Friday, June 25, 2010

Letter to my Father

I was always a little in awe of you,
The way you explained Marx
Making his dreams come alive,
The way you spun the wheels of time
With Hegel and history's dynamics,
The way you dissected Ayn Rand
When I returned from hostel too full of her,
The way you touched an idealistic core
With tales of Garibaldi and Guevera,
The way you made Euclid look simple
And Freud believable,
The way you turned me away from bigotry
And taught me that Gandhi was indeed a mahatma,
The way you ignited my dreams
Giving them wings to soar
Into a cloudless sky.

I was always a little in fear of you,
Of your silences that grew heavy
Digging roots in the corners of the house,
Of the thundering shadows in your face
That would make us speak in whispers,
Of the deepening frowns in your forehead
As I grew older and started crossing
More and more often
The lines of propriety,
Of the sadness in your eyes
When for a brief period
I became a rebel just because
I had nothing else to do,
Of the way you believed
My dreams would find
A place to rest one day.

I always hated you a little,
Hated that the best you could afford
Was a second-hand, run-down car,
Hated that there was no television
In our home till I was in tenth,
Hated that you hit me once
Even though I was seventeen,
And hated you even more
When I caught hold of the descending blow,
And you never raised your hand again, ever after,
There were also times when I hated
Your honesty that could be heartless,
Your conscience that could be mindless,
Your zest for life, your way with words,
All that in you which could
Make me feel just a little bit smaller.

Awe, fear, hatred, all were there,
But there was love as well,
Like a placid sea whose depth
Is untested, untried and unknown,
The way you purposely lost at chess,
Your pride in my amateurish poems
Which I can't, even now, bear to read,
Your laughter, your wit, your stories,
The way you would ruffle my hair
Thinking I was deep asleep,
Your dragging me out in the rains,
The way our talks would lengthen
Deep into chilly winter nights
Over smouldering embers,
The way you looked at Ma entranced
Whenever she sang a song.

Had I known it to be the last goodbye
When slowly the train steamed ahead
And your face dissolved in the crowd,
I would have imprisoned the moment,
Two days later in Delhi I got the news,
Rushing back to find that you were gone,
The cold, unseeing, unfeeling flesh
Could not be you, and so
I did not shed any tears that day,
And have not done so these past fifteen years,
Though every day I have died a little as well.

Cleaning your closet, I found a book
Of your poems, a testament
To your concerns and tears,
Your dreams and fears,
Your joys and sorrows,
Your life and the way you lived it,
Your laughter rustling the pages,
Your tears staining them brown,
The words faded with experience,
The binding falling apart
Unable to hold such beauty together.

I did not write a word these fifteen years,
It has taken me this long
To come to terms,
With my loss
And my mediocrity.

A friend remembered

On the wings of wind, with you by my side,
In a smoke stuffed car, into the night we ride,
Talking of music, friends, man's longing for the moon,
And of blissful moments that pass away too soon.
Of your unfinished novel- 'The Drought' you called it,
That you crossed out many times, as many times rewrit,
Now forever incomplete, with you amid the stars-
Just like your life. Destiny plays such a farce.
Remember how first we met and talked the night away,
Atop the cathedral, watching moonlight's shadow-play,
(Though why its called a cathedral, I shall never know),
With the lights of Delhi spread deep down below.
Till the flickering dawn said the end of night was near,
You reminded me that night of all my heart holds dear-
(Ghazals, old film songs, Vikram Seth's verses,
Films, philosophy, history's boons and curses,
Saahir, Faiz, Firaaq, Ghalib and Gulzaar,
And of course the girls as also heart's scar),
Till by dawn we knew we would be friends forever,
(Forever, alas we had known, was not for us to share).
Remember how drunk we got during a college festival,
And the slap you earned, we were too much trouble!
Remember the girl we dated, both you and I together,
(And the way it ended, for worse or for the better),
When I wrote to Anu, you just won't let me be,
Insisting all the while that she was the girl for me,
The countless hours we spent dozing off in class,
People wondered when we did well and not just pass,
Too soon the time came to choose our separate ways,
(The army for you, for me the civil services),
Marriage claimed Monica, Roli created such a fuss
For management, (how we teased her on a DTC bus),
Akash returned to Jaipur, Ritesh just disappeared,
Of Deepali after college, no one has really heard.
Our jobs made us slaves, took us to distant lands,
Little we knew of future; a puppet in fate's hands

Though these past years seldom we could meet,
We've kept close- phones, letters, and then the net-
-All of us, that is, except you, my dearest friend
Who went on in your journey around life's final bend.
A few years ago, in December, I first heard the news
Of cells multiplying in your blood, many opinions and views
Of doctors and charltans, of seers and holy men,
All saying you were lost, the only question was when.
We went to visit you, and little could imagine,
Death was so near to see the glow on your skin,
We returned reassured, fate could not be so crass,
After all, bigger miracles have often come to pass.
Till the phone call came, deep in the dead of night,
That you had softly sighed, and finally gave up the fight.
With agonised tears we all curse fate, still unforgiving,
But know this, my friend, it is hard to go on living....

-A true story based upon the poet's best friend.

This, then, is the end

Nineteen Sixty-Eight,
When Calcutta was not yet Kolkata,
Its signs of decay not yet tell-tale,
A Calcutta where Howrah Bridge stood alone,
And suspension bridges buried in the womb of the future,
A Calcutta where trams still regularly chugged the streets,
Wide enough for the occasional cars to pass,
The Calcutta of Firpos, Park Street and poetry,
The Calcutta of coffe houses and Apur Sansar,
Where nights would pass arguing between Ray and Ghatak,
Engulfed in unfiltered Capstan smoke, over endless cups of tea,
Cultured Calcutta, literary Calcutta,
It was here that they first met,
Circa Nineteen Sixty-Eight.

It was the unlikeliest of love stories, as love stories go,
She, a bare chit of a girl,
Daughter of working-class parents, migrants from Chittagong,
Slight and frail, barely five feet out of her sandals,
Dusky, sallow-skinned, slightly protruding teeth,
Curly hair that would never stay in place,
Who wrote poetry, listened to Rabindra sangeet and Nazrul-geeti.
He, the scion of landed aristocracy,
La Martiniere for boys, Presidency thereafter,
Six feet in his stockings, fair,
Who could run hundred meters in 11 seconds,
The heart-throb of countless girls,
Who had read poetry only to scrape through his Senior Cambridge,
Who thought of the Beetles as passe,
Jazz the only thing to listen, with maybe
a little bit of Beethoven and Mozart,
Who liked Charulata better than Pather-Panchali,
And adored De Sica.

Yet, they met.
He saw her first through a tram on College street,
And could understand every word of what she was saying,
Just through her eyes, fleetingly glimpsed,
He jumped off the tram then, landing in a pot-hole,
Then stumbling into a lamp-post,
Acquiring a limp, ever so slight, in the bargain.
'You were swept off your feet when you saw me!' She'd tease him later.
It took a while longer for her,
She was wary of his looks,
Bewildered by his tastes,

'It were her eyes', he told his friends,
'I'll make this bohemian civilised still', she told hers.
It was a Calcutta where the fresh breeze from the sea,
Swept off the sultry days in languid evenings,
A Calcutta where sail-boats fluttered in the Hooghly,
Where roses bloomed in December.

And yet, it was a Calcutta of gathering clouds,
A Calcutta where Meghe Dhaka Tara was a reality on the streets,
Where passions flew high,
And ideals rained from the eye, vying with bullets and tears,
A Calcutta where dreams soared,
And hope painted the sky in colours of red,
An exuberant Calcutta which would change the world,
Or so the city believed,
In circa Nineteen Sixty-Eight.

Cut to Scene 2,
Connaught Place, New Delhi, Two Thousand Nine,
A glitzy Delhi, Delhi of CNG buses, Metro Railway,
Delhi of the ridge, history seeping through its lanes,
Delhi- ancient, medieval and modern all at once,
An excavated Delhi, with jostling buses, autos, motorcars,
Gingerly threading their way around mounds of earth
strewn on its streets, yet a Delhi,
Beautiful and balmy on a late February evening,
When a tall man, fair, slightly stooped,
Silver streaks in his hair,
Fine crow-feet around his eyes,
Stumbled over a pile of rubble,
And fell right across the road from Regal.

'You still fall at the feet of girls', said she,
'No, I only stoop to conquer', said he,
Brushing the dust out of his trousers,
Straining his neck at the voice,
Redolent with the fragrant promise of lost years.
'Oh, so you finally read that delightful play?'
'I even go to the opera now, and know what a liberetto is',
'Liar, you must have a thing going with the soprano',
'No, nothing after the day I lost you',
'You still have that limp, don't you?'
'It has got more pronounced with time',
'I thought it would be cured by now',
Some things, once broken, are never healed',
'True, but one finds other things to replace them with'.

'You have not grown an inch since I last saw you!'
'Silly, it was my twentieth birthday that day',
'And now you are fifty-one',
'You have learnt to add!'
'I'm an investment banker in New York now',
'My, my. I teach poetry at Miranda',
'Still doing all the useless jobs!'
'And what are you doing, counting currency notes?'
'Isn't it a far cry from counting pamphlets at Naxalbari?'
'Then why?'
'Because thats what revolutionaries do when revolutions die',
'We thought you were killed that day on Alimuddin Street',
'Do you think I am alive now?'
'My parents brought me to Delhi after the shooting',
'And mine sent me to the promised land',
'You have turned into a cynic, haven't you?'
'How do you expect I'd retain my faith in life?'
'What could I do? You were rumoured to be dead',
'So many of us died that day',
'Those who survived were scattered all over',
'And nobody knew where every one else went',
'So what could I do? Life had to go on',
'I've been dying bit by bit every day ever since',
'I must go now. Its already eleven',
'Marry me. I've a flight back in the morning',
'I must really go now. Kaushik would be worrying',
'My husband. He teaches economics at D-School',
'Oh, I think you should leave then',
'Have a nice flight. Your wife must be waiting back home',
'I've an empty house to return to',
'What? I thought you were joking when you asked to marry me',
'I dont joke anymore. Something within me is dead, though I survived',
'Will we ever meet again?'
'I dont know. Please don't go',
'I must. I have a job, a family, a husband',
'Well, I guess its goodbye then',
'I guess it is.'

She stood on tip-toes, while he bent low,
She caressed his lips with her fingers one last time,
Before hailing a passing autorickshaw,
While he stood there rooted,
Watching her melt into the shadows of the night.

