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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

28 February, 2005


A splash of rain, a glimpse, a sigh...
A flash of pain, togetherness, you and I...

together, you and I, be good to me.
Please, mock me not, not my love and its inherent frailty.

Guide me gently, no lusty violent gusts,
teach me to float; tread the water, I must.

unconsciously drawn closer to the flame,
like an uncaring moth; in love, aren't we all fair game?

who must i brand the object of anger, of pestilence?
who must i mark a loser, the diluter of the essence?

the chime of the clock; the day ends now.
the road of life is dwindling; I must forge now somehow.

find another crutch; this one is old and haggard.
it's wood weak and rotten; it's wielder, weary and laggard.

go away, i beg you. Be good to me.
this shell i now inhabit, you will never again see.

spare yourself self-doubt, and the ensuing effort;
of rigorous self-flagellation constantly until it hurts.

Pain, Oh Pain, Why are you my constant friend?
Pain replies, ' My friend, you started what I must end'.




The Arabs ascribe black to Hate,
something I find most inadequate.

To their simple souls that lack of hue
doubtless covers well that dark virtue.

But I with my baroque mind
must seek a metaphor more refined

(some venoms, perhaps, that seem
pellucid as a mountain stream?):

a concept elegantly facile,
finely distilled, volatile...

to exquisitely sublimate
this magnificent thing called Hate.




Our friend (and host of the last Bombay-area read-meet, Menka Shivdasani, in her column in The Daily Star, Bangladesh, writing about the recent Kala Ghoda Festival
...The Literature section, co-ordinated by R Sriram, Managing Director & CEO, Crossword Bookstores Ltd, was packed with a variety of events - multilingual poetry readings as well as one by poets writing in English; a creative writing workshop, and even, for the first time, an SMS poetry competition.

As Jerry Pinto, poet and one of the judges of the SMS competition pointed out, with mobile phones having become very common and the Short Messaging Service so popular, writers needed to look at language in new ways and adapt to the times. The purists might have been horrified -- after all, when you are sending out an SMS, grammar and spelling are not priorities. The entries that came in, however, were quite remarkable -- sometimes, even haiku-like, as one of the other judges, the poet Marilyn Noronha commented.


All three winners, as it turned out, were Net-savvy members of the literary site

25 February, 2005


A sudden bloom
of crimson tide
in every
I hide.
icy eyes
won'tever say
I'll stay.
opaque eyes
of every
the seared
heart sighs
don't go
love me
lie to me
once more.



A dateline leaps off the flyleaf, yellowed
with age: Calcutta, ’74. Above it, like barbed wire
in faded royal blue, youth proclaims
its arrogance in points of fire.
Bend your mind, and they could be flames
licking the sky, pride unmellowed.

But that’s a skyline thirty years old,
before Time worked on those ungainly spikes
with such tools as only he knows:
files for the pliant, rasps for the likes
of the obdurate and bellicose
before their stubborn ires went cold.

Look at it now, and you’ll see little
of that awkward landscape. The horizon’s free
of gawky pines, marked now by a few
troughs and slopes; vestigial anarchy
from some past ferment, beyond one’s view.
And soon, very soon, this too must settle.



23 February, 2005

The Ride

The ride across the river soothed him. There was something in the gentle flapping of the sail, and in the way the prow cut through the still water that eased the clamor in his soul. The river flowed around him like his dreams at night, lazy and indulgent. He looked at the horizon and thought of the love he had lost, found and was in the process of losing again. The sky looked like a painter's canvas waiting to be filled with the fluffy figures of clouds transformed by experience.

He wondered where he was going wrong. Had he not said the right words? Was he not trying to do the right things? Was his habitual silence to be interpreted as indifference and coldness at best and even malice at worst? Was it hard to see that it would be the same on this side of the mirror too? But then he had always misunderstood relationships. Invariably, he would be caught on the defensive unable to put his point across. Inevitably, he would succumb to what was being said and thrown in his face like a dirty shower of autumn leaves, dried and aged. It was an endless circle of poignant pain.

The boat executed a slow turn around a bend. A bird flew overhead calling for its lost mate mirroring his quest. The trees on the bank stood like wise old men conferring over some important detail not understood by life. He ran his fingers through his hair and was reminded of a similar action from the past. How different things were then! Everything was new and innocent. The shape of things experienced could be caught in the hollow of the palm like an earthen lamp aglow for a festive evening. Nothing was to be lost but there was everything to be gained and stored in the form of burnished memories.

Now on the horizon he could see his approaching destination. The time had come again. Should he follow the path laid down by his heart...or by his mind? Once before he had followed the path laid down by his heart and had thought he had succeeded. But that path had been a disguised circle and he was back to where he had started. He idly wondered whether life was a series of concentric circles arranged to look like the ups and downs of a mountain road. Everybody came back to the same point in the end. Perhaps it was only perspective that changed, not the path.

The boat bumped gently against the jetty and people gathered at the gangway and jostled to be among the first ones to get off. Yes, he thought, the time to face the truth had come again.

22 February, 2005

The NGMA-COHO Art Poetry Walk - South Bombay, 26th February

This just in, via Menka Shivdasani and Janet Fine:
The NGMA-COHO Art Poetry Walk
SATURDAY FEB 26 3:00-7:00 pm

Join us for a stimulating afternoon of art, poetry and interaction

We start this time at Rampart Row for a "mini-Khala Ghoda Fest" traversing exciting exhibits to conclude at the National Gallery for Modern Art for final poetry/slam contest. Entertainment features theme of "the casting couch" so cast your own drama!

Rampart Row (next to Joss Restaurant, Khala Ghoda on Rampart Row, from Rhythm House to "Rampart Row" opposite Museum Gallery)
This exciting new party space by artistic caterer Faroukh Khambata is the site of Niti Patel's Arushi Arts special art exhibit of 75 classic paintings.
Wine and cheese and dramatic renditions by noted actress Madhuri Batia and poetry of the "Casting Couch," L'Officiel editor Sangeeta Wadwani's excerpt "The Lusty Director" and actor Gary Richardson and troupe with more excerpts of "Mad Horses of Matheran."

Museum Gallery (next to Jehangir Art Gallery, Max Mueller Bhavan opp Rampart Row)
A visit to the major retrospective exhibition of Bose Krishnamachari, a talk by the artist and special entertainment.
A quick visit to Jehangir Art Gallery where more of his work is showing.

National Gallery of Modern Art (opposite Prince of Wales Museum, near Regal Cinema).
The walk ends at the NGMA with NGMA's ground-breaking "Beyond Borders" exhibit of Pakistan art.
A reading by Gary Richardson, Tee Jay, Chandan and Millie of US Trade Commissioner Richard Rothman's new story "The Bollywood Casting Couch", Madhuri Batia's dramatic poetry readings and contest finale.
Tea and special refreshments served.

The generous support of Godfrey Philips Four Square, Sula Vineyards and Lion Brahmbhatt has enhanced this event.

For More Information:
Mr. RR Puranik Tel: 22881969/70

Nicotine break

He appears out of nowhere, this almost dwarf.
Over languid smoke rings outside
I watch traffic congeal to a minor clot;
and suddenly, there he is, arms flailing wide,
smack in the middle, directing the lot.
His madman’s antics raise a laugh;

until, looking closer, I observe his air
of splendid assurance, and wonder replaces
indulgent mirth. In seconds they’re gone,
those honking hordes, to whatever places
they were so unruly bound, waved benignly on
by this maverick’s masterly flair.

Business done, he pans for a desultory alm
or two (for he is a beggar, under his skin),
finds none giving. And before my startled eyes,
flags an auto down, hops in
with a toff’s panache and flies
to God knows where, to restore calm.



Outwitting The Shadow.....

Abbajan had retired.

