Sunday, December 16, 2012

Freedom met Hope and other poems

She decided to become a poet
Write beautiful songs

That night
Her knee-length black hair
Turned whitish grey
Even as she slept

Truth is discoverable
But is truth a he? Or a she?
Perhaps deception?
Or a game we're losing

Freedom met Hope
In the back seat of a ST bus
They started a relationship 
When Hope paid for the bus ticket
This led to marriage
They travelled
Sometimes standing
Sometimes on top of the bus
Moving from one town to another

One day, Hope was abandoned
Was informed, "Mr H, Utopia is not healthy
Our people encounter grief"
They want fishes
To fly
Instead of swim

Freedom was not permitted to accompany Hope
She continued with her nomadic life
Given the nature of the times
She frequently changed places of residence
Took up temporary causes

One day, there was a knock on the door
That's when she fled

He holds a photograph
Of a village near Hingni 
That may vanish, in entirety, in a space of a few days
Due to 558 registered suicides (so far)
This year

More people die of smallpox and snake bites
He says, with a smile

Accursed questions: when will you stop asking them
Asked the ruler
As he flogged the sea waves
For disobeying his diktat

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Raga Daes on the surbahar

The shrub told the tree
Can I sit in your lap?

She feeds toast to 99 pigeons
Named after the 100 Kauravas
Duhsala is missing
Since she prefers French Fries

So, the story is, Krishna was asked by Saraswati
How much taalim do you do to woo these pretty gopis?

Once upon a time, Ampersand was the 27th alphabet
Till Z nudged it out of the last place in the English lexicon

The day, mother played Raga Daes on the surbahar
The tree outside her window decided to scent its flowers

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

To sit on a stone and six other shorts

Oh, how many smiles
Did she not smile, today

Is there anything more tragic than a man
Who chews paan
Instead of swallowing the betel juice
Spits on himself in the mirror

What happens to an unfinished story ...

My dad is better than yours
Since he can put his ears to the sand
And predict the exact moment
Low tide becomes high tide

The tree is dead
Do we burn it
Along with the other dead trees
On the funeral pyre

The way mother
Wraps a saree around her hips
Reminds him of an algebra sum

To sit on a stone
Watch the grass grow

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A compass that helps find happiness

A collection of 143 types sarees with a matching set of blouse
Four cats, three maids, two cars
And a husband

The judge's eyes widened
When the prosecutor sang a libretto in the court
As part of his petition

She enters the room
With ayurvedic herbs in her hair

Whenever I open my eyes after a particularly troublesome night of ponder
My first thought is
I hope the neighbour has not stolen the newspapers
Yet again

When guru one came face to face with guru two
In the airport lounge
There was silence

Did you know
Little B has shifted his penis to his little finger
Whensoever he wants to do susu
He puts his hand out of the train window
And does so

In the kitchen, she stood
Wondering what the Bhagvad Gita said
About adding sugar-free to gaajar ka hawla

You have let us down, said my parents to me
I wonder why
As I read their post-card in the andaa cell
At Yerawada Jail

He yearned for a kiss from her sweet lips
She pined for Nalli Nahari in desi ghee

The dowry demand said: a compass that helps find happiness

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Adam and Eve

What if it hadnt worked out for 
Adam and Eve on their blind date

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oh, to simply collect laughter instead of bonsais

Oh, if only the thrash walked itself to the door, and emptied itself, everyday

Oh, to write short stories in one language and dream in another

Oh, to find a molehill inside the mountain

Oh, to ask the pastor how many false "I do" has he presided over

Oh, why does he open his eyes, every time I shut mine

Oh, why did I pay heed to my parents when they told me not to interrupt when grown-ups are talking (as a result, I've not uttered a word for the past 44 years)

Oh, will it be possible to stand on the moon and look into the window of my house with a powerful telescope

Oh, to hear the sound of a pen on a cheque being made out for me

Oh, what would we have done, if someone had not invented suburbs

Oh, to simply collect laughter instead of bonsais 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alternative endings to my life and other shorts

When she got down on her knees
To propose to an ant
She crushed it

A young I questions me
Don’t you think this tale could have played out better
I asks me

My little girl is growing up
She plays hopscotch
Between Paraguay, Angola and Papua New Guinea

I dip a spoon into the caramel custard at the café
On the next table, a newly-wed couple
Are planning to conceive a baby

It would be nice to be chaperoned
Especially during broken dreams

How many flies in this country?
Millions? Billions?
We need a census report

The greatest of leaders
Lay still in his a/c coffin
In a nuclear bunker
He wondered: if he should get up
Put on his walking shoes
To take a pilgrimage to the pyre
As a final act of atonement

Father and daughter watch TV
He thinks her clothing is bizarre
She feels the same about his ideology

