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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

31 January, 2005

A most rewarding evening

"How many times can I tell you, that it's 'trunk' maa..not ta-dunk"

Although I misquote from a prize-winning book here, it set me thinking about the disdain and contempt that is often acquired by some upon learning of the English language. The borrowed superiority clearly visible that evening in the swishing silk sarees and eyebrows permanently raised above noses looking down upon lesser mortals, and these were just the women. The men in the audience disguised their contempt in carefully tousled hair and well worn silk or in mothballed tweed, reading glasses poised in hands, their fingertips stained by tell-tale cigarette tar. Everyone in that gathering wandered the lobby of the Nehru Center with that knowing air that storks appear to have when stepping through the bulrushes, that need to be recognized as superior to say, the fish in the waters. Here, I was the outsider. Though suitably camouflaged, I was guilty of knowing that I did not belong.

'women come and go, talking of Michelangelo...'

A chocolate-coated pair of lips exhale at my side. The perfume must be expensive, for it begins choking the living daylights out of me. "Haven't seen you after the vee-dee-yaah que-and-eh?" The accent reminds me of apple-pie laced with arsenic. I am tempted to speak my mind, but the silver around my neck allows me to mutter but a faint 'oh' and leave it at that. Fortunately she is distracted by another, and she leaves me to read the SMS that offers respite. There would be faces in whose familiarity I would find shelter. Reading books is such a solitary occupation, and I am one of those who is happiest when alone in their company. Then why would I be seeking familiarity in a gathering that was about to celebrate authorship? I have plenty of time to think about this as my rabid punctuality has left me plenty of minutes before the sandglass is overturned and seats are offered, turning readers into audience.

Maybe I am over-reacting, but the air seems to have a bite to it, venomous, not cold. The publishers as well as the published are here. Rubbing shoulders with the desirous...What am I doing here?

I find amusement as people struggle to seek seats in the 'reserved for invitees' rows, and when two nosy ladies (who offer me more reason for suppressed laughter as the evening progresses) sitting next to me, rather unforgivably and impolitely ask, why I look familiar, I give in to the temptation and in my sexiest sibilant hiss, lie happily, "not famous enough, I'm afraid, but if it helps, I was one of the nominees a couple of years ago"... They sigh, happy to have spotted a writer. I hate myself.

But then the lights dim and transport me into a world of words where the gods are invoked and invited to the gathering by Aruna Sairam. Her voice is definitely soaked in orange honey and chocolate. And I know the pleas work because the harpies sitting beside me are silenced and I forget to brush away the crumbs of a chocolate covered shortbread bar that I have sneaked in the folds of my saree, past the ushers who had raucously reminded as we made our way to the seats just a while ago, 'no food and drink inside'.

'I'm nobody, who are you?'

I lick the chocolate off my fingers in the quiet absence of lights as I take in the readings of recently translated works from regional languages. A minor break between the readings allows those two cooing pigeon-chested women sitting next to me make remarks about everything from the 'need to wear' black for a reading to why it was pure hoity-toityness when the compere insisted on pronouncing the name of the author as the Bengali 'rotho' and not the simple 'rath' as spelt in the Queen's own. But who cared when one was tasting that slice of life at a police station in Calcutta?

'the minstrel of far-away climes'

Baul is the street philosopher, his feet caked from the shifting tides of the Ganga, his words at once simple, at once profound, whipped the few nodding heads awake, and made my evening so much brighter. The songs of Lalan Fakir put a salve to my irritation with the section of the audience I found myself in. How we get identified by the threads we wear and the rosaries we carry said the baul in song...and I detached myself happily from my neighbors, transported into an 'appreciate' mode. There are more readings, this time from the novels written in English. I have never been a fan of audio books, but this time I close my eyes and feel the anger and get irritated with the policeman who boarded the boat with a gun...

'its time we allowed Jane Austen to retire from our curriculum'

For someone who has spent girlhood sighing over Darcy and dreaming of the rough and ready Heathcliff, words to this effect by none other than U.R Anantha Murthy would automatically produce a snort of utter disbelief. But that would be on some other day. Now, I was clapping my hands with the rest simply because of the context in which they were said. I suppose the time has come for a boy from Kashmir to read novels set in Orissa and for someone deep down South to read Manipuri short stories. I sighed and snuggled deeper in my chair. I had my favorites marked out from the shortlist, and the awards were soon to be announced. I admit freely that I had read only 'The Brain fever Bird' and 'Moving On' from the English short-list, and 'Waiting for Rain' and 'Yantrarudha' from the 'translated into English' section, but still hoped that one of the books I had read would win.

The grace and the dignity of the authors and the selectors overwhelmed me, and I knew then that it did not matter whether the huge checks (literally) reminded me a bit of a cricket man-of-the-match presentation (from the distance I think the awardees themselves felt a bit foolish posing with them for the cameras), it did not matter whether the audience was in silks or sackcloth, that somewhere I had hated the idea that literature needed sponsors, nothing mattered. It was fitting homage to words, and a tribute to men and women who could string them together for the rest of us who would be so mesmerised by their art that we would then proceed to forget dinners, forget tending to offspring, forget to water the geraniums, feed the cat...

Clutching the book of excerpts, savoring the happy noise of the literati feeding under the fairy lights after the ceremony, I come face to face with the man who is no more just a name who recommends books at Crossword, he is the amazing self-confessed omnivore of words: R.Sriram, the force behind these awards. I thank him but I know how inadequate and inarticulate I feel. I come back home, the cool January breeze whipping my hitherto ruly hair into their usual frenzy dreaming about being a part of the Hutch-Crossword-Caferati Poetry Awards someday, completely humbled by my experience of the evening.

The Hutch Crossword Book Awards for the Year 2004, were announced that evening. Amitav Ghosh won the English Fiction category for his book The Hungry Tide, and Astride The Wheel Yantrarudha by Chandrasekhar Rath/J Nayak won the Indian Language Fiction Translation Category.

The shortlisted books include: 'If You Are Afraid Of Heights' by Raj Kamal Jha, 'Moving On' by Shashi Deshpande, 'The Brainfever Bird' by I. Allen Sealy; 'Bait' by Mahasweta Devi/Sumanta Banerjee, 'In The Name Of The Mother' by Mahasweta Devi/Radha Chakravarty, 'The Birth Of The Maitreya' by Bani Basu/Sipra Bhattacharya, 'The Outcaste Akkarmashi' by Sharankumar Limbale/Santosh Bhoomkar and 'Waiting For Rain' by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay/Nilanjan Bhattacharya.

(references to 'trunk not ta-dunk', the 'slice of life at the police station', 'the boarding of the boat by a policeman with a gun', etc. were part of readings from the shortlisted books)


I do.
I lie.
You too.
And we both wonder
Why fairytales
Don't come true.


Dusk Haiku

It’s that time of the evening:
Past sunset, past deadlines.
And you’re not here.



What dreams are these
that puzzle so,
dreams that tease
and refuse to go…

What dreams that haunt
but shy from sense,
dreams that want
temporal tense…

What faces these
that flit like flies
through an hour’s ease,
and tantalise?

Some afternoon I’ll know
I’ve dreamt my last,
when this pageant will show
my place in its cast.



28 January, 2005

Meeting the Shadow

I meet his shadow
making magic with the light,
and I lean against the comfort
of it's vast spread
over the bedroom wall.
And just as I get
comfortable and secure,
It turns and sharpens
into a blade-thin cold grey line,
deserting the morning sun-ray
and disappearing into
an invisible pin-point.

I shiver.
What would I do with the real man?
This was only the shadow.


26 January, 2005

Infused with music

It is ten to midnight and I am sitting in an ocean of black heads
listening to Amjad Khan playing Rag Rageshri. In the glow of light
spreading from the stage I look over the audience - I estimate it to
be about 200 in an average row, and nearly 80 rows - so about 15,000
people under this huge tent structure. Three musicians are sitting on
the large stage, elaborately and tastefully done up with large motifs
of tablas and veenas and an esraj punctuating a batik texture in cream
and green. A sign proclaims "The Dover Lane Music Conference - 52nd

The concert will go on through the night, and so will this audience -
a phenomenon possible only in Kolkata. This Music Conference is held
every year from 22nd to 26th January, with whole night programs on the
22nd and 25th, because 23d and 26th are always holidays in Kolkata.
Much of this crowd has waited for this event all year, and jostled for
tickets, and will tell the story the rest of the year. Tonight itself
we have Amjad, followed by Jasraj and then Hariprasad Chaurasia will
be coming in just before dawn, and then the lesser known rising stars
will continue through the day.

The sound system is excellent, and works magnificiently even here
almost at the very back where I am sitting, laptop illuminating my
face as I type. No one's mobiles going off - but there were some
heated tempers in the back a few minutes ago - an unseemly altercation
had begun and the volume kept going up until the musicians paused,
looking in this direction and the crowd started shouting, even more
loudly - "DadA - bAire jAn..." (Please leave!). So much for mobile
phones - a woman two seats from me has her shawl over her head and is
talking to someone in sotto voce - "if there are problems call me," I
can hear her saying of some domestic crisis.

Amjad has moved into the gat, after playing an almost non-existent
AlAp. The rising star in today's billing is the tabla player,
Aniruddha Chatterjee, who is doing a fabulous job - he has the showy
looks of Zakir Hussain, fair under a thick crop of dark black hair,
which he swings around vehemently as he produces one drumroll after
another. The lady next to me informs me he is the son of Anindo
Chatterjee - so he has a good lineage - I wonder is it mostly the
training that makes a musician specialize into a particular instrument
- I mean, the genes are surely not that varied across instruments
... But then beyond a point, music is about ideas, which is why
someone like Ravi Shankar can be guru to flautists and guitar players.
Amjad himself is of course, quite the showman, his sarod glistening
under his silver hair - and this piece is off to a great start. The
third man on stage is playing the small drone instrument that is
increasingly replacing tanpuras everywhere.