But he still used to go to the chowkey and sit sipping the oversweet syrupy tea and smoke endlessly. He’d listen to the gossip and make guesses, offer hints and clues. The perennial cop that he was, he could never switch off. Other younger officers not only tolerated him, they even sent messengers home to ensure he was all right, if he didn’t show up for two-three days. He remained a cop under all situations, at all times and on a twenty-four hour basis.

The other day, months before he retired, he had been sent to some remote corner of Easter tribal belt in Gujarat, where the Adivasis [primitive tribes e.g. Bhils] live with their unshackled ways. They have never respected the law right from the colonial era. He had been warned not to venture out at night, not to leave the Rest House without his service pistol that could fell an elephant at close range and most of all not to sleep outside in the open. For an ordinary mortal being this would be tantamount to a warning that one should not frolic in the snow, when one was profusely sweating... a fully useless piece of advice.

He was an adventurous soul who slept under trees, on the rocks, on river banks, at even weirder places.... so for him sleeping indoors was more like a prison sentence.
“ I must sleep under the starlight…” was his constant refrain. He believed the cosmic rays made him strong and invincible. His rough and calloused hands were so powerful that once he had dislocated the jaw of a constable, merely by slapping him. After that he completely stopped hitting people.

Tonight, he sat up reading the reports and underscoring the incompetence of the local cops, sometimes inking comments if they had taken short-cuts or bypassed his standing instructions. He hit the bed past midnight, forgetting to take out his service pistol from the holster hanging on the wall with his cop's uniform. This was a serious mistake, indeed. One that almost cost him his life, as he learned later.

He had always been a light sleeper. Used to tell us the British trained him to sleep like a cat, several times in short spurts. Deep sleep could cost him his life. He very strongly believed in this warning... and hence a slightest movement in the corridor of this ghostly Rest House built 150 years ago, woke him up. He was aware that he was the single occupant. Yes, there was someone, trying to enter his room on cat-feet. His front door was locked, but the person had entered the room from the bathroom, which had another connecting door leading to the adjoining room –one which he had overlooked whilst checking door.

Obviously someone had been sent in, to attack him. Suddenly he became as alert as a tiger having sensed danger. He pretended to be snoring softly and the movements he had perceived, covert and shy became bolder. Someone banged a toe against a solid table, shuffled his feet, even coughed lightly. Later the intruder made the mistake of showing his outline against the faint light seeping in from the huge windows with thick glass panes. There was a huge chopper, shining and menacingly real in his hand. The tribals behead their enemies, they do not plunge the sword or the chopper into the chest or the stomach, they just chop the head off.

Abbajan knew all their habits, their methodology of killing. Bows and arrows were their main weapons, and they had terrific knowledge of the herbs, applying a little paste on the tip of the arrow made it carry a potent poison. They could shoot a man down from 500 metres with a single shot. For close encounters they used the chopper, usually big enough to fell a buffalo in a single stroke. The intruder, the slithering shadow would surely come to the head of the bed, he inferred.

The slowly breathing shadow crept closer, and yet closer. Abbajan went on mimicking a thunderous snore, and at the same time, made sure that indeed the pistol was not where it should have been, right under his pillow. He made his own fingers creep towards the headside and pried loose the mosquito net from under the mattress. Now the figure was standing right behind him, trying to figure out which angle would be best to strike the chopper so hard that the sleeping officer would lose his head in a second, body sleeping and the head lolling on the ground.

The frozen shadow slowly lifted the chopper, its glint once again flashed ominously. And then… he screamed out in sheer agony, the chopper swiftly falling from his hands, as he tried to grapple with a steely strong hand that had shot out from under the pillow and gripped his balls. These guys, ‘taskars’ , come naked, with well-oiled bodies, so that you can never catch them. Not even a langoti, which can also be caught… It had never occurred to the killer that his member and the testicles could be so easily caught. Abbajan squeezed with all his might, for a second or two longer than necessary -by now the neighbourhood lights were on. The paid killer’s brouhaha shook up the entire area. Finally the servants downstairs sleepily got into their own pyjamas and ran up.

” You think I’ve castrated the sneaky son of a bitch?” he growled at the cook who was the first to materialize.
“You probably killed him, sir ! “ said the shuddering cook.
“Yeah someone should have told him I tear up telephone directories with these hands….” he chuckled, and promptly went back to sleep, the right fist still closed.

They found the taskar unconscious, with Abbajan still holding onto the bounty, coolly smoking a cigarette that he had managed to light with the other free hand. Another catnap was over. The servants produced thick rope to tie the killer up and led him away, babbling incoherently.
(c) Max Babi 2005

I had read out this short story at the New Bombay read-meet yesterday [20th Feb. 2005].

The Inseparables

Ashok Daga read out this poem at the fifth Pune caferati readmeet on 13th
Feb. 2005 at Harshavardhini's place : comments are invited :-


Am I at times an angel, at others an animal
Or most times a spirit imprisoned in flesh.
Is this my descent from spirituality to materiality?
Or has life always been this intricate mesh?

Listen north, south, east or west, "Transform"
Implores spirituality from your materialistic aspect,
While the tech savvy sees the speed of light as a crawl
Their machines would have you wrap the galaxy into a ball.

Constantly coerced to choosing one side
I prefer to like life as either black or white
For "he who is not with us is against us"
Leaving no choice but to ride either one bus.

Should man choose between his dual nature
Discard the one for the sake of the other?
Or is it possible to enjoy life with natures both
Internally my spirit and externally my materialistic coat?

Contrasting the religious and brainy dreamers
Are earthbound souls who unashamedly
Relish this life's limitations of time and mortality,
And space and distance, weight and solidity.

Some are artists, some poets, and writers are some
For whom spirituality and sensuality are inseparable
Like night and day, good and evil, summer and winter,
Angel and animal, life and death, a laugh and whimper.

© Ashok K Daga


21 February, 2005

The first New Bombay read-meet - a personal view

Menka Shivdasani is someone i knew in my first stint as a journo, many more years ago than i care to remember (the magazine i wrote for featured her as a Face To Watch in poetry, on the recommendations of Dom Moraes and Nissim Ezeikel, a prediction i'm happy to say was on the money).

We bumped into each other at the SATCT launch at Oxford Bookstore last year (Check out these pictures and these accounts), and have kept in touch since. She's also been a friend and supporter of Caferati.

Menka invited me to a lunch with a group of poets a couple of weeks ago. Despite the many litres of beer i inhaled to insulate myself from the feelings of inadequacy i get when i'm surrounded by so many talented writers, i noticed that she has a lovely house, and from behind my glass, said it was jusht made for readingsh. Politely refraining from pointing out that the house was made for her and her family, Menka offered to host a Caferati read-meet any time, and that's why the ink-stained hordes (or should that be "RSI-afflicted" in this day and age?) invaded her garden yesterday.

Please note: i was there on time. Early actually. Very early. (When people like me, the kind that are so laid-back that we fall over on our butts, actually get finagled into taking responsibility for something, we nervously overcompensate.)

i picked up Vijay and Ratna Shetty on the way in, and they squeezed in amongst the samosas, jalebis and folding chairs without a murmur of protest. First to arrive was Ajit, who styles himself "Zorba the Fenugreek" on Ryze and on his blog. Followed shortly by Manisha's Pajero, which disgorged, besides the lady herself, a freshly-shaved Arjun Bali and Runa D with a friend. We were then joined by - and i don't remember the exact order they trooped in - Mayuri (currently "On loan from hell!!") Sharma, Pallavi Jayakar, Soeb Fatehi, Dinesh "The Heretic" Ramakrishnan (what is this epidemic of exotic/wiseass/weird handles on a business network anyway?), and in a surprise appearance, Amit Mukerjee, better known to this blog as "Khuto," with a friend. John Matthew who lives practically next door, came in last with Sonia Menezes (who lives in Pune, but came in from Santa Cruz) and Max Babi, who bussed in from Peshwatown. But i forget - Raamesh Raghavan got in halfway through the readings, after being given an impromptu but comprehensive tour of Belapur by a rick driver who didn't know the area. Jugal Mody's valiant expedition to the hinterland foundered at Wadala, foiled by Harbour Line maintainance work (i did publish bus routes, laddie), and Atanu Sarma had called in sick in the morning, done in by the 'flu.

