Thursday, June 30, 2011


For a while, I want to be
Where no one knows me
Where no one will stare
At me as if I were a rare
Bird sighted when long thought dead
Where I'll not hear my name chanted
By those who follow me like they were enchanted
Where I would not feel taller than I was
Can sit with myself and watch for hours the clouds pass
Where I would not have to sit and hear myself praised
Painted, inflated, padded, and raised
Where I can look at the image in the eye
Laugh at the lies, and for a while, die

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


She was his heart throb,
At his desk
He had her signed photo
That he often kept looking at
Much to the amusement of his colleagues,
He did not try to meet her
Like other fans
You would only find him repeatedly
Going to films
Where she usually played the moll or vamp
He kept his passion secret
From his wife who did not know
About his record viewings at matinee shows;
Where everyone talked of the heroine
He had eyes only for her
If his mate was not around
You could see him fervently watching
His deity's song and dance sequences on TV;
When the celluloid goddess took her life
He was grief-stricken
Kept off films for a while
Mourning her untimely demise,
Before falling in love
With another screen siren
Whose smile left him speechless
And lit up his dreams.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


If you can find the fragrance
You can find the flower
If you find the flower
You know where the head will be
Though it recedes farther and farther away
On an ever-swelling torso
With limbs which cannot stop growing
If you can hear the tinkle
You can find the anklets
If you find the anklets
You can find the feet
If they stand still
And not stop growing
And not recede
Farther and farther away
Before you can measure them;
There must have been
Only a whisper of nothing
Before the blooming of thought
The stirring of desire
Before the word was born
To spawn gods
In man's own image
And asking a flower
To bear false witness.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My feet keep taking me
To where we used to meet
Though I know it cannot be
Everyone looks like you
Answering my searching eyes
With outraged stares
And a few pitying smiles
I feel like the pilgrim
In the serpentine queue
Unable to find his glasses
When he gets near the deity
And is thrown out
Before his darshan;
I never thought death
Could come so early
With such speechless eyes
And heart-breaking smiles
And take away my cerulean skies;
I cannot pray at this shrine
Where we have stood with tears
I'll rather sit on the steps
Of the fabled tank
Its water green with moss
Watching with pity fervent feet
Rushing to the goddess
With more unheeded prayers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

View cutter

When guests come without notice
What can be hidden is quickly hidden
Some things are kicked under the furniture,
Asking the visitors to wait awhile
Persuading them to take seats
Facing the front door
You rush inside
To make the bed
Fold the blankets
Left in a heap
By the brats
Rushing to school and office,
You switch on the fan
Suddenly noticing how dirty it is,
The unwashed plates in the sink
Stick out like in an ad for cleaning powder
You quickly close the kitchen door
Put the latch on
Pour out some soft drinks
Hoping to soften any snide criticism
At the chaos of the house
Fortunately as it turns out
These people have come for a favour
So they are unlikely to be too critical
You make a note
To buy a curtain at once
To cut off the view of the hall
From all future visitors
As a nation
We are good at this
We even know how to hide our people
All the while pretending
We have nothing to hide.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


It seems we are not
Talking of the same days ---
There were only
The little dreams then
Not the grandiose ones
Only the grown-ups have
All we wanted was
A new top
That orange striped shirt
A few more marbles
Matchbox labels
More and more sweets every day
We stood looking
Longingly at posters of new films
We would have to wait
At least for a month to see,
There were different versions
Of what the story was
From peers who had claimed
To have seen it the first week,
Finally when we got to watch
The real thing on the silver screen
We waited in vain
For the scene
The friend had described with relish
Complete with sound effects,
He refused to admit
It was all his own
Insisting it had been cut
To reduce the length ---
All you remember
Is the chameleon you killed
Invoking the myth
To justify the wanton slaying,
The past has changed its colours
Disappearing into the undergrowth
I keep looking for the boy
Happy with a new top
You do not know him ---
Before you leave
Switch off the light
Take your words with you
I love the darkness.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shooting star