Amjad is in full flow and the tabla is pulsating along and I can see
heads nodding among this sleepless mass - and looking again at this
ocean of black heads I wonder how the same music can electrify all
these thousands of brains, can keep them from sleep ... now Amjad is
speaking some bols into the mike - in sync with what the tabla is
playing, it is part of his attempt to draw the audience into the

I remember those snow-bound Rochester winters when I first heard about
the Dover Lane Music conference from the passionate guitar-playing
Debashis, who would tell me of how they would be there at 5 in the
morning, listening to the master's from the very front. But for me,
this is the first Dover Lane I have been in. Tickets are hard to come
by, but Didi with her usual connectedness has managed to wrangle a
ticket for me from a friend, with the warning that "it's not a VIP
seat, you may be sitting next to her tabalchi," - which tells the
world how much we think of the non-stellar musicians...

Now the music has reached a stage where Amjad is playing small
phrases, not quite a sawaal jabab - that is no doubt coming - but
something more like broken up fragments reaching a som after three,
five or six refrains.

The tabla man, the young Chatterjee, is no doubt very well
trained,.. his basic skills on the tabla are on display as Amjad plays
a slow rhythm, letting him go into a flurry and sprinkling the
drumroll patter with amazingly sharp notes - as striking as blue
flowers in the yellow of a mustard field - and one listens to him -
actually in a live performance such as this, one also revels in seeing
him - and one wonders what one must do to get one's fingers to be
capable of such extraordinary feats - somehow it seems that the class
of musicians coming up today - certainly the tabla players - are well
ahead of the previous generation, in sheer virtuosity if not in the
maturity of their temperament, which of course I am not connoisseur
enough to plumb... Now Amjad is playing a refrain and the tabla has
gone into ecstasies again - at the end of this phase the crowd bursts
out clapping... and I wonder how insulted a western orchestra would
feel if the audience were to clap at a crescendo...

The couple in front of me have their binoculars out and for once,
I wish I had one - so many times I have lugged one around from place
to place without it ever coming into use ... again the tabla is in his
staccato roll punctuated with these very clear "ta"s and "na"s - what
is amazing is that all these beats are coming from the same right hand
- both the roll and these sharp notes in between - actually now that I
look at the stage backdrop it seems almost like the tabla roll - a
dense texture of greens and cream, with these large promintent blocks
standing out with their musical instruments. ... In some sense all
art is about contrast - you weave what is considered a neutral,
pleasing tapestry, and on it you throw in a contrast - you draw the
eye of the viewer into the frame, and then surprise him; at the end of
a story, you challenge the expectations of the reader in some
unexpected way. And the surprises have to keep changing with the
times - what was a great "twist" to Victor Hugo, is today mere

This is perhaps something the young Anirudh Chatterjee understands
very well, for he has plenty of surprises up his sleeve. This piece
in particular, Amjad is also giving him a lot of leeway. Now both the
sarod and the tabla are going such hammer and tongs - and it sounds
like that almost literally - and of course, such high levels of energy
cannot sustain and the piece comes to an end amid a thunderous

Once the music finishes, we realize how tense we have been with the
rising tempo, how anxious our minds have made our bodies. This is
perhaps why music is so primitive, so ingrained in us. This is why
how music predates language. Even the most spastic child who responds
to nothing else, responds to music.

Once the silence sinks in, the crowd relaxes mind and bocy, and
stretches languorously as it waits to see what will come next. It is
quarter to one, and people are looking askance at me and my laptop,
and anyway the battery is running down so I shut it down.

This year's Dover Lane Conference ended today, 26th Jan.


25 January, 2005

cause and effect

it was an ordinary
everyday conversation
routine almost
between two friends.
until you forgot your
everyday, reliable restraint,
and called me sweetheart.

i was simply walking,
listening to you
gloat over conquests
of the female kind,
of the workplace kind,
when you changed
the equation between us,
and called me sweetheart.

an innocuous looking,
boring old telephone
pole, was listening in.
it was taken aback
unhappy, unwilling
to take this sudden change.
it took one surprised step,
and tapped me on my forehead.


My House

I live in a big house
The biggest you’ll ever see,
It’s so big, you might need
A map to find me.

It’s airy, my big house
‘Cross ventilation’ they say.
If all windows are open,
I’ll get blown away.

And light streams in
From really big windows.
Floors are polished clean,
So no spots, no shadows.

One large leather sofa
That smells of old money,
And a really big tv,
Keep me company.

With fencing on one side,
The sea on the other three,
I have no need for visitors,
They have no need for me.

A little blue bird stopped
To check me out one day,
‘Who and what keeps you in’
Cocked its head to say.

Not waiting for answers,
I wasn’t ready to give anyway.
I wondered about the question
Long after it flew away.

I’m a little scared of crowds
Not ready to face the sun.
But now the sofa offers no rest,
The tv no distraction.

My really big house
Is empty, I’m alone in it,
I’ll send you a map
If you promise to come visit.


Dead Music

My music, my music
Where is my music?
Did I in a fit of despair
Throw them in the dark somewhere?
Now all chords hang
From the branches of trees
Entangled, Absalom-like.

It seems meaningless to play
DC al Fine
DC al Fine,
And transpose
From strings to branches
And watch them break and die.


24 January, 2005

Caferati at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival - 1

Caferati swept the top three prizes at the Orange-Crossword SMS Poetry Competition we linked to here. Perhaps, as Manisha says, it's because we had prior experience? :) Anyway, here are the winning entries:

tis d wkend;wot plans?
nt sayn d nyt's alpyn
& wintr rustls twixt d sheets.
nt sayn d windO stares insomnac,@ d hiway.
nt sayin i w8,dd u 4get?
only askn-
tis d wkend;wot plans?

© Annie Zaidi

Cud v b like that *ship
Boldly c-king cvlizashuns
So v don't disturb
Old ways of life?
Let's just love and leave

© manisha lakhe

cellular creature
now part of my D.N.A.
gladden my heart: beep.

© Peter Griffin

Those men in their own land

The edges of their dreams
are tarnished by
gunpowder soot
The hopes covered by layers
of blood and grime
Naughty-boy school shoes
trampled by army boots.

The spires of their temples
have toppled even
as their God lives on
feebly in their hearts.
The light in their women's eyes
has dulled to an ash-grey.

Did they want war?
Much has happened.
But the world will still say
they were not men enough
to just keep their children safe
and bring home the cattle
every evening.


The Dance

Its how well you can dance, my son.
Do you know how to do the two-step?
Know when to take
two steps forward when he moves back?
two steps back when she comes closer?
Perhaps twirl out sideways to stay sane,
Swirl in tighter for comfort.

Waltz on your dreams,
And stay in a Foxtrot box by day.
Salsa to feel your freedom,
Jive with Joy.
Just dance.

Remember, it takes two to Tango
And sway slowly through the tough times –
the music will change.
Its easy, my boy.
It’s only about how well you can dance
while you listen to
Life’s music.



Here comes the next potential buyer.

He wants a shell
Pretty enough
To adorn his drawing room,
Show-case or bedroom, or
Wherever he wants
(and not too expensive).

With luck
He won't
Bring it close to his ear,
Else he will
Hear your waves
Swirling inside me.



Silvery slivers and silent silhouettes
days blurring into a smoky haze
gazing at distant shapes
crushed cigarette butts
smouldering spiralling
downwards in a daze
ashy thrashy tips
of left-over lovers
and a cappucino
in bed.


22 January, 2005

You and I : Questions Forever

You and I : Questions Forever

When words fail to define
When pictures fail to potray
When thoughts fail to reflect
When smiles fail to brighten
When answers fail to solve
Its what a day What a day
when question fail to ask
Questions with no words
Just memories of you and I
We, Us and All.
Here, There and Everywhere.
Today , Tomorrow and Forever.


The Guilt

A guilt immeasurable,
Born from knowing,
My life remains immutable;
Unchanged at your coming.

Your momentous entrance,
Into this world unforgiving,
Mere ripple on the surface,
Not an upheaval - shattering.

Your glowing visage, momentarily
Soothes my burdened soul,
Still I cling to the dreary baggage,
Of every unrealizable goal.

Self-absorption continues,
Unabated in intensity,
Motherly sacrifices don’t imbue,
My profligate propensity.

Tears fail to rend my calm,
Pleadings don’t beseech,
Wracking sobs don’t twist my arm,
And for the door I reach.

Muttering sweet nothings with a kiss,
Saying I'll soon be back,
Knowing you'll forget all this,
Confident you'll bounce back.

Only the burden on my soul;
This guilt immeasurable,
Will never let me feel whole;
Just incomplete, quite incapable.



"...but that was in another country,
And besides, the wench is dead."
The Jew of Malta

Sitting by windows thus, I've seen
lush and lustrous green
metamorphose to a desert's arid shapes.

I've seen subtly-scented spring
turn astringent under summer's searing scythe,
and attain in desiccated death
a grotesque, foetid flowering.

I've seen, I've's luscious fruit
unflesh to bone, to skeletons
bleached smooth by pitiless suns...
I've smelt carrion long ere decay took root

on this deceptive pilgrim trail.
Expert now, I gauge each evanescent season
to within a trice of treason.
There's no allure left now in your smiling veil.


