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

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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

Inertia | A Proof by Contradiction

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The state of being idle
Is ideal in itself
Unreactive to any situation
Unresponsive to any request
Completely inert
And inertly happy within itself

To have not
Awakens a hunger
To have
Awakens more yet
To be oblivious to simply having
Rouses no regrets

To Not to be
Incites a longing
To be
Stirs up a hornet’s nest
Yet being oblivious to the question
Yields no such desire for success

That having said,
A sorrowful success
Beams
Remorselessly at idle beings
For, to have not oscillated
Between any two extremes,
Lulls into a sense of complacency,
Where, all is not what seams to seem –

The seams between experiences
Are not stitched flawlessly,
But are absent
Because they are unnecessary,
After all,
Gaping chasms are inert
And collapse unto themselves
Soundlessly

– Akanksha Gupta

Continuum

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We are but stories
Told from birth to death
And if special enough
Prophesied and celebrated
And yet, I can’t help but wonder
Which is worse, or if any is better

The stories, however
Remain indifferent.

Yet
It’s curious how
They ebb and flow into each other
Until their very edges are frayed
And indistinguishable
As strands of time
Lost to and in a sea of murmurs
Their individuality threatened
Their impact everlasting
Paradoxical
And utterly flabbergasting

And so,
Though we are but stories
Told from birth to death
We are born of many others
And birth some ourselves
And yet, I can’t help but wonder
That the question of which story came first
Is not unlike that of chicken-and-egg

The stories, however
Remain indifferent

Yet,
It’s curious how
They roll and cascade into each other
Until they are but one story
Infinite on both ends
A mesmerizing sea of murmurs
Whose individuality is ephemeral
And impact everlasting
That which is paradoxical
And utterly flabbergasting

– Akanksha Gupta

In Limbo

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When I was younger
And couldn’t even reach up to that doorless shelf
Where your cruel crafty self hid my jar of mango pickle,
I wished to be just a little bit taller
And a tad more carefree
I didn’t know then
I was unknowingly
Tossing my wishes into the well
Of deliciously ageless irony
For you see,
When I was younger,
I wished to be
Exactly as old as you,
For I felt that you had no homework
And that Papa just read news,
I couldn’t wait to be there too –
Me as old as you and you as old as me;
I couldn’t wait for time to liquefy
And slip past my fingers.
But as years went by, and university called to me
And as the easygoing school syllabus of ten months
Got compressed into tiny nuggets of three
Every time that the exams arrived
I sighed and held my breath
I longed for that liquefied time
To season those nuggets with.
Too late twas when I realised
I wanted to savour those moments,
Hoping that somehow they’d stretch themselves and
Tuck me in, like blankets in my sleep.
But somewhere along the way
Those flimsy blankets too slipped away
And now as I yearn for their warmth,
Every time that I apply for jobs
Or talk to the next gen folk,
The sign of a grown-up life
Flashes much more lucidly before my eyes.
It’s that melee of excitement
With a fear of uncertainty
And an utter dependency on self,
Whence Sophie’s choice and Murphy’s law
Seem to be playing the devil’s advocate,
And me?
I am standing in limbo
Between the devil and the deep blue sea,
Balancing my hopes on a nylon rope;
Those plans of wanting to work hard up the ladder
Seem to be laced with mettle no more
Because the ladder is frail
And its steps paced erratically
Now
Listening to them grown-up problems
Makes me think so differently
For living the erstwhile third person analysis
Is a completely different story

– Akanksha Gupta

The Hollow

Browning leaves lay strewn on the forest floor in a fair imitation of a kaleidoscope. The barren trees with spindly trunks were mourning their loss. Their silence was deafening; occasionally broken by flocks of birds chirping through the dawn, a cacophony of insects serenading through the night and the gently flowing waters of the creek.

I remember this day like yesterday. She must have been thirty-five when I clicked this picture. We were on the outskirts of the forest a few blocks away from our house. It was the first picture I deemed acceptable for entering into a photography contest. She had insisted on calling it “The Hollow”. At that time, I never understood why.

Since yesterday, I’ve been going through a lifetime of memories she left me with in her scabby old trunk. Of all the pictures in it, my eyes can’t seem to part with this one. It looks hazy now, and feels wet. I wipe it with shaky hands. It hurts; it shouldn’t, but it does. It is not so much that she is dead but the fact that she died without recalling me. It’s been five years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

– Akanksha Gupta

The Tissue Chronicles

There is something to be said for the transience of tissues,

From Kleenex to Gossamer;

Of Kleenex

I wish all paper

Could wither away

Like this one;

Burdened with thoughts,

Unburdening another,

And the thoughts going no further.

Of Gossamer

Some times I wonder

The others I wander

About different people

About different places

Knowing, all that there is to glean

Lies in wait in between.

