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Showing posts from 2007

October

The snails dehydrate,
stew in their upturned shells
to be crushed by passers-by.
The man-high grass has turned
yellow and then brown.
The cows and goats are back
to eating plastic bags.

The frogs, crickets, mosquitoes
are heard no longer;
the rainclouds have gone away.

The time to die has come.

"Destiny" - A Transcreation

Here is a transcreation based on Faiz A Faiz's revolutionary Urdu nazm 'Hum dekhenge', and written to the metre of another revolutionary song, the Marseillaise.

"Destiny"

Fear no more my fellow countrymen
The day we dreamed of has now come!
Oh! See the vile ziggurats crumble
Reduced to ignominous dust!
Reduced to ignominous dust!
Can you hear the revolution
Rumble in the angry streets
It thunders fire and lightning
To strike the oppressors' nemesis!

Our destiny is come
The day given to us
Arise! Arise!
For the cast-iron pledge
Must now be redeemed!

Fear no more my fellow countrymen
The day we dreamed of has now come!
Look! From the temple of our faith
The evil is now exorcised!
The evil is now exorcised!
The good are now restored to their
High exaltations again!
See the generals' stars stripped away
And their thrones, their baubles destroyed!

Our destiny is come
The day given to us
Arise! Arise!
For the cast-iron pledge
Must now be redeemed!

Fear no more my fellow countrymen
The day we…

A Gift

If I were to give something to you,
What would you like to have?

Shall I give you gold?
You can make – bangles, rings, anklets.
You may then win over your beloved
And make her yours.
You shall enjoy bliss, perhaps.
But gold is robbed.

Shall I give you iron?
You can forge – hammers, axes, chains.
You may then resist the conquistadores
And interrupt their designs.
You shall be free, perhaps.
But iron rusts.

Shall I give you stones?
You can build – temples, forts, palaces.
You may fear not rain or summer heat.
And be secure in their shelter.
You shall have peace, perhaps.
But edifices ruin.

Shall I give you friends?
We can form – alliances, parties, relations.
We shall have wine and dance and songs
And be mirthful.
You shall have joy, perhaps.
But friends die.

I shall not give you any of these.
I shall give you the one gift I have.

I shall give you words.
You can tell - stories, poems, truths.
You can tell me what you think
About love and peace and freedom and joy.
Your songs will be sung forever.
Your words will never …

Untitled

I

"Darling", said my truest love,
"Tell me that you love me."
So I told my truest love
That she was loved by me.

"Don't give me words, you cheeky man,
You're good at them I say.
Show by action how you can
Your love for me display."

"I knew it coming, dearest dear,
So do not twist to rhyme.
Tell me what you want to hear.
What do you want this time?"

"I don't want any diamonds. No,
I already have many.
Nor to any foreign country go;
You haven't that much money."

"I'll take you once to Pretoria,
To China and The Rhine
And at the Waldorf-Astoria
In splendour we shall dine."

"You can take me to Washington
All in the course of time.
But lets get to the Sheraton
And have French food and wine."

"I love you dear, I really do.
I swear it love of mine!
But one month's pay, and next month's too
For fancy cheese and wine!"

"I knew you'd say this all this while;
My wishes you never heed.
Please me with flowers and…

The Tiger's Den

Amidst the jungle’s myriad cries
Beyond the brightness of the skies,
Marked with bones and drying gore
And a fearful dreadful roar
I am the mighty tiger’s den!

Now when men have come to stay
And sow and reap and cry and play,
The roars still echo in the night
And the weak avoid my sight:
I am the awful tiger’s den!

Now the flowers and thorns are gone
There stand fields of golden corn
In a wood that yet exists
The old wild way still persists
I am the dying tiger’s den!

The drummers beat, the torches flare,
The hunters close in on the lair
“See the stripes – yellow and black”
The sahib’s rifle sounds its crack
I am the silent tiger’s den!

Now stands a suburb – homely, tame
All that’s left is just the name
And Buses, cars and lorries hoot
Lush turf replaced by smog and soot
I am the ghostly tiger’s den!

(I live in Thane in an area called Waghbil - which in Marathi means tiger's den. There is nothing tigrine or even sylvan about the place.)