I'm happy with you
Because you do not
Tell me how well I would look
If I had a straighter nose
Thinner lips
Curlier hair
Smaller eyes
A less horsey gait
A sweeter voice
A lighter skin,
Because you do not
Lose sleep over losses
You cannot help
Do not worry over
What others have
And do not wake up every day
With covetous thoughts
Because we can look up at the sky
And together watch with delight cotton candy clouds
Being tweaked into a childscape
Before disappearing as if they never were
We are happy
Because we do not have
Anything to wish upon
A shooting star
As we spot it
Fall in a flash.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eating stealthily

Since we offered a rent higher
Than the market value
He took us as tenants
Even though we were pure non-vegetarians
And he was a pure vegetarian
Refusing to even eat eggs on the sly
Like others of his ilk;
He ordered us to keep the doors and windows closed
When we cooked meat or fish
"The stench is so terrible"
He snapped at us going red in the face
All the time covering his nose with a towel;
I was an asthmatic, he didn't care
If we choked on our sin;
We put up with the fumes from the cooking
The hot smell of masala and meat
As we could not forgo our favourite dishes;
What we feared more
Were the sacrificial fires he raised
Spreading a smoke that smelt of cowdung and death
Forcing us to close doors and windows
Trying hard to believe religious smoke is good
For the soul, even if it makes you wheeze ---
I cannot order my landlord to keep his smoking indoors.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

False flowers

They were called false
The yellow shuttlecock-like
Pumpkin flowers
That would not yield fruit
They were sought after
By pubescent girls on austerities
Praying for a mate after their heart
During the misty-eyed Margazhi;
The flowers turned up
Planted in cowdung
At the centre
Of elaborate kolams
Drawn with fingers
Shaking in the cold air
I think of my friends
Who fasted with me
With fond hope
And false flowers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I miss you

Who's the caller
I wonder as I answer
The unknown number
When the girl
At the other end
Suddenly starts declaring
Her love for me
In poetry
"When I cannot see you
Even for a day or two
I do not want to wake
Do not want the day to break
Without you where is my spring?
Come back, before I begin withering..."
I listen enraptured
Flattered that someone's
Pouring out her heart in my ear
When the operator
With a "there-I-gulled-you" voiceover
Cuts in, with the "I miss you" service offer

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ghosts, gods

My maternal uncle from Kerala
Was full of ghost stories
He turned out to be an expert on ghosts
Especially of the female variety
He ran into them quite frequently
When coming home from late-night film shows
Like a male ghost asking for light
These white-clad loose-haired dark-eyed creatures
Confronted you for betel lime
Then vanished if you brandished anything made of iron
He particularly praised their wardrobe
"Nothing human can wear such dazzling white!"
My mother pitched in with her own anecdote ---
The night when Lord Hanuman manifested himself
"I suddenly woke up and found this huge dazzling green monkey!
It was so tall its head was hitting the ceiling!
It lowered its head and then darted out the door!"
Uncle intervened: "Immediately it came to my room
Placed its huge green paw on my head and blessed me!"
The two went on and on
About how no one else saw it;
The god's appearance sparked a furore
Neighbours poured in to touch the spot where he was seen
Priests were called in to perform special poojas;
After my uncle left
Mother started seeing things
Which we couldn't see
Often spoke to them
Shouted at them
Fought with them
We stopped believing in ghosts or gods.

Telephone booth

It is where lies come readily
Without any prompting
As there are no eyes
To belie the words
No eyes before
To see through them
Like a quick scene change
Without resort to props
It turns into a college
A tuition centre
A classmate's house
A movie theatre
You cannot but worry for your daughter
When you watch a college girl
Tell her mother
That she'll come late
As she has special classes
Then hop onto her boyfriend's pillion
Urging him to drive fast
"Or we'll miss the opening song!"
Next time the guy comes with another girl
When you tell the first one
She breaks down
"He said he could not live without me!"
Sometimes the youths carry on fake conversations
While trying to hit on you
"You are plump in a very desirable way"
(When I know I am fat and fighting it);
Every night before I close up
I tidy up the place
But cannot sweep away
The lies heard all day.