The Stills of Life

A teaspoon of philosophy melds with a tablespoon of reality in my mind’s eye,
That the tendrils of time, sitting upon my tongue, daub insistently on my smile

Ink stains blue my finger tips
Calloused by their genteel labors
Upon the grays of black-and-whites
As the minutes turn into hours

Them faceless thus dance, endlessly
Their silent music greeting all ears
While the sightless, deafeningly,
Dip the brush in a sea of tears

Garbled hues then mottle my world
That stands still to the vagaries of time
Moments, both terrible and terrific,
Burn brightly and gently die.

– Akanksha Gupta

Constance: Of Inner Revolution & Outer Evolution

Those were the days
That flew upon the breeze
Scented with platters
Of words-worthy feasts

Them wintry special editions
Of home cooked meals
Warmed up like Enid Blytons
Seasoned with John Keats

The lazy summer afternoons too
Sprawled with Agatha Christies;
My bread and butter
Your wine and cheese

The popular cliques’
Nancy Drews were just
So sickeningly sweet,
They squatted prettily
Like jars of jam
Languishing in ignominy

That was when Sherlock Holmes
Was the gentleman’s gentlemen
And John Grisham a treatise,
And David Baldacci was as legal
As you could get
In a thrill baker’s paradise

But Shakespeare was
The Indians’ Chinese soup
All slurped down in delight,
Until pig’s blood like misogyny
Left ’em squirming in surprise

That was when Austen and Bronte
Were the Julia Childs of English Lit,
Deliciously piquant in delivery despite
Their obsession with etiquette

In contrast, the desi summer retreats
Became a much needed respite,
Cutting through the western sensibilities
With spicy mythological strife

Their sensationally spiritual plots
And samosa-eared pages of lore
Could wage a Game of Thrones
With more honour and less gore

Where Satya Jit Ray sprightly sleuthed
From fortresses to chawls,
Arunadhati Roy bluntly sluiced
Variety with liberal over hauls

Then came Chetan Bhagat
To conquer cinema with realism,
But with grammar like pirated pizza’s
He posed Adiga little competition

Thusly, the experiments with
Fictional truths grew by and by,
As I kept up with nuggets of
Phantasmagoria on the sly

It was the best of times, indeed,
It was the worst of times,
To have swum through the Trojan wars
Yet have doddered into Twilight

It was the age of wisdom, truly,
It was the age of foolishness,
Where the literature of examinations battled
To gain foothold in my reading lists

This fascist state of poiesis
Kept me winded and on my toes;
With History and Future in a flux
I spent hours thinking fast and slow

And through this epoch of identity politics,
Cultural wars and Digital putsch,
That the fad of Harry Potter thrived
Became a universally acknowledged truth

– Akanksha Gupta

A Hole-In-The-Wall

I’ve always been someone
Rather inconspicuous
Rather ordinary,
Terribly awkward about everything
And awfully clumsy

Yet I’ve found myself in severe arguments
Willing and unwilling repartees,
Thrillingly innocent adventures
Brimming with anomalies

There is an unrest within
A proclivity for annoyance,
A desire to be anonymous
While indulging in flamboyance

They call it individuality
A vanilla curiously original,
Without elegance or intricacies
Yet standing out in the peripheral

I am standing in my shoes
But uncomfortably wear my skin,
Perhaps it’s all the eyes on me
That I wish I wouldn’t imagine

My irrepressible inner conspiracy theorist
Shudders in irreverent timidity,
Wanting to minify my presence
While standing with enforced equanimity

There is a tug of war
And I am balanced precariously,
The rope is taut, pulled on either ends
By paradoxical ideologies

I am very present in every thought
And absent from reality,
Thusly standing in the shoes of the self-involved
Quietly convinced of a self-aware personality

– Akanksha Gupta

What Makes the World Tick

I like to think
I am like a pendulum;
I am wont to seesaw
Between
A very high opinion
Of myself
And a critically flawed
One

Yet unlike the pendulum
This wont is an artist’s science –
Abstract rhythm
Immeasurable rhyme
It ebbs and flows
Like a musician’s score,
Its intensity oft rendering
Thinking a chore,
And in this state my Subconscious
Still battles with indecision;
A furious yet subliminal exercise
Both, a virtue and a vice
That’s crept up in my sinews
Contracting, expanding,
In sweet delirium
(Quite unlike alcohol)
Therefore,
And Apparently,
This makes it good for the soul,
Like,
Chicken soup!
Drinking in incredible stories –
An oblivious escape
A deliberate distraction
A tragic twist
An inspiring action –

