book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

60 Indian poets

Jeet Thayil (ed.)

Thayil, Jeet (ed.);

60 Indian poets

Penguin, 2008 Pages 424

ISBN 0143064428

topics: |  poetry | anthology | india | english

Review: What is "Indian poetry"?

Although the title says "Indian poets", the representation excludes all work in Indian languages other than English. Being Indian means being sensitive to multilinguality - so a better title might have been "Indian English poets". Many Indian authors - both Indian English and in the "vernaculars" (a word whose use-by date is perhaps long gone) take umbrage at this kind of arrogation of the rubric "Indian" by the small noisy group that writes in English. This is especially irksome for Indian English poetry, where the readership, compared to other languages of India, is rather limited (though growing).

This is the same sin for which Rushdie and West's Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing was widely criticized a decade ago. Rushdie took the bull by the horn, stating boldly:

	Prose writing — both fiction and non-fiction — created in this period by
	Indian writers working in English, is proving to be a stronger and
	more important body of work than most of what has been produced in
	the '16 official languages' of India, the so-called 'vernacular
	languages', during the same time; and, indeed, this new, and still
	burgeoning 'Indo-Anglian' literature represents perhaps the most
	valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of books.

This sees "contribution" as the contribution to an essentially western
sensibility; in terms of its effect on the literary circles in India, this is
patently untrue.  The position was strongly opposed by many Indian authors
who happened to live in India, including those writing in English.  

Amit Chaudhuri bristled enough to produce a counter-volume, the
Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature, where he says:

	Can it be true that Indian writing, that endlessly rich, complex and
	problematic entity, is to be represented by a handful of writers who
	write in English, who live in England or America and whom one might
	have met at a party?"

Also Tarun Tejpal: (Rushdie And The Sea Of Prejudice) gives a
long list of authors whose work Rushdie does not consider fit to be
called "Indian Writing":
	O.V. Vijayan, 
	Nirmal Verma, 
	Gopinath Mohanty, 
	Qurratulain Haider,
	Ismat Chughtai, 
	Mahasweta Devi, 
	Thakazhi Pillai,
 	Manik Bandopadhyaya,
	M.T. Vasudevan Nair, 
	Sunil Gangopadhyaya

Thayil, while adopting the title "60 Indian poets", facilely defines
"Indian poets" as "poets of Indian origin writing in English".  The reader
becomes aware quickly that some of Amit Chaudhuri's critiques hold for the
poets selected here as well - those "who live in England or America and
whom one might have met at a party".

The introduction plunges directly into English and its association as a
language of India, thus dismissing without comment the entire indigenous
poetic corpus that has influenced English poetry in India - the tradition 
of Kunwar Narain, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Ayyappa Paniker, Amrita Pritam,
S. Rege, and so many others.  Even more suspect, for many Indians, is
the degree to which some of the expatriate authors of Indian origin may
even be called "Indian".  For such Indians (including myself, clearly),
this usage smacks of an superciliousness that Indian English poetry,
embattled as it is, can perhaps do without.

English in India

The introduction runs through the familiar problems faced by Indian authors
writing in English - "a small, Westernized, middle-class minority":
     	Where a Malayalam poet has a distinct readership, English language
     	poets do not.  They are known only unto themselves.  This has led to
     	crises of identity, to a few inelegant labels for the writing --
     	'Indo-English', 'Indo-Anglian', 'Indian English' -- and to a charged
     	debate that has carried on for at least eighteen decades.

Quoting Buddhadev Basu from 1963:
   	As for the present day "Indo-Anglians", they are earnest and not
   	without talent, but it is difficult to see how they can develop as
   	poets in a language which they have learnt from books and seldom hear
   	spoken in the streets or even in their own homes...  English poetry
   	written by Indians is 'a blind alley, lined with curio shops, leading

As it is, "Indian" is perhaps very difficult to define; and Thayil says he
is expanding "Indian" to include second generation diaspora.  This makes
the Indian-ness of the volume further suspect, and this is reflected in
the poems as well; e.g. how many Indians would be able to relate to
Srikanth Reddy's Esperanto poem, a long diatribe with grammar rules and
other affectations.  That Thayil has some doubts about including some of
these authors shows in his author intros, e.g. "If India appears at all in
these poems - "my country?" - it is a blur of sense impressions glimpsed
in passing" (about Subhashini Kaligotla, who lives in the US since age

Frankly, if we are to broaden "Indian", I would broaden it to "South Asian"
before moving to expatriate Indians.  There are voices in Bangladesh and
Pakistan that deserve to be heard.  Unfortunately they are not the kind you
would bump into in clubs in the west...

Going through the selections, it seems that the voices who grew up in the
West adopt a more radical innovativeness of form and fail to touch one
emotionally, as in the vacant postmodernism of Mukta Sambrani that verges on
incomprehensibility.  This is however, only a minority, and even among the
highly experimental, voices like Mani Rao's clearly have a central
register that connects.  And the poetic voices on display span a vast range
from the devotion-nostalgia of Ramanujan's Murugan to the small-town
lyricism of Anjum Hasan, and many shades in between.

Given the diversity of voices, it is hard to find a theme.  If there is one
aspect that ties the poets together it could be (borrowing from Upamanyu
Chatterjee's English, August) that most of the poets are
"shallow and urban".  But how much of "India" is this?  A tiny number of
poems do address non-urban concerns, (e.g. Parthasarathy's village of memory).

The search for a theme is rendered even more difficult by the idiosyncratic
arrangement of the authors - by some sense of style or content rather than
any other possible cue (such as mother-tongue, or period).  This, together
with a lack of contents or first lines index, makes it actually hard to
navigate the book.

However, there is no dearth of good poems in the book.  The longer sections
are devoted to more established poets like Adul Jussawala (19 pages),
Vikram Seth (17 pages) or Arun Kolatkar (15). By devoting some space to
Kolatkar's newer poems (released in the year of his death), the book brings
us up to date on him.

Missing : Agha

Among the missing voices are Agha Shahid Ali and Sujata Bhatt, which is
surprising given the diaspora emphasis.  Though Agha is mentioned in the
intro, still, he is, along with Kolatkar and Ramanujan, perhaps, inevitable
in any discussion of Indian poetry.  And even beyond Agha's extensive
oeuvre about the pain of Kashmir, paeans to Begum Akhtar or K.L. Saigal,
his later poems are also coloured by an Indian sensibility, e.g. in the
structure of the ghazal that he single-handedly made into a respectable
poetic form for English.  Sujata Bhatt is perhaps going through a downturn
in her image - in fact, personally, I find much of her poetry rather
uneven.  Apparently both were included in an earlier version of the
anthology by Jeet Thayil published by Bloodaxe Books; Gopi K. Kottoor,
writing in The Hindu, finds the "logic of the deletions
... baffling".  Reviewer Sridala Swami surmises 
that this might be due to copyright problems.

Do the poems work?

Whatever the basis of the selection and whatever the qualms about their
indian-ness, most of the poems in the anthology do seem to work for me.
Among diaspora poets who write with an Indian theme, I excerpt below
a lovely nostalgia by Srinivas Rayaprol, who migrated to the US.
Also, in the powerful "Reasons for Staying"  by G. S. Sarat Chandra,
the central theme, for me, is loneliness and loss -  the poet talks to the
the furniture in Kannada, trying to find "reasons to stay", a common dilemma
of the migrant soul.

One refreshing newer voice is that of Anjum Hassan b.1972, whose poems
speak of a unique Meghalaya stream of consciousness:
		We come here from the long afternoon
		stretched over the town's sloping roofs,
		its greasy garages and ice-cream parlours,
		its melancholic second-hand bookshops
		with their many missing pages.
			 - from To the Chinese restaurant

Another northeastern voice is that of Mamang Dai, from Arunachal Pradesh,
who left the IAS to pursue writing :
	 Where else could we be born,
	 where else could we belong,
	 if not of memory,
	 divining life and form out of silence?
			- from Missing Link

Among the other poets of note is Vijay Nambisan b.1963, most of whose
poems ("Millennium", "First Infinities") have won prizes earlier.   

?? Bruce King                                                            195
??      2004: Ezekiel, Moraes, Kolatkar


	In what seems to be an inexplicable omission, the book has neither a
	list of poems nor an index.  Nor are the authors arranged in any
	discernible pattern.  This makes it rather difficult to determine if
	a particular poem is in the selection or not.  In fact, even
	identifying if a poet is there or not is a challenge - the alleged
	table of contents merely lists the poets - and since they are in no
	order, you have to search them all to see if someone's not there.

	The only place where the names of the poems are available compactly
	is in the Copyright section, where they appear by poet name, which
	has no order (also no page numbers).

	If you have a copy of the book, you may wish to make a printout of
	the following contents and stick it at the back.

Nissim Ezekiel                                                        1
      A morning walk                                                  1
      Night of the scorpion                                           3

      Two nights of love                                              5
      The patriot                                                     5

Aimee Nezhukumatathil                                                 7
      Small murders                                                   7
      One bite                                                        8
      Making Gyotaku                                                  8
      Dinner with the Metrophobe                                      9

Srikanth Reddy                                                        11
      Burial Practice
      Fundamentals of Esperanto

Sudesh Mishra                                                         18
      Joseph Abela
      Suva; Skye
      Sea ode
		I come across traces of you
		(as one stumbling upon the perfume
		of a fugitive era
		is suddenly made fugitive )--

      Winter theology

Mukta Sambrani                                                        24
      The insurgence of colour, or Anna thinks Anne Carson is God, no smaller than Marx
      Names Anna forgets: Narayan, Vishwanat, Padmapani
      What the postman might translate
      Sashi, or how moon could mean sun

G.S. Sharat Chandra                                                   29
      Reasons for staying                                             29
      Vendor of fish                                                  30
      Consistently Ignored                                            30
      I feel let down                                                 31
      Rule of Possession                                              31
      Encircled                                                       32
      Friends                                                         33
      Seeing my name misspelled, I lok for the nether world           33
      Brothers                                                        34

Mamang Dai                                                            36
      The Missing Link                                                36
      Remembrance                                                     37
      No Dreams                                                       38
      Sky Song                                                        39
      Small towns and the river                                       40

Srinivas Rayaprol                                                     42
      Oranges on a table                                              42
      Poem                                                            43
      A taste for death                                               44
      Travel Poster                                                   45
      Married Love                                                    46
      Middle Age                                                      46
      I like the American face                                        47
      Life has been                                                   48
      Poem for a birthday                                             49

David Dabydeen [b. Guyana 1955 --> UK]                                50
      from Turner: New and selected poems

Tabish Khair                                                          59
      Nurse's tales, retold (2000)                                    59
      The Birds of North Europe (2000)                                60
      Lorca in New York (2006)                                        60
      Monsters (2005)                                                 61
      Falling (2005)                                                  62

Vinay Dharwadker b.Pune 1954 --> U.Wisconsin-Madison/Chicago          65
      Houseflies [1998]                                               65
      Words and Things [2005]                                         66
      Walking towards the Horizon [1994]                              66
      Life Cycles [2003]                                              67

Mani Rao b. Bombay 1965 F                                             69

R. Parthasarathy                                                      74
      Remembered Village [2007]                                       74
      from The concise Kamasutra                                      75
      East window                                                     76
      from A house divided                                            77

Vijay Nambisan                                                        79
      Millennium [2005]                                               79
      Holy, holy                                                      80
      First infinities 1, 2 & 3 [2005]                                81
      Madras Central [1992]                                           82
      Cats Have No Language [1992]                                    83
      Dirge [2005]                                                    84

Vivek Narayanan                                                       85
      Learning to drown                                               85
      Three Elegies for Silk Smitha                                   87
      Ode to prose                                                    89
      No more Indian women                                            90
      Not far from the mutiny memorial                                90

Manohar Shetty                                                        93
      May [2005]
      The Hyenas [1997]
      Stills from Baga beach [2000]
      The old printer [1994]
      Torpor [1994]
      Gifts [1981]

