I saw my Patronus emerge from the Hookah pipe, shapeless at first, then the silhouette of a tiger, prancing, fading once again into oblivion. I inhaled, breathed it out slowly, hoping to see her again but alas, the smoke danced its way into the sky, in long drawn out curves, like the strokes of a Japanese painting. I had hoped for a genie to appear from the confines of the decorated glass bulb, grant me three wishes, maybe more, and then leave without asking for naught. But that, dear pipe, was asking for too much, was it not?
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?
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.
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.