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Bonobology Review

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Hello Friends! I found a wonderful treasure trove online, for those fond of reading and learning about relationships. It is this page called Bonobology which carries (and accepts) stories on diverse aspects of relationships. So while there’s something on being single, dating, flirting and falling in love on one side; we also have extramarital affairs, divorce, heartbreak, happily married, in laws, and abuse addressed on the other. The inclusive space that they are; it warms my heart to see them welcoming write-ups from and about LGBT as well. As I read through some of the diverse articles on the page, I remember a few of them making me pause and reflect, some leaving me misty eyed and well, some had me laugh out loud! You all must visit it at  http://www.bonobology.com/.

 

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Confessions with Author Ayan Pal

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Ayan thank you for agreeing to this interview, First of all congratulations, your debut novel is a best seller and gaining accolades from all over, how does this feel? Did you anticipate this success?

While I obviously wanted the book to be successful, I did not anticipate the level of positivity it has gained in just 7 months. With over 60 reviews on Amazon, 50 ratings on Goodreads, with an average rating of 4.9, ‘Confessions on an Island’ has already turned into a critically acclaimed bestseller. It is also the highest rated novel of its genre over the past few years. It has already been picked up by a major Hindi daily as the best book of 2016, across languages. I hope it can reach greater heights and become a national bestseller in the future!

Why did you chose to write your first book on such a theme? Authors always play safe with their debut, why did you decide to take this risk?

I believe in innovation and thinking out of the box, and wanted to simply be me when it came to my debut. I feel being safe is boring, hence I came forward with this rather unusual mix, which, based on the kind of books successful in India so far, was also a risk in many ways that might have brought an end to my fledgling career. But my instincts it seem were right, as was my faith in the readers. I would hence like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them, who has helped me reach where I am today. Thanks for accepting the story, and the unusual presentation, and through its success, Author Ayan Pal as well!

Okay now a fun question, if your book ever gets made into a movie, who would you like to play the characters?

While I have answered that question from a purely Bollywood perspective before, I feel this could also be an international project. If so, I would love to see Amitabh Bacchan, Irfan Khan, or Scarlet Johansson play the island. For the male lead, the abductor, Shahid Kapoor, Fawad Khan, or Dev Patel would be an excellent casting, provided they can get over their inhibitions to perform the bold scenes. For the feisty female lead, a bestselling author trapped on an Island, Radhika Apte, Alia Bhatt, or Priyanka Chopra would be perfect, I feel.

There are multiple short stories embedded into the main story, how did that idea evolve?

This ‘novel’ conceptualization of the novel arose from a need to tie up several co-incidental incidents of my life, as well as some short stories I had already written in the past. I had by then already contributed to India’s first composite novel, the ‘Limca Book of Records’ recipient ‘Crossed and Knotted’ and wanted to take things a step further. I hence decided to intersperse the main narrative (the odd chapters) with the short stories they tell each other (in the even chapters). The stories are a combination of fact and fiction, and is in the deciphering of which is which, and the way they are connected (if at all) that brings an unusual flavour to the novel, while also helping portions of it to exist by itself as a short story.

A book goes through multiple layers of editing, how easy or hard was that process?

I have often had issues with developmental editing and proofreading. But not this time! The presence of Indrani Ganguly as an Editor was the best thing that could have happened to either me or the book. Indrani’s belief in me as a storyteller helped me tremendously in telling it the way I wanted to. Her prowess as an Editor helped me turn the book into the best possible example it could have been. I am immensely grateful to Dipankar Mukherjee for assigning her to me for my debut. Having already signed up with Readomania before, but for a different novel, and having faced the brunt of a clash of ideologies with the Editor, this was a welcome relief indeed!

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Ayan with his editor Indrani Ganguly, at the Kolkata launch of Mock Stock and Quarrel. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers on marketing their book successfully?

I feel when it comes to marketing, less is more. Especially if it’s a thriller, like ‘Confessions on an Island’. Instead of sharing snippets that might give away the story unwittingly, it’s better to get the book reviewed and highlight reactions to the book instead.

