Monday, April 25, 2011

From Z to A


Inspector Z
The bullet ridden body of Monsieur Poirot
Which was discovered
After a month
At the bottom of a swamp

Inspector Z
Applied Vicks on his nose
To ward off stench
Made a note
In the absence of a superior faculty
And investigative skills
The murderer of the French speaking Belgian detective
Shall never be nabbed

A time shall come when there will be No Entry signs all over the city; and the streets shall have nowhere to go

I wish I had 400 nostrils
And even a bad cold
Could not deter me from smelling bread from the bakery
On the ground floor

I wish I had 400 ears
So that the sea breeze
Could (and would) whoosh through them
From one ear to the next one

I wish I had 400 pairs of hands
To soap the back of the one who loves me
Even though I snore

As I oil her hair
She sighs
Seeking 400 nights of silence

My poverty is bigger than yours
One country said to the other
And started begging at the crack of dawn

The artiste
As he sauntered
Into the breakfast room of a high-priced hotel
Located in a snake sanctuary

He spotted 37 bald men
19 bald women
A few children
Also bald, I hasten to add
Who were gobbling fried eggs

Sunny side up

My mummy
Loves power cuts
Since my daddy
Proposed at 9:32
During one such cut in Nagpur

Mummy says daddy had nothing better to do

On top of the mountain, he stood
He mounted the periscope onto a tripod
But instead of continuing his deep study of the stars
As per the Hirji calendar

He removed his kufi
Off his bald head
Prepared a kettle of sweet tea
Sat down
Stroked his white beard that touched his broken knee
And sipped noisily

The Minister
Sort of knew
That the unruly bunch of rowdy rascals
Who were protesting the unprecedented price hikes
And diesel shortage

Were planning to self immolate
In front of his Swiss villa
The aid of adulterated kerosene
Procured from the black-market

All thanks

To an officially notarised communique

Which the Minister had stamped
For a tiny fee

Up above the sky
So high
I smoked ganja
On the sly

Invited Descartes and Locke
Who in turn invited Kant and Hegel
For cappuccino on a summer afternoon
To confabulate
Once and for all
Whose ideas were the profoundest

That's when God
(Well, for the sake of argument, lets assume he exists)
So God
Asked Kierkegaard
How many tree saplings did you nurture when you were on planet earth?

How many lives did you save?
What kind of good deeds?
And so on

Socrates, who was chairperson
A foul odoured potion
Yet again

The hemlock was confiscated
The meeting was adjourned

On his way out,
Nagarjuna while chewing mawa with Confucius said:
I'm afraid the question could not have been answered

To do so
Would have been to acknowledge
God's existence

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An abhang she sang


He told me, and I agree
If elections in this country would be truly democratic
Voting will be declared illegal

When the 20 year old died
We couldn't take our eyes off
His young mother who wailed
Tore her hair off

We shut our ears
To her cacophony
(Almost woke up the boy)

All through the night
She recited the most exquisite

The century-old songs of wisdom
Putting the boy to sleep, forever
Once and for all

There are two kinds of people
Those who bathe religiously; and those who religiously bathe
I belong to neither

When her grand-mother
Heard the verdict
She vigorously shook her mane
Tapped her skull

Her lord
Resided inside, in there

If they knew
They would send a mob
Smash her brain
Jail her lord
Inside a brick and mortar cage

Where her prayers
Would be contaminated by summons
From the Highest Court in the Land

On bent knees
He proposed to her
With a red emerald-cut diamond

He awaits her reply

The matter is sub judice
For two decades

Friday, April 22, 2011

Salaam: Narayan Surve


She said to the apothecary:
My heart is broken, sort of
Do you have a prescription for unhappiness?

He walked through
The city roads
In the sludge and filth
Day dreaming about becoming
A star vendor for oranges in the city bazaar

Just then
A pack of dogs barked
Chased him
He panicked
He tried to run, he tripped
With his basket of oranges

And his dream evaporated

When the dogs unpeeled the oranges and squashed them

Every time
She stepped out
To purchase yesterday's vegetables
At the lowest market price
It rained
And she got drenched

Every time
He stepped out
His troubles began
He knew not how to re-pay his family debts

Every time
The two of them stepped out, together
It was to save the fare to the nearby station
That's how their love began
In a rickshaw with the slogan
Dosti pakki, kharcha apna apna

When Narayan Surve exited
They blew their own trumpet
Draped him in the national flag

Would have been nicer if they
Honoured him with a flat

When he was breathing

She saw him
He smiled back
And got a 17.5% tip

My wife
Does not mind me taking a book to bed
Which I read
All through the night
Since the book is harmless

She knows not
The book I'm reading
Is potent

Has caused the downfall
Of three tyrants
And their military governments

She reached home
Sipped warm water
Swallowed a pregaba

What would it be?

