Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On seeing a 1944 American Mid-Western Musical, Or,

Whiteness

How much pains it takes
to preserve itself.
How much efforts it puts
to keep others out.
How much history it refuses,
how many tales.


How badly it fails.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What song of bravery knows

that martyrs too, though
flowers at their feet, and
paens in their sky, still, for
their own homes, really die.


What song of bravery knows
that mother, who, when she
sees him pick up the gun,
says "Don't come back a hero,
just come back as my son."



(For Ghazala Khan)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Kids used marbles,

pebbles, pieces of
clay, to begin counting
back in the day, but
now, in that country,
he told me, "...well it's,
an X-Ray of pellets."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

They were lucky

those who counted love as work,
or those who fell in love with the work
they did. All my life, I've been busy;
I've loved a little, worked a little.
Love always got caught up in work,
work always stepped on love's feet.
I gave up, finally; left both incomplete.



tr. from Faiz Ahmed Faiz's Kuch Ishq Kiya, Kuch Kaam Kiya

tr. with help from Anindita Biswas

Faiz Ahmed Faiz
 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kaanwariyas are good for the night-life of Delhi.

Don't you think so? Around mid-night at ISBT
Kashmere Gate, which otherwise would have fallen
silent, they set up stalls and play red & orange songs.

Boys distribute water to those who are carrying holier
water on their shoulders. (Does holy water weigh more
than regular water?) Even I, on my cycle, am offered a pouch.

There are more than usual police-men at ISBT, going in
and out of urinals, perhaps because there is more than usual
cruising, because a festival is doing the rounds of the night.

Around 1am at Malkaganj Chowk, which is dressed in lights,
in boys dancing, in groups of women sitting out late night,
a kaanwar stops me and asks me the way to Gurgaon.

(Does Shiva reside in Gurgaon?) A little away from all this,
near the old ice-factory, a few kaanwars open the dikky of their
scooter & bring out the rum, and then I guess, bol bam bam.

Many kaanwars are running a relay race, passing the Ganga
water like a baton. They are jogging with knee pads, looking out
for each other. It is, if you don't look around it, all pretty admirable.

The dance, the boys, the women. The late-night-ness of it.
But there is one thing this year which I've never seen before. On
their bikes, their tempos, their trucks, apart from the saffron flag,

this time there is also the tri-colour. Racing in the air. Why does a
God need a tricolour? Why does the lord of destruction need a flag?
Why is a flag of a country on a pilgrimage in the hands of little boys?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Do you have Facebook addiction?

Do you keep trying to leave it
but lack conviction
and keep coming back?

No sweat, I've got a hack.

Just say anything about Kashmir
that's even remotely true.

Then sit back,
they'll deactivate it for you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Promises

they say, are made to be broken,
but only promises kept end the night,
like love, true to all it betokened,
like from the jaws of years, plebiscite.

 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

कृपया मोल-तोल न करें

मुझे मालूम है कि दिल्ली हाट में
कश्मीर स्टाल पर मोल-तोल करने का कोई फायदा नहीं;
उनके रेट फिक्स्ड हैं।
क्या खूब चीज़ है न इतना यकीन होना 
कि आपकी क्या कीमत है,
कि आपको क्या चाहिए,
क्या बिलकुल नहीं चाहिए --
औरों के लिए 
कितना सरदर्द है।  

tr. from Ankita Anand's 'No bargaining please' 
     
अंकिता आनंद
 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The lake

is silver.

The mountains
are filigreed with snow.

The shikara breaks
the water into chords.

Cops throw tear-gas shells
in Emergency Wards.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kashmir

a resonant word,
a tear-gas-shell of a word,
written on stones, flung on streets,
a twelve-young-men-killed-in-a-day word,

resilient,
as hard as the bones
of the young they cannot kill

unbreakable,
like that other word:
freedom.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My friends've gone dancing

and I am sitting blue,
& what I feared would happen
is all coming true.

The room's too small for me,
the small heart is cleft,
for those who'll do the leaving
& those who already left.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

"मिनिस्क्युल माइनॉरिटी"? "मिनिस्क्युल माइनॉरिटी"?

जज साहब,
लगता है आपको समझाना पड़ेगा,

किसी संडे शाम
आपको पालिका पार्क ले जाना पड़ेगा।

Friday, July 1, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Old shirts.

Some don't fit,
some are faded,
some out of style.

They say parting
with gifts from old lovers
can be difficult.

Nonsense.
Try making a pile!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"My man's here," she said,

her voice
was rocked by the waves,

her eyes were pearls,

there is love enough
in this word to save us - 'mine'

if only once in our lives
we get to say it
- all our pain, lying still, in the word -
'mine'

then nothing
is incomplete, nothing, in all our years,
is left behind.


tr. from an extract from Ismat Chughtai's 'Hindustan Chod Do'


Ismat Chughtai
 

Mom and dad insisted we go to Shirdi

I first resisted, then went.
The lines of devotees made me dizzy
but thankfully Shirdi Grindr was busy,
so all in all time well spent.

Andheri Local

The sea gets in,
brushes the sand off his hair,

wrings his wet shirt
and hangs it on the steel,

a friend, younger,
holds him by his waist

shirtless,
salt-rimmed,
as brown as desire.

As we pass Santacruz,
I crush shells under my feet.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The therapist says dig, dig, dig,

but my ocean's way too blue & big, so
when he looks at me, all Meryl Streep,
I become two milimeters deep.

Windmills on

the Western Ghats,
the collar bone of the earth,

white turbines
threshing the sky into cirrus

like foremothers of the hills

who know power
is always summoned
out of thin air.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To live

is to find measureless pain, 
is to hide it from others, to feign
a smile and somehow still mean
when pain's edge is keen.
 
translated from Sunita Katyal's 'To live'
 
Sunita Katyal
 
 

Vyapam

The margins fall off.
The ink is red.
He smiles and says
"The investigation is on."



tr. from Rahul Rai's 'Vyapam'

Rahul Rai
 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ghodbunder Road

(Mira Bhayandar to Thane)

All through the way, we keep speaking,
raising the stakes, little by little,
every night creates possibilities, which
the morning breaks, little by little.