Right then. The readings. i may have the order muddled up (take notes, Griffin, take notes), but broadly, here's what happened.

Damini, Menka's nine-year old daughter, took the hot seat (a garden swing) first, and read a distinctly feminist short story.

John debuted the first two poems he ever wrote, Is White a Colour? and The Bombay Train Song! The first poem, the audience thought, went along predictable lines, except one line that stood out: "They swaddled my father in white." From the second, a reference to a certain fellow commuter preceded by an unpronounced comma caused much debate on said commuter's personal hygiene, before John revealed that the line merely asked me, er, i mean the fellow commuter, to identify a station based on purely olfactory evidence. Overall, the general consensus was that John's verse is far more tightly written than his prose.

Arjun started off by reading a poem called Desperately on behalf of one of Caferati's Nagpur members, Rajendra Pradhan. And followed it up with an unfinished piece of his own, one that he had started to write for the Spring writing exercise on our message board. His story, set amidst the celebration of the Basant festival in Pakistan, left most of us wondering why he thought it was incomplete. Speaking for myself, i saw a growth in his style as a writer - the pieces he read at his first read-meet sounded more like film treatment notes to me (only natural, since he makes films for a living), but with these, he showed he could handle nuanced dialogue and description on a page as well. And he reads well too.

Pallavi read some of the poems she wrote for our First Line Last Line exercise. Unfortunately, i can only find this one and this one on the board. Perhaps someone can point out the others and i'll link to them? Wonderfully crafted, poems, i thought, and i think most of the audience agreed. One small reservation, though: some mispronounced words detracted from her otherwise warm and expressive reading style.

Amit read a few selection from the recently published volume of his translations of Bengali poets, The Unsevered Toungue. Amit is one who reads powerfully and well, and by demand, read the original Bengali poems as well. Perhaps, if copyright issues permit, he'll blog the poems he read? And Amit, i noticed you tapping away at your laptop so perhaps we'll see the meet from your eyes too? Oh yes, do post links to those pictures you took if you upload them. (update: he did.)

Sonia read two short prose contributions, one developed from the (UP)set the Pace series on the board, and the other called My Alter Ego. Must confess i didn't listen in here - got sidetracked by a phone call, which i thought was another lost member of Caferati asking directions, so i can't comment on her reading. Apologies, Sonia. i have them in my mailbox, so i'll try and make up for it by reading them aloud to myself, hm?

Manisha read an essay she says has never found publication, called Bechari biwis? Not. This piece, about bored wives and the hobbies they took up with devout fervour, was met with some confusion, with some in the audience emphatically certain it was a poem. Once this was cleared up, my criticism (too many American references) was promptly shot down by all, and Manisha went on to read a poem about what women of a certain age hear more often than they want to, Get Off! An encore was demanded and supplied. And here, i have another nitpick, Manisha. You read your own poems in a throwaway style. And i know it's not because you can't read, because i've heard you do full justice to other people's work. Have more faith in your own work, girl!

Ajit, who wasn't on the scheduled list of readers, was hoiked out of his deep lawn chair by the crowd to read some of the Hindi verse he writes in his elaborate scrapbook. His attempts to transalate them on the fly prompted a discussion on what another language could do to a poetic thought, how some things just did not retain their flavour in translation, and the like. The argument concluded with Manisha, who has published poetry in Hindi, agreeing to attempt to do English versions of The Fenugreek's work.

Max, starting deadpan, and with a smile broadening under his beard as he read, brought the entire gathering to a crescendo of snorts and giggles and finally outright laughter with his story, Outwitting the Shadow, which i see he has blogged already. The only critique offered - but that one was voiced by many - was that it went on for one paragraph too long.

While Menka decided if she was going to read or not, i quickly slipped in a couple of poems, Ole! (an encore was requested, but that was because no one could hear me the first time) and Why i didn't write you a Valentine.

Menka started with several poems from her book of verse, Stet, including Diary of a Mad Housewife, which is one i've had the good fortune to hear her read before (i must cringingly admit that i can't find the sheet on which i wrote down the titles of the others), and one of her more recent works, which she was initially reluctant to read, because it was a new voice. Again, the title eludes my pathetic memory, but i heard the different voice she talked about, a quieter, calmer, more contented voice, one that had seen more life, and acquired more perspective. Another thing that caught our attention was her ability to read from memory, looking into our eyes, though she held the book in front of her. Speaking for myself, i can barely remember my haikus - but by now you know how bad a memory i have.

i did remember to get the snacks, though, and hungry writers descended on the samosas, chole and jalebis like Page Three people on a photo-opp. Even the ones who were in a tearing hurry to get back to the city stopped to fill up plates for the safari back home.

The rest of us stayed on for a while, chatting into the dusk, swatting away the odd mosquito. It's always nice to put faces and voices to names one reads on the board and the blog, to see how the personality you encounter face to face compares with the one that comes across with words on a screen and a thumbnail mug shot(or in the case of some weirdos, icons). That, despite the sometimes unstructured - and frequently too polite - feedback sessions, the people who don't show up without informing the organisers, the Maybes who land up unannounced, is the reason why i think the read-meets are a brilliant idea.

Here's a raised coffee mug to many more.

Another Read-meet

The afternoon was, in a sense,
unlike those other read meets.
For, it was in a garden, and one sat
on a tentwallah's red seats.

While all around, everything
was really green,
the afternoon however was
not so serene....

Distorted by voices...

Of some who were poets
with verse to really show,
and some who only thought
they were so.

Of some writers
whose work was truly hot
and some others
whose were, sometimes not,

Now before I am dunked, in that oilpot full of fries
or even get booted out of ryze
No, this aint no bow with no goodbyes
but to say everyone here with their heart tries.



He stares
At his
Drooping hands
The last remnants
Of yellow life
Clinging to
The sticky veins
Of immortality
Draped with the
Mud and blood
Of unborn future



20 February, 2005

Weekend mirth.

A piece of literary trivia to brighten a hungover Sunday.

Young man to James Joyce: May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?

JJ: No, it did lots of other things too.

18 February, 2005

Comfortably Uncomfortable

Large room and windows with fancy art,
A view what was once beautiful.
Now the sounds of construction,
Fill what was once the flowing river.
In search of comfort and style,
I Pay myself away from nature.
Its beauty and its glory,
My eyes blind to the green,
Dimming like an oil lamp.

I shut my thoughts.
Work my days in zest.
Rest my nights in dreams.
Comfortably uncomfortable.

Big buildings and printed paper,
Fill my visions for tomorrow.
In it I dream of a river ,
A forest with its wilderness,
Everything a button click away.
I dream of a second nature,
To create and preserve.
All when I fail to understand,
To preserve and to protect,
The one right under my feet.

I shut my thoughts.
Work my days in zest.
Rest my nights in dreams.
Comfortably uncomfortable.


Bong Bagatelle

Some perfectly harmless fun, for a change.

People from Bengal
are ever in thrall
of my fluid ease with their tongue.
In my speech withal
there’s nothing at all
to show whence it had sprung.

I laugh away
the compliment and say
I’ve lived a mean decade:
but being gay
persistent pests, they
see a masquerade.

And then someone winks
and says “Methinks
there’s more to this than that!
There are chinks
(in fact it stinks),
it’s glib, and much too pat!”

For truth to tell
(I know them well)
they’re looking for some juicy tale:
the local belle
for whom I fell…
(that’s uncannily on the nail!)

They’re right of course,
those piscivores –
it’s all that damn mustard!
So I tell those bores
to ship their oars,
and leave this fish unflustered.




Writing about spring can not be easy
For simple things make me feel queasy
Give me complex things any day friend
Total chaos can reveal a hidden trend.

