Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2011

Matheran, 11th December 2011

They passed me by on horses in Matheran —
their eyes locked into each other,
unmindful of the sais leading them on
or the gilt-edged sunrise drowning them slowly,
or the bee-eaters darting, or even the macaques quarelling.

But I wonder where they're headed

— to an elopement, a temple wedding, a souring
   marriage, a custody dispute, a cathartic divorce?

— to an engagement, a wedding with sangeet and
   mehndi, school fees, wilting outside consulates,
an empty nest, a twilight of babysitting?

— to a break up, new relationships, nostalgia,
   regrets and a fading away into Alzheimer's?

Or will they just go back, eyes looking ahead

at careers, salaries, taxes,
3 BHK flats, Euro III compliant cars,
always some few days away in a broad noon
that starlight having dimmed.

I cannot quite say. They've gone out of sight;
a group of boisterous boys arrives,
in their train - – another dozen thoughts.
I can't keep thinking all the time – so I
look back into my camera,
hunting paradise…

Fear ye

Fear ye not the ravines, the jungles, the swamps
for there be but the desperate, the hungry, the ignorant,
a few may indulge in guns there, sharpen machetes
but what proof are they to a few sacks of rice,
a yard of cloth, a hovel of mud:
quake not before them, quake not ever.

But dread ye the young minds in the coffee shop,
those that smoke leaning by the wall in the alley,
filled are they with words and promise,
with hopes and visions and the blind phantasmagoria
of tomorrow's noon brightly lit;
dread them ye, dread them with your soul.

They brew poisons of not arsenic but ink,
they fletch arrows of anger not curare;
they stand in the parks and march on streets,
they defile, they profane, they vituperate
the dear, cherished gods we hold to our bosoms:
fear them today, fear them tomorrow.

On them then the tanks, the rifles, the gendarme's batons,
for them the censor's knife, the inquisitor's iron lady,
to them the syringe of cyanide, the canister of gas.
For spared the…

No Darshan at Kamakhya

Statues that have lost a nose here, an ear there
to forces of wind and water,
even as they gained centuries —

Doves using them for nesting,
love-making, chick-rearing
and besmirching —

Cows ambling
sacredly bestowing dung
for unwary pilgrims to step on —

Goats shedding pellets
instead of blood —

Pilgrims waiting for the doors
to open, and VIPs lining up
for their 'special' darshan —

Banana, papaya, margosa, sal and rain
trees in silent contemplation —

The drizzle that seems to be
nature's ticklish sense of humour —

Pandas in their red bearings
and unbearability —

The distant Brahmaputra
which is always a presence —

Among all this should I still say
that because she gave me no darshan
Kamakhya is cruel to me?

My Beloved's Eyes

My beloved has eyes
like deer - Mriganayanee -
soft, expressive,
radiating innocence.
Everytime she looks at me
there is a ghazal.

My beloved has eyes
fish-shaped - Meenakshi -
long eyes, with bewitching
eyelashes full of
temptation, seduction.
Everytime she looks at me
there is a sin.

My beloved has eyes
that create love - Kamakshi -
half-closed, with a light
that leads to celestial union.
Everytime she looks at me
there is a prayer.

My beloved has eyes
that show the universe - Vishalakshi -
within them, vast ocean
of timeless eternity.
Everytime she looks at me
There is moksha.

To His Eyes

Those eyes, those eyes. Seductive bloody eyes of yours,
I need a shower every time they look at me,
Just to sizzle out the mental pornography
And stop myself from begging, drooling on all fours
Dammit, they make me follow you, sneak behind doors -
An Adonis-possessed, voyeuristic zombie
Trapped in their twinkling I lose the will to be free -
Those eyes, those eyes. Seductive bloody eyes of yours

Let me have my night's sleep you enticing bastard,
And I want darkness when I close my eyes, not those
Eyelashes summoning me to rank surrender.
So now that you've got me absolutely mastered
You can switch off that magnetism, I suppose
And come and hold me closer, tighter you fucker.

Can you do poetry in a mall?

Can you do poetry in a mall, then?

