Thursday, April 20, 2017

I know that your book-shelf has

Obama

Vivekananda
Savarkar
Golwalkar
but may I suggest,
Mr. Prime Minister, 
though it might 
cramp your style
or who knows 
you might just love it,
Rana Ayyub's Gujarat Files
read it before you shove it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

मांस की हल्की महक - सुकीरथारानी

tr. from Sukirtharani's A faint smell of meat tr. from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom

उनके हिसाब से
मैं, जिससे मांस की हल्की महक आती है,
मेरा घर जहाँ छिली हुई
हड्डियां टंगी हैं,
और मेरी गली
जहाँ लड़के मस्ती से फिरते हैं
जोरों से गाते हुए, खाल से पिरोये
नारियल बजाते हुए
सब इस कसबे के किसी बाहरी छोर पर रहते हैं।
पर मैं, मैं उन्हें आश्वस्त कराती रहती हूँ
कि हम तो सबसे आगे तैनात हैं।

The Indian army kills everyday in Kashmir

but the Indian army is still such a saint, 
because the day the Indian army somehow 
forgets to kill, the Indian army calls it ‘restraint’.

Dilruba: A Ghazal

I must have been nine when I first saw Dilruba,
the show 'Shrimaan Shrimati', year 1994. Dilruba,

who loved his neighbour's wife, quite inexplicably,
'coz the joke was the limp-wristed, see-saw Dilruba.

In one episode they said he was born on 6:6:1966,
such a 'Chakka', the whole room was like "Haw Dilruba!"

The worst is I remember I found it funny, I laughed
and yet felt a dread that took years to thaw, Dilruba.

Each morning, the school ground was fifty yards of fear,
a senior had yelled, "Hey," as if finding a flaw, "Dilruba!"

And yet they named him 'that which ravishes the heart,' this
was also his meaning, Akhil, just that you never saw Dilruba.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yogi

You know what I think of him -
he's a bad top who doesn't rim.

"पापा, बताओ न क्या लिखूँ,

क्लास-टीचर ने गाय पर निबंध लिखने के लिए कहा है।"
- अख़लाक़ की पोती

Sunday, March 19, 2017

रामजस के मेरे एक शिक्षक मित्र बता रहे थे कि हाल

ही में दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के छात्रों और शिक्षकों को
जब ABVP ने पीटा, तो उनमें से एक कार्यकर्ता ने
सबको देख कहा "अरे यार इनमें से आधे तो छक्के हैं।"

यू.पी. के इक्कीसवे मुख्य मंत्री योगी आदित्यनाथ ने
कुछ साल पहले गोरखपुर में अपने समर्थकों से ये कहा
कि मुसलमानों के खिलाफ लड़ाई में केवल ताकतवर
ही हिस्सा ले सकते हैं, कोई शिखंडी या हिजड़े नहीं।

कहानी की सीख - इस दौर के शिखंडी बनो। उनकी
मर्दानगी को ठुकराओ। छक्के बनो। ताकत की इस गलत
व्याख्या को अस्वीकार करो। जिनसे लड़ने को कहें उनसे
प्यार करो। हिजड़े बनो। नफरत पर धिक्कार करो।

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Rule of Law

When General Tikka Khan,
"the Butcher of Bengal",

who oversaw, in Dhaka,
one of the bloodiest wars

of his century, died years 
later in 2002, of a protracted

illness, he was laid to rest 
with full military honours in an

army graveyard in Rawalpindi, 
and a former Prime Minister of

Pakistan described him as 
a hard worker and someone

who had always, in his time, 
respected "the rule of law".

Monday, March 13, 2017

जंगपुरा की सड़क पर

चलते-चलते जब आंटी ने उसको देखा,
तो अपने साथ चलती बेटी से पूछा -
"इसने लड़कियों के कपड़े क्यों पहने हैं?"

बेटी ने पहले माँ को कड़ी नज़र से देखा,
फिर उसको, हल्के से, आधा सेकंड, फिर 
माँ से कहा - "उसने अपने कपड़े पहने हैं।"

Saturday, March 11, 2017

होली के दिनों

लखनऊ के मोहोल्लों में 
देख-देख के चलना पड़ता है।

गली-गली के खिड़कियों और बरामदों 
में बच्चे हाथ में पानी-वाले गुब्बारे लिए 
सिपाहियों की तरह तैनात रहते हैं।

चलते-चलते 
सड़क पर खतरे का अनुमान 
पानी के घपाच-सपाच धब्बों से लगाया जाता है -

जहाँ जितने ज़्यादा, वहां उतना संकट।

गुब्बारों में पानी 
कभी हरा तो कभी नीला
तो कभी केसरिया होता है।

आज कैसी होली चढ़ी है,
खतरा नापने लगे
गोया पूरी सड़क गीली है।

मम्मी-डैडी

सपा-कांग्रेस को वोट दिए थे, कहे
सोच समझ के किया था, पर अब 
मम्मी बोलीं, "अगर पड़ोस वाले पूछें, 
तो कहना भा-जा-पा को दिया था।"


