Friday, October 15, 2010

Elegy for a Broken Vase

The malleability of wet clay

a potter's wheel, and a friend's hand

birthed it. Stories etched into it

as dented lines, like wrinkles

formed by River's waves, on stone.

Mud coloured and elegant, it occupied

a prized position, as befits

a handcrafted gift, with grace.

Until it fell,struck by my careless hand

in dignity, stature, and height.

Sorrow, distress, and broken pieces of earth

delicately curved, now fill the room and

Draughts of love, clouds of memories and

bittersweet vapours escape

from the empty vase and

search for a new home.

An Urn of Ashes

It is an ornate and

heavy urn of bronze

shaped like a lota of water

its handles carved, and arching.

A heap of grey ashes

lies within, sanctified

hallowed remains.

The ashes seem heavy as lead

I lug them on my back

around my neck

everywhere I go.

Nourish them,

cherish them, they are

but metamorphosed forms

of the words you said, the smiles

you looked, and the red flame

of my heart before it was taught to turn to stone.

Waiting, hoping, for the phoenix to rise again

The leaden dread that I wait and carry in vain.

An Ode to Civil Lines, Delhi, October 2010

Dusky darkness steals in softly

tiptoeing, caressing

cradling the white fragrance

of the raat rani, shefali, frangipani.

The moon between the two tall palms

is a boat,the star is a kiss on the sea-sky.

At 7pm in the grounds of IP college

spirits and gods and trees converse, converge

mysteries like flying insects are suspended in mid air.

A silhouette of blue smoke seems strangely kindred

At odd hours, this spirit creeps out to share this tryst.

Six years have made it a translucent omnipresence.

The spirit then glides down the street, smoky

invisible, pervading ,absorbing atmosphere

which mutates into night smells

of ice creams, juices

the red paan, smoke-fags,

the tea,maggi,rolls,momos, chocolates.

Smell jostles against smell, sounds and lights

the shops, autos lined up at the gas station

cars teeming with yellow cat-like eyes

Sights, sounds, memories, smells,feelings

are brewed together, the logic of boundaries

comes undone. The spirit traverses

Into the by-ways of winged hopes,

feathered dreams, nostalgic idylls

of rajpur road, under hill lane, sri ram road

and ram kishore road, that take me across

time and space, desires and sorrows

back to the room of my own I call home.

My five feet four inch fifty kg body

may measure acres, square miles, cities

but a whiff of smoky translucence

will always glide down bylanes of dreams

and memory at 7pm, in the IP grounds

the place that brewed and stewed and cooked

and sprouted me.

Untitled (a response to J M Coetzee's Disgrace)

(a response to J M Coetzee's Disgrace )

Teach me

that ritual, David's daily penance

of carrying dead dogs to the incinerator.

Teach me

Lucy's mysterious wisdom

of accepting guilt without flinching.

But do not try to tell me

that shame precludes desire.

That they cannot coexist.

Desire can be consecrated, pure

as blue fire, it can worship the beloved

yet not touch her with its flame.

Fighting Menka and her fellow apsaras

of desire and temptation

is the agnipariksha remorse must win over

A daily duel with these dancing apsaras

only strengthens my victory

and is my highest offerring of atonement

towards grace.

The twin birds on the tree of the gita are within me

one tempted to eat the fruit, the other watching

even if one succumbs to the fruit, the other redeems.

Passport Sized Photographs


A dummy, a mannequin,

a wax work doll. An object

to be stared, commented, laughed at.

A robotic machine. Controlled

by a set of commands.

“Shift your face to the left

your neck is not straight, your face

not level with the ground,madam.”

The holy mantra for photo-production

needs me to wear a plastic smile on demand

of correct length and breadth measurements

The canvas of my life

is replaced by a cheap blue one

Dirty too. I persuade him

to make it grey.

And I wonder how many sittings

and how many, many rehearsals

would capture my flyaway spirit

and inject a whiff of my soul

into this two-inches-of-gloss

this millimetred smile?

Show me how to do it like you

Not a hair

out of place. Not a ruffle

of dress, or of distress.

No clumsy errors

or misdemeanours

Perfect. And


A story-book heroine

A graceful River flowing easy

is how your life

appears to me.

And I stare ruefully

at my own cobwebs

that need dusting,

removing, rethinking

at the fault-lines

that lead to earthquakes

at the sticky slime

at the acids that corrode

layers of my limestone mind.

Show me how to do it,

Show me how to do it like you.

(The last 2 lines, taken from Stevie Wonder's song, also form the epigraph to Alice Walker's The Color Purple.)


Frost's road diverged in a yellow wood

But what made him take the one less travelled by?

How do Hamlets decide to be or not to be,

to go, to act, to kill, or to not?

This power to alter our states is terrifying,

Nambisan is right, and I am paralysed

into Alfred Prufrock's doubt and inaction.

Dumbledore said our choices make us

what we are. But how do we make choices?

But let's not get existential. Let's not fall

into this canyon of questions.Let's find

a bottom to this bottomless gorge.

Or make one!

Open Pandora's box! Out with the bees,

the wasps and the hornets with their stings!

rights, wrongs ,goods, bads, reason,

logic, morals, virtues!

Shoo them away! No wreaths of laurel,

no gold medals for me! No awards of virtue!

Who decides, anyway? And when? On the Day

of Judgement on my deathbed?

Shoo them away! Doubts corrode as much

as certainty, after all. We meet in rust. That's

what Arundhathi Subramaniam said.

If you want references. And authorities.

Shoo them away! And let me be.

Let me be happy. Let me be me. Let me live

the life I wanted, the life I dreamt of. Let me

follow my heart.

But a tiny demon stalks me constantly

whispering in my ear

“are you quite sure?”