What will remain of this night, years from
now, is only an abstract wish,
his head on my arms, his hair in my fingers
- desire slakes, little by little.

Mario had told me the Portugese traded
Arabian horses here at the creek,
'Ghod' 'Bunder' - the port of the horses -
how history wakes, little by little.

On the radio, as Ananyaa sang, she pestled
the moon, dissolved the stars,
take heed, Akhil, she sings of our lives, it
gives and it takes, little by little.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

In Shimla

it always rains twice,
once, from the sky,
then, when the pines drip.

The same with you, Lalita,
once, when you went,
then, as it hit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

टूटा हर चीज़ का आकार है

जैसे बीता हुआ कल
जैसे याद

ये अब
इतना बड़ा है,

ये अब
हर जगह है:
हम उसके टुकड़े करते हैं,
यही रहते हैं हमारे पास

बस यही हम आने वाले कल को दे पाते हैं

टुकड़े
जो है हर चीज़ का आकार।


tr. from Kei Miller's 'Broken is the shape of everything'

Kei Miller
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nishit Saran

Half way down the Lodhi Road,
the first day of rain,

those who come here often must
be held by you, and pain,

and memory must, like memory does,
hold them in its skein,

remembering you, like always, with
the summer in your veins.
 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

From the TOI report, concerning "Africans in Delhi" -

"'It's been trouble since
they've been around,'
one Delhi local fears."

Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut,
Razia Sultan's lover
be like, "Trouble? For
eight hundred years?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Things you discover on the first day of cycling in Delhi

Cars are beasts.

You are tiny.

But sometimes, near red-lights,
you can outrun the best of them.

Cycle-lanes change everything.

The Ring-Road takes almost ten seconds to cross,
width-wise, and a life-time to go round.

Working class cycles do not have helmets and lights
and their main purpose is not 'exercise'.

From the Def Col nallah
to the under-the-flyover Saheli office,
is a slight dhalaan you hadn't noticed before,
now it comes as a welcome surprise,

you find out the inclinations of your city,
where it nods, where it raises an eyebrow,

that from the ITO metro station to the Medical College
is a slight chadhaai. You always pay for a dhalaan,
with a chadhaai somewhere else.

Things slows down, as you cycle,
you see different things, notice punture shops near your home,
one opposite DPS Mathura Road, one at the railway tracks
at the Lajpat station.

With this time, you look at things closely,
at Modi posters, at the Madame-Tussauds-trimmed beard,
at funeral processions, at bathing men,
at hypno-Kejriwal.

Rickshaw-pullers ask you
to move it.

Near Pragati Maidan, a boy looks out his school bus, and asks
with a cocky-class-3A-sort-of-smile -
"Uncle, aapke paas bike nahin hai?" ("You don't have a bike?")
"Nahin,"
"Isme gears nahin hain?"
"Nahin"
"Simple?"
"Haan," and looks somewhere between disappointed,
amused and pitiful, till an older boy
pulls him down.

Bus drivers that let you pass
deserve a place in heaven.

At 11 Ashoka Road, in the giant party posters,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, though top-left,
feel like bottom-right, and remember the old days,

you cycle past them
as the Lutyens trees open their arms.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nizamuddin Dargah

Khusro dariya patriarchy ka, ulti wa ki dhaar,
Mard karein sajda andar, aurat karein baahr.
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two memories, Delhi

I

Laxmi Nagar, Delhi
1997

I must have been twelve
when a grand-uncle was discovered
during a vacation in Delhi,

you don't know him? we'd told you, he's

nani's eldest brother,
(also from Sargodha, Pakistan)
I'd never met a grand-uncle.

In his Jamuna-paar house, he looked so frail
in his drawing-room that my twelve-year-oldness
was afraid to go near him.

He could not see. And, for me, then, his could-not-seeness
had sat in the middle of the room
but no one would mention it.

He spoke to us and I followed his closed eyelids
that kept egg-whites beneath them.

I tried to measure how much 
he could see of the snacks on the table,
of my fingers, of all of us talking,
of his own speaking-about-us-without-knowing-us,
as if of course I know you, you're my sister's grand...

After a while,
he asked Pinki (my mother's name
for those who knew her longer than I)
to let him see us.

We were made to get up and
stand in front of him.

I walked slowly, my bones
shaped like awkwardness.

He touched my face with his fingers,
frailness, moved them lightly over my nose,
my eyes (should I keep them closed? or open?)
and said, he's "nice-looking" in English,
and then let me go.

I bundled back
to my edge of the sofa,
to the edge of my mother,
near her, asking her to keep me
from her people, those who knew her
longer than I, grand-uncles whose egg-whites
roamed on walls and who saw people through fingers.

II

Jangpura Extension, Delhi
2016

Rohit, it has been about six years
since you left, and of-course-this-is-very-little-time,
especially-in-this-day-and-age,
but I thank my stars that sometimes I find it
difficult to remember
your face
fully.

It is surprising how much six years
without a facebook-friendship can do,
how they can blur the edges of cheek-bones,
make the nose go was-it-like-this?
and eyes, were-they-dark-brown-or-black?

