Death by D

Have you heard the shutter on an SLR, not knowing how the picture turned out, not caring either because that shot’s over and there’s still so much more to capture? Have you seen beauty through a viewfinder, no pixels, just real life, focused, alive only to feel the disappointment of realizing your film roll is over? Have you squinted through a Loupe at a negative and painted it with colour in your head? Have you walked in the rain to your favourite Kodak Studio to get your negatives developed, wishing you could go in and learn the process, meddle with a little hypo? Have you waited for days with bated breath, imagining how the pictures turned out, rolling the next reel nervously? Have you felt the excitement of receiving that envelope, carefully sliding out one glossy photo after another, marveling at the science of it all, how reels and moulds of plastic gave you memories? Have you spent hours labeling and organizing your photo albums, real, live ones made of paper and not on flickr?

Have you felt the pain of watching the dust settle on your SLR, its life treated to a slow death by the letter D?




To a Bong.

She and I
we bonded over
communism and chai.

We converse in English
for our disoriented Hindi,
‘raha’ confused with ‘rahi’, wouldn’t satisfy

Pineapples and rum,
as we talk of beef and hinduism
and the remnants of colonialism.

We revel in our mutual aversion
to BJP’s and Congress’s brands of extremism,
and say Amen to our passive atheism.

We fell in love
with our love for literature bred in two states,
though we’d never touch Two States.

Kafka in Kolkata
Murakami in Idukki
and us at Dona Paula Jetty

What more can one ask for
When you find a kindred spirit,
someone who’ll always bring the perfect bottle of spirit.

Cafe Mojo, Panjim

Mistral Gagnant

The smell of oak, the touch of polished teak. I paint a picture of a gallery, a cafe, a bar, under the moonlight, under the stars, sheesha smoke rising from the dimly lit tables, a profile of faces, of mysterious people, speaking in soft voices, the essence of the place like roasted almonds glazed with dark chocolate. A dusty piano in the corner, a dancer drawn by the sounds and the smells, moves, spins, stretches and bends. An endless night as we beg the morning not to come, take your time, dear Sun, give the moon her night in the limelight. You, a mirage, a mind that I yearn for, a body that I long for, a soul that I have not yet found the words for. Hand painted tiles, stone floors, plants in glass bottles and yellow lights framed in nests. You paint a picture of a cafe, a bookstore, a bar, under the heavens, under the open sky, rusty voices rising from the bar counter, people who seek happiness at the bottom of the beer mug and people who’ve already found it. ‘My very own brand of single malt whisky,’ you whisper. Dreams we dream, never to turn into reality, the thoughts fade, like sucking on a candy till its gone, but the taste lingers, like Mistral Gagnant.

Milky Way by Wellington Parmar


I saw the crumbling walls partake
In a tango with Death
Never to be fully alive again
But never short of breath.

The gold plated pillars of the Basilica echoed
With the voices of the faithful
But the real prayer rose from the shush of the garden,
the blooming trees eternally grateful

For they were yet to be felled as their kin had been
to make way for casinos and resorts
where the trees are of a different pedigree,
always trimmed and shaped, ready to greet foreign passports.

An old man selling trinkets, pulled me aside
showed me rosaries and garlands from all over the nation
Can you blame him for taking part
in an ancient trade, the business of religion?

The museum displayed its wares, the stories
In granite, polished and taken,
Its makers long dead, their lives a prelude
To a fugue of events lost and forgotten.

In Altinho the roads twisted and turned,
framed by mansions, each with a magnificient balcao
‘This land that once was ours, now beyond our reach,’
thinks the boy pushing along his cart full of pao

I heard the locals sigh with relief
‘Off-season at last, the party animals won’t be back till December
Now it’s time to welcome the monsoon
let’s hope climate change doesn’t frown on us till September’

The lakes, the waterfalls, the little spaces
that act as escapades for animal and man alike
from the monstrosity of globalization, the new mall
a new eyesore, like a head stuck on a pike

Bicholim, Sanguem, they’re untouched, they say,
no tourists, no drugs, peace and quiet they say
but little did they expect visitors in the form of giant red gashes
the hills torn open for iron because who can make do with clay

Off season for the whites, in-season for the browns, from the concrete cages
of Mumbai and Delhi, with their aviators and chubby brats in tow
they arrive armed with their selfie sticks
‘If you haven’t clubbed at Cabana then what do you know’

‘I studied in Miramar’ he says, ‘I grew up in Sanquelim’,
the tremble in his voice betraying the thoughts he would not name
‘There were no ugly buildings here in my childhood, no garbage.’
‘Some say it’s the tourists but I say we’ve only got ourselves to blame.’