H. Masud Taj                                                          99
      The Travelling Nonvegetarian                                    99
      Approaching Manhattan

Vikram Seth                                                           103
      Unclaimed                                                       103
      Love and work                                                   104

      Ceasing upon the midnight                                       105
              He gets a bottle, pours a glass,
              A few red droplets on the grass,
                 Libation to the god
                 Of oak-trees and of mud,

      On the fiftieth anniversary of the Golden Gate bridge           107
      The stray cat                                                   110
      Things                                                          111
      The gift                                                        112
      A little night music                                            113
      Souzhou park                                                    113
      Qingdao: December                                               114
      The crocodile and the monkey 114

Ravi Shankar                                                          120
      Plumbing the deepening groove                                   120
      A Square of Blue Infinity                                       121
      Landscape in Chelsea                                            124
      A story with sand                                               125

Bibhu Padhi                                                           127
      Stranger in the house                                           127
      Midnight consolings                                             128
      Something else                                                  129
                      Remembering Raymond Carver
              There's always something else to these lines,
              always someone behind you, watching.
              You and the women and men who are elsewhere, sharing
              our children's request to be near them, always.
      from Sea Breeze                                                 130
      Grandmother's soliloquy                                         131

Tishani Doshi                                                         133
      Countries of the body                                           133
      Pangs for the philanderer                                       134
      At the Rodin Museum                                             135
      Homecoming                                                      136
      The day we went to the sea                                      137
      Evensong                                                        137

Eunice de Souza                                                       139
      Poem for a poet                                                 139
      Miss Louise                                                     141
      This Swine of Gardarene                                         142
      Women in Dutch painting                                         142
      Pilgrim                                                         143
      She and I                                                       144
      The road                                                        144
      Unfinished Poem                                                 145
      Outside Jaisalmer                                               145

Saleem Peeradina                                                      147
      Still life                                                      147
      Landscape with locomotive                                       147

Keki Daruwalla                                                        149
      The Poseidonians                                                149
      Roof observatory                                                152
      The glass-blower                                                153
      Wolf                                                            154
      Map-Maker                                                       155

Jane Bhandari                                                         158
      Steel Blue                                                      158

Arundhathi Subramaniam                                                162
      To the Welsh Critic Who Doesnt Find Me Identifiably Indian      163
      Home                                                            164
      5.46 Andheri Local                                              164

Anjum Hasan                                                           166
      Shy                                                             166
      To the Chinese restaurant                                       167
      March                                                           168
      Jealousy Park                                                   169
      Rain                                                            170

Amit Chaudhuri                                                        171
      St. Cyril Road Sequence [2005]                                  171
      Nissim Ezekiel [2005]                                           174

Subhasini Kaligotla                                                   175
      In freezing light the Chrysler Building [unpub]                 175
      Lepidoptera [2007]                                              176
      from The Lord's prayer                                          176
      How versatile the heart / How xenophobic the heart              178
      Ascent to Calvary [2008]                                        179

Deepankar Khiwani                                                     181
      Delhi airport [2006]                                            181
      Night train to Haridwar [2006]                                  182
      Collectors [2006]                                               182

Leela Gandhi                                                          184
      Sex                                                             184
      Noun                                                            184
      Homage to Emily Dickinson, after Pain [2000]                    185
      Copula [2005]                                                   186
      On Reading You Reading Elizabeth Bishop [2000]                  186
      On Vermeer: Female Interiors [2000]                             187
      A catalogue for Prayer [2000]                                   187

A.K. Ramanujan                                                        189
Bruce King                                                            195
      2004: Ezekiel, Moraes, Kolatkar

Dom Moraes                                                            217
      Another weather                                                 217
      At seven o'clock                                                219
                      [about a massage experience]
              A deep ironic knowledge of the thin
              Or gross (but always ugly) human flesh.
      Visitors                                                        220
      Absences                                                        220
              The tireless persuasions of the dead ...
      Two from Israel                                                 222
      from After the operation                                        224

Jeet Thayil                                                           227
      To Baudelaire                                                   227
              I am over you at last, in Mexico City,
              in a white space high above the street,  [...]
      The heroin sestina                                              228
      Malayalam's ghazal                                             229
      Spiritus Mundi                                                  230
      The two thousands                                               231
          Depending on who was winning
          I shaved or I didn't.
      Poem with prediction                                            232
          Because he's old and unsure
          he counts on your faith in images
      The art of seduction                                            233
      The new island                                                  234

Prageeta Sharma                                                       235
      On rebellion                                                    235
      Blowing hot and cold                                            237
      The silent meow                                                 237
      Birthday poem                                                   238
      Release me from this paying passenger                           238
      Underpants                                                      239
      Ode to badminton                                                239
      Miraculous food for once                                        240

Anand Thakore                                                         242
      Departure                                                      242
      Chandri Villa                                                   243
      Creepers on a steel door                                        243
      What I can get away with                                        244
      Ablutions                                                       245

Kersy Katrak                                                          247
      from Malabar Hill                                               247
      Ancestors                                                       249
              I followed him as he left the body

Imtiaz Dharker                                                        251
      Living space                                                    251
              There are just not enough / straight lines.
      Its face                                                        252
      Before I                                                        252
      Dreams                                                          253
      Purdah I                                                        254
      Object                                                          255

Rukmini Bhaya Nair                                                    256
      Genderole                                                       256
              [words run into each other, as in an old sanskrit manuscript]
      Renoir's umbrellas                                              257
      Usage                                                           258
      Convent                                                         259

Kamala Das                                                            260
      The descendants                                                 260
      Luminol                                                         261
      A request                                                       261
      The looking glass                                               262
      The stone age                                                   262
      The maggots                                                     263
      The old playhouse                                               263

Menka Shivdasani                                                      265
      Spring cleaning                                                 265
      At Po Lin, Lantau                                               266
      Epitaph                                                         267
      No man's land                                                   267

Gopal Honnalgere                                                      269
      The City                                                        269
      You Can't Will                                                  274 
      A Toast with Karma                                              275
      Nails                                                           276
      Theme                                                           276
      How to Tame a New Pair of Chappals                              277
      The Donkeys                                                     278

Daljit Nagra                                                          280
      The speaking of Bagwinder Singh Sagoo!                          280
      Look we have coming to Dover!                                   281
      Singh song!                                                     282

Gieve Patel                                                           285
      Post mortem                                                     285
      The ambiguous fate of Gieve Patel, he being
             neither muslim nor hindu in India                        286
      Servants                                                        286
      Squirrels in Washington                                         287

Melanie Silgardo                                                      289
      Bombay                                                          289
      Sequel to Goan death                                            290
      1956-1976, a poem                                               290
      Stationary stop                                                 291
      from Beyond the comfort zone                                    292

Dilip Chitre                                                          294
      from Twenty breakfasts towards death
        - The first breakfast: Objects                                294
        - The second breakfast : Intimations of mortality             295
        - The fourth breakfast : Between knowing and unknowing        296

Ranjit Hoskote                                                        298
      Passing a ruined mill                                           298
      Ghalib in the Winter of the Great Revolt                        301
      Footage for a Trance                                            302
      A view of the lake                                              304
      Colours for a Landscape Held Captive                            305
Mamta Kalia                                                           307
      Against Robert Frost                                            307
      Brat                                                            307
      Tribute to Papa                                                 308
      Untitled                                                        309
      Sheer good luck                                                 309
      I'm not afraid of a naked truth                                 310
      After eight years of marriage                                   310
Jayanta Mahapatra                                                     311
      A day of rain                                                   311
      Rain of rites                                                   312
      Summer                                                          312
      The quest                                                       313
      The moon moments                                                314
      I did not know I was ruining your life                          314
      Unreal country                                                  315
      A Hint of Grief                                                 316

Karthika Nair                                                         317
      Zero degrees 317
	Interregnum 318
	Visiting hours 319
	Snapshot on the Parisian metro, or landscape on line 3 321

Jerry Pinto                                                           322
      House repairs 322
	Drawing home 322
	Window 323
	Rictus 323

Adil Jussawalla                                                       325
      Missing Person 325

Lawrence Bantleman                                                    344
      Movements                                                       344
      Words                                                           345
      In Uttar Pradesh                                                346
      Ghosts                                                          346
      Septuagesima                                                    347
      D- to J-                                                        348
      One A. M.                                                       348
      Gauguinesque                                                    349

E.V. Ramakrishnan                                                     350
      Terms of seeing                                                 350
      Stray Cats                                                      351
      from For All Things Dying                                       352

Sampurna Chattarji                                                    354
      Still life in motion                                            354
      A memory of logs                                                356
      Crossing                                                        357
      Boxes                                                           358

K. Satchidanandan                                                     359
      Stammer                                                         359
      The mad                                                         360
      Genesis                                                         361
      Gandhi and poetry                                               361

C.P. Surendran                                                        363
      Milk still boils                                                363
      A Friend in Need                                                363
      Curios                                                          364
      Family court                                                    364
      Conformist                                                      365
      from Catafalque                                                 366

Vijay Seshadri                                                        368
      The Disappearances                                              368
      The Long Meadow                                                 370
      North of Manhattan                                              371
      Lifeline                                                        374

Arvind K Mehrotra                                                     381
      Genealogy                                                       381
      Continuities                                                    383
      Canticle for my son                                             384
      To an unborn daughter                                           385
      Where will the next one come from                               385
      Approaching Fifty                                               386
      The house                                                       386
      Scenes from a revolving chair                                   387
      What is an Indian poem (essay)                                  389

Arun Kolatkar                                                         393
      from Pi-Dog                                                     393
      The Ogress                                                      400
      Bon Appétit                                                     405


Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004)

		Nissim Ezekiel, the grand old man of Indian English poetry,
		passed away recently.  He is a master of a range of forms
		of narrative poetry, and his "Indian-ness" shows up in some
		poems such as Ms. Pushpa and the Patriot below.  A more
		direct intensity is felt in Night of the scorpion, also
		anthologized here.

The patriot


I am standing for peace and non-violence
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding,
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting-
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

   	 [b.1974 Chicago.  Father from Kerala, mother from Phillippines.
	  Miracle Fruit (2003), At the drive-in volcano (2007).  As with
   	 Lawrence Bantleman, the poems are almost entirely contained in the
   	 last lines. teaches at SUNY Fredonia.  ]

	 links: * publisher's site for miracle fruit
		* review by Carlene Bonnivier :
			Her multi-cultural background informs her poems with
			colors and texture; her language is open, playful and
			killingly accurate. Her poems cast not a net but a
			spell, and I was under it from the first parchment
			page to the last salvo.

Small Murders : Aimee Nezhukumatathil : p.7

When Cleopatra received Antony on her cedarwood ship,
she made sure he would smell her in advance across the sea:
perfumed sails, nets sagging with rosehips and crocus
draped over her bed, her feet and hands rubbed in almond oil,
cinnamon, and henna. I knew I had you when you told me

you could not live without my scent, brought pink bottles of it,
creamy lotions, a tiny vial of parfume — one drop lasted all day.
They say Napoleon told Josephine not to bathe for two weeks
so he could savor her raw scent, but hardly any mention is ever
made of their love violets.  Her signature fragrance: a special blend

of these crushed purple blooms for wrist, cleavage, earlobe.
Some expected to discover a valuable painting inside
the locket around Napoleon's neck when he died, but found
a powder of violet petals from his wife's grave instead.  And just
yesterday, a new boy leaned in close to whisper that he loved

the smell of my perfume, the one you handpicked years ago.
I could tell he wanted to kiss me, his breath heavy and slow
against my neck. My face blue from the movie screen—
I said nothing, only sat up and stared straight ahead. But
by evening's end, I let him have it: twenty-seven kisses

on my neck, twenty-seven small murders of you. And the count
is correct, I know — each sweet press one less number to weigh
heavy in the next boy's cupped hands. Your mark on me washed
away with each kiss. The last one so cold, so filled with mist
and tiny daggers, I already smelled the blood on my hands.

