Monday, April 21, 2008

Sketch me a Poem

“You call yourself an artist? Hark!
You unsighted academician! Quit walking in the dark.
What are you doing, leading others into a pit?
A pit, where you hoard yourself and proudly sit!

Oh artist! Your canvas glistens with hue -
A red, a green, a yellow and a blue
So many shades…don’t they perplex you?
Multi-colored uncertainty…diplomacy’s back?
Where’s the certain? The white, the black?

You need to grow younger. Be a kid.
Be white. Be life. Hope like every toddler ever did.
Or maybe you need to grow older. Be aged.
Be black. Be death. Be an old bird – lifeless and caged.

Color’s not what I want, I say!
Simplicity, certainty…that’s the call of the day.
You’re blinded, as you search the ivory tower for enchanted musk.
I don’t understand your search…your dawn; nor your dusk.

I see things only in simplicity,
Complex forks and dead-ends better left out of my kitty.
My day lives only in its extremes - a white morn, a black night.
Your thousand colors of twilight are just not right.

You’re an artist of mixed hues, of unanswered questions.
You’re an ace diplomat, of twilight-ed, setting or rising suns.
Give me an answer! All the truths! I wanna know ‘em!
Be an artist of words, sketch me a poem.

Be a painter of certain, true words,
Draw me a poem of black and white birds –
The ones that fly into wrongs or rights,
And know no skies of uncertain, grayish whites.

I am tired of your “…there are no right answers, you see…”
Can’t you do a small favor for me?
Be a fisher of certainty,
Fish me the dark black sea.

I prefer to drown in decisive, salty waters
Than live in bleak, uncertain matters.
You see no lighthouse, you are so lost!
And so am I. You’re a sinking ship, getting old at my cost!

Be a playful kid on a beach of twilight,
And carry in your pockets just some sandy white…
Just a wrong. Maybe a right.
Be an adventurous village urchin, fly me a liberated kite.”

I use many words to express what I want to say.
I am the king of wordiness. Brevity isn’t my thing. Nay.
He answers only in a few words, this artist of mine.
He even throws my poem into a bin. I feel like a poor kid working at shoe-shine.

He says, “Be a sailor, set off on a curious ferry.
Fight the grays, and find your black in perpetual inquiry.”

He says, “Be a soldier, shun all fear, shun all pretence.
Fight the odds, and find your white in reckless patience.”

He says, “Be a student, forever in search of what is right.
Fight the maybes, and find your monochromatic light.”

I retort, “How can you say that?”

He says, “I was just like you,
I started off as a painter…with the red, green and blue.
But as I have grown, I’ve forgotten to paint. Just sketching, just a pencil.
I have only a pot of blacks and whites to show. Not another utensil.”

I object, “Why must I go a full circle? I am already there!”

He smiles with kindness, and knows he’s got me thinking.
“The sea’s calling. Set off, face the winds, the storms, the near-sinking.
You need to sail off into the gray waters of doubt.
That will give you your answers. There’s no easy way out.
It will be quite an experience! Start the colorful journey,
Tell me what you saw, and tell me what you did not see.
Go, my son. Sail the colors, and return to the white and black.”
So, I’m off on my journey. One day, I too will say, “Been there, done that!”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What silence plays

Garrulous insecurity hollers, only ungratified uncertainty speaks,
Transient relationships babble, only an untuned instrument peaks.
Conversely, security sits on solemn ground…devoid of any iota of sound…
Perpetual kinship lulls and hushes, resounding silence quietly touches
A serene instrument - playing only mute, tranquil notes…tacit music, assuredly dotes.
Where’s the beauty in a shouting chant? Silent music does what brassy orchestras can’t.
So, imbibe the crux of what I tell you – look at relationships from an ameliorated, “forever” view;
For, you haven’t been in a real relationship; you haven’t heard it all…till you’ve heard silent music’s perpetual call.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gim & Jim

Context: This is a true incident, and the poem is adapted from an excerpt of the conversation I had with Gim (the cat) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I have used exact words from the conversation, except for one part where Gim says, "...I deserve my food." She actually said, "...I deserve my food and more!" What? Cats don't talk human? Maybe...but I talk cat!
Gim showed up a bit sulky,
Her fur was unruly and head was bulky.
I asked her, “Hey Gim, haven’t seen you around in six long hours!
You look terrible! Did you get soaked in one of those Tennessee showers?”

She complained, “He scolded me out of here…quite a cold place to be!
I didn’t see it coming, but he could have, couldn’t he?
He does this for fun, I have no doubt;
Knew it was raining, but he still sent me out!”

I said, “I hear your loud shout,
But who are you talking about?
Do I know him?”
“Of course”, she replied, “It’s my good-for-nothing master, Jim.”