Among the suburban, money-spending,
bourgeoisie stealing entertainment
from their deadline-stricken nine-to-fives?
There are lovers here, hugging,
kissing hidden behind plastic cups
of food court coffee;
friends reliving a past nightmare
relativising them into happy dreams
of childhood innocence and other cliches;
And the little undernourished salesgirls
handing out fish pedicure pamphlets
you'll throw away at home - not unlike
Andersen's match girl.

You can do poetry in a mall.


de peur je suis libre
le faim je n'ai pas
les pieds sont errant
où ils se plaisent
l'esprit maintenant
ne connait pas la terre
et le temps rest immobile
je ne suis ni un enfant
ni un vieillard décrépit
la mort est une étrangere
pour moi et la vie aussi
parce que j'ai passé
travers l'Himalaya
dedans le Tibet de la
la tranquillité éternelle
vienne-y tu aussi
où l'amour ne finit jamais
parce que l'amour est dieu
et dieu est l'amour


शा'यरों की शाहदत पीढ़ियों से यही है:
हम ज़माने से नहीं, ज़मान्ना हम से है

Shaving in Siliguri (Older version)

There is, I suppose, a gruesome fascination
in watching blood spreading across shaving foam:
crimson then red then a dull, gory grey
washed off in hot water and a scar to remember.
But there is perhaps a wish it reminds one of —
blood oozing from a wrist slit with the shaving razor,
the eyes glued to the sight
and the heart beating excitedly till the sound stops
and the light dims, energy drained away like the Teesta:

the virgin Sikkimese stream now deflorated on the Terai,
pregnant with mud and moving zombie-like on the vast
emptiness of the dooars to her doom in the Brahmaputra.

But there is never time for thoughts of suicide –
the cockroached lodge room with its smelly blanket
and rattling fan is no romantic place to die –
and I have fifteen minutes to catch the Kanchan Kanya
leaving New Jalpaiguri at eight thirty-five.

The Wanderer's Curse

I have the wanderer's curse upon me:
I will never go home,
For there is no home I have to go to,
Nor is the dust of the road my bed.
I claim not the sky for a roof nor
The sun for a lamp,
Yet the moon is my compass
And the stars my fellow-travellers.
I possess but rags and clogs and begging-bowl
And a mendicant's silvered tongue
My riches are the languages of the world
My legacy the memories of men.

My soul just had a bath

My soul just had a bath.
Of the kind that has bubbles
and champage and a naked lover.
The moist warmth caressing the skin
and his breath cascading
down my neck;
the candles sputtering
orange, vermilion, azure
and that eruptive
tickle of his fingers

and those poems he reads
in that marijuana voice
to closed eyes; the pores
opening, the grime of
regret oozing out into the
rose-petal soaked ripples...

a few snatches of Traumerei
but I'm really not listening -
there are passions, recriminations,
fights, purulent regrets being
exorcised: by the water,
his presence, the flickering
lavender-scented light.

and there will be rain
and solitude afterwards,
wrapped in a blanket
my soul towelling off
into the dry, bright tubelit night.

A country is born

There will be a new flag on the horizon tomorrow, hoisting millions of strange new hopes, new borders, stamps, coins, passports, military badges, medals and other trinkets of state, a source of effervescent, ephemeral pride, cries of refreshing Uhuru.
Then reality - diplomatic gaffes, little wars, treaties, negotiations. The big countries' unwelcome patronisation. All sorts of experts trooping in to give advice overtly, and a few covert threats.
Feed the poor, vaccinate babies, build roads, kill mosquitoes, placate rich taxpayers, bury assassinated leaders, balance budgets, sell oil, coal, minerals, arrest some, release some, educate children, find them jobs, a thousand things to do. No time for cutting cake.
Life will stagger on. The flag, forgotten, will still fly proudly upon the horizon.

ना उड़ सके न गिर सके

ज़िन्दगी जो मिली ज़रा हमें, ना जी सके ना मर सके,
पनपते मुर्झाते ख़्वाब यह बुनते, ना उड़ सके न गिर सके|

सोचा थी कि दौड़ लगाएँगे साहिल को मन्ज़िल बनाकर हम,
पर थम गए पहुँचते पहुँचते, ना उड़ सके न गिर सके|

ख़्वाबिदा महल जो बनाते फिरते थे अब्र-ए-बहार में हम,
बस रह गए ग़म परखते चुनते, ना उड़ सके न गिर सके|

