Wednesday 29 October 2014

Write...Edit...Publish... October 2014 : Ghost Story

Wow! where did that October go? The start of autumn is always a happy-busy time - all our main festivals are lined up one after another, beginning with the Navaratri and ending with Diwali.  Incidentally, there is a Halloweenesque festival tucked in that month of Indian fiesta too, the day before Diwali fourteen lamps are placed around the house as a mark of respect for "unsatisfied spirits".

So glad to sit down for some quiet and get back to Write...Edit...Publish, the monthly bloghop hosted by Denise Covey, wish you good health and happiness and happy writing always, Denise! The prompt for this month is a ghost story. 

Just want to mention here that a mushaira is a gathering of poets to recite their poetry, sometimes in competition, rather like a musical/poetic duel. A literary face off.  It is an Arab-Persian tradition that came to India centuries ago and survives in many parts of India and Pakistan. But Ruphail and its fair are completely fictional, of course.

The Mushaira

For most of the year, Ruphail was a village that lived in happy anonymity, minding its wheat-fields and corn-, its livestock and tractors, its library, station and a single school.  But every autumn, it was transformed by the biggest, grandest month-long fair, from the first night of the Navaratri to Diwali. 

Sunday 26 October 2014

Point me to where the answers are blowing

Does the wild moth care where the flames flicker,
naked, or within the baubles of glass,
flaunted at the points of wicks and brass,
or is mud kinder? cleaner and quicker?

Some wild tale’s heard in the depths of childhood:
how peace and stillness stick to paths of light,
how plenty comes on tiptoes in the night,
and a single wick can make or break the good.

Is it that simple? does it signify
that singed-winged wild moths are of no account?
that peace and plenty finally amount
to glass and brass and things that cannot fly?

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Diwali 2014

This Diwali, there’s no lamp, trimmed or otherwise;
oil always needs a wick, to soak up and burn.
The stars align for a moonless night,
a pensive Parvati  rolls her dice.
Here’s the other cheek, let the dimmest starlight
or the darkness strike and take its rightful turn.

The dark nuzzles cloudsoft against my skin, and gives
everything a rest, no shadows, no fears are rimmed.
I’m not afraid of these moonlessnesses -
stars burn out, and lamps, only darkness lives.
Surely Laxmi’s free to choose her addresses?
and if she sleeps where the night is bright or dimmed.

A very happy Diwali to you and yours if you celebrate it.  And if you do not, then I wish you a happy autumn.

Sunday 19 October 2014


Maybe I’ll come to love you again
narrow and straight, this eggshell dense constraint
can’t say when and if that will happen
purple blistered disquiet breaking open
scrolls and shells on ways to reacquaint

I have twanged away too far and too long
down one-way streets into such broad places!
many reasons later – I was too young,
too foolish; or not enough; wrongly strung
at any rate, to loiter in those spaces -

I’m here; maybe I’ll come to love once more
these narrow necks, this stripped sky in narrowed eyes.
These thin skinned moons, their scooped out hollow cores,
the cirrus-slim line of foam on the shores
gnawing at shallow sands before it sighs and dies.

Monday 13 October 2014

An attack of Hindi

I get these sudden attacks of prehistoric Indian songs sometimes.  And thanks to Youtube I can indulge. Anyways, I was listening to this ancient and lovely number last week, and spontaneously this verse floated into my head fully formed.  A little scary even, I didn't know I had any Hindi left in me, certainly not enough for a spurt of shayari.  I am not sure if the genders/grammar are correct, so if you are a native speaker, or a non-native one fluent in the language, please feel free to point out the errors.