“…and that’s not all. He shut the door and chased me off,
As if it was my birthright to hear him scoff.
It’s Christmas season, and all year, I’ve been good.
All I know is that I deserve my food.”

“When I ask for a small treat,
He does not even budge from his seat.
When I ask for tilapia or salmon, he avoids me,
Looks at me in disbelief, and says, “We’ll see…””

“The other day, two fish from his fish-pond disappeared.
The blame was on me, and that’s what I feared!
I’m no thief, I’m no liar. Please believe what I say,
It was a bird that grabbed the fish and flew away.”

“He tells me I’m inflating like a gas balloon,
And says, “Gim, go to the gym or you might take off soon.”
Now, what does a cat care about a slimming diet?
And that’s the main reason for this fight!”

“But there are other reasons that make me mad,
I tell you, I’m the best cat anyone’s ever had.
Sure, I laze around and drink from the toilet,
But then, no one is perfect.”

“Gim!? What kind of a name is that?
The neighborhood cats roll on the floor, asking, “Gim? You sure you’re a cat?
We don’t mean to be rude,
But your name sounds like Chinese food!””

“Sometimes, when I hang out by the lawn floor
Or by the garage door,
I’m partially fed. Food’s not on my mind like before.
Some pampering and a nice rub is all I ask for.”

“I have a shiny black coat, green eyes and cute paws.
I’m so peaceful. I even have blunt jaws.
Gim and attention. Gim and food. It’s an obvious link.
I deserve some pampering, don’t you think?”

I said, “I think you should run away never to return.
A cat like you isn’t meant to kvetch and burn.
I hope you don’t die on the way and do get lucky with a master someday…
Well, if it helps, you have nine lives anyway.”

She exclaims, “I thought all humans were dumb but I’d say,
Your idea seems to be good. I must leave right away.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll pack up and soon be gone,
I might take the Greyhound to Pittsburgh or to Sierra Leone.”

I ask, “Gim, before you leave, an answer to my questions can you give?
It’s not you, it’s me. You see, I’ve always been very inquisitive.”
“Sure, go ahead…but if you do, promise me that
you’ll buy me my ticket. You see, I’ve always been a very poor cat.”

“Sure”, I affirm. “Errr…how long have you known Jim?
What on earth made you stick with him?
If he doesn’t feed you well, how is it that you’re putting on weight?
And what about your religion, salvation and fate?”

She replied, “It’s been over 600 days
Since fate crossed our ways.
I was pathetic, homeless and lonely,
And thought this would be a decent place to be.”

“I know it was radical, and it was risky.
It was like mixing vodka, rum and whiskey!
But I felt right, happy and rich, though he didn’t give me any money.
Loneliness is a strange thing…It is scared of company.”

“I am lucky actually. Most cats are not. Their luck doesn’t last.
Say, with this running away thing, I might’ve jumped the gun too fast.
The meals were not frequent but they were full.
Was I complaining about them? I am such a fool!”

“Before I met Jim, I was a sinner.
My faith was thin, and my religion was thinner.
Now, I get to meet my spiritual side that helps me cope.
I’ve become a holy cat, and that has renewed my hope.”

She walks away, and says, “As for the Greyhound, I might pass.
Keep the ticket money. I think I am thinking clearly at last.
I’m not going anywhere. You must be out of your mind,
Jim’s a kind of friend that’s very hard to find!”


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Not a poem yet

These are days, and those days were days too,
Divergent, different…separated by a thin but significant line of dew.

Then – There was no time to look for time, work was all that was in line,
Living selflessly for others, others were the only thing mine.
In jest, when I used to search for the world, in the scenes of thought-stills,
The motherhood of Mother Nature used to set behind the hills…
In the lap of its softness and silence, the white dove of my thoughts used to sleep,
The lap of eternity, the lullaby so soft and sweet…a nap so deep.
It was, hence, easy to find pleasure and relaxation in work though,
Sleepless but rested, moving towards another confident tomorrow.
Followed by another evening…an evening that used to slip into my book…
And transform itself into a poem – meaningful and beautiful in its look.

Now – There’s all the time in the world, no plight, no fight,
In a selfish life where I live just for my own, death is in sight!
The world searches for me now, under dim stars, with a candle in hand,
But why is all this no more than a bed of briars and sand?
Running away from blessings, and seeking blasted briar-fields and deserted mess,
No scope of candle-light here, this is the land of darkness.
I can still sleep, though there’s no soft lullaby – Mother Nature at its best…
But alas! This slumber doesn’t bring with it any rest.
New pages of my book – like a dove – white, wordless…have everything worthless I bet!
But not a poem yet…

Isn’t this a poem though?
No, a poem has life…this has death.
So, not a poem yet…
Not a poem yet…

Yeh koi kavita nahin (in Hindi)

Woh bhi din the, aur ye bhi din hain…
Do paraaye desh, beech mein lakeer jaise kuch pal-chinn hain.

