Monday, December 28, 2015

For someone who'll read this

500 years from now

How are you?
I am sure a lot has changed

between my time and yours,
but we're not very different,

you have only one thing on me -
hindsight.

I have all these questions for you:
Do cars fly now?

Is Mumbai still standing by the sea?
How do you folks manage without ozone?

Have the aliens come yet?
Who is still remembered from my century?

How long did India and Pakistan last?
When did Kashmir become free?

It must be surprising for you
looking at our time,

our things must seem so strange to you,
our wars so little,

our toilets for 'men' and 'women'
must make you laugh

our cutting down of trees
would be listed in your 'Early Causes'

our poetry in which the moon is still
a thing far away

must make you wonder, both for that moon
and for the poetry.

You must be baffled,
that we couldn't even imagine

the things you now take for granted.
But let that be,

would you do me a favour,
for 'old time's sake'?

Would you go to the Humayun's Tomb
in what used to be Delhi

and just as you're climbing the front staircase,
near the fourth rung, I have cut into

the stone wall to your left -
'Akhil loves Rohit'

Will you go and see it?
Just that, go see it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

When Farida Khanum

sings now,

she does not hide the age
in her voice,

instead
she wraps it in paisleys,
and for a moment
holds it in both of her hands,

before
she drowns it in our sky.

When she sings now,
she knows

that at the end of that note
when her voice breaks
like a wishbone,

he will stay.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Who're the ones marching that day?

L.G.B.T.Q.I.H.K.
What does the headline next day decide?
To call it 'Gay Pride'

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tonight

You're still glued to the bus-stop seat,
I pull you off it, "91 is here."

On Gray's Inn Road,
you again call the houses "so miniature,"
holding them between your finger and thumb.

On the double-decker,
you're still dozing off on the back seat,
asking me to wake you up when we get there.

As we get out, I'm still telling you to
"wrap yourself well, it's always colder
near the river."

As we walk below the Waterloo Bridge
and you turn to look at me, I am still
one-part longing, one-part fear,

wishing, tonight, that you were here.


(thanks to Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebh)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

He sees me. I see him.

"You're a little chubby,"
"I guess you're a little dim,"
we part ways, he's not gettin'
sharper, I'm not getting thin.

Monday, December 14, 2015

December Poets

To melt the winter sun, partially,
  and hold it in a glass,
    Agha Shahid Ali,

to love, count to ten,
  then at last
    to grieve,
      Auden,

then, cussedly, leave
  to tread on something
    firmer,
      Rene Sharanya Verma,

to lose, again,
  reach that place, unknown,
    darker,
      Dorothy Parker.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All those years we dated,

it remained 'complicated,'
so what I don't get is this -
why do I remember them as 'bliss'.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Barakhamba Road/Tolstoy Marg Crossing

An odd, white handkerchief tied on his arm,
    he gets onto the metro at Vishwavidyalaya.

With a stuffed back-pack on her shoulder,
    she boards the bus at Shahdara.

In his grey track pants,
    he hails an Ola from Saket,

With her phone in her back-pocket,
    she climbs onto a Haryana Roadways bus.

---

The red glass bangles he'd bought yesterday
    reflect the winter sun; his fingers dance.

She pulls out a crumpled rainbow muffler
    and waves it to her from across the road.

He sees a small tear in the stockings as he
    pulls down the track pants but doesn't care.

At that Crossing she knows from the map, she
    sees a big crowd - and turns her phone to silent.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Both of them liked being out on Delhi roads

at dawn.

As they reached the DND flyover from Sarai Kale Khan
they could see a red sun over Okhla,

and as they went down towards Ashram, she said -
if only this Yamuna had a little life in it, no?

He got a little bothered
at this sudden, pretentious love for nature -

I have come all the way from Yamuna Vihar,
the petrol's almost gone,
and you're thinking of the river.

How many cities
will we move in this one city

to look for a place.


Tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक ८

Ravish Kumar
 

Friday, November 27, 2015

To escape the rain

tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक १२

To escape the rain,
he parked the scooter
under the Moolchand flyover.

They were so lost in each other
they didn't even notice
all the other scooters
waiting around them
for the rain to end.

For no reason at all,
he kept on trying
to become her umbrella,

and she felt good
under an umbrella she didn't need
below a flyover.

All the people around them
stared as if they were a
leftover cloud.


Ravish Kumar
 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I have that small town feeling today

tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक १

I have that small town feeling today...
    and I feel like metro.

You know, whenever you pass by South Ex, I feel like Karawal Nagar.
    Shut up, you're crazy. In Delhi, everyone feels like Delhi.

That's not how it is. Not every one in Delhi is Delhi. Just like
everyone doesn't have love in their eyes...
    okay, but then how am I South Ex?

Just like I am Karawal Nagar.
    You're right...

you know, if this Barahpula flyover wasn't there, then the distance
between South Ex and Sarai Kale Khan would've been too much.
    Are you in love with me or with the city?

With the city; because my city is you.


Ravish Kumar
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Come

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'आओ'

Come,
like darkness comes near darkness,
like water runs into water,
like light dissolves in light,


come, wear me,
like a tree wears the bark,
like a mud-path wears the grass,

take me,
like the darkness takes the roots,
like water takes the moon,
like the infinite takes time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You walk in

and my eyes catch fire, you touch
me and my skin's live wire,
and no matter tonight
how much I deny
her, I think I
am going
to die of
desire.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In Delhi, last winter,

we needed a photograph
for the poster of your talk,
so you suggested -

"Take any from my FB album
in which I am wearing enough clothes
and not making a face,"

which left my choice, from among hundreds,
to about two.