And finally, Scene 3,
A scene which is yet to play out,
But is destined to unfold just like this,
Bombay, circa Two Thousand and Thirty,
A Bombay of land reclaimed from the sea,
Bustling, teeming, frantic, chaotic Bombay,
A Bombay of bomb-blasts, chawls and open drains,
A Bombay of gang-wars, sub-urban trains, and Dharavi,
A Bombay of contradictions,
Manufacturing celluloid dreams for millions,
Where the Samovar still has an aroma of coffee,
and culture hanging to its table-cloths,
The Bombay of Flora Fountain, VT station, Bandra Bandstand,
Where the sun still sets gently in the Arabian sea,
And the Marine Drive sparkles like the Queen's Necklace at night.

In this Bombay, still the same twenty years later,
A frail woman, a Sylvia Plath book in her hand,
Suddenly rushed across the corridor of JJ Hospital,
Smashing into a stretcher, upsetting a food trolley,
Overturning almost a wheel-chair where sat huddled,
A fair man, bent low with age,
His shirt hanging loose on a gaunt frame.
'Marry me', she laughed and sobbed,
'Marry me, marry me', she whispered and shouted,
Causing a passing nurse to drop the tray she was carrying,
'Marry me, Abhijit' her voice faltered,
'Marry me, please', she pleaded,
While the man looked vacantly at her,
No signs of recognition illuminating his eyes,
'I'm sorry, but I dont know who you are',
'No Abhijit, not this',
'Say no if you want to, but dont do this to me',
'Don't be a stranger, Abhijit, look at me',
'I'm Madhavi, and I haven't grown an inch still',
'My eyes are cataract-clouded, but they still have stories in them',
'See Abhijit, I'm still stupid enough to read poetry'
'................................', silence,
'Kaushik passed away of an heart attack ten years ago',
'I'm retired now, my children settled',
'I live in Bombay now, and I still yearn for you.'
'...................................' silence, all pervasive now.
'Dont you remember Naxalbari? The revolution?'
'The trams in Calcutta?'
'You know the streets are still potholed there, though the trams have stopped plying',
'Don't you remember the shooting? Kisses stolen from the Hooghly?'
'My twentieth birthday?'
'You have mistaken me for some one else',
'I've never been to Calcutta in my life.'
Words finally, colder than steel,
Echoing, bouncing off the narrow corridor,
'You must remember Connaaught Place',
'My fingers brushing your lips?'
'I'm sorry madam, but you have mistaken him for someone else',
'He needs to rest now, all this commotion is not good for him',
'Please go. Leave him alone.'
Voices surround her, as she pushes back her tears,
And turns to go with fumbling steps,
The weight of a lifetime in her eyes,
Which sadly, do not speak anymore.
While he slowly gets up, limping across to his room.

This, then, was the end,
Except that stories need epilogues
to round them off. And sometimes poems do too.
Everything needs a conclusion,
Be it a story, be it a poem,
Be it life itself.

A month later, Alzheimer's claimed Abhijit,
Madhavi died exactly three years later of a broken heart,
Without knowing that he had never forgotten her,
That he could never do so,
Not really.

Some stories, though they come to an end,
Are never concluded,
The same is true with poems too...

The second law of Thermodynamics

When I am gone, think of me
rarely, like an incidence on the edges
of consciousness, remembered
only when the heart is made maudlin,
Perhaps by a glass of wine too many,
Making aching feet climb the creaky stairs
to the attic, wary hands reach
for the old photo album, to dust off a print,
Rememberance of a summer day
long past, the sound of laughter
clinging still to the dust.

On those rare nights, let not
falling tears soak the arid earth,
Instead, with a fond smile and sparkling eyes,
Let the sun curl around
the sharp edges of the night. Remember
the shared moments, hear
the hushed whispers, taste
ice-creams fought over, smell
the sweat-seeped sheets, feel once again
the urgency of my lips searching yours.
Remember the quarrels too, the days
we refused to speak, hating each other
for the sullen silence spread between us,
Also a child of the love we shared.

Let the intervening years fall away
for an instant, the illuminated past
etched sharply in your eyes, like the answer
to a puzzle long unsolved, that flashes
suddenly in the eyes of the mind,
Like your beauty unwrapped
in the stillness of the night, with
the clothes having slowly fallen away.
But do not dwell for long
on days gone by, the present
is fragile always, the future
still unmapped, the past tricked often
by memory painting it in vivid hues.
Shut the door to memories in a minute
or two. Entropy increases with time,
And the pieces of a shattered dream
can never be put together again.

Things which are gone are gone forever,
But what remains must live through its days.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time to say farewell

I remember the way you looked at me,
As the parting drew near,
Tiny droplets built a bridge on your face,
And I couln't help thinking
Of the fickleness of fate and love.
The hushed remnants of your words,
Mumbled, heard, and yet unheard,
But still understood,
Swept over me as I took a last,
Long long look. The world was lost to me.
Your face as you smiled,
Dimpled like the valley,
Dark and barren, the valley of my life.
I didn't see your smile,
Rivetted I was to the sadness in your soul.
And again, even now, my thoughts wander,
To all that is lost to me.
Won't you ever return,
To calm me in this furnace of life,
And make me once more,
The master of my dreams.

The illusion of innocence

How touching the innocence of young,
Its belief in nights having a morn,
In hope eternal and in dreams reborn,
And in songs which are forever sung.

At the doors of death I cast my eyes,
With sinking heart on a life gone by,
On dreams dead, hopes dying without a try,
And on love that lingers like empty skies.

Koshish ek ghazal ki

Wo khayalon mein jabse samane lage hain,
Kaante bhi ghulab nazar aane lage hain.

Rozi-roti ke chakkar, zindagi ke charkhe,
Aap aaye to sab gham bhulane lage hain.

Kam-aqla humen kahte aaye sabhi hain,
Ab samajhne zindagi ke maane lage hain.

Aap rahiye humesha aankhon ke aage,
Warna mele bhi humko veerane lage hain.

Unko jaane mein faqat ek lamha laga,
Aane mein jinko zamane lage hain.

A smell like rotten fish

Alone in the dark of a moonless night,
The fan slowly sweating overhead,
It seems as if nothing shall be right-
Your memories strewn across the bed.

In the locked dungeons of my mind,
Shackled, bound and suppressed,
I barely know what I shall find,
In wounds which have long since bled.

It all happened long ages ago,
The distance yet is blurred somehow,
Blindly I wonder why should it be so,
That the past strangles the here and now.

I would like to smile and to live again,
I would like to count my blessings few,
Though it's easier said than done,
To be fully and finally free of you.

Memories that won't let go of me,
Clinging to me unbidden, indiscreet,
As the rotten fish smell doesn't let you be,
Long after passing the fishermen's street.

Toh kya ho

Khayal unke zehan se mita lo to kya ho,
Aashiyane ko khud hi jala lo to kya ho?

Zamane ki fiqron se sahma sa dil hai,
Is dil ko hatheli mein chhupa lo to kya ho?

Chiragon ki hasti hawaaon mein kya hai,
In chiragon ko ab bujha lo to kya ho?

Ret ke gharondon ka bharosa kahan tak,
Lehron se ab aashna ho to kya ho?

Sambhal sambhal kar bita di zindagi tumne,
Kadmon ko ab na sambhaalo to kya ho?

Khwaabon ki taabeer wo samjhen na samjhen,
Kabhi fursat mein khud ko samjha lo to kya ho?

Gham e ishq 'anand' raas na aaya to kya hai,
Gham e dauran ko dil se laga lo to kya ho?

The ground beneath my feet

Years ago, I left this land,
This shelter of my hearth,
The laughter of my loved ones,
Drawn I was by the rainbow
On the distant horizon.

The rainbow glittered
With the brightness of a million suns,
Reflecting dreams of a myriad colours
Concealed in my eyes,
And drawn I was,
Into a spider's web of deceit and desires,
Slowly, inevitably, inexorably.

My feet trudged the ground,
In search of an elusive horizon
That receded like an ebbing tide,
Just when I had it in my grasp,
Till bone weary I opened my eyes,
To found myself in a strange land,
With strangers all around,
And only my fading memories
For company.

The horizon was still as far away,
As on the day the journey began,
The contours of my dreams
Unfamiliar still,
As a world seen through smudged glasses,
The rainbow had long disappeared,
Leaving behind
A lonely, dark and starless night.
At the centre of the web
Lay just the shell of hollow dreams.

So with lead in my heart,
My steps I retraced,
To where the journey had once begun,
My patch of land, my wicker chair,
A half remembered pair of eyes,
Drew me back through endless miles.

Till one day I was back to where I belonged,
To this corner of the earth I can call my own,
To my own four walls, to all I possessed,
To the waiting smile which is mine alone.
I sleep content, none can deny all these to me,
This ground, this hearth, this piece of sky,
Till I pass them on to a child of my blood,
And myself pass on with a gentle sigh.

Subah apirichit si

Bahut dinon baad aaj
Aankhen khul gayi subah subah,
Uthne mein waqt nahi laga zara bhi,
Khidki se jhanka to dekha,
Subah ki hawa mein kanpti
Gulab ki pankhuriyan ab bhi geeli thi,
Narm, makhmali dhoop khili thi,
Raat jalayi angeethi ki garmahat
Ab tak kamre ke konon mein bikhri thi.

Bahut dinon baad dekha maine,
Rangon ko aasman mein ghulte-milte,
Nazar bhi milayi aaj to suraj se,
Subah ki chai bhi meethi si lagi,
Ghazal suni Fareeda Khanam ki,
Saath saath gungunaya bhi,
Jaane kyun Faiz ko padhne ka ji chaha,
Jaane kyun muskurata raha
Subah bhar, bematlab.

Itni thand mein thande paani se naha aaya,
Maa se tabiyat ka haal poochha subah subah,
Ek purane dost se baaten ki phone par,
Doodhwaale ko pani milane par toka bhi nahi,
Nashte mein chupchap baasi rotiyan kha li,
Baraamde mein bane jis ghonsle ko
Teen baar tod chuka tha main,
Aaj usi goraiya ke ghonsle se gire ande ko
Sahej kar wapas rakh diya maine.

Kaisi aparichit si hai ye aaj ki subah,
Kahin tum raat sapne mein to nahi aaye the?

Yahi sach hai

Aaj fir mere ghar ke
Paas waale chaurahe par
Ek hatya ho gayi hai,
Main gaya tha abhi abhi,
Dekha maine bhi
Kuchh chheente khoon ke jin par
Bhinbhina rahi thi makhiyan.

