Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dead flowers

Bees hum around
The dead roses
Being strung
Into garlands,
The flower-seller
Has kept aside
Two of the best blossoms for me,
She knows what I prefer ---
Something not fully awake
Something between bud and flower
Something wanting to be loved
Yet not wanting to be violated
As I walk away from the heady fragrance
With a half-flower planted in my hair
The bees like eyes
Follow me unrequited
Drawn by the smell of death

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fiance

I never got to see her fiance
Her description of him
Was like what we see
In the matrimonial ads ---
Tall, fair, handsome
Handsome salary
Employed in Dubai
Broad-minded, well-travelled
Fun-loving, good company ---
"As soon as I finish my B.A.
I'm going to join him
Probably we'll get married there!"
She didn't show any picture
But there were many discrepancies
In her portrait of him
The eye-colour kept changing
It was sometimes black,
Sometimes cat's eye
The letter she secretly laughed over
And hurriedly hid
Looked only like an inland letter
Our suspicions about his whereabouts,
Looks, profile and career persisted
We did not probe further,
It was too personal
It was a year later
After we finished college
That I ran into them
At the Mount station
"This is the fiance
I was always talking about!
We got married only last month."
I still don't know why
Somebody would lie about her beloved
Be ashamed of her own kind
Pretend he looked like someone else.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's not time

You wouldn't understand my fear
You are not there yet
Shut the doors and windows
Keep the dark one away,
Though I know
It is time to light the lamp for the night
When the goddess visits;
I cheated him the other day
When he came looking for me
The complex kolam I'd drawn
Threw him off-track
Led him elsewhere
That's why the young girl
Down the street died!
It is said those who take a long time dying
Cannot tear themselves away
From the things they love
That's why the last concoction they are given
To send them on their way
Has a dash of gold, hay, cowdung, and soil
To tell them that nothing can be taken away,
I know, but it is not time for me yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freedom from words

When I look at the 'fire' bucket
With the single Tamil letter on it
I want to say hello to a word
Whose variation once was
College lingo for very good;
It is passe like many others
Of my generation;
What my heir uses as equivalent
Is something that means everything
From upset to upbeat;
Often it is more of the former
As teachers are not up to the mark
The college canteen serves unpalatable food
And favourite film stars specialise in flops;
I am freed from many words now
They have ceased to hold any fear for me,
I will not blanch anymore at teenage bugbears
Like maths, principal's room, or progress card;
How many more new words
Will make my heart sink
Before the flames dance nearer?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Water bearer

I cup my hands
To fetch water
From the nameless spring,
What I bring
Is what I have not spilt
What little passes
Between your lips,
Like an elixir
Sends the blood
Coursing again
Lights up your eyes
Puts you back on your feet
I cannot rest
Till no is left.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

People

There are no other people
But the two of us
In this fully furnished shelter
You can boast back home
Is as huge as a house;
He is invariably away,
That leaves me
Often looking at my face
In the mirror
And imagining
Conversations with friends;
The floor is so spotless
You don't want to walk on it
The walls so white
You don't want to touch them
The air so clean and cold
You don't want to even breathe;
The others you pass on the corridor
Wear strange, unsmiling faces
Speak stranger tongues
Vanish into doors;
Outside there is only
The endless road
The sun
The occasional ghost car
And the wilderness
That devours your native song.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pillow

How do you translate
This word that in my language
Means something
That calms the head?
A place where women
Weave their spell
To wean men away
From their mothers;
Children fight
For the new ones
Before they are hardly unwrapped
It is always the other one
They find attractive;
When guests arrive
The best ones are given to them
And it is invariably the house queen
Who sacrifices hers
And sleeps with a makeshift pillow
Of bedsheets and clothes;
Blessed are those
Who have no need for pillows
And travel far on dreams.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tiger's milk

The five-year-old
Ensconced on his grandfather's lap
Listening to the story of the boy
Sent to fetch tiger's milk
By his foster-mother,
Asks the milkman
Why he can't bring
Something as exotic as that
And helpfully suggests
That he can find a tigress in the zoo;
His questions grow weirder ---
During a visit to the temple
He finds the silence oppressive
Devotees give him stern looks
When he speaks loudly
It is the school all over again
Or like the landlord back home
Wanting him to be
As noiseless as a cat,
He wants to know
Why the priest alone can talk
Why he can't run around
The vast courtyard
Clap, jump, yell, laugh
Play pranks like the god-child
He had heard extolled
In the stories he had been told
What do you tell him?
That wild ones
Are banished to the forest
And only tame ones can live here?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hush

You can hear the hush fall
Over the city on Sunday evening,
The roosting birds whisper
On trees yielding to the night,
The road looks broader
Than during the week days
When you can hardly see down it
The odd vehicle plies leisurely
Savouring the ride;
Even the feet know
There is no need to hasten
At least till morning
When the city
Will wake up with a jolt
And start screaming
"I am late!"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Similies

Like moonlight on a gutter
Beauty before the unseeing
Music where no one hears
The Bible for a pillow
Silence to the noisy
Mansion without a child
A faceless mirror
Blossom without fragrance
Letter with no address
Historian who has lost his memory
As tasteless as cold sugarless tea
As tedious as a daytime passenger train
As vain as wearing flowers
To a lonely night
Or putting jewels on a deity
Or saying a prayer to stone

Monday, March 7, 2011

March

March is when
The day begins early
And lasts longer
The night like a jilted lover
Stands in drunken stupor
Under street lamps
Groping for December,
The neem tree
Rocks on its feet
Like a punch-drunk boxer
Refusing to quit
Though it bleeds leaves,
The air cracks show on the plaster
Shadows look for shade
The feet stop
Without asking
At tender coconut stalls
And eyes look gratefully
At the rain tree
The builder has spared

Friday, March 4, 2011

When something slips

Someone must have slashed my palm
Trying to grab my hand bag
It must have been on the bus...
Oh, I was going to the temple
It was mother's death anniversary...
I know, at my age,
Why should I observe these rituals?
Don't you see, I now feel closer to them
Than to you...
What did you say?
"You are not dead
Till you are dead!"
Who said that, oh, it just popped up
You must have read it somewhere...
I cannot stop thinking of death
I was not even by their side when they left
Mother, everyone said, was so restless
During her last moments
That she got up from her bed
Laid down again, struggled to her feet, tried to walk some
Before flopping on the bed
And shutting the door on us...
Did I tell you
I had to have sutures on my hand?
I was going to the temple...