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.