Laash ko to shayad
Utha le gayi thi police,
Ab wah laash jo
Kuchh kshan pahle tak
Kisi ki ashaon ka
Jeeta jaagta swapn thi,
Ab wahi laash
Police ki anginat faailon mein
Ek file ban kar rah jaayegi.

Us file mein kuchh bhi baat na hogi
Us kamartod karz ki
Jise lekar boodhe baap ne
Padhaya tha apne bete ko,
Wah file to jaanti bhi na hogi
Un aansuon ko
Jo kisi par ban ashirwad
Bahe honge.

File to bas file hai,
Kagaz ke kuchh tukde bhar,
Jinki fadfadahat den hoti hai
Pankhe ki hawa ki,
Jinki fadfadahat mein
Nahi chhupi hoti hai sihran
Un ashaon ki,
Un swapnon ki,
Un akaknshaon ki,
Us vishwas ki,
Aur us nishthur, nirmam
Bhagya ki.

Log bhashan denge
Samaj mein badhti hinsa par,
Goshthiyan aayojit hongi,
Prashastiyan padhi jaayengi,
Smarak banwaaye jaayenge,
Aur in sabke beech
Kisi khushnuma subah
Mere ghar ke paas waale chaurahe par
Sooraj ki pahli kiran ke saath
Ek aur gumnaam laash paayi jaayegi.

Fir tootengi ashayen,
Fir bikhrenge swapn,
Fir anath hoga
Kisi ka pyar,
Kisi ka vishwas,
Kisi ka bhavishya.
Aur police ke record room mein
Rakhi asankhya faayilon mein
Ek file aur badh jaayegi.

An existence denied

Eyes unseeing, ears unhearing,
Tongues unspeaking,
A cracked existence
In a shattered mirror,
Lives fragile, termite-ridden,
Crumbling to dust,
Each day a little less bright,
Each night darker than before.
Unreasoning reason, calculated emotions,
Uncultured cultures, irreligious religions,
The world an ugly monalisa smile.
A life almost dead,
Each breath a requiem,
Each heartbeat a roll of drums,
Announcing an imminent
Cessation of being,
Lest we forget to count ourselves
While counting our dead.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for me, for you, for all of us.

Barse honge baadal

Tumne kaha tha, aaogi tum,
Mausam ki pahli baarish ke saath,
Boondon ke sangeet mein gungunaaogi,
Baadlon ke saaye mein chhup jaaogi,
Bheegi hawaon par tairogi, ithlaaogi,
Tumhare badan se aayegi bheeni khushboo
Mere aangan ki sondhi mitti ki,
Saari dharti odh legi tumhari dhani odhni.

Ye mausam bhi beet chala hai,
Mere khali ghar sa reeta saawan,
Khali tasli sa ambar ka aanan,
Raaten kaali, andhiyari si
Jaise kalikh puti padi ho aasmaan par,
Hawayen bhi is shahar ki anmani si,
Jaise kar rahi hon ek ehsaan bhar,
Kahin zaroor to barse honge baadal,
Shayad meri hi aankhon mein simat simat kar?

Tum yaad aaye

Aaj tum baaraha yaad aaye,
Ye aansoo dinon baad aaye.

Humen achha kyun kahe koi,
Jaane kab se barbaad aaye.

Har taraf pasri khamoshi se,
Kabhi to koi fariyaad aaye.

Is bebas mazboor duniya mein,
Kahin koi ho jo azaad aaye.

Zindagi yun hi guzarti rahe,
Kabhi bulbul kabhi saiyyad aaye.

Koi ghazal ye sune na sune,
Bas apne dil se daad aaye.

'Anand' jis bhi raah se guzra,
Peechhe sheeri-farhaad aaye.

The beggar day

The day has been a beggar since birth,
the deep sky its begging bowl, the sun
its festering sore, its clothes the tattered
clouds unable to hide its naked heart,
the polluted light its wasted body.

Yes, the day is a beggar, sitting
on the sidewalk of eternity, seeking
a mere moment from it, in which
to clothe the memories of the night.

The day that once dazzled like
a king's attire, today begs the night
for a whiff of darkness, to imagine
the smudged kajal of your eyes,
to feel wrapped around itself
your unkempt hair.
It pleads to borrow a few stars,
Stars that sparkle just like your eyes,
[Impossible I know, but the ignorant day doesn't],
To replay your voice it entreats the night
for just one stray strand of silence,
For a dish of mystery, the beggar day
implores the night[it doesn't know of the chillies yet],
And as the day wears and wastes, becomes old,
It begs for a place in the night's womb
to curl itself, never to be born again.

As the day dies and my screen flickers to life again,
Settling over the evening I can smell once more,
The scent of fresh jasmine you bought in the morning,
vaguely familiar from the night before,
I can see your kajal that slowly paints the sky,
Your chilli-red eyes reflected in the stars above,
Your dishevelled hair falling across your face I see
as the dark clouds shamelessly flirt with the moon,
And your words like rain drops populate the silences,
Glowing with a beauty that far surpasses the night's own.

The Arithmetics of marriage

The silence, dark and heavy as a monsoon cloud,
Sits between us like a rock with jagged edges,
Clamps itself to the walls like a hungry lizard,
Sleeps on the floor as a carpet heavy with dust.

In the clutter of the cups on the dinner table,
In the noise that you made while washing dishes,
In the high volume of the TV switched to a cricket match,
In the ear splitting rock that you love and I hate,
In the loud rustle of the book that I read
while you desperately feigned sleep,
The silence lay concealed, an invisible presence.

The silence dug deep roots in the corners,
It flavoured the dishes and coated the tongue
so thickly that in the shadows of the dark room
I could hear our anger and our remorse,
Your eyelashes as they opened and closed
measuring silently the undiminishing distance on the bed,
The rigid curves of our backs that we knew would relax
with just a gentle, stolen touch.

While our words hid in the closet,
Tired of being used as weapons,
Counting on their fingertips like beads of a rosary,
Who had last revolted against the reigning silence.

In a metro

Blunted by time and distance
The sharp edges of the city,
Its jagged teeth, festering sores,
Putrid underbelly.

Long have I been away
To a place where still I see
The inky blue of midnight skies,
And hear the shrill chatter of birds.

Till recently I went back and lost myself,
The sky invisible, stars dimmed
The moon jaundiced,
Dust clouds on roads, exhaust fumes
Sticking like dandruff in the scalp,
Rushing hordes everywhere,
Briefcases in hand, cell-phone to the ear,
Watchful, weary eyes awaiting, darting,
Turning hungry at the sight of prey.

Zooming cars, the very life a blur,
Like a cinema unspooling in reverse,
Or a record on fast forward.
A limp city, drooping in the sweltering heat,
Its existence defined by droplets of sweat.

Having had enough, about to escape
To the confines of my shelter,
For a flash, weaving through relentless traffic
I thought I saw a child
Helping an old woman cross the road.
No, it must have been a vision,
Born of a perspiring exhaustion,
Such mirages are not uncommon they say,
In the shimmering heat of an April day.

The curse of Cassandra

The shadows slowly shut out the sky,
Creeping all the time like a ghost,
Staining the light, feeding on it,
As it retreats, vanquished.

The shadows, they are cunning,
Versed in the dark art of concealment,
They hide themselves well
In boys mining the garbage
for pieces of rotting leftovers,
In a pillow pressed hard
snuffing out the miracle of birth,
In the semen stains that paint white
the tired faces of half-clad girls
in dark alleyways,
In the touch of a father's hand
under the covers of a sleeping child,
Even in a poem ripped apart
by sheer spite.

Even had Cassandra been alive today,
Condemned by her curse, we would still,
Refuse to believe that the sun
Split itself some while ago,
And gave birth to the night.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A simple wish

The world dizzily spins,
A top fulfilling its destiny
Along the trajectory of unforgiving time,
And we, like mice
Scurrying around in a granary,
Blindly scramble, bite, scratch, fight,
In a mad daze we dash,
For the horizon that recedes
As time whooshes by
In a blur, until
Already falling off the precipice,
We realise too late,
That what is rushing up
To meet our flailing bodies,
Is just the cold, dark earth,
Oblivion, and the finality
Of the curtains drawing to a close
In an empty theatre.

Let us, just you and I,
Step aside from the stage,
And sit awhile on this
Wet patch of freshly mown grass,
Your eyes turned to the sun,
Your face snuggled in my arms,
Our clothes stained green with the earth,
Watching wordlessly,
A tiny squirrel feeding nuts to its young,
Staring at us amused every now and then,
With its large and beady eyes.

A moment is all I ask of you,
Surreptitiously stolen from fleet footed time,
While the world stands still,
Waiting with abated breath
For the moment to pass,
And mortality to resume its path again.
Anything more would be too much to bear
For mere mortal souls like us.

Fir ho na ho

Kya pata noq e kalam mein, fir ye dhaar ho na ho,
Roshnaayi sookh jaaye, lafz e bahaar ho na ho.

Jitni bhi sazaa chahe, zamaana aaj de le mujhe,
Fir ishq ka mureed koi, koi gunahgaar ho na ho.

Dum bhar ke liye sahi, sham e firaaq sanwar do,
Itni shiddat se kahin, fir intezaar ho na ho.

Is raat simat aao, aagosh mein mere humnafas,
Dil is qadar kabhi fir, beikhtiyaar ho na ho.

Suqoon ka ik lamha, bahut hai umra bhar ke liye,
Tanha is zindagi mein, kabhi fir qaraar ho na ho.

Anand bas likhte hi jaao, jitni ghazlein likh sako,
Shayaron ki jamat mein, chahe shumaar ho na ho.

An atheist's prayer

The rawness of the cold
On drizzly december days,
Seeps through my shrunken bones,
Or what is left of them
From time, and the decay
Inherent in nature.
When life seeps away
Nothing is left but maggots,
Fattened, filthy, crawly, smelly-
No dreams, no fate, no memories,
Nothing but the darkness of the grave,
Nothing but the maggots.
Vaikuntha, the garden of eden, paradise,
Promises of peace, freedom from pain,
A white beacon, the saviour,
All nothing but utter lies,
Uttered by the shrewdest of men.
With life gone, what remains
Is less than nothingness,
Less than oblivion, less than shunya.
And a long long wait
For my withered dust to mingle with the soil,
For barren lifescape to turn fecund,
And thus to sprout out from below the earth,
And to give birth anew with the rains.

Haathon me apna haath de do

Haathon mein apna haath de do,
Bas ek adad qayanaat de do.

Tum na ho to koi baat nahi,
Dil balhalane ko koi baat de do.

Sangmarmar ke bejaan buton ko,
Chand pighalte jazbaat de do.