हम भी ले आएं हैं कश्ती तुफानो के बीच कहीं
मौजों में है जो सुकून वह न मिल पाया साहिलों में

रखते हैं उम्मीद ज़माना नादान हमें कहेगा नहीं
मोहब्बत दूर कहीं डोलती है न सिर्फ तेरी महफ़िलों में

हमें तेरी छुरियों, नज़रों से क्या? रोक ले इन्हे वहीं
जो तेरे दर तक पहुँछे हम नहीं उन काफिलों में

हम भी हैं तक़दीरवाले - मौज, मझधार, तूफ़ान ही सही
दरिया ने दी है वह जगह जो न बन पायी दिलों में


hum bhi le aayein hain kashti tufaano ke beech kahiin
maujon mein hai jo sukoon woh na mil paya sahilon mein

rakhte hain umeed zamaana nadaan humein kahega nahiin
mohabbat duur kahin  dolti hai na sirf teri mehfilon mein

humein teri chhuriyon, nazron se kya? roke le inhe vahiin
jo tere dar tak pohuchhe hum nahiin un kafilon mein

hum bhi hain taqdeerwaale - mauj, majhdhaar, toofan hi sahii
dariya ne dii hai woh jagah jo na ban payi dilon mein

I too have steered into stormy waters this craft of mine
the peace that's in the waves can't be found in coastlines

I have hopes that the world will not call me clueless
love pulses somewhere far, not just in gatherings you address

what are they to me? your knives, your glances? keep them on hold
I'm not part of those caravans that reach your threshold

I too am greatly blessed - never mind the storms, midstream waves
the river has given me that space which no hearts ever gave

Okay, written, transliterated, and translated, though the rhyme scheme changed in the translation.  Phew!  Hopefully out of my system now.  It'll take some time to recover from this one! :)

Friday 10 October 2014

Fall fable...autumn you like it


Take the heart.  The heart’s the dragonfly. It’s the grasshopper, that sings all summer and takes leaps of faith, from grass to leaf, from leaf into sky, halfway to the stars and falls back to the grass again, nonchalant.  Who vaguely knows that winter will come but will take care of itself.  Meanwhile the ant, oh god, the ant plods on.  Eat.  Sleep. Hoard.  Clean.  Eat.  Sleep.  Hoard. Clean.   The ant is the body, and her demands must be met, at all times.  Punctually.   To-everything-there-is-a-season-and-a-time-to-every-purpose-under-the-heaven kind punctually.  You know the type.  There’s one in every neighbourhood.  Earnest.   And sternest.  And lectures everybody far and wide about the importance of being both.

Now that winter’s almost here, she is rubbing her forelegs together in glee, waiting for the heart to turn up in her somewhat shabby but comfortable pad so that she, the ant, can tell her, the grasshopper, royally off for dereliction of proper duty.  She even tries out her lines with different inflections – you sang all summer? now go and dance all winter, and then tries it out with the emphasis on “sang” instead.  She has both of them pitch perfect.  She’s so conscientious, she doesn’t know when it’s enough.

But the hearthopper doesn’t turn up, she’s MIA.  Making most of the summer before it fades.  Rocking the equinox.  Living it up and down and sideways, burrowing real deep into the moment.  So the ant goes out in search of the grasshopper. Besides being the body, the ant is also a busybody.  And when she finds the grasshopper this is the conversation they have, the hopper and the ant, the heart and the body.

A:  What are you doing?  It’s going to be winter soon.

G: I know!  I have to finish this before the season flips,  this tune is for winter.  Requires some – um - fine tuning hunh?

A: What are you going to do for the winter? Have you got any food?

G (stops singing for a minute):  Food? Food?  Music is food, you illiterate nutcase, haven’t you read your thingamajig?

A: No, I mean really, what are you going to eat? How are you going to keep warm?

G: Listen, I got warmth completely sorted.  This tune? This tum ti ta tum tum ti ta? It’s to learn the shiverdrivel dance with. Dancing is going to keep me warm.

A (flustered and angry because the grasshopper keeps going off script) :  What the hell’s going on here? That’s supposed to be me telling you to dance all winter.  You’re being very irresponsible!  No food, no firewood, and dancing to keep warm.  Jeez!  You’ll freeze to death!  Look at me, I’ve worked hard all summer and gathered everything, and now I am all set for the next three months.  You’d better do something fast.  Because I am not sharing any of mine.  Food. Or wood. 

