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Showing posts from 2006

Turkmenbashi

More wood, more fire,
More orgies!
My power shall not stand
Diminished in any way.
The jewels in my crown,
Those trophies of battle,
That glory of being
The Master of his men.
The vile slavery of my serfs
— shall I let go of it?
More orgies, more food,
More laurels to my power!

Shall a mere tree come in my way?
What shall I make my men do?
Eat roots when they can have pheasant stew?
That last tree shall give me wood,
And they – those serving men –
They shall chop it, and burn it.
The cooking-men will stir the pots;
The hunting-men shall find for me -
Pheasants, and deer and turtles;
The growing men shall bring me
Wheat, and rice and cotton;
The weaver-men, and the barber-men
And the potter-men and other men,
They shall all ply their trades.

And I:
I keep the peace among them,
I throw them my table-scraps,
And they shall be fed
And be happy.
They shall not murmur
And swear oaths and secrets
Or in any manner rise against me.

No more wood be there to burn?
What matter?
We shall burn coal.

No more coal?
O there is some left f…

Thanksgiving

My parents - theirs are the hands that I hold to stand up.
My school - what I am is because of my teachers.
My doctor - he instills in me faith in human nature.
My peers – they tell me what my place is.
My friends - they are the sunshine that surrounds me.
My dog - he has taught me compassion for all life.
My city and community - they give me an identity.
My country - its love of freedom gives me my voice.
flowers and birds and butterflies - they fill my world with beauty.

My creator – who gave me the gift of words.

Words to sorrow in.
Words to rejoice in.
Words to say thanks in.

Adorned by Flames

Build me a city", said Al-Mansour,
"One the world has never seen before,
Greater than the spread of Al-Cairo,
A city to rival Mecca's glow,
Humble the might of Damascus,
Tell the world that kings are us!
Here where mighty rivers meet
A thousand foes shall taste defeat;
Constantinople, Rome and Greece
Shall make with us ignoble peace!
With stone and mortar wright a song
Make me a city grand and strong"
A thousand plans were made and torn;
The king poured out unvarnished scorn.
"The tortuous history of mankind
With this place should be entwined
When in their thousands fools will die
Make this city the reason why!"
The architect in his confusion
Struggled to match his master's vision.
In his eyes then shone a gleam
In burning sands he saw a dream
Three mighty walls; a golden dome
For the greatest, it shall be home!
"Plough me a circle three miles wide
Fill it with charcoal, wood and hide.
Furrow another outside it
And then plough yet one more pit.
When you're done set them …

बनारस

आइए जनाब, बनारस में आपका स्वागत है।
इसे अपना ही शहर समझिये,
हम और आप ग़ैर थोडी हैं!
गंगास्नान करियेगा,
विश्वनाथजी के दर्शन करियेगा।

अच्छा, आप यहां दहशत फैलाने आए हैं?
लाखों की जानें लेने आए हैं?
आप ही का तो शहर है,
जो मन चाहे करें।
हम कौन होते हैं रोकने वाले?

आप बम डालेंगे?
शौक से डालिये।
बीसों मारे गए तो क्या हुआ?
छोटे-बडे शहरों में
ऐसी छोटी-मोटी बातें तो होती ही रहती हैं।

आपने जो काम मुंबई और दिल्ली में किया,
भला यहां क्यों करेंगे?
अब बनारस और अयोध्या जैसी छोटी शहरों में
आपको क्या नसीब होगा?
फिर भी, यह हमारी ख़ुशकिस्मती है
कि हम पर भी आपके नज़र पडे।

आप कहते हैं कि काशी-अयोध्या
हमारे देश की नीव हैं,
हमारे देश के अस्तित्व का प्रतीक हैं?
जी ज़रूर, सही कहते हैं आप।

आप इस नीव को हिलाना चाहते हैं?
जी, अब आप ग़लत बात कहते हैं।

हज़ारों को मार लीजिये,
क़ौमी दंगे करवाइए।
जो चाहे करिएगा,
यह सपना छोड दीजिये
कि आप हमारी नीव हिला सकते हैं।

सैंकडों सालों से
सींचा हुआ नीव है यह।
आपकी ही तरह बहुतों आए।
तुर्की आए, मुग़ल आए, अंग्रेज़ आए।
उनका भी हमने स्वागत ही किया।
अतिथी देव जो ठहरा!