21 January, 2005

I Am 5000 Years Old - A Rant

I Am 5000 Years Old - A Rant
thoughts that came to me as i watched Amu

I perpetrate the most inhuman atrocities on my own.
I try to kill myself, I plunder my own house, I burn one part of it,
and in the other part I throw a party.
My left hand tries to cut my right,
the right meanwhile is busy fighting with my legs.
My eyes dont trust my ears and my mouth I use only to bite.

I rape my own women,
and deny my daughters and sisters even basic rights
then go out and talk about how evil my neighbour is.
My children roam on the streets, naked, hungry,
while I spend millions on lifeless stones, and inarticulate wooden objects.
And for these again, I fight tooth and nail. I call these mother and father,
while the mother earth I plunder, strip her naked and spit on her.

My house is full of grain, that rots while my brothers and sisters starve.
I am careful not to feed them for I do not trust them to be my own.
I rather let the grain rot.
My tanks are full of water, and my neighbour dies with thirst
I take precaution lest even a drop escape my tanks, and he live by that.

I betray my brother and sell my sister
I stand by and watch as they come and beat my father
As long as my skin is untouched I bother not.
I scheme with them for my neighbours downfall. Or standby and watch
And then one day they come to enslave me and I am helpless.

I realise my mistake. But it is too late.
I have no ears, no eyes, no arms and no legs to fight.
No kith and kin alive, no neighbour around
the earth has abandoned me. And I am alone.

I see that 5000 years of history has repeated once again
and its time I died to be reborn, like a phoenix.
But as I die, a question haunts me.
Why do i have to be a phoenix?
Why cant I remember the lessons?
Even though I am 5000 years old.


Rant - Music contests, a sham?

A girl fainted, a boy violently smashed his cell phone to the ground, a girl cajoled, and groveled with the judge and said she loved him, and above all, the judge, Adnan Sami wept. A mother tearfully says her daughter visited all temples to ask God to intervene and have her selected. She lost.

What is all this tamasha? You may ask. It is Channel V’s Super Singer music contest sponsored by Samsung. Read carefully the last three words, “Sponsored by Samsung,” the most important part of the contest, I guess.

From the roller coaster emotions, the frustration one sees on screen, one would tend to weep along with them, or, sit back and call it a sham.

Yes I am calling it a sham. Because why is there only one big prize when there are so many aspirants? Why aren’t there ten prizes for the best? Why is there only one judge when there should have been more? Why? Why? A lot of questions arise.

I think the youth of India is being misled by these contests. Consider the very basis of these questionable events. A jobless youth thinks he has singing talent (like we all do) and enters this contest. He/she waits in queue, he/she is nervous, he/she practices endlessly and ultimately rejected. He/she is distraught. His grief is endless because he/she had seen himself winning the jackpot and enjoying all the wealth and now he/she faces defeat.

How will he/she show his face to his friends, relatives, all those who know that he/she has entered the contest. He/she has been captured on television, crying, a loser, a loser they all would say. Imagine the frustration, the unspeakable torment in his/her mind.

The companies that sponsor these jamborees – Samsung in this case – do get the exposure in the media, the popularity. The channels get their television rating points. The celebrity judges – they were there for the publicity in the first place – get their place in the sun and exposure for their glamorous persona.

But what do those who faced defeat get? Frustration, anger, disillusionment, and just plain old defeat. I guess I will stop now because I have said enough.

20 January, 2005

I Go Alone

I go alone,
Alone on distant shores,
Far far away from home,
Closer and closer to a future,
Of dreams and desires.
A beacon of Truth,
I go alone,
Spreading hope with my smiles,
Holding hands with those,
Brave to live,
In dreams and desires.



I sit at my desk, hard at work
but a feeling - invincible mad -
has come over me. In all I do
in my nerve center there is a ringing glad
that just won't stop. The sun
is shining, the sky is blue:
all's well with the world...    It's
been like this other days too -
then why this warm orange glow,
this vermilion hue?
     And its not as if
I am even thinking of you.



eyes shut
i make room
for desires,
and snuggle
into your warmth.
stretching slowly
against you,
settling into
a purr ball.
i exhale.
your shirt
smells of rest.
you kiss my head.
my eyes
are still shut.
but my insides,
are lit up in smiles.


19 January, 2005

when you laugh

when you laugh
it is like rain on parched soil
long after you leave
I waft in the aroma


18 January, 2005

Blue & Silver kite


Standing by the blue lights
Looking over a mass of heads
I find her at the concert

I run
I stumble
I squash a few toes

A smile, a giggle
My stomach churns
That beautiful knotty empty feeling

The smell of her nape
The warmth of the hug
The lights dim down

Pagan Baul courts us
A gateway lights up
She fills my senses

A boat with fairy lights
Goes past
Shaking us in its wake

She gets up and walks
A bit
My phone beeps
“Lovely evening na…”

A connection made
The music plays
In our hearts

Standing by the blue lights
Looking over a mass of heads
I lose her at the concert

© Arjun Chandramohan Bali. 2005


“Left of the blue lights”
The message beeps
My head turns
I smile
He is here!

I hope I look alright
I run
No! I walk
To the left of the blue lights

Should I hug him?
Kiss him?
Or just shake hands?

My heart races
My skin tingles
There he is

Ohhh! he smells nice
A heartbeat
A hand squeeze
Smiles exchanged

Why do I see you so less?
You look older from the year gone by
The Baul sings about his home

We sit
We listen

Our hearts meet
And feet

You dance
I sway

A happy moment in time
A silver kite glides in the night sky

My dream breaks
My heart aches
I get up to go away

I walk
A bit slowly
And turn
Left Of the blue lights

© Arjun Chandramohan Bali. 2005



*Long ago someone had asked me if I could write pornography; this was my tentative essay in that genre by way of reply. Later, I was told that it belonged more in the realm of erotica.

Those are honey sacs your lips,
perennially sprung:
opiate drips
for my tongue.

In your breasts’ ambrosial streams
my mouth slakes
the thirst of parched dreams,
as my body wakes

to life – or woos sweet death
in the final flood,
my final breath
expended in your luscious bud.



17 January, 2005


under orion's shadow
and a waxing moon,
fate did sprinkle
a handful of stardust
on you and me last evening.

"give in, give in," said the stars.
but you, determined to be difficult,
let me drown my desires
in the capuccino swirls,
and the last few crumbs
of unholy dark chocolate
sticking to the lazy curves
of a silver spoon called need.



i lie here
silent, quiet,
waitingfor what?

i sit here
solitary, pensive, relaxed????
but why?

i wander
here and there, everywhere
in search of?

a shrivelled seed of torpor,
a blob of lifelessness clothed in

a shell of humming activity
and vivacious energy...

run, you madman, run...
race the treadmill to death

stretch your undersized limbs
and expand your man-brain to see

that all is silent
all is dead
all is not what it seems

so where was i?
oh, yes, i remember

i sit here
lifeless, hungry, obese
shamed before the world,
hiding in plain sight..

and laughter..
sometimes mocking, sometimes garruluous
sometimes intimidating, sometimes unnerving

and ridicule...
always deriding, always scornful
always derogatory,
never helpful.

so i slide
and slide
further and further
into the abyss... YIPPEE

and i try to dance
but both my feet are turning left
and nothing is right...




One Look

I saw you.
Until then
I thought
Christ cruel
To assign adultery
And its judgement
To a glance.
I saw you,
And knew
Christ was
Dead right.


Revenge of the Goddess

For baba, because he told me the legend when I was a kid
And for Anila Di, because she asked WHY

The Legend

In the medieval fort of Amer, home to ten generations of Kacchwaha rulers of Jaipur, stands the temple of Goddess Kali – known here as Sila Devi. The statue is carved out of a single rock of marble, jet black in color. From generations, the priests of the temple of Sila Devi are Bengalis, an absurdity, in the heart of Rajputana, hundreds of miles away from Bengal. Legend has it that the statue itself belonged to the Bara Bhuiyas (Bara – 12; Bhu –land; iya –owner) of Bengal.

There are many myths about how the statue of Sila Devi came to Amer from Bengal. The most popular one runs thus. After his successful campaigns in Deccan and Afghanistan, Raja Man Singh was commissioned by Akbar to expand the Mughal Empire eastwards. After overrunning Bihar and Orissa, the Mughal advance was halted at Bengal.

Bengal at that time was split into small fiefdoms, which were ruled by 12 Bhuiyas. These 12 Bhuiyas were not ordinary landowners, but small kings with armies of their own. Under the leadership of Isa Khan, the routed general of Orissa, they united and challenged the might of the Mughal Empire. 17 battles were fought, and the Moguls lost each time.

Then one day, the goddess Sila Devi, appeared in the dreams of Raja Man Singh and told him that as long as she sits in Bengal, he would never conquer it. According to the story, the goddess asked Man Singh to steal her statue from the temple in Bengal and install it in Amer.

The 17th attack of the Mughal army on Bengal, which happened after Man Singh, had stolen the statue, led to the fall of the Bhuiyas and Isa Khan. Mughal rule was extended over the entire East. After the conquest of Bengal, Man Singh had the statue of the goddess transported to Amer, where it sits till date, a silent witness to the turbulent events of history.

The Fiction

Man Singh watched the sun disappear behind the fort on the hill. The pale red walls of the fort seemed to glow mysteriously, the sun’s red light adding color to them. From the small window of his tent, he could see the river, meandering on its course, disappearing into the distant horizon. Thick mango and bamboo jungles covered the opposite bank and stretched up to the hill. And he could see the fort of Bikramgarh on top of that hill. Impregnable, unconquered and defiant.

The greenery of the place hurt his senses, which were used to the dry, arid, brown lands of Rajputana. Bengal defied his martial understanding in more ways than one. Man Singh was puzzled and worried.

