Ren of Coba

A hole in the wall shaded by an eucalyptus groove,

we stop drawn by a colorful sign

“Come get fresh coconuts!” it said,

we think “Okay fine!”

Papel picados everywhere

like a dia de los muertos scene

red, pink, blue, green,

happy, serene.

Inside we meet Ren,

Hawaiian shirt and a handsome face,

looks like he had some stories to share,

owns some graying hair

and sports a paunch.

“Hello! We need some coconuts,” I announce,

he fishes out a machete

and scalps off young coconuts like some Hawaiian warlord,

they are sweet in their death.

“Your place looks happy.”I tell him,

my Sancho panza sits there and stares at the ceiling.

We eat the tacos we ordered in silence,

strange to be eating tacos,

under a canopy of papel picados

somewhere in a tropical forest.

After observing us and stealing glances,

Ren finally decides it okay to come close

and tell us of his younger days,

tales,

about the masks he hangs on the wall of his Gods

he found while digging for his roots.

The room speaks volumes

of his love of music,

jazz particularly,

so I ask him about it

and he tells me how he used to follow Etta James,

in Los Angeles and San Francisco from first row seats,

about his love of Maui,

he waves his hands as he speaks

and bats his eyelids,

flashing smiles on dimpled cheeks,

I find it sweetly endearing.

Total comfort of people sharing

a laughter here, a question there,

this is why I love traveling.

I promised Ren I’d write about him

and though,

prose might’ve been a better option,

one day I’ll weave him into my stories,

for now this is a promise kept,

of this colorful man

with the papel picados,

his masks of Mexican gods

and his mystery of how he came to be living

under an eucalyptus groove,

metamorphosed from a social butterfly

to selling coconuts,

tacos and stories.

 

 

A November day

This day is cold,

as I walk my dog,

the grass is crisp,

on it’s blades dew sits,

still.

“Croak!”

says a frog,

from under a bush,

a black cat licks,

it’s paws.

“Crunch!”

complains a leaf,

that got underfoot,

this morning is good,

so I do not care,

I hurry back home,

in my messy hair,

dragging my dog,

who’s stealing some scents,

from the morning air.

Siren song

When I’m overwhelmed and worn down by pointlessness of things,

I really need to see the vastness of the sea,

and hear the waves come and go like a heartbeat lulling my senses into peace.

I love the way the it smells of salt and freedom

and the way it changes colors with my moods,

also that gulls fly overhead like paper planes.

I will never tire of waking up early to go exploring tide pools,

to watch pink sea stars rock to and fro

in the lapping waters whispering with green anemones,

or to indulge in the thrill of finding

a perfectly imperfect seashell,

or a sand dollar I can buy nothing with.

Today,

I want to be near the sea,

dig my feet in the sand and sleep in the waves,

feel like a feather that flew down from those paper planes

that keep circling like prayer beads,

above my head.

Peanuts

Sister Francis taught catechism at my old school Loreto Convent when I was in elementary school.She was an elderly Irish nun who was maybe in her late eighties. I forget her last name. Catechism was held at the old dormitory with a few of us Catholic girls sitting around a nun. The boarding section had been discontinued due to the ongoing Gorkhaland agitation during the early eighties. Students from neighboring countries of Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim and major Indian cities who flocked to Darjeeling to study at Loreto, could no longer be safe enough to study here due to the political unrest. Shops, offices and schools kept closing erratically due to the strikes affecting classes, but we as kids were thrilled because it meant no school.

At Catechism, kind Sister Francis looked like she was made of rice paper, white, frail and opaque. She resembled a shaky dandelion in the field in danger of being blown off any minute by a strong gust. Her navy blue habit seemed heavy on her but nevertheless always spotless. Such a mild natured person, I watched her parchment like hands fold and unfold as she told us stories from the Bible in her own words during catechism class. I could see each blue vein on her hands as if they were a map of rivers in the Atlas. I loved that she never once raised her voice and it was a wonder she had all her wits about her even at that advanced age.

Sister Francis loved peanuts.She kept fishing for peanuts from her blue sweater pocket and eating them at intervals like a squirrel. First she took the peanut out and as she tried to crack the shell with her rice paper fingers, the pressure made a dent on her finger which didn’t immediately bounce back and stayed like that for a while caught in a groove. I watched as she popped the peanuts in her mouth and chewed them slowly, speaking in  a soft voice as she told stories. Bits of peanut pieces pooled to the side of her mouth making me uneasy. Thank God that she fished out a handkerchief and slowly wiped the corners of her mouth in between sentences. Watching her was so fascinating, I’ve always loved watching people and their quirks that make them so unique, like each individual snowflake.

One day towards the end of the academic year when winter was approaching, I told Sister Francis that I would get her some peanuts. Her old grey eyes shone with delight and she smiled and said thank you. I walked out of Catechism with pure intentions of getting her peanuts on my way home but when I got outside and met my friends I completely forgot about them. It happened a few times and school closed. I could never get Sister Francis the peanuts that I promised and it always stayed clinging at the back of my mind.

Winter holidays start after finals in December and for three blessed months there is no school. I forgot about Sister Francis and also the peanuts. When the school year started in March, we had a different nun for catechism, Sister Francis was far too old and weak to teach us anymore. I kept thinking about the peanuts and wishing I could’ve got her some. Youth and pressures of academics soon made me forget about Sister Francis. I heard many years ago that she had left this world for the next. I regrettably thought about the peanuts that I promised and I still think about her whenever I see them.

I hope Sister Francis has many peanuts to eat in heaven now, slowly breaking the shell with her rice paper fingers making grooves and popping them in her mouth, chewing them until they pool to the side of her mouth. Still telling stories of Zacchaeus of Jericho and salvation of the lost, wiping her mouth with her clean handkerchief.

I always try to keep my promises now.

🥜

Poetry in colors

Roses are red,

also pink white peach

violets are kind of purple so

bluebells are blue.

They said,

don’t argue over the hue

if you can’t differentiate between orange and burnt sienna,

between crimson and carnelian,

so I told them I’m color blind

and hungry,

can I eat the cerise moon

in the periwinkle sky

and bask in an indigo noon

with the dandelion sun?