It's spring time when the earth dons new robes
The roving bird alights on grass, and probes;
In the quietest corners one hears the bird song
-chirpy creatures do tend to flock and throng.

It's spring time when the tired mind rests
To look up on hilltops with fresh green crests
Fatigued thoughts falter, fall and go to sleep
Into a dazed stupor, inducing a slumber so deep.

It's spring when the footsteps fall lightly
Earth's soft exhalations also feel sprightly

It's when Mother Nature throws open the doors-
Springtime cleaning, let out the chaotic uproars...

(c) Max Babi February 2005.


16 February, 2005

Al Jarreau Spinning Magic

Like most jazz lovers, I have a soft corner for instrumentalists. Vocal jazz has never ever been a high priority in my list of purchases –and except for an odd Louis Armstrong vocal number or an Ella Fitzgerald number on a compilation, I can hardly remember any thing else.

Al Jarreau I had heard many times on the radio, and other jazz aficionados’ parties and all. However to see him in person is a different trip altogether, let me assure the reader… The Gateway of India seemed like an intriguing site to me, what with the torrid traffic and the hordes of tourists milling around as if it was the last day on the earth, not to speak of the increasingly chill in the air as the sea-breeze cooled after sunset.

Al Jarreau made a belated entry, and we were in time to sit and stare ahead for a quarter of an hour. The stage was more than professionally set-up and a profusion of psychedelic lights with a wall of sound sort of speakers around us, seemed just right. He made the sleepy audience sit up, as he came running in from the left, a wireless microphone in hand, his khaki coloured beret jauntily placed on a balding head, and his agile manners concealing his age. He came running in, with some pretty complex tune –sounding rather like scat singing where words are not used and the sound is modulated to offer a rich palette of tonal excesses. It was amazing, whatever he was doing and one was forced to watch his left hand twitch and twist unceasingly as in a fit. Shannon, who plays the electric guitar and is on a perpetual quest in Blues and Jazz, seemed pretty cynical till then. By the end of the number he was nodding as if in a trance. In the mean time musicians were trickling in and taking up their places almost like soldiers on guard, around some important monument.

George Duke, whose name conjures up the halcyon days of yore when jazz-rock ruled. Well Rock had been around for ages and Jazz had been around for aeons but the marriage of the two seemed a distinct possibility what with the younger jazzmen turning more and more to Funk in the late 1960s and ‘70s. Miles Davis and his path-breaking album The Bitches’ Brew was a defining moment in the history of Jazz and Rock both. From those days, when George Duke used to be the sideman for many a brilliant soul singer who left their mark on the history of music e.g. Gladys Knight and The Pips, Anita Baker, Smokey Robinson and some brilliant Jazz-rock musicians like Stanley Clarke [whose short-lived group Compost did feature this brilliant keyboardist], he’s come a long way indeed.

Al Jarreau in his sing-song manner introduced George Duke, and a shyly smiling young-looking coloured guitarist Earl Klugh –whose star-like nature was too awesome to picturize him in one’s mind, and who seemed a generation younger than any such attempt could have conjured up an image… and Ravi Coltrane –the product of two geniuses all right, John Coltrane –a virtual god to many and Alice Coltrane whose highly intellectual approach to jazz piano is a familiar landmark indeed.

With his gusto and gumption, Al went on trying out numbers in contemporary idiom, old-fashioned jazz standards, even a couple of Latin Jazz hits with a bouncy Brazlian beat, and some plain nonsensical stuff based on his astonishing vocabulary of sounds. Very few musicians would dare to attempt mimicking the whizzzzing fizzzz of the steam generator installed to make the audience feel they were on Cloud Nine, and even the distant but horridly irritating short and long spurts of the Bombay taxis : “you guys honk more than the Nooo Yorkers… “ crooned Al, rolling his eyes, twisting his body and leaning on an imagined horn.

Like a superstar that he is, Al vanished now and then to throw open the field to the other talented marksman. George Duke, not only performed heavenly pieces on his electric piano, he loosened up with the applause and the cat-calls and the wolf-whistles from hundreds hanging around the sealed off boundaries.
He let himself go, and sang a couple of numbers with a funky touch that comes helplessly roaring in whenever he tinkles the piano or sings, and one admired his Bluesy voice which places him in a class apart.

Earl Klugh on the whole presented a very sober face to the audience by playing short and long solos on his amplified hollow body guitar that had my companion Shannon squirming with increasing anticipation –and the audience asking for more… but he kept vanishing and re-appearing like a firefly too. There were four Indians to match the four Americans… and the most feared one was Pune’s famous tabalchi Vijay Ghate, one with the long locks and and reddish beard. He has earned a reputation for himself at home, for hogging the limelight as most tabalchis do, and for probably dimming the enthusiasm of the main artist, especially the jazzmen who tend to respect the thunder applause religiously and bow out, leaving the spotlight to our man. Comparatively, Vijay behaved himself like a hyperactive kid given a good chastening before the moment of truth arrived. He played the tabla amazingly well, quite in tune with the proceedings.

Ravi Coltrane, informed Al, was named after Pandit Ravi Shankar -in tune with the indophilic inclinations of the parents. His music seemed simple, though sufficiently intellectually expressive to make him a front-runner in the category of contemporary jazz with dollops of free jazz type improvisation. He made fewer appearances, but gave a solid account of his own musicianship and easy interpretation of complex melodies. Great saxophonist, very comfortable with his soprano sax.

A totally unforgettable evening, one which has been etched deep in the memory and one which will need some more real giants to perform and supersede these four who came, saw [performed] and conqured us !

(c) Max Babi Feb.2005

Advice: Walking Tips for the New York City Visitor

“It was a Monday, a day like any other day, I left a small town, for the apple in decay, it was my destiny, it’s what we needed to do, they were telling me, now I am telling you….. I am looking out for the two of us….”Long, Long Way from Home: Foreigner

“Sprung from cages…” like in Bruce Springsteen’s song, that’s what it feels like alighting on the streets of the city every morning. When you first learn to drive, they teach you to maintain a panoramic view of that which lies ahead, to be alert and aware of whatever lies in your peripheral vision and to be considerate of those who are right behind you. Great lessons to learn for new drivers but who would have thought this applies to walkers!

I never would have imagined that there would come a time in my life when my mindset would have to morph into that of a motorized vehicle! It seems all the rules that apply to driving, apply here to walking, in equal measure. For instance, strong peripheral and panoramic vision, quick pace, never falling below the speed limit which the natives actively enforce through a few choice expletives, such as the ever popular, “Bonehead!” An unfortunate utterance to which my very suburban better half has on occasion been subjected, much to my considerable amusement. You see he tends to be one of those people who wear the scarlet letter “T” for tourist rather prominently on their person. These unfortunate souls tend to stop mid-stride to tilt their necks at a ninety degree angle, to the vertical plane of the rest of their body, just to gaze all the way up at one sky-scraper or another!

After nine long years of being a frequent traveler to the city I am finally confident that I have my New York navigation, as a pedestrian, down to an exact science. Keen observations and studied analyses have led me to find the paths of least resistance that help me get from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to my destination, my place of work, in 12 minutes flat, every morning.

The chess-like calculation and forward planning really needs to start as soon as you emerge from your bus or your train; your gaze intent, aiming for the double doors that have a steady stream of people exiting. This way you don’t have to push open the doors and if you find the right space between the exiting mass of bodies, you won’t even have to hold the doors for the people behind you!

Once you are out on the streets you need to demonstrate an obvious determination in your stride, pulling the proverbial blinders on and gazing at an indeterminate space at least two inches above the eyes of all approaching strangers as you start walking, looking for gaps between oncoming walkers and looking out at least 15 yards ahead of you. If someone appears to be coming straight at you, you need to visibly turn your feet either to the left or the right, forcefully signaling your blatant intention of not colliding with them. Of course, if the approaching person takes a step to their right, as you take one to your left, desirous of the similar avoidance outcome, the collision may still happen. So minimal eye contact may be necessary after all!

