“Room 1202 at the Grand Hotel Abyss” from THE BOOK OF SAUDADE by Akshat Khare

The Book of Saudade by Akshat Khare

“Room 1202 at the Grand Hotel Abyss” from The Book of Saudade by Akshat Khare, Notion Press, 2022


I check into The Grand Hotel Abyss. I slip into it on long forgetful walks, when the last drops of rain fall from the grey evening sky.

The Hotel is a place for the Castaways of the soul, for the Junkies of Dreaming, for all the Rejects of the Real.

Its hallways are always empty, and you never run into the other residents. Every room in the hotel is closed off to me, all of them but my own. This is the one and only rule of this place. We are, all of us, entitled to our own misery, and hold the keys to our own understanding of that misery.

My key reads 1202.


Nothing ever changes in Grand Hotel Abyss. Maybe because there was ‘nothing’ there, so the idea of change never really applied to it. People slip in and they slip out. Most of the residents are never heard from again. Those who do return, have either forgotten the details of their stay, or have forced themselves to forget them.

The Hotel does not come cheap. The rooms become increasingly more expensive, as one gets closer to the Abyss. The cost isn’t always paid with money, although, it helps if you have enough to afford a more comfortable flavor of Misery.

Sometimes, the residents choose to open their windows, stick their heads out, and gaze directly into the abyss. The chilling sight brews a storm in the being more exhilarating than all the thrills known to man, pleasures infinite in their subtlety. Some fall out, and in, from the nausea, others, keep away from their windows.

The windows don’t lock. They are always half open, always waiting for you.


I don’t really know why I picked 1202. I have long forgotten how I ended up at the hotel, much less this room. I get glimpses of another room, at night, drowning in my solitude; Room 2402.
I asked the Bellhop, the other day, if the room was empty.
“Not at all, sir, 2402 Is a very busy room. There’s always someone going in, or coming out of it”


All roads lead to 1202.

The tea leaves and coffee grounds in my spoon are the stuff of Life. I watch the Time trickling by, with every leaf, every speck of golden brown dust.

The Hotel is a halfway house of desire.


A mind that has turned in upon itself is its own worst enemy. Things never get better, but they always manage to find ways to get worse. I am stuck in an unstable dream of a new stability. This dream is the limit of my world, a sanitized world, where all the risks are calculated down to the last decimals of chance and possibility.

I have momentarily escaped my misery in moments of perfect clarity. In stoic withdrawal, in Zen wisdom, in a whirlpool of the senses, I have escaped countless times. But I always come back to it. I suffer from the Stockholm syndrome of Despair.

There is a dishonesty to my escapes, it’s the only reason I can think of why, I always find a way back to my anguish.

The torture of my soul is a narcotic to my becoming.


I have given up on depths, those vicious Chimeras of the Soul. And this is neither a cause for rejoice nor for despair. Deep down, we’re all the same, the same filth of narcissism, egoism, hedonism and a boring sense of self-righteousness make us all. I’ll take a nice surface over that any day.

I believe there is a ‘Façade of Depth’ between these two, surface and true depth. This is the goldilocks zone of our existence. A lie we tell to ourselves, and to others. The beautiful structures and palaces of ‘us’ wrought from the stuff of dreams, into a person; a person that walks, and talks, and occasionally even manages to smile.

What does the act of creation entail; do we sculpt ourselves out of the same primordial rock that was meted out to us? We spend our lives tirelessly chiselling away in the hopes of transforming it into something that is transcendentally ‘Us.’ Or perhaps we are trying to pull ourselves out of some primordial swamp, slowly and painfully scraping off the muck that sticks to our skin, hoping to be finally rid of it, to be clean, to be ourselves.

Diving into this ocean of the unconscious to search for some deeper hidden truth is an endeavour whose mundanity is only overshadowed by its futility.


In my hopelessness in the face of the realization, that I can never leave them, I have fallen in love with Delhi, with Noida, with Home, with the carpets and the doorknobs of my exceptionally ordinary Grand Hotel Abyss.

Over time, I grew tired of the compromises that had to be made on the size and the ambition of my dreams. It ended with me giving up on all of them. I was free.

As these passed through me, and I flitted in and out of my soul hotel, I watched a swiftfoot bum walk by me. His great brown coat in tatters, his beard weighed down from his babbling rambling cacophony, his fingers dragging slow through the thick air, opening up the fabric of the universe.


I meander around like the bum, thought clouds rumbling inside, and the city open at my feet. The roots of my soul have a strong hold, Atlas holding the sky on his shoulders strong hold on Delhi. They hide invisible, subterranean, holding me to my city.