Making Gyotaku : Aimee Nezhukumatathil p.8

In Osaka, fishermen have no use for the brag,
the frantic gestures of length, blocks of air

between their hands. They flatten their catch
halfway into a tray of sand, steady

the slick prize. The nervous quiver
of the artist's hands over the fish – washing it

with dark ink, careful not to spill or waste,
else feel the wrath of salty men at sea.

It is a good print, the curves and channels of each scale
will appear as tidy patterns to be framed and hung

in the hallway of his house. But perhaps the gesture
I love most —- before the pressing of rice paper over

inked fish, before the gentle peel away of the print
to show the fish's true size -— is the quick-light stroke

of the artist's thumb, how deftly he wipes away
the bit of black ink from the fish's jelly eye –

how he lets it look back from the wall at the villagers,
the amazed staring back at the amazed.

One Bite : Aimee Nezhukumatathil p.8

Miracle fruit changes the tongue. One bite,
and for hours all you eat is sweet. Placed
alone on a saucer, it quivers like it's cold
from the ceramic, even in this Florida heat.

Small as a coffee bean, red as jam –
I can’t believe. The man who sold
it to my father on Interstate 542 had one
tooth, one sandal, and called me

‘Duttah, duttah.’ I wanted to ask what
is that, but the red buds teased me
into our car and away from his fruit stand.
One bite. And if you eat it whole, it softens

and swells your teeth like a mouthful
of mallow. So how long before you lose
a sandal and still walk? How long
before you lose the sweetness?

Dinner with the Metrophobe 9

	   Metrophobia is the fear of poetry.

I could tell from our onion blossom
this was all a mistake. There was no
"flower" of fried petals, but a soggy mess
in a napkin-lined wicker basket instead,

a bad corsage at the end of prom night.
But at work he was kind — always had
an extra envelope, a red pen, offered
to get me coffee from the machine

downstairs. He was the only one
who didn't gasp when I cut eight inches
off my hair. There was no competition
over publications (he never even read

The New Yorker), and sometimes, he'd hold
my elbow as we climbed staircases.
So when he asked me out for dinner over
e-mail, I thought it was just his way.

I had to lower my silly poet-standards
of expecting roses with each question,
a clever note snuck in my coat pocket
about my eyelashes breaking his heart

or how he must see me right now. I never
expected this guy's hands to shake all over
our appetizer of clams casino — shook so hard
his shell spilled its stewy contents on his tie.

The clatter of his teeth on his sweaty
water glass as he dribbled. The hives.
All I said was Don't be too nice to me.
One day I might write this all down.

Sudesh Mishra

	Sudesh Mishra teaches literature at the University of the South
	Pacific, Suva, Fiji.

Suva; Skye : Sudesh Mishra p. 19

A half-spent
mosquito coil
mounted on an upended fork
inside a squat jar
brimming with smoky water
is nothing
like the swan
he saw
that neutral day
its ancient ashen neck
upon the flood
of a loch
crammed with brilliant sky.
Nothing like.

G.S. Sharat Chandra

   [ b. 1935 Karnataka 1960s-> USA U. Missouri prof] 

Reasons for staying : G.S. Sharat Chandra : p. 29

I am talking to the kitchen table
full of roses
The language is my own,
I tell them
I own them.

There are roses because I say so,
the vase is mine,
so is the kitchen.
I like them red,
I pay for the water.

The chairs immediately respond,
the table,
the knives and plates,
the salt shaker,
join in.

Vendor of fish : G.S. Sharat Chandra : 30

all night he waits at the harbour
his eyes the colour of the sea
the sea the colour of trawlers
he grabs the finest wipes them
on his shawl his shawl
the colour of blood

fish the colour of rupees
he thinks of the meal he'll buy
the meal of chapattis and kurma
the fish in the smell of kurma
he packs them in the basket with ice
his hands the colour of fire

he leaps on the tar road faster
than sweat can print his feet
the distance is the colour of dreams
the fish in the basket shine
sawdust daubst their finds
he sings in praise of their colour

Consistently Ignored : G.S. Sharat Chandra : p. 30

	       for my mother

Consistently ignored in a family of ten
I asked mother, 'Ami I your real son?'
She paused from grinding spice
'No, I bought you from a beggar
for a handful of rice!'
From behind, sisters giggled.

I matched features, spied on beggars,
Roamed the backyard thinking
of distant huts, certain
My mother sat busy in one
Scheming to trade another son
For fish to add to that bushel.

Mamang Dai

  [b 1959 Arunachal Pradesh, F; IAS officer --> Journalist] 

The Missing Link : Mamang Dai : p.36

I will remember then
the great river that turned, turning
with the fire of the first sun,
away from the old land of red robed men
and poisonous ritual,
when the seven brother fled south
disturbing the hornbills in their summer nests.

Remember the flying dust
and the wind like a long echo
snapping the flight of the river beetle,
venomous in the caves
where men and women dwelt facing the night,
guarding the hooded poison.

There are no records.
The river was the green and white vein of our lives
linking new terrain.
In a lust for land, brother and brother
claimed the sunrise and the sunset
in a dispute settled by the rocks,
engraved in a vanished land.

I will remember then the fading foices
of deaf women framing the root of light
in the first stories to the children of the tribe.
Remember the river's voice:
Where else could we be born,
where else could we belong,
if not of memory,
divining life and form out of silence?
Water and mist,
the twin gods, water and mist,
and the cloud woman always calling
from the sanctuary of the gorge

Remember, because nothing is ended,
but it is changed,
and memory is a changing shape,
showing with these fading possessions
in lands beyond the great ocean
that all is changed but not ended.

And in the villages, the silent hill people still await
the promised letters, and the meaning of words.

No Dreams : Mamang Dai : p. 38

The days are nothing
Plant and foliage grow silently
at night a star falls down
a leopard leaves its footprint
But I have no dreams.

The wind blows into my eyes
sometimes, it stirs my heart
to see the land so plain and beautiful
But I have no dreams

If I sit very still
I think I can join the big mountains
In their speechless ardour

Where no sun is visible
the hills are washed with light
The river sings
Love floats!
Love floats!
But I have no dream.

Sky Song : Mamang Dai : p. 39

The evening is
the greatest medicine maker
testing the symptoms
of breath and demise,
without appointment
writing prescriptions
In the changing script
of a cloud's wishbone rib,
in the expanding body of the sky.

We left the tall trees standing.
We left the children playing.
We left the women talking
and men were predicting
good harvests or bad,
that winged summer we left,
racing with the leopards of morning.

I do not know how we bore the years.
By ancient, arched gates
I thought I saw you waving,
in greeting or farewell, I could not tell;
when summer changed hands again
only the eastern sky remained;
One morning, flowering peonies
swelled my heart with regret.

Summer's bitter pill was a portion of sky
like a bird's wing, altering design.
A race of fireflies bargaining with the night.

Attachment is a gift of time, I know,
the evening's potion provides
heaven's alchemy in chromosomes of light,
lighting cloud fires
in thumbprints of the sky.

Small towns and the river : Mamang Dai

Small towns always remind me of death.
My hometown lies calmly amidst the trees,
it is always the same,
in the summer or winter
with the dust flying,
or the wind howling down the gorge

Just the other day someone died.
In the dreadful silence we wept
looking at the sad wreath of tuber rose.
Life and death, life and death,
only the rituals are permanent

The river has a soul.
In the summer it cuts through the land
like a torrent of grief. Sometimes
sometimes, I think it holds its breath
seeking the land of fish and stars

The river has a soul.
It knows, stretching past the town,
from the first drop of rain to dry earth
and mist on the mountaintops,
the river knows
the immortality of water

A shrine of happy pictures
marks the days of childhood.
Small towns grow with anxiety
for future generations.
The dead are placed pointing west.
When the soul rises
it will walk into the golden east,
into the house of the sun

In the cool bamboo,
restored in the sunlight,
life matters, like this.

In small towns by the river
we all want to walk with the gods.


Srinivas Rayaprol

	(1925-1998) b Secunderabad, AP.  son of leading Telugu poet
	Rayaprolu Subbarao.  BHU -> Stanford U. Civil Engg.  founded and ed
	East and West magazine (1956-61).  Among contributors were William
	Carlos Williams.  Three books w Writers' Workshop, Calcutta.  Bones
	and Distances 1968, Married love and other poems 1972, Selected Poems
	1995.  "I have realized indeed rather painfully that I am no longer
	the genius I thought I was." died in Secunderabad.]

Oranges on a table

the subtle distinction
of Mahogany

No longer
a thought

on the tree
in spring

but made
as green
its body
a summer arm

Yellow and slow

Not an ultimate order
of the orange sky
but the angular

of the stone
that blocks
the river's run.

Srinivas Rayaprol : Poem : p.43

In India

Have a way
of growing old

My mother
for instance

Sat on the floor
a hundred years

Stirring soup
in a sauce pan

Sometimes staring
at the bitter

Neem tree
in the yard

For a hundred years
without the kitchen walls.

Married Love : Srinivas Rayaprol : 46

Every evening
I am met at the gate by my wife
her hair in disorder and her dress a mess
from the kitchen
and the girls hand on the leaves of the gate
while my ancient car rolls in.
One carries my bag, the other
my lunch basket.
The day's work is over and I am home.
I have forgotten them all day and now
suddenly remember that I must
disappoint them again
for my evening is planned
for a meaningless excursion to the bars.
And the coffee which my wife has served
is cold in my mouth
and the tales the children have brought from school
are dull on my ears.
In spite of my love for them
I must disappoint them again tonight.

I like the American face : Srinivas Rayaprol : 47

I like the American face
successful, clean shaven
closely clothed
with arrogance of chin
but soft of eye
and always ready
to break into a false-toothed smile

The kind of face
that photographs so well in _Time
a face with the races so well mixed
Yet wholly new
and all American
as apple-pie

Individually interesting
but pointless on the whole
sexless on the surface

Poem for a birthday : Srinivas Rayaprol : 49

I have never been more
than the occasion demanded

have never been in an occasion
which demanded more than me

I have never had the mind's argument
dislodged by the horses of the heart

have never ridden horses
who did not know their riders

I have never risen above
the immediate moment

have never had a moment
which demanded my immediate answer

I have never needed a new face
to meet the faces of my friends

have never had friends without faces
that did not smile back at me.

Tabish Khair

   [b 1966 Gaya Bihar professional Muslim family of doctors
    Associate Professor, English, U. Aarhus, Denmark]

Nurse's tales, retold: Tabish Khair 59

Because the east wind bears the semen smell of rain,
A warm smell like that of shawls worn by young women
Over a long journey of sea, plain and mountains,
The peacock spreads the Japanese fan of its tail and dances,
And dances until it catches sight of its scaled and ugly feet.

Because the koel cannot raise its own chicks --
Nature's fickle mother who leaves her children on doorsteps
In the thick of nights, wrapped in controversy and storm --
Because the koel will remain eternally young, untied,
It fills the long and empty afternoons with sad and sweet songs.

Because the rare Surkhaab loves but once, marries for life,
The survivor circles the spot of its partner's death uttering cries,
Until, shot by kind hunters or emaciated by hunger and loss,
It falls to the ground, moulting feathers, searching for death.
O child, my nurse had said, may you never see a Surkhaab die.

(from Where Parallel Lines Meet, Penguin, Delhi, 2000)
links: *
       * poems from wasafiri 2004 (subscription)

The birds of North Europe : Tabish Khair 60

Twenty four years in different European cities and he had not lost
His surprise at how birds stopped at the threshold
Of their houses. Never

Flying into rooms, to be decapitated by fan-blades or carefully
Herded through open windows to another life, never
Building on the lampshade

Or on some forgotten, cool corner-beam where droppings and straw
Would be tolerated until the fateful day hatched
And the world was fragile

Shell, feathers, a conspiratorial rustle of wings above and of
An intrigued girl below. Even the birds in their neat towns
Knew their place. They

Did not intrude into private spheres, demanding to be overlooked
Or worshipped. They did not consider houses simply
Exotic trees or hollowed

Hills. Not being particularly learned he did not know the thread
Of fear that knots the wild to the willed; not
Being well-read he

Did not remember the history behind their old and geometrical
Gardens, could not recall a time when the English
Parliament had killed a bill,

Shocked by a jackdaw's flight across the room. He simply marked
The absence of uncaged birds in their homes. He thought
It was strange.