The other lesson to be learnt and internalized to the extent that it becomes a natural reflex is the art of jaywalking. Jaywalking finesse is what separates the true, dyed-in-wool, New Yorker from a bumbling tourist. Get ready to become an elbowed, bumped, possibly stampeded outsider, if you are waiting for the sign with the little walking man to start blinking. Instead you need to be watching the intersection light. You must time your “avenue” crossing such that the light is about to turn yellow, so that as soon as you cross to the other side of the avenue, the light at the “street” crossing has just turned green for you, enabling you to cross the street and the avenue in one smooth L-shaped maneuver; experts here choose to traverse the imaginary hypotenuse connecting the two points of said L, in the interest of saving precious incremental seconds. .

Lastly, one must acquire the craft of “car thumping” as a pedestrian. This rather focused show of ire is reserved for those unfortunate cars that are attempting to complete their left or right turns or have advanced too far into the crosswalk before managing to stop at the red light. Several angry fists are sure to descend on the hood of the spotless suburban vehicle bearing New Jersey or Pennsylvania plates. The hapless driver sure to be told, in no uncertain terms, “Go back to Joisey!!” while he cranes his neck over his steering wheel to discern the extent of denting on his hood. It is the pedestrians’ uncontested right, after all, to discipline and keep in check these wayward strangers who have foolishly strayed into their Big Apple!

So all you intrepid travelers, in a mood to take on the Big Apple, in the near or distant future, learn these lessons well, they will hold you in good stead. And, while you are here please don’t forget to stuff a few greenbacks into the alligator boots of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square!

© Pragya Thakur, February 2005

15 February, 2005

Make them laugh within 1500 words

Just noticed this one. The Sulekha/Penguin Global Writing Contest - India Smiles
Ever dreamed of getting published by Penguin or making an easy lakh! Well, the opportunity is at hand.

The easiest and shortest way to get your writing published by the most distinguished publisher in the world and gain fame on the most popular online community/network in the world is by entering the global Sulekha-Penguin 'India Smiles' contest.

Write and submit an original humorous short story (word limit: 1500 words). Hurry...deadline is Feb 28, 2005.
The contest is judged by an eminent jury, which will include Khushwant Singh, Farouque Sheikh, Ruskin Bond, Geetha Doctor, Anita Nair, Ashok Mahadevan, Sushila Ravindranath.

"Across the pale parabola of Joy..."

14 February 1975. A poky, disreputable room in a thoroughly seedy ‘hotel’ (the only one in the place) in a small district town in the badlands of Orissa. Time: sometime late evening, and cold.

Valentine’s Day then wasn’t what it is now. For one, the morals and social mores of India were still at the stage where unwed boys and girls couldn’t afford to be seen together without the fear of public opprobrium, or worse; any ‘liberation’, such as it was, was confined to the large cities and the manifestly westernised, elitist college campuses. And even in the latter, intimacies between the sexes were limited to handholding – which itself was considered terribly ‘forward’ or ‘fast.’

As a result, V-Day hardly had an impact on anybody (very few if any were even aware of it); least of all a half-starved bachelor holed up miserably in the middle of nowhere, in something reminiscent of Hogarth at his most lurid, with three crates of books and a Philips transistor radio for company.

I had just returned from work and summoned the hotel boy for my tea – or rather, the thick oily concoction that passed for it. Lighting a cigarette, I settled down on the bed (the only furniture in that hellish establishment) and switched on my radio – the tuning dial permanently locked on to the BBC.

And as the boy came in with my restorer, I caught the measured tones of the newsreader announcing the death of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.

I made a long arm for The Mating Season (those aforementioned crates were well-stocked in Wodehousiana), and as I laughed at the midnight duets of Bertie Wooster and Esmond Haddock on the dining table of Deverill Hall, Kings Deverill, Hants. I couldn’t stop my tears either – no, not of sadness, but joy, and the immense affection for a soul who had sustained my spirits (and those of countless others the world over) through every vicissitude; for a soul who had enriched not just the English language, but one’s own idiom as well. For, truth to tell, in those rather carefree days one’s own aspect was Woosterian to a degree, with the cultivated Elizabethan stateliness of Psmith; and I’m not sure that the passage of years has entirely robbed one of it.

I couldn’t help but marvel at the timing of Plum’s exit. The man who wrote so eloquently and uproariously about the newt-loving Fink-Nottle’s wooing of the droopy Bassett, and Bingo Little’s perpetual susceptibility to Cupid; of Bobby Wickhams and knitting needles, of Angelas and sharks – he couldn’t have chosen a better day to hand in his pail.

Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of Plum’s death. But he must have been beaming benignly from up there over all the lovers of the world.

Random Thoughts: Controlled Chaos

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.”
- Dag Hammarskjold

Controlled chaos to me, is akin to the dynamism of our destiny. Our actions and inactions, the choices we make and the consequences we face as a result of those choices. This “chaos” is only “controlled” by a perception of the “frame of our destiny” or the world that Richard Wilbur’s “heart’s crayon” sought to “spangle and fulfill” [see poem below].

Sometime ago, during a moment of lazy introspection on a long bus ride home, I let my mind wander to thoughts about life, destiny and predestination. My thoughts strayed to the, rather prevalent, simplistic and fatalistic understanding of our eastern philosophy. A layman’s interpretation, that implies predestination and our abject powerlessness in the grander scheme of things.

But something within me refused to consider this fatalistic outlook. At that instant, looking back at how my life had shaped up thus far, I wanted to think that I have control over my destiny, that I have never been powerless, that I can forge my own destiny. But again, I did some rethinking and the agnostic in me wanted to say, “What If?” So, I settled on the possibility that perhaps it is all predestination after all; with a twist.

Perhaps we all enter this life with a blank outline of how things would be. Essentially a pencil sketch on a wide-open, blank canvas, unimaginably infinite and beyond comprehension. And we are also given the tools – the paintbrushes, the colors, the painting medium, a palette and then it is up to us to make the choice of colors, of mediums of what we want to express. The essential element is probably the power to choose. And each choice we make dictates what our next step will be. A large and growing, “if-then” tree of choices and consequences, with the branches spreading in every possible direction, without any noticeably discernible pattern.

My stray thoughts, as I read more and learn more, seem to find an echo in the works of several authors and poets who I admire, leading the charge – John Steinbeck, in his East of Eden (page 303). Excerpt quoted below:

“The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel — ‘Thou mayest’ — that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ — it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ ...
“Now, there are millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

Yes, we always have the choice and as long as we have the choice, we have the tools to forge our own destiny, to fill our destined "frame", the apparently limitless, limited canvas with the colors of our choice.

Richard Wilbur, the poet, seems to be making the same point in his poem – At Moorditch, in the final verse:

"Now," said the voice of lock and window-bar,
"You must confront things as they truly are.
Open your eyes at last, and see
The desolateness of reality."

"Things have," I said, "a pallid, empty look,
Like pictures in an unused coloring book."

"Now that the scales have fallen from your eyes,"
Said the sad hallways, "you must recognize
How childishly your former sight
Salted the world with glory and delight."

"This cannot be the world," I said. "Nor will it,
Till the heart's crayon spangle and fulfill it."

So, obviously, my random daydreaming thought was hardly an epiphany or a unique idea but something that has occurred to folks infinitely wiser than me, mutiple times, during the course of history.

Destiny then, I am convinced, is not static or fatalistic. We cannot assign anything to “kismet” or to a nonchalant, laissez-faire attitude that is resigned to it “being written”. It is not written, it needs to be written. It is a dynamic destiny. There is a plan, its boundaries lost in eternity, in infinity, unfathomable and unknowable. And the plan probably encompasses several lifetimes and not just the one that is of immediate concern to us. It is in essence, controlled chaos, where the lines of control, though existent, are invisible.

14 February, 2005

For Valentine, saint of love

Valentine, sweet saint of love,
was beaten to a pulp in Rome -
third century barbarism - he was clubbed,
I've heard, from bare toes to bald dome.

