Sunday 30 September 2012

On the way to Bishnupur*

Hired car on traffic clogged monsoon roads
the narrow nap of asphalt worn away by rains
and torrents of humanity.  The driver slows,
the level crossing ahead closed, some train’s
panting felt on the air nearby; and then annoyed,
too impatient to queue, he swerves and flows
around the waiting cars and blocks the lane.


We who sit inside being driven, are a varied lot
of car-owners and law-abiding folk that scare
easily when the laws are followed, and when they’re not;
and so we hunker down and keep quiet in there
hope that no-one will notice this brash car
let the driver drive, hopefully he’ll find a spot
to nose in discreetly again somewhere.


We make mistakes, and then compound them with hopes;
just a few yards away from the final barrier
a righteous uncouth thug jumps out and gropes
the hood and makes it loudly and amply clear
this is where the buck and the car both stop
get right behind! reverse, go on!  pushes us back the slope
with a violent maelstrom of words hard to hear.


Blah blah blah two wrongs can’t make a right;
‘course they can, keep the ruddy windows up
don’t talk now, he doesn’t understand polite
notions of delivering justice. But he’s too rough!
It’s our mistake, he probably carries a knife.
Everyone just be quiet and sit tight
how long will he curse and push and shove?


The child shudders in a mix of fear and surprise
nestles closer as the car backs down.  Some taboos
have been broken, a film in his eyes
of unshed panic.  We have so little; but still it’s too much to lose
trust and innocence in the melee of grown up quiet
something feels false about this whole device
must a wrong be righted with so much scathing abuse?


Those coarse hands on the hood violate
the space inside, the knuckles rap
not on metal but my body, the weight
and feel of rings as fingers push and  grab
the grille, that’s my throat my lungs, they suffocate
all but an equally uncivilised, scorching rage
the window’s down, and I’ve finally escaped the trap.

That rough youth, half my age, twice my size
doesn’t reform or mend his ways
because I make one sharp request, criticise
his language. His hands and gaze
lose no venom, tone down nothing of the spite
in his vindictive diatribe. But my peace lies
undisturbed now, on the child’s tranquil face.


*Bishnupur is a small town in Bengal famous for its old 17th century terracotta temples.

Shared at Poetics@dVerse

Friday 28 September 2012

The anniversary post that isn't

The time when unknown trees
muscle their way into  top-of-mind
I dream of chinars*
flaming in the high winds
and a fast narrow stream somewhere
slowing down inch by cooling inch
it’s a separate matter that I’ve
never been to Kashmir
or anywhere in the high
latitudes during
the leaf-loss season.


I forget anniversaries
of minor events
each event flames once
and drops
red trajectories cut and dried
sun-crinkled on the grey sidewalk.
Time runs out a little faster than before.



*Oriental plane, maple like leaves.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

I'll see you home: thoughts on poetry

This is where I stand; and this, where I come from
the tote you see slung over my back is my poetry
telling you right here, honestly and clear, that home
is nothing outside, but somewhere deep within me


open the recliner where you can, where you want to
put up the pie-slice parasol, hand out the drink
tie a prayer flag, also build a sand castle or two
and then it’s time again to snap-shut, and sling


it over my shoulders, move on, the tide comes in
the lotus closes in ponds inland, the touch-me-not
folds up neat the lace of its leaf, the brief uncertain
twilight is laid out and withdrawn in one short


burst of colours, and then the dark sets me free
the dark doesn’t go anywhere, I dip into monochrome
into my guts where the black ink pools, some poetry
is in every mess, every swoop.  I’ll see you to that home.

Shared @ dVerse for OpenLinkNight

Sunday 23 September 2012

Unexpected growth

Attach. Detach. Pursuit.
Remember! actions only!
bloody hands off the fruit!
Solitary. Not equal to lonely
quite legal, no dispute.
Care well. Farewell. Scoot.
What the heck has grown, Lee?
The nomad grows a root!




Karmany evadhikaras te ma phaleshu kadachana
Ma karmaphala-hetur bhur ma te sangostava karmani

Ch 2: 47, Bhagavad-Gita

(You have the right to prescribed actions, but never to their outcomes.  You should never be motivated by the results, nor should there be any attachment towards not performing your duty.)