Lorca in New York : Tabish Khair 60

Federico García Lorca lonely in New York
With his list of English words to get by barely
(Shishpil: sex appeal), on the edge of hecho poético
Where an image falls together not like clouds in the sky
But a hurt's shadow on the great cold wall of show,

Writes about a hurricane of black pigeons splashing,
Writes about the furious swarming coins that devour children,
Writes about the poisonous mushroom (this is pre-Hiroshima),
Writes about wiping moonlight from the temples of the dead,
Writes about the fire that sleeps in dark flints, sleeps,

Awakes to his own private memories of sorrow and loss,
That blue horse of his insanity that makes him see
The three who were frozen, the three burned, the buried three.
Spanish Siddhartha, Buddha of the beautiful body, poet
Of crystallised fish dying inside tinfoil tree trunks,

Hear the pain in her smile here where only teeth exist
And flints have long been caped in satin, dogs stay dogs,
Watch the voice outside that ethnic shop – Fucking Paki
Place is like always open – put a stainless steel lock
On Earth and its timeless doors which lead to the blush of fruits.

Monsters : Tabish Khair 61

Theirs the city of the sayable. Hers its suburbs,
Filling with the screamed obscenities of graffiti, gestures
At coherent articulation, the word within that world
Of splashed red, aerosoled blue, skulls and crossbones,
Crashing cars, rose out of a gun barrel, space monsters, all
Unable to utter a sound that will count as speech.

It is in such a moment of sheer scream, unsayable,
That Shakuntala looks in the mirror and is surprised
To see fangs and fire, a gaping mouth like Kali's,
Goddess culled from the anger of colonisation:
It is a vision that lasts only a second, but in it
Are contained the silent stories of her history.

Her lineage is monstrous. Scylax said so:
Daughter of the dog-faced and blanket-eared.
Such many-armed, hydra-headed ancestors
Shocked the evangelising white man, puzzled
The aesthetes of Europe in later centuries:
Truth and beauty have long been denied her.

Did her mothers know what she has forgotten:
The choice was between mirror and monster?
How to keep their devdasis from turning nuns
In Danse des servantes ou esclaves des dieux,
They loosened their limbs in the cosmic dance
Of the oppressed -- fingers, arms, heads flew off

Leonardo da Vinci's symmetrical bodies
And the mirror of that white gaze shattered
On Develish formes and uglie shapes.  Adam
Stood speechless before monstraous Ada,
Which hath foure hands with clawes...
The better to rip you with, coloniser?

Faced with humanity, they could not look
Into those eyes and fail to be struck blind
By the injustice of it all, their own greed:
Monsters filled their mirrors.  It was safer
To lose in that adytum of demons the truth
Of bodies with blackened teeth, minds on fire.

Vinay Dharwadker

	[ 1954 Pune S.AsianLit at U.Wisc-Mad --> U. Chicago ] 

Houseflies : Vinay Dharwadker 65

Like a pair
trapped indoors
by the summer screens on the windows
we flit about in zigzag flight

in a corner of the ceiling's
inverted floor,
from where the giant room
seems to loom u0pside down above us,

we nuzzle up to each other,
twelve hairy legs
intertwined at once
giddy with the vertigo
of watching our mirror selves
multiplied a thousand times,
as we mate in every facet
of our big domed eyes.

Words and Things : Vinay Dharwadker p.66

words evaporate like water in a dish
leaving you with a sense of something meant,
but not the memory of what was said,
or how, or when.
Things stay as they are (call them facts)
even with the names you learn to give them;
poems (you tell yourself) are so many ways
of naming things you've seen
once and may not see again,
except for tricks of remembering;
for words forget themselves
and move among the things you cannot name,
and what you know by touch and tact
seems merely a vanishing thing.

Walking towards the horizon : vinay dharwadker : 66

Maybe it will be like this: a notebook
left open the previous night on the desk
his glasses set down on a half-finished page;
in the early morning light, blue lines
crossed by a thin red vertical on the left,
the hand sloping neatly, in the black ink he liked;
close to the edge of the desk, a box of clips,
pens and pencils in a silver cup he meant
to polish for months, but never did; a cheap
stiletto for letters, five envelopes slit open;
an ashtray; a chequebook in a brown plastic jacket.

In the other room, toys scattered on the rug,
his wife's coat flung on the arm of the couch,
a bunch of keys and magazines on the coffee table;
pots and pans in the kitchen sink, three dinner plates
and forks, waiting to be scrubbed in the morning;
outside the window, a parking lot shared by a school
and a hospital, half empty; a few leaves fallen
between the sidewalk and the street, brown lumps
of dog-shit under the maple tree turning red; a van,
newspapers in vending machines, a woman walking;
a patch of blue, and a horizon, out of sight, somewhere.

[scene in the room, then rest of the house, moving beyond the window, to the
horizon unseen]

Life Cycles : vinay dharwadker : 67

		In Chattisgarh, near Bilaspur

Clouds drift low above the monsoon town:
loose wads of wool, not yet spun to yarn,
swirling slowly in the wind. The sky drips
all day, all night, bringing down a foot of rain:
red mud in puddles; pools of saffron water;
sludge squelching underfoot: a foot of rain.

A liquid sheet, mirroring the sky,
is stretched across the paddy fields squared off
by banks of matted clay: blue, green, ocher
smeared with gray. Uneven squares, trapeziums,
sewn like patches on a checkered cloth:
the paddy, standing in a foot of water, velvet green.

So many butterflies swarming in the brush:
orange, purple, white, electric-blue,
their yellows bright as ripened mustard fields.
Brown, furry caterpillars; fat centipedes,
black and amber. A newborn calf, wobbling in the grass:
coat white as wool, eyes like glistening marbles.

Young rice plants, emerald filaments,
calf-deep in ruddy water. Rows of men and women,
bent over, moving through the fields in rhythm,
like combs through hair. Fingers grasp
the saplings, scoop them out, tie them up
in bundles, in tandem. Far in the distance,

a single tractor, plumed with diesel fumes,
turns up the soil in mechanical clods. But here
all the work is done by hand: bare bodies,
bare heads, bare hands. Trees blur into the sky,
their hues washed like watercolors: the earth,
fresh, full of life, swells and sways beneath them.

	VINAY DHARWADKER is the author of Sunday at the Lodi Gardens (Viking,
	1994), and has recently completed his second collection, Someone
	Else's Paradise: Poems 1971-2001. Among the books he has edited or
	coedited are The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry (1994), The
	Collected Poems of A. K. Ramanujan (1995), and The Collected Essays
	of A. K. Ramanujan (1999), all published by Oxford University Press.

Mani Rao

Untitled: Mani Rao


If you smile when you wake up, if you don't smile when you wake up.
When we woke up dreaming of each other.  When I slept right through your
She wakes up slowly, still talking to her dreams.  He is spat out by the
	night, turns to the tide of the radio.


I leave myself in the terrace and go downstairs.  I leave myself in the
	living room and go to the kitchen.
I get together sometimes, a hall of mirrors, swearing different stories,
	playing you-know-that-I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know.
They are all true, some truths you know, some you don't.
You look for too much explanation.
I can go back to fetch a better memory.  And I can recur if you wish.


R. Parthasarathy

    b. 1934 Tamil Nadu --> Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs
    oft quoted: "My tongue in English chains" [1977]

Remembered Village : R. Parthasarathy

If you love your country, he said, why are you here?
Say, you are tired of hearing about
all that wonder-that-was-India crap.
It is tea that's gone cold: time to brew a fresh pot.

But what wouldn't you give for one or two places in it?
Aunt's house near Kulittalai, for instance.
It often gets its feet wet in the river,
and coils of rain hiss and slither on the roof.
Even the well boils over.
Her twelve-house lane is bloated with the full moon,
and bamboos tie up the eerie riverfront
with a knot of toads.

A Black Pillaiyar temple squats at one end of the village --
stone drum that is beaten thin on festivals by the devout.
Bells curl their lips at the priest's rustic Sanskrit.
Outside, pariah dogs kich up an incense of howls.

And beyond the paddy fields,
dead on time, the Erode Mail rumbles past,
a light needle of smoke threading remote villages
such as yours that are routinely dropped by schedules
and no trains are ever missed.

Vijay Nambisan

	 [b.1963 neyveli TN; studied at IIT Madras, presently at Lonavala] 

Millennium : Vijay Nambisan : 79

There was not much light in the world when we left
The stairs were dank and smelled of anger.
At their foot was a heap of straw, soaked in blood:
We did not ask whose, for all was conjecture, and this
Fresh sign would have yielded us little more.

They say there are signs in all things; well, there were
some we could have done without that day.  For the sun set
The instant we had emerged from the passage-way
And we had to grope our road to the little shed where,
Little and unannounced, our mission lay.

Frost streamed the air.  Our blood pulsed thin and shrill.
My brother pushed open the door.  In the wild light
Of a torch, we saw the mother's breast was white and plump,
And the child's lips were red as any rose.  None of us
Dared hesitate, or be afraid; we drew our swords.

It is long after that I tell this, and it may differ
From the tales you must have heard.  What matters?
There was no light in the world when we did our deed.
There is no light now.  Is it all possible
That I should say more or less than I know?

Yes I have heard the stories.  Yes, there was some talk
Of a brave man whose bravery passed all foolishness.
Yes, we are a weak people now but we were not so
When lured by gold but hardly less by strength,
We let our faith die and put away our books
And enrolled ourselves under the Idumean.

He was a false king, at last, but what would you have?
There have been falser.  One rules now, in Rome.
But this one thing I can say, because upon my steel
There sang the blood, and almost on my lips; with
That blade which now rotten hangs upon the wall,
With that blade and no other, I slew David's heir.

Holy, Holy : Vijay Nambisan p.80

	The rain threatens this ordinary day
	With magic.  Things that grow manifest
	Plainly, the unnatural: more sure
	And permanent is the unwalked way,
	Lifeless air, stone unencumbered
	With feelings; not obsessed, therefore pure.

	Yet even metal has a life that cries
	For use, even crystals ask to be touched--
	How much weaker are those green and clinging loves,
	These hollow souls which populate the skies
	With what they aspire to.  Reality
	In itself is content, and needs no proofs.

	When I was young enough to treat these things
	Withough consciousness, I could cast my mind
	To that emptiness whereof all is made
	And ask, Without my imaginings,
	What is?
	     Nothing answered nothing, and in that space
	I knew myself unliving, unafraid.

Madras Central : Vijay Nambisan 82

    The black train pulls in at the platform,
    Hissing into silence like hot steel in water.
    Tell the porters not to be so precipitate:
    It is good, after a desperate journey,
    To rest a moment with your perils upon you.

    The long rails decline into a distance	
    Where tomorrow will come before I know it.
    I cannot be in two places at once:
    That is axiomatic. Come, we will go and drink
    A filthy cup of tea in a filthy restaurant.

    It is difficult to relax. But my head spins
    Slower and slower as the journey recedes.
    I do not think I shall smoke a cigarette now.
    Time enough for that. Let me make sure first
    For the hundredth time, that everything's complete.

    My wallet's in my pocket; the white nylon bag
    With the papers safe in its lining-fine;
    The book and my notes are in the outside pocket;
    The brown case is here with all its straps secure.
    I have everything I began the journey with

    And also a memory of my setting out
    When I was confused, so confused. Terrifying
    To think we have such power to alter our states,
    Order comings and goings: know where we're not wanted
    And carry our unwantedness somewhere else.