Inside the tent, Man Singh’s council of war stood in a semi-circle, waiting for their leader to speak, or command them to speak. Bound by the ropes of respect and tradition, they would not breathe if their leader willed them not to. Five men, brave warriors, able generals, mighty soldiers, each of them, stood like school children in front of Raja Man Singh, Commander in chief of the Mughal forces attacking Bengal.

Outside could be heard the myriad noises that are part of an army 50,000 strong. Neighing of horses, trumpeting of elephants, distant shouts of men on the watch, horses’ hoofs – messengers leaving and returning to the camp, clinking of metal as men removed their armors, an occasional laugh, a retort, a shout, groans, whispers – distinct yet miscellaneous. But this noise, combined in strength found itself weak and incapable of intruding upon the ominous silence within the tent. It just hung around at the edge of the tent, like a playful child that wants to make its elders aware of its presence and yet is afraid of the consequences.

Finally Man Singh spoke, his voice heavier than the sword he held, more powerful than his arms. “Twelve times Zorawar Singh. Twelve times we have been defeated by Isa khan and the Bhuiyas. The Mughal name is being laughed at across the world. Rajput valour is being doubted. In Delhi, the Jahanpanah grows impatient. The morale of our men is broken. We have more men, we have more cavalry and yet victory remains elusive to us. What magic or witchcraft is this? What erroneous strategy of war makes us fall every time?”

Zorawar Singh, trusted lieutenant, veteran of many battles, with more wound marks on his body than hair on his head, chose to remain silent. He had no answer to his master’s questions. No one in the room had any answer.

Six months ago, Emperor Akbar had decided to expand the Mughal Empire into the East. Mughal rule was at the height of glory, extending far into Afghanistan in the west and up to Sri Lanka in the south. The east however still remained out of reach and the province of Bengal, queen of the east, a land rich and fertile would be a key conquest. Man Singh was put in charge of the army, with some of the bravest Mughal and Rajput generals under his command.

But the campaign had proved to be an ill-fated one till now. The fort of Bikramgarh, which stood at the gate of the road to Bengal, proved to be impregnable. Battle after battle was lost to the united forces of Bengal’s 12 Bhuiyas and Isa Khan the Afghan general. The Mughal army, though battle hardened, was unused to the ruthless, wily, guerrilla tactics of the Afghans and Bhuiyas.

Man Singh recalled the last battle that they fought. Where victory had eluded them so narrowly and he had lost his son Durjansingh. The Mughal army, under Durjan’s command, had crossed the river and was attacking in full strength. They encountered the Afghans at the base of the hill. Durjan’s strategies allowed the Mughals to out-maneuver the Afghans. They fought with skill and bravery, avoiding previous mistakes.

The Mughals had managed to break the enemy formation, destroy its right and left flanks and were driving the center back to the gates of Bikramgarh. The battle had been pitched and fierce. The ground had become slippery with blood, and men were stepping on the bodies of their fallen comrades, killing, stabbing, and cutting without mercy. The Afghan army was bound to fall that day, and the Mughal flag would have flown on the fort. Durjan, the brave general was standing in the middle of the bloodbath, where the fighting was thickest, directing his men, cutting down the enemy like grass.

And then suddenly, an arrow, perhaps in a fluke, pierced straight through Durjan's left eye and passed into his brain. Durjan Singh died on the spot. Seeing their commander fall, the Mughals lost nerve and in an instant the tide of the battle was turned. The Afghan’s seized the moment, and attacked the Mughals with a renewed vigour. And now the victor became the victim, the slayers were being slain; the pushers were being pushed back. By evening, the last of the Mughal soldiers had scurried back across the river and the twelfth battle for Bikramgarh was lost.

“Something must be done to break the alliance of the Bhuiyas and Afghans. Bikramgarh must fall at all cost. Mughal prestige and Rajput honor is at stake” Man Singh’s voice, tempered with the turbulence within, shook the entire tent. He now had a personal agenda. The death of his son must be avenged. Rajput blood could not go vain. How would he return to his subjects in Jaipur if he could not win the fort for which their beloved prince had laid his life?

“Hukum, the goddess protects Bikramgarh. The fort will not fall as long as the goddess Sila Devi remains on her seat in the temple. That is the legend.” It was Himmatsingh, the younger brother of Durjan.

“Then we will fulfill the legend. The goddess will leave her abode. Bikramgarh must fall to us at any cost.” Man Singh was talking to himself. Then he fell abruptly silent. His generals, used to read their leader’s every move and motion, understood that he wanted solitude. They bowed and left his tent quietly.

Alone in his tent, he went and stood near his window, watching the silhouette of Bikramgarh with wishful eyes. “We must fulfill the legend. But how?”, and Raja Man Singh, farzand-i-akbari, lord of Amer fort, leader of the bravest warriors of Hindustan, had no answer to his own question.

Meanwhile, inside the fort of Bikramgarh, beyond the heavily guarded gates, past the massive watch towers, far from the encampments of the Bengal and Afghan armies, and the palaces of Isa khan and the 12 Bhuiyas, at the farthest corner of the fort, where the walls overlooked the sheer precipice of the hill, in an area so desolate and unapproachable that it was left unmanned, two figures could be seen silently approaching in the darkness from two different directions.

In the dark it was difficult to see their faces, but from their figures and their gait it was evident that one was a woman and the other a man.

“Good evening my Princess. How are you doing today?” as they met, the man bowed and said, his tone respectful yet amorous. And then with a suddenness of one used to it, he pulled her closer, removed her veil and kissed her on her cheeks.

At that moment, a pale light from the moon revealed her face. It was truly the face of a princess, strikingly fair, with large blue lotus eyes, jet black hair, curved eyelashes, a shapely neck and a graceful figure.

The man was tall, with broad well-developed shoulders and muscular arms, which were more used to handle swords and spears than princely damsels. An Afghan beard on his sun-burnt, martial face hid the numerous cuts, mementos of the battles he had fought.

“Tell me princess, why have you asked me to come now? These are dangerous times for all of us. We must not be seen together at this time.” The man said in a hushed voice, without releasing the woman from his embrace.

Princess Sheela laughed a slow, mocking laugh, which made a sound like crystal pieces falling on rocks. They echoed over the hills and died. The man was much disturbed at this, and tried to silence her.

“I am sorry my lord. But it is hilarious to see the brave and mighty Isa Khan, leader of the ferocious Afghans being scared of what what the world would think or say to him. Where are the promises that you made to me in our first meeting, that you will love me and come to me always, that you will protect me from everyone and everything and give me whatever I want? Has the Afghan blood lost its thickness? Have the heirs of Sher Shah Suri lost their prowess and become wimps with bangles in their hand?”

“Princess, do not make false accusations. Isa Khan will be dead before he breaks his word. I have not yet done anything that you speak thus. And it is not for anything else but for the sake of the Afghan-Bhuiya unity that I advise caution at this time. The Mughal’s sit at our doorstep, baying for our blood, and it is just our unity that stands between us and death.”

“This is not the time to indulge in personal matters. Allah knows I love you but I do not want to confront your brother right now. You are a princess yourself. Do you not understand the political implications of this relationship?” the Afghan urged her, his voice soft yet authoritative and impatient.

“My brother! I hate my brother!” the princess spoke with a sudden vehemence, and their was sheer hate in her eyes. “The blood of our beloved father is on his head. He should be hanging from the fort walls instead of sitting on the throne of Bikramgarh.”

Memories of her slain father flooded to her mind and brought tears in her eyes. Bikram Bhuiya, mighty king, able ruler and a beloved father of his own children and his subjects, had fallen prey to the ambitions of his son Rajan. Having treacherously slain his father, with the help of his henchmen, Rajan Bhuiya had ascended the throne of Bikramgarh and now ruled with an iron hand. He was powerful, yet shrewd and loathsome. He was hated as much as his father was loved, by the subjects. But he sat on the throne of Bikramgarh and ruled through treachery and sheer reign of terror.

Bikramgarh lay at the entrance of Bengal, near the river Ganges. It was the guardian of both the water and road routes into Bengal and farther east. Legend has it, that goddess Kali had appeared in a dream to Raja Bikram Bhuiya and directed him to the location where Bikramgarh stands today. Here the king had dug, and unearthed a black statue of the goddess. Here he had built a fort impregnable and strong, blessed by the black goddess – Sila Devi. The Bhuiyas and all people in the land believed that as long as the goddess sat in her abode in Bikramgarh, the fort would remain unconquered.

When the news of the Mughal campaign reached his ears, Rajan Bhuiya had called a counsel of the 11 other Bhuiyas, local kings, of Bengal. The other Bhuias knew of Rajan’s treacherous rise to power. They had no faith in him. But the defense of Bikramgarh was important for entire Bengal. And they had faith in the legend. So it was more to protect their own fiefdoms, and to uphold the legend, than to help Rajan Bhuiya, that the 12 Bhuiyas had united under one banner to resist the Mughals.

Then Rajan Bhuiya made another move. He invited the Afghan general of Orissa, Isa Khan to protect Bikramgarh for a fee. There was a huge uproar at the council of the Bhuiyas. The Afghans were an equal enemy as the Mughals. They were not to be trusted. They had no respect for Hindu women, desecrated temples and tried to ruthlessly convert Hindus to Islam. The other Bhuiyas had almost decided to overthrow Rajan Bhuiya and the alliance was threatened.

But Rajan Bhuiya was a smooth talker. In the council he argued forcefully and with the sly logic that was his forte. The Mughal army was strong and the Bhuiyas alone would not hold. The Afghans were hired mercenaries. They knew how to kill. Why not let them die, why not let them shed blood, for money. He was just trying to safeguard the interest of Bengal’s armies, even if his coffers were emptied. Let the Bengal armies be a second line of defense. They should trust him. He had the best interest of everyone at heart.