Jeene ko mahaz itna kaafi hoga,
Aagosh mein simti ek raat de do.

Aasman nahi to aankhon mein sahi,
Faqat do boond barsaat de do.

Meri ghazlein tum suno na suno,
Ek lafz bhar ka to saath de do.

Anand kar le zindagi ko basar,
Kuchh to aise haalat de do.

Some after-dinner ramblings

In this world
of lies and deceit,
Of endless need,
Of views conceited
as truths masquerading,
Of honesty crippled
as a broken wing,
Where truth is a perception,
and the past changes colour
with each rising sun,
Where faith is at the mercy
of a blindly pointed gun,
Where trust is prostituted
in every marketplace,
And a veil shrouds
each uncovered face,
Where the whiff of death prevails,
And life begins with wales,
Where illusions are mirrored
in eyes fearful to see,
The only reality
Is perhaps you and me,
Or more certainly,
The contentment we feel,
After a full meal,
Before going to bed,
Satisfied and sated,
Brutes well fed.

Thats the way it is

You like a crossword
With cryptic clues,
I the lonely sky,
Alone with its blues.
You the veiled night-
A mystery unbound,
I just a whisper
On the edge of sound.

You the jet plane
Swifter than mind,
I the grey plume
Trailing behind.
You impenetrable silence
Thick as a wall,
I in the wilderness
A despairing call.

You the soul of poetry,
Soaring flight of birds,
I the hopelessness
Of hastily strung words.
You a dark cloud
Pregnant with rain,
I a mere poet-
Ordinary, insane.

Strange is this world,
Stranger its thought,
For while you love me,
I just do not!

Ek chhoti si prem kahani

Tumhe dekhta tha main
Bhor ke akele taare mein,
Kshitij par baadlon ke
Rang badalte, bante bigarte
Aakaron mein.
Sunta tha tumhari hansi har subah
Chidiyon ki chahchahat mein,
Suraj ke aane ki aahat mein.

Jaise jaise din chadhta tha,
Tum kshitij se uth kar
Sama jaati thi samuche akash mein,
Aasman ke nirabhra neele rang mein,
Door kahin chhote se,
Rui ke faahe se kisi
Badal ke tukde mein.
Aur tumhara ek chhota sa hissa
Ban jaata tha roshni,
Ban jaata tha mere ghar ke aage uge
Gulmohar ka phool.

Jab saanjh aati thi dabe paaon,
Main paata tha tumhe
Musafiron ke ghar lautne ki utkantha mein,
Lakdi ke choolhon se nikalti
Dhuen ki lakeeron mein,
Aur sansar par sahsa chhayi
Nistabdhta mein.

Dheere se har roz
Jab raat dhal aati thi
Chand ke pahre mein,
Dekhte the beshumar taare
Tumhe mere sapnon mein aakar lete.
Akela chand aur door uga dhruv taara
Mujhe aur tumhe ek hota dekh
Chhup jaate the baadlon ke saaye mein.

Aur aaj,
Mahsoos karta hoon tumhe,
Ghar ke konon mein jhoolte
Makdi ke jaalon mein,
Baarish ki boondon ke liye
Marusthal ki ret ki prateeksha mein,
Paaon ke neeche achanak aayi
Sheeshe ki kirchon mein.
Aur us tees mein bhi
Jo ghav ke bharne ke barson baad
Jaadon mein anayaas ubhar aaya karti hai.


Lines imagined on the body of earth,
lines that divide the world
into us and them,
vie with lines drawn in the mind
of caste and creed, class and colour
for possession of man's soul.
Lines that become visible with glass shards,
sentries and watch-posts,
sheltering walled edens from
the claws of the teeming millions,
from the dust and grime outside.

In a city, nameless and faceless,
a half-ripe mango in its innocence,
doing the unthinkable crossed the fence
of a castled paradise, swaying
on a branch kissing the earth.
A boy of age indeterminate,
nameless and faceless
in a city just like him,
did the unimaginable too,
raising his hand to remove
the saucy mango from its perch.

Boundaries, their existence threatened,
cried out in desperate alarm,
Determined to protect their sanctity
sentries rushed out in full strength,
The boy was quickly made aware
of the insurmountability of boundaries,
Any attempt to blur them
would threaten after all
the identity of those within,
and destroy
the ordained order of things.

The boy with hollowed cheeks, sunken chest,
grimy hair stranger to oil or comb,
his body leaking blood
that coagulated in his eyes,
unzipped his pants at the backyard wall,
let lose a stream of piss, an arching river
That rising upwards challenged the gods,
and falling down made jigsaw patterns
on the wall, giving shape to his dreams yet unseen,
eroding, dissolving, erasing
the lines that demarcate man from man.

A pungent aroma of nitrite
the rose-laden air.

The brown patch on my ceiling

There's a brown patch on my ceiling,
It hurts my eyes to look at it,
And yet it will bring,
My eyes to it, always,
While I lie on my back,
Numb, unseeing, unfeeling.

No, it was not there before-
I remember seeing a rainbow
Lying on my bridal bed,
Drop by silent drop,
The rainbow dripped red.

Till it faded into a smudge,
The shape of my dreams,
A brown blotch that like a prey
Holds my eyes,
As night after night I enact,
A part I daily hate to play.

Enduring the grunting mass of flesh
Above me to shed its hardness
Deep into me,
Bruising something within,
Strange that the moments of love
Should be so lonely.

The brown patch on the ceiling,
A solace through blinding tears,
My companion through lonely nights,
Helping me endure and hope,
To hear and see once more,
Nearly forgotten sounds and sights.


I shall write a poem tonight,
Continuing my quest
Beyond wasted words,
Tired turns of phrase,
Meaningless metaphors,
To search for the one
Word, turn of phrase, metaphor,
Cryptically concealed, hushed and hidden,
That would reach out to you
From the confines of this page,
And make the intervening years,
Hundreds of miles fall away,
Like the night is dispelled
With the first rays of dawn.

Perhaps you will read the words
And let a pensive smile
Linger on your lips for a moment or two,
Allowing yourself to think
Of the hilly stream like turns
That define the course of love,
Then with a rueful shake of your head
You will immerse yourself once more
In your life away from me,
Like a bird shrugs away
Raindrops that weigh down its wings
Before flying off again.

Or else, perhaps
The faded print of my words,
Smudged by time and distance,
By life itself,
Will allow you to believe
They speak to someone other than you,
You will spare a thought then
For the ephemeral nature of love,
For the impermanence of dreams,
And be content
That life has turned out
The way it has.

And I shall write on,
Continuing my conversations

Kuchh Prashn Yudhishthir se

Dharmraj ho tum,
Upamayen di jaati hain tumhare jeewan ki,
Mana jata hai dharm ka shikhar tumhe,
Main moodh, agyani, maamooli si Panchali,
Dhrishtta karoon tumse kuchh prashn poochhne ki?
Uttar doge?

Swyamwar me Parth ne vara tha mujhe-
Pitrigrih mein bhi puraskar matr
Bana diye jaane ka tras,
Samajh sakoge tum?
Aur phir tum sabne tukde karne chahe mere man ke bhi,
Chhodne chahe apne hastakshar sharir par mere,
Nakul aur Sahdev ko janm dene se
Kunti ne bhi kar diya tha inqaar,
Shastron ke anusar teen se adhik purush gaman,
Veshyachar jo kahlata hai,
To fir main kya rah gayi Yudhishthir, bata sakoge?
Sach sach batana, maata ki agya ki ot mein,
Tumhare hriday ki andheri parton mein,
Kahin vaasna ne dharm ka avaran to nahi odh liya tha?

Aur Dharmraj,
Nari ko vastu samajhne ki shiksha,
Kis shastra se li thi tumne,
Ki apni swarn-mudraon ke saath,
Laga diya tumne mujhe bhi daaon par?
Tumhare swarth, tumhari laalsa,
Tumhari lolupta ki parten,
Mere vastron ke saath hi khulne lagi thin,
Kyun tumne nahi cheerne di Bheem ko,
Usi kshan Dusshasan ki chhati aur Duryodhan ki jangha?
Dharm ka nasha bhi bada maadak hota hai na Yudhisthir?
Dharmraj, Dharmavatar kahlane ka nasha.
Yadi samajh liya hota tumne
Ki bheeruta paryay nahi hoti dharm ka,
To shayad tal gaya hota kurukshetra ka yudhh.

Jeewan to hai vegwaan, unmukt pravah,
Dharm ke chhoron se ise baandho mat,
Mat dhhondha karo shunya mein samadhan,
Jab koi Panchali apne prashnon se kar de niruttar tumhe.
Aur yadi kabhi samay mile Yudhishthir,
To baithe baithe apne ekant kaksh mein
Ki kyun rengne lagte hain mere sharir par sahastra keede,
Jab tum mera sparsh karte ho,
Maun samadhan nahi, so bolo Yudhishthir,
Kyunki ye prashn sirf Panchali nahi kar rahi tumse,
Aur uttar ki prateeksha bhi nahi hai sirf Panchali ko hi.

Think, just think

To chance upon,
To remember,
To preserve like
Pickle salted
For far too long,
In the layers of memory,
Hurting and bled,
Is it good, really?
Think, just think.

To meet,
To hold,
To look,
Deep in the eye,
To lose the way
In the labyrinth of love,
To shut out the sky,
Is it good, really?
Think, please do.

Had I not missed that flight,
Had I slept early that night,
Had that day not strayed my sight,
I wouldn't be up today, feeling tight
In the heart, till first light
Writing poetry.
Think, just think.

When I am no more

These words I weave,
These dreams I believe,
The light with which you say I shine,
The stories I narrate,
Of hope and faith,
They are all yours, were never mine.

This warmth, this glow,
The incandescent flow
Of my words are all owed only to you,
My dear sister little,
In a world so brittle,
You gave love with which blessed are few.

Just before you sleep,
These words pray keep,
In your treasure chest of memories,
Just once in a while,
With a fond smile,
Dust them off as fugitive time flees.

Yes, worthless they are,
For you-a morning star,
Yet on a rainy day as you seek release,
From joints that creak,
A sky that feels bleak,
They may gift you some drops of peace.

These words transient,
I do know, are meant,
Like those writ on the sands of a shore,
To be washed away,
And hence I pray,
Keep them buried for when I am no more.

The old lady in the moon

Lying under a million stars,
Feeling small, alone, forlorn,
It was the old lady in the moon
Who winked at me smiling a toothless smile,
And drew me up by the strands
Of stories weaved by her
On her spinning yarn.
Sleeping in her lap I forgot
The frayed collar of my school shirt,
My trousers an inch too short,
And I dreamt,
Of the sparkling strands of stories,
Each coloured with a million hues,
Reflecting moonbeams, entwining, separating,
Coming together at last,
In a sea of stories on the other side of the moon.