Around the third year,
when this slow forgetting had started,
I found these little slipping-away's of details
to be a form of betrayal, like the final warrant of
now-nothing-can-start-again, like the final final, like
even his face now...

but when your going sunk in through the years,
this slipperiness of memory felt kinder,
this inability to remember no longer argued with me,
it sat on my lap and let me stroke
its chin, and loved me back,
if even his face can go, then surely...

but, sometimes, near the hours
that are no-longer-night an' not-yet-dawn,
when I lie just on this side of sleep, sometimes

not always, my hand takes the shape as if it is
holding you from the back,

and the fingers still hold the gossamer air
of the bedroom as if they touched your cheeks,

as if the small slant of your nose was there,
the graze of the stubble, the lemonness of hair,
the soft drip of your ear,

as if rememberance was a game
played by fingers on gossamer fields,

and, in those nights, I didn't need
memory's ability to see, I touched, and without
saying it to you, meant, like in
those nights, "nice-looking",

and saying it held off dawn, it held off the claim
of the next day, it held off who-told-you-to-go,
why-did-you-have-to-go, it held off
where-are-you-now...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Kashmiri: We want azadi.
Indian: We'll give you development.
Kashmiri: We want azadi.
Indian: We'll give you jobs.
Kashmiri: We want azadi.
Indian: You'll survive without us? How?
Kashmiri: As against now?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

'Gurgaon' is now 'Gurugram'

'Gurgaon' is now 'Gurugram'
   The idea is BJP's
They say it's for Guru Dronacharya
   Eklavya be like "Bitch please!"
 

Friday, April 8, 2016

तुम याद आते हो

जैसे नाईट-ड्यूटी पर नींद आती है,
बिन बुलाए, हमेशा।

Monday, April 4, 2016

We ain't buyin' what's on sale

We ain't goin' to concede 'em
They think we'll stop at bail
We ain't stoppin' till freedom

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

दुआ, इन दिनों

सोच में आज़ादी हो,
प्लेट पर खाना हो,
किस्म-किस्म के लोगों
का आना-जाना हो,
बात-चीत हो बहस में,
प्रेम हो, क्रोध हो, जिज्ञासा
हो हर रहस्य में, नाचना हो,
गाना हो, पन्नों में लिपटा हर
ख़याल हो पुस्तकालय में,
विश्व हो विश्वविद्यालय में

(एच.सी.यू के लिए)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

जेनेरल साहब - Bertolt Brecht

tr. Bertolt Brecht's 'General, Dein Tank ist ein starker Wagen'

जेनेरल साहब,
आपका ये टैंक बड़ा ही शक्तिशाली है,
जंगलों को रौंद देता है
सौ-सौ आदमियों को कुचल देता है,
पर इसमें एक दोष है -
इसे एक ड्राइवर की जरूरत पड़ती है

जेनेरल साहब,
आपका ये बॉम्बर बड़ा ही शक्तिशाली है,
हाथी जितना बोझ लिए भी तूफ़ान से तेज़ उड़ता है,
पर इसमें भी एक दोष है -
इसे एक मैकैनिक की जरूरत पड़ती है

जेनेरल साहब,
इंसान बहुत काम की चीज़ है,
वो उड़ सकता है, वो मार भी सकता है,
पर उसमें एक दोष है -
वो सोच भी सकता है

Bertolt Brecht
 

Friday, March 18, 2016

I am grass

tr. from Pash's 'ਮੈਂ ਘਾਹ ਹਾਂ'

I am grass,
I will grow back, no matter what you do,

whether you bomb a university,
whether you bulldoze a hostel,
or whether you burn our rooms -

what will you do to me
What can you do to me?
I am grass, I will grow back, on everything.

Go, burn up our towns,
wipe out Sangroor,
turn Ludhiyana to dust,
my green will do its work even then,
after two years, after ten years...
passengers will again ask the conductor -
"What place is this?
Will you drop me off at Barnala,
where there's a forest of green grass."

I am grass,
I will do my work,
I will grow back on everything
that you try to do to me.

(For Umar and Anirban)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

जाओ, शिक्षा पाओ - Savitribai Phule

tr. from Sunil Sardar and Victor Paul's English tr. 'Go, Get Education' by Savitribai Phule

जाओ, शिक्षा पाओ

आत्म-निर्भर बनो, मेहनत में रम जाओ
काम करो, ज्ञान और धन बटोरो

ज्ञान के बिना सब कुछ खो जाता है
ज्ञान के बिना इंसान जानवर हो जाता है

ऐसे न बैठो, जाओ, शिक्षा पाओ,
पीड़ितों का, पिछड़ों का दुख मिटाओ

जाओ, सीखने का सुनहरा मौका है ये
सीखो, और तोड़ दो जाती की जंजीरों को
फैक दो उस ब्राह्मण के शास्त्रों को,
उसकी किताबों को, उसकी लकीरों को

Savitribai Phule (1831-97)
 

ब्राह्मण-राज मिटटी में मिले है

tr. excerpt from Sunil Sardar and Victor Paul's English tr. 'Mother English' of Savitribai Phule's Marathi poem

"ब्राह्मण-राज मिटटी में मिले है
जो अंग्रेज़ ने चाबुक चलाया है

गरीब की भलाई इसी में तो है -
अंग्रेजी के सामने, मनु सकपकाया है"


Savitribai Phule (1831-97)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

तुम्हारे बारे में सोचना - Nazim Hikmet

tr. from Nazim Hikmet's 'Thinking of you'

तुम्हारे बारे में सोचना
    मुझे सुन्दर लगता है, मुझे दिलासा देता है,
लगता है जैसे दुनिया का सबसे सुन्दर गाना
    सबसे सुन्दर आवाज़ में सुन रहा हूँ

पर अब दिलासा मेरे लिए काफी नहीं है
    मैं अब और गाने नहीं सुनना चाहता
मैं गाना चाहता हूँ


Nazim Hikmet
 

Ghazal by Gauhar Raza

tr. from Urdu-Hindi

Love for the nation gift-wrapped in faith; farce, that's how it'll be
Flowers, dried-up, gardens, gone, autumn, yellowed, that's how it'll be.

That savagery, once felt, still keeps Europe trembling in fear,
That savagery, will it now burn my land? Is that how it'll be?

Those gas chambers of the past still carry the stench of blood,
What else does blind love for nations do? What else will'it be?

It is true that in dark wells, utter lies, like boats, carry on,
but soon, the light of our truth will sink 'em, that's how it will be.

Those who've grown up on hatred, who've played with it like a toy,
in the days to come, what will hatred make them do? How will it be?