कभी तरक्की से रिन्दा ख़ुद को जाविदा समझते थे हम,
अब कारागाह की दीवार खरोंचते, ना उड़ सके न गिर सके|

ना राह क़बूल ना गाह क़बूल, फिरते रहे 'ख़ाना बदोश' हम,
मुनतज़िर मौत की आवाज़ सुनते, ना उड़ सके न गिर सके|

زندگی جو ملی زرہ ہمےں ، نا جی سکے نا مر سکے ،
پنپتے مرجھاتے خواب یہ بُنتے ، نا اُڑ سکے نا گر سکے ۔

سوچا تھا دوڑ لگائنگے ساھل کو منزل بناکر ہم ،
پر تھم گئے پہنچتے پہھنچتے ، نا اُڑ سکے نا گر سکے ۔

خوابدآ محل جو بناتے پھرتے تھے ابر ی بحار مےں ہم ،
بس رہ گئے غم پرکھتے چنتے ، نا اُڑ سکے نا گر سکے ۔

کبھی ترقّی سے رندہ خد کو جاودا سمجھتے تھے ہم ،
اب کاراگاہ کی دیوار کھرونچتے ، نا اُڑ سکے نا گر سکے ۔

نا راہ قبوُل نا گاہ قبوُل ، پھرتے رہے خانا بدوش ہم
منتظر موت کی آواز سنتے ، نا اُڑ سکے نا گر سکے ۔ا

Is it time?

Is there a moment that never was now?

Is it time you think
to hear the rattling wheels
speed as the oozing body
thrashes about?
Is there a moment sweeter than now?

Is it time you think
to watch the lancet's shining point
draw out – in one quick stroke –
a shining crimson tide?
Is it time, lest resolve turn infirm?

Is it time you think
to drain in one gulp, dissolved —
that white-grey powder of deliverance?
is it the violent moment of truth?

Is it time you think
to pull tight and feel
rough coir against smooth neck?
Is it now time, for bonds to loosen?

Is it time?

Romantic I am not

Romantic I am not.
I'd rather eat than gift chocolates,
Orchids are daylight robbery
And candle-light dinners are too dim -
I like to see what I eat.
If you want guys who:
a) Cook exotic Japanese dinners
b) Book surprise vacations to Goa or
c) Strum a mean guitar
Don't come to me.
I can do poetry though
And say 'I love you' in French and Italian
(Je t'aime and ti amo, to get that over with).

I do the man-of-the-house-changes-lightbulbs stuff
Just as good as anyone else.
You want a guy to get on his knees
With scrubbing-brush and soap water
On the bathroom flooor on Sunday?
I'm your man.
Put a sparkle on washed dishes,
Be at home with Harpic bottles
And pay insurance premia on time?
- No problem.
But don't ask me to cook;
I can just about make tea
But can't boil a potato into submission.

I won't stare with glazed eyes
While you're buying curtains
But make helpful suggestions too
If I understand the colours
(Turquoise, beige, mauve and lavender I don't);
I don't walk a…

CaPoWriMo-17 (To Arsenic)

They say you are doped
Into silicon to make my computer run -
Thirty three electrons rushing about madly
That make silicon's fourteen
Lethargic ones sit up and get about;

You helped Madame Bovary,
Emperors Bonaparte and Guangxu,
And innumerable Bangaldeshis
Find release from their mortal coils
Even as you cured libertines
Of the syphilis that shamed them;

You pervade my life
In paints and polishes
And pesticides and pyrotechnics -
Creating and preserving beauty
Even as you truncate my breath.

What would I be with you, arsenic,
And what would I be without you?

CaPoWriMo-8 (City of Dreadful Night)

Bodies sweat in the heaving crowd:
Hunger, anger, anxiety, thirst
Mixing with smoke, diesel and dust,
Stranded commuters curse aloud.
The night surrounds them like a shroud
Their day like all the others cursed
Their ambitions eaten by rust
Stuck in a jam, their heads are bowed.

Microwaved food, conditioned air,
Cold water and LCD screens:
Building a personal paradise
In a suburban nameless lair
I make for myself pleasant scenes
and dream on till the sun shall rise.

(Published in Setu Bilingual Journal, August 2017)


I'm fat, bald and sonneteering,
Confused, half-bewildered fool,
With love's games you're engineering
My naivete as your tool.