Some years intervened, and I understood
Why no one would share his tiffin with me,
Day by day, I had only dry bread to offer after all,
I also realised the wrinkles on the lady's face
Were only craters, and her spinning wheel
Just some hill
On a desolate landscape
Where no sea could ever be,
That was the time I started dreaming
In black and white and shades of gray.

So many years have passed by,
Soon enough there will be wrinkles on my face,
My hair will turn whiter than the old lady's,
And my stories reflect
Jagged shards of broken dreams,
Gray and colourless.
More and more often I wonder
Of the fate of the old lady,
And her sparkling sea of stories.

My eyes will cloud with cataract,
My vision will dim, my world blurred,
Perhaps then I will see again
Dreams in the lap of the old lady,
Who perhaps might still be spinning her web,
There might really be a sea perhaps,
On that face of the moon unseen by men.

An unreal reality

It was a dark wet night when we first made love,
To the echo of raindrops, clouds shielding the moon,
The smell of your sweat has seeped into my bed,
The fragrance of damp earth when it rains in June.
Or is it just my nose, cold-choked?

The mustard yellow of your dress that day,
The sepia toned dreams that together we wove,
The green of your eyes when caught by the sun,
Still paints the canvas of my life purplish-mauve.
Or is it just my eyes, tear-soaked?

Whenever in my thoughts I hear your footstep,
That I could tell apart, eyes closed in a crowd,
The sound you made trying not to make a sound,
My creaking racing pulse hammers out aloud.
Or is it just my heart, lipid-stressed?

My fevered brow burns as I toss and turn,
My mind screeching like a record in reverse,
I seem to be sinking in a morass of memories,
In merciful madness, living death or even worse.
Or is it all just a dream, seeking rest?

Kafka revisited

They came for me in broad daylight,
I remember the day well enough,
It was exactly a month since you had gone with them,
They shot open the door and stormed in,
Like honeybees swarming in a beehive.
I was gagged and handcuffed,
A blindfold wound tightly around my eyes,
I was dragged across the marketplace,
The day stood deathly still, not even the shadows breathed,
And only my screams rang stifled within my throat.

I was dumped into a dark and damp cell,
Two inches of sky visible through a hole in the roof,
A solitary sun ray struggled its way in,
Darkening even more the shadows in the room.
I was stripped naked, two men went to work on me,
Till my whole body was a mesh of sweltering welts,
Drifting between consciousness and blessed oblivion,
I struggled to maintain my hold on sanity,
While my bones were broken, my teeth pulled out,
The nails skinned off my flesh,
Red chilli poured down the holes in my body.
Time lost meaning, there was no night or day,
Pain the only reality, just enough
To keep me alive from one beating to the next.

I was told there was no bigger criminal alive,
Or a bigger threat to the nation than me,
That I had got drunk with the moonbeams,
Had inhaled the fragrance of the morning bloom,
Breathed in the free air of the hills,
Dared to call a small piece of land my own,
Laughed in the warm company of friends,
Looked deep in your eyes in the glow of the fire,
And the most unpardonable act of all,
That I had written a book of verse.

They promised to set me free if I confessed,
To escape the pain I would gladly have,
If only I knew how to tell,
Of the content I felt in my patch of earth,
Like a boat safely anchored after a voyage long,
Of the unrestraint that I felt in birds chirping wild,
As they returned at dusk to the warmth of their nest,
Also of the slightly salty taste of your skin,
The taste of free skies and the unbound earth.
How could I commit I won't write anymore,
When poetry had always risen in my voice unbidden.

The unrepentent criminal that I was,
I was convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck,
My body displayed on the tower in the heart of the city,
Till the vultures would ensure no trace was left of me.
The day for my release drew around,
I was marched to meet my mortal fate,
Finally, I looked in the eyes of my executioner,
And found they were the same deep blue as yours.

It was then,
And only then,
That I screamed,
And screamed,
And screamed,
Till the scream crashed into the walls of the gallows,
And its echoes drowned me in the soundproofed cell.

Ajab sookha pada hai

Khuda jaane kya ajab sookha pada hai,
Ped hain sookhe, bahar hara hara hai.

Gaon ho ya shahar, har zagah ka haal ye,
Bhookh ka ajgar munh baaye khada hai.

Har subah akhbaar me bas yahi dekha kiye,
Aaj sooli pe phir kahan isa chadha hai.

Jaane kaisi reet duniya me hai chal padi,
Buddh ab pagal aur Gandhi sirfira hai.

Allah ko bhi baant daala mazhabon me,
Ab jahaan me aur kiska aasra hai.

Koi humzubaa nahi, koi humnawaa nahi,
Kisko bataayen aaj dil kyon bhara hai.

Tez-raftar duniya me fursat kise ki soche,
Kisne kya likha, aur kisne kya padha hai.

Sunne waalon, aaj dum saadh kar baitho,
Baad muddat ke koi fir ghazal-saraa hai.

Aaj ghazal me Anand yun mashgool ho gaya,
Gham to raha baaki, lekin zara zara hai.

A violent storm

A storm has passed by,
Twisted roots
Gnarled trunks
Bemoaning their fate,
Clouds in tatters
Like the clothes of a platform child,
Mutilated flowers,
A rose tearing its petals,
A sunflower dripping blood,
The landscape a surreal painting
By Dali in oil,
Grotesque, and yet real
The violence that cleanses.

You too have passed,
Leaving in your wake
Steel shards in the soul,
A murdered heart,
Memories mutilated,
Life a dark shade of crimson
Dripping away
A drop at a time,
The world a concentration camp
Soap strips of my skin,
My body an empty shell
Stripped inside-out
By the violence of betrayal.

This too shall pass,
As Buddha said
With death on his lips,
All things are transient,
Strive on.....
In the hope of passage.

A riverbed of sorrow

Sorrow is cathartic,
It cleanses and purifies,
Frees the soul from chains
Of happiness,
Burnishes it to perfection,
It is the meaning of life,
Its eternal truth,
Or so it is said.

My sorrow is none of these,
It is instead,
A dense impermeable fog,
A nameless weight on my chest,
A cold steel in my soul,
A mercenary bullet imploding in my being,
A diamond which etches surrealistic patterns
On my existence, brittle as glass,
A whore which clings to me,
Like the stench to a sewage drain.

Joys are islands, few and far between,
Their isolation relieved only
By this river of sorrow that connects,
Each lonely island, and imparts to them,
An illusion of continuity,
Islands that erode a little further,
With each passing wave that laps
On their shores, bringing oblivion
A little nearer with each passing breath.

A March night in Delhi

The cold-seeped bones
thaw, veins feel the blood
again, the moon-lit sky
shimmers, the night shivers,
but only just.

The sky washed clean of
fog and smog, stars brightly
lit, an yellow halo circles
the moon, the milky way beckons
a solitary traveller.

A faint breeze rustles
the tree-tops, a symphony plays,
A fragrance of thousand roses blends
with the jasmine-scented night-
a heady cocktail.

Tread softly lest the crinkly
dry leaves that carpet the streets
ripple the stillness and deny
the naked silhouttes of trees
the solace of silence.

All around a tranquil peace
that comes from knowing the winter
is far behind, the blazing summer
yet far away, and the promise

Main aur meri kavita

Mere rom-rom mein
Rachi basi peeda
Jab ghanibhoot hoti hai,
Surya kiran jab man mein
Aahoot hoti hai
Tab janm leti hai meri kavita.

Surya ki kiran ka tej
Jab antas mein utar,
Jwalamukhi ka roop dharta hai,
Pal pal dhadhakta hai,
Tab vani mein visfot hota hai
Aur garm garm, jalta laawa
Syahi ban,
Kagaz par utar aata hai.

Nazar daalta hoon jab charon or,
Aur paata hoon apne ird-gird,
Bujhe bujhe, murjhaye se chehre
Jinke andar ki aag
Raakh ban chuki hoti hai,
Jinke man ka surya
Ast ho chuka hota hai,
Aur jinki raaten bhi,
Amavasya ki hoti hain.

Tab achanak,
Un chehron ka kabhi dekha gaya,
Hatheli par angaar ugaane ka swapn,
Meri aankhon mein utar aata hai
Khoon ban kar,
Aur main is samoochi
Sadi gali vyavastha ko
Shiv ban
Chahta hoon astitwaheen kar dena.
Meri kavita is tandav ki
Shuruaat matr hoti hai.

Rachna ke
Un kuchh anmol kshanon mein,
Mere rom-rom mein
Rachi basi peeda
Mere jeewan ka
Sabse bada sukh ban jaati hai.

The lady of the night

The wall in a dirty public urinal,
Plaster peeling,
Mouldy green fungus in its damp spots,
A smell of abuse by unknown men
Settling heavy in the puddles of pee around it,
Garbage of the mind strewn across
In crude graffiti and filthy sketches,
That wall is my body,
The body of the lady of the night.

My corpse stalks the night,
Its shadows permit others to believe
My cheeks still are rosy red,
My face yet unlined by a web of lines,
My flesh still firm, my breasts proud.
I dread the day, its bright light
Reveals the crumpled sheeets on my bed,
Across my pillows strange oily strands of hair,
Dark rings under my tired eyes,
The purple patch on my peeled off face,
The face of the lady of the night.

With the soiled notes clutched in my hands,
Forever damp with the sweat of the night,
For my daughter a dawn I try to buy,
Brick by brick,
Thrust by thrust,
Heave by heave,
Grunt by grunt,
While every morning I stand in the shower,
Trying to scrub off the stains on my body,
Till my skin is peeled and the flesh is chafed,
The stains run deeper and I scrub on and on,
Till there is nothing left of me anymore,
Except a bleeding, gaping hole
Streching infinitely between my legs,
This is what I have exchanged for a soul,
The soul of the lady of the night.

A night by the sea

The night was washed bright, the moon
A silver thali floating in the sky,
The sand sparkled, the shells strewn
Flashed in the dark like a firefly.

The million speared sea with golden prongs,
Its ripples stretched till horizon's bend,
In a deep bass voice it sang songs
Of earth's beginning, perhaps of its end.

The waves rose to lie on the bridal shore,
Their passion spent in her soft warm hold,
But the sea unsatiated, pined for more
And reared again, its love unfathomed, untold.

On a night like this I ploughed the sand,
My brow furrowed and my head bent low
With life's weight, a puppet in fate's hand,
A burdened heart, my tread heavy and slow.

