Dear Diary

The pages aren’t yellow yet – not yet, not yet, not yet. There’s years to go before things fade, before the ink begins to look like it was out of another history – before the pictures begin to tell stories that no one has heard.

And there it is. Someone wrote this. Someone cared, almost definitely.

Diary Entry:

 “All I am is a man,
I want the world, in my hands.”

Image: Silhouettes against a reading lamp, in an unknown territory. In the background a young couple reads a book while suppressing their smiles. They are both reading a different book.  

“She knows what I think about and what I think about”

Image: Walking by the beach; hair, hair everywhere. They’ve just bought a puppy. They’re looking at each other – ‘Are we a family now?’ Noses scrunched up, they laugh over the wind.

“Sometimes the silence guides our minds to move to a place so far away”

Image: Faces looking directly at the camera, wide-eyed, just before they were about to smile. This is an in-between. Heads on laps, a rumpled blanket of warmth – more warmth radiating from them.

“The minute that my left hand meets your waist
And then I watch your face”

Image: First couple photo? Let us make it candid. Someone cracks a joke. The image is filtered with fake laughter, heads turned towards each other. 

“Inside this place is warm
Outside it starts to pour”

Image: Another one of the complete family. A five month old puppy in one’s hand, the couple smiling inside their house; chilled beer in the other hand. Fairy lights buzz in the background. Camera quality is bad; the lights seem like fireflies, until you focus. 

“One love, one house”

Image: Nothing screams family photo more than one with the friends.

“Let’s have an adventure”

Image: Grey hoodies sprawled across a couch, phone charges and deodorants. A few other essential items, all in pairs – except, ironically, the shoes. 

“Cause it’s too cold for you here,
So now let me hold both your hands
In the holes of my sweater”

Image: Hands, holding each other. Snow in the background. The cold can be a good place too. 

Written by Samidha Kalia

Image by Radhika Aneja

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7.19

“For several hours my heart ached,
but I woke up—smiling.”
– Ha Jin

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
Before the digital clock starts beeping
Before I kick my blanket
open my eyes
wear my socks and
shiver as the first wave of cold air hits my bare arms.

Seven minutes and nineteen seconds
with my bed holding me
with the world outside still not awake
Seven minutes and nineteen seconds of
seeing and hearing and
feeling and thinking about –

How the scar remains from when the
steaming cups of coffee had burnt our hands
How the dog is sitting, panting at the foot of the bed,
wearing an ugly sweater your grandmother will keep
on knitting for him despite refusal, after refusal, after refusal
How the heater refuses to work for ten minutes
till you curse and yell and promise yourself that you will buy a new one and
will then start when you don’t need that warmth anymore
How the gloves lie on the table,
a wide array of colours and patterns
and how I pick up the black ones every single time
How the windows of the cars are shut tight and
glazed with fog, random things drawn
– a tree here and a heart there and a name scribbled all wrong by
tiny hands and old ones too.

How the dogs howl and growl at each other
while a stranger shrinks back from them
shoving his hands into his pockets
casting shadows all across the street under the lanterns
How the workers grumble and whisper complaints
disappearing into the fog and
how their families make homes on the frozen pavements
with a fire warming them through the endless nights
and the days filled with grey skies
How the people will rush outside as soon as the sun comes out and
sit on the foldable chairs and beds
eating oranges under the slanted rays.

How the old lady in my building will sit outside,
soaking the last bit of the sun
her grey hair scattered across her face, her hands knitting mittens
she hasn’t completed in three years
How the crying child on the first floor
with a running nose and a fever
is asked if he wants soup every five minutes
with his mother whining,“Oh god, it’s flu season!
into her phone every time I pass by
How I long for the soup my mother used to make
and how it would’ve been easier if I had just
agreed to this last night
How the boy in the neighbouring house
will come outside in the evening to play
his violin, the tunes getting more melancholic
as the air gets harsher
How the soft music flows
and how the winter blues enter each soulit
will be months before they come out
How the remains of the tune still remain
in the air in the mornings for me to catch
if I listen closely enough.

How you drove from the library, your coat covered with snow
and your face smiling
at the passages in a book you found
How I can still see the smile and
can still feel my hands brushing the snow off your coat
How your nose and eyes were red
as we sat on the edge of the grass that warm winter afternoon
and I told myself
it was just cold and not tears
and how I believed myself
How the polaroid pictures
stuck to the refrigerator
are beautiful and necessary
and not brutal and unwanted
How the months in the calendar are now filled with X’s
and when did the year pass by – so suddenly, so quietly?

How you can faintly hear the birds screeching and shrieking,
flying across the horizon
I wonder if they are cold too
but deep down, I know
none of us are warm
at least not warm enough
But I also think of the little boy who
hated winters here
looked at pictures of children playing in the snow
and said, “It’s cold here but not cold enough.

How after
seven minutes and nineteen seconds
of this and that
of life turning and twisting and tossing
and settling,
my weary hands will go all across the bed
past the empty space next to me
and the empty space within
to shut it off completely.

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Chetanya Godara

Coping Mechanisms / Things You Don’t Say Over the Phone

“How hot is it in Delhi now?
You had better be
Drinking lots of water,
Eating the right food,
Wearing the right clothes.”
(We wish we were there to take care of you.)