Tab - Fursat khojne ki fursat na thi, aur kaam ko hi apna jaante the.
Doosron ke liye jeete the, aur doosron ko hi apna maante the.
Kaam-kaam mein yuhin, dhoondhne sansaar ko kabhi jo nikalte the,
Prakruti ko bante dekh mamta ka aanchal, suhaawane din jo dhalte the,
Jawaan nisha ka sarovar is hans ko gale lagaa kahaaniyan sunaata…
Aur fursat se susajjit ek pyaari god mein sulaa, meethi loriyaan gaata.
Kaam mein hi aaraam ko dhoondh liya karte hum,
Aur bina soye hi agle din ki or badhaate drudh kadam.
Agli shyaam bhi aati, aur phir, sapnon ki kitaab mein aap hi samaa,
Sundar kavita ban jaati.

Ab - Bas fursat hi fursat hai, kaam se ab kaun lade hai?
Sirf apne liye jeete hain, aur maut ki or shaayad chal pade hain.
Sansaar ab mombatti le, dhundle sitaaron ke neeche dhoondha karta hai hamen,
Par jaane kyon yeh sab kuch kaanton sa akharta hai hamen?
Aashirwaad ki god se bhaagte hue, wahan chale jahan kaante boye hain,
Ujaale ka koi kaam nahin, hum ab andheron mein hi khoye hain.
Neend ab bhi aati hai, bina loriyon ke hi sahi,
Haay! Is neend mein zaraa sa aaraam nahin…
Meri kitaab ke naye panne - hans hi ki tarah safed aur nishabd! Sab kuch hai ab,
Par kavita nahin banti…

Kya yeh kavita nahin?
Shaayad nahin…kavita mein jeevan hota hai, mrityu nahin…
So, yeh kavita nahin…ab tak to nahin…
Ab tak to nahin…

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Lost and Found

Yesterday, I heard of a man who lost one of his arms.
His pain was such that the world didn’t have enough balms.
He was frantic. He cried and he lost hope. He almost died.
His future looked to him like an unending, ominous ride…

He wrote to doctors, he spoke to friends,
He said he’d try anything, he’d make any amends.
But all in vain…no respite…only pain!

And then…a miracle happened!

He decided not to give in, to fight.
He decided to set things right.
In his determination, he found the healing touch and a healing hand,
His strength emerged out of his own disability. He learnt to take a firm stand.
When everything looked bleak and meaningless, he held on to the light of faith –
A belief in the power that isn’t forever bleak. Sometimes, its effect is just a bit late.

The same power that takes away does give back,
In this power, there is no dearth, there is no lack.

Today, I was a man who lost one of his poems – a creation.
My pain was such that is beyond imagination.
I was frantic. I searched and I lost hope. I was helpless.
I felt like a parent who had lost a child. I was in stress…

I wrote to a friend, “I had scribbled it on the back of a black notebook. Find it, and if you do,
tear away the tender pages and please send them through.”
He replied, “I am sorry, I could not find your baby.”…all in respite…only pain!

And then…a miracle happened!

I decided not to give in, to fight.
I began writing again; after all, the abstract and proposition were still vaguely in sight.
In my new literary flight, I re-inseminated the womb of creative verse,
My child was delivered again…the reassurance of friendship and hope acted like the nurse.
Parturition in the words, “Inform me soon of the joy of your finding it among your valuable bag of many a possession.”
It took some time, but voila! There it was indeed. Say, this friend of mine must be a soothsayer by profession!

I gave in to short-term loss today. I forgot what the vision of hope and friendship does:
We friends are stars…there’s a forever about us.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Of Boring Cricket & Happening Books

Post an irksome Cricket World Cup, I received 1001 e-mails ranging from ICC to Greg Chappell; from bookie losses to one-sided matches; from Bob Woolmer to rains; from long schedules to a faulty Duckworth-Lewis system…and what not. Quite frankly, I am bored, and cannot care less. I will not add anything else to the gamut of things you’ve heard about Cricket; other than 2 facts that glare at me hard:

1. A well-performing Indian team and participation of sub-continental teams like India and Pakistan is healthy for World Cricket and the game in general. These teams, however, seem to be decades behind the mighty Aussies.
2. The quality of telecasts in India; that is dominated by commercialism, is going to kill the game slowly but surely; what with excessive ads, cut-short commentary and the evident fact that instead of the advertisers supporting the game, it is the game that is supporting the advertisers!

