There’s someone you see who can use your help
Above and beyond the 2.5 percent
That has been made obligatory on you
By forces of faith, of habit now too
Don’t think twice because you have done
Your duty as prescribed by the One
Go ahead, give some extra, don’t hesitate
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait
You’re going on your blessed Hajj number two
You’ve been good, devout and true
But the farmer working in your fields
He needs a liver transplant critically
He looks to you for a helping hand
Should you divert funds from your pilgrimage plans?
You’re caught up in a quandary of faith
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait
The colony that you pass everyday
The one with the shanties, a riot of grey
It’s residents are different, they don’t share your beliefs
But you’ve spoken to some, you’re aware of their dreams
Should you give of your blessed prestige
To those who believe in a separate deity?
God’s benevolence does not discriminate
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait
When you feel pulled in directions unique
That speak to your heart abundantly
But seem to lie in realms that are
On the twilit edges of well trodden paths
Still your cacophonous heart, and listen
To the flow of lifeblood in your veins
Let it take you up the streams it creates
Don’t hesitate. That’s where heaven waits.
VERSE | THE SHIFT
I feel it shifting
The air around me
It hums a new dirge
In the rustle of the trees
It wafts through copses
Of almond and neem
Fraught with scent-memories
Right out of my dreams
The Earth wears a glimmer
Like it’s pulled out taut
Like a tiger just caught
I feel her eyes bore
Deep into my soul
Flecked with vermilion
Full of phantoms and ghouls
I feel her hot breast
As she holds me close
Her lifeblood in throes
I hear it sometimes
Her seized-seismic sigh
It thrums in my head
Like death’s lullaby
VERSE | SHE WAITS
The mynah came to my window today
She warbled a happy song
She bobbed her head, waiting to be fed
And her little mate trilled along
The man on the street looked at me
As I plied my usual route
He didn’t beg, but his eyes said
I’d be grateful for some food
The server brought my coffee and smiled
His eyes were big and bright
He had good news, to share with those
Who would talk to him a while
The little child came out to the porch
Holding her favourite doll
There she sat, for her beloved Dad
For when up the path he’d walk
The earth embraces our right and wrong faces
Holding every atom together
For when we’d awake and for our own sake
We would ease her burden a feather
The mynahs were fed and off they went
The man on the street did the same
The server smiled, the atoms danced a while
But Earth, she looks on and waits
SHORT STORY | THE FALL
The AM star was just peeping out over the horizon. Soon it would envelope all and sundry in its orange-blue glow. I woke up as the motorised blinds whooshed back into their dark recesses near the ceiling and a shimmering oval of light perched on the left side of my forehead like a glittery fascinator*. I kept my eyes closed, enjoying the blissful moments of just waking up, my senses treading the softness between complete wakefulness and dawn time dreams. I breathed in deeply, feeling the gentle warmth on the skin of my forehead. It caressed my scalp and then flowed down towards my extremities. I should have risen then; but I lingered in the afterglow, wiggling my toes to heighten the delicate sensations now leaving my body in undulating waves. Five minutes later when the AM rush had fully subsided, I opened my eyes. I smiled – widely. It was going to be a glorious day.
I live in a Bachelor Colony; we are the near-perfect males and also the genomic seed-sowers of Avartha – Earth as some of the old guard sometimes still refer to our planet. Earth, the old masculine term that has like a lot of other nomenclature on Avartha, been relegated to history books, a heated City Hall session and story-telling. We of the Bach-Col* help to keep the population flourishing together with the Double X-elences* of the Procreation Dome. The Bach-Col is a whimsical enclosure full of beautiful things, both natural and unnatural. We are constantly surrounded by serenity and comfort. And D~alliance – the testosterone-quelling drug that all residents of the Bach-Col receive when they came of age. It was what made Avartha great, the Wise Ones said. The Wise Ones knew exactly when each boy came of age, varied as the onslaught of puberty was across geographies and junior Bach-Cols. Nature despite being tamed for the most part, still made unpredictable leaps in transforming a boy to a man. Still, the mean coming of age in West Avartha was 12 years, 7 months. I had come of age on my 13th birthday.
I am meeting Ramiz. He lives in the Service colony. Early on, as an infant, in fact, barely a few weeks old he had tested positive for early onset dementia. The OmniEssence – that triumph of biotechnology, had passed her resounding verdict as she did with every male born on Avartha. And so Ramiz had been castrated as all non Bachelor Colony infant boys were. Ever since, he had been nurtured as Maintenance staff, a worker ant for the upkeep of the Procreation dome and the Bachelor Colonies. Little girls that were imperfect in big or small ways, however, became doctors, professors, writers, engineers, spiritualists and stateswomen. They dominated the world of learning, finance, politics and religion. The women in fact, all of them, now superintended the planet in one way or another. They were the Wise Ones.
I am meeting Ramiz today. We had met six months ago on my birthday when he was assigned to lead my party preparations. Bach-Col boys had grand birthday celebrations and even grander seeding day festivities. I had had eighteen of the former and two of the latter. Someone had dared me to dance with the ruggedly handsome Service boy, and I had. We had kissed that night. It had been beautiful then and in retrospect, also academically interesting. Service boys never kissed like that; they were not supposed to want to kiss. It was a revelation for both of us and had over time, morphed into what I would call Love. Ramiz called it “camaraderie”. I had laughed and he had blushed. We both knew he was trying to make it all seem kosher, mundane even, in the pervasive, criss crossing lines of the moral and physical rules that defined our world. We had met up every week since then; our love and camaraderie growing like star jasmine, brisk, strong and all-encompassing.