How about a national museum of pens
That have signed deals, death penalties, pacts, proposals
Conspiracies and farces

I’ve discovered approximately 67 alternative endings to my life
Today's mission is: to search for one more

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I wonder who granted them permission

I wonder who granted them permission
To sell ads in day-dreams

I wonder who granted them permission
To ensure there is crowd in every Kolkata street

I wonder who granted them permission
To build more grave yards than sky-scrapers

I wonder who granted them permission
To plant a tree on top of another tree

I wonder who granted them permission
To start romance classes for married women

I wonder who granted them permission
To change verbs into proper nouns

I wonder who granted them permission
To offer a cup of green tea to a lonely coffee drinker

I wonder who granted them permission
To tax clouds that drift across the borders

I wonder who granted them permission
To burn the pumpkin crop to prevent a locust attack

I wonder who granted them permission
To peep into my mind

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mr Sun, how are you? --- and other shorts

We should have been the children of our time
But someone stopped the clock


Every time he speaks,
The words reverberate
Causing indigestion
Among the high and mighty


It's Eid
The solitary moon has been spotted by the clergy
Won't someone invite her for the lunar festivities?


The trees have been practising, walking
Now they take tiny steps out of the city


Night falls, the waiters rinse tumblers, clean tables
Dump the discarded arguments into the garbage bin


Lord Krishna sat at the conference table in the boardroom
He smiles at how good v/s evil is being arbitrated these days


Even as she stared into the mirror
Someone opened the door for her


Headache, headache, please go away
Come again, to my enemy's head


In my next life, I want to have a leitmotif
From the moment I exit my mother's womb
For starts, I don't want to be born in a hospital
For ends, I don't want to die in one

It makes the rest of living, sickly


The government has decided to measure
The proliferating hatred in our land
All those in the favour of this idea
Please punch your neighbour's nose


He always sings Malkauns
After he gargles his mouth
With polluted Ganges water
And a bit of earth, mixed in it


The elephant fell in love with Juliet
When Juliet chose not to reciprocate
The elephant broke his heart
With a big bang that caused remorse
Among lovers all over the planet


He wants to celebrate the next Dipawali on Jupiter
With a comet that gleams through the sky
Can he?
Will he?


He plants a word in the river
It drowns
And becomes an underwater forest
When no one is looking


Mr Sun, how are you?
I don’t know.

Are you kind of hot? Would that be a fair description?
I don't know.

How were you born?
I don't know.

Do your parents love you? Did they, ever?
I don't know.

How long have you been the sun, Mr Sun?
I don't know."

I've a complaint against you. Why do you make me sweat so much?
I don't know.

Do you know there are people who have sun stroke because of you?
I don't know.

Don't you know how potent your sun-rays are? Still?
I don't know.

What will you do when the sun-rays get weaker?
I don't know?

Will they go weaker?
I don't know.

Mr Sun, don't you think, you've to give me some kind of answer.
I don't know.

Are you afraid of darkness?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Five mantras for Dussera day

Thought for the day: Lets privatise the government

Fate of a poet: Tughlaq becomes monarch. Amir Khushro prefers death.

My niece who is a software engineer saw the sea for the first time
She said: If we create an algorithm-based artificial intelligence machine
It will snychronise the 9.5 million waves

My friend, called
Khari-Bholi by her parents
Started a restaurant chain all over North India
She officially named it: Hindi
In Hindi, she served the following meals: Awadhi, Bagheli, Bhojpuri, Bundeli, Chhattisgarhi, Garhwali, Harauti, Haryanvi, Kumauni, Lamani, Malvi, Marwari, Mewari, Nimadi, Pahari, Rajasthani, Sadan and Urdu.
Every time a gourmet was served on your table
A sound chip embedded inside the plate spoke to you in the dialect you ordered

When Ravana has a headache
Does he have one crocin for his rakashasa body
Or one crocin per head

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Laila Majnu and other shorts

When she saw the sea, she was appalled
Shouldn't the waves be covered in a veil

If only, I could afford a Kiyonabu-Shakaru print
Instead of a cheap kimono
And miniature tea cups
From the duty free

Seeing the empty bed on her left side
Makes her weep
Now, the soiled sheets need to be sent to the dhobhi

Dear PM
Please begin your next speech
From the Red Fort
With a qawwali
To the accompaniment of a pakhawaj

The season of cherry came
Petals, all fallen
No time to complete the woodblock
The paint refuses to dry

The handwriting expert
In Chotti Bazaar
Worries what binary codes will do to his profession

When Qays was prevented to marry Laila
He wrote distichs, and wandered the streets of the walled city
One day, someone called the naked Qays, a Majnu
That's how the first chapter of Laila-Majnu was born

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's the story of my life

Like a Leviathan he sleeps
When I wake him up
His first question is: Where's Kumbhakarana?

