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Showing posts from April, 2010


to some they're just words
strung together
that may mean something
or nothing at all
or mean different things
at different times

to some they're expressions
of desperate souls
entrapped in their existences
conjuring shangrila
elysian fields, ruritania
by inked stains on paper

to some they're everything
truth & escape
existence and fantasy
being and dying
the only way to live
and to die


ख़्वाहिश तो यही है कि
तुमसे फ़ासले रखूँ
पर हर राह तुम्हें ही
मनज़िल बनाती है


फूलों में इतनी सुगन्ध क्यों होती है?
क्योंकि आपने उन्हें स्पर्ष किया|
लहरें धीमे से गुनगुनाती क्यों हैं?
क्योंकि आपने उनमें राग सजाया|
इन्द्रधनुष मेघ में क्यों छुप जाता है?
क्योंकि आपके तेजस से शर्माता है|
हम प्रेमकवि क्यों बन गए हैं?
क्योंकि आपकी वन्दना ही अब
जीवन का लक्ष्य बन गया है|

Sleeping Beauty Awakes

One hundred years they made her sleep!
One hundred years she could not weep,
or skip or sing or laugh or dance,
Until a prince had had his chance.

One kiss of love did break the charm!
He held her fondly in his arm,
But she recoiled back in fear
And summoned her guards to come near.

For when she woke she could not tell
That she had been under a spell.
She thought he was an intruder
And not her destined saviour.

But when they had questioned the youth
They came to know the bitter truth
That time had moved a hundred years
And then their eyes were filled with tears.

The princess and her loyal maid
Were very truly much dismayed.
Both began then to loudly wail
To hear them no one could fail.

On waking from so long a sleep
You too dear, would vainly weep,
If you realised what you wore
Was out of fashion long before!

Phone Tapping

The sound of tapping goes beep beep
Good folk, switch off your black Blackberry
Beware the deadly radio sweep
Unless you have had too much sherry

Government, Government, they tap a good man's phone
Government, Government, their motives are unknown

Tap: They spare not an iPhone
Tap: They do it when comatose
They even know your new ringtone
But say they do not act on purpose

Government, Government, with many a bumbling plan
Government, Government, they can't end what they began!

(With apologies to Edmund Blackadder)

Canto Caligulae

What wondrous miracle a human neck is!
Divine, slender, lissome; a bridge to connect
The heart's beating passion with analysis,
From the cold, calculating brain; a perfect
Feature of Paris, Anubis, or Isis;
That vulnerable, captivating effect
Of David's ponderous marble poise - his
veins as they stand out for a knife to transect;

Does it not tempt the hand to reach out and clasp
Between the palms, and feel the throat convulsing,
Pulsating wildly, in its desperate gasp
To break free; Or would it be deemed revulsing
To gloat as slit veins leak blood and hear the rasp
Of the dying, as one's own nerves are pulsing?

A variant of 'Escape'

A gunshot in my temple, tempered by cocaine;
Barbiturates, so honeyed dreams shall never fade;
Or seppuku and its seizing, searing pain
As my tenderly nurtured flesh meets whetted blade;

Plunge a dagger into my dear neck, and wailing
Screeching, screaming qualis artifex pereo;
Or must it be by self-immolation, flailing,
Buckling, gyrating in an obscene rodeo;

Fall upon my sword, or trust my loyal maiden
To smuggle in an asp and to it surrender;
Perhaps a ripened apple, cyanide-laden
To exit without pain, and go out in splendour;

Which do I adopt, the most beautiful way
To pass into freedom, and escape from today?

Solomon Grundy

We're all of us Solomon Grundy

Born by auspicious Caesarean on Monday
Dying for 90% marks on Tuesday
Demographic dividend on Wednesday
Pension plans on Thursday
Marrying daughters on Friday
Ayah-ing grandchildren on Saturday
And an urnful of ashes on Sunday

We're all of us Solomon Grundy

Ninety nine

It is an interesting number 5
one short of the one that 6 (11)
is held as a gold standard 6 (17)
for measures of success and failure, 6 (23)
the number that judges everything 5 (28)
from someone's sincerity to 4 (32)
the contamination in a bar of iron. 7 (39)
It is a hungry number, besmirched 6 (45)
by an accusation of incompleteness 5 (50)
though it is so perfect in form, 7 (57)
its twin members so beautifully 5 (62)
illustrating its two divisors 3 (65)
the first one less, the second one more 8 (73)
than that other fabulous number 5 (78)
which multiplied by itself yields 5 (83)
that magic figure all men yearn for. 7 (90)
Perfect and yet always incomplete. 5 (95)
Ever hungry, ninety nine. 4 (99)

(Exactly 99 words)

To Mary Anning

"She sells seashells on the seashore"
Is all we remember of her.
Not that she found the pterosaur
Nor that she was a Dissenter.