Finally, we chose you in purple,
smiling, and sitting against a wall
in what looks like JNU,

you are wearing a silver hoop in your ear

and after looking at this photograph many times over,
I know why your name meant 'loved,'
I know why this memory is silver, I know
why this memory will now always be silver.

("Kaush, pack your best clothes,
Thanga would have hated if any of us
are badly dressed for the funeral.")

Thanga, I have two winters,
and terrace nights, and songs with you,
I have a midnight dance with you,
and because you thought we 'Indian fuckers'
were 'too dramatic,' I will, for your sake,
keep safe in my hands, all the evenings
that won't let you go.


(for Priya Thangarajah)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

कि कुछ तो असर हो जाए

कि कुछ तो असर हो जाए
बस वो रात बसर हो जाए
बस
कविता से उतना ही होता है

कि उस रात की पौ तो फटी
जैसे भी हो, रात तो कटी 
खैर मनाओ
कविता से इतना तो होता है


(नताशा के लिए)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#OccupyUGC

कुछ तेरह दिन हुए
आई.टी.ओ पर रात ही नहीं हुई

छात्र अपने थैलों में
मुट्ठी भर उजाला जो लाएं हैं

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Desperate, a man sat down,

I didn't know him,
    I knew desperation,

so I went close to him
    and reached out my hand -

holding it, he stood up,
    he didn't know me, he knew

my reaching out the hand,
    from there, we walked together,

neither of us knew the other -
    both knew walking together.


tr. from Vinod Kumar Shukla's 'Hatasha se ek vyakti baith gaya'


Vinod Kumar Shukla






 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Miniscule minority" "Miniscule minority"

- the judges kept on barking,
clearly they've never been
on a Sunday evening to the
park above the Palika parking.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You fear

tr. from Gorakh Pandey's 'तुम्हें डर है'

Their anger is a thousand years old,
their hate is a thousand years old,
I only give
some rhyme to their
scattered words, to their desire,
and you fear that
I'm stoking fire. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

White truth

tr. from Munawwar Rana's 'Safed Sach'

His
fingers
always tell
the truth -- he
trusts them, shows
them off, every once in
a while, as we talk, he kisses
them lightly, one day, not knowing
better, he kept his fingers on my lips,
now they've started lying ever so slightly.


[After Munawwar Rana's return of the Sahitya Akademi award, Oct '15]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Language of Forgetting

tr. from Rajesh Joshi's 'भूलने की भाषा'

A river brushed against me
in the language of water,

and suddenly, in the language
of flight, the birds
moved below the clouds,

on trees written in a hieroglyphic script,
leaves stirred together, and in their movement
was the language of rustling -

it felt as if you are somewhere close,
drawing near in the language of the body

and whispering a language of forgetting
to those you could not.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I want to believe

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'विश्वास करना चाहता हूँ'

I want to believe that
after my defeat in love
when I mourn in the utter loneliness of a poem,
then, somewhere at least a leaf will tremble for me,
that somewhere a bird will resent that her world is, despite everything, so green,
that, for a moment, a planet will slow down somewhere in the universe
and in some invisible vein of the earth, the lava will cool a little,
that the ancestors spread over centuries will try an' give solace to each other,
and the tears of gods will fall in untimely rain;
that I will cry
and through the whole universe
will run a cry of sorrow,
I want to believe that in my defeat, and in my grief,
the world will not leave me alone.

Grief surrounds me as if
now that is the only body I have to live in and die in
as if that is the real colour of living
which has become visible to me only just now.

I want to believe that
when I'll try and find my way through
pain's long corridors
then, the light at the end of that tunnel will be of grief,
that the window from which a hand will show me the way, will be grief's window,
and the house, whose porch I'll rest in, to gather strength to keep on going,
will be the house where grief lives.

I want to believe that
just like the other name of laughter is often kids or flowers,
just like the other name of hope is poetry,
like that, the other name of love will be grief.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

He doesn't say - Ashok Vajpeyi

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'वह नहीं कहती'

He says
he has only a little heart,
like sunrays say
they have a little light
fire says
it has a little warmth --

sunrays don't say they have the universe
fire doesn't say it has those flames
he doesn't say he has his body.


[after Ashok Vajpeyi's return of the Sahitya Akademi Award, Oct '15]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

मुझे मालूम है पिंजरे का पंछी क्यों गाता है - Maya Angelou

tr. from Maya Angelou's 'I know why the caged bird sings'

आज़ाद पंछी
  तो हवा की पीठ पर बैठ कर
नदी के संग तैरता है
  और जहाँ धारा थमती है
वहां अपने पंख हलके से
  सूरज की किरणों में डुबाता है
और सारे आसमान को अपना बताता है

लेकिन जो पंछी
  अपने पिंजरे में ही सरकता है,
वो शायद ही देख पाता हो
  अपने गुस्से की सलाखों के पार,
उसके पंख यूँ कतरे हुए हैं, पैर यूँ बंधे हुए हैं,
  पर उसकी जुबां पर गाना है तैयार    

