The Train

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I know you’ve been dreaming of the train all day. I know that you still are.

I can sense that your breath is trying to fit itself within the rhythmic churning of its wheels as they go round and round the blue forest of your mind.

I know you can smell its smoke through your skin, and feel the cold mist that washes in through its windows in your heart.

What if I tell you that when you wake up you’ll find yourself on this train? That you have been journeying on it all the while you’ve been dreaming. And that all it takes to wake up to reality is to break open your dream. Would you have the courage to abandon sweet thought and place your trust where I ask you to?

I hope you do.

Because I promise that this train will take you to a place more beautiful than the one you dream of.

With love,

Dad

Pam.

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One day they will be convinced that you do not exist. One day they will know for sure that you cannot be.

And hence they will think that I am mad, Pam, crazy as a bat to know for sure that you are and that you will be.

They will drug me, and electrocute me.

They will penetrate syringes within me.

As if it is no crime Pam. As if it is no crime to separate Romeo from Juliet and lover from loved and friend from friend and dreamer from dream.

It is a crime. They must know. It always has been.

They will be certain that the cage of your persona keeps me from being free.

But that cannot be. For isn’t a dream the part of a dreamer as much as you are a part of me? You are indeed.

But how will they free me from the drug within my mind, you?

How will they detach me from the worm that curls within each cell?

How will they erase your memories, Pam, when they live in me and flow in my blood?

One day I will think I am delirious. For believing in your existence. I will know one day that you are no realer than the air. You are yet aren’t there.

But my love for you wouldn’t change Pam. I will know in a subconscious corner of my heart that I had a friend who loved me, who held my hand when the night skies were pink, and the ground was hazy, and lived with me through locked doors of asylum. I will know Pam, I will know.

I may not remember but I will know.

Do not leave me then Pam, do not go.

Stay where you are, within my mind, inside my body and in my soul, and we will survive the drugs and toil through, but stay put Pam, do not go.

Stay in my brain, even if that truly is where you always have been, and like a secret I will keep you there.

I promise, no one will know, no one will know.

Remembering Love

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To my dead husband and my eternal love,

Who said time-travel has to be utterly physical in nature? I time-travel into your memories every day. Your memories are paper boats I can step into, row and glide in.

Each morning I travel to the damp porch of the earth, where naked sand is kissed voluptuously by the Dal Lake. The otherwise still water has developed small tremors in the fresh morning breeze, as if the lake was a young child playing joyously in its cradle after waking up from a complete sleep. I look at the warm boat that topples mildly in the lake; the boat seemed warm because it resembled the moon-shaped vessel in which Ammi served curry last night. Curry with thick-spiced Murgh-Masala. The delicious dinner was bland and colorless against my loveless tongue, it immediately took me back to that sunny afternoon where in the wait of your belated letter, I sat and learnt the traditional recipe of the dish from my mother, just so that I could get you to taste its beauty when you returned home. You loved it when I cooked.

I step into this boat dutifully each day, just before dawn is about to crack, when the sky is that tricky color of purple and white that one can never paint. It is just that hour before sunrise, before the birds woke, when you used to turn in bed and sheepishly hum, and rising from sleep, put your arms around me and kiss me with all the love you contained.

I seat myself carefully but with ease, the daily practice has made my movements natural. I untie the boat from the hinge of consciousness and I pick up the oars, and sail away, melodiously traversing this sea of memories, love, loss, pain, or alternatively, a simple sea of tears. I softly row my way to the other shore, the land of dreams…where I can lose myself indefinitely, where the vagaries of time do not trouble me, where I can think of you and remember you without guilt, sorrow or ridicule. Where you and I are one again – if not in soul, then in memory. I am taken back to the first day I met you, the snow-capped hills and the beautiful valley icy, the memory is pungent within me till date. I remember the subtle chase in our eyes, our subsequent interaction when I asked you for directions, and the many boat-trips in the Dal that you consequently took me on, on shikaras of happiness.

Sometimes I think, ever since that day, I have been sailing the same sea, while time and space have transcended and reshaped around me incessantly. To and fro, torturously.