And heck, yes, India did badly. So? Leave ‘em alone. “It’s just a game”. You might’ve experienced the spirit of it all. You might’ve been on the turf, playing the game as much with your mind as with your body…but hey, at the end of the day, it is just a game, and people like me (and many, many others), who have lived this game, have no reason to feel vanquished. Remember, when it comes to winning and losing, it IS just a game.

But we can ponder over what’s going wrong with Cricket. Commercialization in excess? With the next World Cup lined up to be played in the subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), I don’t see the havoc of commercialization giving the game any respite.

The purpose of this post is by no means to discuss about Cricket…relax…no bookies. ONLY BOOKS! Yes, book-wise, the last 2 weeks of April had been swell for me. Work had been heavy as always, but the books gave me much hiatus.

When it comes to my reading escapades during that period, 5 points worth the ink:

1. One of my students had once borrowed WHY WE BUY (THE SCIENCE OF SHOPPING)by Paco Underhill for her Marketing class, and she got inspired by it and worked on a project with the same company that Paco Underhill’s associated with (he started it). So, when Paco was in town last week, the same student asked for my book (yes, she had miraculously returned it to me post reading) and got it autographed for me by Paco himself. “THANKS FOR READING ~ PACO”, says the cover now!
2. I was introduced to the genius of Satyajit Ray. Nope, not the Filmmaker or the Cinematographer Ray. Not the Documentary Filmmaker either. Not the Scriptwriter, Editor or Designer. Not the Publisher or the Film Critic. I am talking about the Fiction Writer Ray. Talk about versatility! THE BEST OF SATYAJIT RAY was the name of the book. 21 great short-stories. Oh, what a brilliant mix of real characters and supernatural events. On one hand, the characters are the everyday Jacks; but are memorable; and on the other hand, each story conjures up some element of the supernatural world, which makes for magical reading. Some of the characters are deeply etched into me now: ASHAMANJO BABU’S DOG, PIKOO, POTOL BABU, just to name a few. The stories and characters are simple (real, humorous and pathetic at the same time). Children reading this would be able to enjoy this as much as an adult would, as there is no dearth of hidden symbolism and meaning. FOR THE UNINITIATED READER: GO BUY RAY!
3. Browsing through the CLASSICS section of a bookstore, I picked up THREE MEN IN A BOATby Jerome Klapka Jerome. I had once read a page of it, and for some reason, could never finish it. So, this time, I did. Well, again, what a great book! The characters (George, Harris, J. – the three men and Montmorency - the dog) are so real. Yes, the style of writing’s good, and the book is based on a real account of a boat journey, and it is consistently peppered with humor; but the best thing about this is: IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. IT IS SO REAL.
4. Keeping up with my fascination for Latin writers, I started reading AUNT JULIA AND THE SCRIPTWRITER by Mario Vargas Llosa. I will let you know how that one goes.
5. I am still reading WORLD WAR II and MEIN KAMPF. Books like these take time to read!

You’re done reading this post. Almost.

This might’ve come across as another “BOOK REVIEW POST”, but I realize that when you read something, you do put in valuable time and money into it (unless you’re borrowing, of course), so, you’d better be warned about what you read beforehand. For instance, if someone would’ve warned me about the futility of books like “INDLISH” and my SANSKRIT TEXTBOOKS in School, I would never have spent so much as sixpence reading ‘em!

Reader, you can thank the bookworm in cash for these reviews (he’d use it to buy books, of course!).

Monday, May 28, 2007



Raat ki khamoshi gaanvon se nikalkar
Sunsaan raaston mein baith rahi hai.
Yehi raaste savere jeevan ka bazaar honge.
Chhoti cheezon ki chhoti dukanen, bhed-bakriyon ki kyaariyan,
Dhool ki chaadar odhe, bheedon ke mele honge.

Dhoop ki teevrata mein makai ke saath
Baalaaon ki chamdiyan sikengi.
Zyaada ujaale ki aasha mein
Andheron se khelne waali mombattiyan bikengi.

Ye bazaar sabko
Apni oar kheench laate hain,
Khareed-daari ke ye naatak,
Deen dilon ko bhi bhaate hain!

Ratti bhar zameen to nahin,
Par ek mutthi aasmaan khareedenge.
Gaay-bhed to nahin,
Par unko baandhne ke liye rassiyan khareedenge.
Is khaali pet aur garibi ko bevakuf bana,
Thodi si aashaon ka aasmaan khareedenge.