The monotony of the sea, I thought would be
A change from destiny's unseen turns,
Till the night, the ocean, the sky made me see
How small I was, how petty my concerns.

Silent night, gentle night

Close your eyes
Like the dusk,
Slowly into sleep
Like the sun
Sinks in the sea
Beyond sky's end.

Curl up your feet
Under you-
A bird
Nesting her egg.

The queen of dreams
To send
A symphony to caress your eyes,
Like the morning breeze
Stirs a sleepy leaf,
Just this much.

Be the peace on you,
As on a mother
When on her first born
Smiles play.

Your bosom
With each deep and even breath-
A boat left free
On the gentle waves
Of a placid sea.

With me watching by your side,
My fingers caught up in your hair,
While shadows of the moon paint
Your face dark, and then so fair.
A faint smile curls your lips
As I wipe worries off your brow,
God must be in his heaven above
As all is well below.

Tanha tanha

Din ka mausam rootha rootha,
Raat ka aalam tanha tanha,
Subahein jaise jhoothi jhoothi,
Shaamein bhi nam tanha tanha,
Geeton ke sur khoye khoye,
Saari sargam tanha tanha,
Patton ka rang peela peela,
Kaisa ye gham tanha tanha,
Muskaanein hain feeqi feeqi,
Khushiyan hurdum tanha tanha,
Saansein chalti ukhdi ukhdi,
Jaata ye dum tanha tanha,
Lafz mahakte seele seele,
Mahroom kalam tanha tanha,
Kaati raatein taare gin gin,
Tum ho, hain hum, tanha tanha.

Sawaal akhiri

aya hoon kis muqam pe jaane kya haar ke,
Ab nahi guzrenge kabhi, din intezaar ke.

Dilfareb, tera husn to hai ab bhi dilnashin,
Nikla na kar roop tu kuchh yun sanwar ke.

Is din ki dhoop unko bhi kahin bhigo rahi,
Sooraj tum doobna, magar unko nihaar ke.

Thehre pani me apni parchhayi dhoondte ho,
Barson se jame hain yahan patte sewaar ke.

Subahon pe zor hai na shaamon pe bas chale,
Din beet gaye hain ab mere ikhtiyaar ke.

Jis mod pe usne kabhi kaha tha alvida,
Hum aaj khade hain wahin ik umra guzar ke.

Har aadmi is daur me chalta hi jaa raha,
Kisse bayan karein kise dil e beqaraar ke.

Wo Faiz ki nazmein, wo Sahir ki shayari,
Haasil faqat yahi hain mujh khaqsaar ke.

Daayron me qaid shayar kamzor hai bahut,
Mat aazmao use tum kuchh yun pukar ke.

Anand apni zindagi se khush to hai magar,
Bheege se lafz kyun hain uske ashraar ke?

An epitaph for love

In the dark veil
Drawn across the sky with the setting sun,
I see you.
In the fragile silences of the night,
Pregnant with the foreboding of sound,
I hear you.
While thrusting my loneliness
Within the depths of the night,
I feel you.
In the scorching rays of the sun on my skin,
I touch you.

But no more.
I refuse to be consumed any longer.

I'm tired of living a fugitive illusion
That flees from my eyes
The moment I open them.
I'm sick of searching for rare flowers
Amidst my green mossed existence.
I know now, I shall never find
Water drops in acid rain.

I'm weary of love, and I want my days back,
My nights as well.

And so,
With these words of farewell,
I bury you,
In the graveyard of memories,
Your love, pale and lifeless,
Sealed and shut in the coffin of poetry,
This poem the epitaph,
The poet the undertaker.

Your love, that was never mine,
I return to you,
Alongwith some wrinkled dreams,
And a few washed up tears.

Do what you please with them,
But set me free.

Mirror images

My sky may be black,
Or yellow, or white,
I may like men,
I may not have a choice,
I may wear a skullcap,
Or tie a knot in my hair,
I may speak some language
Or the other,
I may be rich, indigent,
Or even boring middle class,
I may live in the first world,
Or the third,
I may be autistic,
Schizophrenic, delusional,
Or just plain and simple crazy,
I may not even be whole,

This much shall remain true,
For you I shall ever be a stranger,
You will never accept me
As a part of your world,
You will always exile me,
Stamp on me, smother me,
Make me slink to the ghettos,
Condemn me to dark bylanes,
Deny me an address,
Or an identity.
The rainbows in my eyes would not matter,
I won't be allowed to cry.
You, who want nothing,
But a mirror to look into,
Every time you see my face.

And so, I must
Speak from these pages,
Where my voice has no colours,
No smells, nor sounds,
Where my gender, or even a lack of it,
Would not smother my voice,
Where neither my politics should be relevant,
Nor my language,
But only my yearning to be heard,
To belong.

And yet,
If you shut your ears,
And there is still,
A shadow of strangeness in your eyes,
What choice will I have,
But to let my voice shatter
Every single mirror in this world.

Love in a nameless town

My memories of you are all mundane,
They are of trite days,
And banal nights.

Sometimes I wish
I had to savor,
Memories of seeing the setting sun
In your eyes,
Reciting poetry while sipping wine,
With waves singing a lullaby,
Somewhere on the riviera.

Instead I have,
Moments stolen
From sweaty summer afternoons,
Conversations left unsaid
In a hurry to reach home,
Before glances turned suspicious,
And questions followed.
Of smiles shared,
Away from the prying eyes
Of accusing houses,
Letters and flowers,
Slipped in the pages of borrowed books.
A single kiss in three years,
If brushing lips in tearing haste,
With eyes pinned to the door,
Qualifies as one.

I have memories of a bourgeois romance,
Stifled by the middle-class concerns
Of a small, miserly town,
A town where love was a blasphemy,
And morality a cross
To which emotions were nailed always.
A heartless town with small minds,
And smaller dreams.

I return to it often,
Though a lifetime has gone by,
To hear the hushed whispers of a love,
That still breathes through its tomb
Of dusty lanes and petty houses,
As I try to convince myself yet again,
That for the death of our love,
It was the town to blame,
And nothing else.

It's time to write a poem again

Cocooned within walls of flowing silence,
Speaking a language sans words or sounds,
Writing words in an evanaescent script which left
Silent brushmarks on empty pages of the heart,
We have spent countless hours, my love,
While the clocks stood still, and the world forgot to turn.

Its time now for the white noise of life
To intrude in the silence shared by us,
Lest our silence bury our love,
Beneath a mound of syllables, unspoken, unheard.
Its time now for words to gurgle and swirl
And inundate the islands of loneliness,
Like a river swollen, in full spate, bursting forth.
Its time, my love, to write a poem again.

Let our love roll with a drumbeat of sounds,
The desperate cacaphony of chirping birds
Seeking a nest to rest their wings,
The ceaseless pitter patter of blinding rain
On a hard tin roof on a monsoon night,
The piercing whistle of a thundering train
Slicing the silence in the deep of the night,
The honking of horns, the swish of a plane,
The laughter of children, the tinkle of an anklet,
Steam hissing from a pot of freshly cooked rice,
The muted roar of a million hungry throats,
The splashing sweat from entwined limbs,
The incoherent grunts, muttered endearments,
A symphony of Mozart
Rising to a crescendo.....

.....Before falling silent forever again.

The absent piece of flesh

I reserve the right to call you thus,
To make you remember I was born,
From the flesh and blood of a womb your own,
Seeped in your sweat, the fluids of your loins,
That I was not bloodied, unwanted flesh
To be smothered with my first faltering cry.

I remember the night all too well,
The hut at the edge of the village,
The howling winds, the darkened sky,
The pillow that pressed over my mouth,
The black night descending to my eyes,
My legs and arms dancing in the throes of death,
I remember the cord that joined me to you,
Still intact while I slowly turned blue.

I cant forget the shadows on your face,
The loathing and the fear creeping in your eyes,
When you first looked between my legs,
And sealed my fate with a shake of the head,
I still dream that there had been,
A smudge of grief somewhere within.

Before maggots devour all that is left of me,
And my bones crumble to fine sawdust,
I curse you to think of me every time,
-Of my lolling tongue and my foaming mouth-
While you lie unmoving on your bed,
Under the heaves and brutish grunts of your man,
Hoping for the stars for once to bless,
Your womb with that absent piece of flesh.

The Anatomy Of Hope

Did you,
These past fifteen years,
Think of me,

I understand,
It was difficult for you,
While settling to a new life,
Learning to love someone else,
Bearing the pangs of motherhood,
Celebrating its joys,
Rushing around to balance
On a thin edge, work and home,
To steal some moments,
For someone long gone.
The days must have passed in a blur,
And exhausted, the nights dreamless.

Perhaps you could find,
While getting ready in the mornings,
Or just before falling to sleep,
While cooking, washing dishes,
Hanging the clothes to dry,
While commuting, reading,
Listening to a song half remembered,
Putting your baby to sleep,
Loving someone else even,
A few pensive moments,
To let a shadow of the past,
Fleetingly colour your present.
Or perhaps, you could not.
Life must have been a bit too much to bear,
Without making it unbearable a little more.

I dare hope,
With the rhythm of your days,
Having settled now to a steady pattern,
Soothing in its conformity,
The young ones ready to find their feet,
Love now natural for someone else,
Surrounded by the comforts money can buy,
The horizon within the grasp of outstretched arms,
Perhaps you now have a few moments for yourself,
To unravel the tattered threads of long buried thoughts.

Even though,
Deep within my heart I know,
Its more likely knowing you,
You would have found something else to do.

On Gurudongmar Lake

An unmetalled strip snakes up
And beyond, curling around
This mountain, and then the next,
Reaching the heart of the sky,
No, dont look down to the valley,
Approach these lofty heights
With the head held high.

I ride the clouds,
Cotton-wool white, wispy,
A mirage always,
Weeping when I try
To hold them in my palm,
A hopeless effort to imprison
In mortal hands, eternity.

Till only the jagged peaks,
Wearing shrouds of snow,
Stand guard to the sky,
Their blinding whiteness relieved
By a sunbeam splintering
Into a thousand pieces,
Lighting up the lunar landscape.

And then, like a vision,
Hidden by a fine veil of mist,
Coy like a bride,
Gurudongmar offers a glimpse,
The bluest expanse of water
Caressing the feet
Of a mighty mountain.

I am unable to fathom
If the lake mirrors the sky above,
Or the sky reflects the water below,
The only time in my life
When I saw this precise shade of blue,
Was when I first looked
Deep into the depth of your eyes.