No one trusted Rajan Bhuiya, but the prompt arrival of Isa and his Afghan regiment resolved matters on their own. The Afghans would not have taken it nicely if their assignment had been cancelled. So Isa Khan stayed. And Rajan Bhuiya’s judgment, at least for the moment, proved good. The Mughal approach was halted by the combined strength of the Afghan bravery and Bhuiya strategy.

Isa Khan had his hands full, both on and off, the battlefield. He was not only an able and brave general, but also a pious Muslim and a gentleman at heart. His chief concern was winning over the trust of the local Hindu population within the fort. And for this he made strict rules for his regiment, ensuring that they never ventured outside their tenements and followed a strict code of conduct. But his efforts were treated with suspicion and the only hospitality that the Afghans received in the fort was a cold shoulder from the locals, and silent acceptance of their presence.

But where he made strict rules for his men and dared them to transgress these, he personally erred. He fell in love with a Hindu damsel. It would be unfair to blame Isa for this; if at all love is a crime for which some one is to be blamed. He had not taken any initiative. In the grounds behind the palace where he was staying, Isa used to exercise alone. Here he often found, a certain pair of blue eyes watching him. At first he paid no attention, but when this continued without fail, he became curious. The upshot of this entire affair was that Isa Khan found himself in the perilous position of being in love with his employer’s sister, the beautiful princess Sheela. The lady claimed that she had heard many lores of Isa’s bravery and wanted to see him in person. In her first meeting, she had given her heart to the handsome Afghan, irreverent of the consequences.

Isa was young and had a noble heart. His love and enchantment for the blue-eyed maiden was complete. And the princess made him promise everything that a young man of Isa disposition could and would promise. This was many weeks ago. In a short span their love blossomed and as it did, it troubled Isa more and more.

That evening, Isa had barely returned to his tent from the battlefield when a messenger had come with a note from the princess. His battle hardened instincts, on which he had trusted his life on numerous occasions, screamed at him not to go. But Isa was bound by his honor to come at the princess’s call. And so he went.

“Tell me princess, why have you called me here? It is late and I am tired after the battle. I have not yet washed my wounds.” Isa said uncomfortably.

“My lord, my life. I wish to ask something from you. Will you give it to me?”

“Princess this Afghan has promised you his life. Command and you shall have it.”

“No my lord, all I ask is for a token of your love. As long as this battle continues my heart is at unrest. I cannot see you, I cannot meet you. I need something that will give me company when you are gone. Your ring my lord, with your seal on it. Give it to me.” Sheela looked at Isa with water in her eyes and an expression of utmost helplessness in her face.

A loud voice inside him shouted NO. But Isa heard himself saying “Of course princess, what is the value of this ring, compared to the turbulence of your lovely heart. It is luckier than I for it shall forever be near you.” And as in a dream, he saw himself remove his ring, with his seal on it, and hand it to her.

The temple of the goddess Sila Devi was at the summit of a small hillock inside Bikramgarh. It was as if from her high seat, the goddess kept a vigil on all her subjects below. Activities at Bikramgarh revolved around the temple. People marked time by the huge bell of the temple.

Every morning at 4 AM, the auspicious brahmamuhurta, the king would bathe and then walk up the hill to start the morning pooja of the goddess. Bikramgarh’s day started after that. And it ended when high on the hill the chief priest sounded the gong signifying that the goddess was now going to bed.

The rulers of Bikramgarh were forbidden to touch their swords before performing the pooja each morning. Rajan Bhuiya understood the political implications of this ritual. Unlike his father, his subjects had a strong dislike for him. But they were deeply religious and superstitious. They would dare not rise against him as long as they thought that he was blessed by the goddess. And therefore he followed this ritual assiduously each morning, with twice the pomp and show than his father would have approved.

On the night that princess Sheela met Isa Khan, below in the Mughal camp Raja Man Singh lay awake, looking out into the black night. He was tired yet restless. Sleep refused to obey his orders. His mind worked actively, formulating and rejecting plan after plan of breaking into Bikramgarh. Without, all was silent and he could hear the measured footsteps of his guards. The faint glow of the fire that burnt outside his tent, threw an orange light which made his weapons gleam ominously. He could hear the logs break and make snapping noises as they burnt.

Hark! What was that? Did he hear a footstep out of measure? An extra movement close by? Battle hardened reflexes made him sit upright, one hand at his dagger.

But the sound was gone. Perhaps a figment of his imagination. But he still got up to check. And his feet hit an object on the ground. It was a wooden casket, evidently of royal origin, intricately carved, very feminine. Inside was a note:

“The goddess shall leave her abode tomorrow at the first stroke of the morning. She commands you to attack at the second stroke. Bring few but brave men. Move swiftly. The enemy shall be unprepared. Victory will be yours. This is the divine will, ignore this and lose your chance to win the fort forever”

Man Singh read it twice. And then he shouted for his council of war. The Mughal camp was thrown into a frenzy of hushed activity in the dead of the night.

Early in the morning, in the fort of Bikramgarh, everyone, including the Afghan soldiers, knew that something was seriously amiss. Instead of the sound of the conch and the bell, there was an ominous silence at the hill. And then suddenly, they could see a horde of Bengal soldiers ride down towards the palace of Isa khan, with Rajan Bhuiya and the 11 others at there head.

“Isa Khan, you traitor, you unfaithful bastard come out.” Rajan Bhuiya was in a fit of rage. Behind him there were 50 men in Isa’s courtyard and more were gathering. The news was spreading like wildfire across the fort. The goddess had been stolen from the temple. The unspeakable had happened. The mother had abandoned her children.

People whispered in each others’ ears in horror and sadness. And then, another news spread, with equal rapidity. Isa Khan’s ring, with his official seal had been discovered in the chamber of the goddess. Their worst fear had come true. They should never have trusted the Afghans. They should never have let these treacherous snakes inside. Temple desecration was their habit, it was in there blood.

The Mughals were forgotten. A bigger enemy was within the gates and he must be thrown out first. And the goddess must be recovered from him. Oh what shame had visited Bikramgarh. It was all Rajan Bhuiya’s doing.

Rajan Bhuiya realized he was in a very precarious position. He knew this, the instant he saw the statue missing and the ring on the temple floor. He could not believe that Isa Khan would do such a dastardly act. But right now there was nothing he could do. If he didn’t act fast enough, there would be an uprising against him.

Isa appeared on the verandah, “Why do you call me names, my lord. I am in your employment but I am not your subject.” He said in a dignified yet alarmed tone. He could not understand the reason for the chaos.

“You traitor, you eat our salt, share our bread and then you desecrate our temples. Now you ask me in cold blood why I speak to you thus? Isa Khan, you have challenged the dignity of our house. Return to us the statue and leave now. You are our guest and your life shall be spared.” Rajan Bhuiya glared at him, with affected anger.

“What statue. I know nothing of the matter.” Said Isa, completely perplexed at the sudden turn of events. He could not understand how they could even think that his soldiers would do such a thing. He was enraged by Rajan’s threat, “And do not threaten me my lord. You know that your threats do not hold against the strength of my Afghans. I pray I am innocent.”

“He is a liar. He is a thief. Kill him kill him”, the mob was becoming increasingly ferocious. Rajan held them at bay.

“You say you are innocent. Then explains this ring to us” and he held up Isa’s ring in the air for him to see.

Isa Khan recognized his ring from afar. The same ring that he had parted from last night. But how did it land up in the temple? Ya Allah, What treachery was this? The truth dawned on Isa khan with a sudden blow, as if a spear had passed through his heart. The many mortal wounds that he had faced in battle felt incomparable to the stab that he felt that moment. Nothing had prepared him for this searing pain of treachery.

‘He is a thief. The Afghan. Kill him kill him “The mob was growing bigger. The general resentment against Muslim presence, held in check for so many months, suddenly overflowed. There was chaos in the streets, mayhem ruled. Bengal soldiers and peasants surrounded the Afghan tenement. All memories of blood shed on the battlefield, of lives saved and battles won, were forgotten in one single act, unperformed.

And at that very hour, when the walls of Bikramgarh were unmanned because the men were fighting each other on the streets, when the roads to it were unwatched because the watchers were baying for Afghan blood and the gates were unguarded because the Afghan regiment was busy defending itself, at that moment, a small band of Mughals and Rajputs, crept silently up the hill. They had been moving slowly, for the better half of the past hour. Finally they made a dash for the walls of the fort. Mughal warriors scaled the walls silently, and threw the gates of Bikramgarh open.

It was an easy task for Man Singh and his men. He attacked with force and speed, and the enemy taken by surprise, unprepared, entangled in its own web was dead even before they realized what was happening. Mughal forces poured into the streets of Bikramgarh, and before noon, Bikramgarh had fallen.

In the courtyard of Isa khan’s palace, lay slain, soaked in each others blood, Rajan Bhuiya and Isa khan, the former succumbing to his own game of murder, the latter a mere victim of fate.

When Man Singh reached the palace, he found Isa khan’s eyes open. He thought he noticed a question in those dead eyes. As if they were asking “why?”. Rajamansingh, having heard much about the bravery and valour of this man, pitied that he died thus, and shut those eyes forever with his hand.

Below the hill of Bikramgarh, a little inside the woods, two young women stood watching. When they saw the Mughal flag on the fort, they started moving again, towards the river. One of them was carrying a bundle wrapped in clothes, apparently heavy and bulky.