उसका गला कंपकपाता है
  फिर भी पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
अंजान-सी चीज़ों के बारे में  
  जिनको वो रह-रह चाहता है   
और उसकी धुन सुनने में आती है
  दूर नदी-पहाड़े में
क्यूंकि पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
  आज़ादी के बारे में 

आज़ाद पंछी तो सोचता है
  सिर्फ हलकी हवा का, जो पेड़ों में सर-सराये
लॉन के केचुओं का, जो उसी की आस लगाएं
  और फिर सारे आसमान को अपना बताता है 

लेकिन पिंजरे का पंछी तो खड़ा है
  अपने ही सपनो की मज़ारों पर,
उसकी परछाई तक चिल्लाती है
  बुरे ख्वाबों की बहती धारों पर
उसके पंख यूँ कतरे हुए हैं, पैर यूँ बंधे हुए हैं,
  पर उसकी जुबां पर गाना है तैयार

उसका गला कंपकपाता है
  फिर भी पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
अंजान-सी चीज़ों के बारे में  
  जिनको वो रह-रह चाहता है   
और उसकी धुन सुनने में आती है
  दूर नदी-पहाड़े में
क्यूंकि पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
  आज़ादी के बारे में 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dehradun, 1990

As a kid I used to confuse my d's
with my g's, and that bit of dyslexia

didn't really become a problem till
I once spelt 'God' wrong. That day,

the teacher wrote a strictly worded
letter to my parents, and asked me

to behave myself. Also, as a kid,
I could not pronounce the letter 'r,'

so till I was sent to some summer
vacation speech correction classes

at age 5, I used to say, "Aam ji ki
jai," "Aam ji ki jai," -- then a teacher

taught me to hold my tongue against the
ceiling of my mouth and then throw it out

quivering, 'R,' 'Rrrr,' she wrenched it
out of me, over many sessions, "Ram,"

until then, I did not know God was so
much effort, till they made him tremble

on the tip of my tongue, God was only
a little joke about mangoes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

MarxistLoveNotes #1

I will love you
for as long as it takes
for Trickledown Economics to work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

किसी को राजा पसंद है, किसी को रानी,

अच्छा है मुझे दोनों पसंद है, पर है इक
परेशानी, कभी सोचता हूँ कि ये झूलम-
-झूला मुनासिब है या नहीं, तो कभी ये
कि शायद मेरी दोहरी नज़र इक इशारा है,
कि मैं जमने वाला नहीं, कि मन आवारा है - 
यूँ अलग-अलग टोलियां हैं, गे और स्ट्रेट,
इनमें मैं कौन हूँ (पता नहीं!) स्ट्रे? या ग्रेट?

tr. from Vikram Seth's 'Dubious'

विक्रम सेठ
 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

'धनक' और 'हार्मलेस हग्स' के लिए

सुबह सुर्ख आएगी, बस रात चलती रहे,
बहस होती हो तो हो, बस बात चलती रहे

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Near Eros Cinema, Jangpura Extension,

the woman from Cameroon
       greets three white girls in
              French, I hear "deux ans, vous?"

The rickshaw-guy from
       Darbhanga asks the Lajpat
             aunty to pay more, she makes a मूंह.

The house broker from
       Jhung, who's been here sixty
              years, finds landlords for all the new

lawyers from Lucknow or
       Chennai, or Philly or Austin.
              The shop-cleaner from Muzzafarpur,

watches the bill-board with
       a 50 year old hero and a 20
              year old heroine that he will woo.

The taxi-guy from Greater-
       -Noida is trying to find M
              Block at midnight and cursing U-

-BER. And I am walking with his
       hands in mine, feelin' here-&-now
              and also a no-where-in-particular.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

एक छोटा सा गीत - Dorothy Parker

tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'A Very Short Song'

इक मर्तबा,
    जब मैं थी जवां और सच्ची,
इक बात हुई
    जो बिलकुल नहीं थी अच्छी,
उस रोज़
    किसी ने मेरा दिल तोड़ा था,
मुझे वैसे ही
    दुख के सागर में छोड़ा था।

इश्क़ तो है ही
    बदनसीबों के लिए!
इश्क़ तो है ही
    जैसे कोई अभिशाप!
फिर इक दिन,
    मैंने किसी का दिल तोड़ा,
अब मैं सारे
    ढोंगियों की बाप।


Dorothy Parker
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Blessing

tr. from Dushyant Kumar's 'एक आशीर्वाद'

May your dreams be big,
may they outgrow 'could have,' 'should have,'
and get to walk on earth,
may they sulk an' go crazy for
the impossible heights of stars,
may they laugh,
smile,
sing, reach Mars,
may your dreams long for the flame,
may they burn their fingers,
may they stand on their own feet
an' do their own jig, may your dreams
be big.




Dushyant Kumar
 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

News

tr. from Dushyant Kumar's 'Suchna'

Yesterday, Ma told me --
"Her marriage has been arranged,"
  standing there, I smiled, silent,
an' back in my room, I cried, there
  will be two worlds to me now, always,
  - my room and my home.