Wahi aasmaan raat ki andher chaadar se
Angraayee lekar uthega.
Saara din bazaar ki bheed mein
Mat-maila hokar garibi se ruthega.
Aur godhuli-bela mein, aashaon ke kaalpanik paatron ka yeh jhund,
Bazaaru raaston se umadkar,
Issi aasmaan mein,
Aansoo bankar,
Phir deen aankhon se phutega.

[Translation in English]


The silence of the night effervesces from villages and
Settles like dust on deserted streets.
These same streets would be the marketplace of life early in the morn.
There’ll be small shops of small wares,
Cattle for sale – lined up in a neat sequence,
Among other things – huge crowds wearing dust on rugs torn.

Along with corn bushels,
The skins of small girls get roasted as the unforgiving sun bakes.
In anticipation of a brighter tomorrow,
Candles that play with darkness get sold like hot cakes.

The show of consumerism attracts every speck of pocket-holes,
This gala show plays even for the poorest of souls.

They’d say – “Well, we don’t have an inch of land...
But we’ll buy a handful of sky anyway.
We don’t have cattle and sheep,
But we’ll buy ropes to keep ‘em tied away.
We can mock this empty, hungry tummy,
And buy a little hope of a sky, nay?”

That sky, listening through the night all this while,
Wakes up and struggles out of the cozy blanket of darkness;
And lazes by the marketplace all day,
Angry on poverty! - After getting pasted with clouds of dust and red clay.
Then, at dusk, when the cattle of illusory hope
Heads home - forming new clouds of dust,
Marching along the streets of the bazaar…
Clop! Clump! Clomp! Forming a vapor of tears,
Bursting out of hopeless eyes, all gloom - mirth stands by…
And evaporates into that dark sky…

Friday, January 12, 2007

New Year, New Books, New Me?

First thing in the morning on Thu, Jan 11, 07, I read a great quotation on Times of India: "Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." ~ Anthony J. D'Angelo. This inspired me to put this on my blog. It gives me immense surprise to be blogging again, given how tied up I have been of late. No, it hasn't been all work, but a good mix of work, traveling, eating, thinking and sleeping too.

Of course, reading is a given.

Since I haven't wished many a Happy New Year, and since I have, in the last 30-40 days, been to Halebid, Belur, Kemmannagundi, Kolkata and Agartala and also, since I have, after long last, actually read some books that I desperately wanted to read for a long time now; I decided to write. I wanted to share my feedbacks (reviews, if you may) about those books with you. Hence, this posting.

First things first though:


My traveling now:

It was great seeing some old temples, rock and stone sculptures and breathtakingly beautiful hills in Karnataka. It was also refreshing to be back in the North-East...back Home.

The opportunity to holiday also came with tonnes of food, sleep, relaxation, shopping as well as reading.

My reading now:

1. The Romantics (Pankaj Mishra) ~ Yes, I did finally finish that. What beautiful imagery! Takes you on a vivid trip to the Ganges in Benares, Himachal and Pondicherry. Simply written, deeply illustrious and immersed in free will. Revolves around the theme of love and poetry (the river talks too). Somewhere, indicates the impotent University system in India, the folly of foreigners out to attain Nirvana, depth of thought and the grit to do what one wants to do. A must read.

2. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse) ~ This Nobel Prize winner is the real thing! Pankaj Mishra's book led me to this one, and I do not regret reading it at all. One of the characters in 'The Romantics' asks, "Have you read Hermann Hesse?" and pat comes the reply, "Who hasn't?" I hadn't. Now, I have. I intend to read more of Hesse. This is a masterpiece. Takes you through the introspection of a man, free in his will and thought to experience all worldly pleasure and pain; and as a result, attains Nirvana through indulgence. Goes through stages and unlearns everything learnt in the previous stage. Gets reborn again and again. What a read!

3. Time Stops at Shamli (Ruskin Bond) ~ Saw this at the Airport Bookstore in Kolkata, and was surprised I hadn't read it. Picked it up by instinct, and devoured the classic Ruskin delicacy in huge, fulfilling morsels. Burp!

4. Sachin Tendulkar - Masterful (Peter Murray & Ashish Shukla) ~ The great career of a great Cricketer, the great thought-process and grit of a great person. Sachin...truly masterful. Good illustrations and vivid too. Inspiring to the core, and a good refresher that there was a time when I played seriously good Cricket, and wanted to join the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. Easy and exciting read. A must for Cricket buffs as well as for ones looking for some inspiration.

5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert T. Kiyosaki & Sharon L. Lechter) ~ Boy! I thought books about money could be all fart and teach you zilch, but this one is a cut above the rest. HIGHLY PRACTICAL, AND RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO CHANGE HIS/HER ATTITUDE, OPINION AND BEHAVIOR TOWARDS MONEY.


