Friday, December 29, 2017

Redundant

Let no machine 
Make men redundant
Where work keeps
Body and soul together
And may mean the difference
Between dignity and death
Let the night belong to those
Who need to sleep and dream
To live through a day
No different from other days
And make the night
More desirable than day
Let time stop
If what comes minute after minute
Is the same minute after minute
Let the child that stops and wonders
Never grow up till the day time stops for him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Disrespect

At the crematorium
The silence is intolerable
For friends handholding
The bereaved son
Waiting for the ashes,
Their grief is short-lived ---
They hasten to the mundane,
Lament the hike in property tax;
Compare electricity bills
Envy the colleague
Who has consumed the least;
Someone says driving a car 
To office and back
Through peak hour traffic
Is no more a pleasure
All agree it's better to take the metro;
They gossip with glee
About another who couldn't come
Who is still without a permanent residence
Not smart enough like them
To have a roof of his own;
They seem glad
To engage with issues
That should seem trivial
In the presence of death
Even disrespect
To the memory of the dead;
For them it's a colleague's father
They knew and did not know
Just an old man whose number was up
Once they return home
There will hardly be any talk of him
For the son or even more for the daughter
There will be a ceaseless swell of memories
That will turn the night as sleepless as the sea

Friday, December 8, 2017

Desert

The desert is not always
Just a sweep of dunes
Lack of greenery
With an excess of sun
It can be an absence of tears
A dryness of heart
That watches agony
In unmoved silence
And may even smile
But the rain
Doesn't skirt the desert
It doesn't give up on it
Even if nothing 
Grows there now
Knowing what could lie
Dreaming under the sand
May stir to life
When it's time to die

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One last time

In her twilight years
Long-buried memories
Surfaced with a surprise
An English school prayer
We hardly knew she knew
She recited in one breath
And correctly pronounced
Words like cuisine, madame
We hardly heard her use before
We got to know she favoured turquoise
As a child
"The colour of the sea
We saw in Goa"
We learnt she visited the place
With her father the year before he died
"Everything went adrift after that"
She said and often fell silent
As she brooded on the dark years
She was able to escape after her marriage
Which explained why she bought soaps
Hairoil, shampoo in excess
Every month and hoarded them
Cooked extra for the unexpected guest
Liked to feed the hungry
Gave the same rich fare she ate
For the nocturnal alms-seeker ---
When she was fading she always spoke
Of the dishes she was fond of
And couldn't have as a child
And now she was not allowed to have
Before I could give her the sweet she wanted
One last time, mother died in her sleep.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Heartbreak

I'm back inside the familiar walls,
The room is as cosy as a womb,
This is my favourite spot,
With the window view
Of pigeons circling
The temple tower
And landing deftly ---
I shudder to even think it...
It's a coming back to
With only the heart broken
When it could well have been
An unseeing return on other feet ---
But I want to tell you, if you can understand
I can no more visit the temple
I've sought refuge in, before all this 
I can no more go there
Offer worship to the reclining deity
I can never forgive him for what he has done
Or for what he has undone ---
You tell me, because you still wake with his name
How could he let a mate
Who I thought was made for me
Turn suddenly so primate
How could he let him
Vandalise what he had worshipped
Let love turn so soon to hate
A heart to stone
And sleep through my nightmare.    


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When it's time

It's only when you have to leave
That you most want to stay
Stay back to grieve
Over that which never can stay ---
Never was sundown so serene
The gathering darkness more marine
The hills and the hollows may never have been
With the whispering mist coming between ---
This cold as welcome as rain down there
Seeps through sheepskin, skin, even deeper
The spooky wind shakes the window
Keeps at it through the night, cannot let go
Till I let go of the night and find a new day --
When you have to leave, what's there to say