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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

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

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.

शाहदत

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 ، ن

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

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 )

CaPoWriMo-7

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 </br signs, 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 birthdays examinations parties matches holidays and in college through flirtations examinations break-ups failures hook-ups interviews and in my first job through bosses' anger sarcastic remarks late nights mad clients commuter fights and yet I dumped you for laptops mobile phones email accounts tablets 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

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 )

रेलगाड़ियाँ

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.

Mothers

'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.

All in a day

Blood Kisses Rage Sex Kahwa Semen Bitemarks Tea Sweat Bitterness Broken Cups Broken Hearts Mended Hearts Euphoria Wine Kisses Tears Disgust Barbiturate Foreplay Envy Mary Jane Bitemarks Kisses Nirvana Blood 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

उम्र

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

मक़बरे

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

ज़िन्दगी

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 belong and 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