I had decided to leave everything back at home and settle into this paradise only because the immensity and unbounded fearlessness of your love made me stay, provoked me to love you back, make you half as happy as you had the capacity to make me, to free you from all unprecedented sorrows, and forthcoming pain. My love was traditional, but complete.

It pains me to remember you, to memorialize your laughter and your love. But what choice do I have? I cannot afford to forget you or your memories, they keep me alive. I would have forgotten you if you were simply a man I loved. But you had washed into my world like a storm; to me, you had become love. And as you will understand, it is easy to live without the specter who stole your heart, but it is impossible to live without the heart itself.

This sea that I travel is dark, Janum. And this land is villainy. But I must undertake this journey. With your silver hand in mine, as thin as mist, as warm as the sun, I must travel through time to reach your memories, because that is what true love is – unforgetful, forgiving, and lovely.

Inayat

The Light By Which I Am Born

moonMy Sun and Stars,

Is it strange that my beauty is your gift to me? Is it outrageous to accept that it is in you that I see a reflection of all that is good in me, and that without you I am estranged?

I am afraid it is the truth.

You found me wounded and scarred, discovered me in the vacuum filled darkness of space and time, and healed me. You made me laugh and cry and rejoice and express the songs of my soul, and gave life to my dreams little by little. Your ways – subtle and natural, your love- impeccable. Never before had I known what real happiness feels like, and that it can be induced by the simplicity of a certain glittering smile.

As I rest in the lap of emptiness, I am filled with a continuous glee, given simply by your existence. It is indulged by the confidence of knowing that each young day, you shall rise, and capture me in your warm embrace, and for those still moments in time, I shall let your love humour me.

In the sound of your heartbeat I have found complete peace, and to be with you, is all I wish to do anymore; all my other dreams seem so little and obscure before this colossal desire. No star will ever let me shine the same way that you have, and none ever has. You have torn away from me my fear of the dark, and put in its place an immeasurable love for the dusk. I, the proprietress of time, submit to the clock each day in your wait.

You have taught me, unconsciously, that I must take that lovely chance, that I must be brave to fall in love, that I must shine and escape the walls of blackness that shutter my heart. And though the probability of things falling apart is inordinate, the prospects in the case they do not are gloriously marvellous. But of this you shall forever remain unaware, my fathomless star, for I am wordless as I am imperfect, and incomplete are my words.

Albeit, words unfold on paper today, unlike ever before, but perhaps it is just a fortunate night.

So, I must cease the moment to thank you, my love, even though it does not in the least quantify my passions. Thank you, for glowing upon me blessedly like omnipresent time in the dark of the night. Thank you for pasting the bruises I make on the sea, and the thunder I roll upon dusk – you have tolerated my habitual imperfection, my flaws, my mistakes and sloppiness with the grace of your ever-powerful love; it has made me want to be better, it has made me look at myself and wonder in thoughtful starlight of pathways to be my best self, and to be less reliant and less savage, so that I can at least begin to deserve the magnum of love that you have given me openly and without hesitance.

Thank you for being my strength love, for helping me shine brighter than the beautiful glow-worms, and the truest stars, and leading me to believe that I am the brightest star in the sky, that I am more beautiful than I know, that within me too is a sparkle that can be admired, and that I can, if I try, be more infinite than the galaxy of self-criticism which contains me.

Today, I can dream your dreams and look into your eyes, and surrender to the labyrinths they house without fear, for you my love are my strength, and my entirety, and it might seem bizarre that to me, getting lost in you is to be found. I will love you tomorrow as I love you today for the love you have shone upon me. I will love you as much as this infinite space, and I will love you more. I will love you now, and I will love you a lot, and I will love you always my moon.

And yes, as the hour of the eclipse draws closer, it breaks me little by little. It scares me because it threatens to pull us apart. As you fade away slowly, farther and farther away from me; my glory recedes with your light. However, today, in a very long time, the narcissism of my heart escapes me, for my love for you is outwardly greater than that – countless like the infinite stars in the Earth-sky. Nonetheless, the promise of the darkness passing, of burning in your sunshine again, fascinates me, as I tumble into love with you one more time.