Verdi's Requiem or Handel's Messiah?
Before she could answer
Her head
Was spinning
, swimming

She fell asleep without feeding her kittens
All of whom
Perched on her back, playfully
Yet again

The young intern
Who her boss said: resembled the woman
In the renaissance painting
Worked 14 hours

One day
When she entered her boss' cabin
To leave the quarterly report on the teak-table
She looked up

She had vanished from the painting

My death is planned
A funeral pyre next to the sea like Shelley
The fire providing warmth to rats, urchins and addicts
Some music, no dance
Free arrack for all

My ashes being washed away by the next tide
Intermingled with the early morning ablutions of Koli women
Who will wash their bottoms with a bit of me

So? Who did Godot wait for?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A donation of sorts

We've painted all the cows in our village, saffron

Plus bullocks, oxes, calves

Next we shall paint whales, lemurs, hippopotamuses, elephants, armadillos, unicorns
And a few mermaids

For which we require a generous donation

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Booze, Cassandra and Cai Lun

Booze should flow, always
At least that's what I believe

When Wang Xizhi wrote the Lan Ting Xu
The most celebrated piece of calligraphy
In the world

Cups of
Strong wine floated down the stream
While 35 poems were composed

While he stayed awake
Tossing and turning through the night
On how to squash his opponents
And conquer the world

She woke up
Early morning
Sipped green tea
And plucked a few white lilies
For her hair

Cassandra saw the future
Except her own
Except her own

When Cassandra saw her future
She couldn't live in the present
In the present

AD's launch of his coffee table book
On the history of zebra crossings
Was cancelled

They say AD's motor car got stuck at the city's oldest traffic signal

So many years had gone by
She was a whore
Of sorts

They paid her no salary
No polite words, either

Her solace was an unresponsive God
And a line of red ants
That marched past her mattress
And sensed her anguish
Every time she heard
The evening prayers from the minaret

The best selling author
Wrote no more

Since the next day
His damn words
And transformed themselves into the exact opposite
Of what he wanted to convey

It would be super interesting to meet
Cai Lun of the Eastern Han Dynasty
In the elevator
How do you do sir?

Lun would rub his hands together
Replying in that 50 AD Chinese accent of his:
I've run out of paper. Can you lend me some?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dr Ambedkar and other shorts


Travelled many miles
From Champaner
To Mumbai

In silence
He paid obeisance
At the memorial in Dadar
On 6 December

He could not read or write
With his meagre savings
Purchased eleven books that had Doctor Saheb on the cover page

Returned home
Didn't eat on the train
Clutched the eleven books
Which his three daughters
Would read, again and again
For a year

Till the next anniversary of Doctor Saheb
On 6 December


The village
Which was vacated

In the middle of nowhere

Now engulfed
By barbed wires

And the smell of dead jacarandas

A day of stuffing letters into envelopes
Which no one would open
Serving machine tea to people in puny cubicles
In which no one knew his name

He waited for evening
When they would broadcast
A Rafi song
On the radio

That would make the rest of the day
Less miserable than it was

This is a true story about repressive intolerance, I'm told

The Maharaja
Known for defenestrating people who worked for him
Built a massive-castle
Whose spire
Could be seen from the moon

The Maharaja
In a hand-embroidered robe
With his face on the back of it
Created with rubies, jade and diamonds

Visited the massive-castle
In a Benz Patent Motorcar

The handle of the door to the massive-castle
Refused to budge

The Maharaja
Pushed and pulled
Roared in frustration
Till a pair of white rhinoceros
Imported from Czechoslovakia
Were pushed out of the window

And that's how monarchy was crushed
In these parts

Precocious young boy
Told his father
Tapping the keyboard of the latest gadget in his palm
It is unicode, it is encrypted
Papa, you won't understand

Father smiled
He wanted to tell his son
How when he was young he ran into the storage room
That stored thousand sacks of coffee beans
To do his calculus homework
When he heard his father's footstep

How he skipped
An extra helping of avial with lemon rice
When his mother transmitted signals
With her eyes

He could have
But he did not want to
After all, his young son would never understand the secret code
Of bygone times

I smoked a cigarette
Under an old baobab tree
That stood there with a certain amount of equilibrium

It was all very reassuring

Last night
It came crashing down
For no rhyme or reason

As I decided to quit smoking
I saw scavengers pick up one branch after another
Green leaves
And a bit of history under their bare-feet

