book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

strangertime: an anthology of Indian Poetry in English

Pritish Nandy (ed)

Nandy, Pritish (ed);

strangertime: an anthology of Indian Poetry in English

Hind Pocket books 1977 218 pages

ISBN 0000

topics: |  poetry | anthology | india | english

Book Review

as you can see from this rather tattered cover, this book came to me well-used, and since then it has seen a lot of page-turns. this book was completely unknown to me until a college street bookseller thrust a battered copy at me and the raw energy of the poems immediately captivated me. i think i paid rs. 10 or 20 for it, which is among my best buys for any book ever. here is real indian english poetry, poetry that breathes the raw spirit of living here, being indian.

growing up in a calcutta suburb in the seventies, when desmond doig was mesmerizing us budding anglophiles with the junior statesman, and all of us were lined up to be benji league members, pritish nandy was a name we knew but we hadn't read any of his thirty odd volumes of poetry - most of these have reached oblivion (well-deserved?). but this anthology, brought together in those heady times, breathes fire, and it is well worth the time for any lover of poetry.

published by hind books, it was meant to be a cheap edition objective being to get it into the hands of the indian poetry-lover, who was of course, forever cash-strapped. without an audience poetry is nothing, so the objective was to create an audience for this new fledgeling art. by the time it found me, around 2006, the paper was yellow and crumbling, the binding had fallen apart, and the haunting black and white cover image faded. the typeset is from a poor man's foundry, and there are many typos, some of which i have tried to fix a bit in my excerpts below (my edits are annotated in square brackets).

clearly, this was a labour of love.  it is inspired by an amazing passion.
the poets all speak to you, you feel it in the introduction, and while some
of the poets i don't care for as much, the "where-the-page-falls-open
quotient" is very high - i.e. - any chance encounter is likely to be well

the book also has considerable historical value.  voices like agha shahid
ali are being anthologized for the first time.  arun kolatkar's jejuri has
just come out, as has adil jussawala's missing persons.  all the major
voices of today are here, except for arvind mehrotra (at the time, he was
away at the writer's workshop, iowa).  for a description of the poetic
energy of the times, you may want to read this piece
by amitabha mitra.

on the whole, one of my top books of indian english poetry, second only to
mehrotra's twelve modern indian poets.


Introduction by Pritish Nandy

A. K. Ramanujan
    Prayers to Lord Murugan (5 pages)
    Love poem for a wife
    Small-scale reflections on a great house
    The last of the princes
    Still another for mother

Adil Jussawalla   (bio at poetryinternationalweb)
     From 'Missing person'

Agha Shahid Ali
     K.L. Saigal
     Learning Urdu
	   Note: all five poems are from his first book, Bone Sculptures, 1974
	   quite out of the publishers' radar today.  Pls let me know if anyone
	   who has a copy and would like to share (either a photocopy or a
	   few of the lesser known poems).  It is quite a lost book; it doees
	   not figure in his so-called collected work: Veiled Suite: the collected poems.
	   If you have a copy that you would like me to share excerpts from
	   (or even if you would rather I didn't), pls let me know!!

Arun Kolatkar
     The bus
     The Priest
     Heart of Rain
     The door
     A low temple
     The horseshoe shrine

Bibhu Prasad Padhi
     Rains in Cuttack
     For Pablo Neruda
     From The Extra Medical Ward

Deba Patnaik
     Death is not dying
     Babna Baya
     My father's chair
     The clapping of one hand
     A toy is no toy if it does not break
     Against all silences to come  

Dilip Chitre
     Poem in self exile
     The nightmare is a peninsula
     Duties of a citizen
     Tukaram in heaven, Chitre in hell

Gieve Patel   (bio at poetryinternationalweb)
     The arrogant meditation
     Soot crowns the stubble
     Bodyfears, Here I stand
     On killing a tree

Imtiaz Dharker  (homepage)
     Going home

Jayanta Mahapatra
     Coming of winter
     Song of the river
     The beggar takes it as solace
     The Indian way

Kamala Das
     A man is a season
     A wound on my side
     Madness is a country
     My son's teacher
     The descendants

Keki N Daruwalla
     The apothecary-I
     The professor condoles
     Advice to weak stomachs 109
     Bombay prayers
     Mehar Ali - the keeper of the dead 114

Kersy Katrak  (obit)
     The Radharani of the Hevajra Tantra
     For Adil and Veronique
     Dadyseth  [man dying of cancer]

Keshav Malik  (wiki)
     The kingdom of despair
     Queen of hearts

M. F. Husain

Mrinalini Sarabhai

Nissim Ezekiel
     Minority poem
     A small summit
     After reading a prediction
     The hill

Prayag Bandopadhyay
     Shadows in the subway

Pria Karunakar
     Iktara: Songs of the mendicant poet

Pritish Nandy
     The nowhere man

Rakshat Puri
    This and that 163
    Rain 164
    The painter
    Shah Ibrahim
    Seasonal round

Randhir Khare
    A hymn in darkness
    On the balcony
    Whispering firs

Ruskin Bond
    Lone fox dancing
    Your eyes, glad and wondering
    Cherry tree
    Boy in a cemetery
    Not death

Shiv K. Kumar
    A mango vendor
    To a prostitute
    My mother's death anniversary
    Broken columns
    Returning home

Shree Devi
    In the eye of the sun 187 	[Darjeeling setting]
    A village fair 189
    Homecoming 191		[Meets old lover after her bad car accident]
    Yet I return 192		[lover is in too much of a hurry]
    Ultimately this 193		[lover is philandering]

Siddhartha Kak
    The Indo-Anglian
    Antara			[mixes in a hindi poem]
    Victims			[woman revenges father, by ?making love?]
    Unawares			[storm, is like love, unexpected]

Subhas Saha
    The seven stages of love

Subhoranjan Dasgupta
    Lost cities
    She who forgets
    A defeatist's slogan for Lenin

Suresh Kohli
    After the war
    Perturbed emotions
    Calcutta: Earth explodes

S. Santhi
    Something of you
    My name is another


  Some pieces were available on the web, but I have typed in much of this
  hard to find text, my excitement in which I would love to share.

  Biographies are summarised from the back of the book; phrases like "just
  published", "currently" etc refer to the mid-70s.

From the introduction (by Pritish Nandy)

I have attempted this somewhat heretic, breakaway selection.  Personally, I
would have preferred to make an even more audacious break with the existing
formula.  But objectivity is the bane of most anthologists.  Hence most of
the familiar names are here as well.

But you will also find young, experimental poets, who have not appeared in
such anthologies before.  Good poets.  Daring poets. Poets who have taken
the occasional risk with the printed word.

You will find here a few familiar names from other disciplines.  The
celebrated dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai is represented by two remarkable poems,
M.F. Husain...  Ruskin Bond has in his simple, unpretentious style, fashioned
some fascinating lyrics, quite different from the grim landscape of
contemporary Indo-English poetry.  There is Arun Kolatkar, the artist and
visualizer, represented by selections from his brilliant first book, Jejuri.
And of course, Gieve Patel, one of our finest contemporary painters.

not so familiar names: Deba Patnaik, Jayant Mahapatra, and S. Santhi, all of
whom have been widely published and recognised overseas.  Also new names like
Agha Shahid Ali, Pria Karunakar, Siddhartha Kak, Imtiaz Dharker, Randhir
Khare, Subhas Saha, Bibhu Prasad Padhi and Shree Devi, who have been
published in many magazines but have not been anthologized before.

Things have changed [in the last decade].  Indo-English poetry, whatever may
be its rating compared to language writing, seems firmly entrenched in the
Indian literary scene today. Despite the sahibs who still harbour hopes of
making it big overseas. Some do, true. Dom Moraes has made it, after his
fashion. But for most of us the priorities are quite different. And some of
us have made it where we always wanted to: right here, where the action and
the living audience is.

The anthology is therefore not defensive.  It celebrates our success.  It
attempts to capture the drama, the intensity, and the sheer vitality of the
poetry being written today.  It is a statement of faith as well.  Faith in
the future of such writing.

The poems in this book span roughly the last decade: a period in which, I
believe, Indo-English poetry has found itself.  There is less
self-consciousness, less of an attempt to hitch our wagon to the lodestar of
British poetry.  There is a greater awareness that Indian writing in English
must relate to the Indian literary scene.  Our roots lie here; this is our
literature.  So it must reflect our concerns, discover our root metaphors -
rather than seek salvation under another sky, [another milieu] that inspired
our predecessors to write pathetic elegies to springtime beside the Thames in
the hope of finding readers and promoters in distant climes.

The poets I present here have chosen their own poems.  I have only tried to
put this informal selection into shape.
					 Calcutta 1977 Pritish Nandy

A.K. Ramanujan

   (b. Mysore 1929.  Deccan College, Poona -> Indiana U on Fullbright.  Prof
   Dravidian studies and Linguistics at U. Chicago. ]

PRAYERS TO LORD MURUGAN : A.K. Ramanujan : p.17


	Lord of new arrivals
	lovers and rivals:
	at once with cockfight and banner—
	dance till on this and the next three

	women's hands and the garlands
	on the chests of men will turn like

	O where are the cockscombs and where
	the beaks glinting with new knives
	at crossroads

	when will orange banners burn
	among blue trumpet flowers and the shade
	of trees

	waiting for lightnings?


	Twelve etched arrowheads
	for eyes and six unforeseen
	faces, and you were not

	Unlike other gods
	you find work
	for every face,
	and made
	eyes at only one
	woman. And your arms
	are like faces with proper


	Lord of green
	growing things, give us
	a hand

	in our fight
	with the fruit fly.
	Tell us,

	will the red flower ever
	come to the branches
	of the blueprint



	Lord of great changes and small
	cells: exchange our painted grey

	for iron copper the leap of stone horses
	our yellow grass and lily seed
	for rams!

	flesh and scarlet rice for the carnivals
	on rivers O dawn of nightmare virgins
	bring us

	your white-haired witches who wear
	three colours even in sleep.


	Lord of the spoor of the tigress,
	outside our town hyenas
	and civet cats live
	on the kills of leopards
	and tigers

	too weak to finish what's begun.
	Rajahs stand in photographs
	over ninefoot silken tigresses
	that sycophants have shot.
	Sleeping under country fans

	hearts are worm cans
	turning over continually
	for the great shadows
	of fish in the open

	We eat legends and leavings,
	remember the ivory, the apes,
	the peacocks we sent in the Bible
	to Solomon, the medicines for smallpox,
	the similes

	for muslin: wavering snakeskins,
	a cloud of steam
	Ever-rehearsing astronauts,
	we purify and return
	our urine
	to the circling body
	and burn our faeces
	for fuel to reach the moon
	through the sky behind
	the navel.


	Master of red bloodstains,
	our blood is brown;
	our collars white.