Valentine, brave saint of love,
didn't listen to the voice of reason -
Claudius II, the emperor had said -
"Can't have too much love this season.

"I've got to build an empire here,
this little army needs more soldiers."
But Valentine, foolish saint of love,
didn't listen: he was crushed with boulders.

The soldiers, you see, had lovers (mostly women);
and going to war would cause much sorrow.
But Claudius II would have no truck with 'love' -
"Lurrvee... bah! We march on the morrow!"

The Romans, it is said, were great ones for war,
but these young men, they were love-lorn.
And though Claudius II cancelled all weddings,
else they couldn't from women's arms be torn.

Valentine, saint of love, rebellious priest,
cared not for the royalty that held sway.
He married and married and married the lovers,
until the soldiers showed up and took him away.

Valentine, saint of love, was not to be crushed;
in prison, he carried on, unabashed.
This time, the jailer's daughter was smitten;
he left a note before his head got mashed.

The note, it was signed 'From your Valentine'.
Then he died - the priest with the spirit unbent.
But he showed us - love and courage are sisters.
St Valentine taught us how to love, before he went.

(c) Annie Zaidi, Feb 14, 2005.


Fate Of The Alien

Fate Of The Alien

We three kids had this unspoken understanding
grown-up wisdom,
is all faff and froth.

During an orgy of painting watercolours at home
a sparrow
from a pecking cluster
across the road, flew right in
hit the ventilator
and fell in a faint....

We sprinkled
the multihued water
from the common tub
the poor bird
with a surprised jerk
fluttered back to life
limped across the caressing hands
and stumbled back into
the fold of gorging fiends
-who promptly
pecked it to death.

A house sparrow touched by human hands
invariably gets lynched
- the wisom dawned up on us,
a little late like a lazy and lost sun
during the raining season.

We abandoned painting
for a bout of Cricket.

(c) Max Babi Feb. 2005

Also read at the caferati 13th Feb. 05 readmeet.



Words are bricks
Words are mortar
Words are water
Words are sand....

Used properly
They conjure up edifices
A nameless tomb.

(c) Max Babi Feb.2005

One of the poems read out at the 13th Feb Readmeet [Pune].


Ruled by Mercury (Hg)

Mercurial appeal,
Quicksilver charms,
Making them kneel;
Inevitably disarmed.

Speeding through life,
A mother, a wife!
Untouched, unfazed,
Unmarred, unscathed.

No signs of adhesion,
No lasting impressions,
All touches tangential,
No impact substantial.

Born detached,
Ostensibly attached,
Volatile, intemperate,
Unbonded, separate!


Shoot him dead!

He’s fat and old that cupid.
Perfectly rhymes with stupid.
Why else would I be,
In love with so many,
Gorgeous wrong men?

I’d be dripping in diamonds,
Drinking loch lomond,
Sampling exotic cuisine,
In a luxury limousine!
Had his aim been right.

I’m teary eyed instead,
Over Bill and Ted,
Both still tied, poor things,
To their mums' apron strings.
What a waste!

I’m sighing nights over,
For the married lover.
To come by, to make time
And stop this silly rhyme,
With his kiss.

As for the computer whiz,
Was no good at this love biz,
Needed an http slash slash
So he wouldn’t make a hash,
Of simple loving.

The poet was my fault entire,
Tho his words I did admire,
His demeanor and clothing,
Was made for loathing!
Which I did.

So tie him up this valentine,
This cupid’s no friend of mine!
Teddy bears, roses make me sick,
Stab him slowly with an ice pick,
Or just shoot him.


Poem for Valentine's Day

Amazing what a year can do.
By this time last year I’d sent you

my wish, clipped to a lover’s fears
(your laughter still fills my ears).

But that was a good twelvemonth ago,
and I daresay there’s much to show

for the ravage, and the grim
plunder of the interim.

Amazing how two lusts in spate
could so direly devastate:

one that sucked your lover whole,
and the one of blood that burnt my soul…

It’s that time of year again,
the fervid mating season when

a few like me would choose
oblivion to a lover’s shoes.

But I who know the who and where,
can laugh at them, past all care.



The Literary Valentine

If you will be my Valentine,
i could be your Frankenstein
(yes, i know that it really should be
Dr F's monster, but us would-be

Poets take liberties all the time
When we struggle to find a rhyme)
Or perhaps this poem could be the better for
A different literary metaphor.

Hm, let's see, Juliet and Romeo
Ended with way too much gore.
Like too many that i can recall,
It ended with death for one and all.

Could fairy tales provide some laughter
before the inevitable "happily ever after?"
Beauty and the Beast? Now there's a thought.
For one, it doesn't end in nought.

And, because of the way i look,
There's no chance of offence being took
About who's the Beast and who's the Cutie.
Yes, perhaps the tale can be pressed into duty -

But in this age it would never do
To have a lead character who
Abducts the girl, as the Beast, forsooth,
Did. That would be most uncouth.

Alas, this poem is doomed, i think,
A waste of (what's the cyber version of ink?)
Much better just to give up and say:
Come read with me this Valentine's Day.

February 2004


13 February, 2005

Voices of Dissent

A wild sky
Like freshly drawn blood
Compels loss of reason
In the dark hordes below

I hide in the corners
Scared of the mad mob
Sitting in the ivory towers
And directing the masses below

Where is common sense?
Hiding like me is it?
While a select few
Commit humanity’s worst crimes

Solemn voices of dissent
Wiped out-
Without second thoughts
For a few more millions

Natives of the land
Endangered species, conservation
Ha ha! A big joke!
There is only one maxim
Only one bitter truth
More profits, more money

No spare thoughts
For the downtrodden
For the suffering
After all-
They are nothing new
But only-
Stale news
Always there in the background
It is bad manners
To talk about them



12 February, 2005

A Weather-beaten Face...

Each wave creates –
A layer of sand.

Another wave adds –
To the burden of the land.

Each memory creates –
A smile on the lip,
A tear in the eye.

Each memory adds –
To the wrinkle nearby!

Praneeta Paradkar


The Hunting

Atop a hill of sunburnt clandestine ruins bore
A brown, stony temple to creatures of gore
The chisel had much strived to keep them alive
One of them green, scaled and sublime

Hither, thither as one would gaze I did
A stalker just two-step behind detected
I scanned the floor but perceived no one near
Nor the walls, nor the ceilings nearby

One cautious tread and another, eyes shut
Fear clutching the echelons of my gut
A swish and a swipe, a long shadowy stripe
But no mortal to partake the crime

Colossal figurine adorning centre-square
Crown of vultures circling the upper air
Then the wind stopped still as a cry so shrill
Pierced the body of calmness

One must run when chased by nothing
A wrestle with emptiness is sheer losing
Down derelict stairway, sprint of frenzied sashay
Symmetrical beads of sweat of a deer, hunted

White sparkle from the dying setting sun
Offered my exhaustion visual diversion
My eyes traced the light only to meet fright
Dark silhouette cutting the ambers

Twilight mystifies the nascent weary mind
Wheedling idiocy into its realms and rind
Training the energies to the max of their faculties
If only to satisfy vulgar curiosity

My seeker had wings, the leap of a frog
Odourless, cold-blooded in every cog
Her penetrating stare stood the ends of my hair
Her message caked in challenge

My heart charged like an overheated kiln
Limbs bolstered with fresh shots of adrenalin
Wild instinct surged into each cell, torchbearer from Hell
My corpse purged off every limitation

The walls I scaled, and beams, pivoted
Each stone I picked, crushed or compacted
Thus night flowed by, moon’s tragic lullaby
And the hunter became the hunted

Daybreak came scouring the dwindling lights
Stealing of darkness, her invisible delights
My guise hardly kosher, footprints stepped over and over
Then my target held out a smiling paw

Bewilderment, like poison crept on steadily
The corners of my mouth contorted uneasily
She took my hand as if she had all this planned
And vanished in the wake of my reverie


11 February, 2005

A story.

