Monday, June 28, 2010


Death wears many masks
It comes laughing like a wave
Takes you feet first
Into the water
Ducks you under
To see if you can remember
How you breathed when you lived there.
It lies waiting like a pond
Still and alluring
Reflecting the blue of the skies
Sometimes without even the whisper of a ripple
As weeds with a foot fetish
Dance in the bed.
It flows like a holy river
With a hoary past
Certain of its purpose
Mindful of its reputation
For washing away sins
And sinners
When it can.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stories at midnight

What stories do you tell your grandson
Who wants newer and newer ones to be told?
The stock of mythology is soon spent,
Adventure stories you were brought up on
Hardly enthuse him,
When you go autobiographical
You find little to excite even you,
Your days in the Army
Were preparing forever for a war
You were never for,
You cannot tell him
That you ran away from home to enrol
After a quarrel with your father.
As you make up another hotch-potch story
Smiling at the faithful listener
Eyes still shining bright, though it is past midnight
You wonder if your ill-tempered sire
Had someone like this to watch over him
And keep the ghosts away before the sleep angels arrived.


It is when you
Climb the stairs
Late at night
Going home from work
That all the ghost stories
That you have heard
And the spooky films that you have seen
Pop up in your mind
With perverse timing.
It is then that the tap of chappals
Hitting the steps
Sounds like someone following you
The wind in the trees
Is like someone calling you in a whisper
The growl of the AC unit
Is like an angry spirit
Out to spite you ---
It is then that you see with a shock
That something in you
Still remembers the cave and the forests
Keeps you wary in the dark
Pricks its ears for the leap of animal
Hum of arrow or swish of sword.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mirrors are liars

I watch my son
Comb his hair
For the nth time
Still unsatisfied,
All the while
Spouting strange theories
About the rebellious curl;
I don't remember
How much time
I spent before the mirror
At his age;
He must believe
In the peer talk
That the way
To a woman's heart
Is through the crop
At the top;
I mean, if you can't take care of your hair
How will you look after her?
I am at a stage
Where I don't look at mirrors
But look through them
Fingers are enough
To dress those strands
That are few and far between;
Like an actor past his prime
I prefer the long shots
To the close-ups
The half-lit scenes
To the pitiless daylight exposures
The shadows to the sun.
I often fly into a rage
When people talk of age
I deny the presence of unwanted guests
That the 40-plus play host to ---
I glare at my heir
Still taming his hair.

Monday, June 21, 2010


When your voice tires
And your arms ache
And he still refuses to sleep
Like the sun on the longest day
And wants you to keep rocking
The cradle to a certain rhythm
And keep on singing,
Raising a whimper
If you stop
You wish you could be some goddess
With many arms and heads
That you can sing a lullaby
Rock the cradle
Get some sleep
And still watch over him.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Do you remember who taught you
Your first word
Or what it was?
The universal one
Spoken must be "mother"
Followed by other kin,
Then birds come in,
They help you finish your meals.
Crows are your frequent companions
And eat half as much as you do
And raise a racket
While at it,
Sparrows prefer grains
You never saw such nervous eaters,
Moons, themselves looking so edible,
Like orange slices
Or ripe fruit or appalam
Watched you at dinner.
The fund of words keeps growing
Some you know you cannot use everywhere
Some you can only when you write.
Many words die from disuse
Many you have ignored, like once close friends,
Refuse to answer your call.
I'm now losing them
Like a deciduous tree.
I can only watch
As they leave and reappear
Like domestic help
At other homes.

Friday, June 18, 2010


When you hang out the clothes to dry
On the roof, you keep looking at the sky
Wondering if it will rain
And make you come running again
Like yesterday, when it came sneaking in
And caught you sleeping
At first you thought it was children playing
The familiar thud of footsteps in the evening
But when the neighbor kept his finger on the buzzer
And kept shouting 'rain, rain' to shake you from your slumber
You rushed up the stairs, cursing the weather
However, last summer's memories stirring
You told yourself, stop whining
Better this, than rationing
When water will have to be bought
And a nightmare is an empty pot

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Like a child burying its face
In its mother's shoulders
On seeing strangers,
Like a son smoking on the sly
Trying to duck into an alley
On seeing his father coming his way,
Like a motorcyclist without a licence
Making a hasty U-turn
At the sight of a traffic sergeant,
Like a tailender inching towards
Square leg, as the paceman thunders in,
I feel like vanishing into the earth
When I see you swim into view, as delicious as the dawn
When I suddenly remember it's the day you were born
And I've brought nothing
But a heart bursting with love

Sunday, June 13, 2010


As you sit on the stone bench
Looking across the playground
Waiting for the school bell to ring
To fetch your son home
Your feet itch to run a lap
Try to catch your runaway youth by the neck
Hold him for a while before he gives you the slip.
When I bring him back for the cricket coaching class
My son's classmates, no bigger than the bat ask
"Uncle, were you a player once?"
"Did you play for your school, college?"
As they watch me play shots in the air.
"More than learning the game, or excelling in it
Or getting into the team or winning
Enjoy the feel of the ground under your feet
The sun on your face, the sheer joy of running,
The surge of blood as you hit a ball
Take a catch or a wicket
The sweating, the sweet ache of your body after.
You must love it so, you want to hit the ground again
If this happens, other things don't matter.
Someday you can sit on a stone bench as this
And look at a playground with love."
They didn't seem to understand
But the way they ran into the ground
Showed they already knew.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A tall order

I made this list
On a sleepless night,
Wanted to hang it on
My wish-tree,
Thought the better of it,
Knowing it was a tall order
No one could serve.
I want no one but you
To see this
But you must not make it your own!
You can read it now:
"I wish
To be understood
When I speak
To be consoled
When I grieve
To be repared
When I lose
To be pulled back
When I stray
To be fed
When I am hungry
To be given
When I want
To be forgiven
When I sin
To be mourned
When I die."