Part 4- Love, laughter, luxury: the metamorphosed Delhi

Dear Qi,

It has been long I know. Ever since I boarded that fateful flight on July 6, I haven’t had a second to reminisce. The earlier plan was to stop, see, go but Delhi enamoured me, most unexpectedly. As soon as I landed in all my hippiedom, the leviathan on my back, the daunting red stroller at my heel, I was gathered and buried deep in the arms of lush green & earthy brown.

The city after seven years looked like it had been manicured into a model for lavish living. Each red brick and cream coloured dome was breathing new history, writing a new future. If kindness could be measured, I’d be drowning. From renewing old sinews to weaving new wreaths, from the newly renovated “non-smoking” India Coffee House in Connaught Place to the mushrooming liberal East side.

I witnessed the urban underbelly in the graffiti adorned subway selling Tribal handicraft, I tasted Korea in their cuisine, soju (Korean vodka) & graphic novels in the seedy by lanes of garish “Punjabi” Pahadganj. I found an isolated English cabin called Sakleys in the midst of concrete buildings. As my friends kindly awarded me with the title of “cloud carrier”, we revelled on roads mirroring generous dark clouds.

There were pleasant incidents & experiences, then there were events that wringed my heart with regret for ever doubting the Dil (heart) in Dilli (Delhi).

My friend and I fixed an appointed hour to meet at The Monkey Bar in South Delhi. With my obsession for arriving on time, I was there early waiting for her.

A pleasantly smiling young man in the restaurant uniform walked up to me,”Do you play the guitar?”

I glanced at the tall black cover standing erect behind my chair, “I’m still training on my own”.

“I used to perform in a band in Manipur. I had to migrate to Delhi for money,” wistful glint of a smile.

“Would you like to play?” I offered. He jumped at the opportunity and played a local love song. His colleagues thronged to our table, lavishing attention & conversation as I waited for my friend to arrive. Next thing I know, word had spread far & wide till it reached the owner, coincidentally a friend’s acquaintance and I was on my way to getting pampered fancifully at their premium eatery!

After a brief stay with this friend in Gurgaon, I set out to brave the potholed, monsoon frothing streets. An eager cab driver pulled close, it was an Easy Cab with an aged, smiling face behind the wheel. I propped in with no knowledge of a cheaper means of commute.

 

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“How much would it cost me from here to East Delhi?”

“Roughly Rs.1100”, he said calculating quickly.

Sensing my disappointment, he offered, “I could drop you till the next metro station, it would be cheaper & quicker.”

He looked genuinely willing, but the skeptic in me wanted to smell a motive.

I smiled instead, “thank you”, the wheels set in motion.

“Are you not from Delhi?”

I decided to be honest, pushing my boundaries, “No I’m from Bombay.”

As though a switch flicked, “You’re from outside? Let me show you around Gurgaon”. Before I could protest he’d wheeled us into a less crowded lane which looked safe but desolate. There he began waxing eloquent of the skeletal structures which would soon turn into architectural marvels. He insisted I stop at a popular eatery for their unmatched Biryani. Had I not been attending to anxious friends I would’ve indulged.

“I’ll drop you to the nearest Delhi metro station. The station in Gurgaon is always crowded.”

I mutely agreed mentally calculating the money in my wallet.

After myriad stories of Assamese tradition (Did you know Assamese people add Tsri before their name to signify that the person is alive and Tsargiya for the dead?), his hometown in Assam & his 25 years of driving on Delhi streets, we finally arrived at Chhatarpur station.

“How much is it?” I enquired, partly pleading in my head to not exceed the currency in my wallet.

He chuckled, “I turned the meter off long back madamji. You are a guest here, you need not pay.”

How would you react if you were in my shoes? I was simply dumbfounded, even partly relieved. I still insisted to pay something for I had run out of words to acknowledge the goodness of his heart. He accepted a hundred rupee note and began to hand me back lose change.

I guiltily resisted but he politely insisted,”Keep it. You’ll need it at the metro counter.”

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I thanked him profusely and walked up to the counter. He was right! The change was more than sufficient, he had returned a lot more than the metro fare.

Over that one hour metro ride, I couldn’t stop smiling. Each time I felt there was a hint of a wayward glance or a wanton comment, I battled it inwardly with the strength of his kindness. It was like my Petronus charm.

I fall back upon your wisdom Qi. The world is a mirror, a reflection of your fiercest fears and brightest beliefs. I hadn’t just survived the city, I had conquered it. I allowed Delhi to cradle me to its bosom and in return, I’d found a new home.

My friend says kindness is like a boomerang, you put it out in the world and it finds you, no matter where you are. I promise to put it out without inhibition, I promise to harness the wisdom of affection, silently, unendingly. I promise to spread your legacy.

