Monday, May 30, 2011

Flashback

It is only in films
That characters
Meeting after a long time
Remember every moment shared
In graphic detail
Even sing a song in full
Without missing a word ---
I could not recall even the name
Much to the fury of this intruder
From the past I vaguely knew
As having shared the same campus with
His best memory of his college days
Was when he turned up in shorts
And was asked to leave the class
He shouted at me
As if I had robbed him of his glory
Or not backed his alibi
I sympathised with him
And immediately apologised
For my lapse
The past cannot exist
If it is denied
Like my teacher did
When I met him after so many years
And all he thought to ask
Was if my handwriting
Was still as awful
When it was the envy of the class
And the only thing
I could ever be proud of.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Images

My five-month-old grand-child
Is on the other side of the screen
She has been put on a rocker
With toys for company
When I speak to her
She doesn't look at me
Turns to her companions
And smiles at them
While I coo over her cuddly image
My daughter's daughter;
I follow her every move
The way she smiles
Crinkles her eyes
Imagining something of me
In her somewhere
It is funny the way she prowls
On the floor
Keeping her behind raised
Turning on her axis seated
Suddenly putting some object
In her mouth
Sending me into a frenzy
Yelling excitedly at her mother
Busy in the kitchen;
I never tire of this
Every day waiting like a serial addict
For the afternoon three-hour session
Of this long-distance baby-sitting
The paternal in-laws do not know about;
It has always been like this
Playing with images,
Turning into images
Fading into images,
To be remembered every month
With favourite offerings
Perhaps named after
For form's sake
Then never called after.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First time

It is not
Like the first time
Every time,
Though I want it
To be like the first time
Every time I watch the moon
Rise through the foliage
Like hope in the darkness,
The green parrots
Change into blue plumage
In the evening sun ---
As if all colour was an illusion ---
Before they vanish into the trees;
Every time I hear the kuyil sing
Like it is dying
I think of the first time
When I thought
It was a bird's way of crying

When you visit

Before you step into my house
Read these instructions carefully:
Do not touch the walls
With wet hands;
The door and window curtains
Are also not to be fingered;
Do not open the fridge
Or help yourself
To the mineral water
Or soft drinks;
Do not expect to be
Welcomed cordially
Even if you have brought gifts;
You may sit down
On the chairs upright
Without disturbing the cushion covers;
This is not a museum
To go around and peer,
Exploration is strictly forbidden;
You may not switch on the fans yourself
If you feel the room is suffocating
You may request us
To put them on
However, we reserve the right
To oblige you
Or reject the plea;
Under no circumstances
Should the television be used,
The same goes for the telephone too;
Refreshments may or may not be given
They are not to be expected
As a matter of right;
We may or may not
Engage you in conversation
It all depends
If we are socially inclined
At that particular hour
We may even go about our business
As if you didn't exist,
However, you are free to leave anytime
We will not insist that you stay for lunch,
Thank you, visit us again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Orangutan

The new girl
Became the object of envy
In the class,
She spoke so fluently
In English
That she was treated
With deference
Even by the teacher,
We were wary
Of getting into arguments
With her, as our vocabulary
Was soon exhausted
And she used words
We often needed
To look up in the dictionary,
Once the two of us got into a fight
When we were going home
It was over our favourite film stars
She was a fan of the action hero
My family and I hated with all our hearts,
Standing at a safe distance
We threw hot words
At each other
We soon ran out of
All the names
Of the animals we knew
Suddenly she threw a strange creature at me
"Orangutan!Orangutan!Orangutan!"
I didn't know what it meant
But I felt so humiliated
I sat down in the middle of the street
And cried and cried ---
I never spoke to the orangutan again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Playtime

There was no one around
As I ran up and down the stairs
No harsh adult voice
Shouted not to make noise
The thud of feet
Was sweet music
To my ears
I yelled, yelled and yelled
With no one yelling at me
I beat on the walls
Banged the gate
Climbed the compound wall
Stood on it
Imagining myself to be a cat
Then leapt on the pile of sand
Rolling in it like a dog
Laughing and barking at the other dogs
Passing by with stern faces
And walking stiffly on their hind legs

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not funny

It is like Cinna
Being torn up
For his bad verses
When a mob
After tasting success
At the hustings
Hunts a comedian
For poking fun
At its leader
During a no-holds-barred
Poll campaign
Where the hero-turned neta
Dismissed the funny man
As a mere clown
And the other hit back
At his suspected Fink Nottle ways
And graphics-aided stunts;
In the films
The popular gagman
Gets thrashed
In most of his scenes
In true slapstick fashion ---
His most-hilarious role
Is a wannabe toughie
Who routinely gets roughed up
For his false bravado;
Where else can you see
A celluloid gag
Spill into the street like this
Threatening to spill real blood
And everyone finding it highly comic?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Copycat