For a moment our eyes met
and a million questions arose
behind a veil, a story peeked, waited to be told
so many faces, so many stories, so many worlds
all colliding with each other
for moments to unfold.

Every moment that collided, intersected and intertwined,
drew a venn diagram of life ; an intersection of
separate lives lived intensely and infinitely as one
only to have to go on living
in separate worlds.

And our story
had no beginning and so no end
just for a moment had our eyes met
and so for now, my story and yours too, separate yet intertwined
will have to wait to unfold.



They ask me why i'm grouchy,
Why i'm at the end of my tether;
Am i stressed out, maybe? Or ill?
Somewhat under the weather?

You know, that change of season thing;
A cough, a touch of 'flu?
Nah, it's just too many cigarettes
And a bad case of you.

February 2005

Um. This started out as a response to Khuto's desire to see more light verse on this blog, but didn't quit end up that way. Ah well, drop by here for something more, er, frothy.



i want to remember
i want to remember
names and faces,
i want to remember
dates and times,
i want to remember
names of authors,
i want to remember
words of songs,
i want to remember
where i kept my purse,
i want to remember
everyday ordinary things.

i want to forget
the you and i,
i want to forget
your laugh
i want to forget
the crinkle in your eyes,
i want to forget
how you fold your shirtsleeves,
i want to forget
the fleeting touch of your hand
i want to forget
how you look at me
i want to forget
to breathe if you’re not there.


Caferati's local Googlegroups

We've set up some googlegroups to keep people informed of read-meets and other local events. (This is in addition to the Caferati Updates group that is for general Caferati announcements and the Caferati blog team's private group.

A Googlegroup, for those who don't know, operates like a message board. As a member, you can choose to receive all mails to the group, a daily digest, or simply log on at the site and read messages online. And when you want to mail everyone in the group, all you need to do is mail the group's e-ddress rather than each member's e-ddress.

Here they are, City Name followed by the URL to go to if you want to subscribe.

Bombay, New Bombay, Thane, etc:
Delhi and the NCR area:

Do let me know via email, or in the comments section of this post, if you'd like a group set up for a city that we haven't covered yet.

10 February, 2005

Today Is Thursday About To Be Friday !

Today Is Thursday About To Be Friday,
Today is thursday about to be friday,
I am on the prowl to irritate you there.
Just wanna remind you,
Its snowing all day all the way.
Is there and art school my way?
I am an artist on the rise,
Or am I confusing myself with someone else.

How can u see and I cant see,
Things destined to be done by me and only me?
The feeling of the mood to do something different,
Yet different from actually doing something different,
Finally fooled into being different.
I will justify this like everything else,
Today is thursday about to be friday,
I am on the prowl to irritate you there.


Reluctant in Spring

That bully, Summer,
is pushing a gentle
and hesitant Spring
to step into Winter's
frozen shoes.
Her feet are dainty yet
and lost
in the bear-hug of
misty mornings and
foggy nights.

He's making the days longer
this pushy youth, Summer,
has stolen the thrill
of being wrapped in
fleece stoles
on red-nosed mornings.
The cognac's too warm
the snug quilts too thick
and we all can't
snuggle in a heap by
one large laughing fire.

The tender red buds
on neighbourhood trees
are starting
their sweet seduction
and soon
this heady Summer babe
will enthrall and enchant.

I hold on tightly to the
fleeting Winter-Hug
standing in colourful
knitted socks
clutching a crochet cape,
not ready yet
to fling open the doors
to that flamboyant
and wicked Summer boy.

Yet I peep through the window
and sniff the new scent
of another year's
fresh Springtime.

(c) Anita Vasudeva. Feb '05


Maa/ Freedom

Freedom is not for me, who flounders
in oceans of living,
if let go of.

I cannot speak
but for the music of your pulse.

I cannot walk
but down avenues you carved your labour into.

I cannot sleep
but within the curving stoop of your bending back.

I cannot breathe,
but for the air filtering into me, through your blood.

Freedom is not for me, who flounders
in oceans of living,
if let go of.

(C) Annie Zaidi
[Written originally in 2002. Now, posting it with slight editing]



sleep eludes me
the stars twinkle
too loudly tonight.

i whisper,
but know not
if the moonbeam
delivers requests.

i watch orion move
across the skies
no messages tonight.

just waiting
for the first blush
when the sun will kiss the sky.



Like some fly stuck in molasses,
Fluttering wings,
Tiring limbs,
and there is everything.















And then there is nothing.

Like molasses
Like the fly
Like slow drain
from the soul.

Life empties,
conserve in sugar syrup.

10 Feb 2005


09 February, 2005

Sic transit...

Just off Calcutta’s Dalhousie Square
is a firm that deals in sanitaryware.

Yet it interests me that once
they were purveyors of guns:

one of a galaxy of smiths
long since reduced to sepia-ed myths.

Names that once graced chic arcades,
and now prop crumbling colonnades.

Sometime in an empire’s long twilight
this one knew that guns wouldn’t be right;

and so moved, with presumed ease,
to bathroom fixtures from gun grease…

But if you’re wondering, I’m no recorder
for the ancient house of R B Rodda –

Yesterday, idling vacant hours
I saw the mailbox that once was ours;

fallow now, save for stray vagrants
given a home, and a stale fragrance.

And another empire’s loss seen in
a memory of a gunsmith’s porcelain.



Desolation Dusk

in the shadow of the arched mughal gateway
in the desolate dark overgrown with weeds.
I heard someone call me from behind,
"do you recognize me?"
I looked at her. "of course . . . "
I said, not daring to utter her name.
she said - "those days of longing,
that tearstained July. . .
it seems such a long time ago."

there was a glimpse of moisture in the corner of her eyes,
striated like the moon's reflection on a mountain lake.

I asked -- "Then you were dark like a tumbling raincloud.
today you are burnished gold
like this Jamuna sunset. . .
all our tears from those months --
were they in vain?"
she just smiled - a wan smile.
I realized all our tears were dissolved in that smile --
the rain clouds' black had faded into sunset gold.

I said -- "I have still kept with me
those days of our togetherness."
she said nothing. I said, "like on our first night
I can still see your hair
radiating black beneath me in my dreams . . . "
she looked at me. time had stopped
under that Mughal tomb
bearing the burden of centuries. at last
I asked - "what have you kept with you?"
she looked at me, her eyebrows arched like a soaring wing.
in her eyes I saw
all our agony, layered into tranquility.

I said, "the fire of my desire has now burnt itself
to embers. from the ashes I have made my mask."
slowly, gently,
she touched my face with her fingers.

she said, "Yes, I know this fire.
I had wanted to keep all of you,
but your endless desire
burnt everything to cinders. . ."

framed in the doorway,
I looked at the sunset halo of her hair.
she said, "so I left from your doorstep,
never entering your home. I have been waiting since then,
in this desolation, to return that little bit to you."
and then, in the silence
under the creepers growing between the bricks
she lifted the mask from her face.
"we were never meant to exchange garlands," she said.
"let us then exchange masks."
"but I don't even know how to take off my mask", I said.

"do you remember," she said, "how you had said you would
keep my footsteps enshrined on your doorstep?"
I said, "yes . . . of course I remember. . . ",
and then a bit shamefacedly, "I have not tended it,
but the depression of your footprint --
still remains."

and in that dull sunset moment,
I looked at her, and I prised open my ashen mask
but then I threw it away.
lifting her hand into mine, I said,
"you need no mask from me.
how beautiful you look --
what was once sorrow, has molted into peace."


08 February, 2005


In this place
Only boys
Are allowed to flunk.
Are supposed
To get a degree
And get married.

It is a sin
For a girl
To bunk classes,
To drink coffee,
To walk alone,
To walk in a group,
To walk at all.