उन्होंने भी यही कोशिश की
कि हमें जड से हटाएं।
बदले, वही हममें मिल…

Get out of that Cocoon

In all appearances, of course,
I am a man full-grown.
Then again, as they say
appearances are deceptive.

For in me there are
at the same time:
a child, a grown up
and even an old man.

The old man makes me think.
Made old by the burden
of experience and knowledge.
(All still within the classroom yet).

The grown up makes me
...um he makes me survive.
Compete, contest, strive,
to use a cliche:
run in the rat race.

But it is the child
I like the most.
He is the one
that makes me
want to live.
Really live.

To enjoy
the rain, the flowers,
the smell of wet earth.
To watch and wonder
at the industrious ants,
the caterpillar, the rat even.

He goes around tying rakhis
for raksha bandhan.
He'll send you
an eclair
(or better, a rose)
in that first burst
of youthful love.
He's the one
that will be optimistic
about giving his heart
and getting another in exchange.

He is the one inside me,
that really does all the living.
The old man's cynicism,
the grown up's
...er...grownupism -
all that is just a shell.
A shell to stay alive …

Transcreating a Spanish hymn

Transcreating a piece from one language to another is not very easy, but it
is a better thing to do than merely translate. The translator is but a
linguist, loyal more to the medium than the message. It is the transcreator
who adopts the spirit of the message, and moulds the new language of
expression around it.

Here's a Spanish hymn, and my attempt at a transcreation here:-

No soy un visionario,
No soy revolucionario.
Pero soy un hombre simple,
que espera un mejor mañana.

Soño esperanza
y canto este himno.

Creo que el sol brillará
y las tinieblas saldrán.
Creo en rosas rojas
y amor y de la paz.

Soño esperanza
y canto este himno.

Creo que los humanos
todos los seres humanos
serán libres un día;
libres, e iguales.

Soño esperanza
y canto este himno.


I am not some big-hat thinker
nor some eternal rebel.
I'm just your regular guy
wanting a better day tomorrow.

I believe there'll be light again
and the clouds will disperse.
There will be red roses and love
and all the happy things of life.

Someday all human b…

Last Tree Standing

It was the last tree standingOn the prairie’s boundless groundHarassed by the winds and rain alikeIt stood alone, calm, strongGently holding on to its last leaves.“More wood, more fire,More orgies!My power shall not standDiminished in any way.The jewels in my crown,Those trophies of battle,That glory of beingThe Master of his men.The vile slavery of my serfs— shall I let go of it?More orgies, more food,More laurels to my power!“Shall a mere tree come in my way?What shall I make my men do?Eat roots when they can have pheasant stew?That last tree shall give me wood,And they – those serving men –They shall chop it, and burn it.The cooking-men will stir the pots;The hunting-men shall find for me -Pheasants, and deer and turtles;The growing men shall bring meWheat, and rice and cotton;The weaver-men, and the barber-menAnd the potter-men and other men,They shall all ply their trades.“And I:I keep the peace among them,I throw them my table-scraps,And they shall be fedAnd be happy.They shall …

To My Nephew Newborn

Ah! Little fellow,
Welcome to the arms,
Of a proud uncle.

Welcome into this world of ours.
We have many things for you.
You shall have them
As a young man.

Books,
Dogma,
Music.

Guns,
And roses.

Tell me, nephew,
(Though I know you cannot tell)
What will the world be like,
In your time?

Will there still be roses,
And the time and tenderness,
To give them to pretty girls?

Will the child's laugh,
The sparrow's twitter
And the sunrise on the sea
Still be beautiful?

Will all men,
Who the wise say
Are born equal,
Will they die equal
And happy?

Or would steel
Still shed blood?

Will the madness that has been
The fate of all mankind,
The plunder and plague,
Still abound?

I hope there will be roses,
And the beauty of love
Still prevail in the end.

Nephew (how you sleep!)
Someday you will be
The father, and I the son
And you will lead me by
The hands that hold you now,
Into a future unseen.

A Monsoon Sonnet

Hurrah! The rains are here!
The dream that every tree has seen
To dress in everlasting green;
The hope of every sown seed,
Of every herb and grass and weed,
Of parched street and thirsting town,
Of starving ryot and taxing crown:
Is sated now, there is no fear.