Maybe it’s time you stopped and looked
at the prostitution of Miranda’s art,
or the exploitation of the old world charms,
at the way this land has been made to sell its every part

Maybe you’ll see the wounded land partake
in a tango with Death
Never to be fully alive again
but never short of breath.

Houses of Goa, Porvorim


They open their mouths
A song of despair
or a song to rejoice
They must prepare

They wail and weep
at the things they’ve seen
as they travel past the oceans
and the land, no place they haven’t been

They watch from above as the humans
blind to their own insignificance,
wage wars for trivial reasons
smoke rising from cities not incense

Once a palette of vibrant greens
Now a palette tainted with gray
The lands plundered by concrete
the river banks clothed in plastic not clay

They watch as the mortals wound her soul,
they will not let her age with grace
Her foresty covering sold piece by piece
to the highest bidder holding the mace

Her beautiful green dress
that feeds them and keeps them in the sky,
now ripped to shreds.
An act of rape, no one knows why.

They vow to avenge her
with their only power
The mortals scream as the floods come
The rain incessant, a cry from nature

They open their mouths
They chose a song of despair
‘No reason to rejoice’, say the stormclouds
as they soar through the cold air.


Museum of Goa, artwork by Subodh Kerkar

On being an adult

When do you know you’re an adult?
It’s when you wake up one day and realize that you have responsibilities, that maybe it’s time you repaid your parents for everything they’ve put up with all these years and that maybe it’s time you were more careful with your words because they might have actual consequences. One day you realize you have no one but yourself no matter how many friends or family you thought you had when you were a kid; you realize that ultimately it’s just you who gives a shit about yourself. You realize people are selfish and that’s okay because everyone has a right to be. You realize it’s time you started finding a way to keep yourself alive, not for pure sustenance but because you don’t want to miss out on life because you keep hoping there are better days ahead. When you were a kid you thought that at 21 you’d have your life figured out, you’d be a rockstar or a famous painter but you’re 21 one day and you’re still as clueless. But this time you know you don’t have time on your side anymore. You’re an adult when you realize the value of time; when you’d give all your tomorrows for just one yesterday, when you cling on to every second hoping it’ll last longer but it never does.You’re an adult when you have to weigh every action before you do it. You’re an adult when you hurt someone and get hurt in the process and you’ve spent some nights crying and some nights laughing by yourself. You’re an adult when you’ve spun a cocoon of maturity around yourself.

Museum of Goa


Can a box crab think outside the box?
Does it sift through the sand on the seabed,
all the while looking up and wondering
what life must be like beyond the glittering ceiling?

Is a jackfruit the jack of all trades?
Does its size feed its ego,
or is the hard spiky shell just a facade,
a cover for the softie on the inside?

Can a mango tell when it’s time to let a man go?
Does it understand the intricacies of love,
first a bud that blossoms, grows into a fruit that ripens
and is consumed, then cast away, never to be spoken of again?

Is my fan my only fan?
Does everyone have one
or do we depend on electricity to make us feel
that there are people who love us and they might be real?

Can an ice cream scream ‘I scream’?
Does it hurt when its molecules
are bitten into, chewed and digested
to satisfy a taste we’ve festered?

Is a wire always wired to perform?
Does it feel small when it’s shorted
lying there, skinny and limp and tired
always used to make ends meet but never admired?

Can the stage be merely another stage in life?
Does the artist realize his volatility,
the fact that the audience that cheers with such gusto today
may tomorrow cheer for another, his name never to see the light of day?

Have you seen a pen on a window sill wishing it were mortal like a pencil?
Maybe it wishes it had a history, a tree it could say it came from
a forest it could imagine once having been a part of,
Does its plastic body feel bionic, not a choice,
just something it happened to be made of?

What do you think?
But first I should ask,
do you think?

Museum of Goa, sculpture by Subodh Kerkar.