All the imponderable Friscos and New Yorks of the world that float desolate, on islands, in my imagination cannot replace the Delhi that roots me. After all the grunts and the grimaces, side looks and unasked for glances have exhausted themselves, Delhi is still left standing. Even if it is only in its damp black cafes or chalk grafittied ruins.

I don’t think it matters if I feel sad in the metros of this city instead of someplace else. I don’t see the point in trading them in for Mumbai locals, or the Kolkata-Frisco streetcars of an era bygone.

Room 1202. Room 2402. Room 1102.

All of them are rooms at The Grand Hotel Abyss. Different times, Different places. But the people never change.


As much as I hate travel and movement, it becomes at times, intolerable to wallow about and drown in the murky uncertain depths of my soul. It is at these moments when movement brings me out of my stone silent meditation and my feet carry me forward, thinking and rethinking the path on their own whim, as I slip into an active non-being. An observer of my own life, as it slowly unfolds around me.

Through the plate grass I watch as the terrain opens up and closes down, till at last I am faced by the boxcars of the universe, left to their dreamless slumbers, standing still in rail yards, dozing off in the cold night, wrapped up in the fabric of forgetting. I watch the now silent railyard trainwash that goes three kilometers per hour, and not more, slower than the snowfall in winter and more leisurely than cherry blossoms in spring.

The infinite yards end and give way to the sewer of all gutters, black from the wastefulness, which gives way to perfectly planted rows of cotton or India blue, a patch of dirt between the Sewer and the Yamuna. And the river black in its own sense, black from the ashen dead in her waters.

The green vines on the electric towers have now turned brown and the rot of life now lies heavy on the rust of non-life.


There is dirt at the bottom of the glass I’m drinking from. I try to clean it out, but it sticks to the glass.

If we manage to find a light at the bottom, it is nothing but the angler fish of delusion luring us In with its blinking light. We are lost little fish looking for something on the lightless ocean floor.

But what good is a surface?

I have settled for a compromise, the shady deal of the soul; A centrism of the spirit. The only way I can bear this, is through the routine everydayness of existence. The banality of everyday life is like a star holding us in its orbit. We can bear it, because we feel that the tangent of escape is always in our reach. But, it never is. On and on we circle around our lives, as the days blend into each other, lost to us. Dark rocks of fire and dirt, we the forsaken planets who are less than nothing without our dull stars.


We create and accept an idea of who we are and try to come to terms with our dark thoughts and disquiet fantasies. This idea helps us make our decadence acceptable to us, and perhaps even desirable to others. It is in this edifice that our being rests, the ever shifting complex of our becoming.

I have given myself over to these ideas. Show me an image that I desire and I will accept what you’ve chosen to leave out of the frame.

It is a little disheartening when I apply this notion to myself. I am the puppet of all strings; I am pulled apart by unimaginable forces. And my proud heart registers each pull of the string, as a push from my own will, a push of my conscious out into the world. And just like that, I feel free in my unfreedom.


I went by on a stroll along the hotel corridor, and as I was making my way back to 1202, I spotted a half-open door with soft yellow light shining through and lighting up the dark hallway. I slowly tiptoed and leaned in to get a better look.

A man dressed up in a handsome blazer, was sitting on a stool, with his back to the door. He was grumbling to himself in front of a large canvas that, I realized to my horror, he had nailed to his window. It seemed to me that he had just washed away whatever was painted on. Some traces of the paint remained. I quietly closed the door behind me and left him to his metaphysical finger painting.

I came back to my own room, and looked at my dusty window. Equations, Unfinished sentences, Ancient symbols of now dead languages, and other things half thought out were carved in the dust.

I am tired of the plagiarizers of my life. There was a time, when I’d let people peek in on my dust carvings, my books, the inner workings of my soul.
That time is long past.


At night, sometimes I find myself on my feet, and I can’t recall what call to action could have removed me from the comfort of my bed, I stand mute and stare dumbstruck at the spot my becoming possessed not so long ago.

I try to remember what it was this time and decide to give up. I shake my head and decide to fix myself some coffee. I slowly move to the kitchen, and start shuffling things about. I quietly look at the tiny bubbles that come up on the surface of the pot and fizz out. They form small galaxies that spin around and change and froth, and finally vanish, without a trace.

I pour the milk in, and the coffee goes from dirty brown to a pleasing shade of caramel. Before I have a chance to indulge myself any more than usual the coffee curdles. I take one last look at the now spoilt brew before throwing it away.