What would you say makes your book unputdownable?

A combination of sex, sense, and shock with (mostly) pitch perfect pace, unusual storytelling, and emotional depth.

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Kolkata Launch of Confessions On An Island.

What was your childhood like? How would you say it reflects on your personality and writing?

My childhood was full of fun and learning, and the way I was raised – in a matriarchal joint family along with my grandmother and aunts, had a major role to play in me becoming the kind of person I am. Their influence on my life has gone a long way in the way women are portrayed in my stories, or for that matter, the way I react to women in general which includes my fiercely independent yet incredibly patient wife – Ankana. Even though I am naturally headstrong, I have come to easily accept her dominance and can safely vouch for the fact that she is the best partner I could have ever asked for (see what I just did?) I absolutely enjoy being guided by her in the areas where she is without a doubt way ahead of me, for example the way I handle my finances. I also do not mind being chided by her every time I make a mistake, to which there seems to be no end to! And now, with the birth of my darling daughter – Aadwrita, I guess my learning days are back again! Staying with four generations of strong, intelligent and highly opinionated women may seem daunting, but is actually a blessing in disguise. I am indeed lucky to have them rule my head, hearth, and heart!

One Liners….

  • Favourite food: Any well-made Indo Chinese dish
  • First Crush: Sushmita Sen (she remains one even now!)
  • One embarrassing moment: None since adulthood (the ones as a child cannot be shared). I am a bit too shameless to be embarrassed apparently!
  • One regret: Not being there by my mother when she passed away. I was caught up in a meeting at work, and by the time I reached home, it was already too late.
  • A truth about you that we don’t know: I have a natural flair for dancing and bake excellent Pizzas!
  • A rumour about you that you wish was true: That I make a LOT of money.

Taking cue from the one liners, let me ask you this one, you seem to have been very close to your mother, and losing her must have been devastating, would you like to tell us something about her and how she influenced you to become the amazing person that you are today.

My mother has always been an inspiration for me. Be it her education (she was a double MA, BEd and spoke and taught French and German), her choice of career (she ran her own NGO – Socio Aid, and an Exports and Imports Business), or the way she perfectly balanced her home, profession, and passions (reading, cooking, singing, and devouring movies or TV shows), I was always an admirer. Though at one point of time I absolutely loathed studying Engineering because of her, I gradually came to realize that everything she did for me and her family came from a sense of wanting what she felt was best for us. With time she came to understand the need for me to flourish as a writer and stood by me in my various attempts to finish my manuscripts and get published. I wish she was here today to see what I have done, and am doing. But then, probably my being where I am right now, is also because of her. Not just because of everything she taught me when she was alive, but also post her death, due to her continuous presence in my thoughts, and as a guardian angel in my life. I hope I can continue to write and inspire others in a way that makes her proud of me, irrespective of where she might be right now.

Finally, tell us about what is next for Confessions on an Island where is this journey taking you?

I am currently researching material to be used for the sequel to ‘Confessions on an Island’, Book 2 of the ‘Trapped’ trilogy. I know what the books will be called, and the outline of their stories. I hope to write them in a way that makes them unforgettable, and am currently preparing for the patience, perseverance, and passion that is essential to bring them successfully to life.

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At IIM Kashipur

Thank you so much for your wonderful and witty replies Ayan, I throughly enjoyed this round of conversation and confessions! Wishing your book a bigger success in the future.

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You can read my review of the book hereReview of Confessions On An Island

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Author Bio: Ayan Pal is an alumni of St Joseph’s College, Kolkata. He completed his Engineering in Electronics and Communication from Dr. AIT, Bangalore and obtained a degree in Education

Technology from SDSU, California. He has since accumulated over a decade of experience in the IT Industry across CISCO, Wipro, and IBM.