They ask the artists, the writers, why have you returned the honours?
Ask, how many sit quiet? Will shame knock on their doors? Will it be?

Do not eat this, do not wear that, do not, for God's sake, ever love,
The 'anti-national' stamp hovers in the air, that is how it'll be.

Do not forget, the young, the generations after us, are lit embers,
You play with fire an' think the sparks won't reach you; that's not how it'll be.


Gauhar Raza
 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

तुम आये हो या

पल्स खाते-खाते ज़ुबान पर
नमक आया है?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aligarh

Dr. Siras,
In those nights,
you must have felt loneliness like a drip.

The walls of your room
would’ve been held apart only by a faint song,

and memory must have sat by you all night
combing the hours.

In your Marathi poem, Dr. Siras, the one about the ‘beloved moon,’
the one in which you somehow eke dawn from the dark sky,
I read it last night on the terrace,
it held me, it held my hands,
it let grass grow under my feet.

In this house that I have lived in for three years in Delhi, Dr. Siras,
the windows open onto a Palash tree.

I was 27 when I had rented it,
and at 27, the landlord had not spent too much time on the word ‘bachelor’
he had only asked if I had ‘too many parties’,
I didn’t, and I had got the house.

But next time, Dr. Siras, when I will try and look for a place in this city,
I will be older and they will pause at "but marriage?"
and I will try to eke out respect from a right surname,
from saying ‘Teacher’
from telling my birth-place,
and will try and hide my feeling small under my feet.

What had you said, Dr. Siras,
when you looked for that house in Durga Wadi?
What had you said for the neighbourhood, ‘Teacher’, ‘Professor’,
‘Poet’?

What gives us this respect, Dr. Siras, this contract with water?

In those nights,
weighing this word in your hands,
you must have felt weak, like the sun at dusk,
you must have closed the window to keep out the evening,
you must have looked back, and hung the song in the air
between refusal and letting go.


(thanks to Apurva M Asrani and Ishani Banerjee)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

हमारी 
       उमर 
            भी तुम्हें लग जाए 

Monday, February 15, 2016

For JNU

You can chew the sun here & spit it out,
You can make the mighty eat dust,
It is a university that we're talking about,
Not a king's court where we must.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

To the soldier in Siachen

Come back,
the snow is treacherous,
come back,
they are making you fight a treacherous war,
you were not born in snow,
you do not know snow, come back,
I do not want you to fight that war in our name,
I want you to rest, I want you to be able to feel your fingers,
I want the snow in your veins to give way,
for you to be able to breathe, to melt
into a corner,
to sleep.

Come back.

Go home.

Go home to Dharwad,
Go home to Madurai, go home to
Vellore, Satara, Mysore, do not stay in the snow,
go home to Ranchi, that war is not for you to fight, that war
is not for us to give to you to fight, let not our name be ice,
let it not heave on your shoulders, do not let us steal your breath,
the people there, the people of the snow do not need us,
they do not need you to fight, come back,
you were not born to snow,
you do not know the treachery of the snow,

go home,
to rest, go home to the sun, to water,
go home to the nights of your village,
go home to the sweltering market-place,
to the noise of family-homes, to the sweat of the Ghats,
to the dust of the plains, go home,

may you never
have to see white ever again like that,
may you never have to see
a colour become death in your very palm.

Monday, February 8, 2016

That night in Mumbai when Brandt asked 'Are you good with speed?' and I said 'Yes'

it was as if
I pillion rode the moon
on the Western Express Highway,

and every mile we raced on his bike
we reclaimed from the sea,

the Goregaon high-rises passed us by
like longing measured on a Richter scale,

and the sky, window-lit at Malad, tripped
onto us,

at Kandivali, the fortieth floors spun out
into the night till the sky was only staircases,

and when he dropped me
by those black mountains of Borivali,
I realized I had held onto my seat
like the black holds onto basalt,
like the skin holds onto bones,
like Mumbai holds onto sea.

Monday, January 18, 2016

इंसान की कीमत कितनी कम लगाई जाती है - रोहित वेमुला

इंसान की कीमत
कितनी कम लगाई जाती है

बस एक छोटी सी पहचान दी जाती है
फिर जिसका जितना काम निकल आये -
कभी एक वोट,
कभी एक आंकड़ा,
कभी एक खोखली सी चीज़

कभी माना ही नहीं जाता कि इंसान
आखिर एक जीवंत मन है

एक अद्भुत सी चीज़ है
जिसे तारों की धूल से गढ़ा गया है

चाहे किताबों में देख लो, चाहे सड़कों पर,
चाहे उसे लड़ते हुए देख लो,
चाहे जीते-मरते हुए देख लो

रोहित वेमुला
 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

For Rohith Vemula

They might have rope enough
for his body,

have they rope enough
for star dust?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Poem said to the Doggerel

you'll never be like me,
you don't shatter the heart,
you don't burn into skin,
your canvas is small
& your themes are thin,
whoever reads me touches
the skies by the time I'm done,

The Doggerel replied: but I'm fun.

Monday, December 28, 2015

For someone who'll read this

500 years from now

How are you?
I am sure a lot has changed

between my time and yours,
but we're not very different,

you have only one thing on me -
hindsight.

I have all these questions for you:
Do cars fly now?

Is Mumbai still standing by the sea?
How do you folks manage without ozone?

Have the aliens come yet?
Who is still remembered from my century?

How long did India and Pakistan last?
When did Kashmir become free?

It must be surprising for you
looking at our time,

our things must seem so strange to you,
our wars so little,

our toilets for 'men' and 'women'
must make you laugh

our cutting down of trees
would be listed in your 'Early Causes'

our poetry in which the moon is still
a thing far away

must make you wonder, both for that moon
and for the poetry.

You must be baffled,
that we couldn't even imagine

the things you now take for granted.
But let that be,

would you do me a favour,
for 'old time's sake'?