Fiery but

doomed first-love - Check.
Friends who
hold you - Check.
Finger-wagging at the
Delhi skies - Check.
So far, so close,
but now, Amrita,
where's my Imroz?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

He was as arrogant as a

Chattarpur farmhouse but 
in the end, I figured he was 
just cluttered, like Adhchini. 
Which I liked. Our beginnings 
were rocky, we held hands,
infrequently, and uneasily, 
like Def Col and Kotla, 
but then, in some years,
often and more breezily, 
like Jangpura & Jangpura 
Extension. All those years,
of romance and apprehension,
he'd held me in his Najafgarh
arms and kissed me like 
Shalimar Bagh. Not that we 
didn't fight like Rajouri, 
crossing each other's Civil
Lines, not that he wasn't at
times distant like Greater
Noida, or quiet like Asola, 
but always, when the worst 
had passed, we returned at 
last, to where we'd been, some
where near Dilshad Garden,
by the blessings of Nizamuddin.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dear Rita

tr. from Sunita Katyal's हमारा दोस्ताना और वो कॉलेज का जमाना

Dear Rita,

You would also remember our college days?
It's been more than forty years. Lalbagh College,
Lucknow. We used to walk to it, and all through
the way, we'd chat and laugh like monkeys.
Do you remember Zoology's Ma'am Verma,
and Botany's Reva Bhatia?
You'd surely not have forgotten
that handsome practical examiner
who had come for our biology exam?
And how all our teachers went crazy over him,
the next day Ma'am Bhatia got a bobcut,
and Ma'am Verma came all done-up.
All of us students took his autographs
as if he was some celebrity, right?
And, do you remember, how we used to call
that Art Faculty teacher 'Murgi' behind her back?
Damn, those were the days.

Later, we still took the same rickshaw to Mahila College,
even when our homes were far from each others'.
Do you remember waiting for each other on the road-side?
Where sometimes, the loafers around would say
"good-morning," and we'd pretend we did not hear them.
Do you remember that PhD holder Ma'am Ishwari,
whatever topic she'd start teaching, she'd end up with another.
And that Inorganic Chemistry sir who'd
tell us stories within stories,
what was his name, I can't seem to recall.
And that Organic Chemistry teacher
who used to sing us lullabies?
Do you recall how we used to make faces
when they made us stay after college for N.C.C.?
And how, in later years, because of our different streams,
we had parted, but still, kept on meeting each other.
I still remember chatting with your Bhabhis,
and playing with your nephews and nieces on my lap.
In your verandah, how we lazed with chai,
sipping its ginger, black-pepper and gud slowly.
How we told each other all our secrets,
did we keep anything from each other?
Even after we married, we still tried
to meet each other; Rita, it's been
more than forty years of our friendship.

Now we're far
but Facebook and Whatsapp
do the trick. The only difference is,
then we were single, me and you,
now each of us has at least one bahu.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Peace-time

is when death settles in,
when it stalks each room
and hides, like naphthalene
balls, in their clothes. When
memories get welded to
places which become this
is where he used to sit, or
this is where he studied.
War took them but the winter
of peace-time really leaves
them behind. Peace-time,
the abacus of casualties,
peace-time, the stock taking
of shadows, peace-time, when
the season asks you to move on;
on your brows, still, the dew of his
passing, in the sky, still, the half
crescent of death, and in your
eyes, the flower growing from
his last words, his dying breath.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A question my countrymen love to ask

zaps me - "What do Kashmiris want?"
and after they are done asking, they 
don't want to hear the answer (what if 
it's drastic!) like the one in this acrostic.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A sweater went to an Oxfam bin

a muffler went to a friend,
a shirt was outlived by years,
a tie met its natural end.

One by one, as your gifts went,
it somehow softened the storm,
but all I've worn in the years
that've come hasn't kept me warm.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Spit,
on the
thread, as
they worked,
not so long ago,
in a Bombay textile-
-mill's dept of weaving,
would still force the upper
caste workers to wholly ban
SC workers, 'coz contact with
their spit would be sinning, so SCs
were kept only in the low-paid dept of
spinning, just so they would never be their
immediate factory-floor neighbour. 'Caste is a
division of labourers,' Bhim said, 'not just of labour.'

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Whenever the years

tr. from Shahryar's 'Zindagi jab bhi'

Whenever the years pull me to you,
we salt midnight, eclipse the moon,

all lanes turn chrysanthemum, as the
days end with your voice, like now,

like this, once again, your memory
knocks, then whispers, does not let

the night climb; every time we met,
we fell apart; will it be again this time.