She had a talent for finding
Whole skeletons of dinosaurs.
She made her living by selling
Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

Wrong class, wrong sex, wrong religion
- Doomed her to be a peasant woman.
All the fame and recognition
Went to idle wealthy gentlemen.

But now we're finally giving
The credit due to Mary Anning.

(She deserves a far better poet; she gets me)

Neighbours: An acrostic

When we bought our flat we hoped we would
Have neighbours with whom to build an
Outstanding comity of trust and fraternity

The family in flat 24 (we're in #23)
Has never spoken to us in 9 years
Except once (when they borrowed milk)

Flat no. 21 and 22 have in them
Unsocial folks who keep to themselves, or
Compulsive obsessives who think we are
Kleptomaniacs out to strip them bare

I might have to admit that I'm not
Such a wonderful neighbour myself

A voluminous book or a lengthy
Letter from a friend overseas
Is my idea of diverting company; I
Care not to exchange fake 'how are you?'s
Even in shared elevator journeys.

(From Gompie's parody of Smokie's 'Living next door to Alice')

Prime Numbers

Photographs of a birthday
I never knew

A memory I want to visit
Blank state that it is

Pram rolling downhill
In it an unwelcome sibling

First friend across the balcony
First crush in the opposite flat

Bedtime extends past nine
into the world of adults

Breasts seem to make sense
Half-ticket status despised

Hot flushes burn within
Red initials spatter my math book

School ends
as does adolescence

ambition crystallises
A hurrah the world can hear

The dream goes sour
First thoughts of suicide

Salaries chase deadlines
As aspirations dehydrate


Mother has many names.

Anak Krakatau might be one of them,
Or Uttarkashi or Qinghai,
Haiti certainly is.

She's the mother that swallowed
Maui into her womb,
the mother that disarmed Karna,
who led Oedipus to sin.

She plays pranks too,
in that cheerful way unique to her.
We find strange names to give them
- tsunami, hurricane.

Kalki is another name
we've given her, for when she
will be an old woman
looking for some kind of elixir of youth.
Perhaps some quack will mislead
her to find it in our blood.

She has a heart of gold they say -
pure, molten lava,
that sometimes erupts on her skin
like a ripe pimple.

She loves nothing more
than the sound of babies crying -
orphaned, bloodied, hungry, dying
their carcasses feeding hyaenas.
But hyaenas are her children too.

But she is the green mother
who feeds us, clothes us,
protects us from the sun's
ionizing radiation,
we came from her loins,
which is where we go.

Over Tea

"Here's the ring
and the ear-rings
you gave last Diwali."

"You can keep them."
"The usual?
No sugar,
no milk?"
"The usual."
" "

"Your letters."
"Your phone."
"That was a,
a gift."
"Give it,
to her. Not me."

" "
"Here's my share -
twenty-two rupees."

"Oh, no.
"Bye, then."

(Reworked from Shadows)


तल-अल-अराफ़ात पर तेरी इबादत कुफ़्र है,
जो तूने ख़ुदा को दिल के मसनत पर ना बिठाया

The Panjandrum and the Apostrophe

Beware the mighty panjandrum,
Who holds his court at Trivandrum!
For one misplaced apostrophe
Would cause a great catastrophe!

Do mind your plural possessive
And about it's be obsessive.
Know where it goes in won't and can't
And when you don't and when you shan't.

About spellings he is not vain,
Bad syntax does not cause him pain,
Semicolons may come to grief
For such matters his time is brief.

But an abused apostrophe
Would break his mighty heart in three;
The panjandrum's benevolence
Doth turn to foul malevolence.

He'll punish you for such vile deeds
By rubbing you with prickly weeds;
You must recite a thousand times
That you will not repeat your crimes.

But once a most uncommon thing
Did cause a lot of worrying.
A grocer did cause much chagrin
And so this ballad doth begin.

This grocer's thick viscosity
Inflicted much atrocity -
What was owned by his potato
Posterity would never know!

His board said ten cents potato's
Was it its head? Were they its toes?
The entire panjandru…

न आना बेसाख़तह / نا آنا بصاختہ

नस्तालीक़ में ढला नाम तेरा बेहोश करता है,
क़यामत है होंठों पर ज़िक्र तेरा,
न आना बेसाख़तह रू बह रू
तू जो ख़्वाबों में साँसॆं रुका देती है

نستالیق میں ڈھلا نام تیرا بیہوش کرتا ہے
قیامت ہے ہونٹھوں پر ظکر تیرا
نا آنا بصاختہ رو بہ رو
تو جو زندگی میں سانسےں رکا دیتی ہے

ज़ाहिद का दर्द

शा`इर क्या जाने ज़ाहिद का दर्द,
शराब की रिन्दगी मस्जिद के
आब ए सफ़ा में धो जाता है,
मस्जिद को कौन साफ़ करेगा?


Comment-allez vous? Parlez vous Francais?
She says them in schoolgirl French,
And not particularly shyly either.

I, in bastard, self-learnt tongue,
Must rant, rave, show off
Phrases and words half-learnt.