I am meeting Ramiz at the Ahyoka* lake just outside the city today. That has been our rendezvous point for the past four months after nearly being caught together in my quarters. Bach-Cols and Servicers* are not supposed to fraternise and they are certainly not supposed to be lovers. I had been surprised at how easy it had been to circumvent Avarthan laws outside city limits, and was often ruminative about why there were not more like us: Cross sectional couples; couples outside the Procreation Dome and the exacting laws that governed it. I always ceased my pondering beyond this point – the godesses did not need to eavesdrop on another mortal thought and warp it into yet another ruse to trip up Avarthakind*. So after short, mostly inadvertent forays into puzzlement and awe on the subject, I would retract, unhandling my thoughts and stashing them away into the secret little spaces of my mind.
I was supposed to meet Ramiz today. In the little sheltered recess two hundred paces westwards from the lake. He had not shown up. I had waited for over an hour and then headed to the Service Col. I had never been there before but I knew his quarter number. Room 42 was empty; like no one had lived there in a long time. I knocked on two of the adjoining quarters. Both Servicers seemed not to know Ramiz. How was it possible? How had he just vanished? How could he just cease to exist?
There was something else; something niggling at the edges of my mind. Everytime I tried to think of what could have happened to Ramiz, I lost my train of thought, the images scattering like hundreds of dandelion papas across the vastness of Avartha on a wayward breeze. I was puzzled and a little alarmed. But mostly puzzled. I was mildly anxious too because I didn’t feel the emotional whiplash of newly inflicted wounds or of broken dreams. In fact, I had felt more sadness when I had lost my favourite pair of boots to the hitch-hiking* fungus.
Back in my apartment, I put on the record player and lay down. The mind numbing melody of the “Infinite Improbability Drive”* thrummed through the room and my mind. I closed my eyes and fled into the familiar heart and mind space that music always took me to. I slowed down my breathing as I had been taught to do since I was four years old. I decelerated the rate of my inhalations to five a minute. My anxiety and my confusion subsided. Slowly, gradually I sank deeper into the restoring, enveloping clouds of my subconscious until I heard the comforting voice of the Wise speak:
“You are home. You are safe. You have learned. Thou shalt not covet anyone outside the Procreation Dome. Thou shalt remain pure of seed and spirit for Mother Avartha, the giver of life and the forger of destines. You are home. You are safe ….”
Read Part Two here: SHORT STORY | THE FALL – (A Prequel)
* Fascinator: A type of formal headwear, its function being purely ornamental.
* Bach-Col: Bachelor Colony
* Double X-elences: The women of Avartha who from time to time, gave birth in line with keeping the Avarthan population in healthy, burgeoning mode. Female DNA is made up of two X chromosomes and hence the term.
* Ahyoka: A female Cherokee name meaning “She brought happiness”
* Servicers: Males who had at birth, been diagnosed with some congenital flaw and were relegated to the positions of workmen and service staff across Avartha.
* Avarthakind: the people of Avartha.
* Hitch-hiking Fungus: Fungus that grows close to the ground transferring onto treading leather, canvas and rubber. Picked up by footwear, it moves from one place to another very much like a hitch-hiker and hence the term.
* Infinite Improbability Drive: part of the soundtrack from the 2005 movie “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, based on Douglas Adams’ book of the same title.
VERSE|DUST IN OUR EYES
Inspired by the vastness of our universe, and the impermanence and fragility of our own little blue green planet.
The moon hangs low like a key lime pie
In a firmament strewn with golden gleams of zest;
The sky like a cosmic porcelain platter
Holds this sweet perfection in a state of rest
I sip on my tea as I sit back in my chair
And look at the glimmering stars up on high
My mind is a telescope of infinite scale
My soul, a radar that amplifies
I see nebulous orbs dancing around;
I see their frigid friends standing their ground;
I see the little ones and the gargantuan greats;
I see the middling ones jostling for space.
I see luminous worlds move in grandiose arcs
Leaving star dust in their celestial wake;
I see comets race into ethereal depths,
Gleefully chased by their blazing tails
I see weighty old stars in their twilight of being
Collapse in a mighty roar of ultimate endings;
I see embryonic knots of vital masses,
Heating up at their core in hopeful beginnings
I see torus-shaped, shard-textured asteroid belts
Circling around an oblong of planets;
I feel the formidable power of gamma ray bursts,
As they cannonade up vaults of ink-silver granite
I see pulsars and quasars whirling around;
Solar winds spreading out in feathered plumes.
I hear the happy hum of the cosmos above me,
Like a foetus hears her mother from inside the womb.
I collapse the telescope of my mind;
I shut down the radar of my soul.
I look back down into the eyes of our Earth,
Now blurred and smudged with eventide kohl
I don’t hear the hum of her kinetic voice;
Nor feel the tenderness of her warm embrace.
I don’t smell the bouquet of her fragrant skin;
Nor see the glow of her beautiful face
The cosmos continues to dazzle and shine
To skip and to leap, to dive and to fly;
While our own little world continues to be
The storm in our teacups; the dust in our eyes.