Something is wrong with the light in the sky
It has been flickering
Voltage fluctuation ...

The wedding ring
Wound around his finger
Was a blade of couch grass
That she plucked for him

Her first formal kiss
Lasting all of 7 minutes, 7 seconds
Was on top of a rock
Made of platinum

Why do trees exist?
Whenever planet earth has a rash
They can give it a good rub

Dear Mrs Ganges
You have five and a half wrinkles
Dark circles under your eyes

Do something re

I look for Nagarjuna
I find Muktibodh
I read neither

It's the story of my life

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Five ditties

Once I was a yellow coloured chair
Upon me sat an enormous sloth bear
I told him: please sit on the floor
Instead, he showed me the door
Told me to start behaving like a sofa

The glacier it told the sun
I'm not having any fun
I've something important to say
Could you send cooler rays
Its becoming kind of warm

Past, present and future decided to have a fight
About who is more relevant, and who is right
Past said, if not for me, you wouldn't be born
Present said, ultimately it's all about today morn
Future, his brow it started to furrow
He said: I'll give an answer day after tomorrow
The lion hummed a tragic ballad
Of how his diet was restricted to a salad
My girlfriend wants me to be less mean
She has ordered me: "go green"
I still prefer shredded lamb to brinjal

A line and a circle were having a conversation
While sipping a cup of tea at the railway station
The line said: a line should be quite fine
Why then try to read between the lines
The circle said: I really don't understand why
The zero was invented along with the Pi
Exchanging geometrics, they watched the rain
Holding hands, they boarded the local train

Shuklaji's Story

Shuklaji says
A taxi revolution is required
A proper hartal
To emancipate cab drivers, who are victims
Of all that one can be victims of
All this paraphrased without a shadow of doubt from the Hakim Panel Report
Shuklaji and I share a taxi
From Vakola Bridge
He wants a lift to the Union office on Kennedy Bridge
No one can say no to him
Not I
Nor the juniors
I tell him so
Yes, at the first go
A rarity
He says, cab drivers are rude if they don't - and whores if they do
It's as simple as that, sahab
Shuklaji points to the Latin origin of number-plates
The British created their empire
Without a script
That's why we're probably more protective of them
And their language
We love the minorities of history
I meet Shuklaji after 18 months
A brain tumor
Diagnosed by Doctor Jaheel from Tata Hospital
Radiation for Rs 1,800/-
30 sessions in all
Mere liye Jaheel bhagwaan hain
Even though he is Musalmaan
What is that supposed to mean
Our social circumstances, are really two
Our cultures and our gods are utterly different

Our illnesses are the same, though
Years ago
Shuklaji told me
I can do Vakola to Nariman Point in 25 minutes
Via Sea Link
He did
In his Ecco
At 7 am
While praying
His agarbatties make me sneeze
My nose is an atheist
He says, not possible
Everybody believes in god
A god is supposed to be for our own good
Why do you pray?
Habit he says
Plus I am a Pandit
He shows me his Janehu
Both hands off the steering wheel
Shuklaji saw hell
He says, hell is a hospital
Yama Raja strolls through the corridors
Prescriptions equal to Yama mantra
Shuklaji is going to the Union office to sort out a default loan
Sab dalaali hain, sahab
They have pressed the mute button
I am going to un-mute it
Once I was flying in from Lucknow
I informed Shuklaji
Pick me up from the airport
Ok saheb, he said
Flight landed
Baggage didn't
He circumambulated outside the airport, thrice
Was accosted by two traffic officers
Punched on the ears
These days in this city, you get boxed, that is it
The charge: Shuklaji is a Pandit from Jaunpur
That's it? I asked
It is about me breathing their air
A lot of angry people in this city
They want my air, too
I told them, it will be high tide
A fresh round of sea breeze will enter the city
I was punched on the nose again
They asked: who teaches you such things
Your ancestor's Vedas?
That's when
Shuklaji's brain started to grapple with taboos
We drive home
Through the city
I stare at Shuklaji's skull
You wouldn't believe how taxi drivers are treated
Every taxi driver living in his own mind
Shuklaji's mind, plays games
He de-codes number plates, non-stop
He quotes rules from the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1989
This is the new Veda, sahab
Near the flower market
We don't move
There's a traffic jam
For 30 minutes
Shuklaji sighs
It would appear that this city is unwell
Or in the ICU
Shuklaji says, I was not operated
Due to six badaams
Soaked in the evenings
Consumed with the badaam-skin
Before sun rise
Some daadiwallah hakim needs to prescribe six badaams for this city, too
Shuklaji wants to return home
To Jaunpur
Especially after his examination by Dr Jaeleel and his colleagues
Quickest recovery, ever
A pat on the back
From the specialists
For that one morning
Shuklaji felt he was an equal
He forgot about the postcard
His son sent
Yet, no admission in Benares Hindu University
Shuklaji does not want his son to be a taxi driver
For cab drivers there is one nation
It is discrimination
Shuklaji says: Driving a taxi for 30 years caused my brain tumour
What will Shuklaji do now?
What will his brain ever do?
I know not
Elphinstone Road arrives
He exits
Swivels his six-foot frame over the iron frame
Walks to the railway platform