My dandruff does not bother you.
You loudly claim indifference
To my moustache and tummy too.
For looks you claim no reverence.

But you do stare at shampoo ads,
At supermodels' six-pack abs;
You follow all new hairstyle fads
And miss no chance for elbow jabs.

So do I trust your words or eyes,
For what is truth and which are lies?

CaPoWriMo-12 (To HTML)

You are to me bread butter and jam,
As also curd rice and pickle;
I love the smoothness with which
you transmit emotions across
oceans, undimished;
the way you bring together
thousands of citizens
to overwhelm aged despots;
the way you have made me feel younger
as I am a student again
learning your myriad ways;
the way you unseen, unheard
change the way I think,
I see, I hear, I know;

You only care to come forward
when there has been error, sin
and wrongdoing,
sometimes as little, irritating

or sometimes as a great epitaph
to monumental blunder;

HTML, I know not your words,
your grammar, your idioms,
but you are the tongue
that has come to feed me.

CaPoWriMo-11 (Digital Diary)

weren't you in school with me through

and in college through

and in my first job through
bosses' anger
sarcastic remarks
late nights
mad clients
commuter fights

and yet I dumped you for
mobile phones
email accounts

and let you lie in a drawer
as a battery-less corpse
your LED soul dead forever

CaPoWriMo-10 (motherless andhadi)

mother is on vacation
in a foreign country
away from son and husband
leaving me to do the dishes

do the dishes - mind the spoons
don't land at the bottom
the tamarind doesn't clog the sink
the vessels don't clatter and clang
and bring on angry neighbours
while the clothes are washing

the clothes are washing
coloured one in first batch
towels and undies to go in the next
and then to be hung out

to be hung out
the outer clothes on the balcony
with a ladder and a stick
and the inner ones dripping
in the rear balcony

in the rear balcony the broom and mop
stand there grumbling silently
about the dusty stain bedecked floor

the dusty stain bedecked floor
piled over with books and gadgets
screaming loudly to be re-placed
on their respective shelves
which gloat and induce guilt
about the undone dusting

undone dusting and uncooked food
and unfolded clothes and unbought groceries
and unpaid bills and undisposed garbage
how did she manage them all
i need to know but
mother is on vacat…

CaPoWriMo-6 (Pallankuzhi)

Were those your bangles I heard
as you wiped your brow
or were they the clinking of cowrie-shells
as you put them in holes
seven by seven?
I thought I heard you laugh
making an unexpected, clever move
or was it the sound of pearls
falling, one by one?
Was that a cry of victory
as you have won the match
or was it your honey-voiced anguish
never willing to lose
fair or otherwise?
That was clearly the board tossed
in indignant, violent protest
and utter denial that you lost;
or did you just claim
with eyelashes pleading for agreement
that you tripped on a floorboard?
But there is another game afoot,
isn't it - a love game you play
with my heart-breaking imagination?

(Pallankuzhi is a popular board game in Tamil Nadu)

(Published  in Indian Review, April 2011)


कुछ यादें, कुछ घन्टों भर की यारियाँ,
कुछ बातें, कुछ बहलाती सवारियाँ,
छुक छुक करती, हिलती डुलती ले जातीं
जब चली जातीं हैं यह रेलगाड़ियाँ

Let none sleep tonight

Let none sleep tonight,
this dangerous night,
when knives shine in the moonlight
and glass shards pave the street;

Let none sleep tonight
this treacherous night
when brother must bribe brother
and no woman walk unmolested;

Let none sleep tonight
this hungry, lonesome night
when babes are torn from mothers
and fathers denounce their sons;

Let none sleep tonight,
this uncompanioned night
when the sun is a distant memory
and a million hearts beat like crickets;

Let none sleep tonight
this mournful, deathly night
when the colour of day is drained
and men wander in naked bigotry.

This night is as all nights,
yet may none sleep this night.

CaPoWriMo-4 (EBITDA for Che)

gaunt jesus face
to seduce on sight
beret and blazing eyes
to cry revolution

a million dollars
for black stencil design
on red t-shirt
ten thousand for dyes
twenty for cloth
and five for printing

six million dollars
half million in interest
another half in taxes
none in depreciation
and one in amortization

two million and sixty-five thousand
dollars of capitalism
selling teenage revolution

Published in Amaravati Poetic Prism 2016

Sadasiva Raya

Sadasiva Raya, helpless prisoner -
Dressed in rich brocade and shining ornament -
Sadasiva Raya, Supreme Emperor!