When they reached the river, a boat was waiting. Princess Sheela turned around and told the woman carrying the bundle, as one used to giving commands “You have your instructions. Now go and leave me alone. My job is done. My father’s blood avenged. Today Rajan Bhuiya lies soaked in his own blood, like he once did to my father” and her eyes shone with a strange faraway look. There was an absurd mixture of victory and sadness in them. The lotus eyes that had enchanted Isa Khan looked like looked like black holes, absorbing light and not letting out any expression of the turbulence within...

When Man Singh returned to his tent that night, he was far from happy. They had won but it had not been through valour or bravery, which was what a Rajput’s definition of victory was. There were no wounds on his men’s bodies. It had been a massacre. And he was puzzled by the entire affair. Questions, hundreds of them, arose in his mind, ricocheted on the walls and then died.

As he entered, he again knew that something was amiss. And then he saw the bundle. Wrapped in white cloth. And without opening it he knew what it was. He knelt before it, the mighty general, in all humility, and prayed.

“Zorawar Singh” he called sometime later.

“Hukum,” Zorawaar entered and bowed.

“This is the statue of Sila Devi. Take it to Amer and install it there in a temple. She shall rule from there henceforth. “

“Yes, hukum” and Zorawar left with the statue.

“It is the will of the goddess. We are mere pawns on her chessboard. We must not ask questions. We must keep doing as we are told” he said aloud, perhaps to his sword and shield, or perhaps to his conscience. And Raja Man Singh closed his eyes. Bikramgarh had fallen. Sleep finally came to him.

The Facts

This story has no historical authenticity. I have borrowed from history and legend these characters, incidents and events, to stitch this tale. There is no fort in the province of Bengal by the name of Bikramgarh. The number of battles that Man Singh fought before he won Bengal is unconfirmed. Elementary research showed the following events/incidents are true and have historical records.

Under the command of Raja Man Singh, the Mughal army attacked various provinces of Bengal, between the period of 1556 and 1560. Most of these ended in a fiasco for the Mughals. The 12 bhuiyas became famous in the history of Bengal for there ability to withhold Mughal expansion into Bengal for a long period of time.

Eventually, the Bhuiyas fell to the Mughals. In one of these struggles, Man Singh lost his son Durjan Singh. Also involved in these series of battles was the Afghan General Isa Khan Masnad-i-Ala. Isa Khan fought Man Singh a number of times, sometimes alone and sometimes alongside the Bhuiyas.

The statue of Goddess Sila Devi originally belonged to the Pala kings of Bengal. The most likely reason of its transport from Bengal to Rajasthan is the large-scale temple desecration that Afghan chieftains were indulging in, across entire eastern India, during this period. Historians believe that the Hindu priests of the temple of Sila Devi had singled out Man Singh for sanctuary, because of his unique religious and political combination.

There are records which show that there existed, during this same time, a very beautiful damsel, princess Sheela. She was the eldest daughter of one of the Bhuiyas. Not many details are known about her, except that she was a lady of exceptional beauty and intelligence. Princess Sheela committed suicide by jumping into the Ganga.

16 January, 2005

India's second SMS poetry contest (: after ours, natch :)

Remember our informal SMS verse contest? Well, here's one with real prizes, part of the Kala Ghoda festival, sponsored, in part, by our friends at Crossword Bookstores.


Awards ceremony: Saturday, 22 January 2005
Time: 6 pm
Venue: The Elphinstone College Quadrangle

The purpose of language and literature is to push boundaries, and we at Kala Ghoda are pleased to involve the use of new media in poetry. The Orange – Crossword SMS Poetry Competition will be the first of its kind to be held in the country. Poetry must be inclusive and the objective of this competition is to make poetry accessible to everyone, especially the youth. The competition encourages the use of new technology and innovative media in literature, hoping to evoke a fresh, experimental form of poetic expression.

Those wishing to participate in this competition will need to send 'POETRY' as an SMS to 7007 from an Orange phone and will receive instructions. Terms and conditions will be made available on the Orange website. Last date for entries is 18 January 2005 and these must be original works in English. Entries may use only alphabets and characters available on standard mobile phones.

A panel of judges that includes names such as Arundhathi Subramaniam, Jerry Pinto and Marilyn Noronha will read the poems and shortlist the 10 best poems. Shortlisted participants will be invited to the awards function where the judges will present the top 10 poems and announce the winning entries. Winning entries will also be posted on the Orange, Kala Ghoda and Crossword websites. Crossword will present the winners with Crossword gift vouchers:

1st Prize – Crossword gift voucher worth Rs.2500.
2 Runners up - Crossword gift voucher worth Rs. 1000 each.
Special deal for Caferati contributors and readers:If you're not an Orange or hutch subsrcriber, you can send in your entries via email to Note: Since Caferati's SMS verse contest was an informal affair, you are free to send in your entries from there. (Remember the deadline: 18th January 2005.)

And there's more cooking in our relationship with Crossword. Watch this space!

Update (18th Jan) Just checked the Orange page on this contest, and i see that there is a 150-character limit on each entry.

The Eternal Struggle

You look at me steadily
but your thoughts are galaxies away

and I struggle pathetically
with electric eels of feelings
that refuse to be bundled and strapped
for words make such brittle ropes.

You say love is a confusing emotion
and I shrug my shoulders philosophically,
how I wish the tongue muscles would finally
stop vibrating on their own -
isn't nearness enough?

If someone ever makes a bonfire of lexicons
I will be there, chucking my mind into it.

Flinging words against a torrent of words,
we keep trying to squeeze the juice
out of this desiccated fruit
of this lethargic relationship.

(c) Max Babi January 2005


15 January, 2005

A Poem on Tissue

I wrote you a poem on tissue
Isn't that the way our love
is too? Like tissue?

White and pure, soft
and delicate?
Soaking our experiences into
its porous fibre
and holding them there to
be cherished?

But let us be wary, darling,
not to overdo it
Lest our tissue soak
up much - too much -
and fall apart
into shreds:
he litter of memories

Day by day, let us
breathe too
and dry our love
that our experiences may hold
more than
just feelings

Let come from it learning:
It's the little spaces that
keep the universe in
One Piece

And our love, transparent
and light, will take us places
on wheels
that turn with
each breath of God -

He knows
how to handle


14 January, 2005


Don’t ask me questions
look at my eyes.

You long to dissolve in my vastness
and I long to be the sky.

You want to find me in your prayer
And I search for faces in stone.

Hunger you ask, I am starved.
Thirst? Have not seen an oasis for long.
Anguish? Pain?
I have prayed for all those.

Where you see veils,
I see gossamer strands
waiting for finger trails,
Created unknowingly.

And all those sounds
that you hear at sunset
omnipresent among them is mine.
Mostly silent.

Sculpting words,
not in voices,
Not in any name,
trying to find a name.

And the thoughts that you have,
Carnal, impure, touched.
washed cleaned and worshipped
of things that could have been,
and of times that must have gone by.

And I belong
while I drift
to you.

Is that not obvious?

13 Jan 2004

(Manisha's poem Longing stayed on the mind. And I wrote this one using the cell phone while on a Mumbai local.)


13 January, 2005

Queen's Army

(Exhumed from mothballed repose, this one).

For you I strove, picking the flower
of every harvest’s flush. The commonwealth of words,
a rowdy lot, repaid my winnowing
with units fit for battle: those rabbled hordes
fell in, dressed their ranks, and faces glowing
with combatant pride, preened in new-found power.

Their fatigues are worn but unscruffy, browned
by the dust of many a skirmish; and their insouciance
a badge they flaunt, as only the charmed reckless
do. At rest, a studied languor limns their stance
as they lean against their weapons, clean and speckless:
and when they drill, their boots punish the ground.

This then for you, their patron queen, in whose fond name
they go to war. Like some ancient, remote empress
you’re unmindful of them, their sterling deeds
brought home to you by me, to press
a suit, seek a lover’s favour when your grace recedes;
or sometimes, like now, to expunge a shame.




I had plans for it
been waiting for it
been thinking about it
it came and went
i did not realize it
future to present
present to past
the moments
just slipped by
i am waiting again,
trying to hold on...
to the moments!


12 January, 2005


don’t ask me questions
about longing.
look at my face.

i long to dissolve,
in your vastness.
to be nothing,
in your everything.

they say i will find you,
in the very longing.
in the anguish.
in the praying.

when is hunger, hunger?
when is thirst, thirst?
when is anguish, anguish?
when is prayer, prayer?

make me blind,
for i see veils between us,
when you created none.

make me deaf.
for i hear other voices,
when yours is the only voice.

make me dumb.
for i speak other words,
words other than your name.

take away every thought
every touch, that isn’t you.
but everything that isn’t
you, is also you, isn’t it?

so if the eluding is also you,
why am i drifting?


Tiger Shark : Get Lovin

Tiger Shark : Get Lovin
Yo; Tiger Shark!
Get Lovin !
Say Lovin;
Gonna show you some love ;
Some Lovin;
Let me show; Let me show :you ; my lovin
Say who; Say what; Yeah !
Tiger Shark ; show'n you his lovin !
Come-on ; Get-down; get lovin.
Swimmin in love
Gangsta style;
rapping ; Trippin;
pumping n relaxing.
love to love ;
so very much, so very much
Take it : the moves; the style
Money over Honey
Tiger Shark ; show'n you lovin !
To you; From me ;
I seek, You hide.
Riddle your complications;
Stopp your circulations;
The actions; The words.
In yours; attractions ; passions
Sparks; blinding your mind
Realms of passion;
Without any reason
reality ; insanity.
Creating miseries out of memories.
Take it : The moves; The style
Money over Honey
Tiger Shark ; Get Lovin !
The moves ;
I seek, You hide.
Tiger Shark ; Swimmin in love!