Shared at dVerse where poets are leaping into the deep pool of the unexpected.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Accidental solitude

I wake up early
when the pink paws
of light scrabble
at the windows


and your arm
is seaweed deep
around me
and I heave
the weight of
ancient, ancient lovesleep


rise slowly
a single small bubble
breaks the surface


the day mixes
its own scents
in hurried strokes
milk delivery,
newsprint kept
fresh, the medium
untainted by
the bombs and blood
it must carry,


get quick rich coffee
stale food somewhere
in the corner
of the sink
maybe the bin
needs a clean


the island in the kitchen
swiped of all presence


the light washes the road
like a cat with a
pink clean tongue


leaf coloured
winds sweep in
and lunge
at fallen litter
yesterday’s brown
paper packet


a scrap of chiffony
plastic waves
a flag
against the
chicken mesh
wire fence


and flowers
of Shiuli
with their
small pinwheel
faces and cheeky
monkey orange
bottoms thrust
up in the air


surround each tree
in its own white
blossom island


who said I am not
an island?


Linked to MeetingTheBar@dVerse

Thursday 20 September 2012

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge #45 : Oh how I hate my beautiful friend!

It’s time to go back to RFW for the fortnightly challenge.  You can read more about that here.  Membership isn’t a requirement for participation, so do go over and see if you want to give it a shot. 

If I weighed up all the prose and poetry that I have written in word counts, then I have probably written more fiction than poetry.  But I have never put any fiction on this blog, how odd is that?  Anyways, this challenge felt like the perfect opportunity, so I am heading back to RFW with a flash and not a rhyme this time. What do you think? Let me know.


Myra isn’t beautiful in the conventional sense, she doesn’t fit the mould.  Her real beauty lies in things no-one notices, in the shape of her ears, for instance, behind which she tucks in her hair with a two-fingered movement, breathtaking in its grace.  In the slant of her collarbones, from where her honey warm skin falls away in the most absurdly tender plane.  And her eyes, those great wide hazel eyes with their thick fringe of lashes.  Looking as though she can look right through me, but of course she can’t.  Above all, her beauty lies in her unaffected ignorance of her own charm.
We met at the clinic, she came in with Widget, an absurd name I had thought, for such a large dog.  Widget was the last patient, and afterwards we got chatting and I was surprised how easily we both slipped into this friendship. She was lonely, and I was new here, so a few coffees and walks later, I felt I had known her all my life. 
Things transformed when Ravi came.  I had never believed in this love-at-first-sight caper till then, I have had to change my mind since. I sat there that evening in agony, desperate, maddened with the unbearable turmoil in my heart, but he and Myra seemed to have a sizzling chemistry that left me tongue tied.  They kept the conversation going, I remained a bystander.  I willed Myra to sense my feelings, but she sat through it all, unseeing.
“Why are you so quiet, Babs?” she had ventured once. 
“Oh, nothing, just a headache,” I had surprised myself with the steadiness of my voice.
That has become the pattern of our evenings at the cafe now, their attention fixed on each other, and me nursing my misery beside them, the evenings peppered with meaningless small talk, punctuated with anguish.  Have you helplessly watched the man you love slowly fall in love with someone sitting next to you?  Oh, how I hate my beautiful friend!
No, I don’t.  Most times I just feel wrung out with love – for Ravi, for Myra.  I had thought that people like her have keener perceptions, an evolved understanding way beyond physical senses.  Another one busted.  It is not her fault that she does not fit the mould.  Not her fault that those exquisite hazel eyes are sightless.  That they cannot see through me.

WC - 400

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Cucumber shrine

The hook of the cucumber vine
grew up over your feet, over the rough frames
made from limbs of unknown trees
and buds of amber flames
bloomed to make it a shrine.


A dawn of rather stale
morning-breath has come
with rattles of grass plumes
frothing in the scum
filling in the wrong details


I think of you so close
slashed cucumber fresh your hands
on my back, and my knees
still gritty with the sands
on which the vine grows.


The patio isn’t far
to sit and watch the winds
to feel the sands creep close
to see the lean moon cringe
away from a star.


Did you want this for yourself
should it make me smile
this stale and that cringe
and one tall pyramid pile
of pickles on the shelf?

Linked to OpenLinkNight@dVerse

Saturday 15 September 2012

Fearless (Lucky 786)

Where is this place where the mind is fearless?
every path seems to swerve and lead away
though I try still to hold my head high

can eyes be dried, just like that, tears put away
jerked on puppet strings of love, helplessly high?
can happy love ever walk straight and fearless?

it’s a long road from here, the sun’s fiercely high
no use hoping the timid heart will be fearless
when the teeth of love and loss both gnaw it away

Never fearless, no; but fear still swatted away; and love’s banner held high.