Until the next turn in the road,

PC

Priyanka Charan

 

 


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Magic

 

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Lisabeth

                                                     Artwork By Judit Szakter

 

 

Love, Sugar, Self

I went scavenging for the meaning of love, no philosophy here, simple words that put a thought to context. As vain and vile as the first result on GOOGLE search. I’ve been tracing my pattern of an upsurge in love, inversely proportional to how consuming any activity is at that point in time. I felt severity, an all obsessive need for destruction, the all or none, the need to go all the way till the end and race back to start like you never existed, in this universe or my parallel one. It’s a game you see, a kind of politics where there’s indifference or destruction. I choose to not know you till you follow me halfway across my doom. Then, I surrender to your whim and start scraping you hollow, inch by inch, nook and cranny, till I’ve become you and inanely in love with this self I create. Then, as you begin to retreat from my hook, I dig my claws deeper until you’re nailed to my door like the inanimate collar of a comfortably worn out sweatshirt. Warm, habitual, homely. Then, it’s time to go. To run from you like anathema, like an empty cake tin that has been licked clean without any trace, nothing to offer except the faint waft of vanilla essence. The sugar in my blood has ebbed, the danger is diluted by your lack of mystery and attention, my interest wanes and I selfishly go chasing another cookie or caramel or chocolate even. The curse of our times love, is the idea of soul mate, monogamy, ritual and habitual love. It begins like freshly baked bread performing with an extra swell in the breast on a well stocked table till crumbs rest unattended to feed vermin. How can every fiber of my being sync with your scattered vibes? How can you satisfy flesh that is naturally designed to lust after rainbows? The body can’t eat bread and soup in a lifetime when there’s sweetmeats of unending range to offer. It tears me to love you and want you knowing you’ll only be that bakery display I yearned for once on a sugar high.

This body will decay, age, turn into a shrivelled bundle of loathing and repulse. When you begin to mark your journey in the creases and marks in the folds of your sagging skin, you would’ve arrived at your daily doze of optimum sweetness, maybe an artificial sweetener. Spend yourself on me like saccharine to boiling water. Blend and dissolve in me, leave me like I’ll leave you. A bitter dessert, sweet bacon, burnt caramel. I’ll remember you for the way you left and trace it back to the sugar you left me tasting on my lips. While craving strawberry compote.

Priyanka Charan

 

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Artist: Ana  Mutavdzic

Artwork: November Rain

 

Bags are Packed – Part 1 – Verses Inked

Bags are Packed – Part 1

Brogue – On the Road – Verses Inked

Verses Inked© logo
prose

 

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Dear Qi,

Last night I booked myself on the cheapest one way flight to finding myself, yet again. I’m a week away from taking off and my stomach is simmering.

I fondly rerun the balmy evenings post a hard day’s labor, spent at the same hole-in-the-wall, the same ceramic cups filled with watery black coffee. It was our conversations in the glow of the setting sun that made each cup that much more sweet. You said you could read my mind, from my caffeine cravings to my need to wander. You encouraged me to make music, seek answers, travel far and wide in search of what always lay within. That my hostile environment was a projection of my inner insecurities. That the world was safe and beautiful for those who had the eyes for it.

I haven’t travelled without a plan in six years now and caution is a baggage age has conveniently dumped on me. You were all of fifty when you set out to conquer uncharted territories in a language which could never be your own. I’ll create my own words, my own rhythm, with the love you taught me, the faith you invested in me and the music you nurtured my pride with.

I’m off to the wilderness, the solitary seas, the unmanned mountain. I’m beginning to get there, in becoming a better person, finding peace within, discovering my purpose. Like you always said, “If you can’t do it your way then chalo Pakistan.”

First stop en route Neverland- Delhi!

Infinitely soul sister,

PC

-Priyanka Charan-

Artist: Szakter Judit, Hungary
ART- „Look”

Painting- Wallboard sheet, acrylic
size: A3

Raftaar

It was a standard morning on a roman countryside. It was just another day in the life of a six year old Gladiator.Alejandro. It was after the days since the Colosseum had shut down. There was not much elements of interests in the day to day life of people, except, what except. There are no exceptions. We all do drugs. Yes drugs, the only form of recreation unless prescribed, which was for the gladiators, specifically were. There was LSD also known as acid, drops, blots, papers, grain, pixel, sniff, wuff, wurr, specially prescribed for those competing to be among the fastest. Now a particular requirement during experience of LSD was the smoking of hasish, as Anderso would say. The thing with LSD was that it was in plenty, available in nature, only need be tapped by the overbold of conscience. Hashish on the other hand was a product of the industrious, scythed by the contemptuous for the utter fulfillment of the life.

It was to be a tight rope race between the two gladiators where each would mount their rides, either on a green vespa, or a grey one. The prize of the race was to be a brick of the finest hashish, that would had been skinned out of the strongest of the stallions.

And so the legend goes, even among the followers of the usurpers. Alejandro, dressed in his hound armour, Anderso, bald as ever. Their vespas, tripping on their own throttle, their own anxieties, gyrating like the swirls of hookah, or at least that was what Anderso was pretending to be doing.  As for Alejandro, it was a matter of life and death. He had popped mushrooms thirty grams of sand ago. It had taken him a complete ninety grams of sand to gather all his score. He was in need of the herb, as bad whisky is in need of water. Anderso, the pretender in the mean while was quietly chewing on a gram from the hash that was to be the prize.

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[ n♠te: This perhaps is an extract from a larger piece in progress, perhaps just a piece to spike the imagination of the reader.] [ PARENTAL DISCRETION NEEDED ]

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Artwork by: Rollen Lasrado