Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beware of us

First they said
We were only to be seen
And not to be heard
Then did not allow us
Even to see the light of day
Even when we were born
It was the male who was feted
We the ones trampled on
Then told to hide
Even inside the house
When strangers came
Hide from the gods
When the monthly visitor came
We cannot be hidden anymore
We will be seen, heard, respected
And feared like the fury.

Friday, April 29, 2011


He spoke in a tongue
That seemed familiar
Similar to my own
But so unintelligible
It could have been gibberish
He spoke in signs
Asking me to repeat
The words after him
He pointed to the sky often
As if to say
He learnt it from the gods
"Just listen to it"
He gesticulated
"That itself will benefit you!"
Soon I could not remember
My own language
Started speaking in signs
Could mouth only the words
Of the other
I wondered where mine had fled
Leaving me alone with this sorcerer
I frantically searched with my eyes for any sign of them
When he suddenly opened the bundle he had
And tossed them out like he would garbage
All had been hacked, dismembered,
Eyes, hands, torsos promiscuously mixed
You've nothing left, he said, and left.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


From end to end
A green vastness
The unseen breeze
Traces its fingers
Across the sameness
Unrelieved by wing of bird
Or a voice raised to be heard
Or an answering word
Or turbaned head
For someone like me, city-bred
There is a shiver of fear
As there is no one near
No road in sight
No bus plying
I feel lost,
Like a distracted swimmer
Far out into the huge lake
Suddenly turning back
And finding no shore,
Only, here I am standing on firm ground
Though I am too young to comprehend
That this is where my food is grown
Where people kill themselves like they do pests
As they cannot feed their own

Monday, April 25, 2011


Esther started writing a diary
When she was just ten
She allowed us to read it
As soon as she returned to school from vacation
The entries were
More fictional than confessional
Her explanation was that
It was meant to be history
Most likely to fall into the hands
Of her husband, in-laws, children
So it must show her in good light;
One entry we laughed over went like this:
"I was able to score
Only 98 this time in maths.
I refused to have dinner
Though mom had made mutton biriyani
With chicken sauce and omelette to go with it"
None of it was true
She had scored only 60
The dinner was cold rice
Left over from lunch
With just a piece of pickle as appetiser.
She dropped out soon after
We never got to see her
I hope she married well
Could afford whatever she wanted to eat
And didn't have to cook up her diary for posterity.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I have long moved away
From this infantile game
Idle or insidious
Grown-ups play
With idols
Which they wake up
With songs
Bathe with milk
Deck with flowers,
Clothe in silk,
Show the mirror to
Marry, put on the swing
Take out in street processions ---
Sometimes to the river
Even to the mistress ---
On horses, palanquins, chariots
Praise like courtiers
Sing lullabies to,
Put to bed ---
Toys always play along
They will be decoys
Diversions, side shows, red herrings
Scapegoats, causes, effects
Silent accomplices, abettors, accessories ---
They will be anything
If you want
They will sleep through anything.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It is not as if
They are soft drink formulas
That need to be guarded
Like classified secrets
And cannot be given access to
For unauthorised personnel
They have been handed down
From generation to generation
Mother to daughter,
Daughter-in-law to your son,
Sometimes shared with neighbours
Serving apprenticeship at home,
Now there are the channels, websites and books too
But they will not give you
The insider tips to make your dish
Delicious not merely palatable ---
As for me, I am still grateful
To one or more mentors
Who did not laugh
At my early attempts
To get the ingredients right
For the standard dal gravy
To go with rice
And encouraged me
To venture out to sweets and savouries
This is not about them
But about that woman
(I do not want to take her name
May her rice be always overcooked)
Who tells me how to make chutney
Casually over phone the other day
(She must have been showing off
Her culinary skills before some visitor)
Reads out the entire recipe
I gave her in the first place
Tells me she discovered
How to do it all by herself
Repeats my dialogue back to me
"It's just adding one onion here
And taking away one chilli there"
Then ends her conversation
Helpfully suggesting
"You can always ask me for tips!"
That did it! I will not give anyone
Any recipe anymore,
I know how to make your idlis softer
But I will not tell you
Not on your life!