Dushyant Kumar



Sunday, August 9, 2015

The first time has

never been easy for me,

the one in which lightness
is supposed to do the work -
I am only thinking


and there's no room for thinking
not in the walk,
not in the hands,
not on the bed, the first time,

I never had the ease
of talking, of letting talking,
of letting kiss, of letting a bed,
of letting it happen,
I never had the ease,

I will probably never have
the ease

and so these past years
I take care
and make myself unlovable,

'coz we never talked,
'coz I never talked,
an' then I just figured an' figured
an' we never talked,
and I never said, and you never talked,
an' I didn't ask, we didn't say, an' I figured
without you, I figured that I did not know,
and we never talked
then, or later,

and after that so much of me changed
so suddenly, I feared

being recognized.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Beds

- there've been many,
and I've sworn all of them to secrecy,
hoping mattresses keep their promise.

The one in Stokey

in the house behind the
Abney Park Cemetery

to which my mother, calling from Lucknow,
had said - "When you sleep, do not lie
facing the cemetery,"

though, often
in the evenings

I'd look at our backyard fence
running against the 18th century graves

- where an angel, an urn, a lion,
all contracted in cement, kept
an Anglican hymn-maker, kept 17 year old
world-war veterans, kept a girl who
"left us so suddenly and so irrevocably
in grief" -

and I did not think it was anything
particularly serious to be
facing them while
I slept.

My German and Greek room-mates
often partied, "facing the cemetery."


A year later, the single-bed in King's Cross,

on the fifth floor,
floated above police sirens
and bus horns,

and was stuck to the right wall of
the room that I'd expressly asked "should. face. outside."

the hostel warden - this nice white guy - was surprised,
"you're the first one to ask for a room facing the road,"
"I like the noise," I said. I did not say I'm from a bigger city,
 I'd sooner die than face the "serene," that
little patch of green for more than a day.

He smirked but let me have my choice.

That bed afforded the view
 of Constable churches, of a Punjabi grocer,
a car rental and a Tesco,

and it was on this bed
where we managed to do it
for the first time,

using face-cream as lube.

Sometime that year,
the bed in your downtown house
near Battery Park,

that I knew only for a night
while visiting New York,

where I made plans which were
(presciently) smaller than my hands,

where I looked down into your city

where even
the parking-lot at mid-night
seemed unbelievable to me,

where the bed, holding my knees,
and your umber skin, as you slept,
told me that the tense of desire
is always the future,

one in which no plan survives,
no suture holds,
no love keeps,

one in which you leave me, always,
so suddenly and so irrevocably
in grief

that night after night
beds now
are of a kind,

that have very little to do
with sleeping.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

चाहे तुम बोलो

कि मेरा इश्क़ बेईमान
कि मुझमें बस अभिमान
कि मैं हरदम परेशान
फिर भी मैं तुम्हारे संग रहूंगी

चाहे तुम बोलो
कि मैं न अल्ल्हड़ न जवान
कि मुझे बस अपना ध्यान
कि मेरे मन में शैतान
फिर भी मैं तुम्हारे संग चलूंगी

पर अगर तुम बोले
कि मेरी कवितायेँ तुम्हें जमी नहीं
तो जान लो, मेरे लिए मर्दों की कमी नहीं



tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'Fighting Words'

Dorothy Parker

Monday, July 27, 2015

गुलमोहर - Dorothy Parker

tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'Cherry White'

जब भी देखती हूँ वो नज़ारा -- यूँ बसंत में गुलमोहर,
हर टहनी पर लाल पे लाल सटका हुआ --
सोचती हूँ, "कितना अच्छा लगेगा मेरा जिस्म इस
फूलों से लदे पेड़ पर फंदे से लटका हुआ" 



Dorothy Parker
 

And one day

"from beating,
my heart will stop,"

and no turn
will ever take me,

no iron will
melt into the streets

and the night
 - between Raspail
and Vaugirard -
will forsake me,

one day,
all memory will
be water

and long walks
would not do the trick,

need will no longer be
a shirt to wear at will,

and then, when I'll need-like-breathing,
no one will be on the fringes

folks will matter

even a passer-by will
inflict

little colours
washing up in the city,
little rivers sinking
into skin,

people, willing,
unwilling,

and I wouldn't know what to do

except to take to my heart
every thing they say,

one day.


(thanks to Jacques Dutronc)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It comes once in a lifetime,

it happens to us all - for me, 
the landlord's son is the one 
who did it, and in a minute he 
changed it all, yesterday I was 
'bhaiyya,' I am 'uncle' now, y'all.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Jangpura Extension

The Latin word for the
ear is 'pinna' - 'wings' and
I knew why this morning

as you held me between
finger and thumb, I was only
cartilage ready to fly --

you woke up, and outside
the rain made even the petals
of bougainvillea so heavy,

that the plants had to
shed them, filigreeing the
pavement with the

colour of sunrise, & later
as we walked towards the
stadium, we waded the

remnants of the sun,
attenuated under our feet,
as "the earth," was

"thawing from longing
into longing," you said bye,
took the metro, and I

walked on past noon,
and when turning near JLN,
a car stopped by, a

man, about fifty, Sikh,
asked me the directions for
Khanna Market; I told

him. He said "Come I'll
drop you," but "I am going to
Lodhi Gardens," I said,

he said "Come I'll drop
you," and it took me a second
to know that the wings,

and the thawing, and
the sun, the bougainvillea,
the pavements were

all in his eyes. I said "I'll
walk," and he took my answer,
and crushed it on the road.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In 1995

I was ten and you were
already battling the stars


of a virus, and in the middle
of grocery shopping,


and street pavements
bursting with lilacs,


you lived so close to
dying, that every morning,


when you woke up, it took
two seconds to ascertain, oneself,


and then, one's own.