	Other lives and sixty-
	four rumoured arts

	pins and needles
	at amputees' fingertips
	in phantom muscle


	Lord of the twelve right hands
	why are we your mirror men
	with the two left hands

	capable only of casting
	reflections? Lord
	of faces,

	find us the face
	we lost early
	this morning.


	Lord of headlines,
	help us read
	the small print.

	Lord of the sixth sense,
	give us back
	our five senses.

	Lord of solutions,
	teach us to dissolve
	and not to drown.


	Deliver us O presence
	from proxies
	and absences

	from sanskrit and the mythologies
	of night and the several
	roundtable mornings

	of London and return
	the future to what
	it was.


	Lord, return us.
	Brings us back
	to a litter

	of six new pigs in a slum
	and a sudden quarter
	of harvest

	Lord of the last-born
	give us


	Lord of lost travellers,
	find us. Hunt us

	Lord of answers,
	cure us at once
	of prayers.

OBITUARY : A.K. Ramanujan : p.22

	Father, when he passed on,
	left dust
	on a table of papers,
	left debts and daughters,
	a bedwetting grandson
	named by the toss
	of a coin after him,

	a house that leaned
	slowly through our growing
	years on a bent coconut
	tree in the yard.
	Being the burning type,
	he burned properly
	at the cremation

	as before, easily
	and at both ends,
	left his eye coins
	in the ashes that didn't
	look one bit different,
	several spinal discs, rough,
	some burned to coal, for sons

	to pick gingerly
	and throw as the priest
	said, facing east
	where three rivers met
	near the railway station;
	no longstanding headstone
	with his full name and two dates

	to hold in their parentheses
	everything he didn't quite
	manage to do himself,
	like his caesarian birth
	in a brahmin ghetto
	and his death by heart-
	failure in the fruit market.

	But someone told me
	he got two lines
	in an inside column
	of a Madras newspaper
	sold by the kilo
	exactly four weeks later
	to streethawkers

	who sell it in turn
	to the small groceries
	where I buy salt,
	and jaggery
	in newspaper cones
	that I usually read

	for fun, and lately
	in the hope of finding
	these obituary lines.
	And he left us
	a changed mother
	and more than
	one annual ritual.


	Sometimes I think that nothing
	that ever comes into this house
	goes out. Things come in every day

	to lose themselves among other things
	lost long ago among
	other things lost long ago;

	lame wandering cows from nowhere
	have been known to be tethered,
	given a name, encouraged

	to get pregnant in the broad daylight
	of the street under the elders'
	supervision, the girls hiding

	behind windows with holes in them.

	Unread library books
	usually mature in two weeks
	and begin to lay a row

	of little eggs in the ledgers
	for fines, as silverfish
	in the old man's office room

	breed dynasties among long legal words
	in the succulence
	of Victorian parchment.

	Neighbours' dishes brought up with
	the greasy sweets they made
	all night the day before yesterday

	for the wedding anniversary of a god,

	never leave the house they enter,
	like the servants, the phonographs,
	the epilepsies in the blood,

	sons-in-law who quite forget
	their mothers, but stay to check
	accounts or teach arithmetic to nieces,

	or the women who come as wives
	from houses open on one side
	to rising suns, on another

	to the setting, accustomed
	to wait and to yield to monsoons
	in the mountains' calendar

	beating through the hanging banana leaves.

	And also, anything that goes out
	will come back, processed and often
	with long bills attached,

	like the hooped bales of cotton
	shipped off to invisible Manchesters
	and brought back milled and folded

	for a price, cloth for our days'
	middle-class loins, and muslin
	for our richer nights. Letters mailed

	have a way of finding their way back
	with many re-directions to wrong
	addresses and red ink marks

	earned in Tiruvella and Sialkot.

	And ideas behave like rumours,
	once casually mentioned somewhere
	they come back to the door as prodigies

	born to prodigal fathers, with eyes
	that vaguely look like our own,
	like what Uncle said the other day:

	that every Plotinus we read
	is what some Alexander looted
	between the malarial rivers.

	A beggar once came with a violin
	to croak out a prostitute song
	that our voiceless cook sang

	all the time in our backyard.

	Nothing stays out: daughters
	get married to short-lived idiots;
	sons who run away come back

	in grandchildren who recite Sanskrit
	to approving old men, or bring
	betelnuts for visiting uncles

	who keep them gaping
	with anecdotes of unseen fathers,
	or to bring Ganges water

	in a copper pot
	for the last of the dying
	ancestors' rattle in the throat.

	And though many times from everywhere,

	recently only twice:
	once in nineteen-forty-three
	from as far away as the Sahara,

	half-gnawed by desert foxes,
	and lately from somewhere
	in the north, a nephew with stripes

	on his shoulder was called
	an incident on the border
	and was brought back in plane

	and train and military truck
	even before the telegrams reached,
	on a perfectly good

	chatty afternoon.


	They took their time to die, the dynasty
	falling in slow motion from Aurangzeb's time:
	some of bone TB,
	others of a London fog that went to their heads,

	some of current trends, imported wine and women,
	one or two heroic in war or poverty,
	with ballads
	to their name.  Father, uncles, seven

	folklore brothers, sister so young and lovely
	that snakes loved her and hung dead,
	lovers, from her ceiling: brother's many

	wives, their unborn stillborn babies, numberless
	cousins, royal mynahs and parrots
	in the harem:
	everyone died, to pass into his slow

	conversation.  He lives on, heir to long
	fingers, faces in paintings, and a belief
	in auspicious
	snakes in the skylight: he lives on, to cough,

	remember and sneeze, a balance of phlegm
	and bile, alternating loose bowels and hard
	sheep's pellets.
	Two girls, Honey and Bunny, go to school

	on half fees.  Wife, heirloom pearl in her nose-ring,
	pregnant again.  His first son, trainee
	in telegraphy,
	has telegraphed thrice already for money.

Adil Jussawala

        (b. 1940 schooling Bombay, 1957-70 England: architect, wrote plays;
	        Lecturer St Xav College 72-75; Lands End 72, just
		publ. Missing Person)

FROM 'MISSING PERSON' : Adil Jussawalla : p.34


	"No Satan
	warmed in the electric coils of his creaturesor
	Ganga Din
	will make him come before you.
	To see an invisible man or a missing person,
	trust no Eng Lit. That
	puffs him up, narrows his eyes,
	scratches his fangs. Caliban
	is still not IT.
	But faintly pencilled
	behind a shirt,
	a trendy jacket or tie,
	if he catches your eye,
	he'll come screaming at you like a jet --
	savage of no
	sensational paint,
	fangs cancelled.


	His hands were slavish;
	but fingers burst out
	from time to time
	to point to a fresh rustling of tails
	in the dustbin of history,
	a new inflexion of sails
	on the horizon.
	His thoughts were bookish;
	but a squall from the back of his skull
	suddenly fluttered their pages,
	making himm lose his bearings,
	abandon ship.
	His cock, less rulable than his rest,
	though fed on art-book types
	Hellenic forms,
	plumped on libraries circulating
	white bellies, white breasts,
	with a catch in its throat,
	jumped at nipples and arses
	of indiscriminate races and classes.
	His tongue,
	his one undergraound worker perhaps,
	bound by a sentence
	pronounced in the West,
	occasionally broke out
	in a rash of yowls
	defying the watch-towers of death,
	police dogs:
	a river of wild statistics;
	or in riddles
	crafted for cell-mates
	aspiring to doctorates
	from the Universities
	of Texas, Bogota, Bombay,
	students of socio-linguistics.

	[also 3-7]

Agha Shahid Ali

   [belongs to Kashmir but spent most of his formative years travelling. After
    having spent some years teaching English at [Hindu] college at Delhi, he has
    been in the US on various teaching assignments. His first book of poems
    Bone Sculptures, appeared from Calcutta in 1974.
    This is his first appearance in an anthology]

    see also: reminiscences by his niece, Ayeda Naqvi.

SHAVING : Agha Shahid Ali : p.40

	In the mirror, the hand hacks at my skin
	It belongs to the child who used his father's
	blades for sharpening pencils, playing murder.

	Full of cuts, I have the blood-effacing
	instruments: water, water, and survival
	tricks : I'm as clean

	as glass, my brown face glistens
	with oil, turns a fine olive green.
	There's no return

	to the sanctuary
	of ripped paper-boat-journeys

	This is morning, I must
	scrub myself.  A college lecturer, I smell of talcum
	Old Spice and unwritten poems.

	The mirror smiles back like a forgotten student:

	The hairs die like ants in the basin.

	My reflection gathers the night's dust,
	I wipe it with the morning towels.

	The girls drape their muslin shawls,
	their necks turn on Isadora's wheels:

	In the classroom I shuffle like unrhymed poetry

	The blade, wet with Essenin's wrist,
	waits with the unwritten poem.

STORM : Agha Shahid Ali : p.41

	The rain dissolves its liquid bones
	Humming the wind, the lightning grazes
	the skin.  A cloud descends :
	My eye is vapour, this, the dream's downpour:
	I must seal the tin-blue spaces.

	I glued some scraps, made a paper boat:
	Balancing a prophet's journey, the Great Flood in
	the bathroom sink, I was six years old:
	Mother, close the tap, Noah has
	hit the night, his Ark will sink.

	In the Atlantic's
	pariah-blue, there are no survivors;
	On the unsinkable Titanic,
	I'm left all alone; Ice-bergs hide their whale-teeth:
	I can't save Noah, God has picked his relic,

	beaten me to it: He wears Noah, a charm
	round His neck.  On the empty deck,
	no life-boat left, my fingers
	capsize.  My jacket
	is ice, I hold on to its cold, to anything.  Mother,

	I'm alone, terribly alone.

K.L. SAIGAL: Agha Shahid Ali : p.42

	Nostalgic for Baba's youth,
	I make you return
	his wasted generation:

	I know you felt
	it all: the ruined
	boys echoed

	through you,
	switched their sorrow
	on the radio:

	the needle turned
	to your legend.
	you always came

	with notes of madness,
	the wireless
	sucked your

	you quietly died,

	them to a sleep
	of Time
	Counting the ruins

	of decades,
	the boys were left,

	with the air's
	Now two generations

	you retreat with my sanity,
	Death stuck in the throat!

LEARNING URDU : Agha Shahid Ali : p.43

	From a district near Jammu,
	(Dogri stumbling through his Urdu)
	he comes, the victim of a continent broken
	in two in nineteen forty-seven.
	He mentions the minced air he ate
	while men dissolved in alphabets
	of blood, in syllables of death, of hate.

	"I only remember half the word
	that was my village.  The rest I forget.
	My memory belongs to the line of blood
	across which my friends dissolved
	into bitter stanzas of some dead poet."

	He wanted me to sympathize.  I couldn't,
	I was only interested in the bitter couplets
	which I wanted him to explain.  He continued,

	"And I who knew Mir backwards, every
	couplet from the Diwan-e-Ghalib saw poetry
	dissolve into letters of blood." He

	Now remembers nothing while I find Ghalib
	at the crossroads of language, refusing
	to move to any side, masquerading
	as a beggar to see my theatre of kindness.

TAXIDERMIST : Agha Shahid Ali : p.44

	First the hand, delicate,
	precise, knows how to carve
	where to take the knife, make
	more alive than when alive:

	No fur, no feather,
	I am only skin-deep, so easy
	to get to the cancer beneath:

	He fills me with straw,
	Yeats's tattered coat at twenty-five,
	(not the adolescent fancy-dress-scarecrow
	when I won the first prize!)

	No hurdle now,
	he reaches my hunger:
	I've never felt so full before!

	I scare eagles, the stuffed crows
	in his room; they escape me,
	freedom a synonym for the sky.

	Caressed by the leopard's vacant eye,
	finally warm, secure, in his skin,
	I turn towards the bloodless direction.

	The fan drones in my veins,
	blood humming like chopped air;
	my tongue hangs out, poems dead in its corners.

	Suave pimp of freedom, here I am, ready
	for your show-window:
	Will you now bargain for me?

Arun Kolatkar

   [b Kohlapur 1932. works as graphic artist in Bombay.  poems in magazines
   and anthologies since 1955.  Jejuri pub. 1976 is first book. Recently won
   the Commonwealth poetry award.
   His translations of Tukaram have been widely acknowledged.
   influence on the work of young Marathi poets has been considerable.]

THE BUS : Arun Kolatkar : p. 45

     The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down
     on the windows of the state transport bus
     all the way up to Jejuri

     A cold wind keeps whipping
     and slapping a corner of the tarpaulin
     against your elbow.

     You look down the roaring road.
     You search for signs of daybreak in
     what light spills out of the bus

     Your own divided face in a pair of glasses
     on an old man's nose
     is all the countryside you get to see

     You seem to move continually forward
     towards a destination
     just beyond the caste mark between his eyebrows.

     Outside, the sun has risen quietly.
     It aims through an eyelet in the tarpaulin
     and shoots at the old man's glasses.

     A sawed off sunbeam comes to rest
     gently against the driver's right temple.
     The bus seems to change direction.

     At the end of a bumpy ride
     with your own face on either side
     when you get off the bus

     you don't step inside the old man's head.

THE PRIEST : Arun Kolatkar : p.46

An offering of heel and haunch
on the cold altar of the culvert wall
the priest waits.

Is the bus a little late?
The priest wonders.
Will there be a puran poli on his plate?

With a quick intake of testicles
at the touch of the rough cut, dew drenched stone
he turns his head in the sun

to look at the long road winding out of sight
with the eventlessness
of the fortune line on a dead man's palm.

The sun takes up the priest's head
and pats his cheek
familiarly like the village barber.

The bit of betel nut
turning over and over on his tongue
is a mantra.

It works.
The bus is no more just a thought in the head.
It's now a dot in the distance

and under his lazy lizard stare
it begins to grow
slowly like a wart upon his nose.

With a thud and a bump
the bus takes a pothole as it rattles past the priest
and paints his eyeballs blue.

The bus goes round in a circle.
Stops inside the bus station and stands
purring softly in front of the priest.

A catgrin on its face
and a live, ready to eat pilgrim
held between its teeth.

HEART OF RUIN : Arun Kolatkar : p.48

The roof comes down on Maruti's head
Nobody seems to mind.

Least of all Maruti himself.
May be he likes a temple better this way.

A mongrel bitch has found a place
for herself and her puppies

in the heart of the ruin.
May be she likes a temple better this way.

The bitch looks at you guardedly
Past a doorway cluttered with broken tiles.

The pariah puppies tumble over her.
May be they like a temple better this way.

The black eared puppy has gone a little too far.
A tile clicks under its foot.

It's enough to strike terror in the heart
of a dung beetle

and send him running for cover
to the safety of the broken collection box

that never did get a chance to get out
from under the crushing weight of the roof beam.

No more a place of worship this place
is nothing less than the house of god.

THE DOOR : Arun Kolatkar : p.49

A prophet half brought down
from the cross.
A dangling martyr.

Since one hinge broke
the heavy medieval door
hangs on one hinge alone.

One corner drags in dust on the road.
The other knocks
against the high treshold.

Like a memory that gets only sharper
with the passage of time,
the grain stands out on the wood

as graphic in detail
as a flayed man of muscles who can not find
his way back to an anatomy book

and is leaning against
any old doorway to sober up
like the local drunk.

Hell with the hinge and damn the jamb.
The door would have walked out
long long ago

if it weren't for
that pair of shorts
left to dry upon its shoulders.

A LOW TEMPLE : Arun Kolatkar : p.50

	A low temple keeps its gods in the dark.
	You lend a matchbox to the priest.
	One by one the gods come to light.
	Amused bronze. Smiling stone. Unsurprised.
	For a moment the length of a matchstick
	gesture after gesture revives and dies.
	Stance after lost stance is found
	and lost again.
	Who was that, you ask.
	The eight arm goddess, the priest replies.
	A sceptic match coughs.
	You can count.
	But she has eighteen, you protest.
	All the same she is still an eight arm goddess to the priest.
	You come out in the sun and light a charminar.
	Children play on the back of the twenty foot tortoise.

THE HORSESHOE SHRINE : Arun Kolatkar : p.51

	That nick in the rock
	is really a kick in the side of the hill.
	It's where a hoof

	like a thunderbolt
	when Khandoba
	with the bride sidesaddle behind him on the blue

	jumped across the valley
	and the three
	went on from there like one

	fleeing from flint.
	To a home that waited
	on the other side of the hill like a hay

Bibhu Prasad Padhi

  [b. 1951 in Cuttack.   teaching at the Ravenshaw College,
   Bhubaneshwar. many poems published India and abroad... incl
   Dialogue India, poetry magazine from Calcutta, ed. Pritish Nandy
   (1969-1975). This magazine also published Jayanta mahapatra and Deba
   Patnaik for the first time in the early seventies. ]

RAINS IN CUTTACK : Bibhu Prasad Padhi : p.52

In the afternoons they whisper
over the roadside fields
round my waterproof room
in crystal-cut forms.

Their sharp, geometrical angles
drain the needlethin leaves
now weakened by the summer typhoid.

Their rough and rocking fingers
dishevel the chaste and religious casuarinas
into bathing figures.

Their cool and miraculous hands raise
the shy greens in the dust brown grass
under my feet, stretch them about me.

Dear mother, if you will allow me
I shall make the mudgreen carpet mine
and make full use of it while
the rains about me are whispering still.

Deba Patnaik

    educated in India, England and the US.  After teaching for a while in
    Cuttack, has returned to the US, where he teaches literature, philosophy,
    and photography.  Till recently, consultant at Kodak Museum, Rochester,
    now lives in Syracuse.  Work has appeared in both English and Oriya.

DEATH IS NOT DYING : Deba Patnaik : p.57

	Death is not dying.  Waiting
	Waiting for a dead man to arrive.  Not any man, but
	my father.

	I remember those endless railway lines stretching tediously
	like a golden-jubilee marriage.  And
	For my father to return.
	Those trains that never brought him back
	when I desired
	Crossing those lines, fighting with the man at the level-crossing
	and sitting perched on an unaging indifferent boulder.

	Now I wait after thirty years, maybe thirtyfive,
	for the dead to come

	Who says death is lonely? Living

	Memory is a treacherous rainbow-arch
	to blind alleys -- unending, serpentine.
	Memory is a shadow-play tricking us into believing.

	Some day when my wife and I sit
	with our whitened hair, corrugated skin
	and a grandchild asks
	tell me granpa tell me about your pappa
	my wife will only blink, I know.
	and I'll whisper
	I know nothing.

THE CLAPPING OF ONE HAND : Deba Patnaik : p. 63

	we honour
	as if
	we cannot
	live without.

	cling to
	as if
	no meaning
	exists beyond.

	will wait
	runs out.


fumbles on my lips
like my mother's memory.

They told me how she died --
her asthamtic lungs
choked in coma.
She still had a grin on her lips,
her eyes all shut.
So much like her --
she smiled into death.

I do not accept her death.
Nor my father's.
Although I have learnt to live with mine.

Lightning rips a soaked sky like
a memory.
Through this riot of rain creeps
a silence.

My room gets crowded --
shapes of silence,
Jasmines, cactus, dark stars.
And the face of a girl
who once bared her sibling breasts
on a nighted windy beach.

I fight against all silences to come.
Against the silence that wraps my typewriter.

I pick up words.  Throw them
Memory and silences
disperse like white pigeons
in a storm.

Dilip Chitre

    b. 1938 in Baroda.  grad U Bombay, and has been a teacher,
    journalist, sales promotion executive, advertising executive, magazine
    columnist.  Currently at the Intl writing programme at Iowa.  He writes
    in both Marathi and English, and translates.
    His first collection of poems in Marathi appeared in 1960. Also a
    well-known painter.

POEMS IN SELF-EXILE: Dilip Chitre p.66

		The season's first dead butterfly
		Has freshly frayed wings.  Meanings are transferred
		Like the wet on the grass
		To shoes.  America is incredibly erotic.
		Too many legs makes all these streets sexy.
		Back home in Bombay, we have one single millipede
		Walking towards the city every morning.
		It is so hot there, and still, out of modesty,
		Those who afford wear all the clothes they can.
		And also, unlike here, those who have the money
		Eat without counting the calories.
		I am homesick, which is stupid of course.
		I was never a famous chauvinist back home,
		Nor is America not beautiful.  But I am terrified
		Of such glowing youth, such exquisite innocence,
		Such exotic visions of the rest of the world,
		Which exists somewhere,
		That I feel already bsolete
		Not being American.
		Perhaps I should have been, after all, a guru,
		Or a yogi, a gigolo, a snake-charmer, or a cook
		Of clandestine curries instead of being a poet.
		America, here I come, too


	The nightmare is a peninsula
	For it has water on three sides
	It reminds me of a certain land
	Giant, intricate and obscene
	Perhaps the womb I came out of
	For it has water on three sides
	And something alive stirs in the dark
	A million graphs are superimposed
	On a strange something underneath
	Or may be it was the place where we romped
	As children or een that erotic crowding of furniture
	Of the afternoon in a hot and dusty room
	For it has water on three sides
	Like the place where we first made love
	And that place where grandmother died
	Fire and with water on three sides
	Its called a peninsula I think
	Land or body or fire or thought
	With water on three sides
	I do not know what the water is there for
	Or the land for that matter
	But it certainly is a nightmare
	Because I woke up terrified with a parched throat
	As if I was face to face
	With a familiar ghost


	The needle is expertly
	Jabbed into the vein;
	The innermost stranger
	Wakes up again.