Each oscillation thusly stokes
The storyteller’s
Imagination
And, don’t we have them all?
Stories to tell
Stories to live
Even as we’re grasping
At the straws
We push through
And pull rabbits
Out of our ordinary tales –
Veritable magicians we are
With bewilderingly bewitching brains
That delude themselves
To swing
Between
Self love
And loathing

– Akanksha Gupta

The Fault in the Alteration

The day
Like embroidery
Is fine

It scrapes across the fingertips
And digs ‘neath the roughshod nails
Before it eases into night
And the hardships gently wane
And ebb and flow with tendresse
Of each, now habitual, caress
That kneads the creases and furrows away

The day
Like embroidery
Is fine

It scrapes across the fingertips
It digs ‘neath the roughshod nails
Benign, as a child’s gaze,
It draws blood –
It plucks each drop
And hurls into the design
Of Drowning suns
And Ruby skies

The drops pool
The wounds cool
The day rests into night
The rains glaze over the reds
That macabrely coalesce
Along the hardened lines

But if the fault
Were upturned
The rains would gently graze the reds
And ebb and flow with tendresse
Of each, now habitual, caress
That kneads the creases and furrows away

Then the day
Unbeguiled
Like embroidery
Would also smile

– Akanksha Gupta

Because the ‘P’ in ‘Prude’ is Surreptitiously Silent

Dichotomizing the masses
Into Haves and Have-Nots
Misclassifies
Those who think out of the box

Bestowing polarized labels
That qualify all difference
Serves to consciously diminish
Both diversity and tolerance

Proscribing and prescribing
With sanctimony the sacrilege
Rattles no glass ceilings
But blinders the window ledge

Sermonizing and imposing
These truths on unknown polities
Translates into unintelligent
And offensive foreign policies

Pitiably unaware
In the headiness of pan-superiority
Immune to introspection
The mind languishes
Oblivious
To its own insecurities

– Akanksha Gupta

Preception

Unbidden
The thoughts of yesterday
Threaten to drown me
And I’m reminded
There’s a fine line
Between careless and carefree

Those who
Throw caution to the winds
Yet come out smelling like roses
Know we’re accustomed
And inured
To our own play of ignorance

Those who
Mince words, measure thoughts
Yet are censured for every gesture,
Unknowingly let them out
In their voice, in their eyes
And in their posture

Justice is blind
But Judgment is deaf
And while Reason is neither
It sputters when
Truth is mute
And Instinct has taken over

– Akanksha Gupta

Critical Reception

In pursuit of perfection
Our grimy sight stains
Our very own reflection
Leaving little room
To brood upon
Anything but

And even if that weren’t to be
A tiny glimpse of perfection
Would inevitably
Burn down all ambition
Only for the ash to, anew,
Tarnish the erstwhile
Flawless contours
And thusly stoke
The dying embers to life –
A critic reborn
A critic revived

– Akanksha Gupta

Conjunct

And so, and yet,
Life toasts to and with
Glasses half filled,
Half spilled, half empty,
And so, and yet,
Delicious
In their entirety,
Where taste is a mindful perception
And mind a powerful beast
The heart is an overpowering illusion
And so, and yet,
Is breaking free

– Akanksha Gupta

Transience

I watch
A miasma of brush strokes
Trailing over
The canvas of life –
Dull, bright, warm, sharp
Their watermarks
Evade the sight
But those that loiter
I notice
The crinkly lines
That embellish their every stroke –
Bold, rugged, shy, sleek
Impressions that time erodes
But those that linger
I remember
The dots and crosses
That stagger each line
Big, small, subtle, sublime,
An expression that holds
The redolence of time –
A taste of vintage memories
That swarm
With an ageless, decadent grace
Yet ultimately
When everything fades
Period and pause
Everything fades
They say
Life is funny that way

– Akanksha Gupta

Teacher’s Day

To all my teachers: Happy Teacher’s Day!

It’s been years since graduation
I measure that time and distance
In values
That paved our way
In beliefs
That kept us walking
In attitude
That set the rhythm to our gait
And in fortitude
That carried us across

Because
The knowledge we then
Naively gauged us in
When faded away,
The wisdom
Wisely remained –
In the wordplay
During interactions
And the unintended wit
In the reactions –
Their impressions
Gained
In girth and momentum

So while it’s been years since graduation
I measure that space in memories
Too priceless to put a tag to –
Even words are not enough
To express my gratitude

Love,
Akanksha

The Illusion of Freedom

My fingers don’t shake
Yet my pen hesitates
And the paper is black and blue.
I tighten my hold –
Had I been so lax
As to let the pen grow bold?
It is but a paper anyway;
And papers come and papers go –
The convenient martyrs
Of our self-effacing ways,
Covering our rot within theirs,
Letting our thoughts stay
Strangled within our throats –
Little birds
That now whisper
In our ears
Words
That make words cower,
And ideas, that yearn
To run free,
Find themselves
Short of words
Suddenly,
Apparently,
Justifiably.