I used to wear
A cricket cap everywhere
Even when I had stopped
Putting bat to ball
And turning the arm over;
As it was considered unmanly
Or elderly not to dare the sun
With a bare head
My appearance first drew
Smirks and derisive comments
However I wouldn't step out
Without it even once
I did not feel presentable
If I didn't have it
I was not trying
To hide anything
There was no receding hairline
Or bald patches to cover up
Without it, I told myself
I would feel like a bank robber
Going to work without a ski mask
I only had to remove it
If I wanted to go incognito
I did not add a wrist watch or bracelet
Or ring to my costume like so many others
Friends began calling me
'Maroon cap' after a while
They even dropped the 'cap'
And began punning on maroon
They finally quit
Trying to uncap me
As I shunned their company
And starved them of funds
For their nicotine supply;
It was my neighbour
Who at last made me hang it up
He started sporting one just like me
Robbing me of my identity.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Playing house

I was always the doctor
In our little afternoon pastime
My younger cousin
Played the nurse
Who often needed
To be told her lines
"What should I say now?"
She was eager
To do justice to the role;
The willing patient
Was the boy
From next door;
He was a good actor too
And howled like in real pain;
I was a no-nonsense doctor
Going in for surgery
For his usual complaint of stomach pain,
I sent him home with some rough dressing
And ofcourse his regular fee of a toffee
"Call me every time!"
He generously offered;
After I fared badly in science
I shed the doctor's garb
Moved on to other careers,
Teaching was the favourite
Where you could be
On the other side of reality
Dictating to everyone, silencing others
Sending people on errands
Even failing them with red ink;
Finally I dropped out,
Stopped dreaming,
Settled for playing house.

Kuruvikaran Salai

When you lived there
You never thought to ask
What the name of the road meant;
It must have been
A hunter's trail
In the distant past,
Now turned into a causeway
Across a once-roaring river
Reined in by a reservoir;
You do not remember
The names of the streets
You've haunted at all hours
You do not know
The whereabouts of the friends
Whose every caper you knew
Whose every thought you once saw
As it rippled across their face;
What did you hunt down
In that town you left
Without so much as a glance back?
What did you gather?
You learnt to trap
Fleeting little truths
In just a few words
And found what lay
At ends of trails
All thought led somewhere.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On the Cross

A town is not its deity
Its palace, perennially dry river,
Well-planned streets
Always taking you to a temple tower
Dust hanging in the air like haze
Or hatred simmering across generations
Waiting to spill blood,
It is not its eateries
Open round the clock
For a famished place
Which never stops feeding
Or can ever go to sleep
With avenging furies
Their hair let loose
For a blood vow
Stalking their quarry
Praying for less-planned ways
That will not lead him back to his hunters,
A town is not its officials
With whom you have little to do
As they can do little
Not its bravehearts who will not baulk at murder
Stare at you from cutouts and flex banners
Not its walking spaces where hired assassins
Lie in wait at dawn ---
It is only a chapel porch
Where you sit, with no one around
But the bleeding trees,
And cry like
Christ on the Cross
"Father, why did you abandon me!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother Teresa

Here Christan names were taboo,
In the question paper set by a newcomer
A comprehension passage
About a boy in a British home
Taking breakfast
Then going out to play cricket
Had the saffron brigade up in arms;
As it was an internal test
The text was purified
Without the teacher's consent;
Sam became Somu
The pudding became parotta
Cricket became kabaddi
Played under a tamarind tree;
The diabolic deviant
Had also made the students believe
That Mother Teresa
Could be 'The person I like most'
And not the Kanchi acharya
Or Swami Vivekananda;
The saint of Kolkata
Was struck off the list of likeables
And the infiltrator
Asked to give notes
On Adi Sankara;
He was also duly warned ---
The proselytising plot was busted
Even before it could be hatched.
The cultural police didn't let on
That their daughters and sons
Were routinely rechristened
At call centres
And answered to names like Jessy and John.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Muse

Give me words
That are cooed over like babies,
That children love to recite
And like the first kural, hardly forget,
That bring to life a woman with eyes
Which can turn men's knees to ice,
That melt frozen hearts
And make them weep for long-dead mothers,
That when uttered burst into flames
And burn for years like the first ardour,
That open a window to a heaven
None has seen and most believe in,
That the life-weary turn to with a sigh
And smile on learning everything is a lie,
That bring the estranged together
When they see the stalker is nearer,
That the lonely take everywhere
And the dying take with them, to meet the Stranger.