With the worst behind you,
you said, how can people write

about letting go, as if
it was 'tragic' that they went,

as if their going could not have been averted,
as if, a scale had weighed in the sky,
 

but already you sounded unconvinced
of your own voice.
 
In that year,
I did not even know what sex is,

 
what veins are, except a book - my
father's - on the benefits of herbs, which,

 
on its last pages, talked of stuff
that nobody told me nothing about,

 
talked of erections, semen, power, & something
perverse about a horrifying illness, and how it takes

 
only the select.
 
You said, in those years
of holding that which you did not

 
know, "Reagan let us die,"
with a kind of resignation that

 
without forgiving, already wraps 'letting go'
in a hope, and slips it in the dimension of myth,

 
before sneaking it behind the books on your shelf.
 
Now when friends visit me, and stay for
a day or two, I thank my stars,
 
and when they leave the room, go to the loo,
or run for a morning appointment,

 
I think of you, making what you could,
of someone always going, of someone

 
gifting togetherness as if wrapped in
paisley, light like feathers, resting on the sill,

 
about to go which way I do not know.




(for Mark Doty)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

You pass by like a train

I shiver like a bridge.


tr. from Dushyant Kumar 'tu kisi rail si guzarti hai / main pul sa thartharata hoon'

Dushyant Kumar
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I can't even remember what he looks like, he's now

a wink, a shrug,
a sound, a hug,
a waiting,

a look, a shirt,
a scent, a hurt
abating,

a kiss, a sneeze,
a bunch'of memories
still inundating

but now not a trace
of the eyes, the face
that
did
the
real
baiting.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

हम क्या कूल - Gwendolyn Brooks

tr. from Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool

'द गोल्डन शवल' के सात पूल प्लेयर 

हम क्या कूल। हम
छोड़े स्कूल। हम

पूरी रात। हम मारें
शॉट। हम

गायें गंद। हम रम-में
मंद। हम

जून तरें। हम
जल्द मरें।


Gwendolyn Brooks
 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

मैंने ये नहीं कहा था कि "जाओ,"

मैंने तो बस कहा था "जाओ"
और तुमने मेरे कहे को मान लिया था,
मैंने ये थोड़ी ही कहा था कि "मैं तुम्हें देखना नहीं चाहता,"
मैंने तो बस ये कहा था कि "मैं तुम्हें देखना नहीं चाहता,"
और तुम समझ गए थे मैं जो कह रहा था,
मैंने ये कतियी नहीं कहा था कि "बस अब मुझसे और नहीं होगा,"
मैंने तो बस इतना कहा था कि "बस अब मुझसे और नहीं होगा,"
और तुमने सुना था, हमेशा की तरह, बस लफ़्ज़ों को

Monday, June 15, 2015

I didn’t say ‘go,’

I said ‘go,’ 
and you took me at my word,
I din’t say ‘I don’t want to see you anymore,'
I’d said ‘I don’t want to see you anymore,’
and you got what I said,
I didn’t say ‘I can’t do this,’
I had only said ‘I can’t do this,’
and you listened, like always, to the words.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On reading Jerry Pinto's translation of Sachin Kundalkar


No
I don't
have you
but sometimes
I have the exact descriptions
of how I feel without you
and that ought to count
for something.
No reading or writing is
no where close to love
but it breaks breath
just the same,
and some lines
are just as hard,
some, as light,
and yes
the guy that I write about
is not much like
you, when you were here,
or how you must be now,
but
that's
not
because
I am some doe-eyed-mush-monster,
making you sound better
than you were, but because
memory's a crafty-ass thing,
filigreeing the past, some bits
refuse to go, some turn into a blur,
and as it is - I'm not lying -
you were damn sweet, when you were.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

जो माया कोदनानी को मिलती है

जो बाबू बजरंगी को मिलती है
जो डी.जी.वंज़ारा को मिलती है
जो साईबाबा को नहीं मिलती

जमानत

जो एक हत्यारे को मिलती है
जो एक हत्यारे को मिलती है
जो एक हत्यारे को मिलती है
वो एक टीचर को नहीं मिलती

What Maya Kodnani gets

What Babu Bajrangi gets
What D. G. Vanzara gets
What Saibaba does not

Bail

What a murderer gets
What a murderer gets
What a murderer gets
What a teacher does not

Friday, June 5, 2015

चेतावनी - लैंग्स्टन ह्यूज़

tr. from Langston Hughes's 'Warning'

नीग्रोज़
सीधे-साधे, वफ़ादारविनम्र,
किसी से ना अड़ने वाले, 
ख़बरदार वो दिन 
जब वो अपना मन बना लें  

हवा 
कपास के खेतों में,
मंद-मंद सी, हलकी बयार, 
ख़बरदार वो घड़ी 
जब वो ले जाए पेड़ उखाड़ 

लैंग्स्टन ह्यूज़ 
 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

सेल्मा के लिए - लैंग्स्टन ह्यूज़

tr. from Langston Hughes's "For Selma"

सेल्मा, ऐलाबमा,
जैसी जगहों में
बच्चे कहते हैं 
    शिकागो और न्यूयॉर्क 
    जैसी जगहों में...