Would you go to the Humayun's Tomb
in what used to be Delhi

and just as you're climbing the front staircase,
near the fourth rung, I have cut into

the stone wall to your left -
'Akhil loves Rohit'

Will you go and see it?
Just that, go see it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

When Farida Khanum

sings now,

she does not hide the age
in her voice,

instead
she wraps it in paisleys,
and for a moment
holds it in both of her hands,

before
she drowns it in our sky.

When she sings now,
she knows

that at the end of that note
when her voice breaks
like a wishbone,

he will stay.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Who're the ones marching that day?

L.G.B.T.Q.I.H.K.
What does the headline next day decide?
To call it 'Gay Pride'

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tonight

You're still glued to the bus-stop seat,
I pull you off it, "91 is here."

On Gray's Inn Road,
you again call the houses "so miniature,"
holding them between your finger and thumb.

On the double-decker,
you're still dozing off on the back seat,
asking me to wake you up when we get there.

As we get out, I'm still telling you to
"wrap yourself well, it's always colder
near the river."

As we walk below the Waterloo Bridge
and you turn to look at me, I am still
one-part longing, one-part fear,

wishing, tonight, that you were here.


(thanks to Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebh)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

He sees me. I see him.

"You're a little chubby,"
"I guess you're a little dim,"
we part ways, he's not gettin'
sharper, I'm not getting thin.

Monday, December 14, 2015

December Poets

To melt the winter sun, partially,
  and hold it in a glass,
    Agha Shahid Ali,

to love, count to ten,
  then at last
    to grieve,
      Auden,

then, cussedly, leave
  to tread on something
    firmer,
      Rene Sharanya Verma,

to lose, again,
  reach that place, unknown,
    darker,
      Dorothy Parker.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All those years we dated,

it remained 'complicated,'
so what I don't get is this -
why do I remember them as 'bliss'.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Barakhamba Road/Tolstoy Marg Crossing

An odd, white handkerchief tied on his arm,
    he gets onto the metro at Vishwavidyalaya.

With a stuffed back-pack on her shoulder,
    she boards the bus at Shahdara.

In his grey track pants,
    he hails an Ola from Saket,

With her phone in her back-pocket,
    she climbs onto a Haryana Roadways bus.

---

The red glass bangles he'd bought yesterday
    reflect the winter sun; his fingers dance.

She pulls out a crumpled rainbow muffler
    and waves it to her from across the road.

He sees a small tear in the stockings as he
    pulls down the track pants but doesn't care.

At that Crossing she knows from the map, she
    sees a big crowd - and turns her phone to silent.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Both of them liked being out on Delhi roads

at dawn.

As they reached the DND flyover from Sarai Kale Khan
they could see a red sun over Okhla,

and as they went down towards Ashram, she said -
if only this Yamuna had a little life in it, no?

He got a little bothered
at this sudden, pretentious love for nature -

I have come all the way from Yamuna Vihar,
the petrol's almost gone,
and you're thinking of the river.

How many cities
will we move in this one city

to look for a place.


Tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक ८

Ravish Kumar
 

Friday, November 27, 2015

To escape the rain

tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक १२

To escape the rain,
he parked the scooter
under the Moolchand flyover.

They were so lost in each other
they didn't even notice
all the other scooters
waiting around them
for the rain to end.

For no reason at all,
he kept on trying
to become her umbrella,

and she felt good
under an umbrella she didn't need
below a flyover.

All the people around them
stared as if they were a
leftover cloud.


Ravish Kumar
 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I have that small town feeling today

tr. from Ravish Kumar's लप्रेक १

I have that small town feeling today...
    and I feel like metro.

You know, whenever you pass by South Ex, I feel like Karawal Nagar.
    Shut up, you're crazy. In Delhi, everyone feels like Delhi.

That's not how it is. Not every one in Delhi is Delhi. Just like
everyone doesn't have love in their eyes...
    okay, but then how am I South Ex?

Just like I am Karawal Nagar.
    You're right...

you know, if this Barahpula flyover wasn't there, then the distance
between South Ex and Sarai Kale Khan would've been too much.
    Are you in love with me or with the city?

With the city; because my city is you.


Ravish Kumar
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Come

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'आओ'

Come,
like darkness comes near darkness,
like water runs into water,
like light dissolves in light,


come, wear me,
like a tree wears the bark,
like a mud-path wears the grass,

take me,
like the darkness takes the roots,
like water takes the moon,
like the infinite takes time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You walk in

and my eyes catch fire, you touch
me and my skin's live wire,
and no matter tonight
how much I deny
her, I think I
am going
to die of
desire.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In Delhi, last winter,

we needed a photograph
for the poster of your talk,
so you suggested -

"Take any from my FB album
in which I am wearing enough clothes
and not making a face,"

which left my choice, from among hundreds,
to about two.

Finally, we chose you in purple,
smiling, and sitting against a wall
in what looks like JNU,

you are wearing a silver hoop in your ear

and after looking at this photograph many times over,
I know why your name meant 'loved,'
I know why this memory is silver, I know
why this memory will now always be silver.

("Kaush, pack your best clothes,
Thanga would have hated if any of us
are badly dressed for the funeral.")

Thanga, I have two winters,
and terrace nights, and songs with you,
I have a midnight dance with you,
and because you thought we 'Indian fuckers'
were 'too dramatic,' I will, for your sake,
keep safe in my hands, all the evenings
that won't let you go.