My Own Ozymandias

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

I am not Oz, that kingdom fair,
That wizard's land,
That's terra australis.

I am not Ozzy, the Osbourne man
with family on TV
nor a Stryne mayte.

I am not Ozman, Agnes, pentecostal
The Chinese-speaker,
Nor a Turkish dynast.

I am not Sir Oz, nor any knight
I bear no armour-suit
Nor am blest by Queens.

My name is Ozymandias, writer of things:
Please read my works, make me not despair!

I am want to suiciding

O well! O well!
Why you are not having water?
I am failed in exam.
I want to suiciding.
Why you to be cleaned now?

O rope! O rope!
Why you are so weak?
She is not loving me.
I am having depression.
Why you are breaking now?

O poison! O poison!
Why you are not working?
My crops are not growing.
I am want to die.
But adulteration in everything.

O gun! O gun!
Why you are rusting?
Police are chasing behind me.
I not wanting caught alive.
Why I bought Chinese goods?

O ink! O ink!
You are running full.
You are saving me.
I am drowning in you.
What a relief!

Sorry

I want to say sorry to you.
I could say in lots of lovely
flower-bedecked words.
That is my one gift from God.
But will it unspeak,
undo the words I said?
Ugly, unthinking words
- the abuse of my sacred gift?

What will the sorry do?
It may hide, It will not heal.
The scar will not go away.
I can say stupid things in defence.
I can say I bear things said to me
with a grin and not resent.
So should you.
Foolish things to say.

I can say silly things
that make me pretend
that I have escaped
from the web of guilt
that I have spun for myself.
Only to say something
more imbecile
and fall into my own trap.

Even these words will only
weave that web even more.
I can give you some more
fancy words that mean nothing.
Just lots and lots of words.
One more poem, a little balm
to pretend all is well.
But they are all I have.

But I cannot let go of you.
That I will never do.

Sturmbannführer

I think I am a Nazi.

I killed a hundred flies today.
I froze them on ice,
lined them up one by one,
and beheaded them;
with a new, half-divided blade.
I needed those heads:
to isolate protein
to do an experiment.
The Endlösung to publish a paper.

And that would bring me
- fame, glory, eternity.
I say that it is only my duty
for the advancement of science.

The Schutz-Stafel guard also said that
at the doors of Mengele's laboratories.

I think I am a Nazi.

I kill because I do not like.
mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants.
Disgusting vermin I call them
like the Aryan called the Semite.

I swat them, crush them under my foot
until blood, limbs, heads, hearts
are all indistinguishable organum.
I spray them with pyrethrin
with glee, maybe even aplomb
just like a Sturmbannführer
putting down the Warsaw uprising.
They come into my house,
(built upon theirs).
why should I tolerate that?

I think we are all Nazis.

The wise ones say that
an area the size of Belgium
is chainsawed every day
in the Amazon rain-forest.
Hundreds of species…

Temple Day

Today is Monday:
Temple going day.
Queue is long with
hundreds of folks
waiting to see God
and praying:
to escape from sins,
for getting easy money,
resolve doubts
or feel strong.

Priest is doing rituals,
chanting fierce mantras
in dense Sanskrit,
adorning idol with flowers
and sandal-paste,
and burning
powerful incense.
Devotees are awed
'Siva Siva' they are chanting.

Outside one shop is there
selling things for God:
Flowers and coconut
to bribe the God
inside the temple.
It is asking one rupee
for keeping chappals
safe for pilgrims.
Prasadam also it is selling.

It is also selling
tacky little idols
of brass or copper,
little brocade dresses for
the goddess lined with jari
and little steel cradles
for baby God to sleep in.
There are cushions for
the cold metal idols
to rest when tired,
pretty little crowns
and lots of other things.

All for pious believers
to dress up their Gods
as if they are dolls.
Is God like a doll,
to be adored and played with
and not awed or worshipped?
Or is he a dangerous king
who will be angry
if l…

A poem for my ageing wife

Those pearly whites that you
brush in the sink
as you sing our favourite songs;
In that cracked yet enchanting voice
rich in memories
of every argument we've ever had;
Those glasses on your shapely nose
thickened over years
though it is time for a higher number;
The sun glinting off the strands
of coconut-oiled
smooth hairs: white, grey and black;
And that perpetually swelling medicine box
shared between us
from which I swallow what I see first...