Though every year he came and fell at your feet
Your will was not law in yor own apartment,
Sadasiva Raya, helpless prisoner.

He chose what you ate, the people you could meet
But proclaimed you lord of land and firmament,
Sadasiva Raya, Supreme Emperor!

To the Vijayanagar no force could beat
Aliya Rama Raya brought defilement,
Sadasiva Raya, helpless prisoner.

When enemy looters pillaged every street
All you could do was cry in pain and torment,
Sadasiva Raya, Supreme Emperor!

When at Talikota he died in defeat
Thought you to celebrate, or loudly lament?
Sadasiva Raya, helpless prisoner,
Sadasiva Raya, Supreme Emperor!

CaPoWriMo-3 (Yellow Banian)

You lie there crumpled
Like an abused and discarded girlfriend.

dirty secrets we've been in together
the sting of cold air on a nude body
followed by the searing depression
of a testosterone flush
hidden forever in the yellow remains
to wash away into the gutter

you lie there crumpled
like an abused and discarded girlfriend

you once uncomplainingly
stanched nose bleeds
burst away pimples
dealt with tears
and rain and soap and mud
covered up signs of masturbation
and stuck by me
my hot smelly sweaty body
when others blanched

you lie there crumpled
like an abused and discarded girlfriend

CaPoWriMo-2 (Persecution Syndrome)

They think I'm full of naivete
they've prepared poison, gun and knife:
My name is on a machete.

They think I hear not what they say
Conspiring to take my life;
They think I'm full of naivete.

My brothers the first to betray,
And so my father, son and wife:
My name is on a machete.

A game of cat and mouse they play
In every smile they hide a knife:
They think I'm full of naivete.

They say they love but scheme to slay.
Among my friends bloodlust is rife:
My name is on a machete.

But I'm alert by night and day
I shall not let go without strife!
They think I'm full of naivete:
My name is on a machete.

Krishnadeva's Lament

O Saluva Timma, Mahamandaleshwara!
Should I ever have trusted you, you who were to me
As great and glorious as the Lord Venkateshwara?

When your dying king bid you blind his infant brother
You deceived him with goat's eyes, what evil treachery,
Saluva Timma, Mahamandaleshwara!

You saved me, you crowned this Krishnadeva emperor
And hold all the Coromandel as your demesne
As great and glorious as the Lord Venkateshwara?

My wealth, my victories, my imperial demeanour
I lay them all at your feet, if you would but ask me.
Saluva Timma, Mahamandaleshwara!

But now my son is poisoned; you stand charged with murder.
If it were proven true, how could you stand before me
As great and glorious as the Lord Venkateshwara?

The law says to blind you, whom I loved as a father
You who gave me glory, will you bear this infamy
Saluva Timma, Mahamandaleshwara,
As great and glorious as the Lord Venkateshwara?

My name is Milo Minderbender

Power struggles at home
beta male snapping at the top dog;

Gazing at Midday mates
perhaps a little less than the norm
lingering perhaps a little longer
at ads for male underwear;

Celebrating small triumphs with mousse
and crying into pillows for being a nobody;

Wondering every morning
whether to shave myself
or let the razor cut the jugular;

Waking early for exercise
but not before checking email;

Wild mood swings between vinaigrette salad
and cheese masala sandwich;

Reading the Dhammapada while failing at trying
not to think of a Canon Powershot SX 30;

And a serious desire to poison a puppy-poisoner.

My name is Milo Minderbender.
I am thirty years old.


'Who poisoned my boy? Who poisoned my boy?'
She goes around asking everyone.
In her arms the rigid corpse of her son,
Paralysed arms still clutching his last toy.
Hollow glassy eyes stripped naked of joy
Relentlessly repeating their question.
Answers to which she bore on her person -
Her own guilt that madness will not destroy.

Pieces of bread soaked in insecticide
She fed the puppies with great tenderness.
'They'll infect my child' she smilingly said
To the tail-wagging bitch who stood beside.
'Lest he get some incurable illness,
'Tis best I kill off your children instead.'