Ayan is an author known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon Bestsellers ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’, ‘21 Tales to Tell’, ‘When They Spoke’, and India’s first composite novel – ‘Crossed and Knotted’ – which garnered him an entry into the ‘Limca Book of Records’ under Literature. He has also contributed to ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, ‘Rudraksha’, ‘Arranged To Love’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Long Story Short’ respectively. He is a columnist at Delhi-NCR based lifestyle magazine ‘ThnkMkt’ and blogger at South Asia’s leading literary magazine ‘Open Road Review’. He is passionate about public speaking & leadership and involved with Toasmasters International. He loves reading, listening to music, and binge watching his favorite TV Shows. ‘Confessions on an island’ is his debut novel.

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You are my home

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In the deep comforting darkness of the night
I find you
Your touch as light as a mirage
The fireflies make a brave attempt to light my path
To guide me till dawn, and I disown them
For this time
This one time, I would like to be lost
As I stumble through the wilderness
The silence around feels a lot like your half a smile
Mocking my heart into million shards of fragile dreams
The fragrant night jasmines
Remind me of your love
Touched and torn, broken and found
I walk through, till the dawn beckons
As the light filters through the clouds before the sun rises
I know it must be you
Who has turned the sky into a lusty lover
In furious shades of red
It must be you
Who made me travel the miles without a doubt
For this is us
And you are my home.

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I can’t be the good girl you thought I would be

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I can’t be the good girl you thought I would be
I have only carried troubled times on my shoulders
Since I was a little one, when life started fucking me over
I had learnt to live like those bloody leeches in the mud and muck and sucking blood from others whenever I could
And then one day you arrived, and until that day I never realized dreams were painted in hues of the rainbow

Whatever love I can offer, is given by you in the first place
All I had in me were broken edges and thorns laced in venom
I can only offer that version of love which is filled with complaints and sarcasm
Which makes you suffocate with constant display of insecurities
If you are as wonderful as the morning breeze, I probably am that smog that hovers over the slums every morning
If you are like ray of soft sunshine, I am probably that blinding scorching heatwave that makes you see darkness in the middle of the day

Funny how I turn your roses into dried memories
Your poems into my religion
Your songs into my heartbeat
Your kisses into my soul

I have wounds morphed into scars and scabs, and some are still raw
I know not how to hide those ugly sides of me
So that you could have an idol to worship
I pick and itch at the healing scars over and over so that I know I don’t have to live with the false sense of perfection

I know not how to love you
Hurting you and filling you with anger comes easy
Your eyes haunted and furious makes me cry, yet I can’t stop
But then again, I have never been a good girl you thought I would be.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lopamudra Banerjee

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Rhiti:  When you began writing Thwarted Escape, did you even think you’d come this far? Did you comprehend from before this memoir that you were pouring your soul into would turn into a book?

Lopa: As I have written in the preface of the book, the seed of THWARTED ESCAPE has been sown within the bolted doors of a solemn writing lab of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where I has started working on various creative writing assignments in Nonfiction writing, in which I was pursuing my Masters’ degree. I started out when I was in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, as it was then that the idea of carving a memoir in a letter form addressed to my unborn daughter struck me. After my two daughters were born, and I went back and forth between traveling to India and the US, the idea of writing a diaspora and migration story reared its head stronger every day, and I trusted my instincts and plunged into it head-on. One story coalesced and converged with the other, strung with each other as marionettes, and thus, the book evolved from the seed of a personal essay to a collection of personal stories told through the lens of a wistful immigrant woman in the US. It was undoubtedly an exhilarating experience to grow and evolve as a mother, writer and a woman along with the book, since I had poured my heart and soul into writing it since day one. But it was only after some of the individual chapters of the book got published in journals and anthologies as stand-alone stories that I realized it has a shelf-life and a destiny of its own, outside the limited peripheries of my creative writing classrooms. After both my parents’ demise, when I was in India this year, I got in touch with Authorspress, my publisher, and the publication happened as a tribute to my departed parents.

 

Rhiti:  How difficult was it emotionally to pen down all the life experiences you have had?

