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Antakshari

With a setting crescent moon
over the darkened hills,
a single, bright star
in a purple sky turning violet,
a cup of green tea in my hands,
a couple of crisp, marie biscuits
and a well-written book of history -
you might think Sunday was perfect.

But no, there has to be what's called
a society function - haldi kumkum this time -
in the lawns, ostensibly to celebrate
Makar Sankranti and related festivals.

I can't quite see where the thali
containing turmeric and vermillion is.
Instead there are plastic chairs
in a disordered semi-circle,
a sound system, a table with prizes
and another where snacks are being prepared.

A mistress of ceremonies,
who should be legally restrained
from coming within six feet of mikes,
women of all ages busy sharing notes
on silk sarees and bright jewelry
(dare I call them gaudy?),
men guffawing over some crude joke
but trying not to be too noisy,
and children being children -
all of them try to get as much antakshari
finished before the inevitable squabble.

Bad Bollywood and Indipop songs
are sung even more horridly,
and then the awaited squabble breaks out
in all its entertaining intensity -
over which word the previous song
ended in, over who deserves the prize,
and whose child is most talented.

And then it dies down, for folk are hungry
(better to finish off as much as one can
lest the organisers corner everything)
and the organisers look on in anxiety
(how greedy the society people have become,
next time we should not have buffet system
but limited snacks only).

The mike at last is silent;
under a navy blue sky
with Orion, the Pleiades
and the Dog Star shining on us,
my dog and I lie down
and gaze at the sky
revelling again,
in that eternal quietness,
that is Nature's night.

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