Passing place

On winding journeys one often arrives thinking the destination will bring us the rewards of a stunning view—the winter palette hanging low over the Cairngorms—a watercolour painting constantly changing its tone with light.

wind over the mountains

inside the rushed sound

a falling bird

A poem from 15th August 2018

The smell of oranges

Puncture the orange with your thumb and then gently using the pincer made of the thumb and forefinger release the skin free until the core comes out, denuded like a floral arrangement. 

The best part is not in the bursting of pulpy sweetness tantalising the tongue, sometimes slightly drenched in sourness, it is the pungent wisps of smell that spread from the skin each time it is folded and squeezed. 

My sister and I, would squeeze the peel into each other’s eyes and face in a silly game, the spray forever stored in the pores of our skin. 

When someone somewhere opens an orange, my memory box is lit like a fuse and I wait for a thousand explosions visibly imploding in my brain and filling my tongue with its sweetness..

And then I remember how the peel burns in neat pyres by the roadside, the smell of burning oranges infused in the early morning walk as someone clears the night’s debris left over from the mobile market stalls.

Freedom is quite like the smell of oranges, it suggests this pungent vibrancy and then reminds me of the burning that comes at a heavy price when we don’t know how to preserve the lovely fruit of our orchards!


How little we know of movements.

Sound fills my mood memory in colours.

Today, it is a blue-grey morning.

The distant sky will fall into my lap.

Shoulders slowly darken with rain.

My hair will smoulder in fine wisps, heat curling it dry once again.

The sun will come out.

My shadow will follow me as will the dogs, birds, children, adults and all their shadows.

I will walk on the sand, watch the moon eat the sea.

Watch the sea, swallow the moon.

Gulls overhead, will carry their painful cry.

Between all sound, the fragility of a full pause will still be missing.

I have been listening this whole summer.

Come autumn. Come winter. Come spring.

Its fleeting presence, is like a painful absence gnawing at my heart.

Today, I am this blue-grey morning, seeking its perfect, divine shape.

For papa!

On your birthday,
we would have sat together
digging deeply into the warmth of a familiar story told many times over
yet longing the narrative with an ache to rediscover your voice
not heard now, for so many years.

We would have sought to recreate your amazing recipe where the simplicity of rice and dahl merged with the sizzle of black pepper and garlic, pungent from from roasting would have stoked the hunger out of our bellies, not having tasted it for so long.

We would have sat in the aftermath of a late afternoon meal feeling replete, snoozing over conversation ebbing and flowing, until your point of view would have brought us out of stupor seeking introspection.

We would have sought new hobbies and dissected new ideas in the evening walks now often taken in the company of my sisters or husband.

You would have perhaps met him and my son who sometimes reminds me of you in little things and patterns of behaviour as we very often tend to do with our loved ones.

So many things
So many possibilities
On your birthday
I’m just reminded of them all.

Shalini Pattabiraman
6th November

Navigating through a shade of blue

Blue rides over the morning sky, I sit on its back holding its mane. My fingers pull at each cloud as I knead my way in. This morning there are no geese trailing the expanse. Just the edginess of the shade. Some days it is lightness itself but today the Prussian notes hang heavy over a sleepy dawn, slow to awaken, slow to break away. Even the birds are quiet. This stillness for an hour or two, or perhaps just minutes away from full incandescence rests between the then and now. How does one navigate through a blue sky that appears in this exact shade, on this specific day? I fear, I might fall off and never find lightness again. But lightness comes, slowly and surely, it arrives when blue has settled into a gentle trot over this sky’s blooming expanse.

Shalini Pattabiraman


The day I became
a seed,
sprouted leaves, tiny quivering buds

gently reaching for the sun
became a toddler’s hands

inside the dark earth
wet with first rain, first splash, first kiss

sparkling over the rim of a wall
the hands lifted up,

the body a fluid sound
arcing into the river
slicing through the placid surface
sinking deep until sand settled underneath my weight

and I dissolved bit by bit

merging into the sea
its song

humming the notes across the waves
until the gull picked me up-
I was a fish in her beak

A song for a reason

A season comes and goes but where it begins and where it ends is not always clear. Although there are signs. Little things that point to how the world knows without telling it is time to unwrap the the blanket of snow, paint into the cherry blossom, a shade borrowed from a shell, find in the smell of the wind-the sea pregnant with clouds, know that as the nights grow longer, summer will take away the darkness of winter.

Look, how seamlessly one song moves into another. If I could detach myself from the mundane clutter, I would sit by the edge of a day and watch it change colours.

inside the shell, a snail

inside the ear

a wave