Not Just First Love

The rain created beautiful patterns while cascading down the large window- pane. It also warped his visibility a bit. He stood with his hand on the window frame. It looked almost like he was greeting someone or waving goodbye.

“The rains had come on time that year too. Our parents introduced us. They worked at the same office. She was eleven or ten, am not too sure, I was six months younger. Her family had moved from Calcutta. Big-city girl she was.
Ahmedabad, for me, was the big city where there were fly-overs and city run transport and far-flung places and people spoke a different language. We had moved from Jaipur a few months ago.
She could cycle, climb trees, she ran faster than all the boys did, dunk everybody in the pool and laugh loudly. A show off but completely adorable. We hung out quite a bit, tied together with age and the fact that this was pre-television. Fishing in the river, cycling on a deserted airstrip, watching movies at the open-air theatre, plucking weeds at the graveyard, Loads of memories until I was twelve.
Then dad moved to Gandhinagar, which was a different city but half hour away. Her parents retired and made Ahmedabad their home. We would bump into each other occasionally at the club. I think I met her once when I was fifteen for her birthday. She had many other friends now.
At eighteen, I dropped out of the business degree programme in Jaipur and moved back to an undergrad degree in English literature in Ahmedabad. Kay was in the same college but now a senior by twoyears.
I do not think we spoke much, we were somewhat familiar, smiled and said our 'hi’s and bye’s'. She would hardly attend college. She had a boy friend!
Then we heard stories of her and her boy friend…they went for a holiday and came back married.
A year later, there was a baby! I remember bumping into her at the video library. Then there was another baby! By then I was doing part time jobs and was working on my master’s degree. Soon after that I moved to Bombay.
We lost touch.
A decade went by making us into adults slowly but surely. Occasionally, I heard from a passing friend, sometimes I inquired. She was in Africa, she was a farmer…her dad had passed away…she had separated from her husband…stories. I had gone on to become a filmmaker, had gotten married bought a house gotten separated…stories.

Then one day, in a conversation between friends from the city of our childhood all logging in from different cities, we met again.
Jesus! Did we flirt that day! We had known each other all our lives but still not known each other. There was so much to share, so much to tell. Faces from childhood, friends you hung out with, and then twenty years later one fine day you meet up!

I picked her up from the airport two weeks later.

She was almost the same twelve year old I knew, but now thirty-six. We chatted for hours! Terribly drunk we then sat with our legs dangling out of the seventh floor window and saw the rain by moonlight. Then we made love until morning. The next morning we left for Goa.
We were there for four days I think.
We drank from the bottle, drank from the sea, from the air, from each other, from past stories, from dreams yet to fulfil, from the time we live in and from the moment. I love her little depressions and love her laugh.
Gosh! She is loud!
There is so much fun in there; she really lives for the moment.
Does she ever worry?
Does she ever throw caution to the winds?
Does she have dark secrets, which she had not yet told me?
Questions, like sand particles, stick.”

The rain was coming down quite heavily now. He moved away from the window. I think he had been crying. “Memories like leaves change leaving the tree with rings which we count for age. She is gone now. It has been a while. She could be at the same traffic intersection and I would not even know.” He settled down heavily in the leather couch and reached for the whisky. I left the way I had come in.

© Arjun Chandramohan Bali.2005.

Sunlit memories of another age

There are no sounds. The yellow silk embroidered curtains lift themselves, flutter, pause, then gently blow themselves up like sails. A patch of sunlight falls onto a brocaded pink wedding saree lying torn on the bed. A small boy in a white T is swaying from the window grills. He looks strangely like me.
With both my feet on the sill, I lean back stretching my arms. Ma looks distraught. She is saying something. Her lips move, she point towards a long bamboo lying on the bed. She bends down and picks the radio off the ground. The glass display is shattered web cracked, a haunting Bengali song plays, as Ma turns the radio in her hands it changes by itself to news.
The cupboard door hangs from the lower hinges. Ma picks me off the window and deposits me on the bed. She looks beautiful. She picks up the phone and hand cranks it to the Army exchange.
Ma is crying, I think.
There is a war on. Dad is never around in the mornings. Yesterday we had spent 3 hours in the trench. Ma said I behaved well. She told me about Didu who during the last war would sit and eat mud and Tony would play practical pranks on the neighbours by making the siren sound with a steel tumbler pressed to his face.
The MP’s arrive in a few minutes. They are tall.

(c) Arjun Chandramohan Bali. 2004.

11 January, 2005

Waiting For Death

The air smelt of burnt napalm. There were only two of us left. The rest had left about an hour ago. We had decided to stay. We did not want to leave. The Americans would come again. We knew that. They would spray the land and burn the blue haze yet again. We knew all that. But we still did not want to leave. We were just tired, tired of running every single day from them. Tired of wading through swollen streams full of anorexic leeches. Tired of evading the open spaces and sleeping inside wet woods. Tired of not trusting our own people.

Life has to end sometime somewhere. We decided that for us it would be here by the side of an unmarked road, in a no man's land between two hostile villages.

I lit a small fire even though it was dangerous. But you know how it is. When you have decided to die you do not care for small things. Comfort always wins over caution in such times.

My companion was quite old and it was remarkable that he had survived for so long. He was the type who did not talk much but looked hard at everything as if he could understand everything just through his eyes. We had met on the road north. He was part of a small company of men charged with the dirty business of killing some villagers who spied for the Americans in return for those ugly green notes that the whole world craves for. I was part of an elite unit assigned to run some dangerous missions behind enemy lines in the north. But we did not know the terrain and were in search of someone who could guide and also fight beside us. He fit the bill and we took him on. In a land of equal comrades hierarchy was still a novelty that did not spoil the revolutionary taste.

After that things went horribly wrong. The old man took us through a forest where we ran straight into a company of Americans. To compound our misfortune they were veterans of jungle and close combat warfare. It was a complete disaster. Those of us who survived drifted back in one's and two's to reach this pre-arranged meeting place. The old man was one of the survivors. This of course caused speculation that he might be a spy. Perhaps that was why he decided to stay back with me and wait for the American death machine. Or perhaps he was even more tired than me. He must have seen a lot more of the fighting. It might be a cliché but war is a dirty business, not to those who read about it in newspapers over their morning cup of coffee but to those actual poor souls who are caught in the middle of it. No, I shall not talk more about the misery of war. Great men have written about it toiling for years over their desks with a fire warming their backsides. I'm but a poor soldier, tired and angry at what war has done to my life and family.

The fire started to burn low but I did not feel like adding more wood to it. It was comfortable just to sit there and see the yellow flame go down slowly and allow the red underneath to dominate. I like the embers better than a fire. Fire is something superficial; it just goes about its job burning blindly everything in its path. But embers are not like that. They have a certain majestic beauty about them. They seem wise. They only burn if you touch them. They are content to just glow with the deepest and warmest of all colors.

My reverie was disturbed by a long sigh of the old man. He was looking towards the east, craning his neck to one side as if to hear something better. Were they already on their way? I could not hear anything yet. But then my hearing had been damaged during the course of the war. Another one of the many physical gifts I had acquired along the way. I could hear something, something just on the outer threshold of hearing. The subsonic throb of rotors slicing through the heavy air like a knife through wet cheese. It was time and both of us knew it now. I looked into his eyes and suddenly in that instant I understood why he looked hard at everything. It was a beautiful moment, a moment that transcended all material and temporal divisions. It was like all your life you were searching for that one thing that would define your life and in the end you find it in a corner where only discarded feelings lay gathering the dust of neglect and inaction. I could see the same understanding in his eyes, wet with tears for the sudden bond between us. A new calm began to take root in my heart. I hugged myself and closed my eyes, savoring the wet taste of approaching infinity.

i Bar

Furtive glances
Then I steady my gaze
For a while
That seems longer
Strobe lights blurr
The music pounds
The fourth RC on the rocks
I want to take him home
Just for tonight
Then I lose him
In the crowd of bobbing heads
And we too
Need to head for dinner
Thai curry and steamed rice
This is better
Than the bitter squabbles later
Than the suspicion and guilt
Than the sleeping pills
Than going to bed cursing the ones in love
This is better by far
Furtive glances and the gaze
Blurred in strobe lights


Morning Dreams

are mostly dreamy.

and then,
when the waves of passion,
leave you
like fire
after being,
drenched in rain,

will you still reach out
and say out loud ?
all the poetry,
you whispered ,
while your hair traced rippled,
lines on my face,
while your nails.
left marks
on pristineness of your whiteness?

are mostly dreamy.
From warmth seeping out
tiptoeing out to meet the sun,
from between the bodies.

What was that you said?
When I turned over and vanished,
in the dark haze of sleep.

Sunil R Nair, 10 Jan 2005


Report On The First Readmeet At Pune 2005

This was was the long awaited collaborative readmeet with caferati and open space coming together like colliding galaxies [the great thing is, there is no collding, since they pass through each other seamlessly].

On a cool wintry evening we gathered on the fifth floor of a quiet building. Introdutions were to be made differently, since peoply shyly censor a lot about themselves-but an influx of new faces made us abandon this idea i.e. friends introducing their close friends.

Caferati@Pune is encouraging informal meets before the readmeets so that the general ambience thickens into a deeper shade of friendliness. About 31 participants were there when the readmeet kicked off with Mr. Ramgopal Rao reading out four of his older poems. He gave us a detailed account of what sort of mental frame he had when he penned the poems. Very well received, as his reading is lucid and melliflous.

Akshay M. read out a rather touching account of a lady and a dog staying with him and interacting with him. It was written in a style described as psychedelic for want of a more accurately descritive word and heads nodded in silent agreement. Poems of serious nature were read by a guest from Delhi who had another companion reading another poem.

