Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another year

of slow steps, of
thinking till it thaws
into pain, another
year of finding things
to say, of nights of
the blue moon, an
other year of waiting
for his touch, another
year of stalling the
day it gets too much.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

बाबा रामदेव, ओ बाबा रामदेव

ज़रा परे हट, हवा आन दे
रोज़ सुबह आस्था चैनल पर 
अपना पेट लहराते हो,
अपनी ही हुल में रहकर 
क्या क्या बकते जाते हो,
प्राणायाम से ठीक करोगे 
हमारी 'गन्दी आदत' को?
हमारी आदतों को लेकर 
क्यों अपना दिल जलाते हो? 
रामदेव, ज़रा धैर्य से सोचो, 
थोड़ा बैठ के, थोड़ा लेट के, 
ज़रा अपना ठुल्लु समेट के
और निकालो अपनी दाड़ी से जूं,
हम जो हैं वो हैं, मैं जो हूँ वो हूँ     

Friday, December 13, 2013

Girl, when you

blow your boy,
or boy, when
you go down
on her, or when
both of you use
a toy, and all the
world's a blur,
I know it feels
like heaven, you
too violate 377.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

उम्मीद का क्या है

11/12/13, दिल्ली

उम्मीद का क्या है, उम्मीद कभी कम नहीं होती
ज़रा से धक्के से लड़ाई ख़तम नहीं होती,
सुना लें सुनाने वाले अपने न्यायालयों में आदेश
जो बात उड़ चली वो फिर से दफन नहीं होती।

Monday, December 9, 2013

I wish

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi poem 'Main chahta hoon'

I wish that touch remains,
not the kind which, bruising shoulders
passes like a tyrant,
but one which after a strange journey
is like reaching an edge of the earth.

I wish that taste remains
beyond sweetness or bitterness,
one which does not eat into things
but is instead like an effort 
to save them.

I wish a simple sentence remains,
like, for example, we are human beings,
I wish the truth of this sentence remains -
the slogan I hear on the streets
may it remain, along with what it says.
I wish despair remains 
that again gives birth 
to hope, for us,
may words remain
which, like birds, cannot be caught,
I wish childishness remains in love,
some shame remain in poets.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Round trips to Greater Noida

They sowed the seeds
two weeks back
and now all the brown
is greening.

I left Delhi one hour back
but I am still weaning.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Berlin

when the evening came,
all of us were lamps
on the streets.

Kreuzberg was lights - and cheap kebabs -
was green walls scratched doors
pavements and
boys.

One tall German, white,
who had lost his boyfriend
last year in a room in London -
spoke only of him that night.
He was almost seven ft.
and his eyes were
only longing.

An American student, his friend,
who had sex on his mind - like us -
who spoke like T-shirt messages,
who sewed smiles to his face, he
drank the most among us.

One Marathi playwright - we remained in touch -
whose German, of six months learning,
was so great to hear I asked him
to order beer again and again
just to hear his 'danke.'

Another boy whose elbows
rested unevenly on the bar, who
just about sat on the stool,
- his black-shirt cold with sweat
and his eyes whiskied irises -
made it through
that night - think he went back
with mr. 'danke'.

One Dutch boy - whose name meant 'light' -
showed me the best part of Berlin -
one small Holiday Inn room,
4 stations by the U-Bahn,
after which when the morning
came, it was all sun,
all sun when the morning came

to Berlin that night.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Of

not being able to say, of saying too much,
of playing the part doomed from the start,
of hesitating, of being forgotten or worse
being remembered scantly, once in a while,
of being of years past among those he once
knew, of an enervating kind of memory, of
not being able to figure the reason of why
this happened and that. Of each of these
- leave it or bite it - love does not happen
in the absence of fear, it happens despite it. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The sky is overcast: A Rondeau

tr. from Qalandar Baksh Jurrat's Urdu nazm 'Chaa rahi kaali ghata'

The sky is overcast, my heart is pain,
listen bird, why do you sing of rain?
Come here, I too suffer, why
rest on yellow fruits, when my
fever's yellow too, b'tween the twain

the only difference is, the fruit's main
life's to ripen, an' mine to live in vain.
Bird, for God's sake, will you try
- the sky is overcast -

not to sing tonight, what do you gain --
your song is him an' his memory's pain.
For years now, I looked for him, I
found nothing - they said, if you try
even God is found, even if the pane,
the sky is overcast.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

You will not have trouble

finding her.

In Frank Auerbach's Euston Steps
she is sitting with her back to you
on the bus-stop bench - 
her hair is the way it looked like,
each brush-stroke 
a distant memory.

Kindertransport
after the night of broken glass
thousands of Jewish children 
come to England - memory 
breaking at each station, they come 
to the arms of strangers - 
Bernd Koschland, then 8, Bavarian,
"didn't know the language 
except one sentence" in English,
the only one his parents taught him,
before they became only memory: 
"I'm hungry, may I have a piece of bread?"

They always came
from the arms of strangers
how much of parents 
did they know at eight, at six? 
Was memory stronger for them
than distance growing? - 
after just a few months 
in a local Swansea school, 
when his father telephoned him 
on his birthday in June 
– Henry Foner ('little Heini' of the postcards)
remembers the call, he had stood 
in the hall of the Foners' home
in the Sketty – his father continued to speak,
but he had already forgotten his German.
From then on, all his father's postcards to him 
were in English -- in them tears were 
always two sentences deep.

In Auerbach's Euston Steps
the rail station is becoming concrete, 
is becoming platform -
two steps, three steps, 
bewildered, "that's what I wanted to show,"
Meisler said, years later, in the sculpture 
that he did for the Liverpool Street station
- "disorientated, tired...bewildered children
coming into wartime England,
not knowing a word of the language."
On the platform, saying goodbye, 
the last thing his father told him 
- before letting him go - 
was "Whatever happens, study, go 
to university."

I am more certain it is her
- she who'd let him go, every year
becoming memory, becoming 
distance - who is facing the other side 
- "It all feeds in," Auerbach relented - 
she has a suitcase in front of her, 
the one she had packed for him, in which 
"I had some things for wearing immediately 
and then on some items my mother 
had stitched a red cross in the corner 
for later use [always, love is a letting go, two steps, 
three steps - memory is pain 
in the arms of strangers] and some items 
like tablecloths and sheets were for use 
when I was grown up."


Frank Auerbach's Euston Steps





Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The blindest wish: A Pantoum

The blindest wish I ever made 
(I thought there'd be no tomorrow!)
lightly I said, I did not wait:
"May I know no more sorrow."

I thought there'd be no tomorrow
or I would have wished for grit,
"May I know no more sorrow"
what could be falser in ev'ry bit?

I would have wished for grit
that comes slowly, at last, at length
- what could be falser in ev'ry bit
to ask for more than bits of strength

that comes slowly, at last, at length
- as more days, more evenings fade,
to ask for more than bits of strength
is the blindest wish I ever made. 


(thanks to Eytan fox and Gal Uchovsky)

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Garden of Earthly Delights - Panel III

The bridges - tightropes so tense
they'd break - go from dark
to dark

from behind sharp cliffs
there is light - always withheld -
not of the sun but of the crater, Burn! Burn! like kindness
of countless rocks, of regrets later
turned red-like, turned
- by the gnashing of teeth -
ember-like

the horned-nuns,
the brown-beaked guards
an' the white-capped musicians
call out to them - arrows as sharp
as sin, and as thin - pierce their ears

they hear things:
the world is an anatomist's table
earmarked for bloodless curiosity
- because, only the past is red, red
would have been munificence in this world,
would have been life

here, ladders for years lead up to acacia trees,
long since dead, each rung
a harpoon
a bone

here, the strings of the harp - do they now 
mourn? - run through the heart - do they 
now make music in fire and brimstone? - through the guts,
and where fingers break - heartstrings,
played in the dark
are only hissing snakes

an uncertain dice is cast,
naked, their heads are compasses
- you never know what it takes
to be saved - sometimes mirror, sometimes gold, now south
an' now west, the dagger's plunged
in the white of their hands - Hell is the Impossibility 
of Rest - and, in their stomachs, inventions gone wrong,
gone cold, rats with sore intentions
flutes that make no
sound, that only gnash teeth

they always walk - death is never a sound sleep - but their feet
are boats and blue water is never deep, walk on ice then
is that what it takes? - till ice breaks, what fall
could be colder when the blood is the first to freeze,
iced-tears you cannot weep
yet cannot keep

the die is cast, the lantern's lit -
but it spits out only war, it spits out
only the dead - for the second time -

only the colour of the past is red
- red would have been kindness in this world -
for the last time, when they, barely seeing, grey, take a bow
hell is this world
right now.


Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (circa 1490-1510)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

धीरे धीरे

गाते व़क्त बेगम अख़्तर पत्ती लगाती थीं धीरे धीरे,
गोया ओस को छान-छान चांदी बनाती थीं धीरे धीरे।

आवाज़ ऐसी, मेरी मानो, ख़ुदा किसी को भी ना दे,
अल्फ़ाज़ संग, अख़्तरी, खुद को गलाती थीं धीरे धीरे।

चाँद जलता था जब भी जाता था वो बेगम के कूचे से, 
अपने हीरे की नथ से चाँद को वो जलाती थीं धीरे धीरे।   

इश्क़ में ज़ोर नहीं चलता है किसी की जल्दबाज़ी का, 
तो ग़ालिब को ज़ीने-ज़ीने, अख़्तरी चढ़ाती थीं धीरे-धीरे। 

आग से बहुत खेले, अखिल, फिर जो शाम हो आई, 
उस शाम को भी अख़्तरी यूं सुलगाती थीं धीरे धीरे। 

(अख़्तरी बाई के लिये)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reykjavík

the city that could have been
if I had crossed over to your side,

smoke-screened
smoke-eyed
holding, in my hands, ash that was always becoming
more ash

- you had booked the tickets through Reykjavík -

the city where light changes hands
where any one can buy fireworks on New Year's eve
where the sky is green (Borealis!)
jealous, because the earth
forgets to spin - unseen -
in Reykjavík

because, in Sjon's words, the city like snow buntings
over snow
in a snowy winter
like snow buntings
over a snowy winter
on snow
like snow
over snow buntings
in a snowy winter
like snow

I know that if I had crossed this city once
what would not have been possible
in the world.

Even the ash then
curled in my hands -

when my friend told me 
that - whenever a passenger's name
is called one last time before the airplane doors are shut,
she likes to think they chose love.

Reykjavík, pirate city stolen from ice
- where airplanes first landed during war -
where the Hallgrímskirkja
is piercing ice that is always becoming more ice

where, when the window opened
- will you believe me? -
even the Atlantic was not big enough
then

from Reykjavík,
the Atlantic was a small stream
flowing in my hands
then

the small stream,
- now ice - that could have been
flowing in my hands, but -
when the name was called one last time before the airplane doors, 
like window-panes, their glass all ash,
were shut.


(thanks to Aditi Angiras, Agha Shahid Ali, Momin Khan Momin)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

स्टेडियम में

tr. from Joan Jara's English tr. of Victor Jara's Spanish song 'Estadio Chile'

Soon after the U.S.A. backed Chilean coup on 9/11 (1973), that overthrew the elected President Allende, singer-poet Victor Jara was imprisoned, with thousands of others, in the Chile Stadium. In the following days, the military tortured and killed many in the stadium. Jara was beaten, his hands and ribs were broken and 44 bullets pumped into his body. Before his murder, Jara wrote 'Estadio Chile' on a piece of paper that was then hidden inside a friend's shoe and smuggled out.

अभी हम पांच हजार हैं
शहर के इस छोटे हिस्से में,

यहाँ तो पांच हजार -
पर मैं सोच ही सकता हूँ
कि हम जैसे और कितने हैं
और शहरों में

अकेले इसी जगह
कम से कम दस हजार हाथ हैं
जो बीज बो सकते हैं,
जो कारखाने चला सकते हैं

पर आज इंसान को यहाँ जूंझने के लिए छोड़ दिया है -
भूख से, ठण्ड से, दहशत, दर्द, हौसलों के टूटने से, आतंक
पागलपन से

हम में से छे तो खो हि गए
जैसे आकाश के सितारों में से -
एक मारा गया
दूसरा ऐसे पीटा गया, कि मैं सोच भी नहीं सकता था किसी इंसान को ऐसा पीटा जा सकता है
बाकी चार अपने डर को मिटाते-मिटाते -
एक कूद गया शुन्य में
दूसरा दीवार पर अपना सर पटके जा रहा है
लेकिन सबमें, इन सबमें, मुझे मौत का निश्चित रूप दिख रहा है

देखो कैसी दहशत पैदा करते हैं तानाशाह 
चाकू-जैसी धार लिए, वो अपने इरादे पूरे करते हैं, 
उनके लिए कुछ मायने नहीं रखता     
उनके लिए लहू ही पदक है
मारना ही वीरता है

क्या यही जग बनाया था तुमने?
क्या इसी के लिए था तुम्हारे सात दिन का वो सब काम, वो सारा विस्मय?

अभी इस चार दिवारी में
हम सब बस एक संख्या बन कर रह गए हैं,
एक संख्या जो अब बढ़ नहीं सकती
केवल उसकी मौत की लालसा धीरे-धीरे बढ़ रही है

लेकिन फिर एकदम से
मेरी रूह जाग उठती है और मुझे दिख पड़ता है
के हत्या के इस भारी ज्वार में कोई धड़कन नहीं है
केवल मशीनों सा स्पंद है  
और मिलिटरी कितनी मधुरता से हस रही है, 
इन्तिज़ार कर रही है

मेक्सिको, क्यूबा, पुरे विश्व -
इस क्रूरता के खिलाफ आवाज़ बुलंद करो
यहाँ दस हजार हाथ हैं जो अब कुछ नहीं उगाते
हम जैसे कितने होंगें इस पुरे देश में

हमारे लीडर, हमारे कौमरेड का ये लहू
अब बम और मशीन-गनों से ज़्यादा चोट पहुंचाएगा,
इस लहू में रंगी हमारी मुट्ठी फिर जुटेगी, फिर बोलेगी हमला

गाना कितना मुश्किल होता है दहशत का गीत
दहशत, जिसमें मैं अब रह रहा हूँ
जिसमें मैं अब मर रहा हूँ,
अपने को इस तरह देख,
यहाँ इन अनगिनत लम्हों में
मेरा गीत सिर्फ इक खामोशी है, सिर्फ इक चीख है

जो मैं अब देख रहा हूँ वो आज तक नहीं देखा
जो मुझे एहसास था
जो एहसास अब हो रहा है
वही जन्म देगा एक ऐसे समय को…


Victor Jara (1932-1973)



Friday, September 6, 2013

That evening

in Kamani,
- we had gone for
a Hamlet adaptation
as the sky outside had rained grey -
and the actor playing Fido (Polonius)
had said - 'Imagine Gertrude,
all of us will die, everyone today
sitting in this theatre
will one day be gone. All
of them.'

Outside in the lobby
as we had waited to be ushered in,
I had known three faces in the crowd.
Two were old students
and one
was a woman who on the metro once,
fortyish, spectacled,
had asked me about the book I had on my lap -
Dorothy Parker's 'Enough Rope' - 
she had said her poems are so clean.
She stood near the door now
holding her ticket,
by herself, a face that I had once seen.
(Gertrude: What will the next century look like, Fido?
Fido: It will be, Gertrude, unfamiliar.)

That evening
in Kamani, as the DMRC cranes outside
dug deeper into the ground,
the under-study stole the show,
walked on air, an' ended his song -
after the music, after the ball, 
a cold ground awaits us all.
The idea is so neat - all in the audience
will be gone, nothing
could be easier than this, nothing
was simpler than this,
this - our doing the rounds -
old students, old friends.

There was a standing ovation
(the actors did not come twice for the bow)
and, at the end, moving out -
no ground beneath our feet, in the crowd
I once again spotted her, on the stairs
(should I go and say something)
and before I decided, on the last step
she had turned to me,
her spectacles hanging on her neck,
and said - 'Dorothy Parker!' - and I felt,
at that moment, somehow, that I could embrace her,
even in this crowd, even in this city, if only I try -
both of us will one day be gone.
'A whole world lies in the goodbye,
and no matter what you tell me, Fido,'
Gertrude had said,
'I don't 
want to die. 
I don't want 
to die.
I don't want to die.'



(thanks to Rajat Kapoor)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kiss

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi prose-poem 'चुंबन'

The history of the kiss is as old as mankind but it is usually nothing more than dry descriptions or adverts of the famous, or the longest or the shortest kisses. A kiss always happens outside history. In that false world, the incandescent lips of two people come so close to each other that you can hear them tremble. All the blood from the body runs to the lips, all thoughts already gather on the lips, softly the heart reaches there and the soul finds there, a home. This is that moment when a flower blooms small bird takes flight stars shine somewhere from under the earth you hear the water flowing but each of these usual events occur in a way that shakes the ground you stand on. At last, the blood returns and the heart resumes its old role of pushing it through the entire body. Thoughts come back to mind and the soul returns to the wilderness. Now everything is ordinary again. We have narrowly escaped a storm, or a fire. We are alive and have returned to history, and are heaving a sigh of relief.    


Mangalesh Dabral

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ten years

to the day,
that's how long it took
for me to know
that growing-up
is letting misunderstandings stay,
is always keeping the blame
crazily -
gift-wrapped in paisley -
to give to others,
and of love, to speak
always, haltingly,
hazily.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

स्टेशनरी

tr. from Agha Shahid Ali's English poem 'Stationery' (1987)

आज चाँद सूरज नहीं बना 
बस गिर सा गया वीराने पर 
तह दर तह, जैसे चाँदी के वर्क़
तुम्हारे हाथों के पिसे हुए  

ये रात तुम्हारा ही कारखाना है,
दिन तुम्हारी ही मसरूफ दुकान  

दुनिया में काग़ज़ ही काग़ज़ है 
मुझे ख़त तो लिखो।      


Agha Shahid Ali











Friday, August 23, 2013

New Orleans Jazz - Mangalesh Dabral

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi poem 'न्यू ओरलीन्स में जैज़'    

The beer bottles I see everywhere in America
are also here, but empty, 
and broken, on the roadside are 
shards of glass and stones - Jazz, jazz,
jazz, a long difficult way, 
on both sides are swarms of glasses, in them
beer, trembling,
folks dip their troubles, like bread, in them.
The white hotel manager says:
"I'd avoid that side, if I were you, 
there's a lot of crime there, 
if I were you, I'd read those tourist notices carefully,
do you know, in America, 
New Orleans is among the five most violent cities." 

The moon sends all its black sons here
the night sends all its black daughters here,
here the falling stars become men and women - Jazz, 
jazz, jazz, you can get drunk on Mississippi.
In the French Quarters, the slaves came three hundred years back, 
herded like an army of buffaloes from Africa, and
when ever the whips rested
the songs started, the dance broke out -
the order, always, was to "Eat in the kitchen,"
(not "at the table") they went laughing, ate, 
then danced - how difficult it is to rule over people
even if you are a cunning, cruel civilization -
there were always rules,
they were always breaking rules -
so many tyrants came and went,
French, Spanish, American buyers and sellers of people,
so many storms rose from the sea -
Hurricane Betsy Rita Katrina -
despite them, they are still looking for love in this world,
despite the tags that are still hanging on things. 

When the dark was
flowing out from the clarinet keys, when 
that parched memory was making its way out 
the trumpet's full throat, when the saxophone's notes were 
crowding on the river, then, a trombone 
was so bright as if it was the heart of a city -
then, I saw that man, black, eating bread,
he was smiling and coming to shake my hands,
smiling, like stars -
and from faraway, a Streetcar was calling after him
it's name was Desire,
and faraway, a white hotel manager, afraid, 
was waiting for the tourists.


(thanks to Anannya Dasgupta)



Mangalesh Dabral

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lately

something is amiss,
instead of this happyday dreaming
all I muster is a cluster 
of this worried and this confused -
it's not even the matter 
of the former love struck becoming
the latter broken heart, that would've 
been easy, a little bit of this crying 
takes care of that, but nowadays, 
it's trickier, life's no longer a lark, 
this sad seems to have replaced 
- quite stark! - this laughing, and
every time I have the faintest doubt
of hope, life sticks its tongue out.


(thanks to Akshara Ravishankar)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

All my hopes - Mir Taqi Mir

tr. from Mir Taqi Mir's Urdu ghazal 'Ulti ho gayi sab tadbeerein'

All my hopes are overthrown
no cure will work today,
see as I said, this peevish heart
has finally had its say.

When young, I was maddened so,
when old, I shut my eyes,
as one who has a sleepless night
when morning comes, he lies.

They wrongly accuse us of freedom
we who are helpless all,
it is they who do as they like
but on us their blame would fall.

Even in my wildest days,
listen, I had some piety still,
after Him I searched all my life
though at each stop I had my fill.

To this black-and-white of the world
I have only this to say - 
I wish you knew how I lived through the night 
and how I dusked the day. 

Why ask now of Mir's faith,
why look for his belief - don't you know, 
now he wears the mark, sits in temples,
he gave up Islam long ago.

Mir Taqi Mir (ca. 1723-1810)



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Three poems : Sunita Katyal

tr. from three Hindi poems of Sunita Katyal

दुआ 

खुदा कबूल करता है
दुआ जब दिल से होती है
बढ़ी मुश्किल है य़े,
बढ़ी मुश्किल से होती है। 

Prayer

A prayer is answered only 
when it comes from the 
heart, that's the tricky bit, 
tricky from the start.


चाहत

चाहत जिनसे होती है
हमें याद उन्ही की आती है,
वो ही प्रीत बन जाती है
न मिले तो हमें रुलाती है।  

Love

Those we love
we remember, memory
becoming love, ties
tears to our eyes.   


पुरवैय्या

यादों ने दुखी किया रे,
दिल हर समय उन्हें ही चाहे
ऐ पुरवैय्या ढून्ढ के लाओ
न जाने वो कहाँ रे। 

East Wind

Memory makes me blue
my heart is bent on you,
East wind, go find him,
where's he vanished to?

Sunita Katyal

Sunday, July 14, 2013

किसी का भी बेटा

tr. from Tara Skurtu's 'Anyone's Son'
-- ट्रेवॉन मार्टिन के परिवार के लिए

ये कविता खुद को उल्टा लिखना चाहती है। 
सोचती है, काश एक याद की तरह पैदा होती, तुम्हारे 

आखिरी सेकंड पर अटकी हुई सुई को पीछे छोड़, 
तुम उठ बैठते हो, अपने सीने से झाड़ते हो, खून नहीं,

मिटटी। तुम उठते हो। अपने बिस्तर पर। बुरा
सपना। वापस नींद आती है। तुम जगते हो,

खुश, गुड मॉर्निंग। ये उन सब की कविता है, 
जो कि तुम्हारे आखिरी दिन के लिबास में एक हुए -

कैंडीयों से भरी जेबें, हुडड स्वेट-शर्ट, मीठी सी
चाय। ये कविता खुद पर हौसला रखना चाहती है, 

चुप-चाप सरल शब्दों से, ये चाहती है तुम उठो,
किसी के भी बेटे -- लम्बे से, आखों में हसी, अब घर जाओ।


(with much help from Ashish Kundalia)


Tara Skurtu



Friday, June 21, 2013

जब जवाँ थी

tr. from Dorothy Parker's poem 'Indian Summer'

जब जवाँ थी, तब एक आदत थी
सबको खुश करना,
हर दुसरे लड़के के संग, खुद को बदलना,
उसके रंग में ढलना।

पर अब, जैसी हूँ, वैसी ही हूँ,
अपनी मर्ज़ी की करती हूँ;
गर ऐसे ही पसंद हूँ, तो आना मेरी आड़ में
नहीं तो - ज़रा सुनो - तुम जाओ भाड़ में!


Dorothy Parker










In transliteration:

Jab Jawan thi, tab ek aadat thi
sabko khush karna,
har doosre ladke ke sang, khud to badalna
uske rang mein dhalna.

par ab, jaisi hoon, vaisi hi hoon,
apni marzi ki karti hoon;
gar aise hi pasand hoon, toh aana meri aad mein
naheen toh - zara suno - tum jaao bhaad mein!


Tarun Thapar's Punjabi Tr. of 'जब जवाँ थी'

Jad si jawan, tad ik aadat si
saariyan nu khush karan di
naal har dooje munde de, aap nu badlan di
rang ohde vich dhalan di

par hune, jivein haan oivein hi haan
apni marzi di kardi haan
je pasand haan, te aaja meri aadh ch
nahi taan zara suni, tu khoonje mar bhaad ch

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You and me

tr. from Hadi Hussain's Urdu poem 'Tum aur Main'

My life's a mug
and
you're like the sugar
that never dissolves.

And I
am only like the spare change
which, as soon
as you step out of the house,
unthinking,
you give away as alms.



Hadi Hussain


Tum aur main

Meri zindagi kay mug main
tum na haal honay wali cheeni
jaisay ho
aur main un sikkon ke manid haun
jinhain tum nay
ghar say nikaltay he
khairaat kar dia

Friday, June 7, 2013

Over the Sycamore trees

(07.06.13)

Over the Sycamore trees
the sky is murky today,
from Cairo to Delhi
we look to Turkey today.

Over the teary clouds
the word still spills out,
a fire only needs a spark
we look to Gezi Park.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

After the surgery, as the drugs wore off

he told the nurse, abruptly - 'I'm waking up, I'm not
supposed to wake up yet.'

He thought the surgery was
not yet done, and the anesthesia
was wearing off already.

That moment,
afraid they were still operating on him,
- that something had gone horribly wrong -
he thought he would, just then,
feel the scalpel against his skin,
sinking in.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

If

If love were made of little things
it'd be so easy to give and receive,
we won't trade our lives with some
'paradise' (there'd be no such need 
to deceive). The trouble, most often,
in love is that - we ask of little things 
too much, why should little things of
little size have to stand in, it seems,
for the breathlessness of our dreams?
Why should his hand held necessarily
take us 'deep into the night'? Why
should his eyes be always lit with
some god-forsaken 'light'? Is it
not enough (it's only decent!) for
our peevish hearts to melt, seeing
that - despite everything in the
world - still our hands are held.

Monday, May 27, 2013

विएत्नाम - विस्लावा सिम्बोर्स्का

tr. from Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh's English tr. of Wislawa Szymborska's Polish poem 'Vietnam'

'तेरा नाम क्या है?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'क्या उम्र है? कहाँ की है?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'ज़मीन में ये बिल क्यूँ खोदा?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'कितनी देर से यहाँ छुपी हुई थी?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'मेरी ऊँगली क्यूँ काटी?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'क्या मालूम नहीं कि तुझे चोट नहीं पहुंचाएंगे?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'किसकी तरफ है?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'ये जंग है, किसी को तो चुनना पड़ेगा।' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'तेरा गाँव अभी भी है या जल गया?' 'मुझे नहीं पता।'
'ये तेरे बच्चे हैं?' 'हाँ।'


(thanks to Eddie Bruce Jones and Ashish Kundalia)


Wislawa Szymborska

Friday, May 24, 2013

The on-site BBC reporter said:

'The prospect of an early end
to the war has receded.'

Breakthroughs are such difficult things,
made of the same stuff that kills them -
words.

As she and I spoke that evening,
birds in Montebello receded,
that must have been a sign, or not.
If yes, of what?

I hope someone had held the book
of how-to-do-it in front of me
and asked me to read it.

'There are always two ways,' Phil had said,
of saying the right thing.'
Should I have stuck to the letter?
Could I have said it better, or another day?
Is the right thing always the thing you want to say?

But as she spoke,
the world receded into the shell,
not quietly, but like flood-waters do.

Friendship, unlike love,
needs no preambles. It is a straighter thing.

Yet now, why does my heart
tremble. I had once read that a gargoyle,
also a water-spout, 'is an ornamental innovation
telling us that all is not well even in the house of God.'

That evening, we got each others' blood to boil
(at all times we could have receded)

but friendship, like love,
is also flawed, must need toil.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Evening in Tagore Park, May 2013: A Nonnet

She placed her chair so gently on the
ground, so that it doesn't make the
slightest of sound, for he read
his poem, in that voice she
loved, that moment the
sky was dim, the
light in her
eye was
him.

Friday, May 3, 2013

When

When all the gay boys get their shit
together, go to the gym and get fit
together, I sit and generally complain
about the weather and all that,
she says - That is why you're fat!
Now, now, I say, what's the hustle,
have you had a look at my arm,
lately a tendon threatens to look
like a muscle, so be calm, and by
the way, I am very good health-wise,
twice a day, I think about exercise.
 
(Thanks to Pramada Menon)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Sestina

for Anannya Dasgupta

In Portland, Oregon, for the first time
in another country, I held my hands
nervously by my side, waiting to cross;
the traffic did not stop, and I will
later realize that there was something
to press, a red button, to green my way.

In Penn State, she had said 'No way
you are staying in your room this time,
it has been a week, you must do something,
there is this place,' she splayed her hands,
'The Old College Diner, come, we will
get a grilled sticky, come, don't be cross.'

In Delhi, the last time I was cross,
he had said - was there no other way -
'It got serious, Akhil.' 'But you said it will
not.' I asked, 'will there be no more time,'
I asked, will there be none in our hands,
telling myself, there must be something.

'Come here in the fall?' So there was something,
- there always is - will the night cross
half the world now to reach into your hands
this love cast in the dark, will you weigh
it in your hands, and will there be time
for you to see what remains of your will.

Or only in mathematical questions will
John buy forty pomegranates - that's something! -
and no one will question, and yet, the time
when I google map Portland, to cross
St. Helens volcano, again, to see if there is a way
I can fold all of memory into my hands,

you will suspect the compass of my hands,
and by the morning, little by little, you will
find other things to say, 'there is no way
that you will come here,' - I would - 'do something
like this.' The ember lava, then, will cross
from St. Helens into my veins this time.

There is a way - press red - this time,
even if the ocean will be too blue to cross
in my ember hands there is already something.



(Thanks to Stephen Chbosky and Amin Davoodi)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

हार्लेम - लैंग्सटन ह्यूज़

tr. from Langston Hughes's 'Harlem', with help from Sunita Katyal


एक अधूरे सपने का क्या होता है?

क्या वो सूख जाता है
धुप में किशमिश की तरह?
या किसी खुले घाव की तरह  -
पस से भरा, पकता है?
क्या वो सड़े हुए मास सा बदबदाता है?
या पपड़ी बन जाता है
पुरानी चाशनी की तरह?

शायद चुपचाप किसी भारी भोझ की तरह
वो सिर्फ लटकता है

या बम सा फटता है?  

Langston Hughes

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

स्पैनिश जी के लिए

I

तुम्हारी पिछली ईमेल पढ़कर
सोच में पड़ गया

आखिर में तुमनें लिखा था -
'हालाँकि स्पैनिश तुम्हें पढ़नी आती नहीं,
फिर भी लोर्का की ये एक कविता भेज रहा हूँ

'ला सिंको दे ला तारदे' ('शाम के पांच बजे ')

"सफ़ेद चादर लाता हुआ एक लड़का 
ला सिंको दे ला तारदे...
सड़क के किनारे सब चुप खड़े हुए
ला सिंको दे ला तारदे...
शाम के ठीक पांच बजे
पूरी कायनात दम तोड़ रही है...
और हर घड़ी बोल रही है 
- ला सिंको दे ला तारदे..."

II

पर तुम्हारी ईमेल के शुरू में -
'कुएरिदो अखिल'

सबसे पहले मैंने पता लगाया
इस 'क़ुएरिदो' का मतलब

गूगल ट्रांसलेट ने बताया -
'प्रिय अखिल'

III

मैं ये कविता हिंदी में लिख रहा हूँ
क्यूंकि हिंदी तुम्हें पढ़नी आती नहीं

इस ज़ुबां में कुछ भी लिख दूं
बाकी सब समझेंगे

बाकी सब देखेंगे

पर - शुक्र है -
तुम्हारे लिए तो कोई बात ही नहीं --

क्यूंकि
सच पूछो
तो डर लग रहा है

तुमसे कैसे कहूं

कि फिर से आज़माने में
डर लग रहा है

पिछली बार न उसकी गलती थी
न मेरी
न उसका इम्तिहान था, न मेरा
फिर भी उस दिन

- तुमसे
कैसे कहूं,
शायद तुम्हारी जुबां में -

ला सिंको दे ला तारदे
सर्द शाम का जल्द आता हुआ अँधेरा
ला सिंको दे ला तारदे
उस फोन के कटने की आवाज़
ला सिंको दे ला तारदे
बादलों का पर्दों-सा छट जाना

कहीं तुम्हें पता न चल जाए
उन छटते बादलों के पीछे 
उस शाम के चाँद का वो बैंगनी रंग

इसलिए अपनी ज़ुबां में छिपा रहा हूँ

- कहीं मेरी ज़ुबां
तुम्हारी ज़ुबां से न मिल जाए-

अब ये तुमसे कैसे कहूं  
क़ुएरिदो

The Biopic Lecture

मैं अपने लैपटॉप पर नोट्स ले रहा था
जब प्रोफेसर ने कहा 'He loves her
like a madman in 1903.' मुझसे
टाइपिंग करते-करते हुई गलती, और
मैं लिख बैठा 'loved' लेकिन सुनो,
ये तो होना ही था, ये जो 's' और 'd' हैं,
की-बोर्ड पर एक दुसरे से सटके हैं।
किसे पता था love ends like a typo
एक गलत अक्षर, और सब सर पटके हैं,
या फिर क्या पता मुझे कहीं श़क था कि 
वो इश्क नहीं था till the last, जो बना दिया 
मैंने टेंस को present continuous से past

Monday, March 18, 2013

गिरा हुआ फूल - मोरिताके आराकीदा

गिरा हुआ फूल उड़ कर वापस अपनी टहनी जा रहा है:
एक तितली  
  
(tr. from the English tr. of Moritaké Arakida's (1473-1549) Japanese haiku:
The fallen blossom flies back to its branch: 
A butterfly.)   

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whenever you see it

the sun is always eight minutes old.

The laughter track in the American sitcoms
was recorded in the '60s.

So whenever you hear it,
it is mostly the dead laughing.

The wrinkles on your skin
are things you could not say
but have kept for others to see.

The past is only a quarrel
and a missed phone-call
and a bagel-shop on 117th street.

Near the I.T.O, when he said - 'night charge extra,'
I already knew how the night always extracts its price,

how - in the 6×12 solitary cell,
as nights stretch,
flags of all countries are always red.

This world, Alfred, is only as big as your room
and grief is, finally,
only a rhyme scheme

converting separation
into a.b.b.a
 
and love
- the old masters, how well they understood -
is a tulip that flowers just for three days.


(thanks to Paromita Vohra, Shahid Ali and W.H. Auden)