	My mask has fallen,
	It grins at me:
	I go out forever
	On a faceless spree.

	In a milder light
	And a colder sun,
	I reach for the gun.

	A whole country
	Is vanishing now;
	What's left of love
	Is my own forehead.

	The skull's architecture
	And the fading formation
	Of reticular frescoes
	I bequeath to you.

	I bequeath to you
	My fossil and my dossier.
	And I join the saints'
	Immortal choir.

	Tukaram in heaven,
	Chitre in hell,
	Sing the same song
	Centuries apart.

	Their bone derives
	From the same stone
	That stands erect at Pandharpur
	In the shape of a god

	Both gentle and rude
	And always
	Unmoved. The river flows by	 
	Like so many people,

	While this stance
	By itself is
	A spire
	And a steeple.
	History is dust			
	In this kind of summer.
	The heat is
	The lasting truth.

	Man spreads			
	His own rumour
	In the form of God
	To seize a creation

	Not his own.
	This kind of summer
	Is the brain's
	Own blaze.

	It is Vitthala
	who creates
	Sun and rain:
	Tukaram's joy

	And Chitre's pain
	Are two faces
	Of the same coin.
	Counterfeit and divine.

	The sovereign currency
	Of generations
	In the same plain.

	Let us speak of God
	Since man cannot be spoken of:
	Let us infer from the image in stone
	The mind, the hand, the chisel, the stroke.

	For the Lord is the infinite
	Sleep from which we wake
	And, in grinning granite,
	We carve Him out of the night.

	Into His muscles
	We invest our souls;
	For his heart is of stone,
	His heartbeat our own.

	Our voices are hoarse with God:
	He is our scream, our cry, our moan,
	Tukaram in heaven, Chitre in hell,
	Tuned to the same truth, centuries apart.

	They dance in the same place
	And celebrate
	As the only art.

	Our voice is a village
	You have never visited,
	Where God lives
	In silent hunts.

	You have not seen
	His million faces;
	For God resides
	In uncivilized places.

	He is the hunger,
	And He is the food;
	He is the grain,
	The only good.
	God is crushed,				
	God is ground,
	So thoroughly milled
	That He's never found.

	He is all we have
	From harvests to famines;
	It is Him we praise,
	And Him we curse.

	He is our neighbour,
	He is our enemy;
	He is our ruler,
	And He is our destiny.

	He is our slave,
	He is our landlord;
	But for our sword
	He'd hardly be brave.

	God is our village--
	Idiot and sage;
	He is our convict
	And our judge.

	Him we worship,
	Whom we whip;
	On bent knees,
	It's Him we beat.

	He is our sinner,
	He is our saint;
	We begin in Him,
	In Him we end.

	Come pock-marked poets,			
	Join Tukaram and Chitre,
	For the song of heaven
	Is one helluva chant.

	Ask, and you shall be refused;
	But do not leave
	Your voice unused.
	It's all you've got.

	Remember, our best
	Poems were always
	As bald as facts,
	As bare as these hills.

	Because our spirit
	Has aspects of stone,
	And because our stones			
	Are lasting mirrors.

Gieve Patel

	b. 1940 in Bombay.  St Xavier's High School and Grant Medical
	College.  Is a GP.  First book, Poems, publ Nissim Ezekiel
	(1966).  Just out: How Do You Withstand, Body (1976).  Also
	written plays and a painter with several exhibitions

NARGOL : gieve patel 76

	This time you did not come
	To trouble me. I left the bus
	Wiping dust from my lashes
	And did not meet you all the way
	Home. At the back of my mind,
	Behind greetings, dog-licks, and deepening
	Safety, I continued to look for you –
	But my strolls continues pleasant –
	I did not spot you at the end of a lane,
	Your necklace pendulant as your skin,
	Your cringing smile pointing out the disease:
	Leper-face, leonine, following my elbow
	As I walk past casual, casual.
	I am friendly, I smile, I am
	No snob. Lepers don't disgust me. But also
	Tough resistance: I have no money,		**** BEGGAR
	Meet me later,
	My fingernail rasping a coin.
	She'll have her money but
	Cannot be allowed to bully –
	Let her follow, let her drone,
	Sooner or later she'll give up,
	Stop in the centre of a lane,
	Let herself recede.
	I reach the sea.
	Yes, that was essential.

	In the open street I stand
	With elders. How far have you
	Studied, when do you finish?
	In the middle of my reply
	She passes by,
	I skip a word, she cannot
	Meet my eye, grins timidly, goes on;
	Accepted fact
	This is not the time.
	Afternoon, and she reappears,
	Stands before the house, says
	Nothing, looks for my eyes between page-turns. I cannot read.
	The book is frozen, angry weapon
	In my hand. I pretend a page,

	Then look up – I'm reading now I say,
	I'll give you later – switch down,
	Master, unquestioned. She goes.

	Cruel, you're cruel.

	From a village full of people
	She ahs chosen me; year after year;
	Is it need
	Or a private battle?

	At the end it is four annas –
	Four annas for leprosy. It's green
	To give so much
	But I'm a rich man's son.
	She cringes – I've worked for your mother.
	She hasn't –
	You come just once a year.
	All right, a rupee. She goes.
	My strolls are to myself again,
	The sea is reached with ease,
	Reading is simplified. One last tussle:
	Was it not defeat after all?
	Personal, since I did not give,
	I gave in ; wider – there was
	No victory even had I given.
	I have lost to a power too careless
	And sprawling to admit battle,
	And meanness no defence.
	Walking to the sea I carry
	A village, a city, the country,
	For the moment
	On my back.
	This time you did not come
	To trouble me. In the middle
	Of a lane I stopped.
	She's dead, I thought;
	And after relief, the next thought:
	She'll reappear
	If only to baffle.

UNIVERSITY : gieve patel : p.82

	Is there reason to believe the students
	Of Dacca University were better
	Than those of our own?  Need I repeat
	What I know so well from my college days --
	The dull corridors, the vacous library,
	The children of the poor in
	Ill-fitting clothes skulking
	In corners, those of the rich
	Brilliant and febrile, their sparrow brains
	Ringing like jingles in their skulls?
	To be brutally shot, why not, is a kind of fate.
	-- And the professors! O professors,			
	Stale, malodorous, with yesterday's coats
	And neckties!  A small family
	Tucked away in the grimiest part of town
	Pitiful bank balance, tame sheep at home,
	At work holders of the flaming
	Mark sheet to terrify
	And subjugate monsters;
	And gently to amuse the affluent
	Who know them harmless and by their first
	Name -- freddy, eddie, peddie --
	Safe toys to smile at for two years
	Before one puts away college
	And goodfellowship to join the beastly roaring outside.
	They too were shot.
	To the last threatening to fail the assassins.
	And why should I moan?
	Yesterday's chicken meal saw
	No less significant a slaughter.
	Can domestic fowl calculate
	Right done them from wrong?  What
	Was butchered?   Not a
	Fierce choir of learning.  Not
	Any newness that ten years from now would
	Spread alluvial across a parched country.  Students,
	Dolls emptied into untimely graves,
	May your odour rise and trip up
	Our brains.  Tell us
	To change our thought.

ON KILLING A TREE : gieve patel p.84

	It takes much time to kill a tree,
	Not a simple jab of the knife
	Will do it.  It has grown
	Slowly consuming the earth
	Rising out of it, feeding
	Upon its crust, absorbing
	Years of sulight, air, water
	Ahd out of its leprous hide
	Sprouting leaves.

	So hack and chop
	But this won't do it.
	Not so much pain will do it.
	The bleeding bark will heal
	And from close to the ground
	Will rise cured green twigs,
	Miniature boughs
	Which if unchecked will expand again	
	To former size.

	The root is to be pulled out --
	Out of the anchoring earth;
	It is to be roped, tied,
	And pulled out -- snapped out
	Or pulled out entirely;
	Out from the earth-cave,
	And the strength of the tree exposed,
	The source, white and wet,
	The most sensitive, hidden
	For years inside the earth.

	Then the matter
	Of scorching and choking
	In sun and air,
	Browning, hardening,
	Twisting, withering

	And then it is done.

GOING HOME : Imtiaz Dharker : p.85

    [ an MA in English and Philosophy from Glasgow University, spent
      several years abroad before settling down in Bombay.  works for
      well-known advt agency. is the poetry editor for Debonair.
      work has appeared in several magazines, journals, anthologies
      This is her first appearance in an anthology of
      Indian poetry in English. ]

I'll go.  But let me close the windows
or the tunnel will come in.
The train nuzzles down the track
that leads back home.  New landscapes
spread their legs.					

Behind me, with the dregs
of rain, crows clatter for pickings.
They've made a feast of my going.

On the platform I
could have squatted on passive haunches
among waiting women
who rake the day with their eyes,			
rake the years for a hope
of home
as they comb the crows for fleas.


Fields become familiar now,
They tug at you between telegraph fingers
that warn you not to stray
from the approved track.
So now you know you're back.

Beyond your tidy grove
the hills arch to the sky.
Even crows rise
into a flight of rain.

Your mind pulls into its station.
Your past climbs in,
puts down its luggage
and looks you in the eyes.				


Sometimes there were watermelons
split wide and wedding red
and fragrant
laughing at the greymouse english day.


At twelve
"not a mark on her, and pretty.
she'll never have an awkward stage"
his wrinkled white hand slipped down her back.

Mummy put me in purdah
or he'll see the hair sprout in my lap.
Mummy put me in purdah quick
or he'll see.


On the first day of the thirty
days of fasting, the other children
hid beneath the darkest leaves
to eat
soft bread white as their teeth;
giggling with guilt, breath quickening
on a furtive wing of heat.

The bread might have been		[?night]
a thigh or breast in her mind
gorging on the pride
of first blood warm between her legs.		


But did I say
these were not my gods?

Small eyes pink with craft,		[?carft]
the china hands of dolls,
plump lips pursed to a flute.
A heavy rope of incense coils
around you.  The fat gods
dig you in the ribs and laugh.

Sometimes you hear andother god
crackle from a single singer's throat.
Birdflight raises a minar
that tickles the sky into smiles.

Distance is not made of miles.


Her mind rewinds
the ghazals and punjabi songs,
The camera behind her eyes
watches as she trails dupattas;
she is the heroine
of films that come from home.
The reels spill out bright fields of maize		
that flirt with her
through the dingy town.


It was easy to hate (from the tenements)
the ones in the house on the hill.
"They'll come to no good,
daughters higher-deucated, mixing
with belaiti boys. They'll regret it."

Yes, they will.
Their heads come rolling down the hill.


Making love. Going home.
Both start with open arms
and a festival spills out.
Your name is scattered,
shattered brightens blinds you
winding round the black holes of your eyes.
Fatelines crack open till the sky
looks through.
Why did you leave?
Why did you come back?
You try to fill the crevices with smiles.
Get down on your knees.
There must be some tenderness
in the splinters of the violent act.


The house is lit up.
The door thrown open.
Your dead mother waiting
at the top of the stairs.


I have caged myself inside a stranger's head.
But if you were to open
wide the door, I would not go.
Lovers and forsaken fathers know
the flood will well in them,
find the sun, and dry
to simple stone.

So even if I try the world
and find it wanting
how can I come home?

Jayanta Mahapatra

	b. 1928 in Cuttack, lived there since. Writing seriously since 1968.
	Awarded Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award from Poetry Magazine,
	Chicago.  In 1975, attended the Intl writing programme at Iowa.

NOWHERE : jayanta mahapatra : 89

	Where does nowhere lie?
	inside the thought of compromise		[?nside]
	that keeps moving ahead of us?
	Or is it a dream which never reveals?

	Is nowhere an empty room
	rising like a god
	flapping up into the sky?
	Its great cloud beyond the silent hands of hope?

	The nowhere in me stops short in the middle of a sentence.
	It reaches.  Where my heavy hands hold each other
	behind my back, as I pace my room, waiting, listening;
	slumped in the shadows of another summer.

	[ ... ]

THE COMING OF WINTER : jayanta mahapatra : 90

	Mists out of darker nights.
	Spiderwebs warp the grass,
	a cold hand on temple spires.
	An cow's pink full teats,
	  the year's new potatoes
	dug out of the earth:
	faces of old friends.
	a longing in my wife's votive eyes.

	High above,
	in the shadows of our thoughts,
	bird-beat, the steady throb of survival,
	of a bird migration going south.
	weaving in and out of the sun.

	And in the tremblings of the earth
	a woman walks slowly,
	past the last summer
	that wells out of the shadows of her home,
	an unsuspected tender laugh
	on the mists of her eyes.

GRASS : jayanta mahapatra : 92

	Have I to negotiate it?
	Moving slowly, sometimes throwing my great grief
	across its shoulders, sometimes trailing it at my side,

	I watch a little hymn
	turn the ground beneath my feet,
	a tolerant soil making its own way to the light of the sun.

	It is just a mirror
	marching away solemnly with object and earth, lurching
	into an ancestral smell of rot, reminding me

	of secrets of my own:
	the cracked earth of years, the roots staggering about
	an impatient sensuality, bland heads heaving

	in the loneliness of unknown winds.
	Now I watch something out of the mind
	scythe the grass, now that the trees seem to end,

	sensing the almost childlike submissiveness;
	my hands that tear their familiar tormentors apart
	waiting for their curse, the scabs of my dark dread.

THE BEGGAR TAKES IT AS SOLACE : jayanta mahapatra : 93

	He watches the coin in his palm
	as if it has wings

	he turns weak
	a rain riddling
	the earth of his body

	he looks up again
	his noisy palm
	curls into a fist

	he sees people everywhere
	the future
	getting paid

	mapped space
	then opening his fingers

	a mouthful of time
	as he tries
	to swallow it

	some stone
	this aged cry
	  around his neck

	and yet
	his dreams
	like birds plummeting

	and unseeing roots
	of his shriven tree of demand

	as he watches
	a hand like an orange sun
	reach out

	from an automobile window
	and drop one
	of his quaking days

	and pass by
	the curled up leaf of its time.

THE INDIAN WAY : Jayanta Mahapatra 95

	The long, dying silence of the rain
	over the hills
	opens one's touch,
	a feeling for the soul's substance,
	as for the opal neck
	spiralling the inside of a shell.

	We keep calm; the voices move.
	I buy you the morning's lotus.

	we would return again and again
	to the movement
	that is neither forward nor backward,
	making us
	stop moving, without regret.

	You know:
	I will not touch you, like that
	until our wedding night.

Kamala Das

	b. 1934 in Punnayurkulam in Southern Malabar and lives in Bombay.
	Writes in English and Malayalam (Kerala Sahitya Akademi 1967).
	Has won a poetry award from the PEN Phillipine Centre and the Chaman
	Lal Award for fearless journalism.
	Three books in print [Summer in Calcutta_ (1965), The
	Descendants (1967), The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973),]
	and a controversial biography.  Has done a book with Pritish Nandy -
	Tonight, This savage rite, selection of love poems.


	You have like a koel built your nest in the arbour of my heart.
	My life, until now a sleeping jungle is at last astir with music.
	You lead me along a route I have never known before
	But at each turn when I near you
	Like a spectral flame you vanish.
	The flame of my prayer-lamp holds captive my future
	I gaze into the red eye of death
	The hot stare of truth unveiled.
	Life is moisture
	Life is water, semen and blood.
	Death is drought
	Death is the hot sauna leading to cool rest-rooms
	Death is the last, lost sob of the relative
	Beside the red-walled morgue.
	O Shyam, my Ghanshyam
	With words I weave a raiment for you
	With songs a sky
	With such music I liberate in the oceans their fervid dances
	We played once a husk-game, my lover and I
	His body needing mine,
	His ageing body in its pride needing the need for mine
	And each time his lust was quietned
	And he turned his back on me
	In panic I asked Dont you want me any longer dont you want me
	Dont you dont you
	In love when the snow slowly began to fall
	Like a bird I migrated to warmer climes
	That was my only method of survival
	In this tragic game the unwise like children play
	And often lose						[? lose in]
	At three in the morning
	I wake trembling from dreams of a stark white loneliness,
	Like bleached b0ones cracking in the desert-sun was my loneliness,
	And each time my husband,
	His mouth bitter with sleep,
	Kisses, mumbling to me of love.
	But if he is you and I am you
	Who is loving who
	Who is the husk who the kernel
	Where is the body where is the soul
	You come in strange forms
	And your names are many.
	Is it then a fact that I love the disguise
	and the name more than I love you?
	Can I consciously weaken bonds?
	The child's umbilical cord shrivels and falls
	But new connections begin, new traps arise
	And new pains
	The cell of the eternal sun,
	The blood of the eternal fire
	The hue of the summer-air,
	I want a peace that I can tote
	Like an infant in my arms
	I want a peace that will doze
	In the whites of my eyes when I smile
	The ones in saffron robes told me of you	[? is saffron]
	And when they left
	I thought only of what they left unsaid
	Wisdom must come in silence
	When the guests have gone
	The plates are washed
	And the lights put out
	Wisdom must steal in like a breeze
	From beneath the shuttered door
	Shyam o Ghanshyam
	You have like a fisherman cast your net in the narrows
	Of my mind
	And towards you my thoughts today
	Must race like enchanted fish...

A MAN IS A SEASON : Kamala Das : p.99

A man is a season,
You are eternity,
To teach me this you let me toss my youth like coins
Into various hands, you let me mate with shadows,
HYou let me sing in empty shrines, you let your wife
Seek ecstasy in other's arms.  But I saw each
Shadow cast your blurred image in my glass, somehow
The words and gesture seemed familiar.  Yes,
I sang solo, my songs were lonely, but they did
Echo beyond the world's unlighted edge, there was
Then no sleep left undisturbed, the ancient hungers
Were all awake.  Perhaps I lost my way, perhaps
I went astray.  How would a blind wife trace her lost
Husband, how would a deaf wife hear her husband call?

APOTHECARY-I : Keki N Daruwalla : p.104

   (b 1937 Lahore, IPS.  Under orion 1970,
      Apparition in April 1971, Crossing of Rivers mid-70s)

A solemn mask on a liquored-up face
looks incongruous. Why not rip it off?
That's better ! Sit down, man! Smile once again!
You don't have to stand there
and cough discreetly and shuffle about.
You haven't come here to condole ! All is well
in my house-thank Allah for it who keeps
the obituary-scribe from the door

Yes, yes, I understand the death of a patient
is also a death in our family;
A part of me dies with him.
But this boy from Sarai Khwaja complained
of an ear-ache. I'd not seen him before.
Some ear-drops I gave him and forgot about it
Till that ekka stood at my door in the evening.
`He's thrashing around like fish... a stomach-ache...
            he just can't bear it...'
"An intestinal knot maybe," I said, and when
I reached the village he was already dead,
his mother looking at me as if I had knifed him.

For this week past I face an empty room, swatting flies.
All my patients come from Sarai Khwaja,
Sarai Mir, Allahdadpur, Kusum Khor,
Five miles on ox-cart and mule-back they come
but now they shun me as if instead
of powders I dole out cholera and pox!

If a man comes to his lawyer for advice
and is murdered on his way back
will his clients abandon him? Never!
But a Hakim turns leper! They won't even read
the fatiha on my grave!

There is no logic to it, it's just there.
As there is no logic to a child
with an ear-ache in the morning
dying by evening of a stomach ailment.

Faith is all very fine. It is one thing to say, 'All this
is the acquiescence of clay to the will of the Lord*,
and drain your philosophy with a nightcap,
and quite another to face a hangover and
an empty clinic in the morning.
My uncle is paralysed Allah is merciful
or what would he have said to this
my only patient in fifteen days dead!
What does the pedestrian think of it,
Hakim Rizwan-ul-Haq
son of Irfan-ul-Haq
Hakim-ul-Mulk, Physician Royal to the
Nizam of Hyderabad reduced to this?

I know what you are thinking of:
the cars lined on the kerb outside
patients spilling out into the streets
from that homeo clinic across.
He is a widower and keeps
two good-looking compounders.
He tackles a serious case by ramming home
penicillin in the thigh
and a suppository in the rear*
Homeo clinic you call it!

You said something, did you,
Brother-healer did you say? Hippocrates?
A homeopath keeps two handsome
adolescents as his compounders.
Now where does Hippocrates get into the act?

He promises his clientele prophylactic doses
against typhus, measles, chicken pox f flu.
There isn't a plague in the slimy bogs of hell
which Doctor Chandiram, gold-medallist, can't stave off
with one of those powders of his!

Pardon me, for I got carried away.
We all pad the hook with the bait, Allah downwards.
What is paradise, but a promissory note
found in the holy book itself? And if you probe
under the skin what does it promise us
for being humble and truthful, and turning
towards Kaaba five times a day,
weeping in Moharram and fasting in Ramadan?
What does it promise us except
that flea-ridden bags that we are
we will end up as splendid corpses?

Keki N Daruwalla

	b. 1937 in Lahore
	education Govt College Ludhiana + Punjab U.  Currently lives in New
	Delhi, where he is in the Indian Police Service.  His works include
	Under Orion (1970), Apparition in April (1971, UP State award),
	Crossing of Rivers, just appeared (1976), [Swords and Abyss (1979)]


	Your brother died, you said?
	Eleven years old and run over by a car?
	I am so terribly sorry to hear it.
	Pardon me, not tragic, as you said just now.
	Unfortunate is the word, terribly unfortunate.
	Nothing could be more ... more unpleasant.
	But ‘tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless’,
	as Anouilh said. This was an accident ...
	depravity of circumstance.
	There was no air of design about it, you follow?