The drops of life fall sweet and clear!
His time has come, he's waited long:
The frog croaks forth his eager song!
With joy does every little child,
Frolic in mud, get wet, run wild!
Hurrah! The rains are here!

The Courtship of a Fly

some point in their love-lives. Now those beautiful studies in miniature called Drosophila melanogaster, who provide me my daily bread, have no less an elaborate ritual of courtship, as they sing and dance and weather down their beloveds to consent to a union of hearts. Presenting the Fly Shakespeare:-

Male:- Shall I compare thee to a summer’s eve?
Thy brilliance is like a sun upon the firmament,
And thy portment most tubby!

Female: Hie! Thou yellow-bodied knave,
Get thee away from me.

Male:- Dismiss not my entreaties, bonnie lass,
Thine wings most curled, and most brilliant
Balanced are they in their beauty!

Female:- Look upon thyself, thou love-lorn fool!
Look upon the hazard tufts,
That peasantly stubble
That thou claimest to pass for bristles,
Ha! Wooest thou me with such gain?
And consider mine:
What perfect form, slender curved,
And tipt with gold!

Male:- Am I so blemish’d,
That my worth to thee is unkempt?
Gaze into my eyes, fair maiden,
Two whiten hemispheres
Pure in their love for thee!

Female:- …

The Message

The message is supreme;
Born in the heart,
and lilting itself
from tongue to tongue,
throwing its scent
over wind and wave;
travelling on dots
or fingers
when blindness
or silence bar its way.

It hews itself into stone
or burns itself onto magnetic discs;
it is the message that lives
and I exist
solely to pass it on.

Fashion Street

9:00 AM. Mumbai. Fashion Street.
Officially Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Curious juxtaposition of names.

Empty hawker stalls.
Unloaded hangers.
Stark bamboo poles.

Fading echoes of bargains.
Echoes of a thriving economy.
Echoes of a police van.
Echoes of a city alive.

Echoes of a man of his people.
Echoes of his people.
Curious juxtaposition of names? (Originally written as a flash essay on Saturday, September 03, 2005. I wonder whether transformation as blank verse would work.)

A Monsoon Idyll

The nectar-laden clouds;
The earthen smell
of newborn life
the sea-spray upon my face,
the green cloak that the trees
have covered themselves in
and the steadily pouring rain
that feeds, nurtures, enlivens:
they weave beauty into breath,
The joy of being,
The enchanted thrill
And the bliss of minglement
into the bounty of the earth!

Himno (in Spanish)

No soy un visionario,
no soy revolucionario.
Pero soy hombre simple,
quién espera un mejor mañana.
Creo que el sol brillará
y las nubes saldrán.
Creo en rosas
y amor y paz.
Creo que todos
los seres humanos
estarán libres algún día;
libres, e iguales.
iCreo en amor
y canto este himno!

Villanelle - Why am I a writer?

Why am I a writer?
Why bother pentameter?
Why must ink stain paper?

Why have I nought better?
Than be a story-teller;
Why am I a writer?

While men earn and prosper,
I am just a word-monger;
Why must ink stain paper?

I may be a great master
Or just a poetaster
Why am I a writer?

Why mess with rhyme and meter,
With plotline and character?
Why must ink stain paper?

Why not live a quieter
Life of peace that's better?
Why must ink stain paper?
Why am I a writer?

Tin Sheets

They've put tin sheets around my house.

That house in the middle of the city,
built so very long ago by grandpa,
when I was not even born,
shall they break it down?

The grills on the window,
with the big sill on which I sat,
watching suburban trains go past;
and that window that never opened,
will they break them now?

That attic in which I could play,
and not be found for hours;
and all the sundry stuff in it
Among which I was general, king or slave
In a perfect fancy world,
will they break them now?

The kitchen platform with the burners,
one for sacred, god-offered meals,
the other for cooking abhishtam things,
when grandmother was not around;
and the shelves with old wooden doors
groaning with sterling heirlooms,
will they break them now?

The tall wardrobe in the room
on which my cousin kept things
which I should not read;
or the iron cot in the corner
that creaked under grandpa's weight;
or that ancient blotted mirror,
will they break them now?

That ancient wooden staircase,
that spiralled to the te…

A Riddle

Guess who I am:- I am the sunset's pleasing tone,
I am the shipwreck's anguished moan.
I seed the rain that nurtures all,
I brew the anger of the squall.
I am the atoll's turquoise green,
I am the ice-floe's stark white sheen.
From me stems every living breath,
To me your dust comes after death.