Pranay Srinivas next read out a collaborative piece that he had cooked up after a lunch at Atreyee's place, a sort of dialogue between a man with a long scar on his hand and a mole on the other side. He appeared reluctant to talk about these identification marks, though he talked till the very end. Quite well received.

Sonia Menezes read a long story which she said was a short story entitled Wednesday Afternoon. As she had lost her voice a few days back, she asked Avi Das to read out for her. It is always better to let a female writer's story to be read by a male voice, Manisha had told us earlier. This was all about a domestic servant and her travails in the house, with more characters joinging in. There was a slew of queries that Sonia fielded quite confidently.

So we had two guests from Bombay, Pranay and Avi, and another guest from Hyderabad, Rakhee.

As per my announcement, there was ample discussion after every piece and I had to intervene to cut short some very passionate outpour so that we could finish off the readmeet well before the deadline. We did that but I had to snip off my story, since time was up and Open Space employees had come on a holiday to help us out.

More than 20 members have been coming regularly. Non-reading listeners included Archana D., Harshavardhini, Nyssa [Rucha Gokhale] -her first readmeet-, Maitreyee Desai, another Maitreyee, Major Uday Sathe and another ten new faces with Open Space connections.

All told, quite a rocking meet.

cheers !

10 January, 2005

The Scar

(My first post on the blog after ages... Absence to be humbly excused)

Its a scar.
Is it alive? I dont think so.
Does it twinge? Yes, sometimes it does. Painfully so.
Do you like it? Sure!!! I think it's an extremely cool scar to show off.
How long is it? About 2 inches i suppose.
It looks really ugly and intense.. Yea, no stitches hai na.. thats why.

Sorry but the brain refuses to work this Saturday afternoon. It just doesn't.

What does that outburst have to do with your Scar? Nothing.

Then, stick to writing about your scar, please!!!
But...? No butts. Butts are to hold cigarettes by, and to admire from afar. No buts.

But, what about the truth? The truth?
The awful, concealed, hideous truth???

It's a scar... everybody has scars. A physical memorial of a bygone event is hardly something to crow about. IT IS NOT SOMETHING TO RUMINATE OVER. IT IS NOT, IT IS not.

I love this scar. I really love to show it off. But oh, how did it happen? Cause does not matter.
No cause matters in the face of progress.... Hmmm, now, where have I heard that before??? from Developers raping hillsides? Huh.

I mean, all it is, is a scar. That's it. What on earth could it be....? other than a scar, i mean. It's on a vein.. spurted blood for hours before it closed over itself.. hours actually.

I mean, it's just a scar. Let sleeping dogs lie, please.

(This was read at the Pune readmeet. I have a rather large scar on my right hand... This was a joint exercise between me and Atreyee on a sleepy, lukewarm January Saturday afternoon., evidently to cure me of Writer's Block)


The Mediterranean stretched before him.
In smouldering scuttled hulks, the enemy fleet
lay dead, once pride and pest
of that placid main. The heat
troubled him; he felt oppressed.
And the land held nothing for him.

His eyes roved over the waste. All round,
death rose in listless wisps of smoke: its reek
would drape history like a shroud.
Turning, he gazed awhile on his salt streak,
that runnel of ruin he had ploughed
to neuter this obstinately fecund ground.

Tired, he faced northwards again, and home.
His eyes briefly brimmed. No unlettered lout,
his mind hovered on distant Troy,
and saw in a poet’s dirge to a rout
no cause for a victor’s joy,
but a lament for his own beloved Rome.


Delhi Caferati Meet Report

09 Jan 2005
Chez Anjan Ray
New Delhi

Our fourth Caferati meet and the first in 2005 was marked by many positive 'signs', besides being well attended and good fun.
Peter Griffin was in town and we had the pleasure of his company. Not only did he re-cap Caferati for us - the focus of the forum and what it intends to and could do, he also read some rather wonderful response poems with Annie. Peter, Annie would you post the poems - many of us would like to linger over them and those who weren't there yesterday would enjoy reading them.

Anjan's book 'Just Beyond' had been launched on the 3rd of this month, and he read us the last story. Anjan writes really well - tight tales told in a manner where you focus on the story so completely, only later realizing how cleverly the words are woven to create pictures in your mind. We all are thrilled to have personally autographed copies by the author! The book is published by Stella & I reccomend you pick it up.

Stella Publisher, Jyoti Sabherwal, joined us at Anjan's invitation. Two interesting things she mentioned were: she's interested in stories and books for children; and she herself has transalated and continues to transalate Amrita Pritam's stories.

Narendra read an excerpt from the Introduction of Bill Bryson's "A short History of the world". Some of us are going to look at intros more carefully. Its funny how we always skipped the intros when we were younger and now we read them slowly, specially us writers, as they give us a glimpse into the author - his hows and whys.

Minx read an almost-haiku - please post Minx, Danish read 2 powerful poems - I notice one is already posted, Richa read a piece from something by Douglas Scott about Fengshui and living in buildings built for dragons- rather witty and well-written; and she recited a poem from memory that she wrote many years ago and I suspect was brought back to her because of the experiences she has gone through in the past 10 days. Richa went as a volunteer to the tsunami- hit areas. I dug out a story from my 25 years ago (This makes me sound really old - I'm not!) and I shall post it. Vijay recited some urdu poetry which was hauntingly beautiful , but Vijay, we will have to request you to bring transalations the next time - the Caferati members come to specifically share writing in English, some don't understand Urdu and its unfair to them to move away from the focus.

The others - Rajesh, Poonam, Trish, Anuja, Rupa, Rekha, Raj didn't read but that didn't stop them being very much a part of the meeting. Anjan, the pizzas & lunch were great, thank you. But perhaps the others are right - we'll go back to a post lunch timing the next time - the writers are hungry & impatient for words and critical discussions on writing.
Happy writing & see you online and at the next meet. We missed all of you who couldn't be there! Cheers - Anita


This dream had sharper edges,
It sliced, nicked and burned,
Jarringly lucid, unmistakably direct,
Inflicting raw scars of lessons learned,
Demanding wakeful pledges.

Pointing scaly talons at the soul,
Death-masked faces, cloaked in gloom,
Cackled in reedy, screechy voices,
Warning against entering the room,
Of indulgent distractions; the only goal.

Morning’s pledge of mended ways,
Fleetingly burdened a tense brow;
Scattering, shattering as the body rose.
Trampled over, discarded, dormant for now,
Glinting heads of Hydra, in menacing arrays.

© Pragya


07 January, 2005

The Curse

You always tell me the truth
Hitting me between my eyes with the sharpness of your judgement
If I want to hide, you seek me out and sit to down to listen
All the seams I refuse to mend
All the plants I refuse to water
All the glasses I throw out of the window just to hear it crash on the pavement
You always tell me the truth
About my anger and angst
My denials and masks
My pity.
My lies.
You send me away everytime I try
To squeeze and slither back into frame


The Last Dance

Your lecherous eyes bore through
These veils,
Don't think your recent elevated status
Will make me drop my defences
Or these veils...
But tonight I need to forget,
I need to forget
Your eyes that violate me.
I need to believe for once
My frozen feet and stiff body
Are capable of motion.
Tonight I will dance,
I will dance
My last dance
Before I offer my head on a platter.
I, Salome, shed my veils
And prepare for the sacrifice.



Toasty embraces.
Marmalade kisses.
Melt me like butter.
Mark my diary,
More breakfasts with you.

Dappled afternoons.
Squabble over scrabble.
Make up words.
Sharing the lounger,
Sangria on the side.

Starry evening.
Dress up for dinner.
Help me with the bracelet.
Never make it to the car,
Bedside Champagne.

Clean crisp sheets.
Pillows plumped at night.
Heads freshly showered.
Yours in Fermat’s Last,
Mine into Philip K Dick.

Perfect together.
I sleep on my back.
You on your stomach.
Under one comforter,
Cosying up in our heads.


We cannot show our love

They said, We cannot show our love
We cannot show our love, they cried.
We love you so very much, we cannot show our love
To you, they cried, we hide our love.
Riddled in complications,in our own actions
Mind exceeding realms of passion and reality.
Creating miseries out of mere memories.


06 January, 2005

The Voyeur

Fingers, keyboard, monitor screen and muse
Oh the games they play in their foursome
Transferring thoughts to words
Breaking words to letters
Joining letters to words
Linking words to form thoughts back again on the screen
Hide and seek and peek-a-boo at every stage
Devastatingly deceptive like a masquerade
Intoxicated in their individual ability to represent
Blatantly loyal only to their own pleasures

The poet stands aside a silent voyeur


Another Landscape

Your tongue paints shadows of the mist on my breast
While your fingertips trace the wild grass that spring from my navel
You drench me in fire as your lips move to another crevice
And the sun rises every time your eyes meet mine
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Melt away the silence of the icicles that have gathered in every crease of my body
I have been wanting to burst into rain



They must meet someday
Your demons and mine
Quietly over coffee they must discover each other
Resting their elbows gently on the table
In almost the same manner in which we explored ourselves years ago
They must hover over each other and share
Their secret fetishes for darkness
Your demons and mine
What makes you choose retreat over passion or passion over faith
What makes me read emails that are not mine or slice with words till eyes well up
What makes me leave or makes you cheat
What lies beneath
Your demons and mine
Must get to know each other before we are convinced of our own self justified selves
They must meet over coffee
Naked, unearthed



He rises, he rises, black-masked,
To the tune of Handel’s Messiah,
Nine feet tall like Goliath, he rises
And lacerates my words with his eyes.
If I break open his head
With these measly pebbles,
Another will spring fully armoured
To devour me.
And if I chop off his head
For my peace,
I will only feed my dementia
And kill myself
When I play my violin.