Does it still seem strange that my beauty is your gift to me? Is it despicable to accept that it is in you that I see the best reflection of myself, and that without you I am unknown? Maybe it is my love, yet it is only true.

Yours Always

The Moon

The Poetry Within You

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Dear Lucy,

The business has dropped sharply ever since you left. We now travel in caravans; I had to sell the circus building. It is being broken down; no music swirls out of its bright gold-filmed windows in the evening anymore. We now have half-hearted soup for supper, sometimes with bread. But it’s not so bad. Something about Charles Dickens has inspired people to believe that there is something remorse about being broke and poor, alas, despite him being the great writer that he was, it is not so.  I still have the wealth of each bright, lit-up and glamorous circus night within my heart, and they make me a rich old man.

The music from Empress Flurence, drums and all, still whistles in my ears. The poetry of our dance, the sing song of the trapezium, and the sliver of artistically blown smoke rings – ah the beautiful days within me. The extravaganza of our circus was unmatchable, but I knew they all came only to watch my Last Dancer.

I apologise for showing no grace in my letter, but I must ask you, how are you? I hope the big city is treating you well and is offering you every comfort you dreamed of. I hear that you are looking for work and that you are engaged to be married soon. The best of my wishes, dear Lucy. Everybody here at the company misses you, especially Matinee, our jazz monkey. I wish you’d have never run away.

What is sad is that I wish so not for myself, but for you. You had the power to become something the world had never seen. I could see it in the way you moved on the stage, I could feel it in the way the audience gasped when you stopped to breathe in the end. I saw it in the restlessness within you, as you sought avenues to set your demons free. It is true that it was your beauty and demeanor which made our circus what it was, after you left, the people just stopped coming in. Each evening without you was as dry as dream, as if the sun had never risen, as if the music had never been sung. After all what is reality without the touch of passion? They say I am turning delirious.

Today, I do not write asking you to come back. You were never my prisoner Lucy, for I am but an inebriate man. I am sorry that my cage had cooped you, and that the cruelty and misery of the circus business stole your murderous smile, but I must warn you not to mistake the kingdom of your talent for a prison too. You mustn’t run away from what is within you. You, princess, are a forest on fire. You are burning all over and your blaze and light are inescapable. You must dance like starlight and burn like flames. Dive into the dark rum of life, and do what you must, but never forget, that your gift must become your discipline. Claim the stage, and light it up.

I never was the master of your body, but I am the master of your soul. Bless me Lucy, and do not let the lights of the city turn you dark. In your world, you must become my Last Dancer again.

Still A Circus Master

Marcus Mackenwright  

My Cycle of Goodbyes

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It isn’t easy to let you go. It is like sending a soldier to war despite knowing that he shall never return – either the defeat will destroy him or he shall succumb himself to the struggle for victory. We are, but like, these weeping parents sending our child to fight another absurd battle. And in a way, when poets say that the clouds are weeping when it rains, they are true, for weep we do as you leave the skies and sail towards the bottomless world.

I wonder how you gather the courage to undertake a feat of such measure and uproar. How you gather the spirit and courage to leave the freedom of the skies – a freedom sought by an entire universe that walks without wings, with feet coupled to the ground – individuals who can only look up to the open firmament with an unattainable desire of attainment.  But the trophies of the free sky never impressed you my young, for you are noble and wise, just as you are tender and full of empathy.

You travel the heavens to quench the thirst of a hopeless, unsolicited dry land and bring boundless joy to an ignorant earth.  I wonder how you gather such happiness from your own fall. “But mother, I am friends with the wind and the boats, and in love with the laughter of young children who dance to my song,” you say. You are gracious my love, and full of a courage I know you did not get through lineage for we are earthly and incapable of such bravery.

I see you as you leave me, without pain or sadness, and the sands drink you up greedily and I think of them as selfish. But as I sit and ponder in the metaphoric sea of thought, I suddenly see a glimpse of you in a seven color spectrum in the sky. My love, I smell you in the fragrant waves of wet sand and I see your trace in the happy dance of thriving trees. I hear your music long after it stops playing, my love, in the smiles of famished children.