Cats have no language : Vijay Nambisan

    Cats have no language to tell their world.
    The moon is a midsummer's madness
    That satisfies foolish chroniclers;
    But their paws gloat on the captured mouse
    (The slither beneath the stair); the silent bat
    That drifted on a moonbeam into the house
    Slashed a slitted eye into a flicker
    And was gone. The moon is too much for the cat.

    The light is too much for cats: that is why,
    At the human snarl behind the torch
    The keen eyes turn slate, a careless slouch
    Replaces the studied artistry, frozen flash
    Before the kill. They do not like the light
    But have no language save the curving slash
    And the sideways sculpture at a whisker's touch.
    Cats are dumb when they walk in the night.

    Cats are clever at night; but the sun
    Melts the moon's glitter out of their eyes,
    Leaves them children's toys and the green trees.
    Now how can fingers soothe the shoulder knots,
    Trust the silken purr, the kind eyes? My cat,
    I know, I have seen her sleeping thoughts
    Tense and stalk savagely in the night's peace.
    But cats need no language to do that.

Dirge : Vijay Nambisan : 60

The poets die like flies but I am lying slightly to one side,
How well they wrote, those friends now fettered, how the Indo-Anglian tongue
Allowed them to be lovely-lettered, their lives lived when the world was young
I'll live and hold my words in, for I am wearied of hypothesis;
And, in place of getting glory, kisses I take from my missis.

Then the world shone, by their showing; then publishers seemed to care;
Then calls for cheques of last year's owing did not fall on empty air.
Then newspapers asked them for pieces; and printed them unchanged; and paid;
But now there are so many wheezes which make the craft a thrifty trade.
In a wilder whirl of weeklies, tabloids titting on page threes
I will shirk my duty meekly and kisses take from my missis.

So Arun and Dom and Nissim -- I will shun their hard-earned grief
And much though I will always miss'em, in softer shadows find relief.
And when I'm ninety and young writers ask why I wrote no more than this
I will answer, "But, you blighters! I kisses took from my missis."

Vivek Narayanan

      1972 Ranchi, Tamil parents; --> New Delhi

Elegy for Silk Smitha

She's the slut
among white hippies on the beach,
behind the campfire, hot pants
and an upright pony tail
for style; she's the dancer
in metallic feathers
and red plastic shoes. Foil
to the gangster's bait, the woman
you never brought home
to mother, she is
and is not
the salt of what she is.

Manohar Shetty

	born 1953 Bombay.

May : Manohar Shetty : 95

The gardens are agog
With bougainvillaea and buttercup.
Wild berries carpet the backyard.
Pepper vines blister round
Tree trunks, and pumpkins,
Fecund as eggs, fatten in the shade.
Incense in the frangipani.
Succulence in the cactus.
Dreadlocks of dates
Garland the wild palm.

This, then, is your plot of heaven
O heaven's plot, his wry response.

H. Masud Taj

	born 1956 Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh.

The Travelling Nonvegetarian p.99

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said wisdom was hydrogen peroxide,
Wore a white wig of fibre optic cables,
And dentures that were pure African ivory.
When he smiled, elephants burst into tears.

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said homing pigeons were edible pagers
And grey parrots that spoke too many languages
Tasted no better than those that were dumb,
And all birds on TV were cyber-tandooris

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said the onion was the final package
That packed the process of packing itself,
Which explained the missing mass of the universe
And the tears onion-peelers and stargazers shed.

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said the banana skin was a continuum of zippers,
And all coconuts were neo-colonials
Smashed on occasions of celebration;
All brown outside, all white within.

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said neckties were nooses, wristwatches handcuffs,
And honest heroes who wore underpants outside
Were neurotics packaged in designer masks
Which they removed only to eat.

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said brinjals were boiled with equine eyeballs,
Applied gold glitter-dust to horses’ eyebrows,
And powder-coated his finger and toe nails.
He ate candle-lit dinners in fireproof stables.

The man who spoke with suitcases
Said hunchbacks were born-again backpackers,
And slim briefcases made of crocodile skins
Were chromium-plated mouths to snap off space
To declare at the last border crossing.

Approaching Manhattan: H. Masud Taj

Charred threads of calligraphy
Lamenting as they lose themselves

To thoughts that turn from north to south
Return via yellow earth, green hills, blue sky:

White clouds inhale and drift away,
Winds die, we escape the frame: exhale.

Return to slip slide on red and yellow
Synapses of a scorching Internet.

Electronic diagram wiring together
While keeping apart three floating squares:

Blood in one, with a green horizon
Displaced in a sky unbelievably blue.

Airplane leaving another,
Leaving boarders as yet intact.

Water, in the final frame,
Approaching Manhattan.

Nothing can stall what happen next
But that is not what I mean, I swear,

That is not what I meant at all.

Tishani Doshi

	b. Madras 1975 Welsh-Gujarati parents.
	more poems: (pdf)

Tishani Doshi : At the Rodin Museum 135

	Rilke is following me everywhere
	With his tailor-made suits
	And vegetarian smile.

	He says because I’m young,
	I’m always beginning,
	And cannot know love.

	He sees how I’m a giant piece
	Of glass again, trying
	To catch the sun

	In remote corners of rooms,
	Mountain tops, uncertain
	Places of light.

	He speaks of the cruelty
	Of hospitals, the stillness
	Of cathedrals,

	Takes me through bodies
	And arms and legs
	Of such extravagant size,

	The ancient sky burrows in
	With all the dead words
	We carry and cannot use.

	He holds up mirrors
	From which our reflections fall —
	Half-battered existences,

	Where we lose ourselves
	For the sake of the other,
	And the others still to come.

Tishani Doshi : The day we went to the sea p.137

The day we went to the sea
Mothers in Madras were mining
The Marina for missing children.
Thatch flew in the sky, prisoners
Ran free, houses danced like danger
In the wind. I saw a woman hold
The tattered edge of the world
In her hand, look past the temple
Which was still standing, as she was —
Miraculously whole in the debris of gaudy
South Indian sun. When she moved
Her other hand across her brow,
In a single arcing sweep of grace,
It was as if she alone could alter things,
Bring us to the wordless safety of our beds.

     [written in Madras after the tsunami of 2004]

Eunice de Souza

Poem for a poet : Eunice de Souza : 139

It pays to be a poet.
You don't have to pay prostitutes.

Marie has spiritual thingummies.
Write her a poem about the
Holy Ghost.  Say:
'Marie, my frequent sexual encounters
represent more than an attempt
to find physical fulfillment.
They are a poet's struggle to
transcend the self
and enter into
with the world."

Marie's eyes will glow
Pentecostal flames will descend.
The Holy Ghost will tremble inside her.
She will babble in strange tounges:

'O Universal Lover
in a state of perpetual erection!
Let me enter into
communion with the world
through thee.'

Ritu loves music and
has made a hobby of psychology.
Undergraduate, and better still,
Write her a poem about woman flesh.
Watch her become womanly and grateful.
Giggle with her about
horrid mother keeping an eye
on the pair, the would-be babes
in the wood, and everythiing will be
so idyllic, so romantic
so _intime.

Except that you, big deal,
are forty-six
and know what works
with whom.

Miss Louise : Eunice de Souza : 141

She dreamt of descending
curving staircases
ivory fan aflutter
of children in sailor suits
and organza dresses
till the dream rotted her innards
but no one knew:
innards weren’t permitted
in her time...

Shaking her greying ringlets:
'My girl, I can't even go to Church you know
I unsettle the priests
so completely.  Only yesterday
that handsome Fr Hans was saying,
"Miss Louise, I feel an arrow
through my heart."
But no one will believe me
if I tell them. It's always
been the same.  They'll say,
"Yes Louisa, we know, professors
loved you in your youth,
judges in your prime"'

Saleem Peeradina

	born 1944 in Bombay

Still Life : Saleem Peeradina

Face-up in a crook of brown, the river
breaths. Out of the sub-lit air
from the rim of a small town's still repose

Her ankles ringing the quiet path
a woman descends.

The river mumbles, stirs
where the woman bends, as if
the ripples were shifting circles

Of some dream and pot displaced.
Her people wake, imagining she brings

The stream: unaware of water's
separate consciousness swinging into shape
on her hip.

Behind her the river curls up
to the brim in heavy-lidded sleep.

Keki Daruwala

	born 1937 Lahore into a Parsi family.


Perhaps I’ll wake up on some alien shore
in the shimmer of an aluminum dawn,  
to find the sea talking to itself
and rummaging among the lines I’ve drawn;
looking for something, a voyager perhaps,
gnarled as a thorn tree in whose loving hands,
these map lines of mine, somnambulant,
will make and pulse and turn to shoreline, sand.

the spyglass will alight on features I’ve forecast-
cape, promontory-he’ll feel he's been here,
that voyaging unlocks the doorways of the past.

And deep in the night, in the clarity of dream,
the seafarer will garner his reward,
raking in his islands like pebbles from the stream.

Jane Bhandari

	born Edinburgh 1944. --> Bombay 1960s.

Jane Bhandari: Steel Blue p.158

The sea under rain-clouds
Was blued steel,
And the black boats
Flying orange and magenta flags,
Cut silver streaks in the blue.
A white line of rain
Divided the islands from the sea.
The sea milk-white
The sea dark blue
The sea carved by boats
Into silver scimitars against the dark
The lighthouse rising
Out of the dark and wooly blue,
Then fainter, diminished by mist,
But still blue.

[... 1 of 6 parts]

Arundhathi Subramaniam

	born 1967 Bombay where she still lives.

Home : Arundhathi Subramaniam

Give me a home
that isn’t mine.
where I can slip in and out of rooms
 without a trace,
never worrying
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside.
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren’t clogged
with yesterday's conversations,
where the self doesn’t bloat
to fill in the crevices.

A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I’m just visiting.

5.46 Andheri Local

read this poem in the excerpts from this excellent collection of Indian
women poets writing in English:  We speak in changing languages (2009)

Arundhathi Subramaniam : To the Welsh Critic Who Doesnt Find Me Identifiably Indian

You believe you know me,
wide-eyed Eng Lit type
from a sun-scalded colony,
reading my Keats - or is it yours -
while my country detonates
on your television screen.

You imagine you've cracked
my deepest fantasy -
oh, to be in an Edwardian vicarage,
living out my dharma
with every sip of dandelion tea
and dreams of the weekend jumble sale...

You may have a point.
I know nothing about silly mid-offs,
I stammer through my Tamil,
and I long for a nirvana
that is hermetic,
bottled in Switzerland,

This business about language,
how much of it is mine,
how much yours,
how much from the mind,
how much from the gut,
how much is too little,
how much too much,
how much from the salon,
how much from the slum,
how I say verisimilitude,
how I say Brihadaranyaka,
how I say vaazhapazham -
it's all yours to measure,
the pathology of my breath,
the halitosis of gender,
my homogenised plosives
about as rustic
as a mouth-freshened global village.

Arbiter of identity,
remake me as you will.
Write me a new alphabet of danger,
a new patois to match
the Chola bronze of my skin.
Teach me how to come of age
in a literature you've bark-scratched
into scripture.
Smear my consonants
with cow-dung and turmeric and godhuli.
Pity me, sweating,
rancid, on the other side of the counter.
Stamp my papers,
lease me a new anxiety,
grant me a visa
to the country of my birth.
Teach me how to belong,
the way you do,
on every page of world history.

Anjum Hasan

	born 1972, Shillong, Meghalay; F
	poems : komma magazine (pdf)
     (three poems))
	review: The Hindu

Anjum Hasan: To the Chinese restaurant p.167

		for Daisy

	We come in here from the long afternoon
	stretched over the town's sloping roofs,
	its greasy garages and ice-cream parlours,
	its melancholic second-hand bookshops
	with their many missing pages.

	Life's not moving.

	We sit at a red table, among the dragons,
	near the curtained-off street-facing windows
	with their months’ old orangeade.
	Out in the streets there are schoolboys with
	their ties askew and the garish fruit-sellers.