Was she impressed by that fluent chatter?
Or was it I wooing unwittingly,
Chest expanded subconsciously?

It's that instinct in our genes,
Isn't it, that old kameena,
To make a pass at whoever passes by?

Later in the wisdom of night
Her testosterone-stirring presence
Has vanished doubts regain territory.

Was she? Wasn't she?
It all comes down to testosterone,
That old trickster, doesn't it?

To render men into fools,
Is its sacred, evolutionary duty
And perpetuate the genes that make them.

Talk of languages, one artificially
honeyed, for the sake of that other
eternal nucleotide double helix.


Ray Charles. Dead babies. Greek flags.
Queen Victoria's hemophiliac children.

Flute-playing, demon-slaying, gopi-charmer.
Films by actresses fallen from grace.

The depth of oceans, the height of skies.
Avatar. Krzysztof Kieslowski trilogy.

Morning glory, violets, venomous toads.
Naval camouflage. Police uniforms.

Viagra. Prozac. The venom of cobras.
David's star. The fifth throat chakra.


Rage surges
like gas in a cola bottle
imagining thick red blood oozing
from a turbulent child's slit throat;

Pity soaks
like a sponge cleaning up
soaking up wails, wants, woes
from a stricken pourer out of her heart;

Sadness swirls
a Charybdis in the head
with this terrible fascination
for a juicy apple soaked in cyanide;

Kindness swells
the Mother Teresa genes
express - tending, touching,
nurturing an abandoned mongrel puppy;

Coldness sets
The Ice Queen within
passes by, merely pausing
to watch a drunk roll into the gutter;

Delight swings
to watch a flower open
hands reach out to shield
it from a sudden menacing torrent;

to get on with life's unfairness,
misery, putting on masks
upon stranger mask
Gargoyles smirk

Meditating upon final salvation,
the soul plods, traipses
towards vague ideals
Angels smile

How do I described my beloved?

How do I described my beloved?

Shall I say when she catches me talking to other girls
she is as mad as a nauseating toad?

Shall I say when she is angry with me
she makes me pray like an insulted CEO?

Shall I say when my apologies don't work
she makes me as green as an Opera understudy?

Shall I say when she does not return my calls
she makes me as lonely as a queue-jumper?

Shall I say when I try to make up with her
she makes me as nervous as a king under siege?

Shall I say when we finally meet
she makes me as eager as an unpaid piper?


कितना सितम देता है यह तेरा इन्तेज़ार,
आँखें ताकती रहती हैं राह को बेकरार,
रस्ते पर न पड़ती है परछाई तेरी,
न होने देती है पैमाने में ख़ुमार

न आना

न आना बेसाख़ता मेरे आशियाने में,
फ़र्श को अब मेरे कदमों से ऐतराज़ है|

The young man of a place with a long name

There was a young man of Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu,
Since the name was so long and he could not pronounce it he migrated to the tropical Pacific island paradise of Oahu,
Where he wrote horrid limericks,
and raised well-bred gavericks -
that escapist young man of Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

The Cruel Love Form Either Meaning Tears Sestina

They ask me to write poems on love.
They ask me not to make it cruel.
But it should not be funny either.
It must follow some poetic form.
It must be rich and deep with meaning.
It should move people, but not to tears.

Why should it not move people to tears?
Because they cry when they fall in love
For no reason and without meaning.
That's because love itself is cruel
and causes grief in its every form.
One cannot escape from it either.

It is not even funny either.
One spends all one's time shedding tears
And meditating upon the form
Of whatever being is one's love
Who is in general very cruel
And will get upset without meaning.

One wastes one's time looking for meaning.
One never finds it. One will either
die frustrated or suffer cruel
punishments. But no one spares tears
for stupid people who fall in love
And think it is divine in some form.

It is not divine in any form.
It is senseless, devoid of meaning.
the rational do not fall in love
They do not play with venom either.
They are therefore imm…

To Her Who Sends Me Gloomy Poems

Your whines are all that I revere!
I seek sorrow in word and deed -
That's why I read your poems, dear!

In every day and every year
Pure misery is all I need.
Your whines are all that I revere!

Of boredom, love, I have no fear
Your verses are my ceaseless greed -
That's why I read your poems, dear!

Your wails are all I want to hear
Upon your gloom I seek to feed
Your whines are all that I revere!

Mine eye must ne'er be without tear
Joy in my life is like a weed -
That's why I read your poems, dear!

To one principle I adhere
Self-flagellation is my creed.
Your whines are all that I revere!
That's why I read your poems, dear!

ख़ुदा ने पूछा

ख़ुदा ने पूछा मुझसे -
मैंने तुझे इसलिये धरती पर उतारा
के वक़त बेवक़्त मुझसे मन्नतें
माँगता रहे,
के इसलिये के एक दिन
तू आकर इतराकर मुझसे कहेगा -
इतनी थी ख़ुदा तेरी बरकत,
और इतना सारा मैंने कर दिखाया