And at last I see you rise above again, in changed form, and give birth to young white clouds and rejuvenating purity. And I realize that you are immortal, my darling, and you continue to live in hearts and spring in souls.  I know now that you are the personification of complete happiness and hope to a sad people.

You live in end and after death my beloved. You are a martyr. You, dear Rain, are eternal just like the happiness you have always wished to entice.

Your Loving Mother

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A Baked Epistolary

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Dear Granny

When the Putlizer Publishers asked me to write a preface for my new cooking book, they asked me to entail my ‘cooking philosophy’ for my readers. When I told the board, in the most obvious and casual manner possible, that I didn’t have one, they raised a brow – a look that was both pathetic and astounded, like I were an outlandish animal – as if it was a sin to not have a cooking philosophy, like cooking philosophies are the most common possessions in the world, like a soul or a pencil – everyone has one.

It took me a long, excruciatingly tiring conversation with Jenny, my editor, to convince her that I wanted my preface to be a letter to my grandmother. So while I hope that you do not regret Jenny’s decision, let me tell my readers a little about Granny.

My grandmother lived in (obviously) the most grandmotherly warm cottage on a snow-capped, treeless hill in Norway. One summer on our way to her house, my parents died in a fatal accident. By default, I was restored to her home, and forced to live there ever-since I was three.

I was a grumpy kid to parent; I hated my life, I hated Norway, and everything about it. I hated how it snowed so much, and rained so little, and how everything about it assertively said ‘White Christmas’. My life was the ultimate dream for many, nevertheless, I detested it with all my heart. Only until, of course, Granny magically sprinkled my life with (the most scrumptious) sugar dust. Literally.

I categorically remember that afternoon, if the foggy post-noon daylight of Norway may be called an afternoon, when I came back from school, having miserably failed in a class test, hating my life a little more than the day before. I grouchily sat down on the breakfast table and pulled myself a glass of water. I snapped at Granny’s simple question “How would you like some food?” My irritation was bluntly obvious. Nonetheless, Granny, wrapped in wool and tight cooking gowns, pushed a warm baking tray filled with pink macaroons towards me.

Till this day, I cannot define bliss better and more munificently.

Discovering that my grandmother was the best cook in the entire world, and easily the entire universe, was my cue to start loving my life as it was. I would spend hours in the kitchen watching her knead dough, beat eggs, cook cream, roast beef and grate cheese, and I was most certainly duly entertained.

Granny, I clearly remember tasting your red velvet cake for the first time ever. I remember how the cream melted on my mouth, and how the zest of the tangy cheese you had used had twitterpated my taste buds. I remember the perfect roundness of the cake, and the uniqueness of the powdered batter. If flamboyant obsession and starry ardour may be called love, then yes, in a pool of love had I dived, and it tasted and felt delicious, if deliciousness can be called a feeling at all.

So as I scrunch on the leftovers of my red velvet today, which, in fact, the guests called a ‘Near Perfect’, and type this floating preface, I am reminded of everything you ever taught me. I remember how you never revealed to me the recipe for any of your dishes, or never answered how to achieve the perfect thickness in the mango smoothie or the flawlessness of the blueberry soufflé, yet one event stands most distinct amongst all. I remember how I had, almost furtively, cut a tiny slice of your pastry and stored it in my pencil box. When you asked why, I had innocently answered that I wanted to preserve your recipe forever. Ha! How you had laughed!

You smiled, and kissed me on my forehead.

“You must make your own recipes.” You said, and spent the rest of the day cleaning the mess I had created trying to imitate the pastry souvenir.

Granny, if thank you were a big enough word, I’d say it. So wherever you are, I hope you read this book, and you read this sad little, poorly phrased Writer’s Note, and that you flip through the recipes of this book – not like you need them, but because I direly want you to see the strong inspiration they draw from you. Everything I have ever cooked in my entire life has been an effort to create a version of your cooking, and it was perhaps in my efforts to achieve a close clone of your recipes that I found many of my own. Recipes which people around the world have grown to love, adore and eat.

It is only today that I know, that even if I were to copy your recipes by proportion, I would never achieve the perfectness that you did, because your secret ingredient was always your love and flare for food; it is as if your very fingers added taste to your dishes.