	We eat more than we need to. We eat
	so that our boredom's no longer dangerous,
	so that from the comfort of soup,
	with the minor pleasures of chopsuey,
	we can fend off the memory of cities unvisited,
	unknown and unknowable affairs,
	people with never-fading lipstick and
	confident gestures who we will never be.

	One day soon we’ll be running,
	our lives will be like the blur seen from a bus,
	and we won’t read each other's letters thrice.
	But right there we’re young, we count
	our money carefully, we laugh so hard
	and drop our forks.

	We are plucked from sadness there
	in that little plastic place with the lights
	turned low, the waiters stoned from doing nothing,
	the smells of ketchup and eternally frying onions.

Anjum Hasan: March

Between the gravestones
going with flowers,
newspapers, minutes
in its teeth
the March wind
suddenly returns
and then starts off again,
with some other
fragment of life
present to its thin chest.
Its mad rhythms
confuse the trees.

This wind is the
of indecision that
winter speaks when
it opens its slow mouth
to let April in.
Dark vacancies of forest fire,
shifting planes of pollen:
cold fills one window,
a sort of spring the other.

Anjum Hasan: Rain p.170

You will hear it waking to the roar of a ceiling fan
in the rustling of dry palm leaves, in pebbles pouring
from a lorry onto the dusty street. the lips of the warm
wind, trapped between scaffolding and terrace, will whisper
soundless words of memory through the window's
grating. you will hear it in the last aeroplane of the night
(whose sound you will mistake for thunder), in the alphabets
of the birds, in indignant pressure cookers.
your thirst will be vast as the sky. you will look
for it in the evening, searching for one cloud among
tremendous shadows, and at night when it might come
from a great distance and touch the city with a new light.

You won’t find it in the few grey leaves of march
or behind the thin red crescent burning itself out
on a fevered patch of sky. your hair will grow electric
with the dry heat of the day, your dreams shot with
the silver lightening of monsoon nights, the blue green
violet nights celebrated by crickets, the mountain nights
where fate is linked to umbrellas, and feeling to the violent
hours that clatter on those heights.

But venus’ eye is clear here. you will look for it
in refrigerators at night, slice water-melons with
its taste on your tongue - unfeeling, red-hearted fruit -
and buy cucumbers in despair. you will almost forget
the sadness of mist, but remember how quickly mirrors
darkened and streets turned grim, and wait for the same
blanket to be fastened over the sky and change
the quality of this harsh, unvarying light.

Always the 'where' of where you are is a place in the head,
established through skin, and you recognise  the address
not in numbers or names but through familiar patterns
of bird-song, traffic, shadows, lanes.

And when you go away only envelopes bear the name
of that tiny dot of geographical space where everyone
knows you now stay. for the memory of each of the body's
ancient senses remains the same, for years remains the same:
bewildered by dry winds in april, aching for rain.

Amit Chaudhuri

	Born Calcutta 1962.

Amit Chaudhuri : Nissim Ezekiel p.174

This man, in a room full of papers
in the Theosophy Building.
still young in fifty-five
the centre of his small universe
told me, for fifteen minutes,
that my poems were ‘derived’
I was seventeen
I listened only to the precision
of his Bombay accent, juxtaposed
in my mind with the syllables of his name.
In some ways, he did not disappoint.
I went out and had a cup of coffee
at an Udipi restaurant
and did not see him again
until seventeen years later in Paris
when he recognized my name
but had forgotten who I was.

Subhashini Kaligotla

	born 1969 Vishakhapatnam, --> 1978 USA

Subhashini Kaligotla :from The Lord's prayer

	You see advantage in this recent gazing in your direction.
	Nothing could be closer to falsehood. Since collecting

	the faithful is vital to your traffic, perform
	an easy feat. Why don’t you?

	Not one of your phony miracles. Not a stay
	against memory or a nostrum for blindness

	No, a simple thing for one so used to ruining.
	Learn, simply, to talk back.

	At least consider my shame. Stop showing by not showing.


	Talk is cheap lord, and yours has grown cheaper by the hour.

Deepankar Khiwani

	born 1971 New Delhi. business consultant in mumbai.

Deepankar Khiwani : Delhi airport p.181

Delhi Airport

Both close and distant as a fading dream,
this day now nearly gone. My sleepless eyes
rest on that single sign that makes it seem
I still am in this city; then realise
how it could well be any other name
on this departure screen, for these bright halls
in every airport begin to look the same,
the same grey polished floors, the same white walls.

And yet this city somehow clings to me
in smells, exhaustion, dust yet in my hair;
I glance at my watch, rise and stretch, then see
the restrooms down the hallway, and head there.
It was a day's stopover, and I found
no time for memories, but summon here
into the rancid stillnes, tense, around
this large bare room, the anger, hatred, fear:

But these bright halls, although as dirty white,
these basins, mirrors ageing just the same,
were different that adolescent night
I vowed not to return, though still I came...
Here, in this hour I have, my flight delayed,
I wait to be unmanned by bitterness,
splash water on my face, and feel betrayed,
as looking up, I blink at emptiness.

Collectors: Deepankar Khiwani

These coloured stones are what we treasured then,
and here's the last you found that June. It was your birthday,
and on the beach, racing with me, you cried out at its blue.

The base of this little pyramid's still as orange. We were both ten
that year; and in this box, that hot and brittle day,
we added one more stone to twenty-two.

Now thirteen years long past that boyhood when
we chose what we collected, and what we found would stay,
I count these twenty-three and look at you

for what we were before we were the men
that close our fists round things we wish away:
Here, open your hand-you can feel it too.

Leela Gandhi

	born Bombay 1966 ; professor of English at U.Chicago 

Noun : Leela Gandhi

	Let me call you lover once
	and I’ll agree this love's a tenancy.
	Just one tenacious arrangement
	of our mouths, some tactile synergy
	-you’re good at that-to announce
	the vowels, corporeally, with tongue's fluency.
	then lips, catching the sharp descent
	of teeth and sound. For this small bribery,
	my lover-turned-landlord, overnight,
	my occupancy will be light.
	I’ll pay what rent I owe in kind,
	behave, keep passion, confined
	to small hours, the darkened stairs,
	and what gets damaged, lover, I’ll repair.

Dom Moraes

	(1938-2004) born Bombay into Roman Catholic family.

Absences : Dom Moraes 220

Smear out the last star.
No lights from the islands
Or hills. In the great square
The prolonged vowel of silence
Makes itself plenty heard.
Round the ghost of a headland
clouds, leaves, shreds of bird
Eddy, hindering the wind.

No vigil left to keep.
No enemies left to slaughter.
The rough roofs of the slopes
Loosely thatched with splayed water
Only shelter microliths and fossils.
Unwatched, the rainbows build
On the architraves of hills.
No wound left to be healed.

Nobody left to be beautiful.
No polyp admiral to sip
Blood and whisky from a skull
While fingering his warships.
Terrible relics, by tiderace
Untouched, the stromalites  breathe.
Bubbles plop on the surface,
Disturbing the balance of death.

No sound would be heard if
So much silence was not heard.
Clouds scuff like sheep on the cliff.
The echoes of stones are restored.
No longer any foreshore
Nor any abyss, this
World only held together
By its variety of absences.

Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil: Malayalam's ghazal p.229

Listen! Someone's saying a prayer in Malayalam.
He says there's no word for ‘despair’ in Malayalam.

Sometimes at daybreak you sing a Gujarati garba.
At night you open your hair in Malayalam.

To understand symmetry, understand Kerala.
The longest palindrome is there, in Malayalam.

When you’ve been too long in the rooms of English,
Open your windows to the fresh air of Malayalam.

Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues.
Someone's endowed a high chair in Malayalam.

I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists.
My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam.

Jeet, such drama with the scraps you know.
Write a couplet, if you dare, in Malayalam.

Prageeta Sharma : Underpants

				p. 239

My sweetie's underpants have argyles on them and grip his thighs.
O his European underpants with pastel colors,
how they illustrate his unassuming ways.
His secrets are feasts and traumas
and he is sometimes the loneliest under blankets.
His underpants represent the unconscious,
innocent, nervy, and true.
I can't help feeling eager.
O how he is an old man in his underpants.
When he is sleeping he has the softness of a child,
unquestioning and quietly fitful,
I kiss his head and wings,
for he in his underpants travels like a Griffin
to himself, a fabled monster of certain
sadness, when he sleeps it all goes inward,
in his lion and eagle.

Anand Thakore

	Anand Thakore is a Hindustani classical singer by profession, a
	disciple of Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande and Pandit Baban
	Haldankar. He has been writing poetry in English since his
	teens. Waking in December (Harbour Line, 2001, ISBN 81-902981-0-0) is
	his first collection of poems. His more recent work has appeared in
	New Quest, The P.E.N. Quarterly and in Poetry Wales. Some of his
	poems have been published in Reasons For Belonging, an anthology
	compiled by Ranjit Hoskote for Penguin India; in Fulcrum, an
	anthology published yearly, at Harvard; and in Confronting Love, a
	Penguin anthology of Indian love poems in English. He lives in Mumbai
	where he teaches and performs Hindustani vocal music. He is currently
	working on his second book of verse.
see also:
	poems :

Anand Thakore : Departure 242

I see them across the rim of a fogged lens,
Amidst the swiveling glare of party lights -
Too bright now, now too dark, to do
What they have asked me to; these two,
Arm in arm, their eyes aslant with impatient poise,
Awaiting the brief redemption of a flash -
Now? Perhaps, but I am a poor photographer,

And prefer to see what open eye and shutter
Conspire so closely to conceal;
Her, fastening her seat-belt three nights hence,
Content to believe, as she leans to the left
To watch grey buildings grow tiny below her,
That her flight home is also a journey out.
She is not thinking of the man who wades

Through the familiar spaces of her absence,
Into the exquisite hovel of his home;
Floundering, lip-deep, in the gravy of speech
As he reaches out for the lost island of the flesh:
Words that may conjure the ghost of a caged green bird,
Who never answered back, even when alive - Quick -
My fingers say, as they tighten, and click.

==Menka Shivdasani--
	Bilingual Marathi-English poet from Mumbai. 

Menka Shivdasani : Spring cleaning 265

That was your skull on the bottom shelf,
staring socketless at my ankle.
It was a surprise find among those
bunches of old clothes.
Once I would have screamed;
now I’ve learned to discard
what doesn’t fit, and especially, all that's ugly.

Carelessly draped on a hanger, I found an arm
leaning bonily towards the perfumes;
in another corner, a dislocated knee.
Did you run away so fast, you broke your leg?
I wish you’d wipe that foolish
toothless grin off your stupid face.
You needn’t be embarrassed about
letting me down. Other men have too, and they
didn’t disintegrate like you.

What the hell
does one do with human remains?
Should I put them in the waste basket,
let the sweeper see? Or, struggling under the weight,
dump a gunny bag off the beach?

You really are a nuisance, turning up
on a lethargic Sunday. Now go away.
When I want to say hello, I’d rather
walk up to the graveyard
with a sweet-smelling bunch of flowers,
look sad, and pretend
you are still below the earth.

Gieve Patel

	born 1940 Bombay.  graduated from Grant Medical College; practices as
	a GP.  His work is informed by his medical practics, which brings in
	an acute sense of the physicality of the human body.  See
	(see more poems in our excerpts from his How do you withstand body)

Gieve Patel: Post Mortem

It is startling to see how swiftly
A man may be sliced
From chin to prick,
How easily the bones
He has felt whole
Under his chest
For a sixty, seventy years
May be snapped,
With what calm
Liver, lung and heart
Be examined, the bowels
Noted for defect, the brain
For haemorrhage,
And all these insides
That have for a lifetime
Raged and strained to understand
Be dumped back into the body,
Now stitched to perfection,
Before announcing death
As due to an obscure reason.

Gieve Patel : Servants 286

They came of peasant stock.
Truant from an insufficient plot.