What happens when an infinite summer wanders about in an unending winter?
The summer is a traveller, lost, under the stillness of stars not yet born.
The great summer of my life is almost at an end. The summer of uncountable winters, unforgettable pours of solitude and slow contemplative falls, but a summer all the same.


Sometimes when I am walking around the city, I wonder if anything really is there. I look at the ground, and I can see right through it. Other times, I see shark fins circling my feet on the tarmac.

I stand and look at the quadrilateral formed by the bridge, the road, and the walls of the garden against the horizon. And for a moment, I feel as if there really is something there. That there is a certain tangibility to the concrete, metal, sweat and blood. A belonging, even if it is to an illusion. I look at all the blank unremarkable faces around me, and I ask myself, how many of them are checked into the Hotel right now, at this very moment?
Stuck in their lives, escaping into some quintessentially forgotten sentiment, Laundry drying out on the highway rails, a stop sign at the road, on a turn that no one takes. In my soul, it was almost spring, but not quite.


I marvel at the neon pouring through the crisscrossed bamboo shoot partition, caught in my dreams of vodka women who sigh through their winesoaked teeth. These dreams echo out their banality in my life like wornout torndown cigarette metaphors. But the cigarettes never end, and the metaphors live on.

The man sitting two tables from ours has just ordered his second beer. He sounds somewhat European. There is a certain Baltic lostness in his face. He has a small notebook open at his table. The pages are fluttering in the wind like a mad butterfly. His beer arrives, and he flattens the butterfly with it.

I am surrounded by these strange hermits who have left their lands, and come to mine. I see them in Delhi cafes in beer pint and ashtray misery, on sidewalks in Rishikesh with their knapsack kitchens, and their sleeping bag beds strapped on their backs scribbling away in their eternal little notebooks.

They stare deep into the cool choking sky, into the foaming rivers, rivers which remind them of their seines and their amazons, and back to the unchanging starry sky we all share equally. They turn their doleful deer eyes back to their notebooks, and write.
I look at them, and pen something down in my Journal. And on and on it goes.


I have always known that I suffer from a delayed consciousness of life and the world around me. And I know that I lack the tablecloth that covers the mundanities of life. I may lack the emotional fabric, but I don’t lack the substance of the fabric itself. My life catches up with me and I’m cast into the whirlwind, tornado onslaught of my violent thoughts. I am flung through the entire emotional spectrum in a few seconds. And as soon as it passes all is quiet again.
I scream hopelessly into my pillow, giving up on Hope. And yet I wake up, and go about my day, only to return to the pillow again overcome by the useless desire to cry.


Sometimes I climb over the walls and look down at the solved labyrinth under my feet. The city locked in its shadows and lights. I watch the people small and indiscernible bum about the maze and each other in a Brownian motion of people. Sheets of sounds that encased the panorama of their lives covered me as well, as I came down and lost myself in them; ambulances ringing their sirens ferrying the dying down service roads that lead nowhere, injured dogs quietly whimpering in pain under benches, visibly forgotten, the sickeningly sweet scent of death.

I try and shrug off visions of metros crashing in on the rivers of people flowing about their day. The silence before the crash lies heavy in my mind.
We spend our lives walking around, looking for something that’d give us happiness, of only for a moment. When we find these silver linings of clouds more morose and darker than all the storm clouds of the world, we start unravelling them.

Things that happened to us, the monotonous every day and we ourselves, are the architects of destruction of every joy available to us in life. I suppose, the stone pushed uphill, must roll down again.

Sometimes, What I think about that which I feel gets stuck on its way down from my head to my heart. My heart unchecked by the poison of rationality goes on dreaming happily.


Once the clockwork simplicity of life is broken it’s impossible to restore it. The tiny ratchets, springs, wheels, pinions and gears that once worked in harmony, a hidden complexity behind the face, no longer keeps the time. A small bent in a gear tooth and it all comes to a stop. And we are left with nothing but the consolation of a broken clock being right every once in a while.

Sleep is the only solace one has in life, long dreamless sleep wrapped up in death’s licorice shroud. Dreams are better enjoyed when one is wide awake. Losing this oasis of existence leaves me inconsolable, watching the hours pass by with nothing to fill them with. I struggle to piece together my hazy recollections and blurred concepts into a lucid whole. All nights eventually blend into each other. Sometimes a pack of dogs passes by, barking and fornicating. Solitary cars on the dark asphalt rumble by, motorcycles kick start without a warning, and the vibration of my window as the cross country trucks roll away, finally vanishing at the edge of this nocturnal soundscape.