शिकागो और न्यूयॉर्क 
जैसी जगहों में
बच्चे कहते हैं
    लंडन और पैरिस
    जैसी जगहों में...

लंडन और पैरिस
जैसी जगहों में
बच्चे कहते हैं 
    शिकागो और न्यूयॉर्क 
    जैसी जगहों में...


Langston Hughes
 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Such a pity, the years,

such a pity, the silences,
the explosions on the sun, 
the dust of all the memories, 
such a pity this our being past
forgiving, these shores, such a
pity, this keeping on without you,
years away outnumbering the

years on the run, such a pity, 
all the fun, and that my hands
were small like Mercury and
that you were always the sun.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

२००२ में

- इतने सालों बाद -  स्विट्जरलैंड
संयुक्त राष्ट्र (U.N.) में शामिल हुआ,
और २००२ में क्वीन एलिज़ाबेथ - उस
बूढी बिल्ली ने ब्रिटेन के सिंघासन पर
पचास साल पूरे किये, और २००२ में ही
वेनेज़वुएला के राष्ट्रपति - ह्यूगो चावेज़ -
के खिलाफ, तख्तापलटी असफल रही,
मतलब कुल मिला कर साल में बुरे दिन
भी थे, और कुछ अच्छे दिन भी। लेकिन
और भी था, २००२ में डैनियल पर्ल की
हत्या हुई, और इज़राइल ने बेथलेहम में
एक चर्च को बम से उड़ा डाला, लेकिन
भारत में २००२ में कुछ ख़ास तो नहीं
हुआ, हाँ बस इसके सिवाय की उस साल
धीरूभाई अम्बानी जी चल बसे - भगवान
उनकी आत्मा को शान्ति दे - इसके आलावा
तो साल २००२ काफी शान्तिमय ही रहा   

भई, हिन्दू लोग कभी बीफ नहीं खाते थे*

* सिवाय, बस
 
चर्मकार (cobblers) खाते थे,
और भट्टा (soldiers) खाते थे,
और नट (actors) खाते थे,    
और दास और मेद और व्रत और भील खाते थे,
सब के सब गौ-मांस देख मुस्काते थे
और इन जैसे और भी हैं   
जो बीफ के नाम पर लार टपकाते थे --
-- वो थे वेदों के भगवान
देखो, इंद्र देव को बैल का मांस बड़ा पसंद था 
और अग्नि देव को सांड भी पसंद था, और गाय भी, 
और वेद और स्मृतियाँ तो यहाँ तक भी बताते हैं 
की किस भगवान के सामने किस किस्म की गाय के
बलिदान दिए जाते हैं --
जैसे, विष्णु जी के लिए एक बौने बैल का, खच्च,  
इंद्र देव के लिए एक बड़े सींग वाले बैल का, खच्च,
और पूषन भगवान के लिए काली गाय का, खच्च,     
तो जब भी भगवानों का मूड होता था 
गाय सबका फ़ूड होता था,
और चुपके-चुपके तो अभी भी,
जब भी संघी बीफ खाते हैं 
खाते-खाते तो वो यही खैर मनाते हैं   
की उनके पूज्य स्वामी विवेकानंदा 
- करो न करो बिलीफ - को बड़ा पसंद था 
बाइसेप्स और भगवद के अलावा
बीफ

(बी.आर. अम्बेडकर और राम पुनियानी को शुक्रिया)

भारत रत्न पाने के लिए पांच आसान तरीके

पहला: सड़ेली कवितायेँ लिखिए,
दूसरा: खासकर कश्मीर पर,
तीसरा: कोई बड़ी, ऐतिहासिक मस्जिद मिले, तो उसे ढह दीजिये, 

चौथा: फिर ये जरूर सुनिश्चित करिये की आपके बाद
        आपसे कोई इतना बदतर आये, की लोग तुलना करें तो
        यही कहें कि नहीं यार, वो तो 'मॉडरेट' था
और पांचवा: देश भर में आग लगाएं, फिर ग्रेसफ़ुली रिटायर हो जाएँ

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When kids shout or run about the cinema-hall,

or cry, or squeal, or vomit, or have a brawl, or
ask to go home, or talk in between (the gall!)
I just blame heterosexuals, I blame them all.

Monday, May 25, 2015

एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी - विजय नम्बिसन

tr. from Vijay Nambisan's 'Elizabeth Oomanchery' (in First Infinities; Poetrywala: 2015)

एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी,
मशहूर कवयित्री,
ब्रेड खरीदने कोने-वाली दूकान पर गयीं।
दुकानदार बोला, "एक्सक्यूज़ मी,
"आप तो एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी हैं ना,
"वो मशहूर कवयित्री?"
तो एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी घर लौट गयीं।

एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी
एक शाम अपनी डेस्क पर
कविता लिखने बैठीं
कविता ने पूछा, "एक्सक्यूज़ मी,
"आप तो एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी हैं ना,
"वो मशहूर कवयित्री?"  

एलिज़ाबेथ उम्मेनचेरी
ने कहा "हाँ,"
तो कविता घर लौट गयी। 


Vijay Nambisan
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Riots

tr. from Gorakh Pandey's 'Danga - 3'

This time there were massive riots.
There were heavy rains
of blood.
The coming year
will yield a good crop
of votes.