(for Priya Thangarajah)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

कि कुछ तो असर हो जाए

कि कुछ तो असर हो जाए
बस वो रात बसर हो जाए
बस
कविता से उतना ही होता है

कि उस रात की पौ तो फटी
जैसे भी हो, रात तो कटी 
खैर मनाओ
कविता से इतना तो होता है


(नताशा के लिए)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#OccupyUGC

कुछ तेरह दिन हुए
आई.टी.ओ पर रात ही नहीं हुई

छात्र अपने थैलों में
मुट्ठी भर उजाला जो लाएं हैं

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Desperate, a man sat down,

I didn't know him,
    I knew desperation,

so I went close to him
    and reached out my hand -

holding it, he stood up,
    he didn't know me, he knew

my reaching out the hand,
    from there, we walked together,

neither of us knew the other -
    both knew walking together.


tr. from Vinod Kumar Shukla's 'Hatasha se ek vyakti baith gaya'


Vinod Kumar Shukla






 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Miniscule minority" "Miniscule minority"

- the judges kept on barking,
clearly they've never been
on a Sunday evening to the
park above the Palika parking.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You fear

tr. from Gorakh Pandey's 'तुम्हें डर है'

Their anger is a thousand years old,
their hate is a thousand years old,
I only give
some rhyme to their
scattered words, to their desire,
and you fear that
I'm stoking fire. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

White truth

tr. from Munawwar Rana's 'Safed Sach'

His
fingers
always tell
the truth -- he
trusts them, shows
them off, every once in
a while, as we talk, he kisses
them lightly, one day, not knowing
better, he kept his fingers on my lips,
now they've started lying ever so slightly.


[After Munawwar Rana's return of the Sahitya Akademi award, Oct '15]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Language of Forgetting

tr. from Rajesh Joshi's 'भूलने की भाषा'

A river brushed against me
in the language of water,

and suddenly, in the language
of flight, the birds
moved below the clouds,

on trees written in a hieroglyphic script,
leaves stirred together, and in their movement
was the language of rustling -

it felt as if you are somewhere close,
drawing near in the language of the body

and whispering a language of forgetting
to those you could not.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I want to believe

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'विश्वास करना चाहता हूँ'

I want to believe that
after my defeat in love
when I mourn in the utter loneliness of a poem,
then, somewhere at least a leaf will tremble for me,
that somewhere a bird will resent that her world is, despite everything, so green,
that, for a moment, a planet will slow down somewhere in the universe
and in some invisible vein of the earth, the lava will cool a little,
that the ancestors spread over centuries will try an' give solace to each other,
and the tears of gods will fall in untimely rain;
that I will cry
and through the whole universe
will run a cry of sorrow,
I want to believe that in my defeat, and in my grief,
the world will not leave me alone.

Grief surrounds me as if
now that is the only body I have to live in and die in
as if that is the real colour of living
which has become visible to me only just now.

I want to believe that
when I'll try and find my way through
pain's long corridors
then, the light at the end of that tunnel will be of grief,
that the window from which a hand will show me the way, will be grief's window,
and the house, whose porch I'll rest in, to gather strength to keep on going,
will be the house where grief lives.

I want to believe that
just like the other name of laughter is often kids or flowers,
just like the other name of hope is poetry,
like that, the other name of love will be grief.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

He doesn't say - Ashok Vajpeyi

tr. from Ashok Vajpeyi's 'वह नहीं कहती'

He says
he has only a little heart,
like sunrays say
they have a little light
fire says
it has a little warmth --

sunrays don't say they have the universe
fire doesn't say it has those flames
he doesn't say he has his body.


[after Ashok Vajpeyi's return of the Sahitya Akademi Award, Oct '15]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

मुझे मालूम है पिंजरे का पंछी क्यों गाता है - Maya Angelou

tr. from Maya Angelou's 'I know why the caged bird sings'

आज़ाद पंछी
  तो हवा की पीठ पर बैठ कर
नदी के संग तैरता है
  और जहाँ धारा थमती है
वहां अपने पंख हलके से
  सूरज की किरणों में डुबाता है
और सारे आसमान को अपना बताता है

लेकिन जो पंछी
  अपने पिंजरे में ही सरकता है,
वो शायद ही देख पाता हो
  अपने गुस्से की सलाखों के पार,
उसके पंख यूँ कतरे हुए हैं, पैर यूँ बंधे हुए हैं,
  पर उसकी जुबां पर गाना है तैयार    

उसका गला कंपकपाता है
  फिर भी पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
अंजान-सी चीज़ों के बारे में  
  जिनको वो रह-रह चाहता है   
और उसकी धुन सुनने में आती है
  दूर नदी-पहाड़े में
क्यूंकि पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
  आज़ादी के बारे में 

आज़ाद पंछी तो सोचता है
  सिर्फ हलकी हवा का, जो पेड़ों में सर-सराये
लॉन के केचुओं का, जो उसी की आस लगाएं
  और फिर सारे आसमान को अपना बताता है 

लेकिन पिंजरे का पंछी तो खड़ा है
  अपने ही सपनो की मज़ारों पर,
उसकी परछाई तक चिल्लाती है
  बुरे ख्वाबों की बहती धारों पर
उसके पंख यूँ कतरे हुए हैं, पैर यूँ बंधे हुए हैं,
  पर उसकी जुबां पर गाना है तैयार

उसका गला कंपकपाता है
  फिर भी पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
अंजान-सी चीज़ों के बारे में  
  जिनको वो रह-रह चाहता है   
और उसकी धुन सुनने में आती है
  दूर नदी-पहाड़े में
क्यूंकि पिंजरे का पंछी गाता है
  आज़ादी के बारे में 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dehradun, 1990

As a kid I used to confuse my d's
with my g's, and that bit of dyslexia

didn't really become a problem till
I once spelt 'God' wrong. That day,

the teacher wrote a strictly worded
letter to my parents, and asked me

to behave myself. Also, as a kid,
I could not pronounce the letter 'r,'

so till I was sent to some summer
vacation speech correction classes

at age 5, I used to say, "Aam ji ki
jai," "Aam ji ki jai," -- then a teacher

taught me to hold my tongue against the
ceiling of my mouth and then throw it out

quivering, 'R,' 'Rrrr,' she wrenched it
out of me, over many sessions, "Ram,"

until then, I did not know God was so
much effort, till they made him tremble

on the tip of my tongue, God was only
a little joke about mangoes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

MarxistLoveNotes #1

I will love you
for as long as it takes
for Trickledown Economics to work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