– Akanksha Gupta

Lurking In Them Blue Pills

A house stood
In the far east end
Not quite marble white
Mud brown or charcoal black —
The colour faded before its quiet strength
Like the yellow of the yellow pages
And the red of the red moons —
Turning, waxing, waning —
Like a gnomon
Meditating
In its own shadow
Not so much abandoned or reclusive
As part forgotten, part oblivious,
And part elusive —
Just enough to have
A perceived objective clarity
As a bridge
Between dream and reality —
A house
Sometimes rented,
Sometimes owned,
Seldom sold,
Seeing all under its sun
Through windows
Cataracted to its soul

– Akanksha Gupta

MATCH 22

All the world’s a matchbox
And all its people a bundle of sticks
Unequally proportioned their figures
With peculiarly apportioned heads
Each with unique entrances
And equally unique exits

To begin with they are thusly formed
When each newborn, slithers
Out of the same old mould –
The wilderness; the savage stones
(By the book of cut-and-fold)
Crumbled, sutured and apparently, evolved

Assembly line production
(I hear tell it’s called)
Intelligently programmed to introduce
Per product Transgressions
Where every Difference in the delicate mix
Starts subtle, but grows, startlingly

To sow
The basis of conflicts
Villains and heroes – the tragic misfits
Stories and legends – the tragedies
Bards, audiences –
Subtextual nobodies

Co-existing under the same roof
Put asunder by the same goal –
To burn brighter than the bright
Sooner and longer than the rest,
To leave scorch marks in the wake
That remain undead after death

This struggle for a phosphorescent fame
Inflames the longer left unlit,
Fuelled by the silhouette of innominate death
Born of an unfortunate circumstance;
Such as dereliction due to dis(or mis)use
Or an incurable, congenital defect

And so every head butts against every other
To scratch and tip the scales in its favour
But – even & by sporting a red dye – every form
Remains conspicuously uniform
Making no difference to the fortune or fate
Of those unchosen abiding time and faith

Who rejoice at the measliest spark
That might just kickstart them into burning bright,
But after being brightly lit for timeless ticks
These enlightened (or accidentally ignited) minds
Flicker like flailing fish toward their end, then surge,
And cease, with a soundless dirge

Lamenting that while they lived, they lived
The way they were supposed to live
With the only changes being when-from,
How-bright, and importantly, for-how-long
Never stopping by, to wonder why –
Much like the cogs in a wheel – what-for

Thus it is why that history
Tends to seamlessly repeat itself
For every life is wrought with instinctive greed
In a box overcome with collective unease
Stemming from the common fear
That one day they’d quietly disappear –

A microcosm of civil friction,
Embrittled by a puppeteer’s dance,
A macrocosm of fractious civilisations,
Even as bundled together in a united stance –
Insidious match; afraid to combust –
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

– Akanksha Gupta

 

Quotidian

trolleybus-stop-big-city-vector-drawing-bus-street-50251794

Humming a half-chewed
Part eschewed
Hastily rewritten
Version of ‘Zehnaseeb’,
I am waiting at the bus stop –
Now 20 minutes and counting;
My patience is floundering,
It’s like time has stopped for me.
Why, it’s with recurring, insipid and
Unguarded jealousy,
That I watch the little people hop
Into their little taxis
That come, that go,
That go, that come,
While, all the while,
My unsteady fingers
Steadily drum,
And a deft foot taps
Left, then right,
While idle thumbs twiddle
Verbosity alight,
And oh!
There I see
The bus  my bus
Merrily making its way,
With the torturous velocity
Of an ignoramus, unambitious snail…
Ah finally! It has stopped 
To let the passengers go;
Tedious and slow,
As they clench within them,
An unhidden, unbidden desire
To push against
The damn viscous flow,
And, oh no 
Aboard, there still are,
Two lost foreign souls
Talking with an equally lost driver
(Who’s desperate to return
To looking bored)
And I?
With an inward sigh, I shake my head
And brave my left foot before right,
To become the First Person on the Bus 
First  since some 30 minutes ago,
The First Woman, actually
(Because, somehow, it matters more)
And so,
The rest of the people,
Now undaunted and properly sheepled,
Step in too;
Unceremoniously hinting a good-bye
To the poor lost foreign souls

– Akanksha Gupta