Lights are shut off after dinner
but the city blur enters
picks modulations on the skin
The dark around them is brown,
and links body to body
or is dispelled, and the hard fingers glow,
as smoke is inhaled
and the lighted end of tobacco
becomes an orange spot.

Other hands are wide
Or shut it does not matter
one way or other
They sit without thought
mouth slightly open,
recovering from the day,
and the eyes globe into the dim
but are not informed because
never have travelled beyond this
silence. They sit like animals.
I mean no offence.
I have seen animals resting in their stall,
the oil flame reflected in their eyes
large beads that though protruding
actually rest
behind the regular grind of the jaws

Melanie Silgardo

	born 1956 Bombay to Roman Catholic parents

Stationary Stop

This station has no name.
No king was born here.
No president died here

This station breathes with people
who breed each other.

There are one way tracks
diverging at the signal 'go'.
No train has ever passed this way.
No commuters have tired
of waiting.  They have lost
count of each other.
J and K. are very much alike,
are they brothers?

Rats burrow through bones.
Scavengers are never hungry.
The perfume of dead flowers
stinks in compromise.
J. and K. are brothers, their
mother says so.

When the train arrives
it will be disastrous to say 'go'.

If the people had resources
they would build an airplane.
But the air is crowded too.
In fact J. and K. are identical
twins, they compare in every way.

Today there is hope.
Old men are dressed in
youthful attire. Babies are
still born. A train may come.
It is Sunday.

One man begins to walk.

Melanie Silgardo : From beyond the comfort zone

Between Salthouse and the Arctic
a great, grey water stretches.
I run my finger along the horizon.
Holkham beach is the span of my hand.
I can bounce a message off that star
and reach someone in Bombay or Beirut.
Everything is within reach.

The housemartins, small and sure as darts,
bullseye into their mud huts under the eaves.
Birds of dual nationality, they winter in Africa
(ornithologists don’t know exactly where)
and return for the summer, masons from another land.
This place is home and also a long way from home.

In London, Mrs Patel is laying
her Avond catalogues on the counter.
Beneath the scents of lavender and rose
lurk the base notes of asafoetida
ghosts of last night's dinner.
crossed from a small town
in Gujarat to a small town in Kenya.
Her cousin who never left Gujarat
works in a call centre.  He knows
the weather in Derby, and all the names
of the new family in Eastenders.

	[...  2 more parts]

Ranjit Hoskote

	b. 1969 into a family of Sarswat Brahmins in Bombay.

Passing a ruined mill : Ranjit Hoskote : 298

    in memoriam: Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004)

His mind's gone blank as a fax
left untouched for months in a drawer,
his faded words a defeat
of grammar and the continuities we prize.

Passing Lower Parel, the train slows by a ruined mill:
my eyes settle on chimneys stripped down to brick,
look away from crippled sheds, twisted gantries,
rusting flues and cranes overrun by creeepers
that loop across the city, explode in prickly flowers,
drape the windows of the room in which he breaks
his hoarded silence with visitors whose names
escape him.  They pour tea into his hours,
waiting for the clouded marble of his eyes
to spark a relay in the burnt-out tungsten
of his thoughts.


The sea outside his window, he knew that sea
long before God parted it for Moses:
He’d probed the edge where shelves drop
into trenches, he knew where
the oysters slept, their dreams growing
 in rings around a stone.

Who would believe he’d begun to dream
the ebb would suck him in, that he’d forgotten
how to swim? One last time he dived.
When he surfaced, the havoc birds were waiting:
they swooped to peck
at the few pearls he’d retrieved.


Mamta Kalia 307-310

	b. 1940.  published two books of poems in English and more than
	twenty novels, plays and short story collections in Hindi.   The
	language she writes in depends on the city - in Bombay she writes in
	English, in Allahabad in Hindi;  there are 'no transit problems'
	between cultures.  Currently lives in Calcutta.

Tribute to Papa : Mamta Kalia : 308

Who cares for you, Papa?
Who cares for your clean thoughts, clean words, clean teeth?
Who wants to be an angel like you?
Who wants it?
You are an unsuccessful man, Papa.
Couldn’t wangle a cosy place in the world.
You have always lived a life of limited dreams.

I wish you had guts Papa
To smuggle eighty thousand watches at a stroke,
And I'd proudly say, "My father's in import-export business, you know."
I'd be proud of you then.

But you've always wanted to be a model man,
A sort of an ideal.
When you can't think of doing anything,
You start praying,
SPending useless hours at the temple.

You want me to be like you, Papa,
Or like Rani Lakshmibai.
You're not sure what greatness is,
But you want me to be great.

I give two donkey-claps for greatness.
And three for Rani Lakshmibai.

These days I am seriously thinking of disowning you, Papa,
You and your sacredness.
What if I start calling you Mr. Kapur, Lower
         	Division Clerk, Accounts Section?

Everything about you clashes with nearly everything about me
You suspected I am having a love affair these days
But you're too shy to have it confirmed
What if my tummy starts showing gradually
And I refuse to have it curetted
But I’ll be careful, Papa,
Or I know you’ll at once think of suicide.

Untitled 309

There he was flirting away
With the fastest would-be-artist
While I was sulking on this New Year's Eve
When I asked him what he thought of loyalty
He laughed, ‘don’t expect dog's virtues from a full-limbed man’

I’m not afraid of a naked truth : Mamta Kalia : 310

I’m not afraid of a naked truth
Or a naked knife or a naked drain.
That doesn’t mean
I’m not afraid of a naked man.
In fact, I am very much afraid of a naked man.

After eight years of marriage : Mamta Kalia : 310

After eight years of marriage
The first time I visited my parents,
They asked, "Are you happy, tell us".
It was an absurd question
And I should have laughed at it
Instead, I cried,
And in between sobs, nodded yes.
I wanted to tell them
That I was happy on Tuesday
I was unhappy on Wednesday.
I was happy one day at 8 o'clock
I was most unhappy by 8.15.
I wanted to tell them how one day
We all ate a watermelon and laughed.
I wanted to tell them how I wept in bed all night once
And struggled hard from hurting myself.
That it wasn't easy to be happy in a family of twelve,
But they were looking at my two sons,
Hopping around like young goats.
Their wrinkled hands, beaten faces and grey eyelashes
Were all too much too real.
SO I swallowed everything,
And smiled a smile of great content.

Vikram Seth

	born Calcutta 1952
	[though better known as a novelist, his earlier work - including the
	epic verse novel Golden Gate clearly mark Seth as a poet first.
	His translations are also remarkable (Three Chinese Poets, 1997)

Unclaimed: Vikram Seth

To make love with a stranger is the best.
There is no riddle and  there is no test-

To lie and love, not aching to make sense
Of this night in the mesh of reference.

To touch, unclaimed by fear of imminent day.
And understand, as only strangers may.

To feel the beat of foreign heart to heart
Preferring neither to prolong nor part.

To rest within the unknown arms and know
That this is all there is; that this is so.

A little night music : Vikram Seth

White walls. Moonlight. I wander through
The alleys skein-drawn by the sound
Of someone playing the erhu.
A courtyard; two chairs on the ground.

As if he knew I’d come tonight
He gestures, only half-surprised.
The old hands poise. The bow takes flight
And unwished tears come to my eyes.

He pauses, tunes, and plays again
An hour beneath the wutong trees
For self and stranger, as if all men
Were brothers within the enclosing seas.

Ravi Shankar

	born 1975 Washington, DC

Ravi Shankar : A story with sand : 125

	after James Dickey's A Birth 

Inventing a story with sand,
I find grey anklebones broken
By the shore and not a horse
To graze upon my sand.

Better off. I haven’t a lasso
And my trousers are too tight.
Like one side of a medallion
The sand clarifies the point

That these lines cannot hold.
Afternoon beats its ton-tom.
The shore gathers gull-cries
Contingency is the new god.

Not an umbrella on the beach.
Wheels of clouds cross the sky.
That that happened, this does.
Mouth murmur ears of shale.

Waves came to the shore.
From before came the sand
And the sand lacked a horse.
The afternoon held no plan.

Driftwood sprains the shore
You had to be here for this.
We could have been different
But past shapes still remain.

driftwood and anklebones.
Afternoon beats its tom-tom.
Nor an umbrella on the beach.
Elsewhere horses ruminate.

Bibhu Padhi

	born 1951 Cuttack, Orrissa.

from Sea Breeze : Bibhu Padhi

Hold you breath and watch:
the strong whisper runs over
the total blue uninterruptedly.

Now, don't think about it, spare a moment:
it shows itself at where your eyes can go;
the final blue shakes a little at its touch.

It sails over the seawater, its large features
hover, fall melt, and then are born again;
it fulfils its slow dance towards the beach.

Look how it makes the last waters feel
the love of my waiting fingers,
how the sun filters a rainbow.

I told the colors wrapped round my fingers.
Suddenly they are blown away; I wait for your touch.

Tishani Doshi

	born in 1975 in Madras.

Evensong : Tishani Doshi

	After John Burnside

It's moments like this
          when the animals down by the river
are singing their lament for rain-

when fractured pieces of Canterbury
          begin to show themselves in Madras

in cloisters and coconut husks
          miracle windows of glass
It's moments like this
          I hear you on Pilgrim's Stairs

pinning the day's despair
          to the underbelly of dusk

[... ] 

Jayanta Mahapatra

	born 1928 Cuttack, Orissa.  read more of his poems on book excerptise:
	* The Lie of Dawns: Poems 1974-2008 (2008)
* Selected Poems (1987)
* Door Of Paper: Essays And Memoirs (2007)
* Translation: I can, but why should I go by Sakti Chattopadhyay (1994)

Summer 312

Not yet.
Under the mango tree
The cold ash of a deserted fire.

Who needs the future?

A ten-year-old girl
combs her mother's hair,
where crows of rivalries
are quietly nesting.

The home will never
be hers.

In a corner of her mind
a living green mango
drops softly to earth.

I did not know I was ruining your life 314

Rain, all night.
 All day.

It is clear
I would never reach home.

Something, one feels,
is sure to happen.

Just the chill
creeping across the floor.

K. Satchidanandan

Satchidanandan, b.1946, originally came to note as a poet in Malayalam, but
has proved just as versatile writing in English.  In this, he echoes the a
strand in Malayalam literature (e.g. Kamala Das and Ayyappa Paniker).  Has
served as secretary to the sAhitya Akademi, and has acquired an
international reputation.   He is one of the poets represented in 
Language for a new century by Tina Chang etal, 2008.

K. Satchidanandan : Genesis

My grandmother was insane.
As her madness ripened into death,
my uncle, a miser,
kept her in our store-room,
covered with straw.
My grandmother dried up, burst,
her seeds flew out of the windows.
The sun came, and the rain,
one seedling grew into a tree,
whose lusts bore me.

Can I help writing poems
about monkeys with gold teeth?

      tr. by the poet

Gandhi and Poetry


One day a lean poem
reached Gandhi's ashram
to have a glimpse of the man.
Gandhi spinning away
his thread towards Rama
took no notice of the poem
waiting at his door,
ashamed hew was no a bhajan. 		

The poem cleared his throat		
and Gandhi looked at him sideways 	
through those glasses
that had seen Hell.
"Have you ever spun thread?" he asked,
"Ever pulled a scavenger's cart?
Ever stood in the smoke
of an early morning kitchen?		
Have you ever starved?"

The poem said: "I was born in the woods,
in a hunter's mouth.
A fisherman brought me up
in a cottage.
Yet I know no work, I only sing.	
First I sang in the courts:
then I was plump and handsome
but I am on the streets now,		

"That's better," Gandhi said
with a sly smile. "But you must
give up this habit
of speaking in Sanskrit at times.
Go to the fields, listen to
the peasants' speech."

The poem turned into a grain
and lay waiting in the fields
for the tiller to come
and upturn the virgin soil
moist with new rain.

