरह बांधती होगी, या फिर अब मुझे फिरसे तुम्हें लेस बांधना सिखाना पड़ेगा| क्या तुम अभी भी मोमोस को उसी शौंक से खाती होगी? और क्या अभी भी तुम उतनी चीज़ें भुला करती हो, जितनी पहले भुला करती थी? क्या आज भी तुम्हारी चोटी उतनी बिखरी हुई होती है जितनी पहले होती थी? क्या तुम अभी वो क्रीम कलर की कुर्ती पहनती हो, जो तुम्हें इतनी पसंद है कि ना जाने लोगो के इतने बार बोलने पर भी तुम उससे पहनना नहीं छोड़ती?

डर मुझे इस बात का नहीं, कि तुम बदल जाओगी| डर तो इस बात का है,कि शायद मैं नहीं बदलूंगा|

परआज खिड़की से झांक कर अपने बगीचे को देखता हूँ तो यही सोचकर मुस्कुराता हूँ, कि किसी भी बाग़ की अगर कली डालकर फूल बनती है, तो सिर्फ फूल नहीं, वो बाग़ भी खिल जाता है| उम्मीद है कि जब तुम लौटोगी, तो उसी खिले हुए फूल कि तरह होगी| और भला जिस बाग़ में फूल खिला हो, वो खुश कैसे नहीं होगा? अगर मुरझाई हुई भी आई, तो अपनी डायरी के पन्नो के बीच में रख लूंगा|

फिलहाल अभी तो तुम्हारे इंतज़ार में खड़ा हूँ| हो सके तो जल्दी आजाना| पता नहीं, ये बाग़ के दरवाज़े कब तक खुले रहेंगे, और ये डायरी कब बंद होगी|

तुम्हारे इंतज़ार में,
वो सूखा हुआ बगीचा,
और डायरी के खली पन्ने|

~  ईश्वर्या खन्ना

(Photography by : Arif Khan )

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Pochemuchka (a person who asks too many questions)

‘Pochemuchka’ – A Russian word for a person who asks too many questions.

Anwar,

Can you see the clouds growing into shapeless balloons, tired of getting bigger, and wanting to be ruptured? Can you count the number of times they have woken up from their sleep to discard their nightmares in my dreams? If I tell you that I can see one word everytime I gaze at the clouds, will you travel all your way to read it too?

If I tell you that your promises weigh more than my metaphors, will you still ask me not to hold my metaphors on my tongue?

Anwar,

I know there are too many question marks resting on my tongue, and I wonder why they transform themselves into bullets every time they reach to you, and into atomic bombs when they can’t. I wonder why they change their meaning everytime you look at them and vanish when you don’t.

I wonder what there is when you aren’t, and what there isn’t when you are. And what there is when you are and what there isn’t when you aren’t.

Anwar,

Do you remember when you told me that we can calculate the exact number of stars in the sky if we sat together for three hundred more years; and if we spend the exact time in calculating the number of questions I ask you every day, we’ll run out of time?

I know you are miles away, but I wish you could see that skies are out of stars, tonight.

And so am I.

There are no more questions hanging on my lips and I swear if there were any, I’d swallow them. Metaphors are not my language and the question mark is not my favourite punctuation anymore.

Anwar,

But, instead- there are clouds growing bigger every second into shapeless balloons, like parts of my body that harbour love, wishing if you could come to rupture it; there are 4783 times I have woken up from my sleep, which means that I had about 47883 nightmares I want to tell you about; the one word that I read before has expanded into four – from ‘toujours’ to ‘La tristesse durera toujours ‘. (‘forever’ to ‘this sadness will last forever’) The same words that Van Gogh uttered to his brother, before he died.

And now, your fake promises are easier to hold on my tongue than my own metaphors.

There aren’t any questions anymore, but everything else except them.

Anwar,

I wish you could come back again and we’d watch the sky losing its stars, like children lose their teeth, like we’d be losing each other.

I wish you could come back again so we could see the clouds running away from each other, like the children in our towns do, like we’d be running from each other for the rest of our lives.

I wish you could come so we could see the sky turning into a smoke city like the teenagers would have transformed their hearts if cigarettes were as big as their obsessions, like we’d be turning ourselves into, after we part our ways.

Anwar,

I have now forgotten the art of asking questions, for I couldn’t make you remember the art of loving me. But do you have the strength to make me learn it all again?

~ Eshwarya

(Photography by : Arif Khan )

 

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कोरा कागज़ और रंग

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(Photography by : Arif Khan)

(Model in the picture : Rohit Yadav)

मैथिलि और मैं, अकसर रंगो की बातें किया करते थे। वो मुझसे बहुत सवाल करती थी।

पूछती थी, “अगर आसमान नीले की जगह मेरे होठों के रंग का होता, तो तुम बारिश की बूंदों में भीगते, या मेरे लबों से निकले मेरी कविताओं को सुनते?”

