30.9412° N, 76.7768° E
Shady motels of Karnal give away to the vast paddy fields of Punjab. Only here, one can find a Mercedes Benz showroom standing with pride over barren lands. Factories follow us with varied smells of industrial waste— reminding us of the landfills at the border — rotten and liquid like our lives.
At Ambala, a train snakes away into the night. Every bus we pass, snores. Only the eateries and toll bridges stay awake. Sleep does not visit them anymore.
I turn into an owl and count the distance we covered. Cities morph into small towns which then fade away into distant lamp lit villages. Sometimes villages disappear. Forests whisper the language of the winds. Trees get taller, their stem now whiter. The dust fades into an eerie chill. Fields rise up and then they fall off the cliff. Roads speak in nonlinear.
Moon shows up past midnight
It smiles for the horizon smells of hills again.
31.3300° N, 76.7500° E
At Bilaspur, the bus wears the night.
It licks the curves on the hills.
Gorges open their mouth
to a sky full of stars below us.
A city we crossed hours ago
flickers in yellow sleep.
31.7069° N, 76.9317° E
Rain can wash away your memories they say.
Paint them black if the forests run deep
And then, all you can hear, is rain
over the Beas.
Night grows old here at Mandi.
Older with every visit, just like the river.
As clouds tear the moon apart.
2:30 am and the bus suddenly turns into an opera
Snores harmonize in various scales
only to spoil a cold, cold night.
When the HRTC bus broke down at Aut,
we were already 16 hours late.
Hills can drain you
and leave you hungry
only to show up
with some ice and a big round
white moon for free.
As we took another bus,
a chana wala fed our hunger
and healed us with lime.
31.8763° N, 77.1541° E
Drops of sun pour into the vast night sky.
Every drop lessens the night.
Clouds reflect an aging moon
that spent its life watching its own reflection
over an angry river.
The cold breeze though
brings hope for a new day.
The sky wears silver
like that which the moon has left behind.
Hills rise early for they fear the night.
Morning has turned them green again.
Hung over and red eyed,
they hide their faces in the cold morning rain.
32.211632° N, 77.187837° E
Snow has painted everything white.
Even goats shun colours here.
The cold has sketched wrinkles
over our weary, blue faces.
Every breath, now a puff of smoked
ice inhaled through our dry lungs.
Fire takes its own time to burn here.
People talk in smoke.
Prayer flags fly aimlessly into a breezy trance
over the other side of the river that mimics Tibet.
A trolley slides over a rope to connect the two banks-
two hills separated by an annoyed river.
Letters, ration and people glide through the rope
to reach each other, over the river that separates them.
32.265958° N, 77.186598° E
A river drones a midnight
by the hills where moon melts
over the snow at Rohtang Pass.
Cars float across the white roads.
Roads disappear in mist and rain.
Hills fall over to a valley, yellow in mustard
green by the fall.
Every night, old Manali breezes in old memories of lost friends.
The cold wind hits you like a stone.
before memory breezes in
through the drops of rain
32.265341° N, 77.184742° E
Blue like nerves, the river rolls ice
through my veins — mountains echo my breath —
drunk and heavy like the night we just passed.
Trees stand up like goosebumps,
cold and weary. Silence cuts your skin.
This isn’t a perfect coffee morning.
The ice can clean your filth and lick your wounds
when you sleep. Hum folklores
from the villages down the ravine.
Out there, over that hill
they are painting a gypsy town with a clotheslines.
The market is stoned like the temples that have grown old,
empty like my mind. I can’t write a single line.
The sun is drugged and lazy. It takes turns in bed.
Hot springs spread warmth through smiles
of young Himachali girls who wash their clothes
near the Ram temple.
32.266252° N, 77.189836° E
Hunger can take you to strange places at midnight.
When the head is heavy and high
and the throat stinks of cheap whiskey,
you decide to cross the river.
It is in these sort of cold nights
that a bowl of hot Wonton soup
will get you stoned.
Rain mocks the memory in the morning.
32.266480° N, 77.187975° E
They sit on the floor by the evening
and talk of war over hash.
A dark room by the side of a narrow lane
opposite to the Korean tea shop
that a girl from Seoul runs.
She guards herself with poems
They have escaped a war, travelled many miles
across the seas to find peace in Malana
Only Sikkim left to quench their thirst
poured in plastic glasses to hide permissions
and, to bring them the warmth they need at night.
They are all drunk in a lonesome hunger
tired from years of travel and lust.
Maggie and Wai Wai to tease their hunger
Fried eggs to fake a morning
A hookah to strip weariness.
I stand outside and hesitate.
And Radiohead like always
pours into the darkness
from a quiet corner.
32.264996° N, 77.188231° E
We who feed on ice
despise the sea for its crowded beach
and all the affluence it can pose.
Many years ago Satyajit Ray realised
this little trick. So he asked one of the kids
in his set, to explain
why hills were better.
These mountains though, do not seek
any answer. They do not like to compete.
They stand here matter-of-factly
hooting at a river that battles mood swings.
32.266767° N, 77.187858° E
I talk to the night.
She tells me of her miseries
and of her love for hills
that remains unreturned.
I tell her about the cities
and how they make us dry.
Frightened by the lack of rhyme,
she fades away into a day.
Hangovers and headaches.
Red eyes. She throws up:
a morning cigarette,
boring cities of dust
of glass and ugliness,
cribbers of arid whines.
Night does not understand cities very well.
She has no office to attend.
32.263646° N, 77.185090°E
It drones inside your head.
Like low blood pressure
that blocks your ears as you move up the hill.
Like inertia of hours of travel
on parabolic roads in an ordinary bus.
Like rain that makes you sleep for weeks.
Head placed over a cold, hazy glass now hazier with rain.
A river plays a violin.
Clouds do not join her.
Another village escapes us.
32.254555° N, 77.181828°E
Winter has taken away everything.
Time waits by the corner of a wooden window
and counts the cars that float through the skies.
A river has forgotten its home
It meanders through the night and falls over to the valley of silence
where people have stopped talking since way back when.
Some say, since the day this river broke free.
A vast hill slopes into nothingness
a hut hangs by its slope
Every puff now is like wild fire
weed and purple flowers
tea smoke, boiled eggs and firewood.
Waterfalls snake into dreams
they fall over the white valley
of sand and stones and strawberries.
A muted village hangs in another time
As winds prick holes in silence
snow melting, falling into a waterfall and then onto a white river.
muted shopkeepers who transact with smiles and a nod of the head.
an aircraft high up in the blue sky, falling in slow motion like a projectile.
distance between two musical notes.
a video stretched to double with an editing software .
the span before the claps start at the end of a performance.