Arvind K Mehrotra : 381-388


I recognize my father's wooden skin,
The sun in the west lights up his bald bones.
I see his face and then his broken pair of shoes,
His voice comes through an empty sleeve.
Birds merge into the blue like thin strokes.
Each man is an unfinished fiction
And I'm the last survivor of what was a family;
They left in a caravan, none saw them
Slip through the two hands.
The dial spreads on the roof,
Alarms put alarms to sleep,
Led by invisible mules I take a path across
The mountains, my alchemies trailing behind
Like leather-bound nightmares;
There isn't a lost city in sight, the map I had
Preserved drifts apart like the continents it showed.

My shadow falls on the sun and the sun
Cannot reach my shadow ; near the central home
Of nomad and lean horse I pick up
A wheel, a migratory arrow, a numeral.
The seed is still firm. Dreams
Pitch their tents along the rim.
I climb Sugar Mountain,
My mother walks into the horizon,
Fire breaks out in the nests,
Trees, laden with the pelts of squirrels,
Turn into scarecrows
The seed sends down another merciless root;
My alembic distills these fairy tales,
Acids, riddles, the danger in flowers;
I must never touch pollen or look
into a watchmaker's shop at twilight.

My journey has been this anchor,
The off-white cliff a sail,
Fowl and dragons play near the shores
My sea-wrecked ancestors left.
I call out to the raven, 'My harem, my black rose,
The clock's slave, keeper of no-man's-land between us.'
And the raven, a tear hung above his massive pupil,
Covers my long hair with petals
Only once did I twist the monotonous pendulum
To enter the rituals at the bottom of twelve seas,
Unghostlike voices curdled my blood, the colour
Of my scorpion changed from scarlet
To scarlet. I didn't mean to threaten you
Or disturb your peace I know nothing of.
But you who live in fables, branches,
And somehow, icebergs, tell me, whose seed I carry.

Canticle for my son 384

The dog barks and the cat mews,
The moon comes out in the sky,
The birds are mostly settled.
I envy your twelve hours
Of uninterrupted dreaming.

I take your small palms in mine
And don't know what
To do with them. Beware, my son,
Of those old clear-headed women
Who never miss a funeral.

To an unborn daughter 385

If writing a poem could bring you
Into existence, I’d write one now,
Filling the stanzas with more
Skin and tissue than a body needs,
Filling the lines with speech.
I’d even give you your mother's

Close-bitten nails and light-brown eyes,
For I think she had them. I saw her
Only once, through a train window,
In a yellow field. She was wearing
A pale-coloured dress. It was cold.
I think she wanted to say something.

Where will the next one come from 385

The next one will come from the air
It will be an overripe pumpkin
It will be the missing shoe

The next one will climb down
From the tree
When I’m asleep

The next one I will have to sow
For the next one I will have
To walk in the rain

The next one I shall not write
It will rise like bread
It will be the curse coming home

Approaching Fifty 386

In unwiped bathroom mirrors,
He sees all three faces
Looking at him:

His own,
The grey-haired man's
Whose life policy has matured
And the mocking youth's
Who paid the first premium

Other Reviews

Representative voices: Gopi K. Kottoor

... an anthology marked by benevolence and fairness in its inclusion of
near-forgotten and emerging poets.

Jeet Thayil gave lovers of Indian poetry in English the fine anthology Give
the Sea Change, and It Shall Change: Fifty Six Indian Poets (1952-2005), in
2005. The book has now been enlarged
and reissued by Bloodaxe books (U.K.) as The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary
Indian Poets (2008) with 73 poets. It has been reissued again by Penguin
India as 60 Indian Poets (2008) after deleting 13 poets. The period between
Give the Sea Change and It Shall Change (2005), and 60 Indian Poets (2008)
also saw the passing away of poets Revathy Gopal, Santan Rodrigues, and
Kersey Katrak.  Both Bloodaxe and the Indian Penguin imprints of 2008 are
dedicated to 13 Indian English poets who passed away between 1993 and

Agha Shahid Ali, Ruth Vanita, Sujatha Bhatt, and Meena Alexander are among
the 13 poets axed from the Bloodaxe anthology to make way for the Penguin
edition. And, they are all among our finest poets. The Penguin logic of the
deletions is therefore baffling.

Jeet's wife Shakti Bhatt who worked alongside Jeet to make the anthologies
happen, passed away too. The passing away of Shakti Thayil is the saddest
part of the story of the three world editions of Contemporary Indian English
poetry edited by Jeet Thayil.

Spanning the spectrum

Beginning with Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004), the 60 poets end with the youngest
ones Mukta Sambrani, Tishani Doshi, and Ravi Shankar (b.1975). Poems by
Nissim, Jayanta Mahapatra, and Kamala Das are the often anthologised
pieces. Daruwalla is on home ground with his usual laden sweeps that both
mark and often mar his poetry. A.K. Ramanujan fascinates. Srinivas Rayaprol
connects. With Dom Moraes, there is no doubt that his talent resurfaced along
with his cancer.

	My voice tells me this....
	it’ll come to no great harm....
	for the cathedral where its lodging is
	was built far off and should the world get worse
	two friends alone will find it: death and verse
		(Another Weather).

G.S. Sarat Chandra, once almost forgotten, still appears fresh.
    My rule of possession is simple. Let each man claim the part of stone
    He throws into the river.
    They need you as much
    When you wish they were away

R. Parthasarathy went into near oblivion too, after Rough Passage. His poetry
can be intensely nostalgic, deeply South Indian, and replete with
	 Aunt's house near Kulittalai, for instance
	 It often gets its feet wet in the river
	 and coils of rain hiss and slither on the roof
		(Remembered Village)

New poets as Aimee Nezhukumatathil are interesting discoveries. Aimee can be
sublimely erotic.
    I knew you could not live without my scent, bought pink bottles for it.....
    one drop lasted all day
	(Small Murders).

Bibhu Padhi is a fine poet. His poetry is often heart-drenched, but always
philosophically sublime.
	During the first sluggish hours of every morning, a
		hope is quietly born-
 	that I might live on to name
	your unborn son, hold his small voice in mine
		(Grandmother's Soliloquy).

Vijay Nambisan's poem Madras Central with the lines,
	Terrifying to think we have such power to alter our states
	order comings and goings ; know where we are not wanted
	and carry our unwantedness somewhere else
remains evergreen.

The "Mumbai poets" are all here. Menka Shivdasani's "No Man's Land":
	Which side of the border do you need to go
	how far are the red rivers beneath the sky...
	what do they share in that silent snare
	tucked away inside that leather shoe?
or Spring Cleaning,
	When I want to say hello, I’d rather
	walk up to the graveyard
	with a sweet-smelling bunch of flowers,
	look sad and pretend
	you are still below the earth

are temptations to indulge in. Ranjit Hoskote appears less obscure. Though
represented with long poems as "Footage For A Trance" or "Passing a Ruined
Mill", Hoskote is certainly a lot more compelling in his shorter
poems. Anand Thakore has melody in his verse. His poem "What I can get away
with" has both tenderness and flow. The lines,
	Though your arms have a way of making me small
	And your eyes are adept at making me forget

bring in a memory of Ernest Downson. There is Vivek Narayan with his
Three Elegies For Silk Smita:
		She's the slut
	among white hippies on the beach
	behind the campfire
	hot pants". (sic).

C.P. Surendran's "Family Court" is a sharp sting. Sadly, some of the others
remain just fillers. Rukmini Bhaya Nair's "Genderole" comes with a
headache. But she has quality and shine in poems such as "Usage":
	Before I did, you noticed new lines cut me up
	In the rough contours of an unfamiliar map.
	Therefore these minefields are dangerous
	Memory may blow us up like enemies

Imtiaz Dharkar fills us with unexpected wine:
	My blood turns round with his
	till we break through into the clearing of his heart and stop, amazed,
	struck by light
	the sight of tables laid, glasses he has filled,
	making, dreaming, waking,
	to unexpected wine

Eunice De Souza's [poetry instantly binds with the reader. Her poem 
She And I unravels a poignant story with a few lines:
	Suddenly at seventy-eight
	she tells me his jokes
	his stories, the names of
	paintings he loved
	and of some forgotten place
	where blue flowers fell.
	I am afraid
	for her, for myself,
	but can say nothing."

Innate splendour 

Prageeta Sharma's "Birthday Poem" jolts us with the bizarre:
"I tell my lover of one week, that there are museums drunk with people". The
poetic effects that we came across in Amit Chaudhuri's Afternoon Raag pours
in his poems. Take "Mid day" for example: "Like a film of dust that's
absorbed the seven colours, quietly the dragon fly, the cut grass, .... / when
I wake the lonely road crumbles before my eyes" or "Sunday": "And no voice to
be heard but the newspaper's as it crackles peremptorily in an old man's
tangled fingers". Amit tackles his poems with an accomplished sense of
closure which is lacking in the poetry of many of our "established
poets". There is innate splendour in "Mamang Dai":

	If I sit very still
	I think I can join the big mountains
	in their speechless ardour
		(No Dreams).

Leela Gandhi is a worthy poet:
	I’ll pay what rent I owe in kind,
	behave, keep passion confined
	to small hours,
	the darkened stair,
	and what gets damaged, lover, I’ll repair

Poets such as Prabanjan Mishra, Niranjan Mohanty (who passed away recently),
Pritish Nandy, Sunita Jain, or fair representations of the Northeast poets
have not appeared in any of the three Jeet Thayil anthologies. One wishes
that some of them were there too. The omissions, no doubt, are not on
purpose. The Jeet Thayil anthology is notable, inter alia, for its
benevolence to poets near forgotten as Lawrence Bantleman, or Gopal
Honnalgere. And, Jeet Thayil has been enormously fair. We need more of his
kind, and more such objectivity and fairness to nurture Indian poetry in
English which is now gaining attention of poetry lovers the world over.

The editor deserves his medals.

Sridala Swami in Tehelka

... In his Introduction, Thayil makes the case for expanding the definition
of what it means to be an ‘Indian’ poet. Any poet of Indian origin — or
Indian by association — who writes in English, is an Indian poet. This is
why the collection includes poets like Fijian-born Sudesh Mishra, Jane
Bhandari who has lived in India for four decades, and many others who call
more than one continent home. Thayil is trying to link "a community
separated by the sea".

This is an ambitious project, not only for the breadth of its vision, but
also for its call for "a view to verticality" — a phrase Thayil uses to
describe the ways in which contemporary poetry might be read in light of its
own history. Taking the publication of Nissim Ezekiel's A Time to Change as
his starting point, Thayil sets out for the reader a staggering variety of
poets and poems while declining to give her an easy chronological
reading. Such an arrangement puts Karthika Nair next to Jayanta Mahapatra and
Daljit Nagra in between Gopal Honnalgere and Gieve Patel. It is for the
reader to find synchronicities in the ordering and detect echoes and
dislocations. Sudesh Mishra, for instance, has a ‘version’ of Arun Kolatkar's
long poem ‘Pi-dog’:

	'In that case,' says the dog,
	‘You had better press on without me.’
	And that's how it came to pass
	That my prickly ancestor
	Became the only mongrel in recorded history
	To win heaven by losing it.

...The anthology is unique in providing that context: the poems are
punctuated by Bruce King's tribute-essay to the three great poets who
passed away in 2004 — Nissim Ezekiel, Dom Moraes and Arun Kolatkar — and
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's short essay titled ‘What is an Indian Poem?’
Also, each poet is introduced by a brief but substantial note that gives
not only biographical information, but also discusses the craft or
preoccupations of the poet.

All anthologies are at once histories and auguries. They attempt to draw
bloodlines and set what they think will last against what they believe
has. Most anthologies in India have played it safe by choosing the same 15 or
20 poets from the first and second generations of modern Indian poets. None
have, so far, taken the risk that this anthology has in saying with authority
that there are 60 poets (and very possibly more; the youngest represented
poets in this anthology were born in 1975) who are worth reading.

There are omissions, of course — most notably Agha Shahid Ali and Sujata
Bhatt — but these might be explained by permissions withheld by copyright

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Jul 23