	I cannot stand an accident,
	the blood clotting on the tarmac,
	the brain spilling over
	like an uncooked stew!
	The moment I see a crowd thrombosed
	around a victim, I take a detour
	to forestall a physical reaction.
	Tragedy is different, one aesthetic layer
	on the other to absorb the thrust,
	with neither desire nor revulsion aroused.

	But you need time, perspective
	for the action to evolve, and space --
	that is essential for tragic momentum.
	I see your point, yes, the empty street,
	a car hurtling at 60 miles an hour.
	But that was not the momentum I was referring to.

	The Catastrophe must have a
	specific reference to us ...
	I can imagine your feelings ... yes, yes
	he was your brother, his death
	had a very personal reference to you.
	But there was no sin, no guilt
	no hubris no hammartia.
	Tragedy is a culture by itself.
	It takes a lifetime to be immersed
	in its panoply and symbol.
	Sometimes, of course, I brood:
	tragedy is no longer what it was.
	Its sweep and passion
	took in half the universe once.

	Evil came rasping like a magnesium flare
	into a night canopied with mirrors,
	and heavy with destiny, loaded
	with the past, the sky collapsed.
	But after the havoc, across the
	umber-coloured scraps of mist,
	horizons appeared awash with light
	and pencilled with pearl-grey monotones.

	But now there is no order to revert to,
	no sanctions beyond immediate hungers.
	And suffering would be a waste, like
	digging a canal from the desert to the
	river, only to find it as dry
	as the udders of an old cow.

	Tragedy today is private, insular:
	a depraved enzyme
	in the belly of chance.
	It digests you
	skull, hair, dentures and all.

	Yes, in an absurd scheme of things
	accidents are the order.
	I am sorry, extremely sorry, young man
	for the tragedy that overtook your brother,
	and left you with this grief
	you won't know what to do with.

Mehar Ali, the keeper of the dead : Keki N Daruwalla : 114

In the year of the fire-serpent,
the prophecy runs
lightning will chop the cummulus
into chunks of meat.
Red rain will fall
as the goddess descends,
her rain-red hair
streaming backwards in the wind,
to cart away the dead
in the folds of her mists.

It is a Tartar cemetery;
they had lost their way across the roof,
past serac country and the ice-falls,
till coming to this cluster of low cliffs
they flopped, savaged
upto their knees by frost.

Two of them survived and had
this catacomb hewn out of limestone cliff;
married Bhot women and begot children
who wilted — nine generations scorched
like dying melons on a withered vine.
And now with a face like a patch of fissured bark
and eyes: pools dulled with a film of moss,
Mehar Ali, the keeper of the dead,
remains the last of the living,
his days slowly embering into ash.

His speeches is a monotone that creaks on
like a cartwheel going over gravel.
'This is the catafalque where lies
Barqandaz, the wolf-slayer.
The two survivors lie here
and these their Tibetan wives.'
A match flares across the vault.
'This miniature on the wall,look at the
faces - each smaller than a match-head —
and the paint-effect, like
hairline-fractures on a cartilage.

It is deliberate, to show the action of frost
as it worked over their visages when they crossed the pass.
The faces were done in old paint which cracks;
the rest was done in vegetable dye.'

The Californian females ask:
'Wolf-slayer? Where did he slay the wolf?'
'Mr. Mehar Ali, do you trace
your lineage back to Jenghiz Khan?'
'Its amazing this Muslim cemetery
in a semi-lama country!
And this local prophecy, do you think
the goddess will ever come?'

There is no response
In the past year he is known
to have smiled only once
when he mistook a flowering shrub
for a child
and blessed it.

But when high winds moan,
driving the rain into the catafalque,
and lightning rends the sky,
speech starts fermenting in his mouth
and bursts out
in bee-stung incoherence.
It is then that he communes with the dead,
they say, and his eyes
probe each wraith of mist
for the sky-woman,
her hair flaming red
as she alights upon the shroud-grey skin
that keeps him whole —
Mehar Ali, the keeper of the dead!


    (b 1936 advertising. two vols of poems)

Was it my Lord as you imagined
Caught in your nightlong dream
Frozen and involute and contempating
The secret movement of your juices like a Yogi;
Before your suns had risen and she had borne you
Her bright effulgent holy children;			
No, in the darkness while you held your blood
Secret as snake, all diamonds of the night
Glittering the age-long hood, and she coiled her length
Virgin to your perfect body, while her recurring dream
Excessive as your heat, rubbed and fondled
Your black forked stick to lightning, my Lord
Was it as you imagined?  Was the real thing
Waking not less than dream?

For if your answer is yes,
However given, however dimly thrown my unseen way
In dream or gift or prophecy
Then so is mine yes also.				[? in mine]
Not yet articulate, not able to pronounce my Om,
But stuttering and inchoate, wrestling my blankets
Of sleep like hoods and cauls and shrouds, all		[caul- membrane of embryo]
Sweat and malformed struggle, underwater
Open my mouth and say it
'Yes' or 'Yeth' or 'Yef', whatever comes
Syllabic or no, echo your victory.

Often struggling for my hump
My humped and crippled sainthood, I envision
Your blood that warms the world, the flood
That purifies the sins of your good child.

But if you push me further Lord...
Then give me more than random blood: reveal
The secrets of your sperm,
The coiled luxury, the scented snake.

For I have tested my excesses and in the bargain
Bred the most perfunctory children.			
Bright sunlit hands turning to monsters;
From what unguarded guilt
Stored in the liver, what secret revulsion
Of the beloved flesh, what glut of old remorse
What swarms of cowardice and love betrayed.
O apprehension of my father's father :
There is no paradise in seed : 				
All childhood on my head.

But if you answer no, then knife me dead.
O jacknifed on your book my Lord and O my Lady
Broken in your belfry where the monsters swarm
My nightly dream, spider and octopus
Betrayed by ditch and hag in a month of blood.
Playing with golden girls in most unreal
Blue glossy urinals.  Each toy and plastic teat
Precursor of the wind that sweeps my home
Pre-empting al the carrion in my blood
Defining every small and real death :
The coil of flesh rising to small
Baffled erections in the light :
Smell of Balmain and sainthood in her dugs	[dugs: teat, breast]
Churns my recurring night.   			[Balmain: fashion designer; perfumier]

But was it perfect Lord when you awoke
At your first kiss?  A galaxy of broken
Empires flood my limbs.  Sun upon sun
The Neptunes of desire,
All lust caving my limbs, my shrines bereft
The nightstreets of my wife deserted,
My mother's mother's blood smearing like servants,
My mind forming like holes.  Assure me now
My friend and worker of my blood : you Alchemist :
When She arose, Rose of the World
And Queen of all your gardens
And kissed you on the mouth alone :
Did glands of honey burst within her throat
And flood your mouth with love,
Her sweets unbearable to hold : O you
My secret and most hidden Friend:
When your first bird had flown?

FOR ADIL AND VERONIQUE: Kersy Katrak : p.119

	If after the frantic convulsions,
	Daily bread debacles, lovers' misunderstandings,
	Penis failures, Parsee Catholic epiphanies,
	Sweat and sulking, the coils of flesh part slightly
	And reveal the little Love God
	Small and winged and almost too delicate
	To survive the light of dawn you see him by :
	Will the gain measure up
	To the firm light of day
	Acrid breakfasts, taxis, offices and whores?
	Will the authentic bitter-sweet melody
	Caress your halfasleep dawn heads,
	The correct tingle hopscotch up your spine?

	For consider that we too have practised
	This ritual.  I too daily beat my Hindu wife
	Daily she makes me pay.
	And every night, or every other, we discover
	This dark God in his cave
	Between linen and flesh pay homage.
	Renew, refresh the small tides of our being
	In all that passes for love.

	For consider how little the loss:
	A little journalism is washed away
	A little current sensibility
	Floats into the eternal
	A small reflex of intellectual grit erodes
	Self-control crumbles, accuracy flounders and sinks
	into the sea which after all
	Is never self-controlled and hadly every accurate.

	And consider the gain:  white roseflesh
	And a small manhood struggling in the dawn sea
	Almost triumphant.

THE KINGDOM OF DESPAIR : Keshav Malik : 121

		 (ed Calcutta, Srinagar, worked for a while as asst to
       	  J.  Nehru.  editor Indian Lit from Sahitya Akademi]

How far can you go
In the kingdom of despair
On fear and only fear?

No movement of soul can there be
Free like Icarus winging towards the bright star.
Nothing heard but a plaintive bird
Crying out in utter wilderness
Or a child shedding tear on tear
Lost in the tall elephant grass somewhere.

How far can you go
Where is fear and only fear,
In the dark kindom of despair?

IMPORTANCE: Keshav Malik : 123

	       [Malik was educated in Calcutta and Srinagar; worked for a
		while as asst to J.  Nehru.  editor Indian Lit from Sahitya

	To sense what is and what is not of importance		[?and what not]
	Is of some importance.
	Your double in the mirror, for instance
	Has little substance					[a bit Ogden Nashey]
	Except a double double in a doting eye's transparence
	And there rediscover self anew in a taking tense
	(As distinct from the mere  mimicking presence).
	And be broken your long sleep or trance
	In your body's ambience,
	A double gives offence.

	No, not you but it makes sense,
	A sky of stars, more stars, of suns --
	That vast inheritance;
	Look up and reclaim your lost innocence.

M.F. Husain

	b. 1915 in Pandharpur.  One of our best known painters, awardwinning
	film maker, and widely published poet.
	This is the first time his work is included in an anthology.
	His visual experiments with poetry have been published in his book
	Poems To be Seen.
	Film Through the eyes of a painter awarded Golden Bear for best
	short film at Berlin 1967.
	Lives in  Bombay and travels widely.

POEMS: M.F. Husain

	The feet nailed on earth
	Are never tired.
	To follow
	The roaming echo...
	Echoes once treasured
	Behind caves and carvings.

	Blown up rocks
	Have not returned.
	Flooded passenger trains
	Keep on shuttling...
	Making deep grooves on earth.

	Millions pour in
	Grooves deepen
	Trains snail down
	Layer under layers,
	Till the pores are blocked.

	But the roaming echo
	Knocks on
	The closed window.
		       (noted artist, b 1915 Pandharpur)

Mrinalini Sarabhai

    one of our distinguished classical dancers.  Her first book, Captive Soil,
    1946 was a poetic play about independence struggle.  Novel
    This alone is true pub London and Hind pocket books.
    Also books on Indian dance.
    Her most recent book Longing For The Beloved interprets the songs of
    Shiva as related to Bharat Natyam.
    Lives in Ahmedabad, runs Darpana, a school for performing arts.