Granny, thank you for giving me my delightful childhood. I hope I have succeeded in giving a little life to our large shared world of baking and cooking. I hope that when you see the tiny speck of a success in me, you see a reflection of your wonderful parenting, and in my humble recipes, a flicker of your own craft.

Hope the stars shine brightly in Norway.

Your Loving Granddaughter

Margatha Spiegelson

In Your World of Words

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Dear Jane,

(Yes I chose the clichéd opening; please do not give me a hard time over this)

Let me start this beautifully:-

When girls and boys romantically held hands and snuggled on the last benches in class, we sat in one corner, newspapers in hand (which you nastily stole from young gullible juniors in school, each day without fail), eyes rummaging rows of the atypical Word Sleuth. We have come a long way from those days, sitting in the penthouse at the beach, playing Scrabble in the sun-baked veranda.

Over all those childish games I got to see the happy, patient and romantic soul behind the bold, admirable, busy and strong head girl everybody knew. The love for words is not the singular feeling you aroused in me. I am twitterpated by you – quite officially (yes, that’s from yesterday’s game, thank you for that). In a warm, fuzzy, enamouring yet cool way.  Alphabet by alphabet, these words had heedfully led me to the person you were and had allowed me to love this version with all my heart.

Despite the names of various Toms, populated cities and different boxers that I discovered through these riddles, and my consequently overgrown diction, I am at a loss of words today.

I guess what I am trying to say is that somewhere between “‘Tove’ is not even a word!” and “You cannot change the rules just whenever you want,” I fell for you. I love you Jane – your books, and all your parts summed up. And though I blacked out when you spelled “Let’s Run Away” on the board (I was too flattered I believe), internally I always happily agreed.

Packed my bags.

See you.

Yours Ever

Nicole

Yours Always, Your Books

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Dear Sussie,

I am the words from the pages of the million books you have read; read and perhaps, shared dreams with. I am the novel hiding in the bookshelf. The stardust resting sheepishly in the callouses of your intergalactic thoughts is me. I, Sussie, am the magic that grows within you like Jack’s magic beanstalk.

Do not be deceived, I am also powerful love and detaching death. I am the depth of the sea where the mermaids sing melancholic chanteys, where the sunken ships lay absorbed with tales. Yet today I write to you not to elucidate myself but with a resolve.

Sussie, you have been a loyal reader for twenty bright years. The mild coffee stains on my skin have dulled. The yellow warmth of light from the bedside lamp you’d relentlessly read under night after sleepless night stays locked within me. The crumbs of the raisin and almond biscuits stuck within my cosmetic binding often jingle at your touch. The fragrance of my old wrinkled pages is softer today, my illustrated cover smudged. All of these are the evidences of the brilliant ages I have spent on the bookshelf of a faithful reader. But this isn’t all that has changed within me Sus.

Today, I want to thank you for imagining my protagonist with the long hair that you have, and for giving my maker’s work the essence of your soulful imagination. Thank you for letting my story exist in a way it wasn’t written. Thank you for picturing the woods just as silent and damp, for smelling and discerning with me every sentiment of the lovers; thank you Sus for gifting my subtle stories the illuminating gift of life. Thank you for helping it survive with a sense of realism in a world so rampant, a world with endless literature and running time.

Remember though, that it isn’t out of gratitude that I write, but with purpose. I want to thank you for leaving behind the soft colour of your tears on the pages where Augustus died. For leaving behind the resonance of your smile when words curled into the descriptive sunset. Thank you for dissolving within my story like the missing syllable of the last word and thereby completing me in ways no one gets to be whole. Thank you Sussie for attaching my raw tragedy to memories of your own.

Had it not been for you Sussie, my words would have forever lain unheard. So I thank you for giving them the power to affect. Thank you for smiling and mourning with me. Thank you for being a brightly lit companion on a dark road; a road you knew would end soon. So thank you Sussie, for placing all your faith in me, and walking along me through this treacherous Wonderland of plots and interweaved stories despite knowing that I offer the pain of an end.