“It’s okay, mom, dad, I’m taking steps.
I have
A full water bottle,
Yogurt in the fridge,
Light cotton clothes,
Knowledge of what foods will heat me up from the inside.
I have all the wisdom borrowed from you.
I am taking care of myself.”
(I wish you would come and do it for me.)

“Mom, the weather was actually nice today.
For once, I didn’t feel sweaty the whole time.”
(I’m sound much more excited
Than I actually am
For your benefit.)

“Oh, really? It’s so cloudy and grey and depressing here today.”
(But I’m vicariously enjoying
your pleasant day.)

“Mom, I had to wear socks today.
It’s getting chilly.
By the way,
when should I add the tea leaves
to the water on the stove?”
(I’m trying to keep warm here
The same way I keep warm at home.
But I wish you would make me tea —
I always tend to overbrew.)

“Make sure you ask your Delhi friends
What kind of covers will be enough.
Will you be able to go buy it on your own?”
(I know you’re putting off these essential things
And I hate that
there’s not much I can do about it.)

“Dad, we were all choking in college today.
The masks I bought are just fabric,
They keep out dust, not smoke.”
(This experience was so surreal
And so scary.
My description doesn’t do it justice.)

“Please buy better masks.
Should I order them online for you?”
(I’m cursing the strange, faraway city I sent you to.
The city which is so fast and harsh,
With a survival code of its own.)

“Mom, dad, today I went to Lajpat Nagar
and bought a nice, thick razai.
Dinner was quite sad last night
But my roomies and I made eggs.
My new masks arrived in the mail,
And my friends are taking me sweater-shopping soon.
I have to go now–
The tea I made is getting cold
And I have a reading to finish for tomorrow.”
(I have a lot on my plate
But I am as chipper as I sound
And I think I am doing okay.)

Written by Madhuboni Bhattacharya

Image by Aanchal Juneja

 

Cold

“The hills, they’re glowing with warmth,”
You’d say
As you shivered
Underneath the hand-knit sweater
That Nani had compelled you to wear.
You’d be loath to admit
That the sharp winter breeze
Left you
Chilled.
“The sun burns earnestly this time of the year,”
You’d say
As you’d sit staring at the river,
Lost in the decaying memories
Of places you’d almost forgotten.
You’d come out of your musings
With songs that would speak
About the glory Of the rains.
“There’s something comforting about this weather,”
You’d say
As you nursed the scalding cup of tea
Thrust forcefully into your hand.
You’d sit in the balcony,
Prolonging the sunsets
With your delicately short
And sparse
Sips.
“Conversations are cozier in winters,”
You’d say As you gasped for breath
After a coughing bout.
You’d barely manage a croaky hello,
Yet we’d hear you the most,
Within your muffled coughs.
You’d feign good health
For the sake
Of words.
“It’s unnaturally cold for this time of the year,”
You said, that day
As Nani reluctantly turned the fan down
On a sultry, August evening.
That day, within the orchards
Of your private world
It snowed.
Icy snowflakes kissed
The cherry trees
That watched you grow old.
Soft gray clouds beckoned
With morbid comfort,
And silence,
Calming,
Reassuring,
Gnawing silence
Enveloped everything.

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Sheena Kasana

Year’s End

What does one want in any body but the world?’

The other day,
I drove to the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

I don’t know how to drive
And the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
But that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean
Silence, I don’t mean
Peace, I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

*

In the recent past, I’ve learnt that.
I’ve learnt that how are you is a question spilling over with potential
And doesn’t necessarily formally inquire after your emotional state
I’ve learnt
We exist in the spaces we create
Between our selves
And we can’t breathe when we talk because
You can accept either the words or the air that existed in a body.

I’d rather take the air because there is something you can’t control
And swerve and veer and stop and slam the door on
And there is no safety valve, no fire escape, no water to swallow pills
No first aid no punctuation no rehearsal
No moments of indecision over conversations and situations you handpicked
And stitched together in a patchwork sweater, of
Bad sentences, bad beginnings, terrible conclusions, a body that
I completely ignored because of the ringing in my ears.

No, I’d rather take your heavy breathing into my mouth
And your heavy breathing when you slam the door
And believe that both of them is love.

*

The other day,
I drove into the pond we grew up near,
Because I was learning something about goodbye.

Because I don’t know how to drive
Because the distance will always be too much or too little
For a drive,
So that day, I drove.

It was quiet, it always is.
When I say quiet, I don’t mean silence, I don’t mean peace,
I mean the stillness we knew to be palpable
To be so delicate that even whispering it would be
Acknowledging it
And acknowledging it would mean
Destroying
The silence which was truly that.

It’s a safe space, not because it offers comfort,
But because it doesn’t offer danger.

‘Of course it is happening inside your head. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

 

Sweater Weather

I love winters
Because they remind me, how
being warm is so important;
not just by the body,
but by the heart.
How proximity,
when knitted with affection
sometimes, to great boundaries,
can calm the soul down

I love winters
Because the fog reveals
how oblivious I am
to the power around me, which asks me
to shine apart
Which teaches me
to be fearless and
to celebrate the oblivion
that harbours inside me

Yet

I love winters
Because of the longer nights
for me to decipher
What exactly is scarier,
The demons around, or just
my conscience,
Personified.

Written by Megha Tej Kaul

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui