Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 में भा.जा.पा

जसवंत को बाई-बाई
सुषमा कि हाय-हाय
अडवाणी कि टाएँ-टाएँ फिस्स
अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी
बोल पाये तो बोले जाई:
'मोदी भैय्या, वॉट इज़ दिस?'

Friday, March 28, 2014

In 2002

- as late as that - Switzerland
joined the UN, and that old
cat, Queen Elizabeth, was 50
years into clawing her throne.
In 2002 there was a failed coup
against Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez - so the year, you
could say, saw both good & bad 
days. In 2002, Daniel Pearl was 
killed, and Israel dragooned a 
Bethlehem church, but in India,
in 2002, nothing of note happened,
except of course Dhirubhai Ambani
died, besides that, nothing as such,
they say, "2002? It was nothing much."

Friday, March 21, 2014

When she and I go together

what is it
that makes the sales-guy
only speak
to her when we buy
the
curtains
for
my
house?

My guess is
it's the same thing
that makes
that silly broker think
he can
only look at me
and vent
as we try to see
a
house
for
her 
to
rent.



(for Anannya Dasgupta)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The dispersal of the bones - Om Prakash Valmiki

tr. from Om Prakash Valmiki's Hindi poem 'Asthi-Visarjan'

Whenever I wanted to touch
the stone in the inner sanctum 
of the temple
or the sculpted murals on its walls

every time, that feeling of a hammer
hardened in the palm of my hand
and calluses awoke at the start of my fingers.

Every time we went to have a bath in the Ganga
- Har ki paudi, 'the steps of a god' - 
it felt as if we're taking a dive
into a rain-clogged sewer,
where beneath the fast stream
there's no sand
but reptilian stones
that do not let our feet hold.

It is difficult to remain
against the stream,
like standing on red-hot embers,

under your feet
come the bones of the dead
which are scattered around the stones
on the bed of the river,

these bones
which once had fought
with air and with language,
with rituals and habits
before, one day, being dispersed in the Ganga
under the vague mutterings of a Pundit
(some folks call this muttering Sanskrit).

These bones lying under the stream
caress the soles of our feet
in terrifying ways

that is why I decided
I would not bathe in any such Ganga
where the vulture-eyes of the Pundit
are fixed on the coins kept among the bones
and on the rupee-notes of his fee
to swoop at even before those bones are dispersed.


(thanks to Abhishek Kumar)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The farm is sad - Om Prakash Valmiki

tr. from Om Prakash Valmiki's Hindi poem 'Khet Udaas Hain' 

The bird is sad
for the emptiness of the forest.
The children are sad
for - hammered like a nail 
on the doors of the big houses -
this grief of the bird.

The farm is sad --
that even after a full harvest
he, with mortar on his head,
is going up and down the ladder
against that wall being built.

The girl is sad --
till when can she hide the birth.

And the rented hands
are writing on the wall
'To be sad
is against the spirit of India.'

Sunday, March 16, 2014

ओ रे माझी

मुझसे
ऐसे न बोलो

ओ रे माझी
मुझसे
ऐसे न बोलो

तेरी सुन्दर है नैय्या
तेरा सुन्दर पतवार
तू हर लहर का राजा
तेरा सुन्दर कारोबार

ले जाता है तू
माझी
सबको उस पार

सो मैं आज आयी
तो नदिया तुम
ऐसे न निचोड़ो

ओ रे
ओ रे माझी
नदिया तुम
ऐसे न निचोड़ो

ओ रे माझी
मुझसे
ऐसे न बोलो

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sestina

March, '14

Halfway to the top of the world,
when the forest's spring lay before
him, he had only begun forgetting
that blue bull which had run across
the jogging track, and last night,
in Castle Nine, that boy in white.

He stood against the sun, now all white,
and the forest, 'the refuge of the world'
Jahanpanah - stood like no night,
no darkness here could pass before
it is smuggled into the flowers across
all the breaths he took, all the forgetting

he could - the hardest of all is forgetting -
"little by little" is the promise, but so white,
so drained of colour, that standing across
two steps of the viewing-tower, the world
could now only take off its wool, before
summer comes (when the desert sends night

to Delhi) the bougainvillea stalls the night.
"New things must mean that forgetting
happens quicker" - he knew that before
the past goes, there's already the boy in white
and already, his eyes could claim the world,
could claim the spring somehow left across

this impending of summer. He saw, across
him, the pea-hen flying down, the night
must be closer than he thought, the world
must be closer now to that sort of forgetting
which comes slowly like the soft white
sky after the desert-night of longing, before

every thing again is dark, and before
all promises, good and bad, made across
the falling of rain, or in the harsh white
of the sun, fold again into the night
which like that dream of forgetting,
he folds, like the promise of his world.

Before the Castle Nine boy, the world
splayed across these dunes of forgetting,
was white hot, and ended each night. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

India vs. Pakistan

Kashmiris will cheer
for Pakistan when it
comes to cricket;
my criterion usually
is - the more gorgeous
one should win it.
So when I compare all
the boys, in their team
and ours, will I absolutely
disappoint, because
I kind of see their point.