The green dot of guilt

That green dot is so full of guilt
and indecision
should I
should I not
will she rake up the past
has she moved on
should I say hi
dare I say hi
should I
should I not
is it guilt
or fear
or remorse
or loathing
for her
or for myself?

Two soldiers

Purple satin cushions blemished with blood;
Likewise the golden cup crusted with gore;
Velvet carpeting disfigured with mud;
Crystal chandeliers that tinkle no more.
Amidst all he lay – his body putrid –
Chevrons proclaiming: base common soldier.
Crawling with maggots, in his neck buried:
A golden dagger, prize for his valour.

Tha sabre that cut him was now at last
Ornamented — with noble blood drying;
Wailing and gasping for glories now past,
Thrashing in gloom the marshal lay dying.
One among hundreds with no pomp or show,
His medallioned breast still outshone the snow.

To S

A neuron fires: his thick glasses come into view;
A synapse transmits: his silly laughter rings out;
Axon meets dendrite: that's me learning something new,
For now there's lots of him I yearn to know about.

Currents so tiny they cannot even be felt
Overwhelm me - his awkward grace, his gleeful smile;
He's not there
yet he's seen, he's held, he's touched, he's smelt.
The circuit loops on - it's him, him, him all the while.

The sight of him trigger's my brain's reward pathway
In ways that chocolate or alcohol will not
Anymore; my survival instincts shooed away
As he seems to take over every nerve I've got.

The heartbeat rises as enlightenment kicks in:
It's love's electrostatic torrent that I'm in.

Love, I can feel your barb

Love, I can feel your barb,
and yet as I dare purge it,
its spurs bite deeper within,
the pain sears;
the feathers mock, their colours
rasp, grate, jangle,
as your poison creeps
into the blood;
the steel shaft
- catching the moonrays -
shines coldly even as
the stricken body thrashes;

and then the pain dulls,
the soul is deadened to pain,
now but a faint throb;
but the heart tormented
raves, screams, wails,

but silenced, slain,
at last surrenders.

All in a day

Broken Cups
Broken Hearts
Mended Hearts
Mary Jane

All in a day
between you and me

i begin to write

the mind loosens
blood turns to ink
every word is a rapture
and every thought a fantasy
the soft sound of pen scratching on paper
is a soothing salve
the heart beats in rhythm
to the metre of poetry
the soul is immersed
in the ether to which it truly belongs
the swirls before me engineer a whole new world
fairies dance and dragons dart
truth mingles with pain
every wound is a delight
and every delight a wound
the clock stops
and timelessness begins


हमारी ज़रूरत आपकी मॊहब्बत और उसकी माफ़ी है,
अपनी उम्र हमें न लगाएँ, ख़ुदा का दिया काफ़ी है!


क़ब्र-ए-अब्द पर किसने फूल चढाया है,
यह दुनिया मक़बरे बनाती है
ज़िद्द पर अडे शहीदों के नाम


वह महज़ ज़िन्दा हैं जो ज़िन्दगी को बन्दगी समझते हैं,
और वह जी जाते हैं जो ज़िन्दगी को रिन्दगी समझते हैं!

Can I?

Can I belongand yet not have chains; Can I be free and yet not an orphan; Can I be a vagrant and yet not an outcaste; Can I ever be alone and yet not lonely?

A friend

Sometimes you need a friend,
Who’ll just stand there and smile.

He doesn’t have to be a shoulder to cry on
For your own shoulder’s good enough.
He doesn’t have to be a philosopher-guide
Ready with advice, consolation,
Empathy, sympathy, compassion
Or other meaningless words;
You’re capable of them yourself.
He doesn’t have to be an all-weather
Friend of the kind that is ready with money
When you need it, for you don’t.

Sometimes you need a different kind of friend.
Who’ll just stand there and smile.

Who’s there to remind you that life
Isn’t a project to deliver and win rewards for.
That life isn’t for a higher purpose
Or for sacrifice to a loved one
Or to be spent away in unceasing, boundless pleasure.
Who’s there to remind you that life just is
To be taken one day at a time.

That kind of friend doesn’t say or do anything.
He just stands there and smiles.

His life is perhaps worse than yours
And also better than yours.
For there is no covetousness, or fear
Or strategy or bohemian vagrancy
In that blessedly wret…