Gorakh Pandey
 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Don't go today, don't say you will

tr. from Fayyaz Hashmi's 'Aaj jaane ki zidd na karo'

Don't go today, don't say you will,
just sit here by me, or I will
die - I'll shiver and sigh,
if you say such things still -
don't go today, don't say you will.

Why won't I stop you, don't you know
I burn to ash when you start to go,
swear on your life that today
you'll let me have my way - won't you,
still? - don't go today, don't say you will.

All our lives are hostage to time,
except for this moment or two,
would you lose them, then
forever think but regret still -
don't go today, don't say you will.

Here the world's innocent, all colour,
and love and beauty reach the skies,
who knows what tomorrow will bring,
so will you cling to this night, and keep
it still - don't go today, don't say you will.

Fayyaz Hashmi
 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

His suit buttoned, his hair brushed,

eyes nervous but smile, damn elfy -
right before he goes on stage, Modi
looks at the mirror, seeing himselfie.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

जब तक तुम

प्यार की सच्ची कसम खाओगी,
शरमाओगी, इतराओगी,
और वो भी अपना प्यार जताएगा,
कसमें खाएगा, खिलाएगा,
तब तक जान लेना मैडम (ये सबका फेट रहा है)
तुम में से कोई एक लपेट रहा है

tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'Unfortunate Coincidence'

Dorothy Parker
 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mr. Mishra cannot shit

without his morning newspaper
& until all the articles are read 
& rated, a good big shit remains 
awaited, and today's a particular 
problem - Mr. Mishra's travelling 
on a train and is constipated. He 
is cursing spicy food and all the 
headlines, as a small, stony pellet
drops slowly - the pain is unholy! -
first at the New Delhi railway station, 
& despite his cursing & frustration 
the next one takes all the way till 
Tilak Bridge (the news gets no better,
just columnists' idle chatter) till one 
last long, painful pebble comes out 
of him at Anand Vihar and drops 
down on the train tracks, and Mr. 
Mishra almost shouts, as the pain 
wracks him, he promises his cook, 
his work, his world some serious 
avenging, reading the last headline: 
"In reply to the petitioner's PIL, the 
Indian railways ministry denies the 
presence of manual scavenging."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You

tr. from Suchi Kushwah's 'Tum'
for Rituparna Borah
 
the four walls of our room
and the silence of the forest

the unbroken tune of crickets
& the silver tide of heartbeats

at this time who would talk
on our village-streets just this

shivering of the moon just
this movin' hand of the clock

and on that small mud road I
can hear even when someone's

going quietly here our bedsheet's
folding and you're turning lightly

on the pillow your hair lie a
little confused & the ring on

your nose is still shining and
even though your eyelids say

you're asleep your eyes are lost
& pining and even though I don't

know what dreams you're seeing
they break your sleep again and

again you might be dreaming the
moon that was peeking through

the evening branches just to see
you you know 'coz you're maddening

to look at and see this damn book
at your side that has fought me the

whole night and when I picked
it up and kept it aside the jealous

pages still fluttered even as I
muttered in your ears nightly

"the four walls of the room
and the silence of the forest."
 
Suchi Kushwah
 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Here, even the clouds are

so stingy when they rain,
and with each drop, I'm
spent, slowly, in thrift,
but, for you, I've borrowed
some clouds - just ask
and the rain is my gift.


tr. from Pragya Lal's 'Badal'

 
Badal
- Pragya Lal

Badi kanjusi se baraste hai yahan ke badal
Kifayti se yaha kharch hote hai hum;
Tumhare liye kuch badal liye hai maine udhar par
Tum bolo toh barsa doon?

Pragya Lal

Monday, May 4, 2015

Devdungri, Rajasthan

Even the night refuses to completely darken
here, as the moon keeps turning each stone


silver beneath our feet; you can play foot-
-ball at night and know exactly where the


goal is. She wrote in that email that Mohan ji
was somehow always hopeful, despite the odds,


"something will turn up," and even as I read it
typed, I knew her emphasis was on 'will;' that


night the moon was our bonfire and memories of
all their years, of making flowers grow out of stone,


were now stories, silvered by age, of those who were
gone, but, they said, those who have come back to us


like colour in flowers, they still see us through these
years, they come to us in songs, like ants, they are in


the small, like elephants, they are big, Kabir sang "Tu
hathi mein hathi ban baitho, cheeti mein hai chhoto tu,"


an' each year as they hold up the silver mirror to those
who're sun-burnt with power, keeping account for a


world that is both concrete and air - here, possible,
and yet, always beyond, "there" - the goal, silver-lit,


remains, despite the night, with us, and the moon still
burns white, and there are always in Devdungri, Gods


lying visible-invisible in the darkest hills of the night.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Namesakes

On the second date, he asked,
"What does your name mean?"
"It means the whole universe, all
of it, the whole damned thing," I
said, quite tipsy, and elated, but
found myself very soon deflated,
"Akhil," he said - being creepy -
"isn't that the first word of ABVP?"