The books waiting in line now? Several lying on my desk actually:

1. Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts) ~ An impulse buy, but I am hooked on now. Was written in jail 2 times and was snatched away by the Jailors, and the final version was the third version! That was reason enough for me to pick up that book. I later realized that it is also on the bestseller list currently.

2. Indlish (Jyoti Sanyal) ~ Gifted to me by Courtney Lenart, an American student. I am not too excited about this one, but will read it just thinking of sweet lil' Isabellah, Courtney's 2-year old daughter.

3. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) ~ I have been time and again compelled and directed towards Latin Writers, and I am told that there are few better than Marquez. This book is supposed to be painful and sentimental, but at the same time, ridiculously funny. Looking forward...

4. The Oxford Collection of Munshi Premchand's best Works (in English) ~ This one for old times' sake (those sultry afternoon classrooms and the Hindi classes at School).

5. One Land, One Billion Minds (Sridhar Ramanujam) ~ This one is making waves in the Indian Advertising Industry and B-Schools. I did read 2 chapters, and am looking forward to finish it. Seems to be a simple and easy read, but a bit too hyped, I am afraid.

6. Business Research Methods (Donald R. Cooper & Pamela S. Schindler) ~ My subject, my area, and was gifted to me by a fellow Faculty member. I doubt I'll read it in the near future though. Maybe some other time...

That's that then.

I like the fact that these books broke my silence and made me blog again. In business terminology, I am B2B (Back 2 Blogging)!

Maybe I am starting afresh. Maybe I am unlearning. Maybe Mishra, Hesse, Ruskin and Kiyosaki are working.'s the kid in me.

The book-"warm",


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Going Bananas!

Standing in the middle of the street, Mr. Chaubeji had a banana ho,
Threw the banana peel right there, and set out in pomp and show!
But alas! He stepped on the peel and took a great fall,
His hat was undone, glasses shattered, “Oh my God!”, he gave a shrill call!

The banana peel mocked Chaubeji, saying, “Didn’t I say a banana could be fun?
For all the fools who throw peels on the street, may this lesson be a good one!”

[NOTE: The “ho” in the first line above was a desperate effort on my part to keep up the AA-BB rhyme-scheme!]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Words don’t suffice how thankful I am to have you as a Teacher. All good wishes to you on your birthday. Happy birthday Babuji!


From up there to here,
A journey predefined.
On your special day,
I have a special poem on my mind.

People come and people go,
Like scenes of a play or a matinee show.
Very few fit and get imprinted within,
My teacher, on your special day, let me replay that imprinted scene…

Birthdays come and birthdays go,
On one such birthday, I had a friend ho!
It was God’s way to send by my side,
A Teacher, a Philosopher and a Guide.

I could wish for you fame, money and fortune,
I could wish for you the sun, the stars and the moon.
But I know the best things I could ask for. The other things just don’t matter.
These do - May you change more lives for the better.
May you continue to be His instrument of love.
May you bring peace like a white dove.
They need you, our sisters and brothers.
May you keep finding more of yourself in helping others.

We are reborn everyday,
And find a new way.
My new way started in a classroom somewhere with you,
Settled on my mind like flowery dew.
I am thankful - The fact that you were born, that you are, makes me what I am, what I will be,
Dear Babuji…happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to thee.

Nov 29th…here you are…all happiness, no pain,
Reborn…never to die again.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Words Stifled...

I don't know why we become busy,
Why all engagements make us dizzy,
All that was there gazes from far,
Looks to me like a dim, distant star,
On selfishness the mind delves,
Why do we keep running away from ourselves?

Silence serves a purpose they say,
But have we forgotten a shared way?
As we drift apart and look back at the start,
And try to fool the gullible heart,
Let us also remind ourselves of the long walks,
The simple sharing, laughter and the talks,
Oh, the things I want to still share with you,
And you might want to too...

Words stifled...silence is golden, that's what they say,
But words of friendship, of trust and love weren't fake anyway.
I've become poor, I don't know about you,
Well, in any case, words are very few...very few...very few...

Monday, November 20, 2006

To the Wet Woods

The frog croaks,
The cloud heaves.
The rain trickles down
The wet coconut leaves.

The jungle plays a tune,
The cricket sings along.
The firefly flies by with
A disturbed luminescence - barely strong.

Falling water, rustling trees,
An occasional thunderous lightning,
A scared toad and concerned insects -
Quite a natural thing.

The bubbly soil exudes a mesmerizing aroma,
The plantain leaves beam with sheen.
Rain in the woods - a harbinger of life
And all things - clean and green.