ANANDA: Mrinalini Sarabhai

	I fell on the steps.
	Tense. Bewildered.
	Running away
	from crowds.  From hatred.
	From relationships.
	Escaping from condemning eyes.
	Seeking oblivion, searching for peace.
	The sacred hill.  There I ran.
	Climbing desperately.
	Knowing only that I must.
	Through the thickness of bushes.  Thorns.
	The steps are cold.
	Purified by many feet into accepted brokenness.
	Hard marble steps.  Yet comforting.
	There was no pretene.
	Where did I want to go?
	What did I need to discover?
	From bondae, to truth.
	Just to natural. My self.
	Peace. Serenity.
	Through the mist I saw him.
	His face like that of
	Padmapani on the old wall of
	Ajanta.  The thick lowerlip
	The petal like eyes.
	Come.  He spoke. You are tired.
	No questions.  Nothing.
	The simple food.  A room.
	Warmth within and without.
	For days I sat looking upon
	the beauty of the mountain peak
	above me and the small white
	temple within it that sheltered me.
	He was part of that grandeur.
	In his silence I regained my
	faith.  Sometimes he sat by me.
	Sometimes he spoke.
	Do not go on looking.  It is there.
	Why do you long for what you are?
	When he lit the evening lamps for Devi
	I wastched his face.  Calm, Unafraid.
	Early before dawn I awoke to his prayers.
	At night he was near.
	Like a child I was comforted.
	Only his presence.  It was enough.

	One evening.
	Don't I said.  Suddenly.
	Laughing. Disturbed within.
	Don't make me dependent upon you.
	He walked away then. Angered
	at what I said. Or hurt.
	Can one never be honest with anyone?

	I wanted him. Not in lust.
	But to possess him fully.
	Not him.
	His quality of peace.
	Or did I want to break that?
	The forest was thick with shedded leaves.
	The spring waters were sweet.
	I bathed in the coldness of
	the water.
	My long hair dried in the sun.
	With the sandal paste of worship
	I rubbed my skin.
	And in the twilight I waited for
	him to come to me.
	For I knew
	as he did,
	there was only the deep moisture
	of the earth beneath us and
	it was as though we became one
	with the sky, the dusk and
	later, much later, the stars.
	Between him and me there was
	Only peace and gentleness.
	Unravelling the mystery of the universe.
	The hill of the Goddess.
	Yes that night I was her.
	And he was the worshipper.
	As he kissed my body,
	as it became one with his,
	there was a ritual to our
	as thogh Shiva
	embraced Kamakshi.
	And spoke to her even through
	the act of love.

	It was on these enchanted
	moonstar evenings that I
	learnt the meaning of existence
	Even when he was within me,
	totally lost.  He would say
	can you understand now what
	oneness is and togetherness?

	Say: Yes.  Yes.

	Our sages told us but
	we do not understand.
	Ramas Radheshyam
	ANd then the world would
	spin for us or, wat it
	that we made the worlds turn.
	He did.
	Ananda Ananda Ananda.
	Your name is bliss. You are bliss.
	... pilgrims
	came to worship Devi.
	Climbing the steep hill
	slowly. ...
	Till one day
	I lit the lamps and opened
	the doors of the inner shrine.
	Ananda sat there.  Like
	the stone image of Devi he
	too was immobile.
	The same smile upon both.
	The smile of Isvara.
	And I knew
	it was the moment of separation.
	I knelt at his feet.
	His hand lifted in the Abhaya mudra,
	his eyes looked into mine.
	Compassionate. Loving.  Distant.
	From his feet I scraped the
	dust.  Mutti, Vibhuti.
	I touched it to my forehead.
	And I went down the
	Steepness of the hill.
	The pilgrims passed me.
	Climbing, climbing.
	Ananda Ananda Ananda.

	    (F play Captive Soil 1946, novel; poetry book: Longing for the

Iktara - Songs of the mendicant poet: Pria Karunakar

	        (F b. 1946 Calcutta, schooled at Simla. Vassar college)

Kaun gali gaye Shyam?


I am a battered fruit in the hawker's basket.
					Kaun gali gaye?
I am the relic in the stupa.
I am the Traveller at the cross-roads.
					Kaun gali?
I am the cross-roads.
					Gaye Shyam?
Shyam? Dark one?
As the flight of egrets
By the railway track
Fade pale into the red sky
Darkness falls, darkness falls
					Down this gali
					Quickly, quickly
					Find the throne...

					Down this gali...
The hooded watchman
With his lathi
Taps you on your shoulder		Kaun?

Pulling on your beedie
Your earthen khuller cracks
And smashes to galactic fragments
On the railway tracks. 		And so
				Between earth and earth
				I came
				To a pyramid
				stacked high with lean bones,
				Lean-shanked dancers

				Chalked white, smudged nervously alive
				With burnt cork and sindhur
				Close to the skull, teeth
				Smeared with rouge,
				In sodden paper clothes
				Whose paint ran in the rain :
				These children of the poor
				Gauded bravely towards
				Death's bridal.

				Still and heavy-lidded
				In the stilled chauk of Night,
				Paupers and vagrants.
Kaun gali gaye Shyam?


I am in love with a tough inevitability.
I am in love with the River that changes and is still
The river.


I will give myself to the stranger.
I will hide myself from the beloved
In many veils.

Shyam?				It was a full moon
				Over the river
				As the children danced the raas.
				Dogs howled as we entered
				The white city and the karais
				Seethed with milk
				Painted into dreams
				The little boys
				Gestured and bowed
				In antique Braj,
				Voices like small pipes.
				And the old women and men
				Rocked and cried
				Remembering Krishna.

The river ran dark with pale gleams,

				Krishna the butter-stealer
				The irresistible;
				The Laughing Lover
				At the trysting place under the trees,

Anachy in the blood.
Earthen gharas loosing milk
Under the well-aimed stone,
Hearths overturned and infants in cradles
Left crying and swinging
As the sound of anklets disappears
Into the woods...		The river ran dark.
     				There is the sound of the flute
				Carried on water; the sound
				Of piping like water quickening
				Through a hollow reed.

Flash of a blue throat,
Peacock's feather, flash
Of a turmeric-coloured dhoti
And a cry;			A low laugh.
      				A wet ruby quivers on the grass.

				Later the sun sees
				Smashed foliage
				And a dead-brown smear
				Where soon the hoof falls
				And the steaming dung.
				In the summer the earth cracks open
				Gaping with sore mouths.
				The river shrinks.

The woman nags and scolds.
The man returns from office
Older.  The price of milk goes up
By the bottle.  Cows are tubercular
The shift to the city was hard.
The brother-in-law is doing well
As a railway cleark but now
Refuses to recognize
His relatives.
It could be worse.
				Stacked vagrants under bridges
				Sleep side by side for warmth
				(Till the Municipality decides
				To Beautify the City for a visiting official)
				Wring out their guts with vile grease
				And spit blood like paan-juice.

				Kaun gali gaye Shyam?
Five daughters
And where is the dowry to come from?
Retirement due and no pension.
Brother it could be worse.
Is someone laughing in the street?
It must be someone of loose character
Wait.  Did you hear a cry?
Quick, turn your head and scurry by.
What does it matter if one more dies?
Don't we all die like flies?
You may lose you job in the morning.

				Under the street-lamp the mendicant singer
				Sees the Lotus-Foot palmed tender ad the dawn
				Tread silently and disappear
				Like a panther into the ageing night.


Pritish Nandy

	b. 1947 Calcutta.   Poet, photographer, and graphic artist, is the
	auther of over thirty books of poetry, photography, and
	translation. His poems have been filmed and set to music.  Heinemann
	have published his selected poems.  Has received the Padmashri.
	Poetry editor of Illustrated Weekly of India and member of Sahitya
	Akademi advisory board.

THE NOWHERE MAN: Pritish Nandy


	   Come, let us pretend this is a ritual.  This hand
	    in your hair, your tongue seeking mine: this
	  cataclysmic despair.  Let us pretend tonight that
	you are mine.  Forever.  For when daybreak returns, we
	    shall realise once more that forever means an
	 empty room, a tired night swirling into nowhere,
	   when I shore up to your tattered skyline.


	At midnight I move in on strangers, for the caress
	 or the kill.  I have come to terms with shadows,
	  I have been assaulted by gentler lovetimes : once
	  in a long while a face comes near, our eyes meet
	 in challenge, or is it love?  Our bodies come alive
	  in secret oneness: one spring ago, terrified to be
	touched, you draw me tonight, at last, deep within
	            your frantic countryside.


	The wind disentangles itself from your frenzied body as
	  hurricanes of dreams follow me: eternity is only a
	 river reaching towards the sea.  My tongue travels to
	 your navel, and downwards : I cling to your body, my
	mouth breathes in the shadow of your breath.  Someday
	  perhaps the sea will reveal itself, the delirium of
	        the flesh fatigue at dawn.


	It hurts to say I am sorry.  So let us use unfamiliar words.
	   The summer has gone the ground's turned cold.  The old
	 road calls me back again.  Anothertime we shall meet again:
	    as strangers or as friends, or perhaps as lovers once
		  again. Now turn, turn, to the rain again.


	    Tonight I draw your body to my lips: your hand, your
	     mouth, your breasts, the small of your back. I draw
	 blood to every secret nerve and gently kiss their tips, as
	   you move under me, anchored to a rough sea. I cling to
	  you, your music and your knees. I touch the secret vibes
	     of your body, I fill my hands with the darkness of
	    your hair. This passion alone can resurrect our love.

		 (b 1947 Calcutta.  Poet, photographer. Padmashri,
				        poetry ed Ill Weekly)

Rakshat Puri

	b. 1925 Lahore.  In the fifties he came to journalism and from 1956
	to 1861 was correspondent at New Delhi for The New Statesman of
	London. Now an asst editor with Hindustan Times, went to
	Indo-China during the war.

This And That : Rakshat Puri : 163

Not this, not this, nor
That, not also the other,
Beneath the rose, thorns.

The sunflower assumes
The sun, night the day, and all
The seconds, epochs.

Dark beneath the rose
Shadows upon this, upon
That, beneath the rose

Time congealed, congealed
Revolutions, epochal
Between this and that.

The glass in the eye,
Sun high at noon, day, night, eseeing
Nothing in the sky.

Between the rose and
The sunflower, assumption sits
On this, that, other.

RAIN: Rakshat Puri p.164

	On the lake the rain
	Brings an explosion of ripples.
	Ill luck breaks mirrors.

	The rain tears summer
	To ribbons and patchwork days
	Cover frail autumn.

	Then dust walls dry leaves
	To the lake nursing a patched
	Sky in its cold ruins.

A HYMN IN DARKNESS : Randhir Khare : p. 169

     (b 1948, many years in Cal theater, book of poems: Hunger)

why do you grow flowers in
the void that divides us?
flowers with white stems
and faces of dead children.
their roots such silence
from cavities of last night's
teeth sunk in yellow gums

your flowers smell of pain,
lost years embedded in mud --
worm-words oozing odours of		[?ozzing]
slime-songs, hymns in darkness.
why do you gorow flowers in 		[?whey do]
this eyeless silence, on the
cold marble that divided us?