Lopa:  I told you, from the very start, I had laid bare my heart and soul and chiseled myself as a narrator depicting some of the most excruciating, exhaustive and even some life-changing moments and epiphanies in the book. To be able to do that, the honest ingenuity was the prerequisite. Many readers have messaged me to tell me that the raw, honest portrayal of the various curves that lead from my girlhood and puberty to my womanhood and motherhood has particularly struck them. But I personally feel that more than the honesty of being able to narrate it all, it is the basic craft of placing myself (or my alter-ego) as a protagonist and looking at the concept of ‘Home’, the family, and the various particulars of my emotional landscape which was the most challenging part of it. Be it in the first few chapters where I dissect my childhood memories, my pent-up story of child molestation, my awkward years of groping with the nuances of puberty, or be it in the later chapters where I depict my journey as a full-grown woman and a Bengali immigrant in the US. There were phases while drafting, when it took a toll on my emotional world. However, the boon of it all has been that these various montages and memorabilia enabled me to give the narrative a perspective that perhaps would not have been possible if I had written an entirely fictional narrative.

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Rhiti: Tell us about some literary techniques that you have employed while writing this memoir.

Lopa: Well, to speak the truth, the journey of THWARTED ESCAPE started with reading and internalizing some very experimental narrative/literary techniques employed by renowned nonfiction writers, starting from James Baldwin to Maya Angelou to Natalie Sarraute to Alice Walker, even before starting to write it. Sarraute’s haunting autobiographical narrative ‘Childhood’ gave me the impetus to try penning a story in double narrative, where my censuring adult self converses with my naïve childhood self and scrutinizes it. Then Joan Didion’s literary journalism techniques egged me on to incorporate a particularly haunting and uncomfortable childhood event in a multilayered narrative where the brutal truth of a woman/girl as a sexual object comes to the fore. The incredible hybrid form of the lyric essay which combines the best narrative aspects of prose and poetry had inspired me to write chapters like ‘Caged, ‘Nectar’, where the body of a woman becomes a text through which greater truths/epiphanies about the essence of womanhood is portrayed in the book. Also, I tried to incorporate the aspects which define an Indian diaspora novel, where life in both my worlds, in India and America is viewed from the vantage point of death and the constant flux of the human mind, so the act of situating myself at the core of the narrative layers was essential. I use a lot of interior monologues too, being a hardcore fan of Virginia Woolf since I discovered her many, many years back.

Rhiti: Tell us about the award that was given to the manuscript, even before it was published.

Lopa :  It was at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Seattle in February 2014, quite a turning point in my writing life that I had a chance encounter with Kiffer Brown, founder of Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC and found out they were taking manuscript entries for the Journey Awards 2014 (Narrative Nonfiction). Though my manuscript was in its second or third draft at that point, out of gut feeling, I entered it for the contest, and towards the beginning of 2015, I stumbled upon their website and found out that it was a finalist and also a First Place Category winner for the Journey Awards. It was a heady feeling when the award package reached my US home address, including the Blue Ribbon and the ‘CBR Best Author’ badge. But the real excitement came when ‘THWARTED ESCAPE’ got a 5-star review from an award-winning journalist, J O’Reiley, who is a part of the CBR review team. The review can be accessed in the Amazon and Goodreads page of the book and also in their website.

Kolkata Launch of Thwarted Escape: An Immigrants Wayward Journey

Rhiti: What advice would you give to aspiring memoir/auto-biography writers?

Lopa: To speak the truth, there is no such thing as a memoir/autobiography writer, as such categorization and compartmentalization limits the horizons that a true writer can explore. Fiction writers can explore the world of nonfiction, and the vice versa is true as well. As for THWARTED ESCAPE, in it I have tried to combine the elements of a memoir and a novel, with real-life characters, dialogues, settings and the sensitivity that this passionate, volatile journey demanded, the sensitivity any work of fiction has. I can only say that it is important that a writer recognizes his/her inner voice, and strives to chisel it with honest, impactful storytelling.

Rhiti: Tell us about some of your favorite memoir writers and what do you love about their work.