Flavors of Different Kinds

“You have got to take that boat ride – the flavor of Kerala…”, persisted my mind, even as I munched on golden tapioca chips with black seeds on their hubs, just a little soggy in the sultry afternoon humidity of Kottayam (the tropical backwater town in Kerala). A spatter of humid tapioca chips on the tongue and occasionally in uneasy crevices of teeth cavities. A flavor of Kerala in its own right. A different kind of flavor.

A seeker of flavors that I am, there I was, on the Kottayam boat jetty. My mind brimming with anticipation. Promises. Great Expectations. Expectations that made boats ships. Isolation company. Hell cooler. Expectation. A flavor of Kerala in its own right. A different kind of flavor.

Everyone on that boat was looking forward to something. The boat of life… or the absence of it? An obscure, wheatish man in a cream-white mundu (a piece of cloth wrapped around the abdomen by men in Kerala) right up at the edge of the first row of torn, uncomfortable seats, staring at the boat wood right above the ridged ship window, gauging the perimeter of the area at hand. Or trying to gauge it, for, he seemed more interested in the last puff of his cigarette butt that was dangling between his sooty lips. The last puff would automatically entitle him to the next cigarette – new, long and puffy – the one that was precariously dangling right above his right ear, ready to fall any minute. Like the restless kid on the lap of the lady sitting beside me – the lady who smelled of fresh jasmine and coconut oil – dangling precariously on her thighs, partly on her right and partly on her left, neither side completely his. Ready to fall any minute. Looking forward to a breezy journey that would relieve him of the Kottayam heat and lull him to blissful slumber.

The wheatish man, who had stains of black on his lips and on his mundu, was carrying the extra cigarette and his brush, his pencils and his ruler. Anybody could tell that he was a painter. A painter who looked forward to his next job. And his next puff. His next job that would buy him his next puff. He was twitchy. Desperately twitchy.

Our pencils worked simultaneously. The thick pencil of his, venturing above and around his unsteady ruler, designed outlines. Boundaries for the black paint to stay on. Strict boundaries. Defined by strict, uneven pencil marks on the boat wall. The pencil of my mind, working backwards on the drawing surface from where the attached eraser on it was, erased all outlines. All boundaries. My palette worked on an infinite canvas. An even world of boundless backwater beauty. The beauty painted by inspirational strokes of Nature’s connoisseur hand. The beauty of aroma. The beauty of jasmine and coconut oil. The beauty of a breezy journey. The beauty of a blissfully asleep child. The beauty of tired, numb thighs of a tired mother. The beauty of houseboats, of sarus cranes, of blue waters, of lagoons, of rich-green paddy fields, of a prosperous harvest, of excited urchins jumping off the moving boat into plunging depths, of slender coconut trees, of mystifying music – felt but unseen. Like a fictitious legend. The beauty of flavor. Enticing flavor.

The wheatish painter, in the meanwhile, was into his second stub and into his black paintwork on the wall. Or out of it? In and out, actually. Coughing out ghastly phlegm, and filling color into boundaries. Like the choking smoke around his mouth. In and out. Out and in. It didn’t matter to him that his smoke had jerked a blissful kid out of his blissfully breezy slumber in a helpless cough. “Second-hand smoke is disastrous”, they’d say. “First-hand is safer. Well, relatively”, they’d say. The wheatish man, smoking the wheatish stubs, consoled himself by saying this to his mind: “At least I made the right choice!” A lesser mind. Bounded by strict outlines in pencil. A trail of gray ash, like a phantom, ready to disintegrate into thin air. A trail of temporary outlines. Of washable color. Of washable black color. Color that matched his lifeless lips. “Hey, it’s the flavor I look forward to too”, justified he. The nastiness of flavor. Ghastly flavor.

I couldn’t look from where I was sitting, but I could say that his work was taking shape; partly from the movement of round, yellow eyeballs in his eyes and partly from the sudden enthusiastic puffs he enjoyed – the puffs that led to more puffs that led to ghastly, noisy, whooping cough. Oh, how he “enjoyed” that!

The cool wind was a soothing grace on me. On the painter, it was a burden. A burden of fast-burning cigarette stubs. Of lesser “enjoyment”. What he did not realize (or chose not to) was that this was the same wind that assisted him in drying up his bounded work of black paint. Stroke by stroke. Fast. Faster than his stubs dried up his system. Organ by organ.

Fast enough, he was done with what he started at. He was done with the ‘looking forward to’ part, at least for now. He packed up his paraphernalia of dark pencils, a ruler, black paint and his smoky self into a careless bundle and leaped out of the boat as soon as I read “Alleppey” on a milestone that was more of a kilometerstone. Or a kilometerboard. “Unboard your ship”, instructed my mind. “Stay on”, pleaded my senses, still ecstatic from what they had inhaled over the last 28 kilometers. Patting themselves on their backs for what they took in and for what they chose not to take in. The flavor inhaled. The smoke ignored.

