Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Hyena

Fear knows no faces
It would contort everything
into something smoking in the dark.
The simmering end of the cigarette
appears like a sticky Firebug
around peoples' noses.
With their best weapons in hand
they wait for what is called an eternity
for the strange dog to take the turn
off the temple street.
Mothers with their children
run down the stairs
and stay locked for long.
The animal is known to have lifted children
from the surrounding villages.
We whisper stories about
how grandmothers knew this all along.
We can hear the flickering
of the kerosene lamp made out of
a cough syrup bottle.
There is calm that night.
The cattle, half a foot away
fall asleep standing.
We too yawn a countless times
and give up hope on catching the animal.
And finally sleep visits us.
The next day, the village is full of stories
that the animal had been caught.
Killed with some plough blade and buried
in a safe direction from the village.
Each of the older kids claim that
his dad or uncle was involved in this heroism.


Much life has run out among them now
Married off young, they lay scattered
like the pack of birds after a sling shot.
They meet during the numerous ceremonies
Births, marriages and deaths.
Remembering to hold high their father's name
their freedom knew only the walls of the house.
The vast fields they worked in
contained them in binds.
Once in a while, a wandering salesman
would be asked a question or two
on the well-being of each other.
Their lives went on with children
The day to day worries
Rains, crop and the seasons of life.
Unlike in a cruel and fast paced world
their names did not appear in obituaries yet.
Troubles they had plenty, but
nothing we know of them.
With their wings cut-off
they didn't reach any
But only gasped for breath
when all of them met.

The dark corridor

Like the midnight rain
and a sweet, slipping dream
Past snuggles up to me
and finishes the self-portrait I intended
as an answer to all my questions.
It grounds me
Roots me into a soil
Arrests my attention from drifting
in a continuum of confusion.
It typecasts me into
what I could have been
without the "but for..." of chance .
It is filled with experiences of
my countable journeys
into the rickety and cobwebbed cage
of memories- The village home.
Its thick main doors open
creakingly into a dark corridor.
So dark, we are looking down
the throat of a gigantic creature.
I grope for the columns
that would guide me to the room-
Cleaned, the gunny bags removed
and few essentials kept for
us visiting from the city.
Half the leaves of the family tree
have turned their backs on each other.
I am informed, as I dig into a heap of rice.
The route for a later stroll
is subtly sketched for my benefit.
I am told the houses that I could avoid.
The backyard of the house has
old diesel pump sets strewn across.
Standing as fossilized monuments
of an ancient effort.
Often, their might is dragged into conversation
about the escape I have in the city
which suavely offers, none of such delusions.

Devil's own

Large eyes
That is what I would describe her as.
Much white in them
they look like the albumin of an egg.
They pop out even more
when she has the seizures
in the name of the Devil and the Divine.
Shaken, we retreat to a corner
Our knees wobble involuntarily
We run away as if escaping
a death in the house.
The throes still pulsing our bodies.
The elders try to calm her down
Swearing at her, pleading her
Even trying to inflict bodily shame
to get her back to senses.
Nothing works.
Neighbors stream out steadily
to watch what's going on.
They chitchat how bad karma
or other such insolence on her part
pushed her into this state.
Her husband has a mortal fear
for her and a sense of shame
of being watched and discussed.
His love and affection
seem to hang in a limbo
between an overpowered mind
and a disconnected body.
Eventually, she calms down
like a tranquilized animal
People go around her, spit thrice
so that the Devil never comes back.


The old widow grinding betel
under her half-digested teeth
sits in the verandah of the house.
She calls me and asks who I am
Not my name,
Whose son
Whose grandson I am
Calculating in her mind
How much land?
and looking at me, thoroughly
through her cataractous eyes.
Her infirmity makes her look harmless.
Contrary to the dreary stories
I hear about her heydays.
Like the second wife of a lazing Nawab
she had traded with axe
several lives, that were in line to the throne.
Others' children were only breathing troubles
silenced later with oily hands
in a motherly massage.
She wouldn't move an inch out of the house
but heads were cut out
and the blood stains buried in the darkness
refusing to be on any one's hands.

The Murder

Unlike in cities, a conflict there
is not within the walls.
It has the engines of an epidemic.
Who took whose eye
Who gave the money
Who lit the match
Everything is marked
with the axe of their anger.
The stains of life and death
are rustically stubborn
despite all the new scrolls on the TV.
The anger they say
stays in the marrow, generating
new cells seeking revenge.
The conspirator grows old, spends
an year or two in the jail
and then, almost forgives himself.
He stays on the ground
but nothing happens.
As if he had taken a life in vacuum.
There is not even a sign
of distancing stares.
But one day
when he is coming home
by the last bus.
A night halt in the outskirts.
He is chased into the fields.

A long absence

It rains after much wait
thumping the wooden beam ceiling
like the persistent cough of a grandfather.
Children wake up crying
soon cradled by the eldest.
With the torches, men go up
and check for any loose mud.
The funnels in the roof-
Sun streams through them during the day -
are now covered with the broken pot shreds.
A thick opaque curtain of rain
blocks the silhouettes of people
rushing for a shelter.
Not even a leaf moves in the downpour.
The Banyan tree stands in a trance
even as its penance is answered.
There is a thud heard
from the old temple, where
another beam slips down
to drench the inner sanctum.
We huddle near the window
for the front seat view of the spectacle.
Rain reaches out to us
in an occasional spurt
and makes up for its long absence.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lasting stories

The fireflies at the end of the tunnel
signal that all is well.
Shoes are put on
There is a careful gait along the wall
groping for the etched directions.
Whispers, whispers.
Hot air, someone's breath.
Warmer now as it rushes past.
A low grumble breaks out in the dark.
Solitude blotches out all light.
A huddled silence surrounds.
There is a quickening pace.
Another crevice holds the foot.
A meek presence and vast absence
outweigh as commiseration.
Rocks bruise the skin.
Not too much to be lasting stories.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Short Sigh

About the times that have gone by
I always write with a short sigh.
I bring out the color and kitsch
of the opportunities missed for zilch.
Entitled to all the cribs of the world
I gather excuses only to be hurled.
An innocent by-stander one might be
But all the havoc he would see
As a tall tree misses some winds
and falls outright desperate for wins.
Though the great fall has no meaning
there's always a philosophical leaning.
Why things happen is a passé
Why won't they happen is an impasse.
Now, I believe, one would understand
and feel the loss of my magic wand.
Nothing works, I know.
But can't sit idle in the show.
There is something collect I must
Like an ant I will roll in the dust
Till I find the boulders to build the hill
and write about my failures still.