Waiting

I’m waiting by the sea
for someone to come.
I see here and there.
Everyone is waiting.
For someone to come
or someone to go
(perhaps forever).

Some for a signal from above
that will guide their destiny;
others merely a better job,
or a spouse, or inheritance.

The stones are waiting too
for the tide to lash at them.
the stranded crabs wander,
waiting for the sea
to come in and take them back.
and the fish in the sea
are waiting too
for the crabs to come back.

The limitless earth behind me
is sowed with seeds
that have been waiting
for the heavenly water
that will sow them with life.
the squirrels and birds wait
for that water and the blooming
to rerun that eternal sequence
of life again and again.

We are all waiting
for something
or the other
to happen
and bring the change
we dread to bring
by our own hands.

My little wait is over,
She has come.

But my big wait
Still continues.
I know not
What I wait for.

But I’m waiting.

(The bit in italics may or may not be part of the poem.)

Happy Birthday Suniti

To the walker of dogs
and hawker of art,
the baker of cakes
and maker of candles,
the spreader of cheer,
the forger of happiness,
to the odd job woman,
the dragon of glee,
the caterpillar of hope:
I wish you
a harvest of stars
a spring of flowers.

Happy Birthday Suniti.

Gangu

Your Gangu is ill?
I'll write the medicines
But I have no hopes.
It is not my fault
And I cannot help you.

If you are poor
And your children die,
It is no one's fault.
Why should anyone
be blamed for that?

You don't want to die?
Go to the great Mumbai
Sweep the streets or,
Make chapatis for the rich.
Atleast you will be alive.

Ha! You want your dignity?
Then be here in Nandurbar,
And watch your children die.
You will sicken and starve,
But you'll have your dignity.

'Bargirl murdered in Chikpet'

A bargirl died.
Found in her hovel;
her throat cut,
lying in a pool of blood.

I read this,
on the left margin
in the crime section
of my newspaper.

A jilted paramour
was suspected.
Police was hunting
for him, it said.

Some days later,
the culprit was found
and charged for murder.
Next day I forgot it.

I don't know
whether he was hung,
or imprisoned for life.
I don't even know he was tried.

There were lurid details,
of other murders in the papers.
No boring court reports.
How does it matter?

Someone was murdered.
She didn't concern me,
Why should I care?

There are murders everyday.

Gangu (in Marathi)

गंगू:
"आई बघ पान्ढ्री कोंबडी!
किति सुन्दर आहे| मी घेवू?
मी खेलीन तिच्याशी|"

गंगूची आई:
"अग गंगू!
का त्रास देतेस ग?
शालते जायाचे नाही?"

गंगू:
"नाही आई|
बाई ओरडतात तिकडे|
मला कोंबडी बरोबर खेलायच आहे!"

*****

गंगूची आई:
"अहो डाँक्टर,
माझ्या गंगू ला काय झाले?
ती बोळत का नाही?
ती फक्त पडून आहे|"

डाँक्टर:
"तिला बर्ड फ्लू झाल आहे|
मी औशध लिहून देतो|
(पण मला काही आशा वाटत नाही|)"

*****

गंगूची आई:
"माझी गंगू गेली रे|
कानाचा अशोक गेला|
वार्क्याची सुन्दरी गेली|
आम्च्या मुला मुलींना काय झाला होता?
त्यांनी कोणाचा काय केल?"

डाँक्टर:
"तुम्ही गरीब आहात|
हीच तुम्ची चूक|
तुम्हाला कोण विचारणार?
हे नन्दुरबार आहे|
प्रधानाचा दरबार नाही|"

"जा! मुंबईला जा!
तिकडे तुम्चे राजा गादीवर बसलेत|
नाच तमाशा करताय्त|"

"महाराष्ट्राची कोणाला फिकिर?
सगळे खुर्चीचाच विचार करतात|
तुझ्या बोर्या बान्ध आणी जा मुंबईला!"

"न्याय मिळेल कि नाही मला माहित नाही|
पण तिकडे कुणाच्या तरी घरात झाडू मार,
पोळ्या बणाव|"

"हेच तुझ्या अस्तित्व|
तू महाराष्ट्र आहेस|
हेच महाराष्ट्राचा अस्तित…

Persian Prayer

Lord! I asked of you to give me paradise.
Lord! You gave me the boon of heaven!