He made a kite
For his son
On his 11th birthday

It was a beautiful kite
And the last one he made

He remembered all the details

How it flew away
With his only son

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Actors, Peacocks and Poets

Pablo and Czeslaw
In their chessboard game
And kissed the cosmic atoms on their feet

By saying
They are better than me in every regard
I know Vinda
And they do not

Yellow Back Sunbird
The Peacock
Taking tiny steps
Twirling it's feathers
Trying to attract my attention

It didn't know
That the Peacock
Was exhausted
By the constant preening, daily wooings

How the Peacock wished
He could be a Yellow Back Sunbird
For one rainy day

She didn't know how to explain to her 12-year old daughter
That the two ugly boils which were multiplying on her chest
Weren't a curse

The bigger the boil
The lesser the dowry
Her unemployed father would have to pay

Very bleak
Too damn comfortable
So damnably easy
Muttered the thespian
Staring into his lucky mirror
After a thousand and one perfect shows

He knew
What to do
Press one button
They sighed or groaned
Another button
They gushed and roared

They even applauded his pregnant pauses
Shouting encore
Analysing his famous silence on their journey home

And yet
He despaired
He peeled off his wig
What new role?
He wiped off the foundation cream
What new method?

While he gargled
His acting muse bid adieu

The Thespian would falter

Day after
A blur
He would forget lines

In one year
It would be splutter, stammer, stutter
Commas, semi colons, hyphens, full stops
Until finally
There was nothing

He sat in his balcony
Feeding sparrows along with his grand-daughter
They surveyed the cityscape
Reveling in the infinite silence
Which he had sort of perfected

That's when his grand-daughter said: "Say something, na?
You're always so quiet, dada."

Warplanes in the sky
Tiny boats drowning
Someplace, somewhere the government takes big decisions
That matter to no one

She who knows nothing
Brushes her hair
On the shore
Orders a platter of fresh fish

She is surrounded by kittens
Who can sense that the next three day's meals are taken care of

Every full moon night
The goddess of eternal abstinence
Waits for the
Virile long-haired boy
And the older girl
To make love
In front of her stone idol
In the 12th century temple

The next morning
When the priest
Washes the floor with coconut milk
Lights a lamp and decorates her with kadamba flowers
She runs out of the sanctum santorum
Totally nude
And dives into the temple tank
To soothe her passions

In the summer night
The rain
Did its pitter-patter

On cue
Hundreds of peacocks did their dance
For the benefit of the ladies
Were suitably unimpressed
As they had been
For eons

Random Ramblings about Mary Quant who did invent the mini skirt


The greatest invention on the planet
(According to a girlfriend who, repeatedly, thrashed me in badminton)
is Mary Quant's invention of the mini skirt

The well-known Malayali author is dead
His fans weep
A former student writes a never-ending obituary

His wife is most happy
She does not have to prepare cups of tea
She does not have to sharpen his pencil set
She does not have to grease the ball-bearings of the aging swing on which the great author, thought

His publisher scratches his pate, and says what a great man, sir
Finally one copy of the great author's book will sell

Millions of activists
Gathered in the capital
In order to press their charter of demands
That included
Non stop supply of
Ganja, arrack, cheroot, state lottery tickets, tapioca chips

Plus whores who delivered
A discourse on democracy
Every time they were screwed

Of lighting the diya
The VIP tripped
Inauspiciously fell down

And all of Saraswati's Vandana
Could not lift him up again

It's quite umm extraordinary
Said the Trotsykite
To the Marxist
How the umm movement has collapsed

The Leninist nodded

So did the Socialist
Who rubbed his stomach, anti-clockwise
And burped
Revolution Zindabad

That's when
The Maoist told the Stalinist
Lets burn the Parliament
Lets overthrow the Government
Lets Kranti

The others silenced him
We speak of the bowel movement
The most popular movement of our times
Among our people

Saying so
They scrambled to the bathroom
To sit on the potty

He was thrown
Out of school
For day-dreaming

The class-master didn't believe
He could decipher complex arithmetical algorithms
From patterns
The clouds made in the sky

Early morning
After a good shit in the fields

The villagers laid siege on the river bank
Armed with petitions
And axes

Rubbed their eyes in horror
One seeing how the government babus
Had a permanent redressal to their grievances

Instead of river water
They released paal payasam
From the local dam

Friday, April 15, 2011

A few women I know

That day she cooked
The most delicious dish in the whole world
Which no one was permitted to eat

The three urchins
Jumped into the dustbin
To hunt for bandicoots
Which they captured
With a rusty iron rod
Dipped in a flame