Most of all Sussie, thank you for picking us up from the sporadic bookshops, and reading us with love and patience. Thank you for this strength you have unconsciously blessed us with, a strength which makes us believe that you would carry us within you through the thick and thin of life.

This is promising that we shall offer you warmth in the cold, and courage when life is dim. We promise to come with you to your grave, through purgatory and doomsday, and lay there beside you in the quiet like the best kept secrets.

Yours Always

Your Books

Think, My Love

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Dear Annie,

Happy Birthday. You turn into a big girl today. Post this day, you will start a new chapter of life. It will be filled with adventures, and experiences – happy and grim alike. As you set into this world, and try to make a place for yourself, I am sure you will face many challenges. I come to this conclusion not because I doubt your capacity, also not because the world is unfair, but because challenges are a big part of the world I have set you free in.

I am only sad that I cannot be with you to face them, that I cannot offer you my warm care when you come back home having fallen – failed and desolate. But as I look over you today, I am equal parts proud of the young lady you have become – independent enough to make the right decisions. There is just one last lesson I wish to share with you, love, and listen carefully, because this is the last letter I left your parents.

I was at our summer-house in Musoorie with your grandmother that summer. I had had my convocation the day before that – that was the very night I conceived you. I was anxious and scared; after all, I was just a young girl of your age. I had taken the first bus home and had come without a suitcase or a penny on me.

As I reached home, I found mother watering the roses in the tea garden in the backyard; I looked at her with a crumpled face – she immediately knew something was wrong.

Our house was on a high hill, where the smell of snow and chilly clouds reign the air like the eternal scent of ginger. I sat on the fluffed couch, and allowed myself to sink in its leathery callouses – wishing I could escape into a third space where I am shred of all my problems. I looked outside the glass wall; the yellow sky stared back at me. The dim sun – present but not too overpowering – seemed to be conscious of my inner turmoil too.

Mother came in, jingling the spoons in two glasses filled with lime soda and spice, just like she did every time. Her demeanour made me uncomfortable. She had asked no questions about my abrupt, sudden visit. She had not enquired about what worried me. She seemed to be taking her time, perhaps waiting for me to tell her.

“I am pregnant.” I blurted out after my last sip of the soda-drink. There I was – a young coward of twenty-two.

I opened my mouth to speak again. My mother hushed me with a gesture of her hand. She looked at me, her eyes misty grey behind her neat glasses. “Are you angry? I am…” I murmured. She smiled and stopped me again.

“It’s okay to let yourself think.” She said.

That is all she said.

I spent a month in the hills that June, sitting in the garden or on the hammock, doing nothing but thinking. My eyes would wander to the sky, and aimlessly follow the treacherously shifting clouds. My head swelled as a billion emotions simultaneously resonated within me; yet, eventually, I would get so pensive that I would lose track and end up thinking about nothing at all. Still but preoccupied.

Soon, I realised what I wanted. Though those moments were perhaps the toughest ones of my life, in the end, I was certain my decision was right. I had become an independently-thinking, brave woman and only because I let myself sink into my thoughts. Only because I stopped the incessant human effort to separate the self from the self. Only because, I gave myself the time to foster the courage to do things which were apparently right from the very beginning.

I am sorry, Annie, that I wouldn’t be there waiting for you by the roses when you come home fallen. I am sorry I won’t be able to console you when you are heartbroken. I am sorry I won’t be able to offer you the remedies an ideal mother does. I am sorry I won’t be there for your life’s best moments or to correct you when you make mistakes. More than anything else, I am sorry for not writing many more letters, not teaching you everything I have come to know and recognise.

But that is not what I write my last letter for. I write to you, to remind you that it is important to think about things. Often when you come across a hard situation in life, people might tell you – “Forget it”. They might ask you to move on, sail with the current. They might probe you to do the first thing your heart says. Don’t you ever do that.

When you feel afraid or unsure, give yourself the time you deserve. Have the dignity and the courage to look at the sky in the most pressing of times and ponder, and dream and question. And in the end, always stand up for that one unbroken voice that echoes inside of you, because only that voice is truly yours and because I promise, love, that that voice is right.

Your Mother