I fall to my knees and pray,
To the silence reigning all around,
To the wind which cuts like a lash,
To the majesty of the mountains,
To the stillness of the waters,
For the first time in my life,
Doubts vanish and I believe.

Too soon its time to descend,
To the earth, its egos, rivalries,
Squabbles, strife, dust and grime,
The rat race, all the petty realities
Of a mundane existence
Made easier to bear by the memory
Of having once locked eyes with God.

A year has passed by since then,
And I've found my voice again,
Amidst the everyday sounds and sights,
My dreams still roam those lofty heights,
Just one jarring note is struck-
Such beauty we may only reach,
Through mud tracks built for an army truck!

Talk Vacuities Tonight

Dialectic materialism, history subaltern,
The nature of reality, views post-modern,
String theory, three dimensional geometry,
Stream of consciousness, surreal poetry,
Clash of civilisations, the nation's GDP,
Enough of empty talk, now please let me be,
Kant, Spinoza, they are all such a bore,
Darling, I do not wish to impress you anymore.

Instead, call me a cabbage, I'll reply in kind,
Let your eyes speak, keep aside your mind,
Come, let us giggle, at the silliest of jokes,
Talk utter nonsense, philosophy is a hoax,
Let us jump up and down, roll on the bed,
Let us talk in circles, eat each other's head,
Point to me the spots where you tickle the most,
Come to my arms as a ship nears the coast,
Forget the bitter world, what is wrong and right,
Love, I'm tired of wit, talk vacuities tonight.

A voice from the past

Across the ruins of moth-eaten days,
Nights crawling with silver bookworms,
A voice whispers,
Unlocking cobwebbed recesses of my mind,
Misted memories of sun-drenched days,
And relentless nights,
Imprisoned with scraps of dreams long dead,
Brown stained pages of words unread.

The voice strains to be heard,
Through the shields of silence, self-imposed,
Rippling the placid canvas of my life,
Till the demons of remembrance,
Unshackled, unforgotten, unburied,
Rise to the surface yet again.

The voice demands to be heard,
It implores, cajoles, tears out from within,
The flotsam and jetsam of a lifetime,
The naked contents of a tortured heart,
Faded words fettered in yellowing pages,
A heart which is no longer mine to give,
Words I can no longer bring to my lips.

Shaken, in the deep of night, I turn,
To a torn page and a leaking pen,
My blue-stained fingers strive to resurrect,
This cross I am destined to bear,
In careworn cliches, mutilated metaphors,
Absurd alliterations, a shelter I seek.

Poetry stirs the soul, moves the heart,
But beyond the cliches, it is above all,
The last refuge of the coward.

A critique of pure reason

Things change, we all know,
Through stillness, winds blow,
Rivers abate, oceans swell,
Silent sometimes falls the bell.
Flowers wither, trees turn bare,
Nights shroud sunshine fair,
Born to die, old we grow,
All of these, I too know.

I knew you would go away,
To a land where angels play,
I'd be left, bereft of love,
Arid earth, grey skies above.

Yet this knowledge is no use,
To a heart left recluse.

Legends of the night

The night stealthily
Comes with shodden feet,
Trailing her dark curls behind,
She is my love,
She hides my heart in her bosom,
Her curls descend in my eyes,
And then she tells me stories.

Stories of love and betrayal,
Love that persists
Like the lone flower
That grows anywhere,
In the unlikeliest of places,
And needs neither water, nor manure
To blossom.
Betrayal like the coiled serpant,
That hides in the all-concealing
Darkness of the heart,
The greater the love, bigger the betrayal.

The night talks of hope,
That rises and ebbs,
And disappears sometimes
Like the small stream in desert-sand,
She sings of dreams,
Broken with the first light
Of a harsh morning,
Only to be dreamt again,
And yet again.

My love whispers poetry in my ears,
Of love and longing,
Dreams and hopes,
Trust and betrayal,
Small rememberances
And eternal forgetfulness.

I'm now weary of her stories.
I'll ask her tonight
To tell me other tales,
Stories not given words by poets,
Buried in the womb of this world.

Songs of painted faces
In shadowy street corners,
Of tired limbs and empty hearts,
Hungry songs of roofless children
Sleeping with feet pressed to the belly
To assuage the empty ache within,
Homeless melodies where sleep
Is a fugitive from hunger,
Stories of deprivation,
Of lives with a thousand small deaths,
From one day to the next,
Stories of unhealed wounds,
Festering sores; raw and red,
Like the pus-filled public parts
Of an aged whore.

I shall ask the night tonight,
To sing of a time
When the wounds will burst,
And the oozing pus paint her beautiful face
I will scream at my love tonight-
Its not only love and loss that are poetic,
Even revolutions are.

An unmarried girl at 39

Unmoving she sits,
Like a truck in a traffic jam
On the highway,
Inside a cocoon of silence
That like a light bulb would explode,
If she allows the varied noises
From the street below
And the house around her,
To invade her stillness.
Her joints ache
Like the rusted nuts and bolts
Of the chair she sits on
By the window sill,
The setting sun in her eyes,
Her eyes liquid gold.

The fan whirring on her head,
Spreads a thin film of sweat
On her features fine still,
Her skin though
Is pinched now,
Like an orange left in the fridge
For a day too long.
Fine lines build bridges
Across her brow,
Like cobwebs that appear
On the walls of a house,
Left empty and locked.
Siver strands in her hair,
No longer a rarity,
Her breasts beginning to droop,
Like flowers withered
After the passage of spring,
Her voice like brittle twigs
Spluttering in a fire,
A void in her eyes,
Her eyes liquid gold.

Horns honk below,
Children shout,
Shopkeepers haggle,
Women quarrel,
Boys whistle in the corner
At girls passing by,
Two men in a fist fight
Trace each other's ancestry,
Life goes on as usual.
While oblivious she sits,
Unwatching, unhearing,
Her mind crammed
With the shadows on her father's face,
Accusing stares of her sister,
Her mother's helpnessness.
Like a pearl in an oyster,
A pearly drop in her eyes,
Her eyes liquid gold.

Perhaps she thinks of younger days,
And aches for the acne on her face,
Evenings when on a swing
Her feet touched the sky,
Maybe of someone
Who taught her all the ways to dream,
And also their futility
In a sand coloured world.
She knows now,
That hope has a life span,
And things that die
Are dead for ever.

As the night spreads her shroud,
She gets up with a sigh,
A wistful half smile on her lips.
She will be forty in another year,
She has dinner to cook,
Rememberances are luxuries
She can ill afford.
So with a deep breath she rises,
To face the lonely night.
The promise of love
A fading mirage in her eyes,
Her eyes liquid gold.

The smog and the star

I was told the twinkling star
Was you, Watching from afar
Over us, a guardian angel
For our life, thus dreams sell
And are bought by an innocent
Child, still untouched, unbent
By adulthood, maturity,
By the cynical, cruel city.

Growing up, whenever I felt
Lonely, at times when joys melt
Into nothingness, to the sky
I looked, told myself not to cry,
For you were there always
Twinkling in that special place
In my heart, the father I could
Never know, with me who still stood.

That last solace is alas no more
With me, on life's craggy shore
Waves relentlessly beat, eroding
Deep within my heart the thing
Which secured me, kept me calm
Like an often repeated psalm,
Hidden is now your twinkling star,
Smothered by smog, unseen from afar.

Tales from a long lost summer

I recall vividly the year you arrived
In the midst of an unusually hot summer,
(The hottest in twenty years, said the papers),
With just a duffel bag slung over a shoulder.
My parents jumped when they heard the doorbell, even though
They had been sitting in the drawing room since morning.
I remember thinking it was strange
That no one had told me you were coming,
But then, no one tells a twelve year old anything.
It was a summer of dusty days and windless nights.

I remember hating you the moment you stepped through the door,
Your painfully thin body, your grimy clothes, your lanky hair,
Your lopsided smile, and the bar of chocolate that you offered me.
I hated that I had to give up my room for you,
(Privacy is sacred to a twelve year old)
I hated that all day you just lazed around,
Reading books from dad's closet I was not allowed to touch,
Or watching the Godfather series endlessly on VCD,
Movies that my mother happily watched along,
(Though I'm sure she did not understand a word),
I hated that she cooked eggplants day after day,
(Which you ate off your fingers, every last morsel)
Even though it was one dish I could not abide.
I must have lost five kilos that summer.

Or the way you talked to mom deep into the night,
The screechy Sahgal records that you played,
It was the summer I discovered my mother sang well,
While you listened entranced with eyes half closed,
And my father with a smile like an orphaned child,
Hovering uncertainly on his lips, looking strangely aloof,
Unsure of the ground that he walked upon,
An air of brittle fragility around him,
As if a mere touch would break him into a thousand pieces.
He did not even take me out in the rains,
Another reason why I remember the year so well.

And then, one fine autumn morning, with leaves brushed golden,
While yet maintaining a tenuous hold on life,
You were gone,
Just like that.
Dying of cancer, the mutinous cells in your veins
Had been multiplying with reckless abandon,
For the past two years.

This I was told,
Just after you had died,
And the house had become my own again.
But that you had begun to die,
In bits and pieces,
Ever since that day twenty years ago,
When my mother got married,
This I came to know,
Only much later.

Sleeping dogs

In my closet, books-
Dog-eared, moth-eaten,
Faded print, yellowing words,
A touch turns
Brittle pages to dust,
That slips through my fingers.

In the closet of my mind, memories-
Of brittle, moth-eaten times,
Like sand, if only they would slip away-
Though hidden deep down
If dusted off, where would I run,
Its best to let some sleeping dogs lie.

An alamanac of my being

Every morning I wake up,
Empty my bowels,
Brush my teeth,
Drink some coffee,
Read the papers,
Solve the crossword
(Quick always, never the cryptic),
Rush to office,
Conduct meetings,
Sign correspondence,
Write file notings,
Issue orders,
Meet people,
Till night falls and I can delay
Going home no further,
Log on to the net,
Watch some TV,
Listen to ghazals
While counting the stars,
(Thank God they are so many),
Have sex once in a while,
Or try to write poetry
(When everything else fails),
Evading the territory of dreams
Till deep in the dead of night,
Until sleep sits heavy
On the eyelids
And I can avoid it no longer.

Happy I am indeed,
If happiness is merely
The absence of pain.

Another day begins

The demure night stands at the threshhold,
A lover ready to depart, yet lingering
for a few moments more, the imposter day
devours her slowly, while the sky
blushes at the edges.
In the half-dark light, shadows
appear real, reality decieves the eye,
Its a time for illusions and phantoms
to walk the streets, a time for stories
half-begun, and legends laid to rest.