और यूँ ही मैं मुस्कुरा कर कह देता था, “बारिश की बूंदों में भीगने का मज़ा ही और है।” फिर उसका रूठता हुआ चेहरा देख, थोड़ा हंस लेता था।

“तुम्हारा क्या रंग है?” वो अक्सर पूछा करती थी।

“वही जो तुम्हारी कविताओं का है।” मैं मुस्कुरा कर कह दिया करता था।

“बेरंग हैं वो। उनका अपना कोई रंग नहीं। जो स्याही का होता है, वही बनजाता है।”

“और तुम्हारा?”

“सफ़ेद,” उसने काफी सोचने के बाद कहा।

“इतने रंगो में से सफ़ेद ही क्यों?”

“थोड़ा समय लो। खुद जान जाओगे।”

थोड़ा समय लिया था। पर वो थोड़ा ना जाने कितना ज़्यादा हो गया है कि मैथिलि कहीं दिखती ही नहीं। उसकी कमी में खुद को पहली दफा बेरंग महसूस किया और समझ आया कि उसका रंग सफ़ेद क्यों है। क्योंकि वो एक कोरे कागज़ की तरह थी, और मैं, एक कविता। जितने रंग महसूस किये उसकी स्याही के ही थे। और आज जब वो नहीं दिखती तो अक्सर उसके रंग को चेहरे पर लगा कर उसे महसूस करने की कोशिश करता हूँ।

अब जब वो आएगी और पूछेगी, “तुम्हारा रंग क्या है?” मैं भी बता दूंगा। “तुम्हारे जाते ही मेरा रंग तुम्हारी कविता का नहीं रहा, वो खुद तुम्हारी तरह सफ़ेद हो गया है।”

बस, तब तक इंतज़ार रहेगा। एक कोरे कागज़ और कुछ रंगो का।

– ईश्वर्या खन्ना

 

 

A letter to the people who lost their childhood to violence and abuse.

A letter to you; the one who lost his childhood to violence and abuse.

To You.
The one who sleeps at 9PM everyday, but wakes up at 1AM after his alcoholic father enters the apartment and throws his bottle of whiskey on the floor. Yes you, the one who gets beaten up while saving your maa from your daddy’s wrath.

To you.
The one who thought that opening the door to let your uncle in would mean having your favourite cotton candy in your hand. But darling, you should have known that price of having one candy is equal to one moment of violence followed by infinite series of flashbacks for the rest of your life.

To you.
The one who spends more time with broom, utensils and broken baskets. The one who wakes up to obey memsaab’s commands but never of his own heart. The one who is lashed with Sahab’s leather belt that he had wanted to wear around his waist.

This is for you. For every one of you; who lost their childhood in violence and abuse; the ones for whom hide and seek meant hiding in the store room for almost an eternity, until somebody comes up to switch on the lights; the ones for whom skipping moments was harder than skipping rope perfectly for 10 minutes; the ones for whom snakes and ladders meant just falling down from stairs; the ones for whom childhood didn’t sound like nursery rhymes but like their own sobs and screams.

Just wanted to let you know that even though your childhood was dark and haunting, your life isn’t. Because one phase of your life can’t paint all of your life with its own shade. I know that walking on a road with a heavy baggage is hard. Keep it on the uppermost shelf of your almirah and run on the streets of unknown cities, honey. I know things have always been easier to say than to do. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. I know that your childhood can not be relived, but for how long will you not let yourself swim in the moments that are waiting to kiss you hard? If not for somebody else, do it for yourself. Do it for the ones who are writing this letter to you, hoping that you will paint sunshine on your scars.
Will you let it go?

Let it go.

 

~ Eshwarya Khanna

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(Artwork by Aditi Mali)

Haifa and the Doves

Haifa told me
that every time you look at the sky,
you will find him singing a different melody.
Which means,
you can listen to infinite songs
by just looking at a blue garment
in a market littered with hopes and dreams.
The sky has a different song,
Haifa believes,
for those who’re looking at it.
For those who have wings,
for those who are looking for wings,
for those who are learning how to weave them,
for those who don’t wish to have any,
(because they fear the fall)
for those who are roaming around with match sticks
(to burn the feathers)
But this isn’t about either of them,
this is for the ones, the sky has never sung for;
For the dreamers, the poets forget to talk about,
because they’re the dreamers
who can’t fly, but float
by bribing the doves of unknown alleys,
who carry them like a letter
with no address.
For the ones who have convinced themselves,
that flying is a hopeless business;
and it is the process of delaying the fall.
Haifa seeks answers from them;
She wonders,
if they will they ever fly again
I wonder,
if they will ever want to fly again.
And every time I answer her,
she pretends to forget her question.
And in this game of forgetting and remembering,
the dreamer lives a little longer,
watching Haifa, along with the doves,
build a home in the sky.
~ Eshwarya Khanna
(Artwork Credits : Kashish Grover)
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