I reluctantly grabbed at one of the flavors – my half-full packet of very humid tapioca chips - and trudged down the aisle and down the mighty stairs of my mighty ship. I thought of Great Expectations. Of promises kept.

Suddenly, I thought, “What was it that the wheatish man (with the wheatish stubs) had created? Or destroyed??” Curiosity chose to take the better of me. Besides, I just needed an excuse to board back the boat. My ship. The boat of life. Or the absence of it? Up the mighty stairs, into the mast and through the aisle. Back to the obscure window-corner of the obscure sign painter. Back to his strict boundaries and his dry, black paint. I stared at the painted area.

“NO SMOKING”, it said!

The Little One

This poem came as a sudden outburst of emotion and concern for a poor grass parakeet at the St. Mary’s Forane Church in Moozhikulam. One amongst the umpteen birds in the small cage at the church front yard, she was subject to a careless master, a filthy ménage and inadequate survival facilities. To top it all, she was caged and forbidden to fly high in the velvet sky, just like free birds of love ought to. Seeing the beautiful bluish-white bird die a slow and painful death whilst the Sunday Mass was progressing was as painful for me as it was for the ‘Little One’. May her soul rest in peace.


You can hardly move or breathe here,
Your sweet voice is barely clear.
This isn’t where you belong,
This isn’t your song.
What good is your wing,
If it cannot carry you to your calling?

I know you are not to blame,
It’s the parish priest…I don’t remember his name.
He took a fancy for your beauty,
Taking care of you should’ve been his duty,
But he was engaged with other things to do –
A little nap, a mug of beer, a game of chess or two!

Of course, he’s not at fault every time,
Having kidney stones, for instance, isn’t a crime.
Four days ago, he was taken to the city in grave pain,
They’d operate him there and he’d be on his feet again.
He probably could’ve instructed somebody to look after you for some days,
Well, his instructions would’ve gone unheeded anyways…!

How can you blame him? He’s given you a new habitation,
Complete with filth, claustrophobia and slow destruction!
How can you complain about your twenty-four companion kin?
“The more the merrier” – that’s what the priest believes in.
You spoil yourself by hating the rotten seeds you get for breakfast, lunch and dinner,
Hunting for red berries and fresh streams in the wild would’ve made you thinner.

Church birds that you are, you need to practice penance.
So, stop complaining and stop being such a menace!
It’s not like a few days of fasting would kill you,
The patients at the Chikitsalayam do a lot of fasting too!
What works for men should work for birds better,
Fasting says you’d be hearty. You’d be healthy. You’d be a trendsetter.

Honestly, I am kidding myself…more or less.
Since I am in a church, let me confess -
I say all this just to console you, Little One.
Though I lie, it’s for a good cause. No harm done.
But you’re not ready to listen to anything!
It’s like to myself I am talking!

“Where’s my master? I’m quite famished!”, you demand…
I try my best to assure you that things aren’t out of hand.
You ignore me. “At least a little water?”, you plead,
I say, “I’ll help you. Don’t worry. A friend in need…”
My words are incomplete. I see your stony eyes…
You say, “I’m running out of time. Let’s call our goodbyes…”

“It was nice to have known you. A kind heart you were trying to be…
By giving false consolation to the simple me.
The truth is that my wings, my colors and my voice,
That could’ve brought the world many dewy-eyed joys,
Were all wasted! Oh! It’s such a shame!
But ere I die, I’ll inspire you so that they’d remember my name.”

“O son of man, make my death useful. Let my departed soul fly
With my fellow friends. Release them, before any of them doth cry!
Our wings are meant to make us soar into the blue skies,
Wings of you and wings of me! Come on! Be free. Free of evil and lies!
Only then would I live on in free flight. I would never die.
Your generosity will live on…and so will I!”

“O little one! Here’s your water…here…”…Alas! It’s too late…
In a world of antipathy, the bird of love succumbs to a fatal fate -
Fate meted out by man. It wasn’t meant to be this way,
Birds of love aren’t to die…they’re to fly away…
“It’s too late…or is it?”, I contemplate. Whilst from the steeple peals the bell,
I release the other birds to where they belong. Flying to Heaven from hell!

The Little One is carried tenderly towards the river,
A humble grave dug in the ground. That’s the least I can give her.
Though she did deserve a lot more on this Earth,
Inconsiderate man robbed her of freedom and mirth.
Multitudes pray in the church, not me…oh Little One,
Please know that you inspire me. You are my prayer, you are my sermon.