Bylanes begin to breathe, breathless
stragglers falter at shops that rest
at dawn, thin lines of smoke
curl upwards, staining the sky
with a bitter hunger-smell,
Homes are rolled up on pavements,
Newspapers fall like rain on waiting doorsteps,
Steam from sweet, warm tea, alive
like the body of a loved one,
sizzles in corner shops, as dogs chase
women at municipal taps, gurgling
as they grudgingly part with a thin stream,
Like benediction from an ungrateful God.

In a twelfth floor apartment, the first rays
of dawn filter through the blinds, illuminating
her face, as she stretches languidly, rubs
the sleep off her eyes, and also
the last traces of a dream, dreamt
long ago, and repeated ever since,
every night, a dream fragile like camphor
that evaporates with the sun.

Shedding her sleep and dreams, she rises,
Sustained by the night, resilient yet again,
She draws the blinds aside, allowing
stories to drift away, the day to pour in.
Haunted no longer by ghosts of the night,
The city wakes up in her eyes,
Another day begins.


As that unique fragrance
of roses, with a hint of jasmine,
A subtle undertone of grassy meadows,
Mixed with moonlight and the musky
smell of your sweat, wafted towards me,
Overpowering the ripe smell of an open drain,
Women selling flowers, rotten vegetables,
The heavy stink of unwashed bodies
and dreary desire, that hung low like smog
on a busy Bombay street, one hot
and humid afternoon, I knew
It could be no one but her,
No one at all.
I just knew.

It had been fifteen years and more
Since that fragrance had seeped into me,
That heady brew that recalls still
Moonlit days and sunny nights,
Spent doing nothing, absolutely nothing,
With her head cradled in my arms,
Her fragrance enveloping my dreams,
Sweating with clouds making love
In the sky. An eternity later,
On that overflowing street in Bombay,
My heart leapt to my throat,
My pulse played a drumbeat in my head,
After fifteen years,
I had to remind myself
to breathe again.

The street fell strangely silent,
As over the mass of humanity,
Vegetable carts, autorickshaw fumes,
running, falling, scraping my knees,
overturning carts, bumping into cycles,
leaping over children, abusing
and being abused, I rushed towards her,
Till she was within reach
of my fingertips.

Liz, I whispered, dear, sweet Liz,
Laughing, crying, sobbing, screaming, stammering,
Liz, Liz, Liz, her name over and over again.
She turned around, with incomprehending eyes,
Eyes that were black and not a liquid brown.

I remembered too late,
She once had said,
The perfume she used,
Was favoured most by women,
All over the world.

Unbearable Nights And Listless Days

The heart beats on, an old
grandfather clock that goes
tick-tock, tick-tock, never straying
from its destiny, till the spring unwinds,
And it finally stops,

Just another moment in time,
With a void on either side,
Unbridgeable, unmappable, unmeasurable,
Holding within itself
Unbearable nights and listless days,
That follow each other,

The ennui stains the sky with nothingness,
As in search for fulfilment,
Ever-elusive, I sully
A virgin paper with the wet stain
of words.

Useless, bereft of meaning,
March across the minefields of my mind,
Turning yellow with the ink
yet to dry on paper,
Their music lost, they breathe their last,
Even before they are born,
With none to claim their hollow shells,
Poor orphans.

We all are, our existence still-born,
Tied to today by the slender thread of life,
Afraid to sever it,
Wary to unravel its knots,
Taking comfort in the morbid monotony
of unbearable nights and listless days,
As predictably, the heart beats on,
Tick-tock, tick-tock,
Like the old grandfather clock,
Always five minutes behind.

She loved the rains

She loved the rains. The touch
of rain-drops on her bare skin.
My lips drinking them dry. I remember
how she sighed then. The only other
time she sighed like that was when
I whispered some Faiz to her.

She loved the rains. The paper boats
gingerly floating in water. She used
to pluck an eyelash, the longest
she could find. Place it on a boat
and watch it float away. She used
to hold my hand tight then.
She loved to dream. I remember
she once cried when the boat
drowned. That was towards the end
when her eyes so often brimmed
over with tears. I remember.

She loved the rains. She loved singing
over the thundering clouds. Always
a note offkey in that high-pitched
voice of hers. I loved listening
to her songs. They spoke of desires,
dreams and longing. Of destiny and
heartbreak towards the end. I remember
I cried once. She made me promise
I won't cry ever again. She used to say
my smile reminded her of the morning sun.
She hated the shadows thrown by dusk.

Does someone recite Faiz to her still?
Does it rain where she lives?
Do her children make paper boats?
Do her eyelashes still grow long?
Do her songs still sing of splintered dreams?

I will never know. There are so many things
that elude me now. I wonder why the lump
in my throat never dissolves into tears.
Why I hate the slush of rainy days. Why
I never wish to wake up in the morning.
Why nothing makes sense anymore.
Not even writing poetry.

The country of your body

A thousand times I have travelled
Across the country of your body,
Its rounded hills and verdant valleys,
Shadowed corners concealed from the casual tourist,
Its highways curving around peaks
And losing their way in the stormy sea,
Its villages and towns
Each with a million stories to recount.

A thousand times I have traced
The strange contours of its borders,
Brittle as a glasspane and still
Supple like the gently swaying palms,
Languidly moving from place to place
In a journey of exploration,
A solitary cartographer striving to imprison
Its map in the quicksand of memory.

A thousnd times I have stood
Poised at its gates, returning again
--And yet again--
A migrant soul seeking the solace
Of a home on unfamiliar shores,
And making a country--alien once--
Forever his own.

In search of a poem

Little do I know,
Why I dont dream
Fragrant dreams anymore,
Why hands disembodied
clench at my throat,
Why sweating I wake up,
Fighting for breath,
In the middle of nights.

Little do I know,
Why smells stale
the morning coffee,
Why dewdrops burn my skin,
Why a ghazal humming softly,
screeches like a nail
dragged across a wall,
Why in the full moon I see,
A perfectly rolled roti, tempting,
but away from outstreched hands.

Little do I know,
Why memories trick my heart,
Why life passes by like a cinema,
That looks real, but is an illusion
While I look on-
The only audience in an empty theater.

Little do I know,
Why my words stray,
Lost sheep in search for a verse,
Tentative, their nerves alight,
Scared to find their destiny,
While the verse mocks them,
With fleeting glimpses
that haunt my dreams,
But elude my wakeful eyes.

Some day my words
Will find fulfilment,
And rest at peace, curled up
Like a foetus in the mother's womb,
Inside this ever-elusive poem,
And I, the answers finally found,
Shall also rest content,
At peace within my words,

And so be it

This long road of tangled memories,
That I have trudged for endless miles,
In a blank forgetfulness shall end soon,
Neither you, nor I, nor the long trek uphill,
Shall matter anymore in an ocean dark,
It will all end soon with a few steps more,
These dulled hurts from long ago aches,
This undissolved lead dying in the heart.

All roads they say lead to this ocean,
Some through pink lily-swamped ponds,
Bright and green forests, golden sunsets,
And others through thorn-pierced deserts,
In scorching sun unrelieved by trace of rain.
It must have been destiny that made me take,
A road forsaken, the road less travelled.

But the end is near, I know in my heart,
I can hear swelling waves singing a lullaby,
The call of the ocean to hide in its bosom,
I can feel the moisture wetting my eyes,
I can taste the salt in my parched throat,
I can smell around me the jasmine-scented night.

Yes, it is all to end with just a few steps more,
Soon I shall forget that alone I walked this road,
That I shivered with the nights and burnt with the sun,
Nothing will matter then- sorrow, joys, vacuities, nor wit,
If you could not be mine, you could not be, and so be it.

Of destiny, excuses and a broken heart

If only,
I had been born an year earlier,
Or had liked maths just a little bit more,
Or had got cinema tickets for the noon show,
And had not interjected in the debate at Stephen's instead,
Or had it not rained that day in July,
If only.

If only,
You had been born a year later,
Or had not loved History quite so much,
Or had not been such a good debater,
Or had carried an umbrella that fateful day in July,
If only.

If only,
The Babri masjid had not been demolished,
The gulf war had occured some years later,
Soviet Russia had not crumbled apart,
The Berlin wall had stood intact still,
Safdar Hashmi had still been alive,
We both had hated old songs and mushy movies,
If only.

We would then have not been at DU together,
You would not have responded to my interjection,
We would not have taken shelter at the bus stop outside Hindu,
We would have had nothing to say to each other,
We would have remained strangers always,
The webs of fate leading us along separate paths,
Never intersecting, unaware and oblivious,
Of each other.

And yet you said,
One dusky evening some years after that day in July,
That we were not destined to be together.
Poor destiny,
To be made a scapegoat,
After all it had done.

A cup half-full

Twenty-six alphabets,
Just twenty-six,
Strewn together contain
An ocean of meanings and nuances,
Beauty, love, lust, anger,
Envy, passion and prayer,
All stand like clothes
In the cupboard of the mind,
On hangers just twenty-six.

Probability predicts
That given enough time,
And patience,
Randomly uniting
In all infinite ways possible,
These letters will combine
Into everything conceivable,
Everything that has been,
Everything that shall ever be.

I have time till eternity,
And patience that stretches,
From one end of the horizon
To the other,
And so I wait, counting heartbeats,
For these letters to be resolved
Magically into your name,
Probability is now my creed
The possibilities my devotion.

I wait and wait,
Like the earth waits for the sky,
Or the empty nest for wandering birds,
For love is not like scarlet fever,
To cure itself with a change of season,
But a disease, chronic and cruel,
That would neither kill nor go away.

Futile Thoughts After A Chance Encounter

Long years have passed since we shut
The door that to a shared future led,
Such grown-ups we acted as we cut
Our bond. 'We must think of others', we said.

Years went by, you went your way
And I mine, college far away in Delhi
For me. Ahead for you studies lay
Followed by happy matrimony.

I too married for love, soon enough
Got a job, made my peace with life
That flowed like a river, no edges rough,
For company, poetry and a lovely wife.

My daughter was born, pretty as pearl,
And my happiness seemed complete,
Like a slow melody would nights unfurl,
My days were with rainbow colours lit.

When suddenly, across time's misty way,
The door we had so firmly shut long ago,
On rusty hinges opened a creek one day,
As I chanced upon you, and even though-

Our love was dead, it had nothing to ask,
And nothing to give, yet a thought arose
Unbidden, as if the years had worn a mask,
And with it for an instant fickle time froze-

How our lives would perhaps have been,
Had we acted our age when eighteen.