– Akanksha Gupta

Schizophrenia

Says the spider to the fly,
“Always, always I snugly lie
In my web of truths
And now I’ve caught you too”

The fly, in kind, replies,
“I’ll find an escape route”

But on the sly, the spider laughs
“Oh you’re well and truly caught
No reason to deny
None of your elaborate plots
That run afoot
Can help you seek the way to lie”

The fly, however, self-assured
Wills the spider to watch
As it tells the truths from lies

Neither of them aware that
The spider is the fly

– Akanksha Gupta

Echoes Past the Point of No Return

A million voices bleed in my head
Pleading for a solid coalition
But I know the quota is limited
So I stand perplexed
Resisting temptation

You see, somewhere ages and ages ago
There was another set of voices
And though, long, I stood at the crossroads
As no storm did I hear them forebode
I discriminated between neither of the choices

Thence, teetering at the end of sanity
I waited for the next interlude
Whence I shrunk my limit to unity
Choosing the voice with the greatest amity
In anticipation of a sanguine quietude

But, as I languished in the passivity of the refuge
My voice lost all its vivacity
So for the following season of vocal deluge
I chose to rebel against the complacent attitude
Which has cost me more than my sanity

Now, as I stand at dawn of the next chapter
With the voices having returned with a vengeance
I stare at my ever-growing puzzle in wonder
Uncertain of the solitary piece I must discover
That which shall make all the difference

– Akanksha Gupta

Size Zero and the Girth of Sensitivity

I sat in a pizzeria
Munching on a pizza
An Italian thin crust
Lips olive oiled
Throat margarita’ed

A lady came in sobbing
And sat by my side
I took one look
At her stricken face
And barked “Who Died”

My bark was courteous
Without a hint of snark
But as she swivelled to me
In her bare-faced incredulity
I basked

Her tear-laden face
Turned many a shade of red
Mutiny, shock and anger
Were amongst a few
That ran rampant

“Wha-What” she uttered
“How clichéd” I muttered
And raised my brows
As she indignantly
Stuttered and spluttered

She called me many a names
I’ll spare your innocent ears
And all the while
That she spoke
She forgot to pinch out tears

When I remarked
Upon this remarkable phenomenon
Her frustrated eyes
Seemed to spit fire, screaming
‘Run, you bully, run’

But I’m not a son of a gun
And therefore munched on amused
As the mental conversation
Played on unfettered, yet
Ears infernally abused

For the lady sat sobbing still
Unspoken words, wet cheeks
It is times such as these
That I wish to let
My inner Sherlock skulk free

– Akanksha Gupta

Encapsulation

The ink of prose,

Sophisticated and staid,

Prosily stains the sheets;

Spilling words upon words

With reckless abandon –

In expectation

Of a lengthy greatness

And in want

Of unnerving honesty; 

The sort that can be

Effortlessly eclipsed

In the guise

Of poetry

– Akanksha Gupta

ARCHITECTURE

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The Inspiration For “Architecture”

Look at me
I’m a marble masterpiece
Sublime, serene and standing tall
Stained with the fumes of yesteryears
The past dredges up against my shores
But at the core
I’m a mausoleum
Whose walls are lined with memoirs
And the weight of each word within
Settles encoffined upon my breath
Entombing the truth indoors
Like a whisper lost in the abyss
Like a skeleton buried forevermore
Yet at the fore
With practiced ease
My smile stretches to meet your own
And I let its gaze
Graze the contours of my face
Wondering all the while
If I’d have preferred it to penetrate
Past the grandeur of my turrets
To the Pietra Dura inlays
The very reflections of your soul within me
Or to the desolate cenotaphs
The carcasses of my past
Laid bare to your scrutiny
I wonder if, then,
I would have smiled
Or welcomed your expression within mine
But as I shallowly gaze upon
The great expectations in yours eyes
I savor the naiveté of my thoughts
Having realized
That as much as my soul
May be shuttered to your own
Twice more
It is to mine

– Akanksha Gupta (poem)

The QuadCore Brain



ACT I : The Belligerent Sycophant 

I wish
I could carve out
A path
From my head to my heart
And rationalize every thought
And every chemical reaction
With a melting pot
Of facts, figures and emotions
I wish
I could dissolve
All my scruples and sorrows
With nary a care
About the tuples of tomorrow
Oh I wish many a wish
And dream many a dream
But right now all I can focus on
Is, my senses tingling
From the cool of the ice cream


ACT II : The Silent Activist 

I’m trying to improve my handwriting
Making it clearer
So that when I put down my thoughts
And ideas
And opinions
I can go back and recollect them
So that they leave in my memory
An indelibly clearer impression
They are an expression in time
Of Circumstances and the society
Of myself and those around me
And I wish to put them down
Elegantly and tidily
To preserve them for eternity
To remember, to recall, the actions
To study the reactions
And learn from the inactions
Most of all


– Akanksha Gupta