Lopa: Annie Dillards, for the lyrical, poetic intensity of her essays in which she analyzes beautifully intriguing aspects of the cosmos, the passionate fervor and infectious simplicity of E.B. White’s nature narratives which defines his meditative prose, on the other hand, the fierce, feisty feminist narratives by Jamaica Kincaid, Alice Walker and also the precise, yet richly layered narratives of Joan Didion, and Margaret Atwood, each of them being fiction writers too. Indian Diaspora writers like Bharati Mukherjee, Pico Iyer, Bhanu Kapil Ryder have given me the conviction that nonfiction narratives of Indian origin authors have a particular fluidity to them, in the ways their stories become a cultural study in assimilation, both physical and ethnic.

Rhiti: Memoirs are very popular in the US, however the Indian readers are slowly opening up to it… what do you think writers and publishers could do to expand the market for publishing more memoirs.

Lopa: First and foremost, writers and publishers everywhere need to realize that the rigid categorization of a literary work, especially in prose, takes away the flexibility and power of storytelling from a beautiful literary work, carrying specificity and detail in its core. A memoir can very much be read as a 1st person narrative fiction, and a novel exploring the metaphorical truth of a character/characters can have autobiographical elements in it. What is important is that the journey that transpires in its pages should represent a lasting emotional truth, which is why readers read it in the first place, and more so, remember it.

But saying that, I feel there is a lot of vacuum in the genre of non-fiction writing. Many readers of mainstream fiction are still under the impression that autobiographical writing is only restricted to celebrities/stars/national leaders or famous individuals. So the fact that nonfiction narratives with strong themes, powerful messages can be superior works of literary merit is not enough emphasized.

Rhiti: On a lighter note, tell us some wonderful experiences you have had associated with the journey of this book.

Lopa: Well, THWARTED ESCAPE will always be special as I already said that I grew/evolved as a woman, a mother, a daughter along with the book. I started out with writing a chapter of the book with my firstborn, Srobona, tucked in my womb, and later, when I delivered her sister Sharanya, I instinctively added on another chapter on the experience of birthing her, thinking that the chapters would complement each other. But later, my yearly visits to Kolkata from the US and getting back there as a daughter, a daughter-in-law, mostly importantly, an immigrant implored me to look at the narrative of the book from other dimensions. The quirky humor of my neighbors and relatives back at home and the sights, smells and sounds of the streets of my hometown spurred me on with a queer sense of nostalgia. However, initially, there was no book, but only a number of disjointed essays where my pent up, calcified memories wrecked havoc in my mind. The book took shape when I realized that all of them could come together and take a novel-like curve. When I dug deep into myself, the juxtaposition of the stray cats and dogs nibbling over leftover food in my old home in Barrackpore and the snow-smeared Midwestern American landscape, the manicured, lush by-lanes which I call my adopted home made the book a binary reality for me, a reality that I have cherished even as me and my family changed our moorings to Dallas, Texas at the end of the book. In the end, though I do ruminate about the stabbing reality of death, trauma and degeneration in my family that I experience, it is the overwhelming sanctity of life and hope and acceptance that takes precedence in the closing chapter of the book.

Rhiti: Thank you Lopa, it was absolutely wonderful knowing about the journey of this magnificent memoir. Hope this reaches out to all the readers you have intended it for and attains the literary success that it deserves.

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Delhi Launch of Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey

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Amazon Links:

http://www.amazon.in/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484144612&sr=1-1&keywords=thwarted+escape

https://www.amazon.com/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484144684&sr=1-1&keywords=thwarted+escape

Goodreads Page:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33021719-thwarted-escape

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14639779_1601235176848152_7838767645836595023_nLopamudra Banerjee is a writer, poet, translator and editor, currently based in Dallas, USA. Hailing originally from Barrackpore, a suburb in the outskirts of Kolkata, India, her orthodox Bengali upbringing, from which she had wanted to break free once, implored her to push her boundaries as she explored the gems of literature, art and self-expression. She believes in the power of the written word, the artistry, the rhythm and cadence in the formation of human art that sometimes takes the shape of stories, poems, essays, paintings, sculpture, music and dance.