Of course, the inspiration for this is Tagore’s famous poem, his dream of an independent, new India waking up free from intellectual or political suppression and fear.  It is still quoted and read widely not just in Bengal but in all free-thinking societies.  His own translation doesn’t do the original justice.  Rhymed poetry can’t really be translated unrhymed and still retain the flavour of the original. Also his Bengali version is more robustly violent, the last line in Bengali reads “strike my country awake” rather than the tamer “let”, but the English was probably watered down for audiences abroad in pre-independence India.  Here it is again:
Mind Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I wrote this post sometime ago, and my verse is really about the personal fear that stems from vulnerability - the fear of losing loved ones, of changes, of the lack of control over our own fates. 

Shared with poets at dVerse where the prompt today is "fear"



Tagged for the Liebster

Janu has very kindly tagged me where she has won the Leibster Blog Award.    She is a super cool mom and a poet, and I have got to know her poems from dVerse.  I am greatly flattered to be tagged by her, though I feel a little apprehensive as well.  You want to tag me? For an award? Are you sure? :D

The Rules -

You have to post eleven facts about yourself.

Then you answer eleven questions the tagger has asked you and you post eleven questions for people you are going to tag.

Tag eleven bloggers (with no more than 200 followers )

Tell people that they have been tagged.

No tagging back.

Okay, here goes...11 random facts about me.

1.    I can’t think of 11 things about myself in one shot.  Fact.
2.    I have a phobia about jumping across ditches.  It might have something to do with my falling into one when I was a toddler. Not that I remember.

3.   I have spent only a quarter of my life living at my birthplace.

4.   I love words. Is birthplace a word?  I love poetry too, as if you haven’t figured that out already...

5.   It is easy for me to forgive, but I don’t care that I can’t forget.  All memories are good once aged..

6.   I am a snail not a sparrow.  I like travelling by road/trains far, far more than I like travelling by air.

7.   My child does things on my cell/laptop far quicker than I can.  I am secretly a little proud of that.

8.   The more my skin loosens around me, the more comfortable I am in it.

9.   It’s too much bother finding out if my cup is half full or half empty. I’d rather focus on the drinking. Whatever it is, it generally turns out enough.

10.  When I started working, typewriters were still around.

11.I am not a fan of religious rituals, but love the lyrical qualities inherent in the scriptures of all religions. Such groovy poetry!

The questions I have been asked to answer are:

      Is feminism overrated?

Dunno...How can something with an –ism at the end be overrated? 

It sure does produce riveting poetry.  Try Maya Angelou, or Margaret Atwood, Christina Rosetti, Edna St Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath...many names from Bengal and the sub-continent too...

There's a debate that bloggers are not writers - your take on this?

Of course, I know a few bloggers who do multimedia posts, of their music, or paintings or other art, there are several awesome photoblogs I enjoy yes, there are some who are not writers....

One thing you would like to change about yourself.

Nah... thank you.  Perfection is so boring...I’d much rather be a bit flawed...ok a lot flawed...never mind....

    Can online friends become 'real' friends offline?

OMG, you mean you haven’t watched “You’ve got mail”?

One issue you are passionate about.


According to you what's the greatest revolution of this century? why?

The century is only 12 years old.... still too young....teenage and just after is when the real revolutions happen...

A book that has influenced you the most.

I am influenced too bloody easily....whole pile of them here....too many to list..

The one cause you would really fight for.......

All are born equal...but some become more equal than others...with due respect to Orwell for the misquote

Beauty and brains......( complete this sentence)

    ....are irrevocably linked...can’t have beauty without brains...

A quality you hate in others.

Don’t like the word hate, smells too strong....not my style of perfume at all...I don’t use it....avoid being in the same room with people who wear it me a headache

Money vs happiness.

The answer my friend lies in Ogden Nash. 

My 11 questions for the tagged bloggers

1.   If you could have any one wish granted, what would it be?

2.   Is acceptance a better route to happiness than striving to change?

3.   What's more important, to carry your heritage or to carve out a future despite it?

4.   Have you ever read any poetry after you left school? If yes, who is your favourite poet?

5.   If you had to choose just one thing that your mum said to you to keep in memory, what would that be?

6.   One person, two tools/gadgets, and three books that you’d choose to be marooned with in a desert island.

7.   What’s your addiction?

8.   Forest or street, which would you rather be and why?

9.   Leaving aside your family and friends, when you say “my people” who exactly do you mean?

10.Is non-violence a practical response in the current environment?

11. Are we losing touch with reality because of the Internet?

The bloggers I am tagging are

1.    Ramya
            2.    Sulekha Rawat

3.    Abhinav R
            4.    Kriti

5.    Mamta
            6.    Elen

7.   Sudeshna
            8.    Sakshi

            10.   Gulnaz

11.  John