G: No-o-o! You wouldn’t do that? You would? Not even wood?

A: No, certainly not.

G:  Okeydoke.  Keep it all to yourself.  But you do know that food tastes terrible when you eat it on your own alone, don’t you? Turns to ashes in your mouth.  That’s a scientifically researched fact.  Something to do with horrormoans.  Or is it pheromoans?   At any rate, some kind of moan interferes with the taste buds and screws up the entire chemistry of your oral cavity.  Tum tum  ti tum, tum tum ti tum.  Food’s in one end and out the other/ memories are the thing to gather. 

A: Oh, you are incorrigible!

G:  Yup, that’s my first preference.  Corrigible is horrigible.  Not at all my cuppa. Or suppa. As you like it.

The ant finally sees she is making no headway and goes back miffed to her pad in the anthill.  In spite of being so well provisioned and warm, she doesn’t really enjoy her winter much because she has this nagging suspicion that the grasshopper is having way more fun. 

The grasshopper meanwhile learns the shiverdrivel dance and dances her way a little closer to the equator, where the grass is still green, and the trees are still in leaf; and the river flows sharp and silver like the glint in a rascal’s eye; and the stars hang like crazy fruits from the sky in the early evening even before the light has flickered completely out.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Morning commute

Early dawn drizzle’s polished the pavement
to a high-gloss silver mist this side of blurred;
blinking lights, polished shoes, and pointed end
dark umbrellas fast tap-tap office-ward.
A plane flies overhead, unseen but heard.

The age-old face of time peeps from the tower
the rain’s handed a mirror to old dials
as a puddle smoothens its ripples, the hour
is struck off in bells and an absence of smiles.
A street vendor pulls pretzels into piles.

Each one must travel in his own orbit
in a random bubble of time and space
no hand touches the other inches from it
no eye-contact with another face
each one knows its path and its place,

walks into the lift, maintains a tidy queue
whooshes up and down and no rules broken;
in time a feathered cap or an ocean view
not much eggshell and omelettes are spoken
just that there must be enough silver slogans.

I came across an image of a clock tower reflected in a large puddle on a road, and rather grim faced be-umbrellaed commuters hurrying past it. This was the outcome. 

Saturday 4 October 2014

The no job

I was exhausted, all I wanted was a good hot shower and to zone out in front of the TV, but I knew I wouldn’t get any as soon as I got in.  Kory was fiddling with the remote, the set-top gizmo was blinking wildly in response, and the screen was flashing on and off to angry buzzes and beeps.  He looked up as I threw down my gear on the sofa.

“Some friend of yours called a million times.  Asked to call back.  Seemed pretty desperate.”

“What name? Why didn’t you tell him to call the cell?”  Really, Kory could be seriously weird.

“Sounded something like Raavan.  Or maybe Ravin and I misheard.  I did tell him.  He said he couldn’t cope with cells and stuff, fixed line was as far as he was prepared to go, what with his family problems.  Maybe I misunderstood that too.  He sounded odd, quite insane actually.”

Wednesday 1 October 2014

My festival or yours?

There is a certain throb of dark, a shift of earth
underfoot, a certain pulse of air that connects
me instantly, and connects without reserve
somewhere where the meanings move, the warp and weft

thread on thread, gold and red mesh and merge and create
the sculpted stones and ancient tombs and wizened stars
and kid laughter.  And daisy fields of happy face
and seaweed soft plush frozen drips meltwaters.

I have missed all my festivals of pinwheel buds
deep tangerine at one end, I have missed much more :
the proud skyshows of light and smoke and sandalwood.
I’m mindful of the applefalls but don’t keep score.

But if that’s at hand then that’s enough for a festival
My place or yours?  My pulse or yours? Immaterial.

Happy Durga Puja to you if you are celebrating!