LONE FOX DANCING : Ruskin Bond : 174

       (b. 1934 Kasauli Llewellyn Rhys prize age 18, editor Imprint)

As I walked home last night
I saw a lone fox dancing
In the cold moonlight.
I stood and watched.
Then Took the low road, knowing
The night was his by right.
Sometimes, when words ring true,
I'm like a lone fox dancing
In the morning dew.

YOUR EYES, GLAD & WONDERING : Ruskin Bond : 175

Your eyes, glad and wondering,
Dwelt in mine.
And all that stood between us
Was a blade of grass
In the breath from our lips.

But grass will bend.

The world swings around.
The sky spins, the trees go hush
Hush, the mountain sings-

Though we must leave this space.
We're trapped forever in a little space
One last sweet phantom kiss.

BOY IN A CEMETERY : ruskin bond

It was shady in the cemetery, and the mango trees
Did well there, nourished by the bones
Of long-dead Colonels, Collectors, Magistrates and Memsahibs.
An Anglo-Saxon cemetery.  (The poor Christians
Had a separate plot, across the road.)
And here, in splendour, lay the graves
Of those who'd brought their English dust
To lie with Ganges soil: some tombs were temples,
Some were cenotaphs; and one, a tiny Taj...
Here lay sundry relatives, including Uncle Henry,
Who'd been for many years a missionary:
"Sacred to the memory
Of Henry C. Wagstaff,
Who translated the Gospels into Pashtu.
And was murdered by his own Chowkidar;
'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' " --
So ran his epitaph.

The gardener, who looked after the trees,
Also dug graves.  One day
I found him hard at work in a new cavity.
"They never let me know on time," he grumbled.
"Last week I dug two graves, and now, without warning,
Here's another.  It is'nt even the season for dying.
There's enough work all summer, when cholera's about --
Why can't they keep alive through the winter?
And this one, I've heard, was only twelve years old..."
As the pall-bearers carried the black box
In through the cemetery gate, I took to my heels.
Old graves were romantic.  New coffins left me cold.

Shiv K. Kumar

	b. 1921 Lahore.  Now teaches at U Hyderabad where he is chairman dept
	English. Visiting prof at Cambridge & Yale.  Has three books of poems
	in print [incl Articulate Silences (1970), Cobwebs in the Sun
	(1971)], a play and a book on Bergson.


			  (b. 1921 Lahore, Prof English U. Hyderabad)
She squats
on the dust-broomed pavement
behind a pyramid of mangoes
washed with her youth's milk
tinctured with the musk-rose in her hair.
	Through the slits
	of her patched blouse
	one bare shoulder
	two white moons
	pull all horses
	off the track.
The old man's eyes --
Idle birds
peeking at the mango-nipples.
	Buy something, man --
	or move on
	to the crypt
	where death's ferrous fingers
	will pull the remainder stray hair
	from your green skull.


	I have come to
	join the congregation
	wash my hands at the same font
	where others have dropped their fingers
	and walked away.

	On your forspent thighs
	Juvenile tourists who had
	only a glimpse of
	the inner shrine
	have left rude etchings
	of name, place and time.

	which, in fact, never change
	for my son will ferment
	the same yeast
	as my father's father
	and what you offer me now
	was also my mother's gift
	to a stranger.

	My wife awaits me around the corner
	to reclaim what's left of me.

Returning Home : Shiv K Kumar : 185

We unlock the doors
to antedeluvian passages
cluttered with dented skulls.
	The stalagmited silences
	startle at our
	approaching shadows.
The pain of turning keys
in mildewed holes.

Here in the lounge
behind the discreet curtains
still crouch the gentle things
I always wanted to say
	but each time
	even before the gesture
	you snapped me into muteness,
Draw aside these curtains softly
for the first ray
from the old sun
may decide the next eclipse.
Under these sofas
now rat-nibbled
lie buried our instant reconciliations		[? burried ?was: out]
gift-wrapped for the party

The kitchen was always your retreat.
Equipped with a hunter's armoury
you often chopped my finger-sausages
into bleeding cups.
	Pots and pans
	waiting for the waters of ablution
	to wash their sins
	down the sink's bottomless pit.		

The backyard
telescopes the house into perspective
illumining the meanings of
twisted syllables spoken indoors.
Here in the open privacies
the old gods counsel compromise.


       [studied at Darjeeling, accident in Mumbay, months of coma,
        neurosurgery, recovered over two years, 1977: now mid-twenties, lives
	in London )

Banners announced both to be prize fighters.

Proud owners unbuttoned
Bulging coats expectantly.  The sun caught
Silver shining hotly in palms
Of villagers in bright scarves, shirts, faces,
Eager to watch claw and feather fly.

Like human beings
That hide hatred in caged thoughts,
The bird blink heavily behind bars.

Hate was free, and the circle grew small --
Becoming the focus of all!
In a second's split the birds saw each other
The one slightly larger jumped first.

Faces felt brighter; Voices
Cheered at the hint of blood;
With the speed of an unseedn painter's brush
Colours streaked the air.
The smaller bird struck strongly
Ignoring the knowledge of fear.			[? was tear]

Last bets were taken as onlookers joined in,
Waving scarves of sweat
As death's breath grew warmer.

With a final scream the smaller bird
Felt his limbs weaken.  A clenched claw
Remained static
Defiantly pointing upwards.
The circle grew still.

Congratulations bloated one owner's cheeks.
Winnings were collected with
Back-slapping and smiles.
(The winning bird was pushed
Unceremoniously behind bars)
Then the crowd quickly dispersed
As a voice announced the Magic Show and Cobra Dance
were about to begin.

THE INDO ANGLIAN: Siddhartha Kak

		 (b 1947 Srinagar TV / stage personality)

	Introspection scared him.
	Aged him.
	He found his complexity embarrassing.

	India disturbed him.
	A man
	he had nothing to do with it.
	Yet turning inward
	was perplexed to find it there.

	Unsettled by this love and hate;
	Love of his thoughts
	     hate of his words,
	he reconciled himself to the fact
	that he was mad.

	he endures the buffeting
	praying for a miracle.

THE SEVEN STAGES OF LOVE : subhas saha : 198

	(b 1946 Calcutta runs Prayer Books press)

loving is like flowering

flowers fall; sunset
holds the petals like the fingers
of an ember man;
in the dark night of stars
the grass screams, the branches
wave on the ocean of the wind --
lost, the birds tremble in the cold

And a beach of sun-clouds and breeze

Wherefrom the opening of petals
from teh tight fold of bolssom ...

love is again a form of unfolding
a form of kissing the breeze,
a form of seeing and entering
the cool sands of the sea,
of dreaming of tresses
of talking
And bathing in the wind
of teh morning sun, of
whispering bird songs
after the night, of feeling
the world like a child, of
opening and awaiting

     And love is born
with the joy of life: from the womb
the delight, the cry, to sing:
the hands that can clasp
the lips that can speak

And the minds entwined with the rose
the silken agony of living

LOST CITIES : subhoranjan dasgupta : 200

	 (b 1949 Calcutta ed. Deutsche Welle Koln)

when I face you
I think of dissolving ruins
which like spent architects
rebuild Mohenjodaros
for my looks to violate

when I face you
I think of charred remains
which like struggling embers
preserve a burnt Pompei
for my eyes to anoint

and on your ancient face
through fire and decay
excavations proceed
that may unearth one day
my own timeblind Tamralipi	[? was Tamralipti]

MAUSOLEUM : subhoranjan dasgupta

after crossing my body several times
I have reached the land of tombstones
and stretching my skin to its limits
I have raised somehow a tattered tent
who knows if I can ever become
the body-all Tutankhamen

but you who have stabbed me
or left me with scars
or proposed illicit nights
now pay back in bricks stones sands
for my mausoleum to be built

AFTER THE WAR : suresh kohli : 205

	(b.1947, publishing house, N Delhi)

	Disgust creeps into the
	voices of tomorrow's victims:
	a matter of barricades and gunfire.
	Glueing the ear to any wall
	the thud of sledgehammers
	announces the lumbering approach
	poised ready to devour.
	Struggle can be gleaned along the passage, in
	the prospective victims' exasperation:
	justice is blind in the eye.
	The soldier's accumulated rancours
	produce new flow of traffic:
	tragic vibrios caught up
	in a complex adventure
	With a tornado of enigmas
	I inscribe numerous distress-signals.
	Death's flirtations are notorious in battlefields,
	death is as round and as black
				as the Indian eye:
	Death is a metaphor of life.

CALCUTTA: EARTH EXPLODES : suresh kohli : 207

	Explosively intoxicant,
	the city that bred culture once
	now breeds poisonous smoke.
	Blackly brown velvets and stones
	fish through the roads
	with sparkling toys in pockets and blouses
	and wisdom given to the dogs.
	Earth explodes to powder the faces
	like sand that powders the sea.
	The melancholy explosions of ghastly spirits
	evaporate the walls.
	Perfume no longer stills the twilight
	and at dawn the city in dark.
	Poets make bombs not words,
	annihilate the sky
	not create the earth.
	At evening's afterglow
	fire leaps forward
	like a mongoose at a snake.
	Life's lost in wilderness
	and violence feeds them with dreams.
	Calcutta has changed the face of its mother.
	Will it survive?
	Better to be exiled
	than be in Calcutta, he thought.

	[may be a response to Nandy's translation If you Exile me of
	Sunil G's Jadi nirbAsan dAo]

ENCORES : S. Santhi : 208

	(b. 1934 Madras, IAS)

Someone in a face
Along a laughter
I find a fragrant time.
This perfume holds no after.

Somewhere from a force
Within a chance tune
I sip a sweet essence.
This nectar turns sour soon.

Somehow of a fuse
Beneath an impulse
I make my lighted heart.
This lamp now my vision dulls.

Encores, alas, of an alas.

MY NAME IS ANOTHER : s. santhi

	When after an anguished
	Fortnight's resistance
	You yielded to the extent
	Of a kiss and a kiss and a kiss,
	I felt glad that you limited
	The symbol of your love to this,
	Strangely glad for once
	That I was given less than my wish.

	You that belong to another
	Know how your passion to smother.
	I that belong to another too
	Think now of none but you.
	The residuum of my desire
	Is the frost of a too-far fire.
	Still, when in the pit
	Of the chill, uneasy night,
	In your time and place, love,
	I put out my last least
	Cigarette and the light--
	Too thought-focused on you
	To be able to know exactly why --
	And pull over me a vacuous quilt,
	I feel strangely glad
	That my singular bed
	Doesn't, didn't ever, provide
	The warmth of your guilt.

frontispiece of my edition...

Links: Amitabh Mitra on the Unforgettable Times of the mid-70s

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Oct 26