किसी को राजा पसंद है, किसी को रानी,

अच्छा है मुझे दोनों पसंद है, पर है इक
परेशानी, कभी सोचता हूँ कि ये झूलम-
-झूला मुनासिब है या नहीं, तो कभी ये
कि शायद मेरी दोहरी नज़र इक इशारा है,
कि मैं जमने वाला नहीं, कि मन आवारा है - 
यूँ अलग-अलग टोलियां हैं, गे और स्ट्रेट,
इनमें मैं कौन हूँ (पता नहीं!) स्ट्रे? या ग्रेट?

tr. from Vikram Seth's 'Dubious'

विक्रम सेठ
 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

'धनक' और 'हार्मलेस हग्स' के लिए

सुबह सुर्ख आएगी, बस रात चलती रहे,
बहस होती हो तो हो, बस बात चलती रहे

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Near Eros Cinema, Jangpura Extension,

the woman from Cameroon
       greets three white girls in
              French, I hear "deux ans, vous?"

The rickshaw-guy from
       Darbhanga asks the Lajpat
             aunty to pay more, she makes a मूंह.

The house broker from
       Jhung, who's been here sixty
              years, finds landlords for all the new

lawyers from Lucknow or
       Chennai, or Philly or Austin.
              The shop-cleaner from Muzzafarpur,

watches the bill-board with
       a 50 year old hero and a 20
              year old heroine that he will woo.

The taxi-guy from Greater-
       -Noida is trying to find M
              Block at midnight and cursing U-

-BER. And I am walking with his
       hands in mine, feelin' here-&-now
              and also a no-where-in-particular.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

एक छोटा सा गीत - Dorothy Parker

tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'A Very Short Song'

इक मर्तबा,
    जब मैं थी जवां और सच्ची,
इक बात हुई
    जो बिलकुल नहीं थी अच्छी,
उस रोज़
    किसी ने मेरा दिल तोड़ा था,
मुझे वैसे ही
    दुख के सागर में छोड़ा था।

इश्क़ तो है ही
    बदनसीबों के लिए!
इश्क़ तो है ही
    जैसे कोई अभिशाप!
फिर इक दिन,
    मैंने किसी का दिल तोड़ा,
अब मैं सारे
    ढोंगियों की बाप।


Dorothy Parker
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Blessing

tr. from Dushyant Kumar's 'एक आशीर्वाद'

May your dreams be big,
may they outgrow 'could have,' 'should have,'
and get to walk on earth,
may they sulk an' go crazy for
the impossible heights of stars,
may they laugh,
smile,
sing, reach Mars,
may your dreams long for the flame,
may they burn their fingers,
may they stand on their own feet
an' do their own jig, may your dreams
be big.




Dushyant Kumar
 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

News

tr. from Dushyant Kumar's 'Suchna'

Yesterday, Ma told me --
"Her marriage has been arranged,"
  standing there, I smiled, silent,
an' back in my room, I cried, there
  will be two worlds to me now, always,
  - my room and my home.



Dushyant Kumar



Sunday, August 9, 2015

The first time has

never been easy for me,

the one in which lightness
is supposed to do the work -
I am only thinking


and there's no room for thinking
not in the walk,
not in the hands,
not on the bed, the first time,

I never had the ease
of talking, of letting talking,
of letting kiss, of letting a bed,
of letting it happen,
I never had the ease,

I will probably never have
the ease

and so these past years
I take care
and make myself unlovable,

'coz we never talked,
'coz I never talked,
an' then I just figured an' figured
an' we never talked,
and I never said, and you never talked,
an' I didn't ask, we didn't say, an' I figured
without you, I figured that I did not know,
and we never talked
then, or later,

and after that so much of me changed
so suddenly, I feared

being recognized.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Beds

- there've been many,
and I've sworn all of them to secrecy,
hoping mattresses keep their promise.

The one in Stokey

in the house behind the
Abney Park Cemetery

to which my mother, calling from Lucknow,
had said - "When you sleep, do not lie
facing the cemetery,"

though, often
in the evenings

I'd look at our backyard fence
running against the 18th century graves

- where an angel, an urn, a lion,
all contracted in cement, kept
an Anglican hymn-maker, kept 17 year old
world-war veterans, kept a girl who
"left us so suddenly and so irrevocably
in grief" -

and I did not think it was anything
particularly serious to be
facing them while
I slept.

My German and Greek room-mates
often partied, "facing the cemetery."


A year later, the single-bed in King's Cross,

on the fifth floor,
floated above police sirens
and bus horns,

and was stuck to the right wall of
the room that I'd expressly asked "should. face. outside."

the hostel warden - this nice white guy - was surprised,
"you're the first one to ask for a room facing the road,"
"I like the noise," I said. I did not say I'm from a bigger city,
 I'd sooner die than face the "serene," that
little patch of green for more than a day.

He smirked but let me have my choice.

That bed afforded the view
 of Constable churches, of a Punjabi grocer,
a car rental and a Tesco,

and it was on this bed
where we managed to do it
for the first time,

using face-cream as lube.