I won't see him again

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What the paper said to me

The forecast for tomorrow is,
We propose to skip the summer season

The story of her life

From a broken cup
She sips tea
When there is none

A bit of breeze slipped through the window

Into her past

In the folds of the world map
Weeds are sprouting
Argentina covered by a crease
Serbia has a hole
Congo is de-inked
A shirt hung over the Pacific Ocean
How will he wear a wet shirt?
To school in the morning?

I seek idyll
Said the paper to me
Something profound penned by a ball point nib
In clear blue handwriting

Till such time
Four paper weights will suffice

Krishna's flute and other shorts

Is a river, a river
When it has no water?

The word I etched on a stone
Rebelled, and flew way
Like a hot air balloon

This birthday, I will tattoo
A bar code on my forehead

The story of their marriage

She couldn't find a suitable font
That said I love you

The sun sets
On the banks of the Yamuna
Krishna knows not what to do
The gopis have hidden his flute

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unspoken rules and such other things

His one genius discovery
Attar that smells like roasted tandoori chicken

I propose a dedicated radio channel
That plays birdsongs

They married
Due to an evening walk
Beneath poplar trees
Memorable as it were
Whose date neither remembered

Except for a crying child
All is silent
In the 9:17 local

He looked into the map
And saw himself

Who invented unspoken rules? Can I meet him?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chopin and I

Last evening, instead of bombinating,
I chit-chatted with my piano
Over a Sonata
I rendered with a strand of hair

Exceedingly delicious
Said a Liszty fly to me
Though your finale for the piano concerto is a bit extended
Write littler, edit morer

I got excoriated
When I was told to compose a Nocturne
For Chopin buried in a grave
Between Bellini and Cherubini

I stopped playing
For the first time in 378 years
And played the C minor no.21

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dinesh Thakur and two other shorts

The marigold said a birth certificate is unobtainable
So the notary jotted in the certificate
Cause of birth: Dubious pollen seeds

Good thing, the sun is a punctual riser
Said the darkness to the night

(For Dinesh Thakur)

For you
I picked up a pebble at Moliere's grave 
From the Père Lachaise Cemetery
By the time, I met The Imaginary Invalid
On the hospital bed
The stone had hemorrhaged

Friday, September 28, 2012

Three palash stories

One palash said to the other
When they placed me at Saraswati's feet
I had to compete with marigolds and chrysanthemums

The other palash said
When they placed me at my master's feet
I had to combat arthritis and old age

The baby palash told the two
I don't want to be plucked, ever
Who is Kelucharan Mohapatra?
I want to become him 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three shorts on a Sunday

Mrs Bose chose Rabindro Sangeet
Over Das Kapital
Since it meant Bengali sarees and rosagullas

The churchbell rang
As Tuka stood on the steps with a red clothbag
Selling agarbatti
At 40 paise a piece
To the warkaris
Attending Sunday Mass

Why do my words catch fungi
By the time
I transfer them onto a slate

When Valmiki and Vyas met

The highway robber and fisherwoman's son
Were felicitated
During a literary seminar in heaven
For composing the Ramayana
And the Mahabharata, respectively

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Five shorts on a Saturday

Ever since I tamed a million bats as my pet, I sleep upside down.

An idea for the government: Charge VAT for new-born babies.

Human beings that run on batteries? My next invention.

When he looked deep within his soul, he saw the family heirloom, an alarm clock set for yesterday.

A brothel with a R&D centre? One more of my inventions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The diplomat's dilemma

Do you wonder, sometimes
Tugging at the grey safari suit
What you say
You regret, later
Er ... Sir I think that border would look nicer 
If we shift it one latitude to the East

No reply
The emissary scribbles a jotting
Longish pause
No translation for that (as yet)
No chance to second-guess
To re-organise the strategic advantage
He sips his grey-earl tea, bland

The formal confabulation of eight hours
Full of twists, traps, awkward testaments
Makes you dislike yourself
What you say
As much as the cunning ambassador
On the other side
Of the table
Who wheezes

Its yourself you blame
Your arbitrations are discomfited
Your underwear itches
Why do words tumble out, such?

You change the subject 
Sun Tzu, ArthashashtraBattle of Qadesh, Vienna Convention, cheap wine, tailored suits 
By then you realise 
Nothing more to discuss

Only silence
Aided by the hottest day in Delhi
Which makes negogiating an international treaty