Girls with legs
And wheels
Have a character
Called “fast”.
The speed depends
On mode of transport,
Is inversely proportional
To hair length,
And directly
To the number
Of male friends,
Remaining factors
On state borders
And bank accounts.


Idle Glimpses

I see them serving
wafer-crisp pizza
to paper-thin women
wearing gossamer rags
blowing trembling smoke
from cigarette chains
while their pencil-thin heels
under calf-hugging boots
tap nervously
on a pebbled patio.

Bare fox-furred shoulders
holding up perfect profiles
with hunting eyes
and charming smiles
that dismiss the humus;
glossy lips that sip some wine
while kissing air
near shaven chins,
and blow away
feather-light words
too heavy to hear.

Carefully swaying bodies
to swinging music
too busy watching
to close their eyes
and feel the rythym
in their soul;
coiffeured men that
the women don't see
stand drunk or dazzled
dividing themselves
over cigar-smoke and scotch
idly searching
this faceless fantasy.

Will they wake up at one
these beautiful people
to the perfect patter
of little feet
and cuddling toddlers
on their way to tennis class
with loving nannies
while Papa and Mummy
turn to their laptops
and salons?

(c)Feb 2005


Clerihew week

Peter Griffin
Doesn't often
Promote, encourage, forgive or in any way condone
Uneven metre in a poem

Yup, we're playing with Clerihews on our Ryze board this week. Join in? You need to be Ryze member, of course, but joining is free. And you don't have to be a member to read posts.

To get a picture of how previous writing games and exercises went, you can take a gander at this and this. Will post more links to earlier exercises if anyone's curious.


If I say, I am not yours
- not yours without a bar -
will you be mine?

If I come to you, set up home,
but retreat to a tower,
will you be mine?

If I fail you - time and time again;
If I fail to convincingly explain....
If I talk too little, dance too wild,
sleep too long, howl like a child -
will you be mine?

If I say, I am yours: but not yours alone,
will you stay mine?
If I destroy the promise, and cannot atone,
will you stay mine?

If I insist on being me,
but also refuse to set you free.

If I want more than 'you, just you' -
If I am tempted by two or three, or a few?

If I can bring so little, you starve
for want of trust;
If I were to carve
a crescent of eternal misgiving
in your head....
If I bury my past,
then raise the dead -
will you? could you? would you still be mine?

After very long... so, let's hear what the blog thinks.
(C) Annie Zaidi, January 2005.



now up past the temple
where the hill is bright in mist,
there's a dark-cloaked bhikhu
who'll help my mind untwist,

and halfway to dharamsala
you can hear my passion die;
(it's true i swore i loved him -
but who did i mean by "i"?)

so come and make me silent
where the butter lamps are hot,
let me listen to the clouds decide
what is real and what is not.

since what i see is fugitive
and what i see it with won't stay,
puff me out and let me live


A yucky tale

This poem is for Zubin, age 8. It's being
released here to balance the perception that we
take ourselves too seriously at Caferati.

This is a tale
       of a piece of snot
That in my nose
       once I had got
With great vigour
       did I expectorate
But alas I met
       such a grisly fate
That bit of phlegm
       got utterly stuck
On my pristine sink -
       a squishy muck!
It's still there now
       what a yucky YUCK!


My wonderful mirror

Oh mirror , oh mirror
My wonderful mirror
You showed me her face
You lead me to her
You ushered her in my heart
You attested her beauty
You birthed love in my life
Oh mirror, oh mirror ,
My wonderful mirror,
Slip out from my dreams.


07 February, 2005

An Ocean in Myself...

I am an ocean in myself
Endless shores surround me
To gather treasures
I endow them
With every high tide...

As deep as you will delve
Into me, my soul & myself
You’ll find strength galore
Grit, you can’t ignore...

I am an ocean in myself
Endless triumphs and defeats
buried in my womb, they hide
I treasure them with care
As I need them during low tide...

24 July, 2004


Dark Skies

Found this lying around on an old website recently. Posted it because it's of a genre you can only write at a certain age. Ah, sixteen. What a lovesick puppy I was. Quite sad, really.

dark skies, melancholy and white lies
little wisps, clouds, clearings
that succumb to the fading light
hide away in their cocoons, fearing the night
fearing me, as I walk
brooding, silent, almost dead against the grass
rubber slippers, worn out jeans
a band-logo t-shirt
searing my skin, and yet I walk
undecided, alone
out of reach, underneath the stars
crickets crying softly
feet planted on solid ground
earphones shelling out the sounds
of some forgotten band

dark skies, melancholy and fireflies
little bits of glory beneath the stars
as I trudge home, each step
heavier than the last
bolder than the one before
each breath I take a commemoration
to the fact that I'm alive
a tribute to my mortality
an icon of my past

dark skies, melancholy, a monologue
soliloquies of sadness
brandished here, in the cold
walks in the park that never came to be
stars that we should have gazed at together
ways that we should have walked together
my footsteps resound against
the dark stone walls of this place
echoing my emptiness, my hostility

dark skies, melancholy and semi-suicidal sighs
out here, near the lake
writing your name in the sand
for the thousandth time, throwing pebbles
against the waves
seeing how deep they sink
deeper, darker than before.

dark skies, melancholy and blood-shot eyes
beer on my breath, the same
stupid music, playing in my head
walking the ways we walked
going over the things you said
catching stares all the time
muttering curses under breath
talking softly, to myself
to the part of me that still listens,
the part of me that has forgotten.


06 February, 2005

SMS haiku (for the girl whose phone doesn't accept multi-part messages)

Choppng my lyf up:
160 character chunks
4 milady's eyes.


Desultory Fragment

I say, “She’s my life, all else is trivial.”
“But that, my friend, is hardly material –
What are you to her?”
I have no answer.


03 February, 2005

Beyond death

Don't ask me for a happy tale tonight
in this purple evening, these
chandelier lights dripping grime
and the candles floating on water
they seal my lips with molten wax
Ask me for no happy tales tonight

Don't ask me to hold your hand tonight
The days when loving hearts
bled in us, those carefree days
of laughter I have braided into desolation
threads of anguish bind my fingers now
Don't ask me to hold your hand tonight

Don't ask me to touch, don't tempt me-
your skin, smooth coolness at my touch
that was once, that was then
I have waded through rivers of sorrow
My sun is now dark with tears
Don't tempt me tonight with your touch

Let's just sit then, face to face
Friends, enemies, lovers, poets
beyond the death of being strangers
one hand a scimitar, the other a rose
Let me see your eyes, in the ashes of pain
Let us sit then, face to face again.


Broken Words

Sometime, somewhere
When someone whispers
Look around
It might be me



I felt your love
Like watery petals
Inside my
Sleeping heart


We sat
Side by side
In the evening
About love found
About hands united

The sun
Fell below the far line
Leaving us
To trace our palms
And find
The map of Cupid's folly


02 February, 2005

Rumination over poetry on a blog, as a deadline goes whooshing by

Who reads poetry?
Other poets, mainly.
(Of varying levels
Of taste and fame and skill.)

Who reads blogs?
Just bloggers, usually.
(Net-addicted souls
With lots of time to kill.)

So who's reading this:
Blogging poets only?
(i'd better go write copy;
Got to pay my internet bill.)


01 February, 2005



Don’t fly kites,
Don’t play marbles,
Don’t climb trees.

Don’t play in the dirt,
Don’t play in the rain,
Don’t play in the sun,
Don’t play with boys.

Don’t jump about,
Don’t run around,
Don’t look directly,
Don’t laugh loudly,
Don’t ask questions,
Don’t have an opinion,
Don’t have a thought,

Just do as you’re told,
You’re a girl.


Don’t cry,
Don’t snivel,
Don’t look at the ground.

Don’t run,
Don’t hide,
Don’t be a coward,
Don’t slouch,
Don’t be a wimp.

Don’t sing,
Don’t giggle,
Don’t play with dolls.

Don’t fail,
Don’t be weak,
Don’t drag your feet.

Just learn to be a man.
You’re a boy!