You asked for it, didn't you
what I liked in you
And I had to be honest about it?
Of course you have silky black hair,
and dazzling eyes,
bewitching smile, sweet voice et cetera.
Not that I don't like you this way,
Of course I do.
But when it comes to that...

Glad you get the point!

Published in Writing Love an Anthology of Indian - English Poetry, ed. Ashmi Ahluwalia; Rupa Publications 2010. ISBN 978-81-29116-66-6.

A Valentine Rant

Reading instructions: Please dry your sense of humour before proceeding.

Description: short, fair and ugly.
defunct left eye, compensated by
proud Dravidian moustache.
(Kollywood directors' catch)
I'm told girls didn't care for looks.
So why am I still single?

Profession: science student;
Two papers in statistics.
Ph.D. from reputed institution.
(World-changing patents pending)
I'm told girls like accomplishments.
So why am I still single?

Hobby: Writing and poetry.
Some stuff published.
People rave and rant about it.
(May get a Nobel.)
I'm told girls are suckers for poetry.
So why am I still single?

Not so hidden talent: languages.
Can be comfortable with your
Swahili-speaking brother-in-law
(Or Greek or Persian for the matter).
I'm told girls like social skills.
So why am I still single?

I'm not rich. Well, not yet,
but have the arrogance, and poise,
cheek and sauciness to get there.
(My first royalty cheque's in the mail)
I'm told girls care for such potential.
So why am I s…

My name is Raamesh Gowri Raghavan

My name is Raamesh Gowri Raghavan.
I am 26 years old.
I live in Patanjali hostel, TIFR, Colaba.
I have a house in Thane.
My father and mother and sister live there.
My father is a trader.
He retired from the army.
My mother is a housewife.
My sister is a psychologist.
Our dog's name is Puppysingh.
He is a very smart retriever.
I taught him many tricks.

I am doing my PhD in TIFR.
I was a JRF in Pune earlier.
I did my MSc in Biology.
I did my BSc in Microbiology.
I want to become a scientist and a writer.

My hobbies are reading and cycling.
I like collecting stamps and coins.
I like little fruitflies.
And snakes and spiders and ants.

I like writing poetry.
I like writing short stories.
I make up original plots.
I like to write in my own style.
I write about many things.
I do not write about Malgudi.

I AM NOT R. K. NARAYAN.

Names

"Remember Sundaram Mama’s
Standing joke?
“I retired from Godrej and Boyce.
But wife didn’t retire from Godrej and Girls!”
He told it everytime.
Forty year’s service without a blot,
Daughter married off to America groom.

Or Venkatesan Mama in 25B?
Left early and returned late
To avoid the rush hour crowd.
No children, and no regrets.

Or Jayaram Mama?
The one who secretly returned potatoes,
Purloined by his wife.

And Sita Mami?
The one who would turn up
After the poojai ended
And take a whole flaskful of payasam?

And Pankajam Mami?
Sitting under the barren mango tree
To extract gossip from passers by.

I don’t blame you for not remembering.
I had to make up their names
To write this poem, for;
I have forgotten the original ones.
They were meant to be forgotten."

My second love poem

Dewdrops exist but for a moment
and die with the morning Sun."
The pearls of her laughter
Those giggles, those blushes:
Pangs of a first, intense love.
Dewdrops.
"The ant waits upon them
for the water of life;
Would not the heart?

My First Love Poem

This night I shall dream of you
and potatos and rafflesia.
This night as all nights,
I long to kiss your tin-plated lips.
In my dreams we fly
on the dodo of love,
skimming vast continents
of postage-stamps and nostrils.
The seas shall never separate our gins.
Its waters wave like small bearded angels
greeting us from afar.
We shall feast on chocolate-coated bandana
and tend to an exodus of love.
Adorned in white silk,
crown'd in cabbage
mounted on an alligator,
thou art my queen.