Thursday, October 27, 2011

Film scenes

For a three-year-old
She told film stories fairly well
Without leaving out any scenes
The salacious ones
She remembered in detail
Especially the famous
Bathroom sequences
Where the hero reveals himself
To the heroine
Making her scream
Or the variation
Where it is the leading lady
Who gets to be seen
Leaving the other so dazed
That the exorcist has to be fetched;
Her descriptions of domestic love scenes
Made male neighbours scatter
As we girls rushed
To silence and distract her ---
The moment she began
My father and mother...
We knew what was coming
Picking her up in my arms
I take her to the terrace
To tell her the children's stories I know

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New saree

With a crest of jasmine
The framed photo
Of her as a child
Stands against the wall
Her favourite sweet dish
She had rarely
Even on festive occasions
Is placed before it
Incense that evokes temples
And prayer time at home
Suddenly smells of death
It is the shop fresh
Synthetic saree
The colour of brinjal flowers
That brings her image
Before my eyes
How fond of clothes she was
And how few she had!
How I want to see her
Wearing this new one
And asking me
with a happy laugh
How she looks in it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Helpful brother

The younger brother
Who refuses to get up
To go to college
Till the last moment
Is up early,
Turns very helpful
In the morning rush hour,
Offering to run errands,
Buy vegetables,
Not once complaining
To run back to the shop again
To get some ingredient
Mother as usual forgets,
As a sister
My suspicions
Are aroused,
To test him
I ask him to give me
A lift to the bus-stop
On his bicycle
He readily agrees
After dropping me off
I catch him lingering
Till his eyes light up
On seeing someone in the bus
I am not surprised
When he offers me his services
The next morning too

Nocturnal preacher

Like someone dressed for the church
He stands on street corners
At bus stops, even before temples
With his right hand raised
Calling upon people to repent
Before the second coming
He warns is imminent
The words rise and fall
Like a seasoned preacher's
Only the incoherence gives him away
Even at night I see him sometimes
In his characteristic pose
Standing under the saffron lamps
With no one around,
Not even the odd tippler
Slowly snaking his way home,
Speaking of his terrible vision
In his garbled style,
With no one to hear him
Ignored even by the street dogs
Who sleep through his call of distress

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Somewhere still

I cannot believe
He will not return
Out of nowhere
Like he used to
With his broad smile
As if he had not been away
For so many years
And there was no need
To explain himself
To friends who knew his ways
He drops into a chair
Sitting quietly for a while
Eyes gleaming with mischief
As he gives his sketchy updates
With long pauses, shakes of head
Arching of eyebrows, shrugs,
"We are separated, I have someone else"
Some more silence, some more smiling
No names, no further details
"I'll come back soon
Give you the full story"
Off he was again,
Leaving no address,
No phone number
Disappearing from the story
Like a dumped character
I still like to think
It was someone else who died.

On death row

We make it easy for death
There are all kinds
To be plucked at will
Female foetuses,
Malnourished infants
Children in hazardous work
Dream-dead youth
Farmers in the red
Despite a bumper crop
Women who cannot pay dowry
Innocent villagers lured
To borders for fake encounters
People who speak
The wrong language
Worship the wrong god
Tribals sitting on
Rich mineral deposits
Residents close to
Atomic plant sites
And nations with oil
Refusing democracy
Of the kind
That comes with
Depleted uranium
And uninvited forces.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Commercial break

All look so impossibly white
Even the old have no wrinkles
The young mother
Looks like
The toddler's sister
The roads have no traffic
The houses
Spotlessly clean
There is nothing
That cannot be cured
From headache to fatigue
Nothing that cannot be fixed
Even a job can be landed
With a cream
Love is just a scent
Fluoride is fluorescent
And happiness effervescent

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beautiful

As beautiful as
The tears
Of a happy man,
A friend
Who has not
Forgotten the past,
A letter bearing
Such kind words
That it is treasured
Like the scriptures,
Laughter when
Everything seems lost
And lifts everyone's spirits,
As a hen taking on a kite
In an unequal fight
And making the hunter take flight

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Terrace

It is where you can
Stretch a hand
And pluck a mango
If you want,
From the neighbour's tree
Discover where the coconut sprouts
As you watch a palm-top close-up
Find there is so much room and shade
In the netlinga
That looks like a beanpole
From the street
Meet the sky half-way
With a kite,
At night,
When the darkness
Hides you from the world
And the noises subside
The potted sambangi blooms
Smelling of the unseen moon

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meditation

Will gazing at the wall
Make it go away?
The paint brush pause
Over the child's scrawl?
The mob's daggers be shamed
By folded hands?
The builder skirt
A peepal tree?
The house spare space
For the sparrows?
Pious feet keep away
From temples
Not everyone can enter?
The eyes turn away
From the outstretched hand
Not remembering the starving nights
When one woke up dreaming of food
Lay staring at the wall
Wishing it would go away?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting

I watched a white cloud
Float silently overhead
Making the sky bluer
Than it was
I kept looking up
For the next
Even letting my bus pass
Did the poet
Who lived here sometime
Stand at this stop
Watching the sky like this
Looking at the mango tree
Across the road
Wanting to see
A parrot or two alight
And suddenly worrying
If he had enough
For the to and fro fare
And for a tea, to spare

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The wall

A wall not seen as a wall
Is the one difficult to pull down
It was the god's bull
That was blamed for being in the way
Blocking the view of the devout outsider
It was hailed as a miracle
That faith could move stone
And not hearts
A wall could even be a veil
Keeping eyes out
Keeping eyes in
Keeping the horse
From thinking of meadows
It often dreams of
Hatred is a wall
That is called a different name
Along national borders
Backed by force multipliers
Ready to scramble
Sometimes the writing
Hides the wall
By turning antonyms
Into synonyms
Calling war, peace
And slavery, freedom,
Putting daggers
In innocent hands
To slay a sleeping man.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Now

I can now look at you
Without any longing
When the eyes
Are no longer fire-flies
The cascading tresses
Having thinned to a fizz
The sinuous walk
Turning mock
The bewitching smile
Gone a while
Both now level
Caricatures of ourselves
Almost where we started
Empty-handed for all the travel
Having seen only the same
Pretending they were not the same
The feet now weary of leaving
Knowing there can never be any leaving.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just a mile away

When we missed
The last bus
To the village
Some miles away
We decided
To walk the distance,
It was a January night
Just right for young feet
To fall back on
The first transport
Only one knew the way
To our destination
And exactly how far it was,
We appointed him guide;
The trek extended into the night
As hamlet gave way to hamlet,
And agitated dogs gave chase,
Guards smoking cigars
And looking very much
Like nocturnal gods
Believed to toss
Anyone in their path
Stopped us on the borders
Questioning our wisdom
When the early morning bus
Would have been a better option
The lure of watching
Glow-worms on the velikathan
Drew 'you-city-fools' smiles
The journey seemed endless
Though the friend kept saying
As we passed village
After ill-lit village
"It's just a mile away"
Finally when we flopped
On our host's doorstep
We had walked ten miles;
When things do not go my way
I still say, "it's just a mile away"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gloaming

It was as if morning light
Had missed a cue
Returned onstage before
Not after the night
Leaving everyone smiling
Happy to be bathed
In a yellow glow
Like seen in movies
Shot in hill stations
Everyone looked lovelier
Than they were
Like everyone would
When they were happy knowing
They were lovelier
Than they were
Like those who loved
And knew they were loved
And saw the world
In a twilight
That put off the night