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Those subsidies," he said,

"make no economic sense,
they're just populist, that's
my grouse," as he parked
his SUV on the foot-path
right in front of his house.
 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Table-lamps, window-panes,

picture hanging on the wall,
ceiling-fans, a nervous pet,
are all the clues that you'll
get to tell you that the ground
beneath your feet, the stone,
the iron, the mortar, is, when
it counts, little more than water.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Some you will love,

some will love you,
& thank your stars if
this were to happen
together, if it won't,
don't mind, somehow
with time you'll find
(though it'll never be
fair) a heart to bear.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Incredible India J&K Tourism Video

I suppose the most crucial role here was the editor's,
it must be damn difficult to keep the dead out, as he
kept the green of the hills, the blue of the lake, the
white of the snow, must be hard to keep the red out.




 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Your poetry has gotten better

after your break-up," she said,
"it must be all the feelings, no?"
I replied, somehow trying to be
terse, "I don't know," and thought,
I'd much rather have done **rse.

As s/he logged on

to the Yahoo gay chat forum for the first time
with the username intersex90, the first
minute was 32 pings.

Of those 32 pings, only 31 were tarnished by
curiosity, and the remaining was an ad
for dick-size-enhancement.

"So what do you have down there?" gayboy94 said,
"I'm only asking," and s/he thought how "only
asking" when actually asking was redundant.

The ping bell didn't stop: delhi10inch said "I have never
met an intersex person," "Do you have sex?" "So you
have both penis and vagina, really? Hot!"

and when s/he thought, s/he'd log out because maybe
this is not the right chat forum, bottomboy95 said
'Yuck, how does someone even suck you,'

so right before logging out, nervous though, s/he be like,
on forum chat so all can see: "It's gorgeous down
there, & I do just fine, and yes, fuck you."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Amrita Pritam

tr. from Amrita Pritam's Punjabi poem "Amrita Pritam"

There was pain,
that, like a cigarette, I smoked quietly,

and the few poems,
I flicked like cigarette ash.


"Amrita Pritam" by Amrita Pritam










Amrita Pritam

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"My address" - Amrita Pritam

tr. from Amrita Pritam's 'Mera Pata'

Today, I wiped off the house-number
on my door,

erased the name of my street, and more,
wherever I found signs giving people directions,
I rubbed them clean,

but if you still somehow mean
to find me,

knock on every door, in every street,
of every city and country - keep guessing,

this is a curse, this is a blessing - roam,
and wherever you'll find a free spirit,

know, that is my home.



Amrita Pritam
 

Friday, April 10, 2015

[Varun is typing]

Varun: Hey how have you been? You know
just last week I had been thinking of you
Varun: Listen hey I'd been meaning to tell you
something for a while but
Varun: Hey I saw you near PVR Saket the other day
and I was going to
Varun: Hi Uday, have you seen Margarita, with a Straw,
Would you want to go this week?
Varun: I don't know how to say this but I'm just going to,
Varun: Hiiiii
Varun: Hi

[Uday is typing]

Uday: Hiiii I'd just been thinking about you, where
have you been
Uday: Hellooooo you, long time!
Uday: Varun!!!
Uday: Hiiii, you know I saw you near PVR Saket
the other day and was going to say hi but
Uday: You know you have a long life, I was just
Uday: Hi

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What else

tr. from Varun Grover's 'Kya Karein'

I feel empty
like the last breath,

and no matter
how much balm the morning holds,
it is always less;

what else to do, but walk,
what else to do, but see this through;

when we were young, we were told
"Life is innocent (true!)"
now we know, now that the bullet's
going through.



Varun Grover
 

नीले से पैगाम

tr. from Sthira Bhattacharya's 'messages in blue'
 
ज़रा सा खिसकती हैं 
      ये नसें, कि गई रात का
इतिहास उनमें घुल जाए; 
      कहाँ कोई इतना बदलता है
कि खून से ही बचा रहे 


Sthira Bhattacharya


 

Friday, April 3, 2015

5 Steps to Get a Bharat Ratna

1. Write bad poetry,
2. Especially about Kashmir,
3. Level a mosque; then do
4. Ensure someone worse follows you
    so that you appear to be "moderate"
    in hindsight, then finally,
5. After lighting a fire, gracefully retire.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

मेट्रो स्टेशन की

भीड़ में इन चेहरों के साये
इक भीगी सांवली सी टहनी पर पंखुड़ियाँ


tr. from Ezra Pound's 'In a Station of the Metro'

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In the 1.4 MB floppy disk

I used to gift you two or three photographs,
(.jpeg's were smaller than .bmp's),
of us standing on the Gomti embankment,
or of you at the Chota Imambara
next to the portrait of the fat Asaf-ud-Daula,
or of our school Principal (after doing
vulgar things to him on MS Paint).

Then, along with those,
I gave you songs - one .mp3
(could be Bombay, 'Humma Humma'
or Dil To Pagal Hai, 'Chak Dhoom Dhoom'
or that 'Dance of Envy' where Shiamak Davar
was thinking what-was-he-thinking, and
Karishma Kapoor was dancing wtf-is-that-dance.)

Then, to fit them in, I gave you two more songs
but these were .rm, not even half an MB,
where even Lata didi sounded real,
like someone's grazed her throat
with sandpaper and
fed her pickles
for a month.

Then, after these (because
1.4 MB never felt small, then, stowing
all I wanted to give) I added three .ttf's,
font files, as special gifts, one of which even
had a middle-finger-symbol, which you then used
in almost every subject-line that year
1999.