She says: “Within me, there is this child-woman playing with her pen and paper, birthing, changing, destroying, and crackling with the urgency to translate my experiences into stories, poems and musings, as I go about with my everyday business in the world around. I am a mother of two daughters and want to leave behind a legacy of my humble writing for them to keep it for posterity.” One of her favorite quotes on the act of writing is that of Mary Rose O’Reiley, who has famously said: “Writing would be merely an act of crazy hubris, were it not a means of discovery, cunning and patient.” It is this sense of discovery, of self-analysis and revelation that made her sit with her raw pleasures and wounds and form a world of words out of them.

Lopa has a Master’s degree in English with a thesis in Creative Non-fiction from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also did her M.A. in English from Calcutta University, followed by a P.G. Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Bhavan’s College of Communication and Management, Kolkata. She has delved into diverse areas of communication and writing, including working as a communications trainee in a non-profit, online content writing, feature writing, working as a University Writing Consultant et al. But it is when she pens her own emotional journey in poetry and prose that she finds herself at the most enriching, tranquil state of her being.

Her debut memoir Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey, recently published by Authorspress, and launched in Delhi and Kolkata, India, amid considerable critical acclaim, has been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014, hosted by Chanticleer Reviews. She is a resident editor with Readomania, and a creative editor with Incredible Women of India. Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, a collection of women-oriented stories co-edited by her with Rhiti Bose, in collaboration with Readomania and Incredible Women of India went on to become an Amazon bestseller in 2016 and also has been selected as a book worth reading by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club 2.0. in the category of South-Asian literature.

Her poetry, stories and essays have appeared in many print and online literary journals and anthologies both in India and the US. Her poetry has appeared online in Camel Saloon, Café Dissensus, Spark Magazine, Different Truths and in print in The Significant Anthology, Umbilical Chords: An Anthology on Parents Remembered and Kaafiyana, published by Readomania. Her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella The Broken Home, serially published at Café Dissensus and later published on Amazon Kindle, fetched her the International Reuel Prize for Translation in 2016. She has received the Critics’ Award at Destiny Poets International Community of Poets, UK and also a Certificate of Merit as part of the Reuel International Prize 2015 for Writing and Literature.

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Disclaimer: No parts of this interview can be reproduced with the consent of the Author or the interviewer. 

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She has forgotten

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She has forgotten what it is like to be kissed

To be wanted by a man she loves

Her parted lips only sing lullabies now.

 

She has forgotten the last time

His touch made her moan

She traces her own caramel skin

With her fingers

Only to find wreckages of the lost time

Unwanted, Unloved, Undone

Her shadow embraces her in the dark

It tells her, ‘darling it’s over’

 

The butterflies in her stomach will never be back

Her heart would not ache

Her lips will not taste the unabashed love anymore

 

She looks at the rain fall gently

Her insides completely parched

Her eyes tell a thousand lies

Of the woman she was

Of her desire

She was a mother now

Baby, she has lost her fire

 

 

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The Bloodmoon Does…

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Sometimes you put on kohl on your tired eyes
For you still want to look beautiful when you cry
Even the five cigarettes in a row doesn’t make sense
Only the bloodmoon does

Sometimes, the black coffee which sits next to you cold
It feels like your blood
Dark and soulless
And you still sip it, for you want a taste of your own blood

Sometimes, it is about that night, when you stay awake
To see your daughter breathe and smile in her dreams
To tell her stories which she can’t hear
And touch her colour stained warm hands

Sometimes, you crave, you yearn for a villain
To come home and tell you what a terrible mother you are
For you forget to make dinner
And feed your brood boiled rice and potatoes.

Sometimes, this moment, these lines, they make no sense
They don’t make poetry
They simply make you believe all the lies people tell you
That there are no heroes in your agony

Sometimes you are not a mother
You are just a woman
The villain of her own story
The saviour of her daughter.

Sometimes…

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