Lord! I asked of you to give me strength.
Lord! You gave me the boon of faith!

Lord! I asked of you to give me wisdom.
Lord! You gave me the boon of a teacher!

Lord! I asked of you to give me peace.
Lord! You gave me the boon of love!

Lord! I asked of you to give me security.
Lord! You gave me the boon of yourself!

Lord! I asked of you to give me paradise.
Lord! You gave me the boon of heaven!

City

Local trains
Cutting chai
BEST buses
vada-pao
pudhe sarka
Marine drive
Salty air
kanda pohe
T.I.F.R.
Monsoon
Lalbagcha Raja
Saamna
Autorickshaws
- my forsaken homeland

Prayer (In Persian)

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-ferdaus kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-jannat dadi!

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-zor kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-Iman dadi!

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-danesh kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-moallem dadi!

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-saleh kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-mehebet dadi!

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-hefazet kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-shoma dadi!

Khoda! Man az to dua-ye-ferdaus kardem,
Khoda! To az man dua-ye-jannat dadi!

La Raçaillaise

Why do we humans bother to make nations and draw boundaries and have national identities? What ever happened to the Stone Age, when different hunter-gatherer bands roamed around, eating food, playing games and making love and war just the same as we do in a 'civilised' manner today?

Do dogs do this? Do they were to constitute republics and elect leaders? Have they a national anthem?

I asked my friend Puppysingh, and he told me in his language. When they collectively bay at the moon, they are in fact affirming their national solidarity. Here is the translation of the anthem of the Mangy Republic:-

La Raçaillaise
by Chiennoir deRues


In streets and dingy alleys where
Our fathers fought before us;
Inder staris, in hollows where
Our mothers had littered us;
O'er rubbish bin and gutter filth
A republic of dogs we build!
We affirm a mongrel guild
We claim a canine commonwealth!

No collar, leash or metal chain
Shall hence inhibit our will!
Our freedoms o'er all terrain
Is proclaimed from ever…

For I.I.Sc.

You may still the breath of our lungs.

The excitation of our nerves,
Agonies of screwed-up gels,
The somnolent labmeets,
Sessions with boss,

Journal club inanities,
Cold hostel rooms,
Bad mess cooking,
Paper-rejection angsts,

Debates over coffee,
That nervous colloquium,
That boring thesis-writing,
The rising thrill of discovery,

That hasn't changed. You failed Mister.

(In response to the I.I.Sc. terror attack)

First day at school

Daughter went to school today.

Her first day of education.
A milestone –
The ‘first time’ of everything.
Not long ago,
She had said her first word.
Looked into my eyes, smiled,
And said –
Amma!

And not long before that
She took her first steps.
She stood on her own legs,
And walked to daddy.
And daddy…
Well daddy was crying.
It is in tears
That joy blossoms.

And today baby went to school.
Is she already so big?
Will she soon be
Fighting with boys?
Competing with girls?
And one day
Tell me that so-and-so
Will be her life-partner?

That will take time,
She just went to school today.

All smiles for a new dress –
Striped white blouse
Kerchief tucked in neatly
Navy blue pinafore
And matching ribbons.
Shining black shoes
And socks to match.
Mother’s proud daughter.

Bright new school-bag,
With gleaming buckles.
In it a drawing-book,
Pencils, crayons,
Rubber and sharpener.
Fancy pencil-case,
With pop-up animals
And the sounds of a piano.

Tiffin-box
With sandwiches
Biscuits and chocolate.
All for the crows;
My daughter is generous.
Water-bot…

Knight On A Black Stallion

"I love you! Marry me!"
"Give me three reasons why."
"I've a tragic history like your favourite fiction hero."
"Like what?"
"Well, I was bullied at school."
"Give me a better reason!"
"I saved your honour."
"When?"
"That party, when I had just the shade of nail-gloss you wanted?"
"So?"
"I'm a knight. Ain't I?"
"You don't have an armour."
"I got insurance."
"No gleaming sword."
"I got a plama-screen."
"Where's your black stallion?"
"I got a black limousine."
"You're crude."
"I love you."
"Go away."
"Be honest! I am your knight."
"Er..."
"Done. I'm going to ask your father, and we're marrying next week. It's not the same as a black horse, be we can still ride into the sunset in my car."