Sometime that year,
the bed in your downtown house
near Battery Park,

that I knew only for a night
while visiting New York,

where I made plans which were
(presciently) smaller than my hands,

where I looked down into your city

where even
the parking-lot at mid-night
seemed unbelievable to me,

where the bed, holding my knees,
and your umber skin, as you slept,
told me that the tense of desire
is always the future,

one in which no plan survives,
no suture holds,
no love keeps,

one in which you leave me, always,
so suddenly and so irrevocably
in grief

that night after night
beds now
are of a kind,

that have very little to do
with sleeping.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

चाहे तुम बोलो

कि मेरा इश्क़ बेईमान
कि मुझमें बस अभिमान
कि मैं हरदम परेशान
फिर भी मैं तुम्हारे संग रहूंगी

चाहे तुम बोलो
कि मैं न अल्ल्हड़ न जवान
कि मुझे बस अपना ध्यान
कि मेरे मन में शैतान
फिर भी मैं तुम्हारे संग चलूंगी

पर अगर तुम बोले
कि मेरी कवितायेँ तुम्हें जमी नहीं
तो जान लो, मेरे लिए मर्दों की कमी नहीं



tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'Fighting Words'

Dorothy Parker

Monday, July 27, 2015

गुलमोहर - Dorothy Parker

tr. from Dorothy Parker's 'Cherry White'

जब भी देखती हूँ वो नज़ारा -- यूँ बसंत में गुलमोहर,
हर टहनी पर लाल पे लाल सटका हुआ --
सोचती हूँ, "कितना अच्छा लगेगा मेरा जिस्म इस
फूलों से लदे पेड़ पर फंदे से लटका हुआ" 



Dorothy Parker
 

And one day

"from beating,
my heart will stop,"

and no turn
will ever take me,

no iron will
melt into the streets

and the night
 - between Raspail
and Vaugirard -
will forsake me,

one day,
all memory will
be water

and long walks
would not do the trick,

need will no longer be
a shirt to wear at will,

and then, when I'll need-like-breathing,
no one will be on the fringes

folks will matter

even a passer-by will
inflict

little colours
washing up in the city,
little rivers sinking
into skin,

people, willing,
unwilling,

and I wouldn't know what to do

except to take to my heart
every thing they say,

one day.


(thanks to Jacques Dutronc)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It comes once in a lifetime,

it happens to us all - for me, 
the landlord's son is the one 
who did it, and in a minute he 
changed it all, yesterday I was 
'bhaiyya,' I am 'uncle' now, y'all.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Jangpura Extension

The Latin word for the
ear is 'pinna' - 'wings' and
I knew why this morning

as you held me between
finger and thumb, I was only
cartilage ready to fly --

you woke up, and outside
the rain made even the petals
of bougainvillea so heavy,

that the plants had to
shed them, filigreeing the
pavement with the

colour of sunrise, & later
as we walked towards the
stadium, we waded the

remnants of the sun,
attenuated under our feet,
as "the earth," was

"thawing from longing
into longing," you said bye,
took the metro, and I

walked on past noon,
and when turning near JLN,
a car stopped by, a

man, about fifty, Sikh,
asked me the directions for
Khanna Market; I told

him. He said "Come I'll
drop you," but "I am going to
Lodhi Gardens," I said,

he said "Come I'll drop
you," and it took me a second
to know that the wings,

and the thawing, and
the sun, the bougainvillea,
the pavements were

all in his eyes. I said "I'll
walk," and he took my answer,
and crushed it on the road.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In 1995

I was ten and you were
already battling the stars


of a virus, and in the middle
of grocery shopping,


and street pavements
bursting with lilacs,


you lived so close to
dying, that every morning,


when you woke up, it took
two seconds to ascertain, oneself,


and then, one's own.

With the worst behind you,
you said, how can people write

about letting go, as if
it was 'tragic' that they went,

as if their going could not have been averted,
as if, a scale had weighed in the sky,
 

but already you sounded unconvinced
of your own voice.
 
In that year,
I did not even know what sex is,

 
what veins are, except a book - my
father's - on the benefits of herbs, which,

 
on its last pages, talked of stuff
that nobody told me nothing about,

 
talked of erections, semen, power, & something
perverse about a horrifying illness, and how it takes

 
only the select.
 
You said, in those years
of holding that which you did not

 
know, "Reagan let us die,"
with a kind of resignation that

 
without forgiving, already wraps 'letting go'
in a hope, and slips it in the dimension of myth,

 
before sneaking it behind the books on your shelf.
 
Now when friends visit me, and stay for
a day or two, I thank my stars,
 
and when they leave the room, go to the loo,
or run for a morning appointment,

 
I think of you, making what you could,
of someone always going, of someone

 
gifting togetherness as if wrapped in
paisley, light like feathers, resting on the sill,

 
about to go which way I do not know.




(for Mark Doty)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

You pass by like a train

I shiver like a bridge.


tr. from Dushyant Kumar 'tu kisi rail si guzarti hai / main pul sa thartharata hoon'

Dushyant Kumar
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I can't even remember what he looks like, he's now

a wink, a shrug,
a sound, a hug,
a waiting,

a look, a shirt,
a scent, a hurt
abating,

a kiss, a sneeze,
a bunch'of memories
still inundating

but now not a trace
of the eyes, the face
that
did
the
real
baiting.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

हम क्या कूल - Gwendolyn Brooks

tr. from Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool

'द गोल्डन शवल' के सात पूल प्लेयर 

हम क्या कूल। हम
छोड़े स्कूल। हम

पूरी रात। हम मारें
शॉट। हम

गायें गंद। हम रम-में
मंद। हम

जून तरें। हम
जल्द मरें।


Gwendolyn Brooks
 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

मैंने ये नहीं कहा था कि "जाओ,"

मैंने तो बस कहा था "जाओ"
और तुमने मेरे कहे को मान लिया था,
मैंने ये थोड़ी ही कहा था कि "मैं तुम्हें देखना नहीं चाहता,"
मैंने तो बस ये कहा था कि "मैं तुम्हें देखना नहीं चाहता,"
और तुम समझ गए थे मैं जो कह रहा था,
मैंने ये कतियी नहीं कहा था कि "बस अब मुझसे और नहीं होगा,"
मैंने तो बस इतना कहा था कि "बस अब मुझसे और नहीं होगा,"
और तुमने सुना था, हमेशा की तरह, बस लफ़्ज़ों को

Monday, June 15, 2015

I didn’t say ‘go,’

I said ‘go,’ 
and you took me at my word,
I din’t say ‘I don’t want to see you anymore,'
I’d said ‘I don’t want to see you anymore,’
and you got what I said,
I didn’t say ‘I can’t do this,’
I had only said ‘I can’t do this,’
and you listened, like always, to the words.