They prolonged their game
As long as they could
Until she got hungry
Picked up the bandicoot
And ran
All the way, home

The six year old
Picked up the
Cyan and magenta crayons
And painted her version of the planet
Ugly, unaesthetic, irrelevant

But with no political boundaries

What goes down
Will come up one day
She said
Inside her burkha
When we met in Luxor

After 30 years
Her prophecy
Is coming true

The lady
Who launched a thousand face-lifts
Walked through a broken
Security system
Stared into the CCTV camera
Finger-printed her toe
After they had frisked her bag and body

One hour later
She hob-nobbed with power brokers of the joint committee
On the 17th floor
Discussed the resource crunch
With the fat-cat minister
Who used to mastermind kidnappings
In his days of youth

Walked out of the Secretariat
Carrying the Minister's fortunes
To Berne

No one her frisked her
On the way out

Everyone merely stared
At the sashaying hips of
The Maharani of Money

The child
Sang a nursery rhyme
The great classical singer
Was wonderstruck

As to how someone could manage to get every note
So horribly wrong
And yet be musical

Every morning
You're not there

All that remains is
A crumpled bed-sheet, three half-read books
(Including Banna Bhai's letters which he penned in Central Jail),
Your asthalin pump, nasal drops, pain killers
A weathered saree you use as a pillow

My memory of the night
Is a blur

All I remember is
You slept
And I counted every single breath

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ten shorts from Tamil Nadu (May 2009)

# 1

He read a big fat pedantic tome
Full of phantasmagorical words
That tickled his palate no end
But unknown to him

She used to swot house flies
With the same book
While he had his afternoon siestas under the oak tree

# 2

He saw a herd of donkeys
Crossing the street, purposefully

In a rare moment
Of honest incandescence
He forgot who he was

And started to bray

# 3

Very confusedly
He paid obeisance at the memorial
Of the martyred leader
On his 17th death anniversary

He muttered a silent prayer
For the lengthy life of the martyred leader's assassin
Who may or may not be alive
Or dead
According to the people of the land

Who no longer distinguished good from evil

# 4

Her seven daughters
Had nimble fingers
With which they collated splints
Transformed them into matchsticks
With a sulphur dip
Than anyone in the district

Not that anyone
Not that anyone

# 5

Not knowing
Where he was born
He uprooted trees
With his bare hands
In order to reassure
His inner self
That all things have a root
Of some sort

# 6

For 58 years
He plastered movie posters
Of all shapes and pedigree
On the city walls

Genres appeared and outgrew their purpose
Movie stars ebbed into wilderness
Golden Jubilees celebrated

He knew it all
Until one day his vision faltered
Due to c-grade adhesives

His grandson double-seated him on a bicycle
En route to the optician
That's when he asked his grandfather if he had ever seen a movie in his living life

# 7

One by one
He fed wrinkled pages to the fire
To ward of the winter chill
In his index finger
That had once pencilled words
One by one
On those pages

For hundred and one years

# 8

The elephant is no no more
In fact seventeen elephants are no more

The elephants had survived
The Aryans, Buddha, Moghuls, East India Company
All the Gandhis

Until it raided a semi-solid shed
That stocked chewing gum
Which the hungry elephants swallowed ...

# 9

He tells me
Mosquitoes invaded our township, saar
Causing allergy, malaria, malaise

He hasn't slept from full moon to full moon
So he dozes in the office
His children scratch their skin, incessantly
Instead of solving algebra and calculus papers

But my wife is happy, saar
Our relatives will not visit us
You see, mosquitoes have invaded our township

# 10

The river has changed it course
Tanks, wells, spring channels are dry

All that remains is sand
Which is being stolen

By the people of the land who have three choices ...
- To Steal
- To Migrate
- To Search
For water, 500 metres below the ground ...

Four shorts of sorts

Every morning
He gargled his mouth

He saw
A stranger in the mirror
A face that was not his own

He peeled off the mask
To reveal someone else

Yet again

I swear, it's true

The hot springs in this cave
Beside being geo-thermal and therapeutic
Tastes like sugarcane juice

This village
Was a special one
Since all the inhabitants carried a bright coloured cane basket
On their backs

In which they carried
A piece of the blue sky

My niece was elated
The first time she saw the Himalayas
From an ashram
That served Maggi noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Next morning
She was heart-broken
Look, the Himayalas have vanished

I was tempted to tell a tale

I explained how it was due to fog formation
The difference between temperature and dew point

It had nothing to do with skipping her homework
On transitive, intransitive and incomplete verbs