And sometimes not any sound but that of the leaves rustling in the wind and the room heavy with my breathing. Some nights leave you scrambling over the wreckage in search of the rising sun.


I don’t hope for much. But I do hope for understanding glances of a shared friendship, for sideway looks from a lover, when she is talking with someone else, letting me know that she is with me. The shared looks of amusement with strangers, when something unexpected happens on the bus. I believe these are the moments of pure communication that redeem us.

I hope for this as I meander through my life’s tedium, through its stiflingly heavy afternoons and humid mosquito evenings.


Often I find myself marooned in my dreams; the dreams aren’t abstract or formless. They take on some physical characteristics from the landscapes of my life.

The sad an insistent beauty of a painted landscape can only be appreciated as an image. When one is in the landscape itself, there is no comfort or time, unless it is in a dream. Where time is somewhat more malleable and lends itself to us, to be used as we see fit. The non-linearity becomes glaringly apparent contrasted against the hazy nature of the dream.
My landscapes have names. Grand Hotel Abyss is the landscape of my disenchantment; my distance from the world as I move through it.

People walk around the city cast into their own concerns, their own silences. I watch them evoke different mornings and evenings as they barrel through the city in the shiny metros. Some of them must be in a place which is very similar to my Hotel, and yet fundamentally different.

Most of us are bogged down by the everyday tedium of our lives. Some are lost in the equally, if not more tedious dreams of grandeur. Some of us look at the other passengers, the passers-by as nondescript puppets stringed through, most of us under the delusion of an unrivaled profundity; a delusion that borders on solipsism.

Nausea takes hold of my last conscious thoughts, and I feel my life slowly drip away.


With the closing of this season of my life, I often find myself going over the treasured secrets that spangle the fabric of these years. The uncountable shiny tidbits that stand as a reminder of a life lived, and of a live remembered. I know that someday they will be lost to me as well.

Our secrets are secrets only in life. Trunks locked up with keepsakes, journals kept under lock and key, overflowing with confessions, the moment we die, they are flung out I the open and laid bare for all to see.

Even if we scream out our secrets in empty forests, after our death, someone will stumble on the echo. Our secrets are only secrets in life.


I am in the market for a new soul. This one makes too much noise, and flies off in a hundred different directions all at once. It tries to dream of all things in heaven and on earth, and having failed sits in a corner resigned to its fate.

Although this is madness, there is a method to it.

The loss of foundations, of inner terrains of the spirit has led to this. What the mind fails to find in itself, it searches for in the world of sensations and things. And it will haunt the world till the time it has reclaimed what was lost.

Although this is madness, there is method to it.


Sometimes I consider raising the white flag of defeat in triumph. There is purity in rebelling for lost causes; the romance of rebelling against an eternal defeat. The white flag to me represents an infinite potential for rebellion, it can be died in any color and raised again; bright flash of white fabric made from the stuff of our dreams. The world we live in never ceases to amaze me; even a tiny speck of dust in the cosmos can dream of burning brighter than all the stars in the night sky. And it is in dreaming that we are all equals to each other.


Before summer ends and the rains arrive, the late afternoons are painted in dulcet colors of red, and the air lies heavy with nostalgia. These evenings call to my mind the images of women sitting together in cafes, all hair and hands, of men pacing outside bars waiting on their friends. I think of the rejected invitations and the clumsy excuses I have provided for not joining them. The monotony of these evenings frees me from the unending cycle of thoughts that devour all other thoughts, and having no sustenance left, eventually themselves. I breathe a little easier and lose myself in the nostalgia of times now past, and times that never were.

The wax stamp of my experiences lies heavy on my mind, as I regard the neighborhood cricket match unfolding downstairs.


Summer’s End

The last hours of the summer of my life are ticking themselves out. Watching the clock move through the minutes is an impossibly oppressive undertaking. But that is altogether more agreeable than trying to filling them with things and events.

The things to come are tugging at my elbow, calling my attention to them. It’s almost time for me to leave this city and go to a new one. A change of seasons is in order. But my heart is a mess of electric wires all meshed in and jumbled up in some old part of Delhi whose name I’ve long forgotten.

Delhi is an ancient oud being played by invisible fingers on invisible hands. If you press your ear to the ground you can hear them gently strum the music.
When I come back to this city, it would have changed yet again. The same way it changes every day. You cannot step into the same city twice.


Akshat Khare is an Indian poet whose experiments with writing are directed towards developing a post-postmodern poetics. He is the author of Delhi Blues and Other Poems (2020), The Book of Saudade (Notion Press, 2023), Truth Be Told: A Tragedy in the Making, and Signifying Nothing.